Costa Rica Questions

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Poppy Davis
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Costa Rica Questions

#1 Post by Poppy Davis » January 12th, 2020, 9:48 am

Hi all!

We are on a very limited budget and looking into Costa Rica. I've looked over all the previous threads on Costa Rica and have taken in the knowledge from those threads. But I still have some questions:

1) Is Costa Rica going to be miserable in early July? I understand it will be hot, humid, and rainy, but will it be unbearable?

2) We've seen a ton of really cheap ($50-100/night) AirBnbs listed with good ratings. Would it be safe for me, my husband, and 7-year old kid to rent a 4x4 and roam around the country staying on our own? How easy is access to food? We don't speak Spanish. Will we be able to get by in more remote areas?

3) Any specific recommendations on tour operators for adventure/wildlife/volcano day trips?
Poppy D@vis Frucht m@n, formerly ITB

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#2 Post by George Hejna » January 12th, 2020, 10:09 am

Poppy, It's a big country. Where are you looking at staying?
It's really hard to say if a very inexpensive AirBnb would be safe or not. Personally I would feel very uncomfortable in that price range especially with a 7 year old but everyone is different.
Driving - you will see all different recommendations. I would say if you are used to driving in foreign countries you should be OK. Keep in mind Costa Rica road signs, markings, lighting etc is not so great. Getting lost is expected. The main highways are great. People drive really fast and aggressively on those and in the city. Once you are off those it is a lot of really poorly maintained gravel/dirt roads that are narrow. Personally I was really happy to have a tour guide driving just because finding your way around seems very difficult and he had a big SUV as some of the roads are in pretty bad shape when trying to get where you need to go.

I found the Costa Rican people really friendly, you will most likely be OK with no Spanish in the tourist areas. Once you get outside it could be a bit of struggle getting gas or trying to get directions or other more specific requests.

July is no hotter than other months but it is wetter.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#3 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 12th, 2020, 11:08 am

I’m here now, finishing up a stay in Guanacaste and around Arsenal.

I wouldn’t consider driving at night, but some roads are fine, and the others you just take slow because they are very curvy with potholes. I just did car and driver this time and happy I did. But I don’t like to drive in the US either.

I have been using Maleku tours for transportation and they have been excellent. I believe their tours get good reviews. Transportation costs seem pricey but are in fact competitive. As is everything for tourists. Bottled water is about 1.50 for a big bottle, more than Costco. But the tap water is fine most everywhere (except Caribbean coast from what I’ve heard), making it the best Central American destination on that alone. Cheers be been drinking house water at the restaurants.


https://www.malekutours.com/tours-in-li ... osta-rica/

Vegetarian food is more available than it was just two years ago. Doing your own cooking, you will be fine. Other than good cheese, staples are available (including vegan cheese at the bigger markets; prepared hummus though was rare). Eating out, unless you don’t mind a lot of pasta, your options will limited except at places catering to westerners. Rice and beans and eggs and some veg.

Even at those places, while they had a separate vegan menu, my wife found the food meh.

I think perhaps a bigger issue that time of year is mosquitos. I haven’t checked but my experience is that window screens are rare outside the US, giving a tough choice between a very hot room or a buggy one. I would certainly insist on air con.
Last edited by Barry L i p t o n on January 12th, 2020, 11:39 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#4 Post by Nola Palomar » January 12th, 2020, 11:21 am

We took Nolita with us when she was around 7 years old for a wine event in late June. It’s been a number of years, but it was economical in food & hotels ( we did like holiday inn style. It was not too hot, but it was their rainy season. Go to La Paz Waterfalls and botanical gardens. My daughter loved it, still talks about it sometimes. I’ve never seen as many hummingbirds. She had a Tucán that took a liking to the buttons on her jacket. Beautiful butterfly house and the falls are awesome. We also went to the Poas volcano. As a note she and I did to sightseeing without Juan, I felt safe.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#5 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 12th, 2020, 12:22 pm

Poppy,

The first decision you have to make is what part of Costa Rica you want to visit. As you probably know, there are two major airports; one in San Jose (central part of the country) and one in Liberia (Guanacaste northwest part of the country). Make that decision and the rest gets easier. You didn't say how long you plan to stay or what "roam" means to you. Length of stay will affect the amount of roaming you can do. The summer "green" season is a good time to go and rates for accommodations, rental cars, etc. tend to be lower at the time of year.

My wife and I have been to CR about a dozen times since the 80s. We are returning this coming Christmas and being joined by some first time visiting friends from Toronto. We have seen much of the country except for the deep south. Roads and access to the deep south are difficult and that area receives the most rain during the green season. Roads can be washed out or impassible. We have only visited the Caribbean coastal area (Limon) once. It is not the safest area to go and it has the least accommodations. Tap water is also not safe to drink there but it is in most of the rest of the country.

We have now settled on flying in and out of Liberia (LIR - Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport). We typically spend a week in the Volcan Arenal area in a rent house. That part of the country is an active vacation area -- ziplines, white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, etc. But it also has some amazing hot springs resorts, eco-zoos, etc. for the younger people.

We then usually spend a week on the Pacific coast. Our choice of areas is Playa Hermosa but Playas del Coco and other nearby beaches can be good too. Our choice is to stay fairly near the airport in Liberia (less than an hour away). We sometimes rent a house, at other times, a small local hotel.

The Manuel Antonio National Park area is also a big tourist area near the town of Quepos. It is more accessible from the San Jose airport.

We rent a 4 wheel drive car from Vamos Rent-A-Car https://vamosrentacar.com/. There are other rental car companies near the airport too.

Our experience with the seasons is that during the wet season (summer) rain rarely ruins a day. Rain typically falls for an hour or so in the afternoon or in the evenings. Depending on where you are in Costa Rica, the temperatures can be in the low 90s which is definitely warm so accommodations with air conditioning are a must. In the mountain areas, spring type weather prevails.

Like almost every country, the smaller the town, the less likely people are to speak English. However Google Translate on your phone works wonders. Everywhere you go, there are little restaurants and sodas (small lunch counters sometimes with limited seating). The food is basic and fresh. So far, we have not experienced any issues with food as we do in Mexico from time to time.

After you have done some research and have an idea of where you want to go or what you want to see and you would like some recommendations, feel free to PM me. I may be able to assist. BTW: Our son's first trip to CR was at about your child's age. We also took our youngest daughter to CR when she was 6 years old.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#6 Post by Poppy Davis » January 12th, 2020, 12:55 pm

Thank you all!
It sounds like the eastern side is to be avoided... that helps!
Flights from LAX to San Jose run about $100-150 cheaper than to Liberia, so we'll probably do that. I think we'll want to do 5-7 nights in the Arenal area, 5-7 nights on a beach, and if we can find fun, good deals 1-2 stops of 2-3 nights anywhere that has a fun place to stay. We're not afraid of an adventure. I've stayed in open-air places in the Amazon and hubby has stayed in them in Africa. The kiddo would probably think bugs were an added bonus.

Barry - thanks for the info on veg food. The kid would probably be fine living on quesadillas and fruit. Do you know if the rice and beans there usually made vegetarian or do they tend to use lard?

The kinds of places we're looking at are like this:
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5592446?ad ... no%2Bpl3jo
Poppy D@vis Frucht m@n, formerly ITB

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#7 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 12th, 2020, 3:48 pm

Michael, sounds like you are the resident expert!

Re rice and beans, don’t think so as they aren’t refried beans, it’s together. we didn’t ask, but my wife usually gets stomach issues if they do. I’ll ask at breakfast if I remember.

A great boat tour is Palo Verde. In Ortega but they will pick you up in Filadelphia (in the good road from Liberia). I did it two years ago and I would have done it again on this trip but had a health issue the day I was scheduled.
http://www.paloverdeboattours.com/

Also, both times I have gone into one airport and out of the other. No need to do a round trip to the same airport if open jaw is more convenient . Last time into SJO and out of LIR, this time vice versa.

If you aren’ t a nervous flyer, there are some internal flights in small planes that allow you to see the south and the north, for example, Quepos to LIR nonstop. When I say small, I mean wright brothers small😀

Be sure to visit Tabacon hot springs while you visit. Absolutely the most amazing in the world that I’ve been. I’m there now.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#8 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 12th, 2020, 8:13 pm

The rice and beans dish is Gallo Pinto and is vegetarian. You can find the recipes online.

If you are in Arenal area, no shortage of places with vegetarian options. Whether you find them delicious is another story. Food has been certainly adequate for me (fish mostly, chicken if no fresh fish, ok salads). In La Fortuna, many places (Don Rufino is good relatively speaking( and outside town is Tabbule , a Lebanese restaurant (fallafel, hummus, baba famous hero, etc). Pizza is everywhere.

Same thing for Tamarindo (beach town in Guanacaste).

You don’t need a 4wd for those areas.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#9 Post by Josh Grossman » January 12th, 2020, 9:32 pm

Heading to Dominical on Saturday. Will be my first time there. I will report back. We are staying here:
https://www.vrbo.com/388657ha?adultsCou ... 2020-01-25

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#10 Post by Poppy Davis » January 13th, 2020, 10:48 am

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
January 12th, 2020, 8:13 pm
The rice and beans dish is Gallo Pinto and is vegetarian. You can find the recipes online.

If you are in Arenal area, no shortage of places with vegetarian options. Whether you find them delicious is another story. Food has been certainly adequate for me (fish mostly, chicken if no fresh fish, ok salads). In La Fortuna, many places (Don Rufino is good relatively speaking( and outside town is Tabbule , a Lebanese restaurant (fallafel, hummus, baba famous hero, etc). Pizza is everywhere.

Same thing for Tamarindo (beach town in Guanacaste).

You don’t need a 4wd for those areas.
Thanks, Barry! Enjoy your trip!
Poppy D@vis Frucht m@n, formerly ITB

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#11 Post by Poppy Davis » January 13th, 2020, 10:48 am

Josh Grossman wrote:
January 12th, 2020, 9:32 pm
Heading to Dominical on Saturday. Will be my first time there. I will report back. We are staying here:
https://www.vrbo.com/388657ha?adultsCou ... 2020-01-25
Baller! Enjoy!
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#12 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 13th, 2020, 1:15 pm

Poppy Davis wrote:
January 12th, 2020, 12:55 pm
Thank you all!
It sounds like the eastern side is to be avoided... that helps!
Flights from LAX to San Jose run about $100-150 cheaper than to Liberia, so we'll probably do that. I think we'll want to do 5-7 nights in the Arenal area, 5-7 nights on a beach, and if we can find fun, good deals 1-2 stops of 2-3 nights anywhere that has a fun place to stay. We're not afraid of an adventure. I've stayed in open-air places in the Amazon and hubby has stayed in them in Africa. The kiddo would probably think bugs were an added bonus.

Barry - thanks for the info on veg food. The kid would probably be fine living on quesadillas and fruit. Do you know if the rice and beans there usually made vegetarian or do they tend to use lard?

The kinds of places we're looking at are like this:
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5592446?ad ... no%2Bpl3jo
In my opinion, the Caribbean side is to be avoided. Your plan sound similar to our current trips to CR. A week in the Volcan Arenal/La Fortuna area and a week at the beach. If you arrive at SJO, and drive to La Fortuna, the drive will take about 3 hours. You should take the short side trip off the road to visit Sarchi which is famous for its colorfully painted oxcarts. https://www.govisitcostarica.com/region ... sp?cID=387. In route, you will drive through Zarcero where the church garden has some amazing topiaries. https://www.govisitcostarica.com/region ... sp?cID=100. La Fortuna is the biggest town in the Arenal area and there are a lot of rentals in or near the town. It is also the base for most of the tour operators in the area and home to several hot springs’ spas.

If we were going to a beach from the La Fortuna area and not one of those closest to the airport in Liberia (Playa Hermosa, Playas de Coco, Playa Ocotal – these beaches are about a 3.5 hour to SJO), we would probably go to the Manuel Antonio National Park area. It is a 4.5 – 5 hour drive from La Fortuna. It is a tourist destination and there are a lot of choices of rentals. Closer still is Punta Arenas. It is a port town and we would personally not choose to stay there. We would go the extra distance to the Manuel Antonio area. The Manuel Antonio area is 2.5 – 3 hours from SJO. The Airbnb you reference is about 7 hours from La Fortuna and 5 hours from SJO.

Miscellaneous:
A fun trip for adults and kids alike is a visit to a private park on Volcan Miravalles https://hornillas.com/tours/. We recommend the combination waterfalls +Hornillas experience. Check it out on the website. It is about a 2.5-hour drive from La Fortuna, about 1.5 hours from Playas del Coco. If you drive it from La Fortuna, stop at the big cat rescue center. It is on the way. It is great fun for adults and children too. https://centrorescatelaspumas.org/. Don’t get sold on a tour of Arenal volcano. It is basically a walk around the base. The mountain is off limits to tourists for safety reasons.

Hot springs: There are many hot springs in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. Someone mentioned Tabacon. It is the granddaddy of the hot springs’ resorts in the area and it is great fun. Personally, we prefer https://www.baldihotsprings.cr/. More pools and less expensive. There are even less expensive hot springs in the area.

Someone mentioned that a 4x4 may not be necessary and it may not. We always rent one because of our experiences over the year. Other than the main roads, the others are either gravel, rock, or dirt. All can be difficult to navigate especially in the rainy season. The roads are not graded during the rainy season so they degrade and become rutted as the season goes on. We have had to ford streams and go around roads blocked by rock slides. We would not attempt that in a sedan. For us the 4x4 provides more utility and they sit higher off of the often rough, bumpy roads.
The advice to limit your driving at night is good advice. The roads are often winding. The roads often have potholes and speed bumps (muertos) are found in the most unexpected places. Cars and trucks drive with abandon and it is not unusual for a vehicle to be driving at night without headlights. Add to that the fact that you are unfamiliar with the area and you are navigating by landmark, the risk is high.
Speaking of navigating by landmark, that is exactly how you get around. I find Waze and Google maps to be very good. Since most of Costa Rica does not have addresses, landmarks are the basis for directions. Luckily Google Maps and Waze have very inclusive POIs for Costa Rica.

I read something about the use of oil or lard. Unless you ask, you probably won’t know. It is an individual choice. The recipe we have for Gallo Pinto from a Costa Rican family friend uses butter but Costa Ricans are just as likely to use vegetable oil or pork lard.

I may have forgotten a few things so keep asking your questions.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#13 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 13th, 2020, 2:05 pm

Michael, is Baldi hot springs as lushly landscaped as Tabacon? Or rather, as full of flowering plants- everyplace is lush up here.

We loved Manuel Antonio, the nature was the most impressive of a country filled with impressive nature. This time , we didn’t want the drive or expenses so we did Guanacaste resorts on points. .I loved the beaches but the nature is the real reason to go to Costa Rica- beaches I saw here were nice but not as good as Hawaii.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#14 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 13th, 2020, 7:41 pm

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 2:05 pm
Michael, is Baldi hot springs as lushly landscaped as Tabacon? Or rather, as full of flowering plants- everyplace is lush up here.

We loved Manuel Antonio, the nature was the most impressive of a country filled with impressive nature. This time , we didn’t want the drive or expenses so we did Guanacaste resorts on points. .I loved the beaches but the nature is the real reason to go to Costa Rica- beaches I saw here were nice but not as good as Hawaii.
Barry, you can get a good idea to compare by visiting the gallery on their website. Like Tabacon, they also have a resort. We like that it has more choices of pools. If you have children, you can see that it has a mini-waterpark too which is great fun for kids of all ages. We also like it because it sells a day pass that does not require you to buy a meal too. Tabacon day pass requires a meal purchase. We don't eat at the hot springs.

We prefer the beaches I mentioned but then again, we do fly in and out of LIR. SJO may be a little less expensive but not enough to make it worthwhile. Also from DFW, arrivals often were in the late evening requiring us to overnight in the airport area before heading on to our destination. Departures were also usually too early requiring us to spend the night near the airport the night before departure. Schedules may have changed since SJO was remodeled but we no longer use the airport. We are happy with the Arenal area and the playas nearest to LIR. A fun day trip from those playas is to Granada, Nicaragua. Interesting town to visit and the tours almost always include a cruise on Lake Nicaragua which is the largest lake in Central America.

You are right about the beaches. Interestingly you can find, white sand, grey sand, and black sand beaches in the area. Certainly not Hawaii type beaches. But we enjoy the more basic, less crowded beaches anyway.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#15 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 13th, 2020, 7:59 pm

[help.gif] I was staying at the Tabacon resort; I’d find eating at the springs a turnoff as well. Staying at the resort gave access to a more private secluded adults only area, I found it paradisical. But the buffet looked meh.

I’m interested in trying Baldi.

I agree with the recommendation of Manuel Antonio - seeing the sloth was great. Not yo mention the 45-50 immense crocodiles under the Tarcoles bridge on the way.

Poppy, one thing we enjoyed in the Arenal area that was easy was the Butterfly conservatory. Beautiful and very suitable for kids.
Last edited by Barry L i p t o n on January 14th, 2020, 8:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#16 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 14th, 2020, 8:31 am

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 7:59 pm
I was staying at the Tabacon resort; I’d find eating at the springs a turnoff as well. Staying at the resort gave access to a more private secluded adults only area, I found it paradisical. But the buffet looked meh.

I’m interested in trying Baldi.

I agree with the recommendation of Manuel Antonio - seeing the sloth was great. Not yo mention the 45-50 immense crocodiles under the Tarcoles bridge on the way.

Poppy, one thing we enjoyed in the Arsenal area that was easy was the Butterfly conservatory. Beautiful and very suitable for kids.
Barry just to make certain that Poppy doesn't get confused, it is Arenal and not Arsenal. You must be a football fan :)

If you are ever back in the Arenal area, this sloth tour is a very good one. Nothing like seeming them in the wild. https://www.callidryastours.com/sloth-tour

This might be the butterfly observatory you visited. https://www.costarica.com/attractions/arenal-ecozoo
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#17 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 14th, 2020, 8:49 am

Michael O'Brien wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 8:31 am


Barry just to make certain that Poppy doesn't get confused, it is Arenal and not Arsenal. You must be a football fan
No
But my spell check is!

This is the butterfly conservatory I mentioned
butterfly conservatory arenal

Poppy, michael has the greater experience, I defer to him.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#18 Post by Poppy Davis » January 14th, 2020, 1:32 pm

Thank you, again! Both of your input is extremely helpful!

I think we've got a plan. Our 50-year-old house has had numerous issues which is cutting our travel budget severely. But we really need a get-away-from-it-all kind of vacation. So here's what we have so far. We'll fill in with activities once we've got this all booked.

1) Fly into Liberia. Flight gets in at 7pm, so rent a 4x4 at the airport and check into a hotel/Airbnb near the airport for 1 night.
2) Drive to La Fortuna. 4 nights there. We're eyeing this Airbnb which is 10 minutes out of La Fortuna:
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/39818729?w ... DqZu6Hm%2F
3) Drive to Manuel Antonio. 2 nights there. Still looking over Airbnb options.
4) Drive to the Golgo Dulce Forest Reserve and stay 2 nights in this place. This place just seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Kayaking at night in a calm bay with bioluminescent plankton sounds amazing.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5592446?wl ... fGLEldEHQx
5) Drive to Langostino and stay 8 nights in this house on the beach:
https://www.vrbo.com/1010412?arrival=20 ... 2020-07-18
6) Drive to SJO area for 1 night
7) Depart early am from SJO

So far, so good?
Poppy D@vis Frucht m@n, formerly ITB

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#19 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 14th, 2020, 10:44 pm

Poppy Davis wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 1:32 pm
Thank you, again! Both of your input is extremely helpful!

I think we've got a plan. Our 50-year-old house has had numerous issues which is cutting our travel budget severely. But we really need a get-away-from-it-all kind of vacation. So here's what we have so far. We'll fill in with activities once we've got this all booked.

1) Fly into Liberia. Flight gets in at 7pm, so rent a 4x4 at the airport and check into a hotel/Airbnb near the airport for 1 night.
2) Drive to La Fortuna. 4 nights there. We're eyeing this Airbnb which is 10 minutes out of La Fortuna:
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/39818729?w ... DqZu6Hm%2F
3) Drive to Manuel Antonio. 2 nights there. Still looking over Airbnb options.
4) Drive to the Golgo Dulce Forest Reserve and stay 2 nights in this place. This place just seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Kayaking at night in a calm bay with bioluminescent plankton sounds amazing.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5592446?wl ... fGLEldEHQx
5) Drive to Langostino and stay 8 nights in this house on the beach:
https://www.vrbo.com/1010412?arrival=20 ... 2020-07-18
6) Drive to SJO area for 1 night
7) Depart early am from SJO

So far, so good?
I know what you mean about houses and the nearly constant need for something. Ours is 40 years old and once or twice a year, I have a list of things for my contractor to do.

Wow! You are going to do a lot of driving on your trip. I do not know the property in Los Angeles de La Fortuna. It is east of the city. It is probably 50km closer to the San Jose Airport than it is the Liberia Airport. It is on the main route from SJO to La Fortuna and Volcan Arenal. Two towns I might have mentioned that are in route and worth visiting are Sarchi and Zarcero. Sarchi is a little off the main road. Zarcero is on the main road.

It is always worth a stop in the Manuel Antonio National Park area. You will find something suitable.

You are definitely going from one end to the other of Golfo Dulce. Langostino is about a 5.5 - 6 hour drive to the airport. It is only about 220 miles but roads require slower speed driving. You can practically throw a rock from Langostino into Panama. If you decide to cross the border, David is about 2 hours away. Population about 150,000. It isn't particularly picturesque but a lot of American and Canadian retirees live there and in Boquete which is about an hour away up in the hills.

Have a wonderful trip. We love CR. That is where we head when we want to take a short one or two week vacation.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#20 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 15th, 2020, 5:41 am

For me, seems like too much road time in the middle. You are driving every other day.

Also no flexibility. What if it’s pouring or someone isn’t feeling well the only full day you have for Manuel Anontio?
Last edited by Barry L i p t o n on January 15th, 2020, 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#21 Post by brigcampbell » January 15th, 2020, 8:56 am

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 8:49 am
Michael O'Brien wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 8:31 am


Barry just to make certain that Poppy doesn't get confused, it is Arenal and not Arsenal. You must be a football fan
No
But my spell check is!

This is the butterfly conservatory I mentioned
butterfly conservatory arenal

Poppy, michael has the greater experience, I defer to him.
Butterfly conservatory and Hanging Bridges - perfect day trip together

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_ ... _Alaj.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_ ... juela.html




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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#22 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 15th, 2020, 12:36 pm

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 5:41 am
For me, seems like too much road time in the middle. You are driving every other day.

Also no flexibility. What if it’s pouring or someone isn’t feeling well the only full day you have for Manuel Anontio?
Barry is correct but then maybe you are the kind of people that love to spend hours on winding roads. Personally, I would focus on a more compact area with less driving. There will be plenty of driving even if you do. The Golfo Dulce area is a trip unto itself.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#23 Post by Josh Grossman » January 17th, 2020, 1:53 pm

On the south side of the country, this is what we are looking at:

Day trips are feasible from Manual Antonio National Park to the north, Corcovado National Park to the south (via boat from Uvita), or north into the mountains/cloud forests/Quetzales National Park almost back to San Jose.

We will plan on scuba diving one day to Cano Island National Park; anyone that wants to snorkel can come on the same boat, generally leaves 6-7am and gets back mid-afternoon. You get to hike around and explore the island or hang on the beach there too, cost is about $130-175 pp. Most boat trips in this region are on smaller boats that launch from the beach in active surf, so we'll need to keep an eye on tide/swell/storm forecasts and pick the calmest day, which right now may be Monday.

I also found a boat tour offered to Corcovado National Park on the remote Osa peninsula, which is one of the most densely bio-diverse areas on earth and has tons of wildlife and rainforest. It is the most special park in the country and very rugged/remote/restricted. Usually you have to stay more nearby, hire a guide, and spend several days camping to see the park, but I discovered we can take a boat from nearby Uvita (possibly whale watching along the way, but not high season for that) directly to one of the ranger stations in the park, and then it's a daylong hike and boat back the same day, with guide included (required for that park). It's pretty rugged terrain, and will be hot/humid/buggy..That cost $145 pp. More info at https://www.costaricadiveandsurf.com/corcovado-tour/ Let me know who's up for that and I'll try to book a reservation in advance.

On tuesday mornings, one of the nearby mountain towns Tinamaste has a farmers market ("feria"), so that might be a good day to head up into the mountains on the "highway of death" and check out some cloud forests, hikes, maybe do some birdwatching in Quetzales national park or San Gerardo de Dota. There's lots of other hiking areas and activities to check out other days, awesome beaches, waterfalls, the Marena Ballena seashore national park and whale's tail, Hacienda Baru nature preserve, coffee/cocoa tours, etc. General info on the region here: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/the ... d-ojochal/

The best restaurants are clustered in the Ojochal area, about 30-40 minutes away. I'll probably put in some placeholder reservations for 3 I have on the map; we can always cancel/change - Citrus, Exotica, and Ylang-Ylang.
Last edited by Josh Grossman on January 17th, 2020, 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#24 Post by Josh Grossman » January 17th, 2020, 1:57 pm

Other things that have peaked my interest include:
Arco Beach
Remote, rustic hangout with a waterfall

El Avion
Restaurant

Eco Chontales Waterfall

Topolandia

Catarata del Toro
Waterfall and canyon

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#25 Post by patrick c albright » January 18th, 2020, 6:17 am

There is a little roadside bar/gathering place/restaurant in the middle of the jungle between Puerto Jimenez and Matapolo, Martine’s. Cool spot, highly recommended.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#26 Post by Poppy Davis » January 18th, 2020, 1:11 pm

Thank you all for the great suggestions. I had my heart set on the kayaking with the bioluminescent plankton, but we're realizing it might be even better in a few years when the kiddo is just a little bit older. We're poring over all the options to focus the trip with 4-6 nights in Arenal/La Fortuna area and then the rest in a northern beach area. We're still considering Manuel Antonio, but that does add a lot more driving. I will report back when we have a new plan. I really appreciate all the feedback!
Last edited by Poppy Davis on January 19th, 2020, 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#27 Post by brigcampbell » January 18th, 2020, 7:34 pm

Food at avion was good. Get a table on the deck looking out.


Josh Grossman wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 1:57 pm
Other things that have peaked my interest include:
Arco Beach
Remote, rustic hangout with a waterfall

El Avion
Restaurant

Eco Chontales Waterfall

Topolandia

Catarata del Toro
Waterfall and canyon

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#28 Post by Josh Grossman » January 19th, 2020, 3:30 am

brigcampbell wrote:
January 18th, 2020, 7:34 pm
Food at avion was good. Get a table on the deck looking out.


Josh Grossman wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 1:57 pm
Other things that have peaked my interest include:
Arco Beach
Remote, rustic hangout with a waterfall

El Avion
Restaurant

Eco Chontales Waterfall

Topolandia

Catarata del Toro
Waterfall and canyon
Thanks. Yesterday we spent most of the day at Villa Caletas Hotel and Restaurant. It looked like some of the great villas in Ravello. Great cocktails and restaurant if ever near Jaco:
Image
Image
Image

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#29 Post by G. Greenbaum » January 19th, 2020, 11:01 am

Hi Poppy - IMHO, your trip involves too much driving and the roads and drive times are much different than in LA. My suggestion, if you're flying into Liberia is to stay in that area. You can visit the Volcano park Rincon de la Vieja. We stayed at Hotel Rincon de la Vieja Lodge (all inclusive: meals & room). The rooms and food are practical, but not luxurious. They have a ton of activities that are family oriented. And the bird life in the hotel area is astounding. We saw toucans among the several birds in the area. There's a butterfly reserve, an in house walk that displays various reptiles and tons of hiking. If you like rafting and zip-lines, that's also available. It's a good place for younger kids. I would spend a few days here. You don't need a car. You can take a van from the airport to the hotel and back. Then you can rent a car and go west to one of the many great beach areas near Playa Hermosa. I was in the Nosara area which is great, but a much longer drive. In any case, Cost Rica is amazing and you can't go wrong. Pura Vida!
Last edited by G. Greenbaum on January 19th, 2020, 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Regards,
Gregg


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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#30 Post by Brad Kane » January 19th, 2020, 3:54 pm

Having just returned from nine days in Costa Rica, I'll also suggest limited driving as the roads are not great and you'd be going at the heart of the rainy season. Certainly some areas will be off limits as a result. For instance, the lodge I stayed at in the Osa Peninsula essentially closes a few months out of the year as you just can't drive through the rivers that swell at that time.

Arenal is one of the places I wanted to get to this trip, but the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa didn't have the dates I wanted, so we stayed 1:45 east of there at the Selva Verde Lodge, which is also one of the best birding lodges there.

Not sure if birding is much of a focus on your trip, Costa Rica is regarded as one of the best places to bird, but if you want any reccos in that regard, happy to help.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#31 Post by Michael O'Brien » January 22nd, 2020, 8:38 am

The southern Pacific coast and Osa Peninsula receive the most rain during the rainy season. The rainiest months tend to be September and October but the season is May to November. The further south you go, the more likely you are to have washed out roads, giant potholes, washouts, landslides, and low water crossings you can't or shouldn't try to cross. It will probably rain all day as well. Guanacaste is the driest region and it has the shortest rainy season. In Guanacaste, the rainy season often means a late afternoon or evening rain shower.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#32 Post by Linda Baehr » January 25th, 2020, 5:31 pm

Josh Grossman wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 1:57 pm
Other things that have peaked my interest include:
Arco Beach
Remote, rustic hangout with a waterfall

El Avion
Restaurant

Eco Chontales Waterfall

Topolandia

Catarata del Toro
Waterfall and canyon
If you are still there, check out my friend Jazmin's restaurant! It is amazing!

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_ ... renas.html

It's on a very rough road near Uvita, but it is totally worth it!
ITB..................................but you guys knew that already, right?
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Buy a painting from a starving artist!

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#33 Post by Poppy Davis » February 2nd, 2020, 7:55 pm

OK, new plan! We've booked the flights, now we need to book the rooms.

Fly into Liberia and arrive at 3pm. Rent a 4x4 at the airport and stay somewhere within 30 minutes of the airport (any suggestions?).
The next day we drive to La Fortuna and stay at the Manta House airbnb which we linked to above.
5 nights in La Fortuna.
Then drive to Finca Amistad Cacao Lodge and do one night there and do a cacao farm tour.
Then drive to the beach - either Playa Hermosa or Ocotal Bay. We're considering these two places for 9 nights. Which one would you choose:
https://www.vrbo.com/141224?adultsCount ... 2020-07-18

or
https://www.vrbo.com/504222?adultsCount ... 2020-07-20

Nine nights at the beach, then fly out of Liberia.

Also, with regards to the car rental...do we need a car at the beach? It sounds like taxis are an option if we want to go to different towns for restaurants and such. Are taxis expensive? Otherwise, we're looking at $1,000 for 16 days of a car and that's hard to swallow.

Thanks!
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Brad Kane
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#34 Post by Brad Kane » February 2nd, 2020, 9:20 pm

If you do have any intention to do anything birding/nature related, while you're in La Fortuna you'll be relatively close to the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, which is one of the premier birding spots in the country. They offer a range of birding walks on their property. Here's a link. You'll want to inquire about pricing. https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/ ... ory-lodge/ Just note that there aren't as many birds around in July as the migrants have gone to their nesting sites out of the country. That said, there are a lot of birds around. Here's a list on ebird of the species that have been historically spotted at the Arenal Observatory Lodge in July: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L436229/all/7

I'd also suggest a guided night walk to see the nocturnal species that are around.
itb.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#35 Post by Barry L i p t o n » February 3rd, 2020, 1:31 am

Taxis were $20- $35 for modest one ways (say 15-30 minutes)

I liked the Marriott Hacienda de Belen (which is 15 minutes from the airport) for an airport stay . If you have a Marriott credit card, one of those free night certificates that are hard to use there are good here.
Last edited by Barry L i p t o n on February 3rd, 2020, 1:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#36 Post by Michael O'Brien » February 3rd, 2020, 12:25 pm

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
February 3rd, 2020, 1:31 am
Taxis were $20- $35 for modest one ways (say 15-30 minutes)

I liked the Marriott Hacienda de Belen (which is 15 minutes from the airport) for an airport stay . If you have a Marriott card, one of those free night certificates that are hard to use there are good here.
+1
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#37 Post by ClarkstonMark » May 15th, 2020, 1:56 pm

this was a great thread, was wondering if trip is still on?
I was reading in another forum a post by a guy who has a rental on the beach somewhere in CR, and seems like the country is doing well in fighting coronavirus, but is more or less closed to visitors until at least mid June.
Here is his post (forgive the poor grammar):

I live is Costa Rica and own a hotel- totally rely on tourism... Costa Rica has done one of the best jobs with corona of any country.... but they killed everything.. severe driving limitations, closed everything... and fine you if you break the law. No driving after 7 am.. the entire country.. I can drive 4 days of the week... for food and banking... not after 7.. it was 5 pm.. they extended it to 7. Too many workers were getting jack for legit reason. Most of the country is not working especially if the work in tourism...

My two cents...

Flying.. depends on where you go and whether that country is shut down / borders are open / airports. In CR... the borders are closed... you cant come in... and you cant get out. If you are doing multicountry.. the borders may be closed in the country you want to travel to.... I was supposed to leave the country to do a border run in May... nope.. govt extending it to July .. yesterday til August. People who did not get out in March are stuck here.... June 15 they will make the decision about the border... and flying...

Tourism... if your tourism revolves seeing things or places where people get together .... probably will remain closed. Even if people can get to Costa Rica... Beaches are closed... Police fine you. Restuarants, shops, parks, all the cool tourism places closed.... SHIT IS CLOSED. My hotel is right on the beach and the beach is completely empty... nada... couple kids play soccer in the evening until the popo sees them and they scatter..... starting in a couple days. The beach will open M-F from 5 am - 8am... for fishing..

Just because you can get somewhere doesnt mean you can go on a tour of your favorite tourist attractions. With so many things closed... very limiting on things you can do.....
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#38 Post by Poppy Davis » May 15th, 2020, 2:14 pm

Unfortunately, we canceled all travel plans. We won't consider getting on an airplane until there is a significant breakthrough in medication or there is a vaccine.

We got all deposits back on VRBO/Airbnb/car rental. Hopefully, our flights will be canceled so we can get our money back.
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Re: Costa Rica Questions

#39 Post by ClarkstonMark » May 15th, 2020, 2:40 pm

Poppy Davis wrote:
May 15th, 2020, 2:14 pm
Unfortunately, we canceled all travel plans. We won't consider getting on an airplane until there is a significant breakthrough in medication or there is a vaccine.

We got all deposits back on VRBO/Airbnb/car rental. Hopefully, our flights will be canceled so we can get our money back.
That stinks but better safe than sorry . Glad you're getting deposits back.
Mark Cronmiller
White Lake, MI

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