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Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

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Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Costa Rica pt.4

Days 9-10

Drove from Tamarindo to Manuel Antonio, took around 5 hours plus an hour break for lunch (at a nice soda/restaurant just off the main highway after a bridge over a valley, cannot remember the name unfortunately) and we arrived just as it was getting dark. The drive, whilst long, is fairly easy with some rough roads for 10-15 km exiting Tamarindo but then paved highways the rest of the way. The final stretch from Quepos up into MA is very twisting and poorly lit so we were glad of the last of the light getting up there.

We were very pleased with our hotel, the Plaza Yara, which is a smaller independent hotel situated about half way between Quepos and MA. The hotel was quiet, clean and the room very large with a nice big bathroom and a separate lounge/kitchen area (think we had some kind of family room as were travelling as a group of 3). Breakfast left a little to be desired, was perfectly nice but only offered ordered options not buffet so you didn’t get much of a fill. Once settled in the hotel gave us some tips about activities and suggested the Manuel Antonio Expeditions team (tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g309274-…).

And what a superb recommendation it was. We dealt with Paul/Paulo over the phone, a Canadian now nationalised Costa Rican, who talked us through all our options, what would work best for our timescales and the tide patterns for the mangrove boat tour and even agreed a discount as we were a group. The morning was spent with his colleague Juan Brenes, having been driven to MA NP by Paulo. Juan gave us a guided tour of the park, which is all simple trails and quite busy/touristy but nevertheless an excellent nature viewing opportunity – we saw sloths, howler monkeys, white faced capuchins (Marcel from Friends), iguanas, tiny lizards, beautiful birds and some interesting creepy crawlies. We were then dropped by at our hotel around midday to freshen up for an hour (much needed as we had naively expected a proper hike so had worn heavy jeans and walking boots when shorts and trainers would have suited!) before Paulo came for us and took us for a traditional Costa Rican lunch cooked by his very own Tica wife! We thought this was a wonderful personal touch and the food was delicious. Particularly sweet of him was that I had mentioned earlier in the day that I’d heard all about ‘Ceviche’ but hadn’t had a chance to sample any and was worried it was the last day or so of our trip and he made up a batch especially! He then took us out for a delightful boat trip through the mangrove swamps, seeing more capuchins, kingfishers, cranes/egrets, bats and even an impossibly cute tiny Silky Anteater. We finished with drinking the juice from some freshly cut coconuts before being dropped back off at our hotel.

Days 11-12

Day 11 we drove back to San Jose late morning, the drive was about 2.5 hours plus we stopped for a while at the Rio Tarcoles crocodile bridge which wa amazing seeing almost 40 huge crocs just lounging around sun-bathing. Almost got stung on all the tolls into SJO, totally ran out of small change (colones) and would have been in trouble if there’d been 1 more. Our hotel, again the Sleep Inn, was central/downtown SJO but the satnav guided us there fine and the traffic wasn’t that difficult to manage (though I am experienced driving it London which may help). Afternoon in SJO, not much to do, strolled down to the main square when the National Museum/Gold Muesum etc were which killed a couple of hours, then just headed back to our hotel and saw out the day in the neighbouring sports bar. On reflection, given our flight was 3pm and SJO is frankly rubbish, we should have stayed an extra night in MA and driven straight to the airport. Wouldn’t have been a problem at all.

Day 12 was a fairly stressful trip home – mainly due to the gross incompetence of US immigration policies and Miami airport in general. Seriously, if you can get a flight to CR that doesn’t go via the US it is worth at least an extra £50 to avoid the stress and hassle. From what we saw you could lay-off 20-30% of Miami’s airport staff overnight with no impact on service or speed. Having to run to catch our flight back to the UK even though we had 2.5 hours lay-over is ridiculous. SJO airport was generally ok, though be warned – food and drink prices are an astonishing rip-off, even by airport standards, and, (this may have been specific to American Airlines), having gone through all of the airport’s security and re-bought bottles of water for the flight etc, AA were operating a second security clearance at the gate itself stealing everyone’s water back off them and creating a lot of irate passengers. NB: Departure tax of $28 is payable before check-in (this would usually be added to your airline ticket), best come prepare with the dollars but there are cashpoints next to the desks and the service is fairly swift and efficient. BE WARNED: payment of this tax by credit card is treated as a cash advance and very experience – pay cash!

Anyways, that was the end to our little trip to Costa Rica. A truly fabulous and beautiful country, matched by its inhabitants. Pura Vida!!

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Tamarindo
Tamarindo
Province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica
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1. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Hey David...please come back...we need more people like you guys...next time maybe...LHR...MAD...SJO..

roadadvisor

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2. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

The only problem with going via Madrid is it is often a) considerably more expensive; and b) Iberia are pretty terrible! That said, I wasn't that impressed with AA so maybe I should give Iberia another chance! :-)

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Madrid
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3. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Great report, thanks! Agree with Iberia being terrible, next time also check KLM, they fly via Panama, probably not the cheapest but we liked the service and especially not going via the US.

Edited: 10 January 2013, 18:17
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Panama
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4. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

great report, bummer about having to go through the U.S. immigration, it is a pain in the you know what. Sounds like you guys had a blast. Come back soon!

Nowhere
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5. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Throughly enjoyed your report - sounds like you have your head on straight, too.

If you want to avoid the US AND want to avoid Iberia (for obvious reasons), you can also take Condor via FRA. They have a stop-over in Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep. that is short and sweet without the pesky immigration/custom gauntlet the US throws in the way of transiting tourists. Their prices tend to be very competitive, too.

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6. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Good tip, thanks Framp!

Costa Rica
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7. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Another option that may or may not work is flying through Mexico City.

It seems there are always trade-offs: Inexpensive vs inconvenient and not-so-great-airline vs 1-2 stops.

I flew back and forth from Costa to Europe quite a few times when my son lived in Germany. The best flights were on Lufthansa and one of their main transit points in the US is Charlotte, NC which is a smaller airport. You still have to do the ESTA and security things, but it's somewhat easier.

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Mexico City
Mexico City
Central Mexico and Gulf Coast, Mexico
Germany
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Charlotte
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8. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

In 2011 Juan Brenes told us he might quit the guiding. Luckily he decided against as he is a very fine guide with excellent English. David, you didn't do your homework about San Jose. Or you did but didn't trust? All major European carriers to CA are expensive; we will fly LH and UA via Newark (4 hr) and Houston (5 hr) so hopefully we will be OK. Price difference was 300 Eur! Thank you, david, for excellent report, and for driving times as they are so often asked for here. Was Costa Rica good enough to deserve a return trip?

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9. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

We did research, checked TA before arrival, spoke to reception staff at hotel and the SJO locals from Thrifty that dropped off our car. Still couldn't find anything better. Almost everything bar the museums/theatre that is recommend as 'Things to Do' on TA is outside of actual SJO itself.

AA were over £100 cheaper than the next alternative so happy we got a good price but will definitely accept a higher price to avoid the US next time!

Costa Rica was good enough for a dozen return trips! The only things holding me back are time and money....!! :-)

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10. Re: Costa Rica Trip Report (Nov-12) pt.4

Really enjoyed your trip reports, David. Thorough, direct and honest with plenty of enthusiasm and information. Just the ticket!