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the good, the bad and the ugly...

Texas
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the good, the bad and the ugly...

So after a bad experience in Belize I'm "once bitten twice shy" as they say.... I really want to visit Costa Rica but I have to do my best to avoid a Belize repeat. I know all countries/cities have their good, bad and ugly. I would like to hear about the bad and ugly of CR from people who have been to CR many times or live there. I'd like to know places to avoid. I don't like the beggers, scammer vultures and hustlers who typically harass tourist... I don't mind 1 or two here and there and I have no problem being polite and saying no, but being mobbed, hounded, lied to or pestered really takes away from an otherwise enjoyable vacation. I'm travelling with my wife, a 4yr old and a 13yr old. Where in CR would you guys suggest we visit? Our check list includes beaches for wading/swimming, monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife and a hammock with a view. Mostly interested in an ecoodge type place and since we will be travelling in June I've ruled out the osa. Some rain is fine, but I'd like to avoid 2 day down pours.

Maybe Costa Rica isn't right for us?

San Jose, Costa Rica
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47,172 posts
35 reviews
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1. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Or maybe it is...

Check Manuel Antonio National PArk area..Buena Vista Villas and Casas...or Tulemar bungalows...everything you are looking for...

Also SOUS...Los Altos...Mariposa...Issimo...

roadadvisor

Texas
12 posts
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2. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

I've read bad things about the hustlers in and around the Manuel Antonio area... seriously want to avoid the persistent and pushy hustlers. Maybe the sources who wrote the blogs/post complaining about that activity were not credible... idk. But I had pretty much marked off the central pacific area from my list because of such accounts. I'll do a bit more reading.

Victoria, Canada
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619 posts
7 reviews
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3. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Wgonfan,

We have never been to Belize but have travelled around Mexico extensively (and I don't mean AI resorts). We have flown, bussed, rented cars and stayed in many different areas on many different trips. We travel as a family - 2 teens and 2 parents. I don't want to generalize because we really do love Mexico and their history and culture but we always have our guard up in Mexico regarding what you mention. Not that we expect those things to happen...but they usually do.

We tried CR this past Dec/Jan and LOVED it. We didn't find anyone tried to take advantage of us - no hustling, no rip offs attempted (not one person tried to short change us at a gas station!!). You have to accept however that "hustlers" (and I use that term loosely) exist in every country.

In CR, we really enjoyed the relaxed feeling - not always looking over our shoulder. Don't get me wrong, you have to be smart and have your wits about you! We didn't visit MA - moved around the entire Nicoya Peninsula - Liberia, Arenal, Samara, Montezuma, Cabuya, Sta. Teresa, Playa Hermosa.

I would suggest you give CR another look - beautiful country and wonderful people. Clean, easy to navigate, friendly, and relaxing!

Just my two cents...

London, England...
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2,558 posts
117 reviews
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4. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Avoid central san jose, you'll hate it. It's rubbish anyway so you're not missing much.

MA's bad rep is re parking attendents, nothing more. If you visit the park with a tour guide (recommended) it's not an issue, if you go on your own just read up first so you know the score n try not to worry yourself about it.

Other than that I never came across any hassling or hustling, CR ppl are astonishingly nice polite and helpful.

Oh, top tip, never visit an arabic country. Your head will explode. Personally I love it but it sounds like your worst nightmare!

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
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15,947 posts
60 reviews
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5. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

The persons described by you are mostly hanging where the tourists are. Two places with big concentration of tourists and thus also all kind of "business people" are Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio. Not to say that they are filled with activities you have described (most hated are so called park attendants in Manuel Antonio) but if you want to play it safe then skip this two places. OK, Jaco also, but for the other type of "business". That leaves you with so many palces that it would take too long to describe. And you have also not stated for how long are you coming to Costa Rica. Anyhow, the area with best beaches, calmest water, most eco lodges (and the multitude of other accommodations all being small in size) is Caribbean coast between Cahuita and Manzanillo, with Puerto Viejo as the biggest village.

Tilaran, Costa Rica
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567 posts
44 reviews
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6. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

You mentioned in your other post that you're interested in going to the Caribbean side. If you do, it's very UNlikely to be approached by pushy vendors. People over there tend to be very relaxed and calmed and they just mind their own business. If you stop and look at the souvenirs, vendors are happy to assit you but I had never been harassed to buy anything from them.

When we were in Mexico, street vendors always commented on my husband's full arm of tattoos but the next thing was, "you wanna come see what I've got, amigo?" In Costa Rica, didn't happen once.

There might be little ugly things here and there (such as our phone in the hotel was not working and we were told that it would be fixed "manana" but it was never fixed during our stay. Or sitting in the restaurant starving and didn't get our food for the first 1/2 hr because this is the normal pace in CR) but we just laughed about it. Our friend Antonio taught us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the surroundings. That's just how it is in Costa Rica. :)

Texas
12 posts
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7. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Thanks for the comments & suggestions. The southern Caribbean is the area we a mostly considering. I would love to go to the Osa pen, but I'm concerned about the rain during june & I'm not sure Osa lodging fits well into our budget.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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110 posts
8 reviews
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8. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Yes!! Go to the south caribbean, I love it. I live in Costa Rica and I recommend the south caribbean to everybody coming to Costa Rica. Around Puerto Viejo you find nice beaches ( Cocles) nice hotels (for example La Costa de Papito) and many things to do. Visit Manzanillo one day, the beach is very quiet and perfect for swimming, the restaurant Maxis offers delicious typical food and you can do some hiking in Gandoca Manzanillo Reserve where you can see monkeys, sloths, birds, butterflies and quiet beaches.

How long are you going to stay in Costa Rica? I would avoid the typical tourist spots on the pacific coast (Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo...). In the south pacific you find more quiet beaches and nice hotels and of course the mountains could be interesting for you- La Fortuna, Monteverde. But with a 4 year old I suppose you're not going to do so much hiking.

I also wanted to say that I disagree with David E. I live in the center of San Jose. Depending on when you arrive you should plan to stay one night in San Jose and then drive to the south caribbean the next morning. You can visit the central market, museums, see the national theater, relax in the parks, just walk around in the Avenida Central and have some ice cream and get an impression of the Ticos and the city. its a little bit noisy but its fun.

Just be careful with taxi drivers, it happens that they drive some extra rounds or try to charge more as they notice you're a tourist.

London, England...
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9. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Did the theatre, museums and market all in 1 afternoon. With all due respect all are pretty average when considered against their global equivalents. Why sit in a park surrounded by traffic when you could be sat on a beach with little but the sound of waves lapping the shore and birds whistling in the palm trees? Also, downtown SJO was also the only place in CR I found remotely threatening/discomforting walking round as a tourist, and I say that as a hefty 6'3" guy that's not intimidated easily.

Costa Rica
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25,654 posts
25 reviews
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10. Re: the good, the bad and the ugly...

David: I notice that in many of your posts, you equate "SJO" with San Jose. As you know, SJO is the airport in Alajuela and San Jose is... well.... San Jose.

If you are a "city person," then San Jose will probably not bother you. Although there are a few things to see and do in San Jose, it is certainly not a "charming colonial city." Costa Rica is mostly about nature and wildlife and small towns and friendly people.

You can go many places and enjoy an ice cream and sit in the Central Park and watch people without the pollution, traffic, noise and crime of San Jose. (I admit it -- I'm not a city person!)