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Seeing the best of Costa Rica

London, United...
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Seeing the best of Costa Rica

This is my first post on the CR forum and I would appreciate comments

on a proposed itinerary for next February. Our aim is to see the best of the country, focusing on wildlife and scenery. We are not interested in 'thrill' activities and would like some relaxing time on a beach at the end of the holiday. We are 60ish.

Until I started to browse this forum I had no idea that there were large AI style resorts and we certainly want to avoid these.

2 nights Central Valley (Xandari Plantation Inn)

2 nights Tortuguero ( Manatus)

Fly to Palma de Sur

4 nights Osa Peninsula (Aguila de Osa)

Fly to San Jose

3 nights Arenal (Naraya)

2 nights Monteverde (Belmar Hotel)

5 nights Tamarindo (Capitan Suizo )

Does this look like a good use of time for what will probably be our only visit to Costa Rica? Thanks for your help.

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

OK sounds like a great start but we must warn you that Costa Rica can be addictive so be very careful. I would only make minor changes to this itinerary. For Aguila de Osa fly into Drake Bay and out of Sierpe or the reverse so that you get the boat ride down the Sierpe once but not both ways since it's fairly repetitive (the boats go to fast to see much wildlife). Suggest you fly into san Jose and out of Liberia to reduce travel time substantially. Also you might want to look at other options for the beach stay if proximity to Tamarindo and its nightlife and activities is not a priority for you. Capitan Suizo is a great property but just for other options check out the Hotel Punta Islita on a deserted beach or the Harmony Hotel in Nosara (both are further from the airport).

Slovenia
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2. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

How will you move between the locations? And what will be your arrival and departure airports? In terms of wildlife, the south Caribbean side is much better then Tamarindo. Even staying in or near Uvita gives you better wildlife related places to visit.

Morro Bay...
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3. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

We, too, are in our sixties and planning about about fifteen days in CR in February. Like you, we are interested in scenery & wildlife & local culture, and not into all inclusive resorts or thrills. After months on this forum, our plans are taking shape & look loosely like this: fly into SJ,spend night, transfer to Torteguero for two nights (three day tour through lodge includes pick up at airport hotel & transportation); transport to Puerto Viejo for four nights; take Caribe shuttle to Bocas del Toro (friends & relative there) for four nights; fly Nature Air back to SJ; rent car for three nights in Manuel Antonio, before returning to SJ for departure flight. Good luck to you with your planning!

London, United...
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4. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

Thank you for your replies, I believe that in/out of San Jose is my only choice for a direct flight from Europe. How busy and touristy is Tamarindo? We thought it might be nice to be able to leave the hotel, find some local restaurants etc which didn't seem possible from Punta Islita. On our final day we will fly from Tamarindo back to San Jose for our flight home.

Thanks for your comment about the internal flights, I will check that we are doing that route to /from Aguila de Osa. Other than the internal flights we will have a driver / guide for transfers.

Interesting to hear about your proposed itinerary- we are learning a lot about the country as we start to make plans.

Thanks again.

Edited: 10 July 2013, 22:28
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5. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

i would subtract three nights from tamarindo and add them to osa and/or arenal.

Slovenia
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6. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

Flying directly via Madrid will shave at least 8 hours vs. transferring through US (have learned this hard way). Tamarindo is the most touristy part of Costa Rica - but, compared to Mediterranian you will found it almost deserted. Still the fact is that Costa Rica is all about nature and wildlife; thus flying far and staying in a beach resort, well, I found every Caribbean island I have visited so far has much better beaches and beach life, and is closer and less expensive to fly to. Just my 2 pennies.

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7. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

xelas- that's an interesting perspective . Certainly via Madrid seems the quickest / simplest for us from London. It seems that Tamarindo may not be ideal.

I must confess that before I started my research I thought that Costa Rica was all about nature and wildlife. I was quite surprised to read about resorts and AI on this forum, but we are happy to combine our nature / wildlife visits with a few days relaxing on a beach, although we are not really interested in 'beach life'- just somewhere to swim with a few restaurants in the area. I may rethink this part of the itinerary.

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8. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

With two coasts - Pacific and Caribbean - and so close to North America, it would be a miracle not having at least some of AI resorts. They are not so bad, at least not all of them. Some are very nicely designed, respecting the nature and the local communities. Some not so much. But reading this forum you can get pretty vivid picture about this topic.

However, there are many many more small lodges, hotels, rental homes etc of all categories to chose from, situated or near the beach (there is a 50 m restriction zone along the coastline in force) and up the hill.

If only to relax, and have some swimming (generally swimming is not so much fun with constant waves and occasional rip tides), and if you want to stay on the Pacific side, then I suggest you to look at Samara. Logistically it fits well between Monteverde and San Jose / SJO. If looking for an exclusive type of hotel there is Punta Islita little further south of Samara. Very nice but very secluded, off the grid. Otherwise Treehouse Inn Lodge on the very edge of Samara beach. Samara is little quaint local town, still very much Tico way of living, plenty of restaurants for 3-4 nights. Also do not skip a day visit to Playa Carillo, 15 min by car, one of the nicest beaches I have been to in Costa Rica. Add remaining nights to Osa and Arenal or Monteverde (or even Tortuguero).

If costs are not too high then definitively skip transfering via US. Or fly BA/Iberia MAD to SJO, fastest and best, or try KLM Amsterdam to Panama City (PTY) with a short connecting flight to SJO.

Edited: 11 July 2013, 14:43
London, United...
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9. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

Thanks Xelas. Just to update, flights are now booked via Madrid. I am still researching possible alternatives to Capitan Suizo/ Tamarindo, but I think I am settled on most of the other accommodation.

Crfan : thanks for those ideas, we did look carefully at Punta Islita but preferred the Capitan Suizo because of the possibilities of walking into town, eating out etc. Some comments here about Tamarindo are making me rethink this. Would the Harmony hotel enable us to do this?

London, England...
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10. Re: Seeing the best of Costa Rica

Be interested to hear how you get on going via Madrid, Brittraveler.

We found the cost prohibitive and didn't fancy Iberia so have opted for the slightly longer but cheaper via US flights (for both this Xmas and last November).

Re Tamarindo, it gets a bit of stick on this forum sometimes but I feel it's pretty unfair. Coming from Europe I would actually describe it as a quaint, small, under-developed beach/surfer resort. It's basically one high street (running parallel to the beach) which you can walk the length of in 20 mins. There's no high rise (5 storeys is about your highest) and there's lost of nice restaurants to try - Bamboo Sushi Club was our favourite.

The other 10 days of your itinerary are packed with wonderful remote nature/wildlife experiences, so why not spend 4/5 days just relaxing on a beach/hotel pool with shops, bars, restaurants etc on your door-step?

We stayed at the Jardin del Eden and were very happy. Centrally located, lovely big room with great sea views, nice pool area and well layed out hotel.