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Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

Bangor, Maine
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59 posts
4 reviews
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Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

After learning I cannot drive a rental car between Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama - I have to choose one country to spend two weeks in. I'd rather drive myself around the country since it gives me more freedom and I end up seeing things that I wouldn't normally see. Given this, I'm looking for suggestions of which of the three to choose - and why. I understand posting this in the respective county's forum might lead to biased responses, but I'm hoping for people who have been to all the countries. Or just to hear something that stands out.

I'm looking to stay away from fancy resorts and just see some small towns, beaches, mountains, forest, etc... via driving, hiking, or just sitting around on a beach for a few days. I don't like the idea of somewhere flooded with tourists which is why I'm somewhat turned off of Costa Rica. But I could be way off on this.

Help me out....thanks!

Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Panama City
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3,664 posts
96 reviews
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1. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

Sounds like you would like the Boquete/David area of Panama, the beach and the mountains are close, not many large resorts.

Having been to all 3 and having lived in Panama, i might make one other suggestion -if you can live without the beach, visit Medellin and the surrounding towns, the countryside is nicer and the small towns much prettier, the climate is almost perfect.

Long Island NY
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789 posts
270 reviews
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2. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

Having been to Panama 6 months ago and Costa Rica 22 years ago I would vote for Panama. It is very similar to what we found in Costa Rica, before it was overurn by tourists. Don't wait too long, it will be.

Panama City, Panama
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3. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

Boquete is a great place to stay. There are some bed and breakfasts or other very interesting hotels like Finca Lerida that is in the middle of a coffee plantation or Valle Escondido is a good one.

For getthing there you could fry from Panama City to David (40 minutes) and rent a car at the David Airport. Boquete is 30/40 minutes from David. You could do canopping, hiking, rafting among other activities.

You could visit beaches like Las Lajas or La Barqueta.

Other mountains area is Volcan/Cerro Punta.

Other option is to stay at Panama City and visit Beaches like Buena Ventura, Bijao and from there you could visit El Valle where you could do cannoping and hiking.

Obviously in Panama City you could visit the Panama Canal.

So I think Panama is your best option by far.

Olympia, Washington
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321 posts
115 reviews
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4. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

Nicaragua was the dirtiest and most unappealing country of the three you have listed here. The only area worth seeing again for me was Matagalpa and you can't spend two weeks in Matagalpa.

Costa Rica is nice. They have some interesting things to do and see.

And I've lived in Panama and toured it. So I'm going to make a suggestion.

Tour Costa Rica for a week and then use Caribe Shuttle to take you to Bocas del Toro in Panama and spend a week in that are of Panama. This was you don't need to drive a car in either country. There are so many tour companies in both places who will drive you around to see the things you want to see. Do the mountain hiking and inland adventures in Costa Rica and do the water activities in Bocas.

This way you get a little of both countries.

If you want hotel recommendations in both let me know.

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68 posts
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5. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

I am planning a trip tp Panama or Costa Rico in Oct for 5 days. Do you have any info on Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort and the distance from the airport in Panama travel agency charges $65 rt from airport and ?Doubletree Resort by Hilton Central Pacific AI in Costa Rico? The travel agency charges $165. rt from San Jose Airport to hotel. Sort of wanted to stay at AI so wouldn't have to venture out to eat and drink. Which destination would you suggest for a senior single female traveling alone? I am leaning towards Panama as I read it is the safest.. What tours are a must take for a short trip?

Any recommendations would be appreciated.

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6. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

If you are talking about DoublrTree El Roble Puntarenas... I highly do NOT recommand it. Hotel close to sewer treatment plant and fumes can be distracting to say the least. Plus there is nothing to do in Puntarenas. I know been living/working here for 24 years

New York City, New...
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7. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

I recently traveled to all these three countries and I only want to share with you some thoughts. it is up to you to choose what you prefer to do. I flew to Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua and spent a week there. Then I flew to San Jose and then I took a bus to Panama city. It was safe and very convenient in price. Nicaragua is a beautiful country but very different from what you would see in Panama, which also has a few must-see places in the Pacific but mainly its attractions are in the Caribbean. This is one thing for you to consider. Landscapes differ quite a bit from ocean to ocean. In the Caribbean you have turquoise water and in the Pacific you have better food. Just my opinion. Best thing I did there was the lakes, both Lago de Managua and Lago de Nicaragua. Lovely experience. In Costa Rica and Panama you have more luxury hotels and in general a better touristic infrastructure. If you don’t like touristy things stay away of Costa Rica. You can see pretty much the same in Panama i.e. bird watching.

8. Re: Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama?

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