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Your thoughts please

Ensenada, Mexico
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19 posts
36 reviews
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Your thoughts please

Mrs. Bear and I have pretty much decided to rent a casa in Tarcoles for the second week of November. This is our first visit to Costa Rica and I'd like to gather a little info.

1) We wish to rent a vehicle (mid-size SUV or the like) at SJO. Any recommendations as to companies to deal with or not to deal with.

2) We are very gastronomically oriented (OK, we like to eat). We will cook most breakfasts and dinners at the casa but would like to hear about places to eat lunch as far away as MA, as we will almost certainly travel there for one day anyway. Also we typically eat dinner out our first day and last day on vacation. Any input on restaurants for this purpose, from high end to economical, would be appreciated.

3) Another interest of our is coffee. Are there any coffee plantations within a couple of hours drive that are amenable to visitors?

4) We have been to Mexico several times and enjoy the bargaining back and forth at markets and stalls. Is this typical in Costa Rica or are you expected to pay the first price offered?

Thanks in advance for your help,

Bear

Atlanta
Destination Expert
for Jaco, Bocas Town
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3,969 posts
128 reviews
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1. Re: Your thoughts please

We use a private driver so I can't help you with car rental info.

In general the sodas are my favorite places to eat. Not just because they are great value, but wonderful food. I am really bad about remembering the names of my favorite sodas, just know where they are. I need to get better about that. For a treat I recommend going to Lemon Zest in Jaco for dinner. A fun place to have lunch, not because of the food, is The Backyard in Playa Hermosa. You can watch the surfers.

I know there are coffee tours not far from Jaco, but I haven't done them, so can't recommend one. By the way the coffee in Costa Rica is one of the best. You have TONS of options for activities within a couple hours drive from Jaco. Jaco is one of the best places in CR for a home base.

Costa Rica is NOT like Mexico. Bargaining isn't really done. People do try and do it, but it isn't received well. The only time I have done it in CR is on the beach in MA when I wanted to buy many sarongs and asked for a discount.

Belleair, Florida
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3 posts
9 reviews
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2. Re: Your thoughts please

I've rented a diesel Toyota Prada from THRIFTY on my last couple of trips. It's comparable to the Lexus GX 400 series in the states. Plenty of room for 4 and luggage and the diesel is better for river crossings, etc. They are located across the street from the airport and they'll shuttle you across. I've rented from them on quite a few occassions and never had a problem.......and yes I always buy the extra insurance.

There is other rental agencies inside the airport but I have no recent experience with them. PURA VIDA!

Shawnee, Kansas
Destination Expert
for Puerto Vallarta
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15,197 posts
102 reviews
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3. Re: Your thoughts please

Having heard bargaining isn't the usual practice, we only truly bargained Mexican style two times in Costa Rica.

The first time was in Tamarindo for loungers on the beach, because we weren't going to be on the beach more than 2 or 3 hours. Again in Manuel Antonio for the same reason. It seemed to make sense to them so they gave us a reasonable deal, after a bit of hearty discussion among themselves both times lol.

And I'll add that in a shop in Quepos we were given a better deal on some souvenirs because we were paying in cash, but that was offered by the owner, but I think it might be OK to politely ask if they have any good deals on anything - to offer.

Edited: 11 April 2010, 18:09
Antigua, Guatemala
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2,958 posts
22 reviews
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4. Re: Your thoughts please

Tarcoles is located around Jaco and MA which are both great towns for the best restaurants in Costa Rica, so you'll have lots to chose from.

The best coffee plantation and about 2 hours or so is Doka, very highly recommended.

I highly recommend Adobe rent a car, they have given nothing but the best prices and services for all my clients consistently!

Hope this helps,

Marina K. Villatoro

Playa Hermosa...
Destination Expert
for Manuel Antonio, Jaco
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1,428 posts
76 reviews
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5. Re: Your thoughts please

The area of Tarcoles is a great place to stay for day trips! Traveling south, you'll find a great grocery story AutoMercado in the Plaza Herradura. This is closest thing to an American grocery store in the area. You'll find some hard to find cooking items for your dinners at home, those of which are probably customary in the states but not so much here. Wine/liquor/beer also avail lin the grocery stores here. On Friday morning, Jaco has a "feria" where you can purchase fruits, vegetables, fresh herbs, chicken, sausage, eggs, local cheese, fresh bakery products. Apparently there is a fish market near the Tarcoles area and maybe someone can give both of us more information on it. I've not been able to get more information. Jaco does have a fish market called Martec if you'd like to taste some wonderfully fresh fish on your visit. We've always had good luck there. Restaurants in Playa Herradura, the Marriott marina has a few restaurants. Many people enjoy the marina setting at the Hook Up Restaurant. A bit more Americanized as it's within the marina but the food is good and the setting is lovely. Two other restaurants within the marina district is LaTerraza and El Galeon. I believe they are both only open for dinner. (I am also a person who loves to cook dinner at home so I can't offer any more information on those two) Within the same area of Playa Herradura but not within the resort is El Pelicano restaurant and Juanitas. If you travel on the Playa Herradura road, go past the Marriott gated entrance until you reach the beach. Turn left and both restaurants are on the left. Juanita's is a bit more typica Costa Rica but I've found both are very good. Both are open air and have a beach view. Within Jaco, use the More on Jaco "Restaurants" option offered here. All postings by travelers and locals. Jaco has some great restaurants. Traveling further south, I agree with mrolfes re: The Backyard Bar. Just a little beach bar but a funky atmosphere and fun to watch surfing. Traveling further south, Manuel Antonio would be a good day trip. Manuel Antonio park is excellent for animal sightings. Plentiful restaurants in MA too. Some jungle view, others ocean view. I like Agua Azul (oceanview), La Hacienda (jungle view)and Balu which directly on the beach. From Tarcoles, traveling north you might consider a day trip to Atenas which boasts some of the best weather. Alida's Restaurant in Atenas is a personal favorite (Italian kitchen cooking, closed Tuesday) The road to Atenas is dotted with coffee plantations. I don't know of any tours in the area; however, the scenery is very pretty with the coffee growing at almost every vista. This road is quite winding and twisting. Just be careful in the event of fog and/or rain. With the new road open to SJ, this road seems to have a bit less traffic and might make a lovely day trip. Restaurant close to Tarcoles: my favorite is Fiesta del Mariscos. A bit more typica Costa Rican but the fish is fresh and wonderful, fabulous fish soup and other options avail for non-fish lovers. Definitely not fancy but a favorite locals spot from my experience. Have a wonderful trip! Lisa

Ensenada, Mexico
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19 posts
36 reviews
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6. Re: Your thoughts please

I thank you all who have shared their experiences. We are much more interested in local food, whether in stores or restaurants, than in eating what we could find almost anywhere in the states. It just blows my mind that some folks would travel a couple of thousand miles to a foreign country then look for a Micky D's to have lunch.

I have read of the fish market in Tarcoles and hope to get some information about it from the manager of the casa we will be staying at. Fresh seafood is probably our favorite to cook for dinner.

We are looking forward to exploring both north and south, with a few days of just hanging around the pool at the casa thrown in.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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46,438 posts
35 reviews
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7. Re: Your thoughts please

1- Rent a car...many good companies to deal with...maybe the big guys Toyota...Avis...Hertz...Avis...National...Alamo...in case of a dispute you have better chances to get your money back!

2- If you are renting a house around or in Tarcoles...the best place to get fresh seafood ...at the local Cooperativa...great...red snapper, sea bas (corvina), groupper, mackarel, etc..shrimp...big ones!

3- Doka coffee plantation...about 2 hours from there...nice tour...

4- We do not bargain to much...of course you can try!

roadadvisor

New Jersey
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84 posts
17 reviews
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8. Re: Your thoughts please

We just returned from a wonderful trip to CR. We stayed at the Marriott Los Suenos and did not eat there once! We did eat at the Hook-Up 3 times, great atomosphere and the food was pretty good (great gazpacho and ceviche)...we ate there so many times becuase my 15 yr old son LOVED their burgers. We also ate at Soda Kathia in Playa Herradura on the way to the beach, El Pelicano and Juanita(next door to each other) on the beach at Playa Herradura. I loved El Pelicano and my husband love Juanita - their Ceviche was the best. We also ate at the Taco Bar in Jaco and that was only so-so. The Tsunami Sushi - outstanding! We drove to playa Hermosa to eat at the Backyard to watch the surfers but there weren't any so we didn't eat there. Instead we ended up going to Jaco and eating at Wishbones which we all loved!

The Auto mercado in Playa Herradura is a nice market and you should be able to find most of what you need. I wasn't impressed with their produce selection but there are so many roadside stands selling fresh mangos, melons etc.

We used Service Rental Car - they were teriffic! great price, they delivered the car to us and picked it up wen they said they would. The car was not the greatest - Suziki Vitara but any car would get pretty rattely fast down there!

Nashville, Tennessee
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9. Re: Your thoughts please

American cash works wonders, in many places. Saves on taxes,etc. and many CR. places were very receptive to $$$. Jon

Ensenada, Mexico
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19 posts
36 reviews
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10. Re: Your thoughts please

Gracias mi amigos y amigas. Even though our visit is a bit more than 6 months away yet, I appreciate all your input and hope to hear more.