Experiences with Costa Rica

Hi all!

So it’s been a little while since I’ve been on vacation with the family, and my mother has recently expressed an interest in taking a family vacation to Costa Rica this summer. I thought I would turn to the dope and see if anybody has had experiences there and can give us some useful information.

She’s assigned me the task of trying to find a suitable vacation package for three people, being me, my sister and her. I started looking through websites but it seems like there’s almost an overwhelming amount of information out there, and its hard to discern the legitimate sites from those which look to be trying to scam you. Does anybody have any experiences with travel packages down there? Know of anything we absolutely shouldn’t miss? Advice…horror stories…anything you can think of…

We’re looking to do this around the third week of July. For the record I’m 22 and my sister is 19 so we aren’t really looking for anything kid friendly. Thanks again everybody!

First off, be warned that the “rainy season” for Costa Rica is March through December. (You read right, about 10 months of rainy season). So be prepared for that. It’s not like “cold rain”, but do plan on getting wet.

As for packages, check out: http://www.billbeardcostarica.com/
I have not used them, but I have heard from others (mostly divers) that have had good experiences with them. They have non-diving packages as well.

As for what to recommend, it kind of depends on what you’re into. I had a great time white water rafting (warmest river water I’ve ever felt), doing this “aerial tour” of a rain forest (up in the canopy), visiting the beach (again, very warm water).
I was visiting a friend who’s in-laws live in San Jose, so we spent a lot of time in San Jose. Not all that impressive, but kind of a nice downtown area to walk around.

(Just some rambling memories here):

  • the bus ride from San Jose to Jaco (beach) was both thrilling and terrifying. I survived, but not for the faint of heart.
  • iguanas kind of appear all over the place.
  • I didn’t see monkeys, but there are places where you can see them (in the wild). However, I’ve heard they’re not too keen on humans
  • visited Poas volcano outside SJ, but it was tucked in low clouds, and couldn’t see the crater.
  • enjoyed the food, but got really tired of fried plantain.

Hope this helps.

A buddy of mine loves Costa Rica. His family vacations there.

I went to Costa Rica on my honeymoon. It is a great little country that is very tourist friendly. Although the average income is very low, it didn’t seem very 3rd World to me. Most places are nice and neat and the whole country is like a big eco-tourism them park with lots to do. You can go almost anywhere in the country by shuttle bus or taxi pretty easilly. The Pacific side is only about a 3 hour hour scenic drive from the Carribean side.

The place I think about the most is the Arenal Volcano which was active when I was there and probably still is. There is a resort at the base of it that you can hang out at and feel small earthquakes and minor eruptions. There are the hot water streams that you can just float around in coming off of the volcano. It was one of my favorite places ever and I highly recommed it. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on earth and it has many different climates from tropical jungles to cloud forests that you can sail above on suspended trams.

Have fun. Costa Rica is the place for a very active vacation and there is lots to do.

Thanks for the responses guys! I’m thinking we’ll definitely be doing the rain forest hiking thing, in addition to some white water rafting. We are all in good shape so we’re not adverse to some strenuous activities.

We haven’t been yet, but everyone we know who has been there had to be forced onto the plane to come back home.

They all fell in love. In fact, although we haven’t visited yet, we are already thinking of moving there…

Costa Rica is wonderful, but do make sure you take your rain jacket!

I recommend visiting the Arenal Volcano. There are some hot springs near there where you can see the volcano during the day, spend some time at the hot springs (warning: they are filled with tourists as is much of the country), and then go back to see the volcano at night. At night you can see the red-hot rocks rolling down the side of the volcano.

I also saw the Manuel Antonio National Park, which was pretty amazing - lots of monkeys, sloths, frogs, and of course plenty of beautiful plants.

I met some other folks down there who came from the Atlantic coast and said they witnessed some mass turtle egg hatching there; you may want to do some Google searching and see if there are special things like that that you may want to see.

Things to look out for: if you rent a car and are planning on driving around a lot, make sure it is four-wheel drive. Also make sure you don’t mind driving by the sides of cliffs, over rickety bridges, and performing other death-defying stunts. Not as bad as some places, but it can still be hair-raising. Also, if you care about taking photos you’ll want to make sure your camera can work in rainy, high humidity conditions. Mine somehow got fogged up for about a day and I missed some great shots, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Finally, if you are going during the rainy season don’t expect to get a lot of beach time in.

Beyond that, it’s just simply an amazing place! Very friendly people, incredible scenery, and a wonderful experience overall. I hope you enjoy your trip! :slight_smile:

Man, this is disappointing. Everyone keeps talking about how wonderful the Arenal Volcano is, but that was the part of my Costa Rica trip where I got food poisoning and I missed it!
Costa Rica is gorgeous. Just a recommendation, though- make sure to bring Dramamine or some sort of other car-sickness medicine, because the roads are terrible. It’s worth it, though.

You may want to drop by Barra Honda. Unlike most mountains in Costa Rica, it’s not a volcano: there are caves which can be visited but I don’t recomend it with small kids (I have vertigo and if I catch whomever installed that ladder backwards I’ll kill him. Slowly. With a rusty spoon). And unlike most of Costa Rica’s forest, it’s a dry tropical forest. It definitely does not look like “the jungle from Discovery Channel”. The guide told us that many visitors take offense at this instead of realizing it’s almost world-unique.

monica, El Arenal is gorgeous but let me put it this way: there is such a thing as “a 30 yd ficus looks very much like any other 30 yd ficus”, at least for those of us who aren’t into ficuses.

The turtle thing is in Tortuguero, but there’s turtles in the Pacific as well.

If you want to PM me or something, I spent 6 months working in a tourism resort in Guanacaste (helping them set up the computer systems for their maintenance).

'Wife & I went there for a week last year. Landed at San Jose and rented a car to drive to the ‘Coffee Plantation’ we were staying at for the first few days. 10pm trying to drive up into the mountains in CR was not fun… no street signs, directions that said “Drive 20km & turn right, then left…” I think it took us 3 hours to find the place. But once we got there it was beautiful.

Next we drove cross-country to the peninsula where we stayed at an all-inclusive resort for the rest of the time. Beatiful beaches, water was perfect, food was great. Roads were absolutely horrendous! Since most of the ‘highway’ is just 2 lanes, we were constantly getting stuck behind huge trucks lumbering up mountainsides at 20 mph and no way to get around them. What should have been a 3 hour drive took 6. And potholes! Thank god it was a rental car. I think I had several fillings vibrated out of my mouth during that trip.

On the drive back to the airport we stopped at a roadside store to buy t-shirts, etc and came back to find the car broken into and our backpacks stolen. Luckily we had not left anything of value in the car.

Very pretty country, all-in-all, but wouldn’t go back.

The north of Costa Rica on the Pacific side gets less rain than the south, but yeah, summer is the rainy season (usually a burst of rain in the afternoon). Everything in Costa Rica was fantastic. We went in the winter and had two weeks of sun (again, in Guanacaste province, which is in the north on the Pac side). Zip line tour was tremendous fun, saw plenty of iguanas and monkeys, but not so many birds. Had two walking tours of rain forest and cloud forest, and both were way too easy. I wanted something more strenuous. Lots of tours are designed for older, out-of-shape American and Canadian tourists.

It was my first time snorkeling and I had a blast, although experienced snorkelers said water clarity was much better in the Caribbean. Arenal was a bit of a let down, as it’s often cloudy in the mountains. We saw nothing but the base of the volcano.