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Costa Rica - seeking advice

mary poppins

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Apr 10, 2010
Messages
2,575
DH and I are considering a trip to Costa Rica in December. We've never been before and are seeking input. A friend of a friend said we could rent his house on the west coast for a week. The house is in a gated community, is fully furnished and has a private beach. To do so, we'd have to rent a car as well as pay for our food/all meals. My friend and his wife stayed at this house for a week, had a great time at the house and taking tours, and recommended that we go.

Two of my cousins have gone to two different all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica and said the price we are considering paying for the house rental plus car rental would be ridiculous. They said for the cost of the house alone, we could be getting room service at the resorts. DH and I don't drink much, so the aspect of sitting by the pool or on the beach drinking all we can because it's included is not appealing to us.

Do you have any suggestions? If you've been to Costa Rica before, where did you stay? How was the property and the amenities? What did you do there? What, if anything, would you do different if you could do the trip over again? Also, if you don't mind sharing, what were the costs?

We are going to review Trip Advisor and would also appreciate any advice you can provide.
 

Mednikow_Atlanta

Rough_Rock
Trade
Joined
Sep 26, 2011
Messages
6
I was last in Costa Rica in 1995. Tourism has changed a lot since then, especially in the northwest part of the country. I really enjoyed my visit, felt safe the whole time, even travelled alone.

Trip Advisor is a very good source of information. What I didn't really get from your post was: what is important to you about this vacation? Meaning, do you want to veg by the pool? See active volcanoes, wildlife, rain forests, banana plantations?

I would recommend that you go to your nearest bookstore (if there is one left in your area) and look through the guide books for Costa Rica and then purchase the one you like the best.

My usual MO is to get the book, skim through it so I have an understanding of sights and areas available and what might interest me. Then I identify the largest inbound tour operators from the book's resources and contact each of them and ask what they offer in my interests and at what price. I can then compare their offers to what is available online and see where the best value lies.

I do recommend flying from place to place as road conditions in 1995 were horrible and flying was dirt cheap. Also not sure why you would need to rent a car as taxis are probably very cheap.
 

Brown.Eyed.Girl

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Jun 4, 2008
Messages
6,893
I spent two weeks there in 2010 and loved it. I thought for the most part the places we stayed in were pretty cheap and quite nice (at around $60-80 a night), though these were not luxury properties or anything. Our one big splurge was staying a night at the Treehouse Hotel (which are treehouses - super cool!) in Playa Samara, and even then that was still only $120 or so per night. Of course, we were grad students so for our budget... :p

I can tell you where we stayed and pricing generally for the areas we were traveling in. Are you looking to go and stay in one spot, or travel around the country?

I landed in San Jose, then it was Arenal (where we also did a day trip to Cano Negro) --> Monteverde --> Playa Samara on the Nicoya Peninsula for a week --> Manuel Antonio --> San Jose (with day trips to Poas Volcan and the Doka Estates coffee plantation). We did all this by bus or, in one instance, a private shuttle because bus schedules didn't work (from Monteverde to Samara).

If any of those sound interesting, let me know and I can give you more info. Also, here's my thread from when I was there!
 

fleur-de-lis

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Apr 25, 2007
Messages
1,343
If it's primarily a financial calculation, it would probably help to give the specifics of the house rental (at least in general terms) to make sure you're weighing apples to apples. Is the house a small 1-bedroom cabana-style, or is it a multi-bedroom luxury property with private pool?

Most of the all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica these days (like the Riu brand) have lovely grand areas, and fairly average/normal guest rooms. The included food is probably best compared to what you'd get on a cruise ships, as is the set-up for eating. There are exceptions, but these are few; the Four Seasons comes to mind. (Also in the apple to apples comparison, it's been my experience that renting a property with a full kitchen on holiday reduces the overall food costs, as I'm more likely to just hop in off the beach to make a quick sandwich and head back out to the fun... but that's clearly a personal trait which you might not share.) An extrovert would probably like the more social atmosphere of a resort with several bars, yet the non-extrovert would probably prefer the private home.

But if you're primarily looking at it from a bang-for-the-buck perspective, if you would be paying the same to rent a casita home for a week as you would to stay at the Four Seasons, then Four Seasons wins. If you'd be paying the same to rent a luxury estate on the beach as you would for staying at an all-inclusive run like a cruise ship, the luxury estate would win. HTH!
 

NakedFinger

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Jan 8, 2009
Messages
690
My dh and I went to Costa Rica three years ago and loved it. We stayed an the Los Suenos Marriott Resort. Its in Herradura, near Quepos. Its the Pacific side of Costa Rica (not the Caribbean side) which in my opinion, is the better side (more tourist friendly, less crime, etc). The hotel was great...awesome restaurants/pool.

We rented a car since it was a two-hour ride from the San Jose airport, so we decided to make stops take pictures, etc. Personally, I would not stay in San Jose, too "city". Having a car while we were there was VERY convenient however. Its not like some destinations we've been to where you constantly see cabs driving around for tourists. I honestly dont remember seeing a taxi once the whole trip. Maybe its just where I was staying though.

There wasnt much in terms of nightlife, so we did stay in the hotel mainly at night/for dinner. My concern if you were doing the house rather than a hotel, is you may not have may options for dining in your immediate area. Because there is a lot of of uphill/downhill driving because its all mountains, its takes longer than you would expect to get places.

As far as day time goes, Costa Rica is a great place for people who may not want to sit by the pool all way. My husband did deep sea fishing while he was there (I spent the day at the spa that day), we did ziplining which was amazing, a horse back riding excursion through the rainforest, and swan in waterfalls and natural hot springs/freshwater cave pools. The beach/water where we stayed was really unimpressive, but when comparing to places we've been like Bermuda/St John/Cancun with white powder sand and crystal clear water, I may have set my standards to high. We did travel to Jaco which I was unimpressed with too (dark water/sand isnt my thing. Felt like the Jersey Shore. LOL). But we did do a day trip to Manuel Antonio which was much better. It was ALOT more touristy, very crowded, but the water/sand was much better, and they had a lot of like tourist bars/restaurants and souvenir huts there. But the rest of the days we werent doing activities, we just stayed by the pool which was much nicer.

We went in December too, I think the week before Christmas, which was a great time to go. The weather was perfect, and no rain the whole time (they do have a "rainy season" because its rainforest.). I will give you the heads up though....the sun is intense. Because its so close to the equator. The UV index is very high. As someone who typically tans, and usually gets by with 6-8 spf lotion, I ended up getting severely burnt and actually blistered it was so bad. So definitely make sure to pack high SPF.

Whew that was long! lol. That's all I can think of now, but if you have any questions let me know!
 
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