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  • Keely 78 posts

    Morning all, sorry for long post. Snagged my seats to CR using 241 for Jan 2023. Now looking at planning and booking hotels for 2 weeks. There’s so much to do I’m struggling to plan ! Any suggestions / tips / things to avoid please? Should we hire a car? We like walking/small hikes, fun things such as zip lining and definitely want to try whitewater rafting. Happy to try unusual lodgings but can’t be too eco ! I have no status with hotels so all bookings will be cash bookings and looking for a mix of luxury and mid-range (nayara springs looks great!) . My very initial thoughts included Arenal National park and a few days at the end relaxing on a beach ….

    • This topic was modified 54 years, 6 months ago by .
    toddy 113 posts

    A few thoughts/recommendations from me:

    Accommodation
    – Peace Lodge. A good hotel set in incredible surroundings, complete with a small animal park.
    – Arenal Oasis. An eco lodge, that was way too ‘eco’ for my liking! (I missed my home comforts and have a dislike of massive spiders). You might love it?!
    – Hotel Presidente. Modern hotel in San Jose.

    Things to see/do
    – If you stay at the Peace lodge, you can feed hummingbirds, go on a frog tour, take a waterfall walk etc. All with hotel guides.
    – In the La Fortuna/Arenal area, you can visit hot springs. We went to The Springs Resort.
    – Tour with RainForestExplorers – combined hanging bridge, volcano, waterfall tour. I cannot recommend this company enough. We organised a number of tours/transfers with them and they were exemplary.
    – If you are near San Jose and like Sloths, you can visit the Toucan Rescue Ranch. A super experience!

    You’ll have a great time. It’s a stunning country, with amazing people. I just regret that my stay was so short.

    Keely 78 posts

    Thanks @toddy …the eco lodge sounds a bit too eco for my liking too but I’ll take a look at the other options . Otherwise thanks – especially like the sound of the tours and always good to go by recommendation.

    The real Swiss Tony 700 posts

    We did a week in CR a few years back. Had planned to stay at the Peace Lodge but then did it as a day trip with a driver instead, basing ourselves at the DoubleTree just between San Jose and the airport. Saved a LOT of money (GBP had just collapsed off the Brexit vote), The big advantage of that was he showed us round some of the gardens then told us to walk down the side of the waterfall, while he drove to the other end to collect us.

    Driving looked OK but traffic into the city centre seemed very busy.

    We went to Manuel Antonio NP and stayed in the converted 727 a nearby hotel has. Was ideal as we have 3 kids.

    Note it’s a very expensive place to visit, at least the bits we were in anyway.

    Rhys
    HfP Staff
    190 posts

    Don’t expect to go to Costa Rica on a budget. It is really quite pricey especially compared to Asia, although it is worth it, in my opinion.

    Lots of good advice here. I would only add that it is well worth heading to the Osa peninsula and exploring the Corcovado. Cut off form the rest of the country – feels like a different world, and much less developed. Was a highlight on my trip a few years ago. The easiest way to get there is via speed boat.

    Guernsey Globetrotter 621 posts

    Someone on here made the following recommendations which I copied for my own planning so hopefully they are of some use to you!
    San Jose hotel – Marriott Hacienda Belen in San Jose https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sjocr-costa-rica-marriott-hotel-hacienda-belen/
    Guanacaste:
    https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/lirak-punta-islita-autograph-collection/ 5 days for 190k points (c. £300 p/n value in Dec)- try to get villa upgrade with private pool or suite with spa?

    Keely 78 posts

    Thanks all. I’ll add these to my research . What’s the best methods of transfer? Did anyone hire a car?

    The real Swiss Tony 700 posts

    We used a guide/driver from Costa Rica Drivers. He drove us up to the Peace Hotel for the day, then took us back to the hotel that night, then the next morning collected us again to drive over to Manuel Antonio.

    We used local buses to get from the hotel to the national park/beach, a taxi to go back to the airstrip at Quepos then flew back to San Jose

    I forget the exact price but compared to the cost of everything else, it seemed like very good value. The driver was brilliant, too.

    MilesOnPoint 80 posts

    Hotel Belmar in Monteverde was the absolute stand out in our honeymoon trip to CR in 2019.
    Fabulous setting, delicious farm to fork food and wonderful service. Don’t miss the nearby Selvatura park with its amazing hanging bridges.

    We spent some time on Pacific coast in W Cost Rica which was £££ and whilst the hard product was good (particularly their beach club), we had some issues with F&B and overall service levels.

    The roads in Costa Rica are…not the best. Depending on number of locations you plan to visit, you may wish to organise private 4×4 transfers instead of hiring a car, we used “ILT transfers” who were excellent throughout: http://www.iltcostarica.com/

    MilesOnPoint 80 posts

    SJO airport tip:

    American Express lounge is pretty solid, some free snacks and premium drinks available via vouchers you get when travelling in BA Club World. More substantial meals are available for a small surcharge, which I would recommend, as I had a lovely pre-flight lunch.

    NB. Amex Platinum card holders are entitled to a free massage in the lounge’s spa room. Had a nice 1/2 hour back massage before the schlepp back to LGW on a rather tired 777-200 (in much need of a refurb)

    memesweeper 1,297 posts

    Someone on here made the following recommendations which I copied for my own planning so hopefully they are of some use to you!
    San Jose hotel – Marriott Hacienda Belen in San Jose https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sjocr-costa-rica-marriott-hotel-hacienda-belen/
    Guanacaste:
    https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/lirak-punta-islita-autograph-collection/ 5 days for 190k points (c. £300 p/n value in Dec)- try to get villa upgrade with private pool or suite with spa?

    It was me most likely — I’ve stayed in both.

    My tips:

    – You’ll probably want to do some time inland, like Arena or Monteverde, as well as beach time

    – For two weeks it’s a struggle to get the Caribbean and the Pacific sides in unless you forgo inland time

    – San Jose could be used as a base for a few days while you explore inland delights like the Volcan Poas, as an alternative to staying in the mountains, but the City itself isn’t worth doing any sightseeing in IMHO

    – The Caribbean has fewer luxury choices, fewer tourists overall, is generally much quieter, and you’ll be tripping over the wildlife even on a ‘main’ road if you spend a few days there

    – I hired a car but I’d not really recommended it, drivers with minivans will probably cost the same or less and the stress is removed

    – The Punta Islita is special — haggle an upgrade to a villa if booking on points, if you’re paying cash get a suite or villa — my family unanimously declared it the best place they’ve ever stayed in

    – The Punta Islita has a sister property El Silencio, apparently very good indeed (on Mr & Mrs Smith, not Marriott)

    – Similar, if not better, than Punta Islita is El Mangroove, which is seemingly on both Mr & Mrs Smith and Marriott!

    Keely 78 posts

    Thanks all , I’m filing all this tips for reference. @memesweeper I was hoping you’d comment as know you went recently . We are torn between Caribbean and pacific – still trying to decide ..I don’t think we will bother hiring a car , consensus seems to be using drivers is the better option.
    We don’t have any real points stash but I’m going to look at Rob’s articles re buying points specifically for a booking but of course I lose the flexibility that way.

    MilesOnPoint 80 posts

    You should definitely opt for the Pacific coast in January, it will be much dryer than the Carribbean coast (it’s very wet in Tortugero, for example).

    The Pacific coast has a better selection of higher spec coastal hotels (from the Uber fancy Four Seasons or Andaz in Papagayo to the W and others further south).

    Keely 78 posts

    @milesonpoints- that’s the deciding factor then!

    The real Swiss Tony 700 posts

    Is there any time when it’s better to be on the Caribbean side, then? We went in August and were advised to go to the Pacific coast, again because of better weather 😂

    NorthernLass 8,267 posts

    Well done on getting your seats @Keely, you must have been buzzing (if you’re anything like me when I get seats I really want 😂) Sadly I have no experience to share but it’s definitely on my bucket list. My son is hoping to do Geography A level from September and one of their field trips is to CR – I’m tempted to offer to be an extra adult on the trip but the extremely convoluted routing in Y they use is putting me off quite a lot! Also I think they stay in some sort of dormitory accommodation. So maybe not 🤣

    Keely 78 posts

    @NorthernLass I really was buzzing! I was thinking , yes do volunteer- until you got to the dormitory bit (shudder). Mind you, if your son is anything like mine , he would have said he wasn’t going if I volunteered 🤣

    NorthernLass 8,267 posts

    @Keely, my son would probably say he’s not going unless he can travel in business class 🤣. We’re off to AGP on easyJet tomorrow, I’ve had to remind him there are no flat beds and no movies.

    memesweeper 1,297 posts

    @NorthernLass I really was buzzing!

    You should be! The place is amazing and even the 777 from Gatwick was fine up front … old bird but must have had a refurb in recent years, a comfortable place for a 10+ hour flight.

    Bearing Up 54 posts

    @keely
    We went to CR in Feb/Mar 2019 on the back of a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos. Fantastic trip and loved CR.
    Stayed for a couple of days at Hotel Finca Rosa Blanca nr SJ- very pleasant place after flying in from Guayacil via Panama.
    Driven to Arenal Springs Hotel, great views of the volcano, for a few more days while we were taken to various local spots, the hanging bridges, volcano trek, springs etc. Hotel was fine and plenty of local wildlife.
    Our last drive was to Si Como No Hotel by the Manual Antonio NP-again a good hotel with fantastic views to the sea across the park. MANP was brilliant-wildlife great and did one of the night walks near the hotel. Local memory was the C-123 plane connected to Oliver North’s ‘Contra’ scandal of the 80’s, now used as El Avios restaurant- again great views.
    Thoroughly recommend the trip-you’ll have a great time.
    We used Tribes as our organisers. When you see the roads and the driving you’ll feel better having someone else do it for you😄
    Good luck

    SteveJ 1,004 posts

    Visited many many years ago.

    Highly recommended visiting Arenal and the many natural hot spas around there, visiting the hot springs at night with Arenal bubbling away in the background is magical.

    From there cloud forests in Monteverde recommended.

    Then for the beach side, agree go Pacific, Stay anywhere Punta Islita down to Cabo Blanco (which is also worth a visit when down that way).

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