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Monday, October 19, 2009

Do you know Costa Rica?

Has anyone been to Costa Rica and have any recommendations/travel tips/suggestions? My dad, sister and I are trying to plan a getaway weekend and it's one of the places we're considering going but I know almost nothing about it. With only four days -- is it a good place to go?

Last year, I went to Belize and Guatemala for a long weekend and loved them, so was thinking Costa Rica would be equally fantastic.

Any other budget-friendly long weekend suggestions (preferably in a warm climate) would be welcomed. We talked about going to Yellowstone but November might be a little cold and snowy to do much hiking around...

Another idea was a cruise to the Bahamas but while it would offer warm weather and nice beaches, a Caribbean vacation just isn't quite my top choice. I'd be happy lounging around in the sun, but I'd much prefer visiting somewhere to soak up local culture beyond thousands of Americans jostling for space on a white sand beach.

Call me a snob; I know it's true.

There's always Southern California -- beaches, great food, lots of outdoorsy stuff to do and easy to plan. Maybe that's the way to go!


  1. I can put you in touch with my coworkers who are going in December if you want. Let me know!

  2. I've been to Costa Rica! I did a whirlwind trip from Managua to Panama City in about 9 days, and honestly, I liked Costa Rica by far the least. I would highly recommend either of the other two, though.

    Nicaragua is somewhat of an adventure--you'd want to be in the mood for misadventure. I loved it, but if you're looking for a relaxing weekend, it might not be the best thing to do. You could easily fly into Managua, but don't stay longer than necessary. Things worth seeing include Granada and the Ometepe Island. Apparently there's a nice city (maybe Leon?) to the north of Managua, but we needed to focus on the prize.

    Panama was also fantastically interesting. Panama City is a big, city. The Panama Canal is absolutely fascinating--you can take a train (not on Sat and Sun, though--watch out) from there to Colon, which would be awesome (we didn't know it didn't run on Saturdays and thus missed it). The lake (Gatún) is supposed to be beautiful if you can afford a tour there, and there's also a great island right off the coast of Panama City (Taboga) that has a cute fishing village and a nice beach.

    As for Costa Rica, I think it would be harder for a long weekend (really, Panama City would be ideal, the more I think of it), because the places you want to go are a good distance from San José. We were in Santa Elena or something like that, did the whole coffee tour and zipline thing. We were also in Libería, which wasn't anything particularly interesting, and stopped quickly at a coastal town.

    But honestly, anything you can do in Costa Rica can be done in Panama, and the latter feels slightly less swamped by tourists (still lots). Nicaragua helps you escape the tourists, but it's also prone to be more comedy of errors.

    Anyway, I would highly recommend looking into Panama City instead. You can do a good tour of the canal (from a technical perspective) one day (getting up to Colon and seeing the Gatún Locks is a nice thing to do, though Colón itself is dangerous and you don't really want to spend time there--those locks are the most impressive), and then seeing the other ones that are closer to Panama City (Miraflores is one of them, don't know the other). Another day you could do a boat trip on the lake there. And then another day go out to the Island and sit on the beach and eat fresh fish. And then the old part of Panama City merits perhaps half a day, too.

    Now I feel totally invested in this trip. But if you have more interest, look through my facebook albums. The aptly named "A sprint through Central America" is a nice summary of the trip, with lots of commentary that illustrates our travels nicely.

  3. ive been to costa rica, nicaragua and honduras if you want info about those places...rainforests, beaches, hikes, snorkeling theres definitely a lot to do and see!

  4. It was many years ago when I visited Costa Rica but I would recommend visiting Monteverde, Arenal Volcano, and Tabacon Hot Springs. Amazing place

  5. Uh, haven't been! But my cousins went to Costa Rica years ago and they swore by it. They had a hut on the beach and everything. As a further testament, my cousin frequently travels there to surf. GO!

  6. I've been to Costa Rica, lived on the beaches of Montezuma for a while. Overall, I enjoyed the Pacific Coast and San Jose. We stayed at a family-run getaway (not fancy, but comfortable and great home-cooked meals) in Osa Peninsula. I think the best thing with four days is to pick one or two places that you want to be. And relax. It's slow getting anywhere outside of San Jose. Bus travel is the norm, but to get to Osa, we had to take a boat ride (small planes are also an option, though more expensive). The culture is a relaxed one. I wonder about the time that you're leaving, however. I thought their dry season was from January to April, so you might encounter a good bit of rain ...