- 1 Post By Homer Simpson
- 2 Post By Wing
July 25th, 2013, 10:33 PM #1
Costa Rica and Panama tips
I've decided to stop being such a tightwad and am going to live a little. I'm going to be in Costa Rica and Panama for about 10 days in early September. I'm flying into San Jose and am for sure wanting to fly into Bocas Del Toro for a few days. Other than that, no real plans. Any tips and/or recommendations on what to see and where to stay would be appreciated! I'm on a relative budget but it's not going to be a hipster-annoying-bunk bed hostel type budget
July 26th, 2013, 11:48 AM #2
Venus William's butt.
I am heading out to Costa Rica in just over a week. We are spending a few days on each side of the country. A few tips that my wife learned is not to take anything of value because of the chances of loosing it. We are leaving our cellphones and rings at home. As we are staying in an all inclusive for a few days we will lock our wallets and CC in the safe as there are no need to take them where we go. We are going to get a travel cc that is not attached to our bank account and maybe travelers checks. Book your commuter tickets now as it is the low season and not many flights from San Jose-Tamarindo, etc. The drive is about 5 hours on a crappy road so it was suggested to fly. We were about to book our all inclusive via AAA, but my wife went direct and saved about $1000. The hotel will exchange our travelers checks to local currency, for a small fee. Get your Hep A shots if you haven't already, make sure to use bug spray to avoid diseases that are carried by the mosquitos. I was warned about Dengue Fever, but I also heard that it is pretty safe. Also the luggage weight is limited to about 30 lbs on the commuter flights, so pack accordingly. Check your passports, mine was expired but with a rush fee and priority overnight I got my new passportt back within about 1.5 weeks. Let me know if you have any questions on that. i am going to leave the nice camera at home and just take the point and shoot. We are going to buy a throw away phone in CR at the airport.
Damn, holy wall of text.
July 26th, 2013, 11:57 AM #3
Be kind to the monkeys out there, or I'll have to cut you when you return. Also, remember a bunch of bananas buys you protection.
July 26th, 2013, 01:17 PM #4
I will make sure to say "ooohh oooh ooooh" to your family when I am there. Please ask them to not throw their monkey pooh at me.
July 26th, 2013, 05:53 PM #5
I was in Costa Rica in November last year. We stayed in hostels/apartments we rented via airbnb.com. You can see a whole lot in a short time if you rent a car (as we did), although this is something you should plan ahead carefully - it happens often that what they will want to charge you will be much above the price listed on the web (extra insurance etc). We made a reservation at Hertz only to find out when we arrived there that they wanted an extra $1k for some security deposit (which we couldn't make). The company we ended up renting at was National - they are reliable and reasonably cheap (we ended up paying about 2x less than we would at Hertz). They can pick you up at the airport in San Jose and take you to their place. Do not rent at unknown/non-verified companies and don't let them persuade you with "special offers" at the airport. You can easily find on the web what rental companies are credible. Also, if you rent, rent an SUV with a 4 wheel drive, unless you're absolutely sure you will stay on the road at all times. There are no addresses in the country, but a GPS will help. Also VERY important: if your flight arrives later in the afternoon and you need to make a trip to your destination, plan that you make it during daytime. It gets dark at around 5 PM (no matter what time of the year it is) and after this time it can (depending on the area) be EXTREMELY dangerous to drive - what happened to us was that we had about 4 hours driving ahead of us, but only got the car at about 3 PM. 2 hours later, we were caught in the dark in an area bordering a cloud forest - we literally couldn't even see the road ahead of us, and there was a storm as a bonus - we had to turn back. So plan that you start trips early in the morning or make a ho(s)tel reservation where you can stay overnight. Driving can be tricky - keep your eyes on the road and scan for the infamous potholes. Also, based on my experience it can be useful if you can re-adjust the headlights on the car (up/down) for visibility at night, so inform yourself about how to do that.
Bring a (head)lamp and extra batteries. This is a must. You want to see where you're walking at night - it's the tropics.
Learn basic Spanish phrases. Lots of people, especially locals not involved with tourists, don't speak English. E.g. 'mil' on banknotes means 1000, not a million. In tourist areas you can pay for most of the things with dollars, but also have colones just in case (e.g. tolls).
Places to see below, all are well known. We visited them in the following order.
1. La Fortuna area - Arenal vulcano, La Fortuna waterfall.
I suggest a good tour guide (I can recommend one if you wish) who will point out to you lots of things you would otherwise miss, such as places where iguanas are present. You can visit the volcano and the waterfall in a day (it's possible to swim in the lake below) and will still have enough time for zip-lining over the jungle if that's your thing. I personally would not enjoy walking the volcano area myself because, as already said 1) you miss 75% of the wildlife pointed out to you by the tour guide 2) later in the day/night, snakes come out (so we were told) and you probably don't want to encounter a fer de lance.
Both this places are great to see and are must-visit.
2. Monteverde. The road to get there is hell and it's a long, slow drive (not very dangerous as you're driving slowly most of the time, but it's a bumpy ride), but it's totally worth it. There are lots of things to see and do there. I personally recommend a (guided) jungle night tour (you can see anything from tarantulas to armadillos and sloths) and a cocoa&coffee plantation tour. I expected the latter one would be boring, but the guide was a total boss and served us some of the most delicious drinks I've ever tasted. Take note that Monteverde, especially after dark, is a cold and wet place.
3. Quepos & Manuel Antonio - pacific coast, surfing spot. Nice place to just relax. Inform yourself about the riptides and how to handle them to be safe. Visiting mangroves on a boat can be interesting, but wildlife sighting is more tricky here and you may end up not seeing much. Ideally, you'd want to see crocodiles and have monkeys come into the boat. Manuel Antonio is really nice and has a nice beach, but beware of racoons when they're around. They will try to steal everything. If you keep to the main path, Manuel Antonio is fine to visit by yourself (without a guide), but it can be very crowded. At the time of my visit most other paths were closed due to rain that resulted in too many snakes being around. Also driving in the entire Quepos area proved to be ok even at night, so you don't have to plan your days so tightly here.
I have to say mosquitos were surprisingly not a problem, still bring a repellent. Also beware of 1) dogs that don't seem to have an owner 2) traffic.
I can't help with Bocas Del Toro though, unfortunately.
And now I miss Costa Rica ... definitely worth visiting.
Last edited by Wing; July 26th, 2013 at 06:16 PM.
August 6th, 2013, 11:37 PM #6
Good stuff. I've altered plans a bit and it looks as though ill be spending the bulk of my time in Bocas Del Toro...I figure I can't go wrong staying on the beach for a week. Any recommendations for quick and interesting sights in San Jose? I'll have maybe a day and a half there