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Wanna beach bum it up for a month in March!
December 26, 2012 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Less touristy Central American beach spot to plunk down for a month in March? Thinking Quepos, Costa Rica, got anything better?

I've got a little over a month between contracts at work coming up and I want to take a budget trip South, probably Costa Rica or another Central American country as that's about as far as my flight budget will take me.

As I don't drive or want to spend too much, I'm planning to just plunk down in one place, rent a room in a hostel or get a small apartment and stay a month. I know some will scream at the idea of staying mostly in one place for a whole month but that actually is super appealing to me.

I want to spend around $2k Canadian total including flight from Toronto, lodging, and expenses. A little more is ok but if I can keep it under 2k my finally paid off credit card will be thrilled. I want beaches and jungle in walking distance. I like snorkelling so if there's a good spot reasonably nearby (Something I could walk to is good, operated driven tour is less good but still better than nothing). The less touristy the better, but I'm ok with some. I definitely don't want anywhere the massive Spring Break crowds will be hitting!

The best option in my mind right now is Quepos in Costa Rica, it has beaches and jungle and national park nearby, and seems to be big enough that I won't be entirely dependent on tourist traps and small enough to easily manage getting around, getting groceries etc. Looking at flights and hostels, that comes in at around 1.2k before living expenses, so budget seems doable. I am open to other ideas though! What should I know about Quepos, or what is your favourite place to drop out for a while?
posted by yellowbinder to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Quepos is lovely and has things like grocery stores, but I wouldn't describe it as "less touristy" (less touristy than, say, Orlando, sure but... ). Down the coast a bit (though I'd take the inland route over the mountains) is Dominical, which has far fewer tourists, but enough to have a small tienda or two.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:05 AM on December 26, 2012


I liked Quepos a lot. however, all the best snorkeling & hiking is in Manuel Antonio, which can get very touristy. (SO gorgeous, though.)

maybe also consider Playa Manzanillo on the Caribbean side, right near the Panama border. I prefer the Caribbean coast to the Costa Rica Pacific, and it tends to be less touristy. Manzanillo is very close to Puerto Viejo (bus-accessible), which is touristy but more in an ex-pat surf bum sense; it has a few big grocery stores & tons of amenities. Manzanillo, however, is tiny and super laid-back. the ocean is gorgeous and jungle is everywhere. also, Panama's Bocas del Toro archipelago is easily accessible for a weekend trip.
posted by changeling at 11:04 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Quepos gets super crowded and booked up (even in the off season) due to its proximity to Manuel Antonio. I agree with changeling, the Caribbean side is my favorite coast as well. Playa Manzanillo is awesome, even Puerto Viejo is not too touristy most of the time (there are a lot of touristy shops, etc but you'd be hard-pressed to find a beach town without them in CR). I've been there a bunch of times (used to live in CR) and I still love going there every time. The beaches are nice and empty (except for local friendly dogs, fishermen, and frigatebirds), the water is warm, there is a ton of fresh seafood if you're into that, there are plenty of grocery stores that you can walk to (this all refers to Puerto Viejo because I've been there more often, I'm sure the same can be said of Manzanillo). The bus down there costs about $20 round trip from San Jose, if you're not taking a "turismo" van. I usually stay at an actual hotel with little cabinas while I'm there, which runs around $30-$40 a night. If you're looking for a close National Park, Cahuita is right up the highway, accessible by cheap, local buses and is super mellow. I saw howler monkeys and capuchins, sloths, etc while hiking through there, on my own, without a guide.

If you're set on going to the Pacific, I really liked Brasilito (it's between Tamarindo and Playa Flamingo, both of which are way more touristy). Especially its proximity to Playa Conchal, which is the best beach ever (at least when it isn't crowded, I haven't been in March so I'm not sure). A hotel there is like $35 a night, the bus trip is long but worth it to me. The tons of crowing roosters will wake you up super early though.
posted by primalux at 11:31 AM on December 26, 2012


Oh and my pricing was all in American dollars, sorry.
posted by primalux at 11:32 AM on December 26, 2012


Oh, and I don't know if it's worth it to you to think about, but when I lived there my rent was $500(U.S.) a month for a two bedroom, detached place on a big property, month to month, and that was on the high side of pricing for places we were looking at. You might be able to find a small place somewhere in one of the smaller beach towns to rent for a month for cheaper than you'll be paying for hostels.
posted by primalux at 11:40 AM on December 26, 2012


Guanacaste.

It is incredibly quiet in parts, close to nightlife and many beaches, dry, hot weather, "cowboy" country with a laid-back pace of life. I had swaths of space to myself.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:34 PM on December 26, 2012


Haven't been there myself, but my sister and BIL ADORE Belize, and usually spend a month or a month & a half there in January/February.
posted by easily confused at 1:27 PM on December 26, 2012


Another vote for Brasalito ... I wish I could spend years there.
posted by anadem at 7:55 PM on December 26, 2012


The Nicoya Peninsula is really beautiful and isn't nearly as touristy as Quepos or Manuel Antonio. The jungle pretty much extends to the white sand beaches. I have only been to Santa Teresa and Malpaís--the beaches are great and not crowded at all, at least when I was there in March. On the eastern side there's Curu Wildlife Reserve and Tortuga Island, which is said to have great snorkeling (but it's probably a day trip). I have heard so many good things about Brasilito and Playa Conchal (also good snorkeling) that that's where I would want to go if I were to visit again. I don't know anything about any public transportation, but the roads are notoriously bad and a lot of people get around on ATVs. There's a pretty comprehensive guide to the area at www.nicoyapeninsula.com and it should give you a good idea if it's what you're looking for.
posted by mokujin at 3:11 AM on December 27, 2012


Thanks all! Definitely looking into Puerto Viejo especially! Does anyone have any tips on longer term renting, rather than hotel day rates? I'm finding a bit on Airbnb but more options are always great!
posted by yellowbinder at 10:49 AM on December 27, 2012


For longer term renting - we actually just used craigslist to find places. There are a lot of expats from the U.S./Canada/Europe down there with big properties and a desire to rent out rooms or cabins to make money. I would put 90% of the people we talked to about apartments in that category. You can filter it to only show English language ads, so it makes it easier if you don't speak Spanish.

Oh, and if a place says it doesn't have hot water, don't worry. Most places don't, even a lot of hotels. Those places will have electric shower heads, so you won't have to take a cold shower.

Downside of Craigslist: having to look up every tiny town mentioned, when there are towns with the same name in almost every province, sometimes several per province so they're broken down to canton level as well. It can get tiring.
posted by primalux at 1:44 PM on December 27, 2012


Hi, I just spent 3 months bumming around central america-- beach places I stayed at:

Playa El Tunco in El Salvador -- a tiny surf beach in the middle of nowhere. Literally one street with 4 or 5 hostels and a few restaurants. Tons of Australians and Americans there, super cheap -- I think I was spending $15 a day there, meals, hostel (with a pool!) and beer included. I liked it there, but it got a bit boring after a week or so, and if you have a low tolerance for crusty surfer types, you might want to skip it

San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua-- Another super cheap town. There's like 4 or 5 isolated little coves there. Tons of surfing, much bigger town, and lots of big bars and places to party at. If you get tired of partying, you can take a day trip over to ometepe in lake Nicaragua to climb volcanos, or visit Granada, which is a great colonial city. I'd totally recommend this part of Nicaragua for any vacation, by far my favorite place in central America.

Quepos and Manuel Antonio -- Breath-takingly beautiful, but everything in Costa Rica is like three times more expensive than anywhere else in Central America, especially restaurants and tours. I stayed at a hostel on the road from Quepos to Manual Antonio which had amazing views and was a short cab ride down to the park.

Puerto Viejo -- This is a seedy party town, especially down by the coast. If you're looking to do a bunch of cheap coke and go out drinking and dancing at night, this is the place to go. I really liked the beach there, though, there are coral reefs right on the shore which break the waves early so you can swim comfortably in fairly deep water. If you're not looking to party, go a little bit down the road and there are a bunch of isolated hostels/hotels/resorts deeper into the jungle. We went to one that had sloths just hanging out in the trees when you woke up in the morning, it was amazing.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama -- This is my number two recommendation. Fairly inexpensive. You can stay in town at one of the hostels and take a boat over to a resort called Red Frog which will charge you only $3 to go in. It has snorkling, and there are lots of bars and clubs to party at, but it didn't feel as edgy as Puerto Viejo did. You can actually do Puerto Viejo and Bocas Del Toro on the same trip -- there are shuttles that will take you across the border from one to the other (including a fun walk across an old railroad bridge when you get to the border).

Another option which I ran out of money before I got to do -- you can go to panama city and book a yacht trip to Colombia for like $350-400 a person and you stop off at the San Blas islands on the way.

If you want specific recommendations for hostels and so on or help planning your trip for any of those places, feel free to memail me.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on December 29, 2012


Thanks all! Definitely looking into Puerto Viejo especially! Does anyone have any tips on longer term renting, rather than hotel day rates? I'm finding a bit on Airbnb but more options are always great!

Re-longer term renting -- A friend of mine rented a fully furnished 2 bedroom house in downtown San Juan Del Sur for < $300/mo. There's actually a real estate office in town. There were a bunch of places renting out in Quepos and Manuel Antonio, too, but I was there during off season, so it may be harder to find places during dry season. I think most places don't like renting for one month only, but you should be able to find stuff when you get there.
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on December 29, 2012


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