Brazil: It's only a state of mind.
January 18, 2010 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Darling Fiancée and I are planning our honeymoon, it's down to Costa Rica and Brazil at this point. I'd love to hear the Hive's experiences with both destinations. More after the fold.

If we go to Brazil (the current front-runner) we'd probably spent a week or so at Vila Prea, with a few days in Rio on the way back.

If we go to to Costa Rica, we'd spend 8-10 days at Si Como No and then a day or two in San Jose on the way back.

Ideally, we want a good combination of beach time to recover from wedding stress and activities: hiking, rain forest tours, ziplining, etc.

So, MeFites, what are you experiences? Good? Bad? Any recommendations? Is Costa Rica worth the "eco travel" premium over other carribean destinations? Is the crime in Brazil as bad as some people tell us, even at resort well outside the major cities?
posted by Oktober to Travel & Transportation around Brazil (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to Manuel Antonio/Quepos in CR three times in the past 6 years. I stayed at Si Como No once and at Costa Verde twice. Both are very nice - the Si Como No nicer than the Costa Verde. I might have a low boredom threshold, but I find the area a bit boring after three days. The beaches aren't great, and the park isn't huge, and it's PACKED with tourists. Don't get me wrong - it's beautiful and worth a visit; just not 8-10 days.

Depending on what time of year your honeymoon is (the, ahem, "green season" is from May to Octoberish), I would recommend that you go to the Nicoya peninsula. You can fly into Liberia, and easily get to much less touristy places (if you avoid Tamarindo). The beaches there are much better and less crowded - which seems more appropriate for a honeymoon-type atmosphere. I spent six months on the peninsula as a grad student, so I know a lot about cheap I don't have any specific recommendations for more upscale accomodations.
posted by shrabster at 7:19 PM on January 18, 2010

Been to Costa Rica twice, Brazil once and loved them both. I think you'd have a great time at either place you've picked. I'm partial to Costa Rica, though, maybe because it's smaller and easier to travel around to different places (cloud forest, beach, jungle, etc) that aren't that far apart as opposed to Brazil.

We really enjoyed the ziplining at SkyTrek in Monteverde but I'm not sure how far that is from Si Como No. Also, I wouldn't spend much time in San Jose, but if you do, I highly recommend Hotel Bougainvillea just outside of town as a place to stay. The gardens are beautiful and the staff warm and friendly.

posted by ourroute at 7:24 PM on January 18, 2010

I stayed at Hotel Bougainvillea as well and second the suggestion, as well as the suggestion to spend no more time in San Jose than necessary. It's a nice enough town, but the spectacular parts of Costa Rica are elsewhere. I've been to a few other places in Central America [Guatemala, Honduras] and did feel that spending time in CR was worth the extra time/expense.
posted by jessamyn at 7:39 PM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, duh, other important info:

We're getting married the first weekend in may, so that would be the beginning of "green season". Which i take to mean "rainy".
posted by Oktober at 7:47 PM on January 18, 2010

Lived in CR for a year quite some time ago. Manuel Antonio was beautiful, Quepos was a hole. Playa Samara (farther north, on the Nicoya peninsula, as recommended by shrabster) was really beautiful too, far less packed. You may or may not be able to fly into Liberia. I agree that 8-10 days is a bit long, but it may be more your style.

Monteverde is long from the coast. Do NOT be fooled by short distances. The proper question is: "how long does it take to get there?", not: "how far is it?". If you do indeed go to Monteverde, my fav was hiking down the trail to be in the cool streams of Fortuna and see the volcano and hot springs of Arenal in the same day. It's a bit rugged though, not up the alley of Si como No. If you're into zipline and canopy tours and white water rafting, there are a number that leave from San Jose that are much closer than those in Monteverde. I have not been on them, but friends who did this thought it was great.

CR is really easy to get around in. I highly recommend the local public buses. Pay attention for safety, but not a problem. I do not recommend driving. The highway to the west coast is really twisty, and a bit of a nightmare to drive. In its day, Lonely Planet guide of CR was bang on the money.

While you're in San Jose, just off of the Plaza de la cultura, a half block down the street closed for pedestrians, is Manolo's. Have a churro filled with dulce de leche and a cafe con leche and watch the people walking by. Sigh. It's been a long time since I was back. Market day is on Saturday. Feel free to MeMail me if you've got specific questions about other places. It's been a while, but I've been most places in the country.
posted by kch at 7:55 PM on January 18, 2010

yes, May = "green" = muddy/rainy. Not a good time to go to Monteverde unless you get lucky on the weather.
posted by kch at 7:58 PM on January 18, 2010

I spent a month in Brazil a few years ago. I also just got back from Peru, and I was reminded of what it feels like to be in a poor country. I love Brazil, but it's people can be both incredibly festive and also ruthless. My time there was spent with a martial arts group going into really poor neighbourhoods and training with the students there. This is a very different experience than the one you're going to have at a beach resort with your love. I didn't go to Rio, but Sao Paulo, as part of the trip, and I would be on extra alert when you're in the city. You will be a target. The nice thing about Brazil is that people come in all colours and shapes there, so you can't be pegged as a tourist until you open your mouth. In the end you are going to be fine, and you're in love, so things will be all roses. However, I'm not sure if I would plan a honeymoon to Rio, since you might not be able to relax because of always being on the lookout.
posted by gillianr at 8:01 PM on January 18, 2010

We got married at the Si Como No. It's a beautiful place, but in May it was really, really outrageously muggy and hot. And I'm a Texas girl telling you this. We're drenched with sweat in all our wedding photos. We moved on to Casa Turire, which was at the time a sister hotel to the Si Como No, and the weather there was lovely and cool in the evenings and it was close to white water rafting. I'm not sure it would be close enough to anything for an 8-10 day stay, though. You might want to move around some. (If you fly in and out of San Jose, my relatives really liked the Marriott; I also popped into the Grano de Oro and it seemed really nice.

*My experiences there were 11 years ago - adjust accordingly!
posted by Addlepated at 8:38 PM on January 18, 2010

If you go to Costa Rica and spend any time in Montezuma, I HIGHLY suggest you eat at Playa de los Artistas. It's the most romantic restaurant in the whole world- huge carved tables set right on the beach under a low wooden roof, candlelight, delicious food, incredible atmosphere.

We also rented a suite here, which was clean and pleasant, with excellent service but not too much staff intervention. We had fun buying groceries and cooking for ourselves. And we stayed here (or somewhere really similar, and I do think the owners were French or Belgian), where we really liked the cute little raised triangle cabins with hammocks underneath.

While in Montezuma, we rented an all-terrain vehicle and went for rides, and we learned to scuba dive. It was really nice. We ziplined, too, but I forget if we were actually in MZ for that. Anyway, Costa Rica is really nice! The rainforest and waterfalls and stuff are beautiful, there's lots of nature to see (scuba, monkeys, etc), and the weather when we were there in December was great- swimsuits all day and maybe a light jacket at night.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:58 PM on January 18, 2010

Oh, here's a better pic of that gorgeous restaurant. Realize that juuust past the edge of what you can see is the ocean, so you can hear it while you eat. *Swoon* Here's their website.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2010

The beaches in Ceará, where Vila Prea is, are absolutely amazing. In a remote resort like that, you really don't need to worry about crime. Yes, take the normal precautions--don't leave your valuables out on your bed, but a resort like that knows that their business depends on a good reputation and they'll do their best to keep the criminal element out.

Rio is a different story. You should definitely be careful there, just as you would in any major world city. Even though Brazil is made up of all kinds of people, it's fairly easy to spot international tourists by the way they dress, the way they act and their sunburns (sad but true).

Just a side note--If you're going from Chicago to Fortaleza, Rio is really out of your way. Flying to Recife or Salvador via Miami would be much shorter.
posted by wallaby at 7:23 AM on January 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Wallaby! Yeah, we'd be flying into Fortaleza, and from there to Villa Prea. On the way back, we'd hop over to Rio, see the sights, and take off from there a couple days later.
posted by Oktober at 8:01 AM on January 19, 2010

i just got back from costa rica and while i didn't stay at si como i stayed nearby and did SEE that hotel. manuel antonio was my least favourite part of my trip, i vastly preferred arenal/monteverde.

we did a 9 day trip, 2 days eaten by plane travel, and did 2 days in arenal, 2 days in monteverde, 2 in manuel antonio, and one in san jose. i'd say san jose is easily skippable or just do an afternoon, and i would have only done one day in manuel antonio if i did it all again. don't get me wrong, manuel antonio is BEAUTIFUL but i felt like it was the most touristy area we visited, overpriced, and the only part of costa rica where people weren't extremely hospitable.

with our schedule we saw a LOT of different kinds of things and did all sorts of stuff without feeling rushed. there's a lot of travel time by shuttle since these places are kinda spread far apart but it was kinda fun to sightsee good chunks of costa rica during the ride.
posted by raw sugar at 10:28 AM on January 19, 2010

My wife and I spent our honeymoon(about a week) at Si Como No. The hotel was really nice, but as at least one other person mentioned, the area is a bit limited as far as "stuff to do". We didn't go crazy doing stuff, maybe one tour/excursion per day and we'd pretty much tapped out the area by the end of the trip. I have family who've been to Costa Rica and travelled around in-country. I think that's probably a good way to keep things fresh. That said, if you're looking for a good chill out spot, Si Como No and Manuel Antonio would be a great place to do that.

If you do opt to go to Costa Rica, we were really pleased with Costa Rica Experts. They're a travel agent and they set everything up, most importantly, travel to-and-from the airport.

Enjoy your trip, wherever you go!
posted by specialnobodie at 1:13 PM on January 19, 2010

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