Wanting to avoid the rainy day blues in Costa Rica
June 5, 2010 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Planning our honeymoon for end of July. Keying in on Costa Rica. I know there are serveral threads here already, but we're looking for advice specifically during this potentially rainy (but maybe not b/c of 'veranillo') season.

Desires: good beaches to relax and drink on; good nature/animal sightseeing; good snorkel/SCUBA sites (rather than surfing)

Places in the mix thus far:

*Manuel Anotonio (too touristy? some say the beaches aren't that great?)


*Tamarindo ('Tamagringo'?)

posted by jilliank to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you are looking to get away from touristy places then try the Caribbean side (Manzanillo). During the rainy season, at least on the Caribbean side, it is pretty much free of tourists. Not sure about the quality of the SCUBA diving though.

We were there at the beginning of rainy season a couple of years ago and it wasn't bad at all. It would rain for maybe an hour and then clear up. The beaches were virtually deserted.
posted by teamnap at 8:26 PM on June 5, 2010

We went to Costa Rica in late July/early August. It rained (reliably) every afternoon around 3, for about 45 minutes (though sometimes longer), which was never a problem -- perfect timing for a siesta! It also often rained at night, but because it gets dark relatively early in Costa Rica (12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of dark that close to the equator), we were usually in by the time the rain started.

We stayed just outside of Dominical (Pacific side) and loved it -- it was very low key, etc. We rented a villa and spent a lot of time chilling out. I definitely recommend that area -- Domincal is south of Manuel Antonio, but the road between the two is unpaved, so I think Domincal gets less of the crazy tourist crowd while having (basically) the same beaches, etc. Dominical is a big destination for the surfing crowd and I found the people there to fit the stereotypical laid-back surfer vibe.

We did not stay on the beach -- we rented a house in the mountains -- but it was a quick drive down to the beach (which we did a couple of times) and it was very easy to travel for excursions. There is a great wildlife refuge nearby (Hacienda Baru) for nature and animal sightseeing that has a great zipline tour; there's also a really beautiful waterfall in the area (accessible on horseback, also a fantastic excursion). And there's a marine wildlife park south of Dominical where I believe scuba diving is possible (not sure -- we just did a boat trip out there where we saw migrating humpback whales, playful dolphins, and a guy get stabbed by a manta ray, all very exciting!).

Of course, since it's your honeymoon, you may want a little more pampering (we were there after taking the bar exam, so we didn't really care about pampering so much as just getting away and really, really relaxing). But I definitely recommend that area. There are lots of hotels in that area, a few full-service resorts, and numerous rental homes and villas (as in much of Costa Rica), so you'd have lots of options for accommodations.
posted by devinemissk at 8:45 PM on June 5, 2010

Are you set on Costa Rica? I ask because I have experienced first hand and heard other accounts from friends of a seriously rising crime rate. I am a pretty low key traveler and am not exactly an alarmist but I am not talking pickpockets and the old tire slash scam that they pull on rental cars (though both suck). I am talking gunpoint robbery. The rental house next to one of the hotels we stayed at (Arenal) on our last trip and some friends of ours on their last trip (Caribbean).
posted by WickedPissah at 8:53 PM on June 5, 2010

I would avoid Manuel Antonio. It is a hellhole filled with tourists. I agree with devinemissk about Baru. Even though it's kind of "rainforest light", I've found that these types of areas have great wildlife watching. There are really good little restaurants down the road in Uvita as well. (probably because the critters appreciate the walkway, too) I prefer the Caribbean side, but the Osa Peninsula is great, too. Might be a little more remote than you would like. Cahuita is 'charming' (I do like it, though. Really.). Parque Nacional Cahuita is also a great place to see wildlife, and it has a very nice beach. Avoid Puerto Limon like the plague.

IMO, the SCUBA diving in Costa Rica is crap, but I've been spoiled by my annual trip to Bonaire. The only good place to dive is Isla del Coco, which is a 24 hour boat ride away from the mainland.

The road to Dominical (listed in devinemissk's post) has been paved. It was a huge project, but they paved all of highway 34. It's really nice, but I think the tourist traffic is going to increase by leaps and bounds as a result.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:12 PM on June 5, 2010

bolognius maximus, while we would have been ECSTATIC to have had a paved road to drive back on, I have to say I'm a bit sad to hear that. I was pretty convinced that the laid-back vibe we got down in Dominical was because it was such a pain to get to.

Well, then, I recommend Domincal and that area EVEN MORE -- because you can bet that in a few years, it's going to be just as much of tourist hell as Manuel Antonio.
posted by devinemissk at 9:26 PM on June 5, 2010

I went to Malpais in June. It rained every afternoon for about one hour. Outside of that hour, it was gorgeous. Montezuma was more touristy; Malpais was more secluded. I don't remember any SCUBA, but that's not my thing so maybe it was available but I didn't notice. Here's what it looked like during rainy season:
  • There are horses and flowers (also monkeys and squirrels and bats and butterflies)

posted by Houstonian at 1:24 AM on June 6, 2010

I would echo those who caution against the touristiness of Manuel Antonio. You can't swing a sloth without hitting a motel. The beaches are big and open but only okay. The nearby national park contains no animals that you cannot see on your own on a nature hike.

I prefer the Pacific side, because I like the waves.

My favorite place to stay--been there four times--is the Ylang Ylang Beach Resort, a fifteen minute walk along the beach outside Montezuma. (On arrival and departure, they give you a lift.) For two, I recommend one of the bungalows, which are cute, cozy and steps from the beach. YY isn't inexpensive by Costa Rican standards. My last trip, my share of expenses for 10 days, including meals, liquor, massages, equipment rental, etc., was $1,200. They have a good restaurant (vegetarian + fish; so-so wine list) and bar. Great wildlife watching around 5pm. Friendly, English-speaking staff who are happy to describe and arrange tours.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:12 AM on June 6, 2010

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