Where to go in Costa Rica?
January 9, 2004 5:40 PM   Subscribe

My cool girlfriend and I are planning a possible winter get-away to Costa Rica ... we'd like to hit the beach, someplace relatively remote but comfortable for a couple days and do some exploring. Does anyone here have recommendations for places to stay/visit/itineraries? or advice on CR in general? Thanks in advance.
posted by specialk420 to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I went in the off season [second week of December] to a little resortish place by the sea on the west coast of Costa Rica called Iguanazul. It was super-remote [this was five years back] and basically there was nothing to do except sit by the pool, sit by the ocean or drink at the bar. There were very few people there. It was nice.

I also recommend the cloud forests of Monteverde. They cost a little bit to go to [more of an ecotourism place] but it's worth the trip. Massive rainforests and a lot of people doing good ecology work. Interesting butterfly garden and a strange serpentarium. I had great Chilean food up there and there were an amazing amount of hummingbirds just hanging out. Many biting bugs, bring good repellent. Plus there's a group of Quakers from the US South who went there before WWII and have been living there ever since. It was odd to see a bunch of white kids with dreadlocks -- like children, not teenagers or hippie travellers -- up some mountain seemingly in the middle of noplace.

Costa Rica overall was my favorite place to visit in all of Central America. The people there were friendly and most spoke some English [though it always helps to polish up your Spanish the further off the beaten track you go] and it didn't have that "colonized nation" feel to it that has made me uncomfortable in the Bahamas or in Guatemala/Honduras.
posted by jessamyn at 6:28 PM on January 9, 2004

I don't have much advice on CR, but if you want remote and laid back, don't dismiss Roatan, which is in the Bay Islands of Honduras. Much less touristy than either Belize or CR on principle, and you get all the benefits of a phenomenal exchange rate, mostly english speakers, and probably the second best scuba/snorkel reef in the world.

Just my 2c.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:54 PM on January 9, 2004

jessamyn - your second link was the same as the first. i can google for it, but would like to know if you were linking to something specific. (just wondering if this would be a good place for our summer holidays next month). also - what was the weather like in december? and when's the on-season?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:29 PM on January 9, 2004

Yes, definitely go to the cloud forests at Monteverde. The forest walks, many of which are on rope bridges, are unforgettable. I don't know about buses but if you plan to drive around (which isn't otherwise hard, Costa Rican highways are few but in better shape than say the roads in Dallas) that will be one of those Times You Need An SUV as the mountain roads are mighty bumpy. I didn't have Chilean food, but the Costa Rican fare was hearty and good. I also don't remember bugs being a problem in the cloud forest; it is high up after all, and kind of chilly.

Forests elsewhere in Costa Rica are also good, especially for monkey fans as there is a good chance you'll get to see some wild monkeys. (At least, I assume there is, because I did - quite a few on one walk.)

The main place I stayed at, which was very nice, was the Orquideas Inn which is not far from the airport and was a good location for a base of operations. It's run by a couple of ex-pats who serve buffalo wings for dinner, and you can pick up guides from there for day trips.

I believe the place I stayed at in Monteverde was the Monteverde Lodge, which if you're looking for a fancy-schmancy hotel in Monteverde it's definitely the place. It has great rooms and a wonderful pool and snazzy iMacs (in 1998 anyhow) and for all that isn't offensively touristy, though if you're looking to get into the heart of the Costa Rican experience it's probably not what you're looking for. You can always go eat in town though.

Most of my trip was hiking so I don't know too much about the beaches or San Jose. Maybe someone else can help you there.
posted by furiousthought at 8:56 PM on January 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

thanks for the suggestions and links - good ones. any thoughts about coastal adventures?
posted by specialk420 at 11:45 PM on January 9, 2004

Hey, furious, tell me about the hiking, please. I'm a once-was backpacker looking for new places to explore. I've been curious about CR, but alarmed by the Very Large Bugs and the Poisonous Snakes. Can a git from up north really survive the CR jungle?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2004

SpecialK: if you'd like a really nice coastal hike, check out BC's Vancouver Island. The Juan de Fuca trail is a great grunt, with lots of opt-out trails that'll take you back to the highway; the West Coast Trail is a much more serious grunt (a few people die every year or two) with no opt-outs, but mindblowing vistas, cliffs, rivers, and so on.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 AM on January 10, 2004 [1 favorite]

SpecialK: Montezuma is where you want to be. Small town on the Pacific coast (the Atlantic coast isn't nearly as pleasant), extremely laid-back. Hippies and surfers and the locals who run things. Great beaches, two good bars (one quiet, the other with good salsa (dancing)), everything within easy walking distance. Waterfalls, always a plus. *Excellent* food. One small restaurant (maybe seats 20 max) with the best damn spaghetti anywhere, another larger place with some great desserts. Cool small shops (mostly run by those hippies). My favorite place in Costa Rica by far (though I never made it to Monteverde).

You get there from San Jose via a long-ass bus-ferry-bus ride, but it's not too bad at all. The buses are nice and the ferry was nicer. From Montezuma you can book some trips, like taking a boat out to an island, snorkel on a reef, then have fresh-caught/bbqed fish for lunch on the beach. I think that one was fifty bucks? Didn't do it myself.

five fresh fish: The Very Large Bugs are great! Just as long as they fall from the roof onto the slightly-stoned Canadian chick and not you. ;-) I never ran into any poisonous snakes, though.

And actually, it's not really deep-jungle stuff. It's no Amazon, that's for sure. For example, Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja is some forest, but a lot of short grass, too. Check out the lower left pic in that link, with the waterfall. Coming to that spot in the middle of the forest with no one else around (ahead of my group, and we saw no one else in the entire park while there)... that was sweet. Another link.

Google for more on both, of course; they're really great places.

One more general CR tip: Try to be in San Jose on a day when the national team wins an important soccer (football, futbol, what have you) game. Don't bring anything glass (bottles, drink in a glass) out with you, though, else the police (in full riot gear ;-) will confiscate it.

Okay, okay, one more: Buy and eat a loaf of crema (sweet bread) every day. It's never too hard to find a bakery.
posted by whatnotever at 1:25 PM on January 10, 2004

... yeah, I want to go back... :-(
posted by whatnotever at 1:26 PM on January 10, 2004

nice. thanks alot. whatnotever.... we have been reading about the peninsula ... it sounds great. ill post photos when i get back (if everything works out to go) :)
posted by specialk420 at 2:34 PM on January 10, 2004

I was all excited because here was a topic I had specific information about, and then I forgot about it.

five fresh fish: I'm not much of a hardcore hiker, I just like exploring, so I didn't go on any particularly wild or challenging trails. So I don't have any particular memories of ooky spider ambushes or fer-de-lances and that's the kind of thing I'd remember. I am also squeamish about large bugs, I know how that goes. Now, my brother collects insects (off and on) and did catch a few of the famously beautiful butterflies. (Which is a no-no of course, but he's not a poacher or anything and he did actually have a guidebook so he could check if the species he brought back with him was common or not. He only brought back common ones.) Also - as I said, the cloud forest is high up and a little chilly, and I don't remember it being full of horrible bugs. I'm pretty sure we prepared for it though.

Next time I go I'll try the whatnotever tour. I wanna go back too.
posted by furiousthought at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2004

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