Costa Rica Adventure Vacation Shakedown: Part 1

Let me say first – this type of vacation is not for everyone!  If you like a variety of adventurous outdoor experiences and can live without your usual creature comforts for the duration, then keep reading.  I planned the trip myself – primarily using a great guidebook:  Pauline Frommer’s Costa Rica -” Spend Less, See More. “.  This was an invaluable tool and led me to many helpful internet sites.  It’s a bit outdated now – so some of the quoted prices are wrong, and some of the restaurants have closed, etc.  but still a great read!  I hope there will be an updated version soon.  Here are some particular notations about the trip:

Transportation:  We used a variety within Costa Rica without difficulty!  The Ticos are very nice and depend on tourism for a significant part of their economy – they WANT to be helpful

  • Cheapest transportation (and very reliable) is the public bus.  A ride around town is less than $.50.  The four hour drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast was only $9.00.  There was no AC, but with the windows open the temperatures were comfortable.   And it was nice to be able to enjoy the scenery without having to worry about the other crazy drivers.
  • Taxi’s – plentiful and reliable – a bit more expensive, but not outrageously so.  The 40 minute ride from our Tico residence in Heredia to the bus terminal was $14.00 total (for 4 people).  Either negotiate the price up front or make sure the driver turns on “La Maria”, the meter (so named, I understand as an indication of their  honesty, LOL).  There are also  many “pirate” taxis’ – we found several of these in Puerto Viejo de Limon.  I had some of my most interesting Spanish conversations with these characters.  And I do mean characters!
  • Tour companies:    these folks had mastered the art of moving tourists from point A to point B – in comfort, style and included in the price of your tour.  For example:  We were picked up by Exploradores Outdoors at 6:30 am in Puerto Viejo.  They loaded all of our luggage and we drove 2 hours to Squierres for our 4 hour raft ride on the Rio Pacuare (this was a highlight for me!).  They fed us breakfast before the trip, lunch after the trip, then dropped us off in Arenal (4 hour ride in a private bus with AC) at our hotel.  Total cost per person for ALL of this was $90!  And again, they were kind, helpful and acted like they enjoyed what there were doing.
  • Rental Car:  We did rent a 4WD vehicle in Dominical for 2 days because our lodging at Pacific Edge was up a very steep gravel road.  We also had the freedom associated with having our own car and were able to drive to our horseback riding tour to Nauyaca Falls the next morning and out to dinner that night.  Cars are expensive to rent however – With gas and insurance $200 for the two days.  Better weekly rates are available.  If you are going to rent a car, I advise you so spend the extra money for 4WD – it comes in VERY handy!  Understand that gas here is $1.50/liter, 50% higher than we are currently spending at our location in the states.  A benefit was that this company allowed us to drop the car off in Sierpe (about  1 1 /2 hours drive south) where we were picking up our boat shuttle to Drake Bay.  Another benefit, the owners of Pacific Edge made the arrangements for us and vouched for this companies honesty and reliability (Solid Rent a Car). My understanding is that it doesn’t always go so well with some companies.  The road from Dominical to Sierpe was good and we made the drive without difficulty.  Would I drive myself to Monteverde?  Now that’s a horse of a different color.  Steep, winding gravel roads with lots of potholes and people driving on the wrong side of the road made me glad for private transportation on this segment.
  • Boat:  We had a couple of good experiences here.  Another great adventure tour company – Desafio, who we went with for our canyoneering/waterfall repelling experience, also arranged our transportation from Arenal to Monteverde.  It started with a short bus ride to the lake (again, they picked us up at our hotel and handled all of our luggage), transfer to boat shuttle and 40 minute ride on a beautiful lake with outstanding views of Arenal volcano and then another transfer  to a private shuttle for the “Costa Rican Massage”  – i.e. VERY bumpy trip to Monteverde.  We also came by boat taxi from Sierpe to Drake bay – an adventure in itself as it included the Sierpe River, an astounding “short-cut” through a Mangrove estuary, then another hour on the sea to our lodge “Las Caletas”.  We booked two tours at Las Caletas (they have a resident guide)  – to Corcovado National Park, and Cano Island snorkeling both of which included boat trips that were well managed with good captains.
  • Our own feet!  We used these A LOT.  So take note:  Invest in top quality  footwear!  My favorite and most used were my LL Bean Sport Sandles – great traction, adequate protection and good for water or land sports.  They went through the mud, down the side of a waterfall, jungle walks, beaches, handled wet boat landings with ease, rain – no problema!  If I had taken only one pair of shoes it would have been these.  I also used flip-flops a lot around our various lodgings, out to dinner, etc.  I did bring a pair of boots – not sure I’d bring them again because I only used them once, and my sport sandles would have done just as well I think.  The boots took up a lot of space and were heavy.  I think it would be a personal preference regarding the boots – I did like them for the night jungle tour where it was more difficult to see where I was putting my feet.
  • LL Bean Sport Sandle - best shoes for this type of trip!

    Next post:  Clothing!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. TammyM
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 03:54:49

    Such a fascinating trip for sure .. !! I am amazed really at all the adventures that you packed into this trip and really Kathleen .. I think maybe you may have found a new career as a trip planner .. I mean this was such a feat to arrange and now you know the deal .. maybe you should be a planner/tour guide .. and I can just see you busting everyone’s tail haha .. getting them on the go by 5:30 or 6am… haha and I mean now you are just about interpreter status.. just keep me a little room with my name on it when ever you do relocate .. i have a feeling it’s just a matter of time.


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