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Old 08-16-2010, 10:36 AM
 
Location: San Diego
5,027 posts, read 13,406,704 times
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I know we're in the minority it seems, but honestly, out of the 10+ countries we've been to in the last almost 2 years, CR is our least favorite. It's a huge tourist trap, very expensive (more so than our European 5 country trip!) and was just like being in the US, with tons of Americans, English at all the hotels, burgers and pizza at the restaurants, etc. If there weren't monkeys in the trees, we'd think we were still in the US! Definitely left a lot to be desired. I know we're in the minority, since most people love CR, but we didn't. We still managed to have our own fun, driving to very local places on our own time and exploring non-tourist populated areas. If you like to travel like a sheep and follow Americans from excursion to excursion, CR is the place for you. Some of the hotel guests went on a zipline excursion. They only spoke English, so the guides had no idea they understood Spanish. They were making fun of the Americans the entire time! At the end, one of the Spanish speaking Americans told them off! So glad we didn't waste money on their excursions! We can only ATV/zipline/rappel down a watefall/raft so many times in our lives and had zero desire to do it there after having just done all of that in Mexico and Aruba. We love culture, local foods and CR severely lacked in that department. It's not what it used to be 5 years ago, and people are taking note. Some hotels are $600/night, which is outrageous! They used to be so cheap, but I guess tourism got to them.

We spent our first and last nights in San Jose, at an American owned little hotel. The owner warned us of the crime as soon as we got there, which was not a great feeling that before anything else, they felt the need to tell us that! Then we drove to Arenal region for 2 nights, 3 nights in Manuel Antonio (was supposed to be 4, but we cancelled one when we got there) and one night in Jaco at the spur of the moment. All of the hotels are owned by Americans. The flight attendant on our flight from ATL to SAN was from our city and said she's been to CR several times and got the same impression we did. She visited the Pacific and Caribbean side and wasn't impressed. She told us Belize is the same way, a huge tourist trap, so we're no longer planning to go there. We heard a ton of complaints from travelers at our hotels, basically stating what we've been experiencing.

If you go, be aware of thefts. We met two people who had all of their luggage stolen, every single piece, after they stopped for 5 minutes to take pictures of the beach. They locked their car but it didn't help. It's funny, we rented a CR GPS that would tell us when we approach huge tourist spots and it told us to pull over and take pictures. After hearing their stories, the last thing I wanted to do was pull over to take pictures. We did so once, to see crocodiles, but our car was ten feet away. Two of our hotel owners warned us to be very weary and said that they had laptops stolen right from their hotels last week. We're not ones to listen to travel warnings, but these locals said it's a lot more common than we think and mentioned it several times during our stay.

Also, according to the locals, CR has two seasons-the rainy season and the slightly less rainy season. It rains almost every day, all year long they said. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend going there. It's not pretty, the beaches we saw were so dirty that our clothes smelled like sewage after going in the water, the roads are horrific and the people were not that friendly. In fact, several local restaurant owners refused to serve Americans! I've never experienced that in other nations. The hotel owner said many are sick of the tourists and don't want them in their place. And the ones who let you in, have two menus...one with local prices and one with tourist. We paid $50 for 2 typical CR food, which consists of rice and beans, plantains, a small piece of meat and a small salad. That should be no more than $6, as the local were paying! Oh, and as you are leaving to come home, you're financially raped one last time when they make you pay over $25pp as a departure tax at the airport. I have no desire to ever go back and have successfully convinced my friends to look for alternate locations, with a bit more culture. We had free airfare, which was the only positive financial part of the trip! So on to the pictures.

Hotel Mountain Paradise, in the Arenal region. This was one of the better hotels on our stay, though not cheap! We had a little house, with a yard, private jacuzzi, porch and rainfall shower. We found stray kittens and took them in for the night, because it was pouring. The hotel staff took them on our last day there and allowed them to roam in their restaurant. Which is another point..if you don't like dogs/cats, don't eat at their restaurants. They come up to your table and beg. There are thousands of stray dogs in CR, roaming the streets and restaurants. No health code requirements, so they don't care. We didn't mind but many others did.











Arenal volcano:


Hanging bridges in Arenal:


Sloths:


Hummingbird and butterfly garden:






On the way to Manuel Antonio, just past Jaco, the GPS told us to pull over and look over the bridge to see crocodiles.





View of Jaco:


This was the only wild frog we saw. The rest were in captivity, for ogling tourists. The most sought after was the red eyed tree frog, which they had in captivity for us to see.







Grasshopper:


Beach inside Manuel Antonio park:






In MA, we stayed at La Posada jungle bungalows. The monkeys came to our room almost every night and (shockingly) the staff gave us bananas to feed them, even after they handed out a brochure stating why you don't feed wild animals. We also had a deer come to the pool area every night. She was very friendly and loved people. Mama raccoon showed up every night to our room in particular as well, with her 4 babies in tow.















Downtown MA:


Inside MA park, right near the beach area. This path takes you from one beach to the next, where all the monkeys seem to be.



Typical road in CR. This is a two way road, with about a 100ft drop. I can't imagine if it rained and was muddy! We thought several times that we were going to go over the cliff. They drive like psychos and flip you off if you're not going 40mph over the speed limit!



If you go, bring a ton of bug spray. I brought off and it didn't work at all. This is after being outside, for only 10 minutes, covered in off. Here's hoping none of the 1000 mosquitos that bit me were carriers of malaria!



Hotel 9, in Jaco. Nicest hotel we stayed in. Owner is from San Diego and really cool. He is the one that warned us of the crime in Jaco. All the hotels have armed guards at night. Nothing like seeing a guy with a machine gun to make you feel safe! This hotel is on the beach, in very quiet area.







Jaco beach. Wearing a white bikini was a huge mistake. It's now black and smells really bad from their water. I don't know what it is about the water, but I'm hoping I can get it clean!









Coffee beans:


Downtown San Jose and their central market:




Typical food. Yup, these two cost $50, with no alcoholic beverages!






Last edited by MAK802; 08-16-2010 at 10:44 AM..
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Old 08-16-2010, 11:17 AM
 
Location: Vermont, grew up in Colorado and California
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Wonderful pics, thanks for the tour.
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Old 08-16-2010, 12:07 PM
 
Location: Savannah GA/Lk Hopatcong NJ
13,103 posts, read 24,874,667 times
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Oh Mak..we were there back in 1999 before it exploded as a major tourist destination....it was sooooo cheap back then. Not many tourists either......yes the roads are horrible...were you on their expressway, the old old Pan American highway???? LOL pot holes that needed their own zip code. Hubbie expressed a desire to go back for fishing but I think after your post I'll try & get him to go back to Cabo.

One thing I was grateful for was my doctor hearing we were going to Costa Rica back then highly recommened hepatitis A vaccine.....after getting there was thankful i got it
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Old 08-16-2010, 12:30 PM
 
Location: San Diego
5,027 posts, read 13,406,704 times
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Yea, we met people who first went in the 90s/early 00 and they were there now. They said they couldn't believe the prices now. It seriously rivals Europe, as far as money goes and is nowhere nearly as pretty. The potholes were unbelievable. We rented a 4x4, and the shocks on that thing were shot from these roads. I heard the roads were bad, but I had no idea they were this bad. It took us 8 hours (with only 2 very short stops) to drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. That is 150 miles.

I only heard about the vaccine recs after we got there. I know, my fault, but I didn't expect to hear that malaria, typhoid and hep A were so prevalent there! We saw many of the young kids with bumps on their bodies...either chicken pox or measles. Be weary if you bring young, unvaccinated children. Last thing you want is them to catch either of those in a third world country!

We haven't been to Cabo yet, mainly because for some odd reason the airfare from San Diego is very expensive. I have no idea why, since we're so close! We are planning a relaxation type of trip there very soon though, since my friend invited us to her timeshare there. I say go to Cabo...so far, I've loved everywhere I've been in Mexico and the people are really nice!
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:10 PM
 
Location: Houston, TX
17,032 posts, read 26,860,426 times
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MAK your post is precisely why I haven't gone there. I heard great stories from those who went in the 90s and early 2000. Those that have gone the last few years fall into two categories. Those who loved it I call 'followers or Ugly Americans'. They want to have American stuff in an area they tour. The 'adventurers' dont like it and have been going to Honduras or Nicaragua as it hasnt been spoiled yet.

I dont think its uncommon for touristy places to have the locals menu and gringo menu...nor prices at markets/strip joints/excursions. You got gouged for that max $20 meal for two. It stinks but I try to negotiate, they will often haggle.

I'm going to Panama soon, I know its Americanized but I want to see the canal.
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:25 PM
 
Location: San Diego
5,027 posts, read 13,406,704 times
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I consider CR to be the "me too" type of place. First American says, "I'm going/have been to CR!" Second American, "Me too!" We're finding that whenever a travel place gets lots and lots of hype from Americans, we tend to hate it. We don't normally go away for an entire week at a time. I mean, we left on a Saturday and came back the following Sunday. Most of our trips are Thur-Sun, since it's rare to have an entire week for travel every month. I want to cry when I think what we could have done with that week!

Another thing I didn't mention is that CR has a huge child prostitution problem. Don't be shocked if you either see 10 year olds pimping themselves out or if the taxi drive offers to drive you to get one. So disturbing and I've read lots of stories on other forums where American guys were offered by cabbies/hotel owners to be driven to places with child prostitutes. They automatically assume if men are alone or in a group of men, they came for that. ABC did a story on that a couple of years ago and I know child welfare agencies are trying to stop it, but the CR gov't doesn't care. I just can't imagine why parents allow these poor kids to do that.

Have a fun trip in Panama and post pictures when you get back!
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:40 AM
 
Location: Savannah GA/Lk Hopatcong NJ
13,103 posts, read 24,874,667 times
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Well Mak that seals it for me. I would rather remember the unspoiled beauty from back in 1999.
Hubbie can go Marlin fishing in Cabo....lol

On our way back from the Pacific coast to San Jose we decided to take a ferry to cut down on the long long ride on horrible roads....I don't know what the hell I was thinking as I've taken ferry from Ireland to Wales across the Irish sea and it was like a mini cruise ship, the Costa Rica ferry was down right scary..goats, chickens , roosters tons of people, cars, delivery trucks to the point they couldn't raise up the ramp....

Hubbie said get out of the car and get over here by me at the rail and if I tell you to jump.....JUMP
First indication the ferry was listing and he was dragging me overboard....
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:42 AM
 
Location: Savannah GA/Lk Hopatcong NJ
13,103 posts, read 24,874,667 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oildog View Post
MAK your post is precisely why I haven't gone there. I heard great stories from those who went in the 90s and early 2000. Those that have gone the last few years fall into two categories. Those who loved it I call 'followers or Ugly Americans'. They want to have American stuff in an area they tour. The 'adventurers' dont like it and have been going to Honduras or Nicaragua as it hasnt been spoiled yet.

I dont think its uncommon for touristy places to have the locals menu and gringo menu...nor prices at markets/strip joints/excursions. You got gouged for that max $20 meal for two. It stinks but I try to negotiate, they will often haggle.

I'm going to Panama soon, I know its Americanized but I want to see the canal.
On my list...make sure you post pics....
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:51 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,382 posts, read 40,906,509 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oildog View Post
I heard great stories from those who went in the 90s and early 2000.
We were in Guatemala in 1998, and had an incredible time. It's not the type of trip I'd want to take every year, but it definitely was a "we're not in Kansas anymore" vacation.
Quote:
I'm going to Panama soon, I know its Americanized but I want to see the canal.
Of course it is Americanized, but you'll still probably have a good time.
My kid spent fall semester there last year. He emailed some amazing photos.
You probably already know this, but in case you don't, be sure to go to Bocas del Toro. Also, bring back a mola.
Beautiful photos, MAK.
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Old 08-19-2010, 12:44 PM
 
Location: Houston, Tx
3,644 posts, read 5,558,544 times
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Beautiful pictures. I'm sad to hear the Costa Rica is not all that its department of tourism cracks it up to be. A few years ago (maybe 10) they sent my father a DVD telling about the wonders of retiring there and how your American pension/401k fund would go so much farther in Costa Rica. I guess they must have sent out a lot of those DVDs and a lot of people took them up on it.
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