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      10-10-2023, 10:12 AM   #1
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Costa Rica travel suggestions

Hi all,

My wife is hell-bent on taking our boys to Costa Rica this coming spring break. We plan to stay in an all-inclusive around the Playa Hermosa /Tamarindo area, and will plan to venture out a few days on some excursions. We prefer the ease of an all-inclusive resort vs getting an AirBnB and having to grocery shop and cook our own meals. Also, we don't want to rent a car and will depend on public transportation to get around.

Are we thinking of this the right way? We have never been and want to make sure we are setting up a good experience.

If anyone has been to Costa Rica and wants to share perspective please do. It will be my wife, our two boys (10 and 8 years old), and me.

Much appreciated,
JM
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      10-10-2023, 11:03 AM   #2
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My wife and I just went to Costa Rica in the spring, stayed at Secrets Papagayo. It's an adults only, but they have Dreams resorts which are for families. We mostly went away to relax and not do much. The food was pretty good but not as good as Excellence all inclusive. Only thing we did was go to Coco for souvenir shopping and took a guided 2hr+ jet ski tour of the bay. If you want to do tours to the Volcano, rainforest, etc they are an all day thing, which defeats the purpose of an all inclusive.

We are taking the kids in Nov to Dreams Natura in Mexico and then Dreams Playa Bonita in Panama in April. Wife likes the Inclusive (Secrets, Dreams, etc) resorts now that Hyatt bought them.
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      10-10-2023, 01:23 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by bagekko View Post
My wife and I just went to Costa Rica in the spring, stayed at Secrets Papagayo. It's an adults only, but they have Dreams resorts which are for families. We mostly went away to relax and not do much. The food was pretty good but not as good as Excellence all inclusive. Only thing we did was go to Coco for souvenir shopping and took a guided 2hr+ jet ski tour of the bay. If you want to do tours to the Volcano, rainforest, etc they are an all day thing, which defeats the purpose of an all inclusive.

We are taking the kids in Nov to Dreams Natura in Mexico and then Dreams Playa Bonita in Panama in April. Wife likes the Inclusive (Secrets, Dreams, etc) resorts now that Hyatt bought them.
Thank you. We are planning to stay 9 days/nights and will most likely do 2 full day type excursions, and maybe a couple smaller activities near the resort while we are there.

I will check out those Hyatt brands you mentioned for all inclusives.
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      10-10-2023, 02:03 PM   #4
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I forgot the #1 must do, try the amazing aged Costa Rica rums, they are similar to expensive whiskeys/scotches. We were premium club and at the club bar the bartender gave me samples often after finding out I was a big whiskey drinker. The Ron Centenario 20yr is phenominal, its a Costa Rican brand. Theres also Flor de Cana which is from Nicaragua. Who knew 20, 25, 30yr old aged rums existed! I bought many and brought home. I think the 30yr bottle is less than 10% the cost of a 30yr scotch. I also started my day with the Centenario cafe liquor in my latte every morning.
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      10-10-2023, 02:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bagekko View Post
I forgot the #1 must do, try the amazing aged Costa Rica rums, they are similar to expensive whiskeys/scotches. We were premium club and at the club bar the bartender gave me samples often after finding out I was a big whiskey drinker. The Ron Centenario 20yr is phenominal, its a Costa Rican brand. Theres also Flor de Cana which is from Nicaragua. Who knew 20, 25, 30yr old aged rums existed! I bought many and brought home. I think the 30yr bottle is less than 10% the cost of a 30yr scotch. I also started my day with the Centenario cafe liquor in my latte every morning.
Of course, booze will be a very important part of the experience! I am a big whiskey/bourbon drinker myself so I'm sure I will indulge. I haven't really ventured into rum so this will be good for me.
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      10-10-2023, 04:09 PM   #6
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My wife and I have a place in Potrero. I can tell you that the grocery stores there in Guanacaste on the coast are very small, very expensive and donít have many fresh veggies or good looking meats. You should be able to find a fish monger in each little town that gets fresh fish every day, but cooking in an Airbnb could be a challenge if you are just visiting and donít have time to be adventurous. Iíve heard good things about the all-inclusives but be careful with alcohol, Iíve heard some may use methanol tainted booze like is common in Mexico (do your own research of course). IMO, buy some good rum or tequila in the duty free and stick to beer or mixers in the all inclusive and bring your own hard liquor. ☺️. Overall though we much prefer Costa Rica over Mexicoóitís way safer and you donít have to worry about Montezumaís Revenge! Itís a great family friendly place to bring kids!

Not sure about the public transport thing, you may want to research that more. If you do rent a car be very careful driving and watch out for bikes without lights and people walking on busy narrow roads day and night as there are no sidewalks so the locals have no choice. Towns on the coast are super small and rustic and pre-arranged transportation is expensive. If you plan on exploring outside the hotel at all, outside of prearranged trips, itís going to be a hassle exploring different beaches along the coast if you donít have a car. Driving there can be harrowing, but if you take it slow and stick to paved roads youíll be fine!

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      10-10-2023, 05:02 PM   #7
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Sorry I'll just add a few more things. Playa Hermosa is in north Guanacaste and Tamarindo is in the middle. They are both on the coast but not really connected--there is a road called 911 (aptly named) that is very narrow, windy and busy and you may need a 4WD and some cahungas to do a deep river crossing outside of Potrero depending on if it has rained recently. Otherwise, you need to drive all the way back to Liberia to travel between the two regions, so not really practical for a short trip. So you'll likely either be in the Playa Hermosa area *or* the Tamarindo area, so take note of that depending where you book.

All up and down the Pacific coast the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world so I'd plan time on exploring different beaches depending on what region you wind up in. Tamarindo and south of Tamarindo is where all the surfing beaches are. North of Tamarindo towards Potrero and as far as Las Catalinas (as far as you can go before you have to go inland back to Liberia to go further north) the beaches are calm, clear and swimmable with 90 degree water. Many of the beaches have natural shade available from the jungle and are usually not very busy. We haven't been up to the Playa Hermosa area yet, but I'm pretty sure those are swimming rather than surfing beaches too mostly. You'll be able to book fishing, diving or snorkeling trips from any of the major towns along the way.

The town of Tamarindo is a somewhat grimy surfing town and full of aging surfer expats who may not have seen a shower in a few days, but it also has good restaurants and nightlife. The beach itself there is not as beautiful but the beaches south of there are amazing and some of the best in the world for surfing. The beaches just north of Tamarindo are all stunning as well.

I've heard that Hermosa is more the "resorty" area so most likely where you'll wind up if you get an all-inclusive. Just be sure to get out and explore, especially the beaches and definitely book a fishing or snorkeling trip since that's all there really is to do other than long multi-hour excursions outside of the area!
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      10-11-2023, 11:24 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NewX7 View Post
Sorry I'll just add a few more things. Playa Hermosa is in north Guanacaste and Tamarindo is in the middle. They are both on the coast but not really connected--there is a road called 911 (aptly named) that is very narrow, windy and busy and you may need a 4WD and some cahungas to do a deep river crossing outside of Potrero depending on if it has rained recently. Otherwise, you need to drive all the way back to Liberia to travel between the two regions, so not really practical for a short trip. So you'll likely either be in the Playa Hermosa area *or* the Tamarindo area, so take note of that depending where you book.

All up and down the Pacific coast the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world so I'd plan time on exploring different beaches depending on what region you wind up in. Tamarindo and south of Tamarindo is where all the surfing beaches are. North of Tamarindo towards Potrero and as far as Las Catalinas (as far as you can go before you have to go inland back to Liberia to go further north) the beaches are calm, clear and swimmable with 90 degree water. Many of the beaches have natural shade available from the jungle and are usually not very busy. We haven't been up to the Playa Hermosa area yet, but I'm pretty sure those are swimming rather than surfing beaches too mostly. You'll be able to book fishing, diving or snorkeling trips from any of the major towns along the way.

The town of Tamarindo is a somewhat grimy surfing town and full of aging surfer expats who may not have seen a shower in a few days, but it also has good restaurants and nightlife. The beach itself there is not as beautiful but the beaches south of there are amazing and some of the best in the world for surfing. The beaches just north of Tamarindo are all stunning as well.

I've heard that Hermosa is more the "resorty" area so most likely where you'll wind up if you get an all-inclusive. Just be sure to get out and explore, especially the beaches and definitely book a fishing or snorkeling trip since that's all there really is to do other than long multi-hour excursions outside of the area!
This is great info. Your commentary on the roadways reinforces info I've heard from others and read about.

I like the idea of parking at an all-inclusive in a decent area with things to see and experience. Our last vacation we did the AirBnB thing and had to find and cook food. It was definitely a chore so I want my next vacay to be a bit more relaxing. As for the beaches, snorkeling, we are all over that. My kids love those types of activities.
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      10-11-2023, 04:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bagekko View Post
My wife and I just went to Costa Rica in the spring, stayed at Secrets Papagayo. It's an adults only, but they have Dreams resorts which are for families. We mostly went away to relax and not do much. The food was pretty good but not as good as Excellence all inclusive. Only thing we did was go to Coco for souvenir shopping and took a guided 2hr+ jet ski tour of the bay. If you want to do tours to the Volcano, rainforest, etc they are an all day thing, which defeats the purpose of an all inclusive.

We are taking the kids in Nov to Dreams Natura in Mexico and then Dreams Playa Bonita in Panama in April. Wife likes the Inclusive (Secrets, Dreams, etc) resorts now that Hyatt bought them.
Dang. Both Secrets and Dreams have zero availability for the dates we are looking. Must be nice and in high demand.

Do you know anything about Hotel Riu Palace in Guanacaste? That place seems to be the next best option.
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      10-30-2023, 02:08 PM   #10
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IT's been probably close to 20 years. Went for my little bros' wedding to a local. We went a week early and stayed somewhere on a beach, in a BNB-type situation. Stilts up to our flat. Big lizards haging on the bottom step. Fisherman came late afternoon and we bought what we wanted to eat that night, then fired up the BBQ. It was, for me, the second-best place I'd ever been.
Wife HATED it. No A/C, bathroom didn't flush if it rained, had to bring up a 5-gallon from the pool to pour in and flush.

Each morning I walked 100 yards down to the beach and went for a run, then jumped in the surf. Locals had put a cement table in the jacuzzi (not heated) and the water level was about 1" over the table top. Sit at the table and have a drink.

For the wedding, we moved up to some mountain-type resort. Much cooler weather, more facilities.

Wife HATED that too, but mostly because of who my brother was marrying. We are not allowed to go back to CR at this point, still
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      03-11-2024, 09:02 PM   #11
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      03-12-2024, 01:15 PM   #12
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Forgot that I started this thread a few months ago. We ended up booking a stay at Hotel Riu Palace in Costa Rica and we leave in 15 days. We plan to lay low at the resort for the vast majority of the time, and might do a full day excursion depending on what's available, and drive times to and from. We may grab a cab and venture to some near beach towns as well. We are hoping to connect with some fellow resort-stayers to see if they have any good ideas for places nearby to check out.

This vacay is all about unplugging with the kids and providing an awesome life experience. Thanks to everyone on here for the Costa Rica insights and advice!
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      03-12-2024, 02:19 PM   #13
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was there last year at hyatt andaz resort. it was awesome.
from atv to horseback riding in the monsoon...... etc..

I think out of all my trips. this Adventure was something I did not plan for. But it is a memory that kept coming back.

I will return...
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      03-13-2024, 10:04 AM   #14
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We ended up booking a stay at Hotel Riu Palace in Costa Rica and we leave in 15 days.
I see a huge pool on the front page, the kids are set!!

Via con dios!
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      03-18-2024, 12:43 PM   #15
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So - had to look back, my trip to Costa Rica was 11 years ago, time flies. I stated in Guanacaste at the JW Marriott just south of the places you mentioned, was a resort, sure...but was free on points.

Few things I recall that may help...

#1 - if the road situation has not changed, buy the tire insurance. You'll thank me. Course saying that, I didn't get tire insurance in Honduras last week, and got a flat in 10 minutes of driving.

#2 It's the only time I took a vacation from a vacation...went to Montezuma, Puntarenas Province. Really cool zip lines and cliff diving and I believe it's a Blue Zone, if you're familiar with the term. Took 7 hours to get there on shitty roads, so we just rented a cabin for the night. Just a note - You will not see monkeys in the north...need to head south to see them. They were all over in Montezuma

#3 Take a trip up to the north most part of Costa Rica overlooking the volcanos in Nicaragua. Nice scenery, and it's a simple trip.

#4 Tortuga Playa was really cool at the time. First time I can recall walking on the beach barefoot, mid-day, and the sand was cool. 11 years ago, only way to get there was a couple mile hike...but now it looks like they may have homes on the beach (google maps).

Few pics...
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      03-18-2024, 01:20 PM   #16
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So - had to look back, my trip to Costa Rica was 11 years ago, time flies. I stated in Guanacaste at the JW Marriott just south of the places you mentioned, was a resort, sure...but was free on points.

Few things I recall that may help...

#1 - if the road situation has not changed, buy the tire insurance. You'll thank me. Course saying that, I didn't get tire insurance in Honduras last week, and got a flat in 10 minutes of driving.

#2 It's the only time I took a vacation from a vacation...went to Montezuma, Puntarenas Province. Really cool zip lines and cliff diving and I believe it's a Blue Zone, if you're familiar with the term. Took 7 hours to get there on shitty roads, so we just rented a cabin for the night. Just a note - You will not see monkeys in the north...need to head south to see them. They were all over in Montezuma

#3 Take a trip up to the north most part of Costa Rica overlooking the volcanos in Nicaragua. Nice scenery, and it's a simple trip.

#4 Tortuga Playa was really cool at the time. First time I can recall walking on the beach barefoot, mid-day, and the sand was cool. 11 years ago, only way to get there was a couple mile hike...but now it looks like they may have homes on the beach (google maps).

Few pics...
Thank you! We leave in 9 days so packing has started. Zip lining, 4 wheeling, seeing wildlife, going to some beaches are some of the top wish list things we have been talking about. We will be parked at an all-inclusive in the north so we may be limited to what options are in that surrounding area unless we want to sign up for some several hours long trips. I am just excited to get out of town for a few days and get some sun.
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      04-11-2024, 03:07 PM   #17
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Thank you everyone for the feedback/advice! The family made the trip and we got back last Thursday. We spent 8 days at the Riu Palace all inclusive-- about 40 minutes north of Tamarindo and about 45 minutes west of the Liberia airport. We saw every animal we wanted to see including sloths, poisonous dart frogs, eyelash pit viper (venomous and strong enough to kill you within an hour of a bite), dolphins, leatherback and green sea turtles, and so on.

It was quite warm there 95+ daily with no clouds and the ocean and resort pools did not provide much cooling. Things we did: ziplining, horseback riding, near shore fishing charter, snorkeling and for sure recharged the batteries.

What a beautiful country and full of kind people who truly care about the environment and living a great life. The vibe and culture was refreshing.
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You can rent bikes/mountain bike at Las Catalinas (american owned shop). https://www.puravidaride.com/
When they say world class trails don’t get too excited - views are nice though.
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      04-11-2024, 10:30 PM   #19
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Quote:
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Thank you everyone for the feedback/advice! The family made the trip and we got back last Thursday. We spent 8 days at the Riu Palace all inclusiveó about 40 minutes north of Tamarindo and about 45 minutes west of the Liberia airport. We saw every animal we wanted to see including sloths, poisonous dart frogs, eyelash pit viper (venomous and strong enough to kill you within an hour of a bite), dolphins, leatherback and green sea turtles, and so on.

It was quite warm there 95+ daily with no clouds and the ocean and resort pools did not provide much cooling. Things we did: ziplining, horseback riding, near shore fishing charter, snorkeling and for sure recharged the batteries.

What a beautiful country and full of kind people who truly care about the environment and living a great life. The vibe and culture was refreshing.
Iím arriving in Puntanaras, Costa Rica in two days. Iíll definitely stay there next trip.
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      04-16-2024, 03:13 PM   #20
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