Need CR Help

Old Mar 21, 17, 1:23 pm
  #1  
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Need CR Help

A friend needed a get away and I thought CR would be the perfect local. It is relatively easy to get to. I asked a few local friends and they all raved about their time in CR.

So I asked a neighbor's mother (who is a travel agent) to help with our flights and hotel. After an initial email from her, I can't seem to get her attention to book anything. This week, she hasn't returned my 2 voice mails and my 2 emails. Now, I am in a bind because I was looking to travel 15 Apr.

We had decided to stay near Manuel Antonio NP. Is it worth it trying to find another travel agent or should I just book it online (using Travelocity or similar booking engine)? We know where we want to stay. I am just unsure about transfers from the airport to the area. Does it make sense to stay the first night in San Jose (near the airport)? Are their shuttles from the airport to hotels near by (like the US)?

I appreciate any assistance/advice you can offer.
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Old Mar 21, 17, 4:28 pm
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We are arriving in SJO around 5 AM and we plan to take shuttle to MA area on same day. We booked 3 nights in http://laposadajungle.com
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Old Mar 22, 17, 2:23 pm
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It looks like this trip is coming together after all. I was able to nail down a number of details today.

Our flights are booked on UA and arrive around 1pm. Our hotel is booked near Manuel Antonio NP (La Mariposa). We have 6 nights there and spend the final night back in SJO before we leave. We booked the Hampton Inn at the airport just for convenience since our flight leaves at 630am the next morning. The last remaining detail is transfers to/from Manuel Antonio. And of course the activities while we are there.
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Old Apr 10, 17, 12:14 pm
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FYI - The "shuttle" ride from San Jose to MA is quite long - plan on at least 4.5 hours.
Depending on what prices you're getting from Gray Line or other tour companies, it can be cheaper (and much quicker) to fly. I was down there last month (and am going back next week) and flew Sansa from San Jose to MA (and will be doing the same next week).

www.flysansa.com

Nature Air is another option, but their schedule is more limited.

There is a "local" bus from San Jose to Quepos (right next to Manuel Antonio) that is only ~$10 but its non-air conditioned and takes 5+ hours.
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Old Apr 23, 17, 3:48 pm
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Originally Posted by rin1018 View Post
FYI - The "shuttle" ride from San Jose to MA is quite long - plan on at least 4.5 hours.
Depending on what prices you're getting from Gray Line or other tour companies, it can be cheaper (and much quicker) to fly. I was down there last month (and am going back next week) and flew Sansa from San Jose to MA (and will be doing the same next week).

www.flysansa.com

Nature Air is another option, but their schedule is more limited.

There is a "local" bus from San Jose to Quepos (right next to Manuel Antonio) that is only ~$10 but its non-air conditioned and takes 5+ hours.
I am not sure how I didn't see this before I left. I arrived on Sat, 15 Apr. I booked a shuttle for a roundtrip from SJO to MA and return. I am not sure how they found us coming out of customs but they did. There were 6 of us in the shuttle. It took exactly 4 hours to get to Quepos. Only after spending a few days there, we ran into a Canadian tourist that said she flew down on Sansa Air. She paid $50 or so for her flight. I went to check on flights for our return to San Jose. I could only find flights for $90 but it was worth it to fly 20 minutes vs a 4 hour ride in a shuttle. I highly recommend the flight if it works with anyone's travel plans. It is only cost us a $20 for a taxi from our hotel to the airport.

Last edited by HawaiiTrvlr; Apr 23, 17 at 4:00 pm
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Old Apr 24, 17, 3:45 pm
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So here is what I learned from my recent trip to Costa Rica. I booked the trip through a travel agent though anyone with some internet experience can find some great places to stay, transfers, etc. I was hestitant because I have never been before and I trusted this travel agent.

Getting to CR: I flew United through Houston. The flights were fine and we made our connections without any issue. I paid $600 or so for my flight.

Customs once we arrived: it was chaotic in the sense that the area was kind of small and they only had 3-5 booths open. It took most of 2 hours to go through the snaking line. It was even more chaotic once we exited out the door to the taxi area. You are immediately bombarded with offers for taxis and other transportation options. I am not sure how our shuttle guy found us but did and directed to the waiting place. Once we were at the shuttle van, he did insist on a tip for his "hard work". I gave him $2.

Shuttle van: I prepaid $75 for a roundtrip shuttle. It was touted as a 3 hour ride from San Jose to Quepos (90 miles or so). Apparently the main road we would have taken had major traffic issues because of an accident so we took a smaller road. Im glad I wasnt driving. It took us all of 4 hours to get to our hotel (we took a 15 min break about half way).

Quepos: It is a small town in the Manuel Antonio area. The town itself is pretty small but the entire area has about 20,000 people. Our hotel was about 3 kms from Quepos. We were about half way between Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park. Apparently, sport fishing and surfing (besides the park) are the 2 biggest draws to the area.

Hotels: There are a variety of hotels, B&Bs, condos, and hostels in the area. We stayed at La Mariposa. It is a small hotel (50 or so rooms). We had breakfast included in the rate ($200 per night). I overheard a few people that stayed at local hostels for $25 or so a night. We also heard people that found their places on Airbnb.

Food: There are plenty of opportunities to eat in the local area. Because it is a touristy area, it is highly Americanized (just no chain places). All the places we found took both colones and American dollars. I used both when I ate. Most of the time we ate breakfast at the hotel and then went out for dinner. We ate at the hotel a few times and in the area the other times. We paid $10-20 for entrees. Happy Hour was big with lots of drink specials (2 for 1). Drinks were $8-10. The local beer is called Imperial. One thing to remember is everything bought comes with a 23% additional charge (sales/use tax and service charge). I never left a tip. I tried local food once (rice and beans) and it was considerably cheaper than food at the hotels/restaurants.

Local transportation: There is a bus between Quepos and Maneul Antonio NP that ran every 15-20 minutes. It cost about $.60 cents per ride. It was very easy to learn where each of the stops were at and did that short, 6km trip in 15-20 mins or so. I met a few people that drove rental cars from San Jose. There are local rental car companies in Quepos. Apparently insurance is mandatory so that ups any rental car price.

Beaches: The water is about 88 degrees. Depending on the area, some are better than others. We walked to a beach from our hotel and it was ok. We did go to a beach another day near Manuel Antonio. There, they had parasailing, jet skiing, and other activities. Lots of people trying to get people to pay $10 for beach chairs. Plus, more people selling water, fresh coconut water, trinkets, etc. If you wanted to pay the entrance fee ($16) to Manuel Antonio NP, they have an incredible beach. I believe there are guys in safety vests trying to direct parking. I saw this at both beaches we went to (one we walked and the other took the local bus). I am assuming they wants some sort of payment for their hard work of directing people to the right parking space.

Manuel Antonio NP: As stated, it cost $16 to go inside. Once inside, there are trails to hike and see the local wildlife. You can also hire a local guide to find the animals for you. They all carry a scope to be able to see the animals close up. However, we toured the park ourselves without a guide and saw just as many animals. I would definitely go as early in the morning as you can because it does get pretty crowded. We spent 2-3 hours hiking around. You are not allowed to bring any food (they don't want you to feed the monkeys) but do allow you to bring in water. We saw monkeys, sloths, butterflies, lizards and all sorts of birds.

Activities: We were offered all sorts of activities. Horseback riding, sport fishing, zip lining, ATV riding, white water rafting, parasailing, jet skiing, catamaran cruises, etc. We booked a few through our hotel but there are tour places along the main road from Quepos to MA offering all those activities. I went zip lining and had an awesome time. I had never been before. I paid $75 and was picked up at the hotel. The area where we ziplined was inland a little bit and claims to have the 3rd longest zip line in the world (#1 was in South Africa and #2 was in Alaska). We had 13 different platforms and 9 zip lines with the longest being 1250 meters. At the end of the adventure, we were fed lunch. There is a weight limit of 275lbs or less to be able to zip line. We had one guy that was 375 and was not allowed. All the employees spoke decent English and were incredibly funny and ensured everyone had a good time. Pictures were taken along the route and sold in packages at the end of the tour.

Weather: We had pretty decent weather the entire time. Large thunderstorms came through in the late afternoons/early evenings most days were were there. Day time temps were low 90s and the night time temps were mid/high 70s. The humidity was 75% or so. Apparently, it was starting to transition into their rainy season so frequent rains are guaranteed.

Return to San Jose: We found out about Sansa Air that offers multiple flights from Quepos to San Jose each day. We were able to book same day and paid $90 per seat. With advance planning, you can get the cost down to $50-60. That is worth it if you don't like shuttle vans and 3-4 hour trips each way or you don't plan on renting a car. Flight time between Quepos and SJ is 20 minutes. You land and go through the domestic terminal once you land. You must exit the building and walk approximately 100 yards to the main airport terminal. Because our flight the next morning was at 630am, we spent the night at a hotel near the airport that provided free shuttle service. While the hotel was about 1/4 away, there are no sidewalks or ways to cross the busy roads (especially with luggage).

Airport: We arrived about 2 hours prior to our flight and it was fairly easy checking in. If you have status with the airlines, they all had dedicated check in lanes. We filled out a customs departure form, checked in within 15-20 minutes and went to security. We handed our departure form to the customs agent and were directed into the security line. Security took 10 minutes or less. One thing I noticed is that they have dedicated security (and arriving custom lines) for families traveling with kids. If anyone visiting to Costa Rica and bringing their kids, look for these 2 dedicated lines. It will save you a lot of time (usually). What would an airport be without huge tourist shops to buy last minute souvenirs? San Jose's airport is no exception. The prices seem to be on the high side (this was true in the shops in Quepos too). $15 for a very small stuff animal. $30 for a t-shirt. Though many offered buy 3, get 1 free deals.

Arriving back in the US: We landed in Houston around 11:15am on Saturday. Customs was not very busy. If you have Global Entry, you would zip right through. Without GE, we were directed to kiosks to answer the same type of questions that were handed out on our flight. It takes your picture and spits out a printout. You took that printout to the customs agent who matched it with your passport. Then we were directed to pick up our luggage and either put it in for transfer or exit the airport. Once our luggage was dropped off, we went up to the TSA security area (only open to those coming from international flights). This was all Pre-Check Lite. The agent kept telling people to remove everything from our pockets and put them in our carryon. We did not have to remove our shoes. It was a quick line and we were back airside within 5-10 minutes.

Overall, I had a terrific time. I would go again in a heartbeat. I found the people very friendly and hospitable. Once I got used to the humidity, I was fine. I just ensured I kept a bottle of water with me if I was out walking, hiking or at the beach. I spent roughly $1500 for my trip (not counting food and souvenirs). I think with some planning, I could get the cost down by $200-300.
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Old Apr 25, 17, 4:04 pm
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Nice review, thanks for the tips!

what time did you arrive at SJO?
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Old Apr 26, 17, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by beachfan View Post
Nice review, thanks for the tips!

what time did you arrive at SJO?
If you are talking about the flight from Houston, we landed at around 1pm. However, there was already a plane at the gate so the pilot took us on a tour of the rest of the airport. We literally went the entire length of the terminal, past the domestic terminal to the very end of the taxiway. We then turned around and went back up to the gate. Overall, we got to the gate around 1:20 or so.
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