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Costa Rica advice needed

(21 Posts)
AngelsWithSilverWings Tue 07-May-19 09:38:25

I really need some help and advice to help me make a decision about hooking a holiday to Costa Rica

It's a special holiday to celebrate mine and DHs 50th birthdays next Easter. We will be taking 14 and 11 year old DCs

On our wish list was business class flights as a special birthday treat and making sure we got a good balance between touring around to see all the national parks , volcanoes and wildlife, and a nice bit of relation on the beach too .

We've had our ideal holiday priced up by an agent but it has come out at £18k and although we can afford this from our savings , the thought of spending that makes me feel quite sick.

We would also have to pay for food etc once we are there. We have tweaked it in many ways to get the cost down from the original quote if £19k. The indirect business class flights were on a special offer and downgrading to premium economy didn't save much really.

It's an escorted tour covering Arenal , Tortaguera , Monteverde and ending with 6 nights in a luxury resort in Tamarindo.

I've been looking at alternatives and have found a holiday which will cost half the price travelling in VIP premium cabin , flying direct, and staying at the Riu guancaste for the full two weeks.

We would then book tours to do from the hotel which I'm sure will add at least £1k if not more as we would want to do a lot of them.

I'm leaning towards the Tui package as it is so much cheaper but DH prefers to tour around when on holiday and neither of us really enjoy the all inclusive type of holiday.

Has anyone done this type of Tui package to Costa Rica and do you still get to experience all that it has to offer if you stay in one place.

All of the quotes include us having two rooms as my 14 year old is over 6ft and we've given up on family rooms as the extra beds are often too small for him and we'd quite like some privacy too.

Sorry for the long post.

Feel free to tell me that I'm absolutely nuts to even consider spending £18k on a two week holiday even if it is a once in a lifetime thing.

We usually spend £10k on two or three trips abroad per year plus we camp in the UK for two weeks every summer.

OP’s posts: |
PinkOboe Tue 07-May-19 11:36:04

We did Costa Rica for about £4K for two of us stopping off in New York on the way back. We hired a 4x4, did a couple of internal flights and booked accommodation ourselves. It was amazing and very straightforward. I guess it’s whether you can be arsed sorting it out yourselves or whether you want to pay a premium for an easier life?

AngelsWithSilverWings Tue 07-May-19 13:24:12

Thanks for the reply .

That's sounds good. I guess with 2 teenagers travelling with us that would make the cost jump up , especially as we want to travel in at least premium economy.

We are happy to organise things ourselves but we appear to have gone down a wormhole with the trailfinders agent who is recommending this escorted tour or a fly drive that is apparently not much cheaper.

We've now definitely decided that we won't be going on the £18k holiday - I couldn't live with myself! That's an obscene amount of money to spend.

OP’s posts: |
SJane48S Tue 07-May-19 15:51:55

That's ridiculous! The 3 of us went for 2 weeks in August 3 years ago - all in it was about £3.5k without spending money. We stayed in two 5 stars and one 4 (not AI but then I'm not a huge fan personally). I hired transport rather than drive ourselves from a company i found on Tripadvisor. We went to San Jose, Arenal and Manuel Antonio. We didn't fly premium or go to all the places you mention but I'm sure if you spent an evening on the pc you could DIY it for a lot less. There is another poster who has been to CR & did do AI & I think did quite a few trips so you are not necessarily going to be resort bound if you don't want to be. If it was me, I'd travel around though & eat out - just gives you (& just my opinion!) a broader experience. If you want the details of the transport company to ask them for a quote,let me know - lots of people hire card & drive themselves. Its a beautiful country & you really don't need to spend a fortune to stay in nice places & have a good time!

PenguinsRabbits Tue 07-May-19 23:15:09

We did Costa Rica in August for 2 weeks staying at RUI Guanacaste with TUI. It was £6300 for 4 of us for flights, accomodation and AI. Then did 5 trips out at around £100 each per trip so extra £2000. I definitely wouldn't spend £18k.

The hotel is in the rainforest and AI food is very good especially steakhouse, you get free windsurfing, kayaking and SUP in package, its in the rainforest and fair bit of wildlife just in the hotel - we saw 5 raccoons quite regularly at steakhouse, a coati, gecko, pelican and 50 metres down road are monkeys. Beach is more for watersports than sunbathing and a bit wild - fine for kids to play in and beach volleyball there and horseriding on beach. Hotel is a bit lively, its a mix of families and party types (these stick to pool area) so if you are after somewhere quiet I would pay for one of the more expensive hotels TUI do if you are after AI. We had 10 and 11 year old with us and fine.

There's about 20 or so trips you can do out from there, most are two hours away though beautiful scenery, a few to Arenal and Monteverde are 4 hours each way. Best trip company we found was GeckoTico who are on the beach, they took just us to see sloths in rainforest on Carribean side. Did other tours to Arenal hot springs and volcano, Blue River botanical gardens, Buena Vista waterslide through jungle, zipline through jungle with monkeys, horseriding, hot springs and active volcano and Diamante which you can walk to, 60mph very high zipline and animals. Great trip.

TUI also offer a Costa Rica tour and then hotel at end and can do more tours from there. There's been a few threads on CR recently with non AI hotels in too. Sure you could get an organised tour for a lot under that or book it yourself going to key places. We go AI as the kids prefer that, one ASD so he loves the familiarity of it and other is veggie so easier all round for us.

sansou Wed 08-May-19 00:27:12

We did 15 nts over the Christmas holidays and DIYed it. Airmiles subsidised our indirect business class flights (1.2K) as did our hotel loyalty points for the first & last nights' airport hotels (Marriott).

Family of 4 with DC (15 & 11).
Hired a 4x4 for approx £1K
Apart from the airport hotels, we split our stay at 3 locations.
Eco lodge for the first few nights where we did some of the onsite tours including the night tour, the farm tour and the cabalonga trail. We also visited the nearby wildlife centre.

Next, we stayed at Los Lagos and from there, we did a combo ticket for the Arenal National Park (suspended bridges walk) plus Sky Adventures Zip lining - a must do! Google for a 5% discount code! We also did a horse ride to a viewpoint (from hotel ground's stables) and visited the fantastic Bogarin Trail. Hotel Los Lagos had great geo thermal swimming pools and wildlife grounds which the DC really loved. With a hire car, we ventured into La Fortuna to eat in the evenings.

We then rented an airbnb here in Manuel Antonio as a base to kayak in the mangroves (beautiful), visit Los Campesinos - hanging bridges and swimming in waterfalls (fabulous and glad that we had hired a robust 4 x 4!) as well as the more commercial/touristy/expensive Manuel Antonio National Park with its beautiful beach.

It all came to about £7.5K - £8K including all our food, etc. I booked everything myself either online or via email. HTH

PenguinsRabbits Wed 08-May-19 08:28:59

This forum has locals on it:

www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowForum-g291982-i813-Costa_Rica.html

AngelsWithSilverWings Wed 08-May-19 08:34:14

Wow some brilliant replies which I've quickly scanned and will sit down and digest properly once I've got a spare half an hour later on. I'll probably be back later with questions!

Desperately want to get this holiday booked without compromising too much. The Tui package works well financially but we have never enjoyed this sort of all inc resort ( although the kids absolutely love them!) Will look for a quieter resort if we can't make a DIY package work. Thanks again

OP’s posts: |
Bloomburger Wed 08-May-19 08:36:30

Contact a. Guy called Gavin at E-Shores. He has priced up some fantastic holidays for us and our children, ranging from toddler to late teens and he always comes up trumps. He's always cheaper, knows all the tricks of the trade and what is worth paying for and what isn't.

I don't work for them or have any affiliation with them but wouldn't book a high ticket holiday without talking to him.

AngelsWithSilverWings Wed 08-May-19 08:37:55

@sansou thank you that's really helpful - I'm going to see if I can replicate that within our budget. Sadly no air miles or reward points here so business class flights are coming in at £7.8k - definitely going to have to re think that part!

OP’s posts: |
Quartz2208 Wed 08-May-19 08:40:32

We did it in 2008 (so some may have changed) when First Choice briefly did a package (and looking back at £800 per person it was ridiculously cheap) That was for flights and all inclusive hotel.

Then I looked up costa rica tour guides and back then there were 2 or 3 local companies (not sure those one exist but some must) and booked all the tours through there we did zip lining, the river cruise, a boat cruise and the Arenal/rainforest trip. Zip lining was a private guide and was amazing and everything else was small groups. The ability to go out and explore then come back to the hotel was lovely and a couple of rest days soaking up the beach and wildlife (monkeys and raccoons are everywhere) was perfect

Quartz2208 Wed 08-May-19 11:28:32

Have a look here gotourscostarica.com/tours/tours-from-guanacaste

AngelsWithSilverWings Wed 08-May-19 15:47:27

@Quartz2208 thank you - that looks like a nice easy site to use to work everything out.

OP’s posts: |
Quartz2208 Wed 08-May-19 15:57:25

Yes it was a nice way of doing it for us we had a base hotel and all inclusive and then did all the tours with local guides and small groups. If you do the AI option this is the way to see everyone

dreichuplands Wed 08-May-19 16:10:53

We went last year but just stayed near San Antonio because we only had a week. We hired a robust pick up truck and drove down from San Juan.
Arranging drivers seemed pretty common in our hotel.
English is very widely spoken and the country is very well set up for tourists so you only need group tours if you want them. We organized everything through trip advisor or just turning up.
Sat nav was useful but it was a very stress free holiday ( also fantastic)

Swiftier Fri 10-May-19 20:07:58

Definitely DIY it. Otherwise you’re paying a tour operator to do what you could do yourself with a bit of planning and research. I’ve travelled quite a lot and never booked a tour..... 18k for a country like CR is crazy. CR is well visited - it’s the most touristy Central American country so it shouldn’t be too difficult to plan your own trip.

Swiftier Fri 10-May-19 20:09:23

And I wouldn’t choose AI! If you’re going all the way to CR don’t you want to experience the country beyond day trips from a big corporate owned resort...?

AngelsWithSilverWings Mon 13-May-19 10:35:08

Thanks again to everyone who has given advice on this thread.

I've tried to put this together myself by searching for flights and hotels ( we are usually quite independent when we travel). The cost is still coming out far too high if we visit all the places we want to.

It looks like The Easter school holidays is the most expensive time to go and we can't go at any other time.

I only looked at the all inc option because it seems it was that or not go at all. I know that realistically we would never be happy with an all inc resort.

We've decided to save Costa Rica for when we aren't tied to going at Easter. Maybe something to do when the kids have left school.

We are now looking at going back to Thailand to celebrate our birthdays. We love Thailand and we know we will have a fabulous time there.

OP’s posts: |
Reallybadidea Mon 13-May-19 10:40:22

Honestly, I'm stunned that this is coming out so expensive. We went a couple of years ago at Easter and it cost us £7.5k for 6 of us for absolutely everything, excursions, food, spending money. Three locations, 10 nights. The cost of the flights comes down massively if you book at the right time - they will be sky high if you are looking at the moment, but come down significantly later in the year. We booked in early November.

Stokey Sun 19-May-19 18:33:50

BA fly directly - 11 hours to San Jose from London. May be woorth checking out flights with them before you decide.

sansou Mon 20-May-19 20:10:48

Flights are reasonable if you book up to a year in advance. Sterling has tanked against the dollar over the last few years - everywhere will be more expensive for Brits.

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