09 Aug 2014 - 20 Aug 2014
Two parts to this review:
1) Personal experience
2) Practical advice
1) This trip was an absolute blast. It definitely helped that the group was rather small (about 23) and we really meshed well together. The trip had an excellent mix of fun active excursions to relaxing and chillin. This was a definite departure from my first Contiki with the Thai Island Hopper but was a departure in a good way. It was a pleasant surprise to experience the activeness in the physical nature that one has the opportunity to get to experience the nature that Costa Rica has to offer. Costa Rica is an amazing country with amazing people. Each city has it's own feel and flair and it left me in awe at what we all experienced. There are definite moments I would have loved to relive. I won't spill too much so as to not ruin it for you but here are the activities and optionals I did:
- Boat excursion in Tortuguero (fantastic)
- Mud walk in Tortuguero (could've done without)
- Canyoeering (fantastic)
- White Water Rafting (group decision and it was fantastic)
- Zip lining in Monteverde (fantastic)
- Horseback riding (ok, could've done without. It's not what it's promoted to be)
- Did all the dinner outings (nice community builder)
I skipped out on ATVs and Surfing. ATVing had many restrictions and rules. Surfing i've done before so it wasn't anything new for me.
2) Ok, down to the nitty gritty.
What to pack:
I came totally not prepared for the trip. I planned for hot, humid weather. Not all of Costa Rica is hot and humid. Plan for all sorts of weather, especially rainy weather. When it rains...it RAINS!! Beware of thunder and lightning! Panchos or quality rain jackets are a must. Shorts, shirts, swimwear are great for humid weather. But don't forget about sweaters, light jackets, and pants for colder weather. Pack clothes that you won't care about for excursions...and then clothes that might be nicer for dinners and nights out. Costa Rica has microclimates depending on which city you're in, you'll get different weather. So pack smart!
If you are susceptible to mosquito bites. Repellant is a must! Mosquitoes went to town on me so be sure to get repellant. Deet is powerful and toxic stuff so beware. If you get sunburns, don't forget sunscreen.
Luggage vs backpack: I did fine with luggage but it might have been a better idea to bring a large backpack. But that's all on your preference.
As far as shoes go, you'll need a variety. Sandals for beaches, waterproof shoes for excursions and hikes, tennis / running shoes, and nicer shoes for dinners and night outings. I got Keen closed toed sandals for the waterproof shoes and those did me very well!
Costa Rica takes US dollars but its recommended that you don't bring notes over $20. It'll be harder to get change if you use large bills like $50s or $100s. You can use ATMs to get Colones or Dollars. It might be a good idea to get a good amount of both. But US dollars work just fine. Most places accept credit cards too...just make sure you notify your bank that you're traveling so that your card won't get declined.
There is an exit tax of $29 at the airport to depart the country. Make sure you pay that before checking in your luggage! Cash is preferred. They do take credit card but then you'll get an extra charge for foreign transactions.
The trip was an absolute blast. So come with an open mind. You'll do stuff that might freak you out but it is well worth the experience!
Our tour guide Olivier or Oli for short was very knowledgeable about pretty much everything. Costa Rican culture, history, animals and wildlife. Come with an open mind and you'll have an amazing time!
Review written Aug 2014event 0.3
09 Aug 2014 - 20 Aug 2014
Costa Rica was awesome!!!! Olivier better know as Oli was great and very knowledgable about his country!!!! The day life was great just be sure to wear great shoes for rough terrain and have a poncho or rain jacket at all times for the rain. The night life was ok, but with the group of friends we had it made it even better!!! The groups are small so it is easy to get to know everyone.
Something's you need to know!!
-the trip would be easier with a hiking backpack vs luggage
-bug spray (Bens bug spray 100) works great!!
-itching cream/allergy meds/triple antibiotic ointment
-money half in Costa Rica colon and half in US dollars, most everyplace takes US dollars, but it is cheaper if you use colon
-bring a pair of jeans for the cloud forest it gets cold
-waterproof camera if you want pics
-every activity was fun except for the ATV (very restrictive on everything) and the horses on the beach (the trail was through the jungle and was pretty intense even for and experienced rider, one of the horses kicked my wife's leg and broke her fibula and hairline fracture to her tibia and the hospitals were fun) thankfully it was on the second to last day when it happened!!
-last you have to pay a exist tax that is 30 US dollars, once you get into the airport for departure it is to the right, and you will have to fill out the back the the paper they give you so have a pen ready.
Pack light!!! Lots of walking!!! Have a great time!!!
Review written Aug 2014event 0.3
01 Mar 2014 - 12 Mar 2014
From start to finish, Costa Rica Unplugged and my first Contiki experience were awesome! I went solo, and got really lucky with my fantastic and friendly group. Overall the tour was well-organized and action-packed.
Highlights: boat ride in/out of Tortuguero and the whole Tortuguero experience. Ziplining in Monteverde. Hanging out at the beautiful beach in Manuel Antonio. Hot springs in La Fortuna. Night out in Monteverde. Waterfall stop near La Fortuna.
The accommodation were great - better than expected, including the tent suites. I had envisioned spiders creeping down the walls, and instead the tents were bug-proof (as long as you are diligent about keeping the screens zipped) and cozy. The hot water worked at all of our hotels. Probably the only shocking thing I encountered was a huge bat flapping around my bathroom at the La Fortuna hotel at 3am.... must've gotten in with the cleaners. Many of the rooms had mini-fridges and air-conditioning (but not all).
Our tour guide, Allan, and driver, Felix, were friendly, knowledgeable and reliable. Allan was hilarious - and has a great knowledge of the plants & animals of Costa Rica.
For the most part, I enjoyed the ME Time Optionals and found them to be worth the money. In particular, the canyoneering and zip-lining were great! The sea-kayaking was fun, and the catamaran booze cruise can't be missed (although the drinks are watered down). The whitewater rafting was disappointing, perhaps just because I've rafted way better rivers before.... the water level was quite low and we spent way too much time getting stuck on rocks in lame Class 2 rapids. But it's included, so enjoy the float down the river! The ATVs were fun, but too many rules - they don't let you break out of line or go very fast.
Throughout the trip I was impressed at how much was included - meals, activities, etc. The food was delicious. Sure it's beans & rice a lot, but the food is nicely prepared and there are plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.
The travel days are not overly arduous. They make frequent stops for food/bathroom breaks, and I think the longest haul on the bus was about 4 hours from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio...and honestly by then we enjoyed the nap time.
This trip is good value for money and it's certainly never boring. You see so much of this beautiful country in just 12 days, and you really get a sense of what Costa Rica is all about, how people live and the culture. Loved every moment! :)
Review written Mar 2014event 0.3
31 Aug 2013 - 11 Sep 2013
Wow, I had the most incredible adventure! I experienced so many things and met a bunch of cool people! I highly recommend this trip to everyone!
We saw animals everyday, even just walking down the street or on our way to restaurants. We also got to go on a boat tour and see more wildlife. We saw sloths, monkeys, turtles (got to watch them lay eggs), butterflies, hummingbirds, crocs, beavers, and very interesting birds. Be prepared to be woken up to birds every morning. We also got to see some cool volcano's, rivers, and waterfalls. The hikes were pretty cool, although I'm not much of a hiker.
The accommodations were better than I expected. Our view from La Fortuna was of the volcano! The hotel at Manuel Antonio was a block away from the beach. The pool by Tortuguero and La Fortuna were awesome. I really enjoyed Tortuguero because you had to take a water taxi everywhere. And watching turtles lay eggs at night was an incredible experience. The night at the tents were pretty interesting, no amount of zipping up will get those bugs away.
I learned a lot about the culture of Costa Rica through the chocolate and coffee tours, as well as the visit to the school (Jova and Fernando <3) and the visit to the sweetest family who taught us how they make moonshine and sang to us.
In terms of actives, you are never bored! The whole group decided to do water rafting and although I fell into the water and got pushed off a cliff at some point, I would not change that experience for anything! I also did canyoneering which is not to be missed! I definitely faced my fears with that one. Ziplining through the rainforest is another unforgettable experience, especially the Tarzan swing towards the end. The kayaking optional was alright, very exhausting (although everyone like to remind me that I barely did any paddling) and the water was too murky to dive into but the views were amazing as always. ATVing is another must. At the halfway point they take you to a waterfall where you can dip in for a bit. Trust me, you need it! The ATV's get you super muddy. The sunset cruise was another great experience. We actually got to see whales while on it. And who would turn down an open bar?
I think my favorite experience throughout the whole trip would have to be the night we went to watch the Costa Rica vs USA soccer game. Tico's live and breathe soccer. The Americans inthe group took white shirts and drew American flags on them to represent our country. We definitely got stared at by the people at the bar but it was so much. Luckily, USA lost and the bar turned into a huge dance party!
I don't think I could have enjoyed the trip even half as much as I did if it wasnt for Andres, out tour manager. He eats, lives, and breathes Costa Rica. Multiple times on the trip he got calls from people asking about specific animals or plants. He knows everything about anything that has to do with Costa Rica! I seriously don't know how any of us could have experienced Costa Rica without him. Thank you Andres for everything! I had a blast and it was all thanks to you.
I also need to give a special shout out to our bus driver, Wilbert (or Billy but he only let's his friends call him that :) ). He knows his way around every street in Costa Rica and you could tell he really got attached to and cared for all of us.
I will keep in touch with my 'Las Contegas' for a long time to come! I miss you already!
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
31 Aug 2013 - 11 Sep 2013
I would highly recommend Contiki - Costa Rica to anyone and everyone i know! This trip was amazing, not just because of the beautiful country, people and fun trips but especially because of the tour guide we had named Andres Herrera!! He truly put his heart and soul into this trip amazing! You could see it was in his best interest to make sure everyone has a good time and he is so knowledgeable we couldn't have asked for a better tour guide. I learned so much from him and from this trip about costa rica and got to enjoy the best two weeks of my life in this lovely paradise. I got back thursday it is now tuesday and im still in LA LA LAND dreaming of this beautiful place! I am so thankful to have met such awesome people and words dont do justice to how much fun we have had. Hiking! Kayaking, Canyoneering, Surfing, Boat rides, Beaches, Monkeys, toucans and more! This trip was adventurous, and fun and we got to experience it not only as a tourist but as a Tico! Good food, nice people and i feel this has moved me as a person, now writing this review at my desk from my day to day office job here in NY and i cant express enough how much ive enjoyed this trip. Thank you Andres Herrera, Thank you Contiki and Thank you Costa Rica!!
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
31 Aug 2013 - 11 Sep 2013
This was my first big trip and I went alone. I have to say that everything about this trip exceeded my expectations. I love sports and this trip offered so many awesome things to do, all in a beautiful country; surfing, atv in the jungle, ziplining, etc! I took almost all of the optional activities and they were all so much fun and definitly worth the couple extra bucks. My favorites were the canyonneering and the atv. We got super lucky weather-wise, saw plenty of wildlife and the food was delicious, as well. It's nice to see so much of Costa Rica, every place has something different to offer. Also, Andres, our tour manager was absolutely amazing. He knows so much about nature and wildlife and he definitly teaches you a lot. He really cares about the group and our happiness and that definitly makes him someone special to pass the tour with. Also, having come alone, it was so nice making new friends from all over the world. All in all, I had a blast and I would definitly recommend this tour to everyone.
Review written Sep 2013event 0.3
16 Feb 2013 - 27 Feb 2013
You have to do Costa Rica at least once in your life. In terms of adventure the country really has it all. Every day there was something to look forward to.
Unbelievable accomodations and the activities are top notch.
The only thing that was missing was nightlife. Costa Rica has some good bars, but we were not given the option to go out or encouraged by our tour guide to go out. We were tired as hell some days, so we couldnt go out every night, but we should be given the option.
Other than that, great trip. Many memories I'll never forget.
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
22 Jun 2013 - 03 Jul 2013
This trip was amazing!
The accommodations were way better than expected. The special night stays were great. In Tortuguero the lodge is in the rainforest. There is a lot of wildlife you can experience just walking around the lodge including howler monkeys, parrots and toucans. The tent special stay lodge was also really neat. You sleep in tents but they have queen size beds and a bathroom with running water. Some of the accommodations had AC but not all of them, however this was never a problem. It seemed to cool off enough at night that heat was not an issue, and with the amazing sounds of the wildlife I got some of the best nights of sleep in my life. Most accommodations had hot water. The only time I had an issue with this was in the tent suites...but you only stay there one night so it wasn’t a huge deal.
In Sarapiqui, you get to choose from rafting, ziplining, or rappelling free of charge. My entire group opted for the rafting which I would highly recommend. This was the only opportunity for rafting and there is better ziplining and rappelling in other areas of Costa Rica. The optionals that I participated in were canyoneering in La Fortuna, ziplining in Montverde, and kayaking and the catamaran cruise in Manuel Antonio. I would recommend all of these activities, especially if you are into adventure sports. The catamaran cruise was the last night of the trip which made it a great way to say goodbye to our group. The alcohol is free and there are snacks on board. There is an opportunity to snorkel, and ride a slide down into the water.
What to Pack
Clothing wise I would recommend a combination of adventure/workout clothes and a few nicer pieces of clothing (for nights out). A rain coat is a must and I would recommend a poncho as well. When it rains in Costa Rica it pours and even expensive rain coats got wet quickly. Once something gets wet it won’t dry for days due to the humidity. I packed a newspaper to help keep my shoes dry when there was no AC or hair dryer in the room. Water shoes are another must. I brought a pair of crocs along which worked great for canyoneering. During that excursion you walk through water constantly so a quick drying waterproof shoe is necessary. Bug spray and sun screen were also a must. Some people on my trip were bitten often so I would recommend bringing some sort of ointment to treat bug bites. I would also recommend packing a few general medicine items such as cough drops or cold/flu medicine. I had a head cold for a few days and having the medicine allowed me to fully participate in all the activities.
A waterproof camera is a must for this trip. Not only can you take great pictures in the rain, but can take it along on all the excursions such as canyoneering and ziplining. I invested in a cheap one right before I left and am glad I did. Those who did not have waterproof cameras were able to get some pictures but missed out on taking it along on many of the excursions.
There are plenty of ATM’s throughout Costa Rica so accessing money was not an issue. The only days ATM’s are not available are during the time in Tortuguero so make sure you have enough cash to get you through the first few days of the trip.
All of the hotels had safes, except for Arenal but the hotel has a safe at the front desk you can use. In Monteverde you have to give them a deposit to use the safe in your room but as long as you return the key you get all of your money back.
Overall this trip was unforgettable and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great combination of adventure and relaxation. Most of the adventure activities are optional so even if you are not looking for that type of activity I would recommend this trip. Not only do you get to see wildlife like monkeys, sloths, toucans, and dart frogs, but there are plenty of days at the beach. Our tour group was great. The guide was knowledgeable and a lot of fun. This trip was truly an experience of a lifetime!
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3
17 Nov 2012 - 28 Nov 2012
Costa Rica!! Pura Vida!! This was a great trip, highly recommend it if you’re seeking adventure and activity at a moderate pace and can handle a few different climates.
Good stuff: Costa Rica is a great country. Unlike Mexico, its not built up so the accommodations are small and in lush natural areas surrounded by animals and lots of plants and trees, and it wasn't hot until we hit the low lands on the Pacific coast. Waking up to the sound of howler monkeys, being greeted by an Iguana at the hotel or hanging out poolside with Monkeys was quite common during my trip. The tour includes lots of activities such as White Water Rafting (which you can swap for ziplining, though zipling is way better in the Monteverde optional), bridge walks over the forests, a visit to a volcano and a coffee plantation, to name a few. There is a day at a nature park in Monte Verde where you’ll get to hang out with hummingbirds - by far the coolest animal on the trip! The accommodations were pretty good (some worse than others): decent bathrooms (hot water didn’t work in a few places, but the water is drinkable everywhere) and very close to nature. The hotel in San Jose was fantastic! Its brand new, has free WiFi and long distance calling. The optionals were amazing: the Rappelling/Canyoneering option in Arenal is not to be missed, neither is ziplining in Manuel Antonio or the catamaran trip into open water (with open bar). I could have done without the horseback ride in Arenal and the surf lesson in Manuel Antonio. The chocolate tour is good too, plus its one of those “if you don’t go you may be doing nothing for a few hours” moments.But i love chocolate so i'm biased.
Bad stuff: the weather! I went in late November. All the books say the wet season is over by then, but we had nothing but rain the first week. It didn’t put too much of a dent in the trip (the night cruise in Tortuguero was cancelled but we partied at the hotel bar instead) though the stay at Sarapiqui in the jungle tents was a tad uncomfortable since there were only gravel paths to the tents – the tents were dry, thank goodness. The night walk there was in a deluge! Pack for rain on this trip, especially the cloud forest where it always rains from the trees. Pack rain ponchos (all our expensive ‘rain jackets’ were useless, we were drenched, only a plastic sheet can keep you dry and don’t bother with umbrellas in the parks) and pack shoes that can get wet: wet shoes stink and can’t dry because its too damp. Pack closed shoes for the walks and for the activities, you can’t wear sandals on the rafting or the zipling (my crocs were superstars). Pack long pants: jeans, convertible pants, yoga pants whatever. It gets cold at higher elevations.
Suitcase or back pack? I had a suitcase, so did the majority of my group: it was just fine. The boat to Tortuguero doesn’t exactly have a dock but we managed to get the bags on and off ok. Same in Sarapiqui, there’s gravel paths and stairs. Just be ready to carry it for about 30 m.
Budget: I budgeted about $80 USD a day and did ok, but the optionals and Tips were extra to that (~$500USD). They accept US Dollars everywhere interchangeably with the Colon. Conversion rate is 500 colons to $1USD.
Group Size: we were 23. I think there’s only 24 spots available. Big coaches don’t travel well in Costa Rica – most of the roads are not paved. our coach was super comfy even on the bad roads.
Ammenities: ATMs are a pain. Sure they are nearby but folks had a tough time with them. Use them in San Jose near the hotel (there’s a scotiabank there for my Canadian friends). The Tour manager gives you heads up about where they are if you are in a bind. Tortugeuro is pretty much all-inclusive unless you venture to town and do some shopping (and by town I mean the 20 huts that sell touristy things and food and drinks). food is ok, it was safe to eat anywhere and the breakfasts at all the stops were great.
Stuff to pack: Beach towel, closed shoes, open shoes, long pants, short pants, rain poncho, jacket, stuff you don't mind getting wet in and stuff to keep your camera dry (bonus if you have a waterproof camera, you’ll get great shots). Free wifi at all the hotels so pack your smartphone/netbook/tablets even if you don’t want to use the Roaming feature. My Contiki Ekit SIM card was terrible down there. The calls were all broken up. Pack equal amounts of bug repellent and sunscreen. You’ll use more of the repellent especially at the start of the tour.
Highlight: Manuel Antonio: warm, sunny, lots of fun, real close to the beach (ah the sunset!). Monteverde was a close second with the ziplining park and humming birds. Arenal was a blast at the bars and the cultural dinner.
If you’re looking for a more chill vacation or more history/culture, consider Mexico Grande. Costa Rica unplugged will keep you busy and active in the most amazing greenspaces you will ever see! You will see tons of cool natural stuff, don’t let the threat of rain dampen your spirits, the monkeys don't seem to mind. Its called the rain forest for a reason!
Review written Dec 2012event 0.3