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Costa Rica on a budget

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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 12:16   #1
Digbert Doobrey
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Costa Rica on a budget

Hello all.

Iím just looking for some advice on a possible future trip to Costa Rica. I donít want to cover various places I just want to find a lodge that I can stay at for around a week or so. Iím not bothered about building up a huge trip list. I would just go birding around the lodge or walks of a mile or two close by. I wonít be hiring a car so if I go any further I would just hire a local guide for a day or half day trip at the most. My budget for the trip would be around £1500 possibly more but not much. With this in mind can anybody advise on the following;

1. What are the best lodges within an hour or hour and a halfís drive from San Jose airport?

2. How easy is it to get to the lodges from the airport? Is public transport regular and reliable? Or do people take taxis and if so how much would it be for an hours journey to a lodge?

3. Are there lodges that have there own drivers that pick up from the airport?

Booking the flight and the lodge are easy enough itís the bit between the airport and the lodge that Iím struggling with.

Thanks in advance.
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 12:26   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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Cerro Lodge is about an hour or so from the airport and there's an excellent range of species nearby (though short taxi rides are helpful):
http://hotelcerrolodge.com/
Not sure whether they do airport transport. It's not far from a main road so there should be buses but you'd probably need a cab for the last bit (it's down a fairly obscure road).

For a contrast, I liked Paraiso Quetzal in the mountains south of San Jose. Would suspect you could get near to it by bus because it's just off the main road. Very nice forests and grounds on site with lots of higher altitude specialities. The climate is very pleasant in the day time, but cool at night.
https://www.paraisoquetzal.com/en/hotel.php
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 14:08   #3
andyadcock
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Not a very easy destination for budget travel, especiallly without a car.

We stayed at Vara Blanca on our first night, took us about an hour to get there but you'd still need transport to get to e.g Poas Volcano from there. There was plenty of stuff in the gardens at our accommodation at Tiquicia Lodge including the Flowerpiercer, Scintillant Hummingbird and L.t Silky Flycatcher and the owner who used to be a bird guide, would probably be able to arrange a transfer for you?

https://www.bedandbreakfast.eu/bed-a...-lodge/184240/

This spot is also close to la Paz Waterfall Gardens (expensive to go in) and the well known Hummingbird feeders at the Cinchona cafe.


A

Last edited by andyadcock : Friday 13th July 2018 at 14:19.
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 14:17   #4
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People have done the area around Sarapiqui with public transportation, and probably done a cheap trip -- see for example report by hamhed in the vacation report section.

Rancho Naturalista would be a good place for this type of stay, I am just not sure you can do it on a lower budget.

Niels
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 19:28   #5
Digbert Doobrey
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Thanks for your replies. Some good suggestions.

Would it be easier to hire a car at the airport? Do independent birders get around by driving in Costa Rica?
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 19:55   #6
andyadcock
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Originally Posted by Digbert Doobrey View Post
Thanks for your replies. Some good suggestions.

Would it be easier to hire a car at the airport? Do independent birders get around by driving in Costa Rica?
Of course, it's easy and will certainly cost less than taxis every day!

PM me with an e-mail address and I'll send you my report from last year.


A
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Old Saturday 14th July 2018, 06:40   #7
Digbert Doobrey
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
Of course, it's easy and will certainly cost less than taxis every day!

PM me with an e-mail address and I'll send you my report from last year.


A
Cheers. PM done.
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Old Saturday 14th July 2018, 18:01   #8
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I second Paraiso Quetzales - beautiful location and just off the Panamerican Highway. My husband and I traveled there a few years ago, we just took a bus from San Jose and had the driver drop us off at the entrance road. I think it was ~1km walk to the lodge from the road.

You might also consider Monteverde - you can get there using either public buses, or you can hire one of the more direct transport van services - I don't recall the names of the companies, but a bit of googling on how to get from San Jose to Monteverde should bring them up. Once there, there are a range of lodge and hotel options, many within easy walking distance of multiple reserves.

I've been to Costa Rica 5 times and never bothered with car hire - it's just so easy and cheap to get around using public transport, especially if you just want to station yourself at a single location for a week. Knowing a bit of Spanish certainly helps with navigating public buses but I bet it could be done without.
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Old Saturday 14th July 2018, 22:27   #9
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I second Paraiso Quetzales - beautiful location and just off the Panamerican Highway. My husband and I traveled there a few years ago, we just took a bus from San Jose and had the driver drop us off at the entrance road. I think it was ~1km walk to the lodge from the road.

You might also consider Monteverde - you can get there using either public buses, or you can hire one of the more direct transport van services - I don't recall the names of the companies, but a bit of googling on how to get from San Jose to Monteverde should bring them up. Once there, there are a range of lodge and hotel options, many within easy walking distance of multiple reserves.

I've been to Costa Rica 5 times and never bothered with car hire - it's just so easy and cheap to get around using public transport, especially if you just want to station yourself at a single location for a week. Knowing a bit of Spanish certainly helps with navigating public buses but I bet it could be done without.
The only problem as I see it in using PT, is lack of flexibility and the loss of time on what for most people, will be a relatively short trip. PT is ok if you're backpacking for a few months but most won't be.

Hiring a car is not that expensive, especially between two people, it will certainly give you far more time actually birding and you can stop anywhere you want on the way.


A
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Old Sunday 15th July 2018, 03:20   #10
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
The only problem as I see it in using PT, is lack of flexibility and the loss of time on what for most people, will be a relatively short trip. PT is ok if you're backpacking for a few months but most won't be.

Hiring a car is not that expensive, especially between two people, it will certainly give you far more time actually birding and you can stop anywhere you want on the way.


A
I agree, and that is the argument for why my wife and I almost always use car rental - the biggest problem is getting a couple of weeks off.

Niels
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Old Sunday 15th July 2018, 13:11   #11
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
The only problem as I see it in using PT, is lack of flexibility and the loss of time on what for most people, will be a relatively short trip. PT is ok if you're backpacking for a few months but most won't be.

Hiring a car is not that expensive, especially between two people, it will certainly give you far more time actually birding and you can stop anywhere you want on the way.


A
Sure, car hire gives a lot more flexibility and saves time when visiting multiple sites in a short time, but I figured since the OP was considering staying in one place for the week it seems car hire would be unnecessary - even with PT one can get to a range of great spots from San Jose in just a couple hours.
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Old Sunday 15th July 2018, 15:31   #12
andyadcock
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Sure, car hire gives a lot more flexibility and saves time when visiting multiple sites in a short time, but I figured since the OP was considering staying in one place for the week it seems car hire would be unnecessary - even with PT one can get to a range of great spots from San Jose in just a couple hours.
That's fair enough and I suppose the car will be stood idle for a few days too.


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Old Sunday 15th July 2018, 23:00   #13
Dan Miller
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I was going to suggest Monteverde also. From SJO, one can get a shared shuttle for about $52us - the bus is cheaper, but you have to get from the airport to the bus station, and the scheduling is less flexible.

Once there you can stay reasonably. e.g. in Santa Elena village there are several hostels - I stayed in one that was perfectly comfortable with a private room and hot shower for $15/night.

Also check out AirBnB - one place we stayed, and can recommend, is Hummingbird House in Monteverde. It is adjacent to Reserva Bajo del Tigre and an easy walk to my favorite reserve, Reserva Curi-Cancha, and also to the Monteverde Institute's reserve. One can also easily walk to Monteverde Reserve (perhaps the most famous of them), though it is about a 4km walk mostly uphill (downhill on the way back, though!). There are good restaurants right there, and a small grocery store. It is also easy to walk from there down into Santa Elena for the evening, and if you prefer, take a taxi home after dark. Another great reserve, Santa Elena, is farther but can be reached by public bus or taxi.

The nice thing about this area, is that even though these reserves are in close proximity, they differ in habitat and altitude, so the chances of seeing a wide range of species is good. Monteverde and Santa Elena are on opposite sides of the continental divide, Curi-Concha is recovering secondary forest and often the most productive (and great for Resplendant Quetzal in February and Three-wattled bellbird in March (Bare-necked Umbrellabird made a few appearances there last April, too). Bajo del Tigre is pre-montain cloud forest.

Enough rambling. In full disclosure, we stayed at Hummingbird House on our first trip to CR, and have become good friends with the host family - we will be staying in another part of their compound this coming February and March.

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Old Tuesday 24th July 2018, 15:46   #14
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Here's an alternative thought: The Canopy Tower in Panama. They pick you up at the airport, and drop you off when you're done. They take you birding every day with excellent guides. They have a lodge in tropical forest near the canal and the city and another in the foothills a few hours away (as well as a third, further away, in the Darien). Off season packages are pretty reasonably priced. Whether or not it is an option for you I can't say but they are a great option, in general, for folks who want to see a lot of birds in the tropics and not deal with logistics.

http://www.canopytower.com/tour-packages
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Old Friday 27th July 2018, 13:02   #15
Digbert Doobrey
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Here's an alternative thought: The Canopy Tower in Panama. They pick you up at the airport, and drop you off when you're done. They take you birding every day with excellent guides. They have a lodge in tropical forest near the canal and the city and another in the foothills a few hours away (as well as a third, further away, in the Darien). Off season packages are pretty reasonably priced. Whether or not it is an option for you I can't say but they are a great option, in general, for folks who want to see a lot of birds in the tropics and not deal with logistics.

http://www.canopytower.com/tour-packages
I'll definately be visiting Panama one year either independently or on a bird tour.

Regards Costa Rica I've gone for the lazy option and booked a package deal in Guanacaste. I just couldn't face car hire, a three or four hour bus journey or an expensive cab ride. The hotel is surrounded by plenty of inviting habitat that I can happily wander around in plus I will be looking to book two or three day trips to the hotspots.

Thanks for all your suggestions.
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