Island Dreams' agents Lisa Nagel and Claudia Boone
compiled the following report after completing a recent fact-finding trip
to Costa Rica.
GETTING THERE - Service into San Jose, Costa Rica is offered
by Continental, American, Taca and Lacsa airlines. San Jose is in the interior
of Costa Rica. It is a scenic four-hour drive from San Jose to Guanacaste
on the coast. Sansa and Lacsa offer continuing air service from San
Jose to Liberia. When time is short, it is efficient to fly into
Liberia, which is much closer to the Guanacaste region. Once in Liberia it will
only take ½ hour to get to the resorts. There are direct daily
flights from Miami to Costa Rica on Lacsa as well as weekly flights from
Dallas to Liberia on a charter airline.
LODGING - There are a number of different dive resorts
located in the Guanacaste area. They range in size from large, extensive
full-service properties -- to small family owned and operated private resorts.
One of our favorites was Sol Playa Hermosa.
SOL PLAYA HERMOSA is located in Playa Hermosa surrounded
by crystal clear waters and only 25 minutes from the Liberia airport.
There are 54 luxury rooms, with two double beds, private bathroom, hairdryer,
telephone, and cable TV and a/c. Sol Playa Hermosa also offers 47
villas with two or three bedrooms. Each villa is fully equipped and
24 villas have their own private pool. Features of this resort include
two restaurants, bars, two pools, tennis courts, and water sports.
Bill Beard's Diving Safaris dive shop is located right on the property.
EL OCOTAL is located about five minutes from Playa Del
Coco and 20 minutes from the Liberia airport. El Ocotal has 40 spacious
rooms and three VIP suites; All rooms have ocean view with two queen or
single king beds. Each guest room has a/c, refrigerator, ceiling fans,
terrace, cable TV, telephone and coffee maker. The resort also has
two restaurants, bars, tennis court, three pools, jacuzzi, and water sports.
A dive shop is located on property.
VILLAS DEL SUENO is also located in Playa Hermosa.
This family owned and operated resort is small and service oriented.
They have standard and superior rooms as well as 16 one-bedroom and efficiency
units. The standard rooms have one double or two single beds, private
bathroom and ceiling fans. The superior rooms are larger with two
double beds, bathroom ceiling fan and rattan lazing salon. All the one-bedroom
units have a king size bed, adjacent bathroom with tub and shower, a fully
equipped kitchen and living room with a pull out sofa bed. All units
are fully air-conditioned. The efficiency units have one double and one
single bed. The living area and breakfast bar has a coffee maker
and toaster oven. These units are also air-conditioned. The
restaurant on property is well renowned for having some of the best food
in the area.
DIVING - There are two very good operators located in
Guanacaste -- Bill Beard's Diving Safaris and El Ocotal Resort's Dive Shop.
BILL BEARD's DIVING SAFARIS -- Bill and Nadine Beard wrote
the book on diving the Guanacaste region. Their level of knowledge
and service is unsurpassed. They have a full service PADI dive shop
on the grounds of Sol Playa Hermosa Resort. Rodale's Scuba
Diving Magazine surveys have repeatedly rated them tops.
El OCOTAL DIVE SHOP - Located on the property of
El Ocotal. They have three 32-foot diesel power dive boats, 40 complete
U.S. divers setups, and 125 new aluminum tanks. They offer Padi referral,
open water and advanced specialty courses. Their daily two-tank boat
dives depart at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. They also offer night dives
and trips to Bat and Catalina Island on request.
Keep in mind that the diving is very different from that
in the Caribbean. You are diving on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
On average, the water temperature is a bit colder than the Caribbean, so
there is less coral growth. Due to lots of rain (Costa Rica IS a
rain forest), the average visibility while diving is also less than the
Caribbean. What you will see is LOTS of marine life. Huge schools
of reef fishes are common, and it's possible to see just about anything.
Sharks, turtles, rays, mantas, whale sharks, even large game fish like
marlin and sailfish.
LAND TOURS -- Much of the attraction of Costa Rica is
that there is so much to do when not diving. Here's a sampling of
the land-tours available:
ARENAL VOLCANO -- Located three hours from Guanacaste,
Arenal is a cone-shaped volcano rising out of flat, surrounding plains.
It is the most active volcano in the country. In the daytime,
clouds of ash and smoke frequently billow into the sky. On clear nights,
spectators are occasionally treated to eruptions of lava and burning rocks
that explode into the air and shower down the cinder cone. Even when
it is overcast, the rumblings, venting and molten lava glowing through
the clouds afford a very spectacular experience. Near Arenal are
the Tabacon Hot Springs, where you can relax after a day of hiking in the
Rain Forest, and enjoy the most splendid natural hot mineral springs, pools
Option One -- One-day adventure to Arenal Volcano followed
by Tabacon Resort.
Includes: Box lunch, drinks, dinner, round-trip transportation entrance to Tabacon Resort
Price per person - $95.00
Option Two -- A Multi-Day Arenal Volcano (2 days / 1 night)
Adventure (We suggest that it is better to do this one on your two last
days in country.) With pickup easily arranged from Guanacaste, you'll
enjoy a scenic ride with private driver/guide to Arenal Volcano.
Enroute, visit the Arenal Waterfall, and then enjoy a dip in the thermal
pools at El Tabacon Hot Spring. Dinner is included. Overnight
at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Situated only 1.6 miles south of the volcano,
Observatory guests have an impressive view of the gigantic volcano, which
rumbles and erupts, with spectacular displays of vapor and lava. At night
you will see the glowing lava. The Observatory is the only lodge
situated within Arenal Volcano National Park. This recently created
park encompasses thousands of acres of pristine rainforest and teems with
tropical birds and wildlife. The next day, continue on to Rio Sarapiqui
for a half-day of white water rafting.
Day one: Pick up time at your Hotel in Guanacaste at 8:00am
Lunch in Restaurant y Pizzeria Tramonti
Hiking in the Rain Forest
Tabacon Hot Spring - Dinner
Lodging at Arenal Observatory
Day two: Rafting in Rio Sarapiqui (Class III)
Pax min: 6 persons
Return to San Jose through Braulio Carrilo National Park at 6:00pm
Includes: One breakfast, two lunches, one dinner,
overnight, tours as described, and roundtrip transportation from local
hotels. Price per person - $358.00
LOS INOCENTES -- Hacienda Los Inocentes is a traditional
cattle ranch north of Liberia. Enjoy abundant wildlife, panoramic views
and a taste of the cowboy life for which Guanacaste province is famous.
Whether you want to explore the ranch on horseback or prefer a guided nature
walk, the trip to this spectacular spot at the foot of Orosi Volcano is
bound to be an invigorating outdoor experience. Both the trail ride
and hike are opportunities to spot such exciting animals as toucans, wild
parrots, monkeys and iguanas. The balcony of the ranch house is the
perfect spot to sip a cool drink while watching the cowboys work and enjoying
the view of the forest-cloaked Orosi Volcano.
After sharing a bit of the Hacienda life, you will head
to the scenic overlook at the town of La Cruz, where a commanding view
of Salinas Bav and Bolanos Island provides the perfect setting for an unforgettable
sunset. (Tip: Wear jeans and boots or sturdy shoes for the
1/2 day tour pickup Depart at 1:00pm and return at 6:30pm
Includes: Box lunch, drinks, dinner, horseback riding, biologist guide, and round trip transportation.
Price per person - $95.00
RINCON de la VIEJA -- CANOPY TOUR and TREE TOP TRAILS
All we will tell you is that this one is very, very good!
Assisted by ropes and pulleys, you will climb one tree almost 80 feet into
the rain forest canopy, and then traverse tree to tree, sliding on 15 different
cables. Yes, it is safe, and LOTS of FUN!
Price per person - $95.00
PACUARE RIVER RAFTING -- Class III-IV Rapids
Shortly after 7:00 am a guide will pick you up at your
hotel. Slowly traveling through the windy roads of Costa Rica, drive past
several picturesque valleys before arriving at the town of Turrialba and
continuing on between the Reventazon and Pacuare Valley's. San Martin
is the put-in spot. Load our gear into dry bags, hike down to the
river, prepare the equipment raft, undergo a precise safety and paddle
talk and then get wet.
Found within these gorges are some of the best whitewater
in the world. This day on the river covers approximately 18 miles (4 hours).
It provides an amazing welcome to the Pacuare gorge its rapids and surrounding
natural beauty. All tours included comfortable roundtrip transportation
from local hotels. Delicious breakfast and typical or picnic style lunch.
Professional friendly guides will ensure your safety and enjoyment of the
What to bring on a rafting tour:
Rubber soled shoes (tennis or similar)
Shorts and T-Shirts or Swimsuit.
Complete change of clothing including shoes.
Departure from San Jose: 7:00am
Return to San Jose: 6:00pm
Minimum 14 years old
Trip Length: 18 miles
Difficulty: Class III-IV
Price per person $90.00
SAN JOSE LODGING TIP: Need lodging in San Jose while
in transit? This time we stayed at Grano de Oro, an excellent lodging
choice in the western part of San Jose. A small and comfortable Bed &
Breakfast, it offers a very romantic style of accommodation.
All in all we had a wonderful time in Costa Rica.
While much different that the Caribbean, the diving is interesting.
For outdoor lovers, bird watchers, hikers, rafters, etc., the topside experiences
to be had in Costa Rica are second to none. Call us if you'd like
more information, brochures, schedules, etc. We look forward to helping
you to experience the "Magic of Costa Rica."
Link to Costa Rica Pricing Information