Bus Tour Conclusion
All in all, our new Mercedes big-glassed bus took us 800 miles exploring this most beautiful of countries, meeting kind, warm-hearted people all along the way.
On Day Seven, shortly after departing the Americanized Jaco driving along the Pacific Coast toward the fishing village of Quepos, we passed through an earthquake zone and over the several temporary “Catholic Bridges” each narrower than the last. First, there was the “Oh My God” bridge, followed by the “Help Us, Jesus” bridge and finally the “We Must be Driving on Water” bridge. Someone yelled, “We must be in heaven!”
That’s Costa Rica. Heavenly. So much so that 40,000 Americans have chosen it for their permanent retirement homes.
But more about that next time.
Costa Rica Travel Facts:
After deciding that we didn’t have time to tour – hit-and-miss – on our own, several Suddenly Senior readers recommended Caravan Tours (1-800.227.2826) at $995 for 10 days, all meals, activities, hotels transfers, transportation, excursions, even tips included. (While some other tour companies featured smaller groups, they were more expensive and often offered less.) Plus air.
Our airfare on US Air was about $500 for the two of us from Tampa via Charlotte to San José. Currently, the roundtrip airfare on American Airlines Miami/ San José is $115 plus tax.
What to Wear:
The climate varies from the temperate central highlands of San José to the much warmer Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Remember, you’re only about 10 degrees from the Equator here. Caravan recommends a sweater or light jacket. Carolyn and I each chose to take a lightweight hooded poncho-style raincoat. Plus shorts and loose shirts. A pair of jeans. Casual. Washable. Comfortable water-resistant shoes also are a must. Although the pacing of the tour is excellent and never rushed or strenuous, there is a lot of walking, often in the rain(forests). Laundry service is available at all hotels. And don’t forget your swimwear.
As of June 2005, the exchange rate is 475 colones to the dollar. Conveniently, the once almighty greenback is still powerful in Costa Rica, accepted almost everywhere, as are most credit cards. ATMs are found in major cities.
Eating & Drinking:
Caravan provides purified water at all meals and free bottled water on the motorcoach. Water is safe to drink in most touristy areas. Breakfasts are usually buffet-style featuring many fresh fruits and eggs cooked to taste. Lunches and dinners generally provide the choice of beef, fish, and chicken with local side dishes.
Never a problem.
All hotels, except those in the rainforests and La Fortuna (where there are five Internet cafés in town), have high-speed Internet connections, often free.
Spanish is the official language, but we found that English is spoken in all the stores in which we shopped.
Proof of Citizenship:
US citizens need only a current US passport valid for six months after your date of entry.
Costa Rica is a fisherman’s dream, with snook (averaging 14 pounds), tarpon (averaging 80 pounds), red snapper, king mackerel, amberjack, yellowtail, deep-water tuna, Dorado, even sailfish, and marlin. Fly fishermen will enjoy catching bluegill and drum fish. There’s good bonefishing as well.
We planned an extra four days after the tour in case there were areas we still wanted to see. It turned out that we spent those extra days taking it easy around the capital of San José, interviewing American retirees, getting massages, shopping, and generally just enjoying our little gem, the quaint, charming, artistic and historic downtown Hotel Don Carlos. $70 – $80 double room including breakfast. (1-866.675.9259) Ask Steve Constantine for Room 29.
Costa Rica Tourism Board (1-866.267.8274).
Toyota Rent A Car, San José, and Liberia airports. Approximately $400 a week for a 4×4, automatic or manual. (011-506.258.5797)
Holbrook Travel. Located in Gainesville, FL, these folks are the official operators of Elderhostel; they own Selva Verde Lodge in the rainforest and are leading authorities on all things Costa Rican.
Explore Costa Rica. These folks are excellent in-country tour operators. They can arrange airport transfers, dinners on top of the mountains overlooking San Jose (with accompanying Fralmeco dancers!) and customized tours and transportation all over Costa Rica.