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COSTA RICA, CENTRAL AMERICA TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATION GUIDE

Limon Beach, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
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TRAVEL GUIDE TO COSTA RICA, CENTRAL AMERICA:
Belize - Costa Rica - El Salvador - Guatemala - Honduras - Nicaragua - Panama

Costa Rica Vacation Guide   by Jim Kesel
Costa Rica : The Vacation That Will Change You by Danna Schneider
Costa Rica for the perfect eco-tourism destination  by Anne 
 
Volunteer abroad for a great travel experience
For anyone who has had their fill of holidays at the beach, trips to Disneyworld or other popular destinations, volunteering abroad is a great alternative. While volunteering takes you away from the normal humdrum activities of life and work to all kinds of exciting destinations .. read more

Costa Rica : The Vacation that Will Change You by Danna Schneider

My recent vacation in Costa Rica was the first time I had ever traveled internationally, so naturally I was a little nervous about all of the "unknown" factors, like visiting a foreign country whose primary language was Spanish, getting through customs, finding my way around, and all those other "what if's" that tend to go through your mind when you're doing anything for the first time.

Little did I know that this would be by far the best place I'd ever visited as far as visually stunning nature, but also the most hands-on when it came to seeing and sometimes interacting with nature.

My sister and I started on our adventure when we met from adjoining flights at the small airport in San Jose, which is the capital of Costa Rica.  We didn't stay though, as we had reservations at a resort in Arenal, which was about three hours from San Jose.

If you want to travel somewhere but you don't want to drive, it is very easy to arrange either public or private transportation anywhere you need to go, however, there are not many roads, so if you rented a vehicle with a GPS included, it could easily be navigated.

The only drawback we found with public transportation was that, although it was less expensive than private transport, you did need to set aside a few more hours to get to your destination, as they had many other pickups to make which added more time to the trip.  However, when you consider that gasoline cost five dollars a gallon throughout pretty much the whole country, public transportation still seemed a genuine bargain.

Arenal Volcano, Arenal, Costa Rica
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As I stated earlier, we stayed first in Arenal, which is an area famous for the Arenal volcano.  Arenal is a unique volcano because it actually erupts every night, and although you need to be close to the mountain to actually see it well, you may still see a bit of the bright eruption from a distance.  Arenal was a beautiful area.  Not only that, there were a ton of activities that you could sign up for within about one hour of the mountain, such as horseback riding, ziplining, hot springs tours, rainforest canopy tours and more.

We chose first to go horseback riding to La Fortuna Falls, which was a visual spectacle unlike any I've seen.  La Fortuna Falls was a magnificently huge waterfall that required you walk down several hundred steps just to see the whole waterfall from the bottom up.  There was also a lookout point about halfway through where you could gaze at the magnitude of the fall's size, but also take in the lush tropical surroundings and watch for exotic birds and animals along the way.

Then came the canopy ziplining tour, which was not for the faint of heart, but by far the most exhilarating and rewarding experience during our stay.  We travelled about one hour from our Arenal resort to the rainforest canopy, and from the drop off point, hiked about a half mile to the zipline platforms after we were suited up in our gear and had signed release forms.

Ziplining through the canopy of the forest at up to 40 miles per hour, and several hundred feet off the ground was unquestionably scary, but after we completed the first platform, everyone on the tour couldn't get enough of it.  There were 11 platforms in all, and the scenery from above was breathtaking.  It is an experience I will never forget, and I'd recommend that anyone who fancies this sort of sport to do it while in Costa RIca.
 
Tropical Rainforest Interior, Carara Natural Reserve, Costa Rica
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From Arenal, we headed up the coast to Jaco.  Jaco was probably our least favorite stop of the trip.  It's short on scenery, and the blatant prostitution is definitely intimidating, not to mention unsavory, especially for women travelling alone or families.  The overall feel there was also not as friendly and open as our previous stay at Arenal, so we only stayed for two days and moved on to another small hotel in a tiny surf community called  Playa Hermosa.

The stay there was really nice, laid back and relaxing.  You could sit at little restaurants and bars right on the beach and watch the whales blowing and the surfers catching waves and the feel was just very casual.  There were tons of beach areas to surf at too, if that's what you're into.

From Playa Hermosa, we moved on to Manuel Antonio.  Manuel Antonio was, by far, the richest in up-close and personal encounters with wildlife, since it harbors a huge national park that is a haven for wildlife.

Not only is there an abundance of wildlife, but the animals there are so used to humans that they will not hesitate to cross directly in your path on one of the many hiking trails, or even snatch your lunch from your backpack as you're basking on one of the inlet beaches along the trails.  Yes we actually had small white-faced monkeys steal our lunch, they are notorious for their kleptomania!

In Manuel Antonio, you can choose from several reputable hotels, and there is also some great eating at one of their many laid back outdoor restaurants which feature the national dish of rice and beans, fish, beef and breakfast served all day.

In addition to seeing more monkeys than I can remember, we also got to see a sloth right outside of our hotel hanging out in a tree, parrots, miniature raccoons, lizards large and small, and several other unidentifiable wildlife scurrying through our path in the park or enjoying themselves in nearby trees.

As you can probably tell, Costa Rica was the trip of a lifetime - for me.  I suspect that most others who take a trip there would think the same.  It's richness in beauty, wildlife, friendly culture and diversity in activities will please even the most discriminating travelers and thrill seekers.  And oh, you can also just be a beach bum if you want, too!

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About the Author: Danna Schneider is the cofounder of www.dietingmagazine.com , where you can find information on weightloss products, fitness equipment and diet reviews, and dieting tips for losing weight. 
MANUEL ANTONIO VACATION RENTAL VILLAS AND CONDOS
Casa Lydia Casa Lydia, Vacation Rental Villa, Manuel Antonio
Casa Lydia is located in Manuel Antonio Coast Rica, right outside the main town of Quepos. It is accessible either by plane or car.  It is a beautiful, scenic 3 hour drive from San Jose, over the mountains of the Central Valley, through the hills of infamous coffee plantations and down the coast through typical Costa Rican villages and rows upon rows of majestic palm trees. Complete the drive in a half day or let us suggest some wonderful stopping points. If you wish to fly, Quepos airport is only a 20 minute flight on Sansa Airlines from San Jose International Airport. Sansa flights run several times a day and are very affordable.
Costa Rica Villa MA02, Vacation Rental Villa, Manuel Antonio
Perched atop the highest hill in Manuel Antonio, this first class resort home commands a 270-degree view.  You will have direct views from every room to the world famous National Park and the surrounding mountains.  This 5200 square foot home is one of the largest and most private in the area. It features 4 luxurious air-conditioned bedrooms with full bath suites, each with its own spectacular view.   The master bedroom suite features a king sized bed, large private balcony and a bathroom that includes a jacuzzi tub and a stone shower.  The other three bedrooms have queen sized beds and beautifully appointed bathrooms with custom sinks made of hand carved stone or glazed earthenware bowls.
Elcantico Villa, Luxury Vacation Rental Villa, Manuel Antonio
Nestled in the rainforest and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the villa is located in Manuel Antonio, one of the most beautiful coastal areas in Costa Rica. This is where the rain forest literally reaches down to meet the sea in one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Completed in 2004, the villa offers all modern amenities and personalized services, while you experience the natural serenity and splendor of Costa Rica. With exotic wildlife and beautiful birds to view right outside your windows, and only minutes away from Manuel Antonio National Park, Pacific beaches, restaurants, nightlife, Spanish-language schools, and the sport fishing town of Quepos, the villa is ideally located for you to enjoy a wide range of activities and adventures.  Sleeps 10-14
Geminis del Pacifico, Vacation Rental Villa, Manuel Antonio
Géminis del Pacífico is a stunning 3-story villa with a breath-taking Pacific Ocean view. The home is approximately 2,500 square feet and has 4 bedrooms and 3 baths, sleeping 8 comfortably. There are two queen beds, one king bed, a double bed and a daybed in the den that could sleep a 9th person, if needed. The common areas include a kitchen, dining area, living area and den with cable TV. The 3rd floor bedroom has a private entrance and private balcony. Remember, in our home, each bedroom is air-conditioned so those who want to fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean and jungle can do so, while those who need air-conditioning are able to use their own a/c to control the room's temperature. 
Manuel Antonio Luxury Villa, Vacation Rental Villa, Manuel Antonio
Luxury Ocean View Vacation Home in Manuel Antonio Area, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, Central America.  House - 7 Bedrooms + Loft - 7 Baths - (Sleeps 12-18).  The villa is a beautiful, 6000 square foot, three-level home that can be rented in its entirety or as three individual, spacious suites.  Each suite has a kitchen, one to two bedrooms, one to two bathrooms, and sleeps from four to six people.
Pacifico Colonial - Luxury Vacation Rental Condominium, Manuel Antonio
Completed in March 2006, this new condominium is said to be the most high-end condo in all of Costa Rica. Two, three or four bedroom units are available either individually or combined. Only 2 condo's occupy each floor, so it is very private and secure.  Located in the heart of Manuel Antonio, the Pacifico Colonial offers the sweet comforts of home gilded with the luxuries of errant royalty-vaulted ceilings, custom built European windows, hand-made doors and cabinetry, Brazilian granite countertops, Italian porcelain floors, and stained-glass windows & accents. Each condo has at least one large jacuzzi tub. Don't let the Old World architectural features fool you, however-the modern amenities are also inlaid within the beautiful design.
HOTELS IN COSTA RICA:
GUANACASTE HOTELS
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Allegro Papagallo by Occidental, Playa Manzanillo, Guanacaste
The Allegro Papagayo by Occidental is located on the Gulf of Papagayo in northern Costa Rica on the dryer and sunnier west coast. Situated on Manzanillo Beach, it is only a 35 minutes drive from the International Airport in Liberia. Allegro Papagayo Resort Hotel is perfect for your family vacation or romantic getaway. Enjoy our lush tropical landscaping, the flora and fauna, accommodations, great restaurants, and many activities that Allegro Papagayo offers. Relax in one of our open air restaurants or bars and watch the sun go down on the blue, tropical Pacific Ocean.  The Allegro Papagayo has a nearby Beach Club where you can enjoy your favorite beverages, use our lounge chairs and maybe participate in water sports. Use our large tropical pool, with a separate section for children. 
Flamingo Beach Resort, Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste
Situated in the province of Guanacaste, on the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica, lies Flamingo Beach Resort - an intimate oasis for travelers seeking an exotic, enchanting escape. Picture yourself lounging on the pristine white sands of Flamingo Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, framed by tall coconut palms and lush mountain foliage. Engage in a wealth of available water sports, explore spectacular national parks and charming villages nearby, or simply relax in our spacious, well-appointed Costa Rica hotel rooms. A scenic, 45-minute drive from Liberia International Airport brings you to our tropical paradise. Come experience this premier beachfront hotel in Costa Rica, reflecting a rich local heritage in an unspoiled natural environment.
Hotel Barcelo Playa Langosta, Langosta, Guanacaste
Barcelo Playa Langosta Resort and Casino is an all-inclusive property located next to the Tamarindo beach area, approximately 30 miles from Liberia International Airport and over 225 miles from San Jose International Airport. This beach has reef for snorkeling and surfing. The resort has a river mouth. Hotel amenities include two a la carte restaurants, shopping boutique and gift shop, dance area, casino, two pools (adults' and children's), Jacuzzi, pool bar, beach snack bar, cafeteria...
Ocotal Beach Resort, Ocotal Beach, Guanacaste
Ocotal is a four star beachfront resort, a leader among Costa Rica's hotels and resorts, with an extra touch in style, comfort and service. The property lies along the country's beautiful northern Pacific coastline, a privileged location with panoramic breathtaking views of Papagayo Gulf, offering an extensive variety of services, including romantic honeymoon packages, weddings, the best scuba diving in Costa Rica, sport fishing, exciting adventure tours, snorkeling trips, kayaks, mountain bikes, superb cuisine, comfortable rooms, all with great ocean view and surrounded with the captivating magic of the tropics.
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PUNTARENAS HOTELS
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Doubletree Resort by Hilton Puntarenas All Inclusive
This all-inclusive hotel is located by the ocean, in Puntarenas. At this all-inclusive property meals and beverages at on-site restaurants and bars, taxes, and gratuities are included in room rates. Recreational activities and entertainment may also be included. There may be charges for dining at some restaurants, special dinners and dishes, some beverages, and other amenities. The hotel has 2 outdoor swimming pools, a health club, a fitness facility, and a children's pool. High-speed (wired) Internet access is available in public areas (surcharges apply). Business amenities at this 3.5-star property include a business center, meeting rooms for small groups, and secretarial services. There are 7 restaurants as well as a bar/lounge, a poolside bar, and a swim-up bar.
SANTA CRUZ HOTELS
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El Sabanero Eco Lodge, near Santa Cruz
This Cana Fistula hotel is situated by the ocean. Area attractions include Avellana Beach and Tamarindo Beach. This Cana Fistula property has a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Wireless Internet access is available in public areas (surcharges apply). For a surcharge, guests have access to an airport shuttle. The staff can arrange tour/ticket assistance and wedding services. Additional amenities include an outdoor pool and a garden. Balconies are featured in guestrooms. Guestrooms provide in-room safes. Guestrooms feature refrigerators. Additional amenities include air conditioning. 
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Costa Rica Vacation Guide   by Jim Kesel

If you are embarking on a Central or South American journey and Costa Rica is one of your stopovers, then you certainly need to find a reliable Costa Rica vacation guide to make the most out of your stay. To get a brief overview of what you should learn from a good vacation guide, read on and be armed with the basics.

Costa Rica is part of Central America and its neighboring countries are Nicaragua on the north and Panama on the south. On its western side, there is the Pacific Ocean and on its eastern side, there is the Caribbean Sea.
 
You may be surprised to know that the best time to visit Costa Rica is during the early parts of the rainy season of May to July. Some towns in the country even experience an elevation in terms of visitors, making the tourist officials regard it as a 'mini-high season'. During this period, traveling might a bit more challenging due to the slight downpours and rain showers. Pack your raingear and bit more patience for the ultimate Costa Rican wild adventure. The mountains and high plateau also offer cooler temperatures to the visitor.

There are many different regions in Costa Rica. There are the Plains of the North, Guanacaste, Nicoya Peninsula, Central Valley, Central Pacific, Caribbean Costa Rica, South Costa Rica and Cocos Island National Park.

Arenal Volcano Erupting at Night, Costa Rica
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The capital city is Costa Rica is San Jose and their official language is Spanish. Other cities in the country are Alajuela which is the location of Juan Santamaría International Airport, Cartago which is the country's first capital and Heredia where tourists can visit coffee plantations. Quepos city is also notable as it is located in the Central Pacific coast and is the entry point to the Manuel Antonio National Park.
 
Volcan Poas Parque Nacional, Cartago, Costa Rica
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There are also the cities of Jacó which has a worldwide reputation as a surfing paradise and where superb dining selection abounds, Liberia which is the gateway to the fantastic beaches of Guanacaste and Pochote which is located on Whale Bay near Puntarenas. Costa Rica's second largest international airport is also located just outside of Liberia providing easy access.

Of course, an excellent Costa Rica vacation guide book should not be quick to miss the cities of Puerto Limón which considered the main city on the Caribbean side of the country, Puntarenas where one can take the ferry going to Nicoya Peninsula, Parismina which is located in Tortuguero Canals and Tamarindo City which is also quite famous as a beach haven for tourists.

Although English is widely used in some areas populated by tourists and many businesses are operated by European entrepreneurs, it is recommended that you learn some Spanish and a few frequently used Costa Rican expressions.

The Spanish words 'Ma'e' means 'dude' and is generally used among friends; 'Pura Vida' literally means 'pure life' but is used by Costa Ricans to express agreement or enthusiasm. A 'pulpería' is a general merchandise store, while if you hear the word 'tuanis', it should be an expression of 'okay' for most natives.

Costa Rica is a beautiful tropical paradise that welcomes all visitors seeking an escape from the hectic everyday stress of urban life. The people of Costa Rica are friendly and helpful in providing you with a great vacation.

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Costa Rica Hotels  /  Costa Rica Vacation Rentals

About the Author - James Kesel, MS, is the publisher of the Inexpensive Costa Rica Vacation website. Providing great information on vacations and travel in Costa Rica. Use the www.costa-rica-source.com/vacationguide.html to plan you vacation in paradise.