Mtn et al Panama and Costa Rica

ellendiAugust 31, 2014

Looking to add Panama to our Costa Rica winter vacation. Looking for advise on where to stay and the must sees.

In Costa Rica, we have been to Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Montezuma and Tararindo. Any suggestions of where else we can explore on both sides.
Not been to the Caribbean side, so especially would like suggestions.

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Ohh, Montezuma. We have so many fun memories of that quirky area.

Villas Caletas north or Jaco and Herradura is gorgeous! And it's an easy drive from San Jose.

The Caribbean coast is up and coming in terms of resort areas and generally offers more rustic accommodations. I'd focus on the area between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. Check out the boutique hotel Le Chameleon or Shawandha Lodge.

Did you spend much time around Manuel Antonio? There are many beautiful homes to rent along beach just north of the park. I love that stretch.

Very interested in suggestions about Panama as we're traveling there for the first time in February, 2016.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 11:49AM
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My experience is that we've visited Costa Rica and Panama both in the past year. Panama was on our list because we lived there years ago when our chidden were small and have wonderful memories of our time there. We were curious to see the changes which have taken place.

We went to Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Colon on the Atlantic side. Our impressions were that Costa Rica has everything Panama does but it is cleaner and there appeared to be less poverty. Years ago we visited David and surrounding area in the "mountains" of Panama which remains a popular tourist destination. We didn't go this time but met a lot of people who had either been or were on their way.

Our trip to Panama was very meaningful to us because of our memories but I'm not sure how much we would have enjoyed it without them.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 12:45PM
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Thanks funygirl (and juju). Wr are not interested in going into the city but want to enjoy the beaches etc. A true relaxing vacation.

JuJu, we use a company called AnywhereCostaRica. I just found out that they now also have a AnywherePanama. I use Lester, but the staff interchanges when necessary and they are all knowledgeable and helpful.
For Costa Rica, I book all my ground transportation (and small plane transport) and tours through them. I also have them plan my itinerary and book my hotels. They are a great company and I can't say enough good things about them. You can have them do as much or as little as you want.

Hopefully others who have been to Panama will weigh in.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 2:23PM
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Snorkeling and boating were our favorite pastimes when lived in Panama and we were fortunate to live on the atlantic side where snorkeling was best. We would hire locals who would take us to remote islands in their wooden Kayucas (sp?) in the a.m. and pick us up later at a designated time. We'd have an entire island to ourselves and were always a little nervous that they would forget to pick us up. It was wonderful. We would have loved to do that again on our recent trip but were unable to find anyone to take us out to the islands.

When we were there recently, one of our outings was to Portobello which used to be all by itself in the middle of nowhere. Now there is a charge for parking, a town and many, many boats in the harbor. It's still beautiful though.

Hope you have a wonderful time and report back when you return:)

Edited for typo

This post was edited by funnygirl on Mon, Sep 1, 14 at 22:42

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 9:03PM
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I have never been to Panama, and you have seen far more of Costa Rica then we did!

I'd love to hear about it though. Sounds intriguing!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 9:21PM
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In 2011 my wife and I went on a month-long semester-at-sea voyage that stopped for two days in Panama and three days in Costa Rica both on the Atlantic side.

Some of the trips we took in those countries were arranged by the ship's field office, some we arranged ourselves, and one trip was a part of the class my wife was teaching on the ship -- a field trip to the locks of the Panama Canal.

Our ship was docked in Colon, Panama but we were warned not to go any further into the city then the one block area around the cruise port. One day we took a trip to visit an "Embera Indian Village" which was colorful and fun, but it felt a little staged.
The next day we took the "field trip to the locks of the Panama Canal" for my wife's class, and took a side trip to the city of Portobello about 30 miles "south" of Colon.

In Costa Rica we were docked in the city of Limon, which seemed much friendlier and inviting than Colon. The first day I had arranged a trip through a local company named "WIllie's Costa Rica Tours", he picked us up, drove us to Cahuita about 30 km south, where we were taken out to reefs off the shore of Cahuita National Park for two snorkeling stops, after which we landed on the point of the national park, and hiked along the beach back to the town of Cahuita, with the owner of the tour company along as a guide, pointing out various plants and animals along the way. He also bought us to a restaurant named "Restaurante Le Fe Bumbata" right in Cahuita which didn't look like much, but was one of the best meals of our month-long trip.

The next day we went on a horseback riding trip that was arranged by the ship, which was near Cahuita, but further inland in the rain forest. It was fun especially since my wife is an avid rider, but easy enough that a novice like me still had a good time. On the way back to the ship, we separated from our group and got off the minibus at a Sloth Sanctuary. We planned to take a public bus back to the ship, but ended up catching a ride from a local.

The third day we took a ship-arranged trip along the Canals of Tortuguero just north of Limon. It a short nature cruise along the intercoastal waterways along that part of Costa Rica. After that we went to a popular beach in Limon named Playa Bonito.

Several groups went to the Puerto Viejo area which sounds like it is a relaxing beach-y spot. Since those were groups of college students they talked about staying in a cheap "hotel" where you just get a hammock in a large open, thatched roof structure on the beach, or the great prices on the drinks in the bars, so I don't know how useful my second-hand info would be.

I've included links above to the relevant entries in the blog I was writing during our voyage on the ship, which contains more specifics, and many pictures.

I'd say the Cahuita snorkel trip/hike and the visit to the Panama Canal were the best/most memorable, with the horseback riding trip being a close third. However what made the Panama Canal visit memorable was that we got to walk across the top of a lock to tour the control house for the Gatun Locks, which just about no one gets to do.

Sorry for rambling on, I hope my information is helpful.

This post was edited by bob_cville on Mon, Sep 1, 14 at 22:49

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 10:30PM
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Duplicate post

This post was edited by funnygirl on Mon, Sep 1, 14 at 22:41

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 10:38PM
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