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The Diva Chronicles : Costa Rica (Part I)

Alas! We finally present you with the scoop from our vacation to Costa Rica in May. We know…this post is LONG overdue, but
things have been chaotic for the JetSet Divas since we got back. However, we got it together and buckled down to write about our trip…before we forgot everything we did!

The Stats
Location – Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama
Time ZoneUTC/GMT -6 hours or Mountain Time in US. No daylight savings.
Weather – Average annual temperatures between 22°C (72°F) and 24°C (75°F)
Currency – Generally US$1 = 500 Colones. For current exchange rates, visit xe.com

The Snapshot
Wednesday, May 21st: ATL/STL to Miami to San Jose
Thursday, May 22nd: San Jose
Friday, May 23rd: Arenal
Saturday, May 24th: Arenal and Tamarindo
Sunday, May 25th: Tamarindo
Monday, May 26th: Tamarindo
Tuesday: Liberia to Miami…to home sweet home.

In keeping with our “maximize your paid time off” philosophy, we again traveled during a holiday weekend – Memorial Day. While this can often be one of the busiest times to travel, it’s often how you travel during holiday weekends that counts. We usually pick low volume travel days, such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Like our Thanksgiving Italy trip, we visited Costa Rica during its off-season which is called its green season (May-November). Point blank…it’s rainy. Rainy season, however, yields lower hotel rates and less “tourist” prices when it comes to shopping, food, transportation, etc. Overall, it wasn’t too bad. There were moments of downpours, but also moments of sunshine. You just have to go with the flow…literally.

Getting there…
We booked our vacation online through Latin Destinations, which gave us the ability to customize our trip, compare hotels, and add on features such as tours and transportation. The tough part for us when coordinating trips is the fact that we’re flying from different cities – Atlanta & St. Louis. This is often hard to juggle because fares and vacation packages are often higher than if we were flying out of NYC, Miami, or Chicago.

We usually book our packages leaving from one city and meet up there, because it would NOT be fun if one of our direct flights got canceled or delayed and one of us ended up in another country without the other. At least if we connect, we could manage the situation better. However, traveling this way does have its downside. It’s sometimes hard to coordinate connecting flights and fares. Some weeks ATL-MIA was extremely high, while STL-MIA was on sale, or vice versa. Then the arrival times didn’t mesh. We really ended up playing airfare roulette with booking the connecting flights for this trip. I ended up having a LONG layover in MIA (6 hours in fact), and Ebonee ended up having to book at a higher fare than she planned. Oh well…we got to Costa Rica, so that’s all that matters, but we vowed to plan that part of our trip better next time.

britannica.jpgHotel Britannica. source: 2jetsetdivas

Do you know the way to San Jose?
We touched down in San Jose near midnight. No, our flight wasn’t drastically delayed… for some reason most flights arrive in the late evening into Juan Santamaria Airport.
Sidenote: If you fall asleep on an international flight, make sure you get your customs form before getting off the plane. Eb and I both woke up as the flight was landing and missed the custom form hand-out. You’d think the attendant would have left some on our laps or somewhere. We got off the plane realizing we missed getting custom forms, and were standing in the customs line looking crazy. Luckily there were some extras from another airline that we just used, but that won’t happen again.

After making through the fun in customs, we were met by our tour operators and driver, and headed to our hotel downtown, Hotel Britannia. Formerly a mansion built in the early 20th century, the hotel was quaint and cozy, with good sized double rooms. MzETravel is going to give the full review of where we stayed and what we did, so I won’t go into too many details.

sanjose.jpgCity life. source: 2jetsetdivas

Rested up, the next day we were ready to check out San Jose. When reading some travel reviews of the city of San Jose, I admit, I was a little worried. Don’t expect this city to be a metropolis like NYC or London. However, its a bustling Central American city with central markets, shops, restaurants, nightlife, and TRAFFIC. If you’re trying to get somewhere, even just a few miles during rush hour in this town…forget about it. Grab your patience and hold on tight to it.

papapez.jpgPapa Pez. source: 2jetsetdivas

San Jose highlights:
Eat:
Lukas Bar & Restaurant (lunch). El Pueblo. International cuisine. I had nachos.
Papa Pez (dinner). El Pueblo. Seafood. Grilled platter was delish!
See:
El Pueblo – Multiplex with restaurants, bars, gift shops, craft shops, etc. Seems like everything is in this one spot…but be aware, it’s really not as big as it seems.
Mercado Central – from fresh fish and pet parakeets to shot glasses and postcards, you can find it here.
Party:
Ebony 56… MzETravel will give you the 411 on this place in her review, but let’s just say I wasn’t sure if I was at a club or an audition taping for the dance show, So You Think You Can Dance

Overall, our day in San Jose was cool. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not as dismal or unsafe as some travel guides paint it as being, but it’s also not a city on “my must comeback to” list either. Because we were only there a limited amount of time, our experiences were limited as well. But in my opinion, a day visit did the job. A good thing about San Jose was that it was quite inexpensive. Taxi rides ranged from $2 to $5; dining, $6 to $10; club admission and drinks, around $2 to $4. If you’ve been to San Jose, give us your thoughts and suggestions for others that might consider visiting the city and let us know what we missed.

Next up…onward we go to The Volcano and The Beach.

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