Apple Vacations to Costa Rica

Costa Rican Sunset by Spencer Spellman

Recently my sales representative, Sue from Apple Vacations, went to Costa Rica. She shared some great tips about the charter flights from Chicago(this winter through summer) and St. Louis (this summer) with me.

Flight tips:  Since this is a 5 hour flight from Chicago, travelers should be aware that USA3000 has a limited amount of the snack boxes to sell and the plane is not replenished in Costa Rica. She suggested travelers bring snacks or food from restaurants available before boarding flight in Chicago. Do remember, beverages are not allowed through security.(At O'Hare beverages can be consumed prior to security or purchased once clearing security and are served aboard the flight). Movies are not available on these flights. Be sure to bring something to occupy your time.

Returning from Liberia Airport: A departure tax of $26 must be collected in Costa Rica, it cannot be include in the package price like most Apple Vacations packages. The tax can be paid at airport but not in the same place you check in. We were able to pre pay at the Riu. The cost was $28 per person credit card (only Mastercard  or Visa)- it is worth the $2 extra dollars. The airport is not air conditioned, it is currently the dry season so it is very warm. There is one restaurant at the airport while the food is good and cooked fresh, the portions are small. Again travelers may want to bring snacks or a sandwich from their hotel.

Transfers: Swiss Travel is the ground handler and do an excellent job. They meet and greet at the airport, provide the transfers to and from the airport and offer tours and support to arriving guests. The drive from Liberia airport to the Riu is 45 minutes. It should be shorter once they finishing paving in a few weeks. 

Phone service: Most cell phones do not work in Costa Rica.  The only one we found that works- some times, is AT&T. You can purchase a landline phone card to use in the Riu's sports bar. Otherwise, the cost from hotel room was $1.19 per minute. The Riu offered wi-fi in lobby with your laptop. Computers are available to use for a charge in the sports bar. Most people communicate via the internet.

Money: Everyone accepts US dollars

Tours:

There is so much to see and do in Costa Rica!


Wildlife in Costa Rica by Spencer Spellman

Arenal Volcano & Rainforest Walk: this tour is a minimum 12 hours, it departs from the hotel at 8am and returned at 10:30pm. The drive to the volcano was 4 hours, we had a fantastic lunch at a local restaurant, included in the price! We then did a rainforest walk where we saw monkeys, several varieties of birds including Toucans and beautiful tropical flowers. From there we were taken to hot springs to relax and cool off.  5 pools with variety of temperatures were available. The facilities were very clean and they also provided lockers, showers and changing area.  Drink service was available at the pools, at your own expense. From here we drove closer to the volcano and had dinner at the Hotel Kiori offering spectacular views of the volcano. The drive back took 3 hours.

Mega Combo tour is one of the most popular.  The drive is about 2 hours offering canopy 10 platforms, slide, and spa with mud bath. You can ride on a tractor or ride horses to the spa. This tour departs 7:30am returning at 6pm.

Fishing from a Costa Rican shore by Spencer Spellman

Fishing was also popular! Many people did a half day and the crew cleaned the fish. Some even brought fish to the hotel where the chefs prepared and cooked. It was delicious!! While fishing many saw whales, dolphin, sting ray and several varieties of fish.

Shells in Costa Rica- photo by Spencer Spellman

At the Riu some people were fishing from the beach and caught quite a lot -mostly catch and release. You can actually see many varieties of fish just standing in the water!

Golf is available, the cost starts at $95 plus club rental to $200 per person.

Weather: This time of year (Winter-Spring) is warm and dry. It was not humid. 

Make sure to  bring a very strong sun screen ( 50+).  At the hotel it is very expensive, costing $30+ per bottle. Make sure to bring water shoes for walking in the sand. Due to the heat and the volcanic rock in the sand, it is very hot. Most cannot walk in bare feet. No shoes are needed in the water. You may also want to bring insect repellent. While we didn’t have an issue at the hotel, when on excursions it is recommended. This is also very expensive to purchase in resort. Hats are recommended to protect from the sun. In the summer months they may get a little rain in afternoon (usually not more than 1 hour) If traveling during summer months, bring a light rain coat or small umbrella. 

Sue stayed at the Riu Guanacaste, saying, "the hotel is gorgeous and the newest in the area. It is full all the time, so make you book early." Restaurant reservations seemed to be easy to get as long as you go in the morning. She said the Italian (ala Carte) is the most popular and seemed to be everyone’s favorite. The Steak House (ala carte) was second, buffet- third and the Asian (an Asian buffet) is not really ala carte. Entertainment is very good at this property.There is a casino on property for added entertainment and great meeting rooms at this hotel.

Riu Guanacaste -stock photo

The Riu Guanacaste has an incredible swimming pool offering a swim up bar which is part of the infinity pool. There is another pool attached that offers water polo and volleyball as well as zero entry area. Everyday they offer pool activities. Once a week there is a pool party at 4pm. They play music, give everyone balloons, pass out masks, rattles and horns and everyone dances in the pool. It was fantastic!

 

Costa Rican wildlife is everywhere  -photo by Spencer Spellman

While walking the beach you can see monkeys and birds in the trees. If you walk to an area where a rivers flows to the ocean, (this time of year it is dry) you can see additional wildlife and different varieties of lizards. It is turtle season now so the hotel helps protect the areas where eggs are laid. At night you can walk on the beach and watch as they make their nest and lay eggs. The Riu tries to keep them in one area and marks it off so it doesn’t interfere with guest on the beach. Vendors do sell on the beach here but are friendly and not overly aggressive.

Coco Beach is the closest town to all of the Apple Vacations hotels. From the Riu it is 30 minute drive.The town offers shopping, dining and some nightlife.Shuttle taxis from the hotel are $15 per person. They have designated times, day and night. Usually they allow 3 ½ hours in town.You can get some good bargains on tee shirts and souvenirs. Don’t forget, Costa Rican coffee it is very good!

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Just this week I had clients return from Costa Rica who also stayed at the Riu Guanacaste. They said the Riu is beautiful, new and they received good service. The Steak House was their favorite. They were thrilled with all the wildlife. The highlight of their vacation was the Monteverde Cloud Forest tour which also stopped at a coffee plantation. It was a clear day and they could see Arenal in the distance. They wished they had taken the Arenal Volcano tour as well.

Crocodiles in Costa Rica-photo by Spencer Spellman

They saw crocodiles and wildlife on a river cruise and enjoyed the hanging bridges on a rainforest tour.

Their only disappointment was in the shopping because only the hotel offered fine jewelry for sale.Overall, they were very pleased and really enjoyed their vacation to Costa Rica and the Riu Guanacaste. 

Pura Vida in Costa Rica -photo by Spencer Spellman

So… GO TO COSTA RICA, it's PURA VIDA!

 

A very special thanks to Spencer Spellman for the use of his photographs in this post.

Be sure to check out his blog, The Traveling Philosopher!

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