Here is the review that I wrote for TripAdvisor on my recent Caravan Tour to Costa Rica! I’ll put all the relevant information for the company at the end of the post.
I just finished the Costa Rica Natural Paradise tour as a solo traveller with Martha as our tour director and San Martin as our driver. For the most part, I had an awesome time – we were able to experience so many new and exciting things throughout Costa Rica and I also met a bunch of other awesome people along the way.
Martha is an incredible tour director and has much knowledge about Costa Rica – she had an informed answer about every question anyone asked, often answering these before the question was even raised. She is passionate about Costa Rica and can tell you everything there is to know about the animals, plants, economy, living in Costa Rica and she combines this with stories about her life and a great sense of humour. She constantly ensured that we knew all the information required at any time, for example, when meals were, when we needed to be up in the morning and even made sure that all our flights were running on time on the last day. By the end of the trip, she knew all our names and enough information about us that she could strike up a relevant and personal conversation, which I think really added to the experience. I feel really lucky that we were graced with Martha as our tour director. The only thing that I would say for feedback is that it would have been great if Martha interacted with us more on a social basis – for example if she joined us for drinks at Happy Hour or ate dinner at a group table with us. She has so many interesting stories to share and is very funny, it would have been great to get to know her better.
San Martin was also a great driver, he assisted us on and off the bus each day and also navigated the (often unsealed and/or narrow) road so seamlessly I never felt unsafe. He was kind and very experienced. The dynamic between him and Martha was really sweet to witness, she often exclaimed how lucky she was to be working alongside him on this tour and she made sure that we said good morning to him and thanked him at the end of each day.
I booked this tour very last minute and did very little research on it before the first day, because of this, I didn’t realize that it would be so heavy on the bird watching/looking at plants & animals. This isn’t really my thing, but by the end I feel like I could identify a few different types of birds/plants that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Although I wouldn’t classify myself as particularly outdoorsy, I was still able to have a great time.
All the accommodation we stayed at was fantastic, my favourites being the JW Marriott and the Real Intercontinental. My least favourite was Hotel San Bada as my room was a little dirty. Even the Quality Inn was much better than expected.
The food that we ate throughout the whole tour was really tasty and healthy. As a pescatarian, I was worried that I wouldn’t have many options – but there was almost always fish, vegetables, rice and beans and salads. All meals were a buffet as well which meant that we could always select what it was that we wanted to eat. The only thing that had definite room for improvement was the desserts. I think as a whole they were pretty average, but it could also be my western preferences that meant that I wasn’t a fan! I know some people felt like we were always eating, but I feel like it may have been beneficial to have some snacks on the bus for between meals, even a basket of fruit would have been a nice touch as (especially on the first few days) I was ravenous by the time lunch came around.
I know quite a few people have been cancelling their tours and vacations to Costa Rica due to being worried about the Zica Virus. I (and everyone else) didn’t see/experience any mosquitos the whole time we were away, until the night we were at Hotel San Bada having drinks on the rooftop where I was bitten quite a lot – but this is fairly normal for me, insects seem to like me and I didn’t hear of many other people who got bug bites.
The only thing that really got my goat about the whole trip was the tipping of the tour director and bus driver. I understand that most people (ie everyone else) on the trip was amazed at the low price, however, as a solo traveller I paid considerably more than anyone else. While this is fine, on the last day we are expected to tip with the recommended amounts outlined in the guide. As everything else is included in the price, I wasn’t carrying cash with me and to access it at the last couple of hotels was near impossible. As I’m from Australia and I’m not used to tipping, I may stand alone on this though! I’d much rather it just be included in the cost of the trip.
On the tram tour on the last day, our tour guide Adrian stated that Sydney was the capital of Australia to make a point about the fact it’s unique that San Jose is in the middle of the country and not the coast. Our capital is Canberra and it’s not on the coast – perhaps someone could let him know…
While I was totally on board with the two days we had drinks included, perhaps drinks on the first or second night could be included/instead of one of the others? Over drinks was when I got to know the others on the group the best as it was a reason for us to all be in the same place at the same time that was more social than sitting on a bus/on a tour. It would have been great to get to know the other travellers to this level at the start of the tour rather than over the last few days.
I felt irrationally uneasy about leaving my bags outside the room each morning to be picked up. While I loved the ease of never having to move my bag myself – I was always a little hesitant leaving it out where anyone could have taken it! It was never an issue though.
For the comments on here that state that they had an issue with the long bus rides – I feel as though they were necessary to see as much of the country as we did. It was a little rough sitting up the back for some of the longer rides, but I think it’s all just part of the experience!
I would absolutely do another tour with Caravan, the whole experience was very professional and well put together. I had such a great time!
The Tour I Went On: http://www.caravan.com/tour/costa-rica
Phone Number: 312.321.9800