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Friends are visiting...they have a fortnight to 'do' Costa Rica!
They have used the first couple of days to visit the capital, San Jose... where they were astonished by the wealth of architecture.....and volcano Poas...which was broody and would not reveal its secrets... then used the internet to arrange the nuts and bolts of their trip.
As I have discovered, there are two ways to tour Costa Rica...the tourist way and the local way.
In the local way, you check where you have family and go to stay with them, using their home as a base for touring.
If you don't have family, you look around for 'cabinas', individual accommodation, varying from wooden huts with cold water only to proper small houses with fans and hot water.
They're advertised in the newspapers, or you just ask around when you get to where you're going, except in the peak local holiday seasons when anything decent has long been taken.
Then there's the tourist way. You use the guide books.
Our visitors had done their homework...they wanted to visit several different areas in order to enjoy to the full the variety of climates and environments which Costa Rica has to offer.
They wanted to go to Tortuguero...the maze of wetlands on the Caribbean coast.
But there is limited public transport and all the hotels have to offer are inclusive tours from the capital...the cheapest being two hundred and eighty seven U.S. dollars per person for a two nights all in.
All in, unless you would like a glass of wine or beer with your dinner...
All in, unless you would like to tour the wetlands in a boat at dusk or dawn to see the astounding bird life.
Which is why you go there.
Tortuguero was off the list, then.
Arenal...the volcano in full activity, with nocturnal lava flows...was next on the list.
We looked at the website for the hotel to which they had had a recommendation from a friend.
Yes, it was on the side of the volcano where the lava is currently flowing....but the view of the volcano was all there was to offer and if the nights were cloudy they would see nothing, just hear the eery crack of the tumbling rockfalls.
It was miles from the nearest town...over a rough road...so once you were there you were the prisoner of the hotel.
If you wanted to eat somewhere else, it was a taxi ride costing some ten dollars at least each way...
If you wanted to visit the hot springs in the area it would be at least twenty dollars each way....
To get to the hanging bridges, the butterfly farms or whatever...it would cost you.
Why not, we said, stay in the cabinas with similar views of the lava flow situated alongside the hanging bridges and the butterfly farm, in a village half way to the local town with a few cafes and ask locals about the non touristy hot springs establishments?
Both our guests spoke Spanish, after all.
No. The cabinas were not in their guide book.
But they are on the net...you can see how nice the rooms are and they have hot showers and breakfast is included.
No. They would follow the guide book and the recommendation from their friend...who had probably used the same guide book.
Well, check Tripadvisor. See if the reviews bear out what the guide book says.
No, the hotel would be fine.
At that point I gave up.
I would like to have spared them paying one hundred and twenty nine dollars per person per night to be stuck out in the wilds of nowhere....but the power of the guidebook shows how worthwhile it is for the hotels to advertise with it.