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5 days in Playa Grande

NYC
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56 posts
19 reviews
5 days in Playa Grande

I'm going (first time) to Costa Rica for one week at the end of the month. Right now I have a reservation at Hotel Bula Bula for the entire trip. After reading everyone's postings, I feel like I'm going to be missing out by staying in one place the whole time. However, my boyfriend and I want a relaxing trip without running around too much. Will day trips from Playa Grande be enough or is there somewhere else close by we should visit/stay in? We are flying into Liberia, no car. Thank you!

NY
Level Contributor
1,365 posts
1 review
1. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

As I am sure you have seen on the activities page on Bula Bula's website there are plenty of activities / tours you can do from there with an organized tour or them getting you a private one. Don't just stay on that beautiful beach all week. It gets too hot during the day anyway. It really depends on what you want to do - you could spend 3 nights in Arenal area, for example, and then 4 in Playa Grande. Let me know if you want any more details. We were there less than 2 months ago.

NYC
Level Contributor
56 posts
19 reviews
2. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

travel1000:

Thank you for your advice! You answered my questions in some other posts as well.

Based on your suggestion, I think we're going to add Arenal/La Fortuna into our itnerary. One last question: The tours that go from Bula Bula--where do they go (ex for the canopy, waterfalls, etc)? Are there places right around playa grande or do they drive you all the way to the fortuna area?

Thanks again.

NY
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1,365 posts
1 review
3. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

Those tours are not in Arenal area. The only tour we did was the turtle nesting tour and that's right on the beach in Playa Grande. I would recommend you do that one but you do need to make reservation days in advance. Let me know if you want more info on that. We didn't do any other tours there. I don't know how far the canopy or waterfall tours are. You can email Bula Bula and I am sure they will happily answer your questions. The estuary tour should be interesting. The tour to Volcan Rincon de la Viejo is supposedly 2 hours away but considering it took us over an hour to just get to Belen that is probably a 3+ hours drive. By the way, one day walk the beach 2km north to Rip Jack Inn - we had a great lunch there. You can leave the beach at the main entrance (where the little overlook hut is), walk away from the beach, turn right at the second intersection, then again right (there are signs for Rip Jack and PGI). They have a walkway directly to the beach but I don't know how to identify it from the beach (between the bushes). If you walk about 4km north, past the big rock, to the very end, you should be able to walk away from the beach along the little stream, cross the bridge, and walk to the next beach which has black sand, but we didn't make it that far (it was too hot). If you are willing to get up at 5:30am and walk the beach you might see turtle hatchlings making their way to the water.

NYC
Level Contributor
56 posts
19 reviews
4. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

Travel 1000:

Thank you for the great advice. We would love to see the turtle nesting. Can you give me more information on that tour? We've revised our itin so we'll only be in Playa Grande 3 days, so I assume I should reserve a spot on the tour before we get there? Thank you!

NY
Level Contributor
56 posts
2 reviews
5. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

This is what I posted in other forum, so some stuf might not apply to you:

The turtle-nesting season runs from sometime in November and up till March. This season has been exceptionally good (at least it was up till New Year). They were getting up to 10 turtles I believe a night.

If you planning to see the turtles, keep in mind that they only allow 60 people per night to see only 2 turtles (30 per turtle). Out of those 60 people 40 spaces are reserved I think 8 days in advance. The remaining 20 spaces are reserved at 8 am the same day in person. They adhere to those rules. When we were there before New Year we didn’t know all those details in advance so the first night we couldn’t get in. Next morning when we showed up at 7:45am we were forth in line.

Those same day reservations have to be in person with all members of your party present, including kids!! And you need to have your passports with you because they record the passport number when making reservation. You could not bring somebody else’s passport to sign!! We saw them refusing reservation for a few people who wanted to sign up the kid who was not present in person!

Granted we were there at the busy tourist season, so may be now they don’t have so many people trying to do the turtle watching.

Also, the turtle come out at night at high tides. Depending on the day and the number of turtles that come out it might be a very long night – something to consider if your kids are young.

NY
Level Contributor
56 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

and more:

Do-it-yourselfers can drive over to Playa Grande and book a tour directly with either El Mundo de la Tortuga (tel./fax 653-0471; cost $25) or the National Parks Service (tel. 653-0470; $13)

This info is from Frommer book/website. The prices are not entirely accurate. Back in December the park was charging $16pp and museum was doing reservation for $23pp, which included turtle watch, museum entrance ($5) and I guess they were keeping $2 just for making a reservation.

Also the description in the Frommers site is somewhat misleading (or maybe outdated) as it leads you to believe that if you don't get a reservation fast enough you might have to wait till late at night. However, as I posted earlier, if they have 60 people already then you wouldn't be able to see the turtle that night. Park service people are now allowing only 60 people per night.

One thing I forgot to mention is that if you are pressed in time and struck out with reservation, you can try to come in the evening before the tours 8pm and put yourself on the waiting list in case of no shows.

Good luck.

NY
Level Contributor
56 posts
2 reviews
7. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

And one more thing:

Since you are going pretty much at the end of the turtle-nesting season, the number of turtles coming out is decreasing towards the end. One thing you might want to try is to see the little hatchlings going for the water. I will probably have to get up at 5 am (the time the beach opens) and try your luck. Usually there would be a few volunteers walking the beach and if they see some activity they can call your attention.

When we went we saw the egg nesting process at night, but haven’t seen any little ones.

NYC
Level Contributor
56 posts
19 reviews
8. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

skivt:

Thank you for your detailed response. We won't be in Costa Rica 8 days in advance, but I'd love to make a reservation before we get there. Do you know if there is a website or email address? Or is calling and reserving the only way? Also, since we won't be there until the end of the month, I'm afraid we might miss the tours altogether! Do you know anything about that? Thank you!

NY
Level Contributor
1,365 posts
1 review
9. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

Well, I was about to write up all the details for you but skivt already did that. There is no website or email address. You have to call to make a reservation. There are volunteers at the park service office 8-5 taking reservations. Some speak more English, some less. In our experience, they were not the friendliest people around, even with tourists speaking good Spanish. I suggest you call El Mundo de la Tortuga (the turtle museum) and ask for Adriana. She is a translator, so speaks English almost perfectly and is very friendly and knowledgeable about the turtles. At least she was there in December. Ask her if turtles are expected to come out when you will be there. If you are in the first 30 to sign up you only need 1 turtle to come out that night to see it. I think you will.

See the following on more info about the turtles there:

http://www.leatherback.org/

and a journal kept by one of the volunteers there:

http://www.freewebs.com/kpreshoff/

Playa Grande, Costa...
Level Contributor
21 posts
10. Re: 5 days in Playa Grande

Yes, it is best to reserve a turtle tour in advance. The park service people do not accept reservations more than 8 days in advance. You do NOT have to personally be at their office. Simply contact your hotel with your passport number, issuing country, and EXACT name that is printed on the passport. When you arrive at the appointed day for your tour, have your passport with you. Do not bring a copy (yes, ridiculous). At least Hotel Bula Bula does this reservation for their guests.

The suggestions to view the hatchlings is also a great idea. No crowds and more "organic" experience.

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