Written by award-winning travel writer and naturalist Rob Rachowiecki, this bestselling guidebook to beautiful Costa Rica covers flora, fauna and nature reserves. Includes a 32-page color wildlife section, 43 maps, and a Spanish language section.
While there we noticed that almost all the guidebooks people were carrying around were Lonely Planet (LP). But everywhere we stayed that LP raved about was very disappointing, and the few places we stayed that were very understated in LP were excellent.
My theory is that so many people are using LP that if a place gets a rave recommendation the business just pours in. They jack up their prices, sit back and rest on their reputation, and the facility and service deteriorate. But the money keeps pouring in because of that great LP review. Meanwhile the underrated places have to work their butts off to get business. Even though LP CR is only 2 years old, the prices of the highly rated hotels were off by as much as 50%, whereas the ones with understated descriptions were right on.
Generally, I like using LP, but for CR I would say that too many people do. Grab a different guidebook and cross-ref it with LP. If it has a nice sounding place that's not in LP, stay there!
We also used Frommer's even though it doesn't have much of a selection of budget places. Frommer's descriptions are so much more colorful and accurate. You get the impression that they only write about places for which they have first-hand knowledge. Plus Frommer's 2004 edition is new and the prices were exactly right. But, it's not sufficient by itself because it just doesn't list enough places.
Our rule of thumb for LP CR: If LP writes more than half a column about a hotel or lodge, avoid it! It will be overrated by now, with ridiculously high prices, and an inattentive staff.
Next gripe related to the advice in this guidebook: all the concerns and warnings are grossly exagerated. The roads are bad, but they don't swallow cars and break axles. There may be some crime, but there aren't people learching in the shadows to flatten your tires every time you stop. The busy season doesn't fill every hotel -- in fact without reservations, we got our first choice of hotels every night. I wonder how much more fun my trip would have been if I hadn't let this book make me so defensive!
Here's a tip for Costa Rican hotels: it doesn't matter how expensive the place is, the showers are lousy, with very little hot water and terrible water pressure. So don't pay $45 for a place just because it has hot showers when the place next door is only $25.