Moon Costa Rica Paperback – Oct 11 2011
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About the Author
Christopher P. Baker was born and raised in Yorkshire, England. He received a B.A. in geography from University College, London, and masters degrees in Latin American studies from Liverpool University and in education from the Institute of Education, London University.
He began his writing career in 1978 as contributing editor on Latin America for Land & Liberty, a London-based political journal. In 1980 he received a Scripps-Howard Foundation Scholarship in Journalism to attend the University of California, Berkeley.
Since 1983, Christopher has made his living as a professional travel writer, photographer, speaker, and international tour guide. He is acclaimed for his specialist knowledge of Cuba and Costa Rica, about which he has written 10 books, and created the Costa Rica Pura Vida! travel app. His many books include Moon Cuba and Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, winner of both the 2002 Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book and the North American Travel Journalist Association's Grand Prize. He has contributed to more than 150 publications worldwide, including Caribbean Travel & Life, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, The Robb Report, and the Los Angeles Times.
Christopher has been profiled in USA Today; appears frequently on radio and television talk shows and as a guest-lecturer aboard cruise ships; and has been privileged to address such organizations as the National Press Club, the World Affairs Council, and the National Geographic Society (on the televised show Live from National Geographic ). He is a National Geographic Resident Expert and escorts cruise-tours of Costa Rica and Panama for National Geographic Expeditions and Smithsonian Journeys.
His many awards include the prestigious 2008 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year, from the Society of American Travel Writers, and Travel Journalist of the Year from the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Jamaica Tourist Board.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The similarities with LP mainly come from the tone in which it was written since it was authored by a Brit (much like most of the LP books I've used in the past). And this author has a tremendous amount of knowledge of Costa Rica as well as Latin America. The layout was logical and easy to navigate.
Of all the Costa Rica guidebooks on the shelf this one had the most, and most detailed, maps. In small towns where there are no road signs and "intestinal" roads that make getting turned around and confused very easy these detailed and zoomed-in maps came in very, very handy.
Of all the guidebooks it also devoted the most amount of pages to the areas where we were visiting (the Pacific beaches/Nicoya peninsula and the Arenal volcano area).
I liked this guidebook especially because it gave me the feeling that nothing was left out. For instance, while driving by the tiniest town I noticed that it would be mentioned in the guidebook even if very little was written about it.
Lastly, the author has an absurd overuse with superlatives! "This beach is the best in the country" and "the wildlife in this park is unmatched" - these are good descriptions, but when applied to every park and every beach, given that there are dozens, it makes it difficult for the traveler to make an informed decision to organize their best trip to Costa Rica.
Overall I was disappointed and will be buying a different guide book to take with me.
While we cannot speak for the upscale price segment, this travel book utterly failed on us as a guide for our backpack tour through Costa Rica. It appears to us as if much of the information provided in the book is outdated and has not been properly updated.
The reasons for why we are so disappointed with the book include the following experiences:
1) In 2009 a change in the telephone system of Costa Rica took place. While the book briefly mentions this in the last chapter, it does not explain how this change affects the old seven digit numbers. Without this rather simple information (a number 2 must precede the seven digit numbers) all telephone numbers in the book are rendered useless. While this detail may not have been available when the 6th edition was published in 2007, we would have welcomed to be given a hotline number or an operator at the least, through which the necessary information could be obtained.
2) Hotels which are mentioned in the book are occasionally missing from the maps (e.g. Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge and Kaja's Place, Puerto Viejo).
3) The information about getting to Tortugero is rather misleading. The water taxis are not public, but run by a private operator. Thus the fare for the trip is not $6, but $35-40 (one-way). According to the locals the public water taxies were put out of operation as early as 1991 (!). The telephone number given in the book does not reach the taxi operator, but the port's main entrance gate. Furthermore the taxi trip from Puerto Limon to the port is not $4 but $10 (here the author contradicts himself, the error can be spotted by looking up the taxi meter rates at the end of the book).
4) The information on Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge, Puerto Viejo, is not correct. The Lodge does not offer any of the rooms mentioned in the book, instead it offers rental cottages for a much higher price. This can even be looked up at the very website which is provided in the book.
5) The telephone number of Tamarunda Lodge, Puerto Viejo, is not correct (wrong number).
6) On page 595 the author describes that tourists occasionally get pulled over by police men in the hope for bribes, because rental cars can be spotted by the letters TUR on the license plates. During the two weeks that we spent in Costa Rica we did not see a single car with such license plates, nor seemed our own car which we rented in the second week to be marked in such a way.
After our travels we went to the book store to have a look at the Lonely Planet guide for Costa Rica. It was surprising to find that a lot of the information which we missed in the Moon guide could actually be found in the Lonely Planet. We suspect that in the future we might be better of with a book that considers budget travel only, but does not aim to deliver information on both the budget and the upscale price segment.
An example: the Moon Guide discourages individuals from visiting the Aviarios del Caribe sloth rescue center, near Cahuita, alleging that it now only welcomes cruise ship groups. In actuality, my sister and I were warmly welcomed and given a wonderful tour -- a highlight of the trip. (And: the admission fee was much lower than what Moon listed.) Travelers following the Moon guide advice would miss out on a wonderful experience.
I don't know the author's actual research methods, but I sometimes had trouble believing he had personally visited many of the hotels and restaurances he describes; I suspect heavy reliance on user feedback.
Costa Rica is certainly changing fast -- in general, prices were significantly higher than either Moon or LP listed, and hotels tended to have been upgraded. Towns listed as not having banks, in fact do. I can't believe, though, that all the changes we saw had happened just in the year or two since the Moon guide was supposedly updated.
Anyhoo, this review is mostly aimed at budget travelers. The Moon guide is quite good in IMHO. Some things are annoying. The writer often doesn't tell you how long the travel times are on the bus. But you can look this up on the internet.
The main thing about the guide book is that the prices are out of date. At least in the budget recommendations. Forget $20 single rooms. They're going for at least $30 and often more in most places.
Costa Rica has gotten more expensive. Some of it I don't understand. A whopper combo at Burger King here is $7. I know you can eat local but a casado (rice, beans, salad, protein) is $5 in most places.
It's a good idea to stay at place with a kitchen. Processed products are not cheap and neither are the meats and fish. The local produce is still a bargain. You can eat tomatoes, avocados, mangos and melons for half the price in the US or less.
Bring soap, toothpaste, floss, etc with you. None of that is cheap here.
Frankly, Costa Rica isn't much of a budget destination anymore IMHO. It's pretty much like the States now in terms of price.
If you are a backpacker and don't mind sleeping in tents in dorms you can still get away with $8-$10.
Parks now charge Americans $10 to get in which is ridiculous. I know it all goes for conservation but in Florida (where I am from) park fees range from $2 to $5. And they have way more ammenities, staff and upkeep.
It is a beautiful country with stunning flora, fauna and landscapes.
I found the Moon guide to be quite useful. I found some good places to stay thanks to the book.
A good purchase IMHO.
A few caveats for tourists. ATM machines in Costa Rica generally charge $5 for a transaction. They also charge $5 to check your balance. Don't freak if you can't draw money on a machine. Try another one. For whatever reason some of them don't work even when they're from the same bank.