My friend and I just returned from a week-long trip to Costa Rica, with this book as our only guide. Normally, I use the Lonely Planet series, but I really wanted to give this book a try -- Pauline Frommer seems to embrace authentic, independent travel that I and other Lonely Planet readers enjoy, but I had read somewhere that Latin America wasn't LP's strength, so I was hoping to find a better source and gave this one a chance. Boy, do I regret it!
Let me preface this by saying that there were only TWO incidents that I felt betrayed by the information in this guide. It may seem harsh to dismiss a 400+ page book with only two pieces of information, but the errors were MAJOR and cost us money. I agree with a previous reviewer that prices seemed quite a bit higher now than reported in the book. However, I cut her some slack because a publication date of 2008 means that the research was probably done in 2007, so the data is about 3 years old. But like the previous reviewer, I found rates to be much higher than quoted in the book: one-way bus fare from San Jose to San Isidro quoted as $2.75 when it was actually $5. The schedule had also changed. She did not provide any information on where I might find the latest schedule online, which would have been useful (Google searches yielded nothing comprehensive, so perhaps there is no reliable source). Our local bus ride from San Jose to San Isidro was to connect to Dominical, our destination. She states that we can connect to another bus in San Isidro... but FAILS to mention a CRITICAL fact that the bus station that you arrive in San Isidro is NOT the same bus station as the one that departs San Isidro for Dominical. There are no maps in the book to help you -- if there were, we could have used it to communicate with the locals to get us in the correct direction. We had to ask 6 people for directions to Transportes Blanco, in our broken Spanish, dragging our backpacks and luggage on bumpy sidewalks, in humid, 90+ degree weather. When we finally found the second bus station, the schedule printed in the book was no longer valid, and we sat for 3 hours in the open air bus station for the next bus. But this is the nature of independent travel, I said to my travel companion... She was miserable in the heat, and I felt badly that I chose this book.
After arriving in Dominical, we found the lodging prices had gone up dramatically... which I expected. We enjoyed a few days in this town before deciding to head up to Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica's most visited national park. Our dive shop staff said that he thinks Manuel Antonio is closed on Monday, but perhaps it had changed. Oh no, I said, my book says that it's open daily, from 7am to 4pm! I added, I know that this park is very popular with locals also, so we're going on Monday to avoid the weekend crowd. his is why we buy guide books, so we can do research ahead of time, instead of just show up like some backpackers do. We took a $5 bus to Quepos, spent more on a guest house than we did anywhere else, and set our alarms to wake up at 6am to hit the park right as it opened. After taking a local bus to Manuel Antonio, we found that the park is CLOSED on Mondays. It has been closed on Mondays for as long as anyone can remember. So why would this guide say, in more than one place, that the single most visited national park is OPEN DAILY when it's not!? Our flight back to the U.S. was on Tuesday, so my friend missed the treasures of Manuel Antonio completely (I visited in 2003 on my first trip to Costa Rica). We were very unhappy. To add insult to injury, we got swindled on our bus ticket from Manuel Antonio to San Jose -- what should have been a $4 fare was quoted to me as $15, but because all the other prices in the book were wrong, I didn't think much of it and paid the fare. It seems that the "official" ticket agent pocketed the $22 difference on the two tickets. Again, this is not the author's fault, but had we known that Manuel Antonio National Park was closed on Monday, we wouldn't have gone there at all. The book's error cost us a day and half that we could have spent surfing and scuba diving, and over $50 in unnecessary transportation.
I will never buy a Pauline Frommer guide again, and stick with the trusty Lonely Planet series. Not only does Lonely Planet provide publisher updates online, users can also report changes/errors/omissions. Also, they have many, many street maps in their books, which Pauline Frommer's guide does not. If you are an independent traveler looking for a single book to use as your primary source of information, I would not recommend this book.