Pauline Frommer's Costa Rica Paperback – Oct 22 2007
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From the Back Cover
"Full of good tips andsuggestions."
"Packed with information onhow to eat and sleep withoutdepleting your bank account."
Spend Less and See More in Costa Rica
Are you ready to travel smart?
If you'd like to get the most out of your dollar and your trip, this is the guide for you. I put a fresh spin on budget travel, showing you how to see the best for less and how to see it in a more authentic way—the way locals do.
Instead of spending $300 a night for a chain hotel, why not rent a brand-new, three-bedroom house near the beach in Jaco for just $130 a night, or bed down in a rustic but cozy B&B in Tortuguero for just $30 a night?
I'll take you on self-guided treks up dormant volcanoes and through rain forests so that you can save enough to splurge on the best ziplines in Costa Rica (we rate 'em all), conquer the rapids on a whitewater rafting tour, or learn how to surf from a master.
Let me show you the "other" Costa Rica—the one only insiders know about. Tour a local artist's studio in San Jose or volunteer with the ANAI in Puerto Viejo to monitor the hatching process of sea turtles. These are only a few of the great ways to get closer to the culture of Costa Rica. Read on for more!
Winner of Best Guidebook, North American Travel Journalists Association
About the Author
Currently based in Miami, “Latino by adoption” David Appell is the former editor of Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and Caribbean Travel & Life; co-author of Access Gay USA; and has written for lots of other publications including National Geographic Traveler, Travel+Leisure, The International Herald Tribune, Spain’s El País, GQ, Men’s Fitness, and Out. Dave’s an alum of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and apart from Spanish, gets by in a half-dozen other foreign languages. In fact, these days he’s also the publisher and author of the internationally successful Hot!Spanish and related series of foreign-language phrasebooks devoted to love, dating, and the sundry naughtiness likely to ensue there from (www.HotBabel.com).
Pauline Frommer started traveling before she could speak, seeing the world at a young age with her guidebook writing parents Arthur Frommer and Hope Arthur. She went into the “family biz” over a decade ago, serving first as the editor of Frommers.com and then the travel section of MSNBC.com. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including Budget Travel, the Dallas Morning News, Marie Claire and the upcoming book The Experts Guide to Babies. In 2006, Pauline Frommer’s New York City won “Best Guidebook of the Year” from the North American Travel Journalism Association. In 1999, she was awarded a Lowell Thomas Medal from the Society of American Travel Writers for her magazine work. She currently appears every Wednesday night on CNN’s Headline News to discuss the latest travel trends. Pauline is married to physical therapist Mahlon Stewart and the mother of two very welltraveled daughters, Beatrix (age 4) and Veronica (age 8).
A former editor at Travel + Leisure, Nelson Mui has written on a variety of topics for publications such as the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal and San Francisco. A native of Hong Kong who’s lived in Europe and South America, Nelson inherited the travel gene from his mother, an overseas Chinese who grew up in colonial Hanoi, speaks four languages, and packs a bag at the slightest provocation. He finds comfort in the fact that virtually everywhere in the world he’s visited—including the remotest parts of Costa Rica—there’s a Chinese restaurant nearby where he can gather intelligence in his mother tongue.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It excels in recommending excellent beaches, beach towns, restaurants and hotels but is lacking in maps and discussion on travel logistics - i.e. how long it will take to drive from town X to town Y on the dirt road, etc.
Here's where it shines and is worth purchasing. On three occasions it guided us to sights (a secluded hard-to-reach pink sand beach, a beautiful beach town, and a wonderfully authentic restaurant (where there was no menu but 2 huge plates of food, 2 sodas, and 2 dessert pan dulces all came to under $9)) that made our vacation really special and were either totally left out of the other guidebook or not emphasized sufficiently to warrant exploration. This is a mark of a great guidebook and allowed me to feel confident that the authors, David Appell and Nelson Mui, knew what they were talking about and recommend great stuff! We also like the author's laid back and relaxed, but realistic attitude. We only traveled to areas covered by 3 chapters of the book so I can only imagine the other gems recommended in other parts of the country.
This guidebook can definitely work alone, but I simply like to have more details about transportation - especially maps. The next version should include more. Also, as a young man I almost did not purchase this book simply because Pauline's picture is displayed prominently all around. It looks like it's targeted to my mom's demographic, which it may be, but if its trying to be a new series of guidebooks aimed at allowing the traveler to "see more" and "spend less" it could appear more contemporary and less like a book for ladies.
My only gripe with the book is that the prices were off by 25-100% even though we traveled in the same year the book was published. For example, the butterfly exhibit in Monte Verde is quoted at $8 per peron, and it is actually $10 per person. A Pizza Parlor in La Fortuna recommended for its $5 pizzas actually charges $10.50 for its cheapest pizza. At first I thought this might be an exchange rate issue (after all the dollar is doing poorly this year), but the book quoted the exchange rate at approximately 470 Colons to the Dollar and when we arrived it was 540 Colons to the Dollar. Then I thought maybe this was a problem with world food prices rising (yada-yada-yada). So I did a study of a single item : Imperial Beer. According to the book, Imperial Beer costs 60 cents in bars and "up to $2 in Better Hotels". We paid between $1.25 and $4 for an Imperial (mostly around $2). So, was it the excahnge rate or World Food Prices?.... neither. I went into two super markets, one in Monte Verde and one in San Jose . Both were charging 90 cents FOR A SIX PACK. So in Costa Rica places recommended in the book, they have doubled the price of beer since the book went to press and raised admission fees 25%. Whether this is a result of being included in the book or a sudden country-wide realization that Americans will pay this much, I don't know, but I would not plan a budget using this book as a guide. (Prices in San Jose were closer to the quoted prices than in the other areas).
I took two other books with me that accompanied this book well. One was Moon Costa Rica (Moon Handbooks)which has MUCH deeper information on the history and culture and politics of Costa Rica (you can buy a used copy that is a couple of years old CHEAP on Amazon and you won't miss anything if you stick to the opening and closing sections). The other was The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. Unless you plan to just get hammered and lay on the beach for a week, you have to bring this book and a pair of binoculars. They have the most increadible birds down there and many places put out fruit scraps so that these amazing creatures come to join you for breakfast!
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.