Over the past week or so Shaun and I have been travelling in La Fortuna, and Monteverde, some of the busiest tourist towns in all of Costa Rica.
These areas have lots of sights to see, but all of the attractions are pretty spread out. When you add up transportation costs, park entrance fees, and guides, the cheapest way to see everything you want to see is by booking a tour.
We put on our tourist hats and dove into the world of tours, and tour companies. Throughout our week we went on some amazing tours, and went on some real stinkers.
Here are a couple tips we’ve picked up along the way to help make your tour experiences a level 10.
5 Tips for Booking Tours in Costa Rica.
1- Shop Around: The amount of tour companies in tourist towns such as Monteverde, and La Fortuna can be very overwhelming. There are people calling out to you on every street corner trying to sell you a tour. Your own hotel will likely be trying to do the same thing.
In some towns we visit, we find that everyone offers the same tours, at the same prices, yet here in La Fortuna, we noticed big differences in many of the tours costs. So before you commit, just take a look around. If you are on a budget, shop around to the various tour company’s, talk to them, and don’t be afraid to barter. Some companies are jacking up their prices, hoping that tourists will just commit without doing their research.
2-Don’t Sacrifice Safety For Price: Although finding a good deal is important, safety should always come first. It may be tempting to save some money by booking the cheap white-water rafting tour with the guy on the side of the road whose “buddy” has a boat, but don’t sacrifice your safety for a bargain. Adventures are called adventures for a reason, they often involve some risk. Make sure that your guides have the proper training, and insurance to keep you safe, and protected.
3-Do Your Homework: As much as we’d like to do all the tours, the costs can really add up. So, take the time to figure out what your priorities are. Read the guidebooks, check Trip Advisor, and ask around to find out what things you really want to see, and what you can pass on. I recently graciously passed on the opportunity to take a tour to some snake and bat exhibits. Such a sacrifice I know.
4-Make Sure The Tour is Right For You: Have you had both knees replaced? An intense four hour hike might not be for you. Have a crippling fear of water? White-water rafting might not be your bag. We all have limitations, and as much as we want to experience everything, sometimes we can’t. A reputable tour company will be honest about what a tour entails, and it is in your best interest to listen. I’m speaking from experience on this one, I recently took La Fortuna’s second most difficult hike with a four year old in the group. *sigh*
5- Invest in a Quality Experience: Imagine waiting your entire life to tour the Arenal Volcano, just to have your guide pick you up in an old dented van, and have him only speak a couple words of English. Or finally getting to see the Cloud Forst of Monteverde, only to have your guide read from a guidebook the whole time.
The best tours we’ve had have been from reputable, long tenured companies. You may not get the screaming deal you’ll find from the guy on the side of the road, but you are going to end up with a higher degree of safety, and quality and ultimately end up with a more memorable experience.
So there you have it, a couple tips on booking tours while in Costa Rica. I have so many great recaps coming your way about all the adventures we’ve had over the last week or so. Stay Tuned!
Do you have any tips for booking tours?
Safety for sure is important and shouldn’t be compromised. We took a zip lining tour in Monteverde and imagine if any of the equipment had problem. I don’t even want to think about it. And most of the guides in that tour spoke English perfectly, so we were joking and laughing and more importantly, there was no miscommunication when instructions were given out.
We just finished our zip line tour, and I felt the exact same way. It’s a pretty dangerous situation, and being able to understand what is going on around you makes it easier to relax, stay safe, and most importantly have FUN!
We a did a good handful of tours here in Maui. We decided to book through Expedia for our land tours and the not for profit Profit Pacific Whale Foundation for our water ones. We paid a bit more but felt more comfortable going that route. Also with discounted tours, the advertised “discounted price” often involves a time share presentation. Some may be into that but it was definitely not on our list of ways to spend our days on our precious vacation time 🙂
Totally! It’s worth doing your research beforehand, especially when you are on a time crunch. Can’t wait to hear all about it!
We booked a 4 hour jungle walking tour of Manuel Antonio park through the booking agent at our hotel. On the bus down to the park, the guide spoke to the group about what to expect etc. He also asked everyone on the bus what they hoped to see in the park. I enthusiastically said “birds”! Our guide assured us we would try to see all the things people wanted to see. At the end of the tour I asked him why we hadn’t seen any birds at all. Only then did he reveal that there really aren’t any birds in the park because the monkeys have driven them all out! I felt ripped off.
That sounds like something they should have told you at the start. At least there are lots of monkeys to keep your camera entertained. Wait till you see the post about about the birds I saw in the Cloud Forest! Should be up next week sometime!