Costa Rica

The ultimate caravan.com review part 1

is caravan.com worth my money?

Hola readers! For the next few weeks I am going to break down our trip in Costa Rica into smaller parts. Last week I did a review of Caravan.com (the tour operator). This week and the next few is a review of the trip itself. I am hoping to give you a sense of what to expect while on the tour. I am breaking up the tour into legs (day 1-2 was San Jose = leg 1) (day 3-4 was La Fortuna = leg 2) (days 5+6 = leg 3 Guanacaste) (day 7-8 = leg 4 Manuel Antonio) (finally leg 5 = back in San Jose) I think it is safe to say: This is the ultimate Caravan.com review

  

Last weeks review

This week I am covering leg 1, which is San José and the Barceló hotel, but I will cover how we got there too, for continuity sake. The tour company provides shuttle service free of charge to the hotel from the airport, if you want to fly in and not have to deal with arranging it yourself. We decided we wanted to see San Jose on our own and relax a bit before the trip started, so technically, day 1 and 2 of the tour was actually 2 & 3 of the trip, and day 1 was getting there.

This post is journal style, but I think it will give you an idea of what to expect. I will add relevant information and tips along the way.

I know I’m not the only caravan.com review, but I think I have the most extensive review. So I think it is safe to say: this is the ultimate Caravan.com review.

Day 1, getting to San Jose

This is the ultimate caravan.com review
Miami airport

As I mentioned earlier, we wanted to see San José for a day, or just lounge at the hotel, before we started. We didn’t plan too much, we were just going to wing it once we got to San José. That was the plan anyway. We soon discovered that the airline threw a wrench into our plans, so this may be something to account for if you decide to go. Our flight consisted of flying from Calgary, with a 2 hour layover in Miami before reaching San José. This left ample time between flights for us to find our gate etc.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with the connecting flight, I believe was a mechanical issue, which canceled the flight that day. This meant we had to stay overnight in Miami and be re-booked on the flight the next day. I don’t want to knock Miami, but this was not nearly as exciting as our unexpected layover in Iceland (which you can read about in “The Accidental Iceland Trip”). You have to also consider that it was 9pm by the time we got our hotel vouchers and meal vouchers from the airline. When a plane is delayed and it is the airlines fault, they have to provide at least alternate accommodations, meals and alternate flight arrangements. We are not night party people so we opted to retire to our hotel and use our 1 $12 voucher each towards breakfast.

Will Caravan.com be worth my money?
Out the airplane window just outside San Jose

With airline competition as high as it is, airlines continue to cut corners, so delays and missed connections are becoming more common. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can make you aware. Trip insurance may not be a bad idea.

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This is the ultimate caravan.com review

Day 2 of the trip, and the tours Day 1

This is the ultimate caravan.com review
The view from our room at the Barcelo

The airline booked us at the Holiday Inn Express near the airport. For the short time we stayed it seemed to suit us just fine. The beds were comfy, and the room was clean, and with the windows shut, you could barely hear the airport. If I had to stay there again, I wouldn’t argue. The only challenge was the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, which seemed to take forever to pick us up. I think the other hotel shuttles came 3 or 4 times each before ours came.

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This is “Ben Afflack” (Yes I am a huge dork) he greeted us outside of our hotel in Miami @5am

We had arranged a room with the Barceló, which came with its own shuttle service, apart from Caravan’s. Understandably, we had to cancel, I knew we wouldn’t get our money back for the room because we cancelled with such short notice. I am of the belief that what goes around comes around, so I didn’t want staff to be wondering where we were, and a shuttle bus to be expecting us in San José. We communicated via email, as we don’t have international roaming on our phones. The communication with the Barceló by email was great though, they handled the situation well. The Barceló even helped us arrange the shuttle with Caravan, now that we were coming on the same day as the tour. Communication with Caravan was professional and timely as well. It was a little confusing at the airport, but we managed to get our shuttle and we shrugged of the inconvenience the airline caused us. What is the point of letting it ruin our vacation?

This is the ultimate caravan.com review
More views from the Barcelo Hotel

Once at the hotel, we were on our own until dinner. With only a few hours free, we just decided to lounge at our hotel. The Barceló is a beautiful hotel, both inside and out. They have a very nice pool outside with bar service and cabana’s that we took full advantage of. There is a nice garden with a great selection of plants along the outside of the hotel that had plenty of birds to keep me entertained as well. The hotel even comped one of our lunches when we told them our ordeal. The server asked us why we were there, and we told her why and what it took to get there. We didn’t ask for a deal, the hotel just gave it to us. They 100% weren’t obligated, so we were glad for the deal.

This is the ultimate caravan.com review
I used a telephoto lens to take this shot of the Football stadium in San Jose

The rest of the day consisted of an included dinner buffet, and a meet and greet with the other tour guests and Tour Director, along with very helpful information: national park and behavior etiquette, how to behave on the bus, what not to do with wildlife etc. Some people complain about this, but I honestly think it is beneficial to all, whether or not some prince/esses like to be told what not to do.

will caravan.com be worth the money
I believe this is a Poro Tree. These are plentiful in Costa Rica.

This is the ultimate caravan.com review

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Day 3 of the trip 2 of the tour.

You get up pretty early to have breakfast. For me, speaking as a chef for many years, I really appreciated the quality of the food offered. I see complaints about the food in some negative reviews, but I don’t see why. The food offered at the Barceló was very good, and had a very nice variety I thought, and so did Adriane, theGlobeWife (she thinks that name is hilarious).

The Oxcart Factory

On the way to Sarchi was the Metal Cathedral in Grecia (Templo Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes). This was one of my things to consider in my review of Caravan. The bus can’t stop whenever you want it to. This was one thing I really wanted to stop the bus for, but I knew better though. There weren’t very many other times I was disappointed the bus couldn’t stop, but this was one of them. You should at least be able to see it though. How may other cathedrals of the world use metal as a main building material? I can’t think of any others.

This is the ultimate caravan.com review
A man working at the Oxcart Factory
is caravan.com worth it?
Not an oxcart, but a hand-painted wheel barrow, painted oxcart style.
This is the ultimate caravan.com review
These oxcart workers have incredible craftsmanship! He is working on a single panel, but they all have to be painted to match and assembled later.
is caravan.com worth it?
Such lovely colors, and incredible skill!

The first stop after a few hours drive was the Oxcart factory. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the tour. I really appreciated the work that goes into hand painting the carts. Oxcarts are a National Symbol of Costa Rican culture, and a necessity of life before the modern era. To this day, having a painted oxcart displayed on your property is a symbol of prosperity, and that you also haven’t forgotten your roots. I’m glad this was part of the tour. Back in the early 1900’s, oxcarts were primarily used to transport Costa Rica’s number 1 export for a long time: Coffee, which brings us to the next stop on the same day.

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A closeup of some of the tools.
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More oxcarts
is caravan.com worth it
All hand painted!

This is the ultimate caravan.com review

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Doka Coffee Plantation Tour & Butterfly Garden

Coffee was the number 1 export from Costa Rica for a long time. It is now the number 4 export, but that does not diminish the importance of coffee in Costa Rica. It is why I am also glad the plantation was a part of the tour. Coffee is still firmly ingrained in Cost Rican culture, making it an important stop in my opinion. The plantation was in between growing seasons when we visited, but that did not stop the tour from being interesting. You can also buy pretty fantastic coffee after the tour is over, do yourself a favor and buy the good stuff. They let you taste a variety of their offerings. This is a tip I have for you: try all the coffee you think you might buy, putting the exact amount of sugar and cream in each cup, so that you get a much better idea how they taste side by side. For those people who think coffee should best be enjoyed black: I say phooey to them, and drink it how you want when you are at home, truly enjoying it. If you prefer it black then try them all black, just try them all the same way.

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On the way to Doka Plantation
This is the ultimate caravan.com review
Some of the tour group visiting the Doka Plantation
This is the ultimate caravan.com review
Some coffee berries drying in the sun.
This is the ultimate caravan.com review
They are right about their claim. This is an extreme close up of the bag of coffee we bought at the plantation.

This is the ultimate caravan.com review

You then have lunch at the plantation, which I also thought was pretty good. It may not be a nice as the Barceló, but I can appreciate it for what it was: a good meal. After lunch, you have an hour or so to wander around and visit the butterfly garden if you wish. I think it is worth a visit though. The garden is enclosed by a huge net, the butterflies can’t get out but at the same time ensures they are protected. There are a wonderful variety of butterflies in the garden, and even more flowers and plants, none more stunning then the Blue Morpho Butterfly. This amazing butterfly is a brilliant blue and can get up to 15cm wide (or 6 inches for non metric people). To put this into perspective, some birds have smaller wingspans!

The Fabulous Blue Morpho Butterfly. It is almost as big as my hand!

This is the ultimate caravan.com review

Conclusions and salutations

Although day 3 of the tour starts off in San Jose, you depart the hotel in the morning, so join me next time for days 3-4.

I will leave the determination whether this trip is right for you: up to you. I will say this: I recommend this trip to my friends and family, and anyone else who asks. As I said in my review of the operator, I can’t guarantee you will feel the same way as me, but we had a great time.

Thank you for joining me. Please try some of my other library of posts if you enjoyed today’s post. Visit me on Istagram Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Leave a comment if you like what you read. Thanks!

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8 thoughts on “The ultimate caravan.com review part 1

  1. Those oxcarts are painted by HAND! That’s absolutely ridiculous. And amazing. I love coffee, so you had me there. I need to get to Costa Rica pronto. It’s also very interesting that it’s moved to number 4. What’s number 1, I wonder. Travel makes me happy, and I haven’t been able to do much of it lately. Thanks for the share!

    1. Medical devices of all things, by almost 10-1 (2.7 billion verses 300 million $). The tour guide explained that education in Costa Rica is very good, and foreign investment has produced top notch venture capitalism. They really want to shed the poor country stigma, and I think it is slowly working.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

    1. Me too, I really liked the oxcart factory. Definitely one of the highlights of the tour. Thanks for visiting 😀

Any comments are greatly appreciated.