The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel.com’s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
Salina writes, “A friend and I would love to do some adventure travel to several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, next April or June (we only have one week off in April, but will be off from work after June 12th onwards). We’re both the active type. We’re looking for reasonably priced tours/packages. Any suggestions? Thank you very much in advance.”
With a literal walk in the clouds, canopy tours, scuba diving, and volcano treks, I think Costa Rica is a great jumping off point for your big adventure. Plus, your dates allow you to choose between the dry season in April, which tends to be more crowded and expensive, and the rainy season in June, where you might save a little cash. Read more about the country’s seasonality in our travel guide.
Let’s do a bit of comparison shopping based on seasonality. Since you have only one week in April, we’ll compare what you can do in that time for the same price of what you can do in June over a longer period of time. To start, I found round-trip airfare from New York City to San Jose in April starting at $362 (with taxes and fees) per person. Airfare in June is $375 per person, so you really won’t save on travel either way based on the dates I’m seeing right now.
As for packages, you can choose from a wide range of tour operators, resorts, and activities. For instance, Bill Beard’s Costa Rica offers an eight-day package starting at $1,245 per person in April, which includes five nights in an all-inclusive boutique hotel on the beach, one night in a “volcano lodge”, one night in a San Jose hotel, transportation, treetop canopy tour, a visit to the hot springs, and canyoning. The same tour is available in June, and costs $1,191.
However, with the extra time you can spend in June, you could book a 10-day Costa Rica adventure with Caravan Tours starting at $995. This tour includes all lodging, meals, transportation, and excursions such as an aerial tram tour, cloud forest hike, canal cruise, and a visit to a coffee plantation.
If you want to venture outside of Costa Rica (and don’t mind spending a bit extra), you can always add a five-day getaway in Panama (a.k.a. the “new” Costa Rica) starting at $681 per person. It includes transportation, accommodations, some meals, and tours. You will have to pay for your own one-way flight from San Jose to Panama City, which costs about $207 (with taxes and fees) per person in June. Plus, you’ll have to factor in your return flight to New York City from Panama, which I priced at $275. (In this example, you’d probably want to book an open-jaw flight that arrives in San Jose, Costa Rica, and returns to the U.S. from Panama City, Panama.)
Don’t get too discouraged, however, as there is always a way to save! Latin Destinations offers a 14-day Panama and Costa Rica package that starts at $1,716 per person, and includes airfare from New York City, accommodations, and flights between countries. You will have to pay extra for activities, but you may still be able to go cheaper than the a-la-carte price. Plus, it takes the hassle out of booking your own flights.
I could continue to compare packages until carpal tunnel sets in, but the truth is it pays to know what you really want to get out of your trip. For instance, several of the companies I mentioned offer packages tailored to those who want to relax on a beach, get in touch with nature, be adventurous, explore history, or experience the local culture. Your best bet is to decide what type of vacation you want, and then refine your search based on that criterion.
I wish you all the best in your search, and I would love to hear what you decide to do.
As for my other readers, I ask you to share any and all tips you have on Latin America tours, destinations, or activities. Plus, don’t be shy about submitting questions.
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