The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, a seven-day car rental, seven nights' accommodations, and breakfast daily, from $639 per person—plus an estimated $210 per person in taxes and fees.
When: May 1-June 30, Sept. 1-Oct. 31, 2008; add $42 in additional car fees for July 1-Aug. 30; $21 for Nov. 1-17.
Gateways: New York City; add $10 for Miami; $106 for L.A.; $160 for Dallas; $190 for Seattle; $220 for Chicago; additional cities available.
The fine print: Additional airport and hotel taxes are about $129 per person. Mandatory CDW insurance and taxes for the car rental are approximately $23 per day (or $80 per person total for the trip). Prices are per person, based on double occupancy; single supplement is $349. Price is for travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday; add $25 each way for travel Friday through Monday. Add lunch and dinner for $40 per person per day. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: June 30, 2008
Contact: Capricorn Leisure Group, 800/426-6544, capricorn.net
Why it's a deal: In a recent Kayak search of Tuesday through Thursday departures in mid-May, the lowest round-trip airfare between New York City and San Jose was $309 (Taca). Economy rooms at the Hotel Costa Verde during the green (or rainy) season are $79 per night; a recent TripAdvisor search showed the Rancho Rio Perlas at about $160 per night at that time. That equals a total price of about $707 per person, without hotel taxes or a rental car. For an additional $61 per person, Capricorn covers the airfare, seven-night stay, and taxes as well as the seven-day car rental—and provides the convenience of one-stop shopping.
Trip details: The Rio Perlas and Costa Verde Adventure package covers round-trip airfare to San Jose on American Airlines; flights are nonstop from Dallas, Miami, and L.A. and via Miami from New York City. (Flights are also available on Taca, US Airways, Delta, and Continental at different prices.) You'll pick up your car from Adobe car rental upon arrival at the airport and drive about four hours to Hotel Costa Verde, near Quepos, your base for the first half of the trip.
Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty and wildlife—think beaches and exotic animals—and at Costa Verde, you'll be close to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can explore the forest and the trails and see native birds, monkeys, and sloths. The hotel has two cliff-side pools, and each room has a balcony, a TV, a kitchenette, and air-conditioning.
After four nights at the Costa Verde, you'll move to the Hotel Rio Perlas Spa and Resort in the Orosi Valley. The Rio Perlas offers massages, and you can bathe in the warm thermal pools. The environment is also an attraction here; Tapantí National Park and Irazú Volcano (the highest in Costa Rica) are close by.
Costa Rica is a developing democratic country, and tourism is a huge industry; each year, about 1.5 million foreign tourists (mostly American) visit. May through November is the green season. Rain usually comes in the afternoons in short bursts and can make driving a challenge.
The included Toyota Yaris rental car will be a great and essential way to get around during your stay. Note that the lowest package rate is based on a manual transmission, which is well suited to Costa Rica's often rugged road conditions. (Upgrade to an automatic for $48.) You can read a firsthand account of a road trip in our story Costa Rica: Paradise By the Dashboard Light.
Remember that theft is common in tourist locations. In 2006, Costa Rican officials established the Tourist Police force, which can help you should a crime occur.
Not ready to head home? You can extend your trip by adding nights at the Rio Perlas for $50 per person per night or at the Costa Verde for $40 per person per night.
For more tips on what to do, visit the country's official tourism site and see the U.S. State Department's travel fact sheet for the country. You can find the latest exchange rate and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.