Introducing San Jose

San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, is a bustling city nestled inside a tropical paradise. It sits in the Central Valley region with the Talamanca Mountains to the south and volcanoes to the north. It is surrounded by stunning, untouched cloud forests.

Founded in 1737, San Jose today is a sprawling metropolis. Costa Rica’s largest city, it is considered to be among the most cosmopolitan cities in Latin America. Here, you can find excellent range of accommodations, quality museums, inviting bars, diverse international restaurants fitting every budget, shopping centers, colorful markets and a fast paced night life.

The city is distinguished by its Spanish colonial buildings, like the ornate, neoclassical National Theatre overlooking downtown’s Plaza de la Cultura, a popular gathering spot.

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Plaza de la Cultura –

Popular public square in downtown San Jose with a fountain & some greenery sitting atop the Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold.

Museos Banko Central de Costa Ricawww.museosdelbancocentral.org/en

Located under the Plaza de la Cultura. Includes Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold. A small art museum with extensive collection of Costa Rica’s Colombian gold and other Pre-Columbian artifacts.

Teatro National Costa Rica – https://teatronacional.go.cr/

The National Theatre which anchors one side of the Plaza de la Cultura, opened to the public in 1897. Coffee earnings and taxes derived from these profits, helped finance the theatre. The building is considered the finest historic building in the capital. Offers high quality performances by orchestras, operas, ballet, and other musical performances.

National Craft Market –

Huge covered market located in a square in the San Jose’s historic district near the National Museum of Costa Rica.

Museum National de Costa Ricawww.museocostarica.go.cr

The Costa Rican National Museum which sits on top of the Plaza de la Democraticia, is located inside the old Bellavisa Fortress. The museum features artifacts and history of Costa Rica related to Pre-Columbian art up to the present time. The Fortress, an ochre-colored building which was built in 1917, was originally a military barracks. It was converted to a museum following the 1948 civil war.

Jade Museumwww.museodeljadeins.com

Located opposite the Museum National de Costa Rica. One of the largest collection of American jade in the world.

Tortuga Island Day Excursion

Our dental tourism adventure in April, 2018, started with those in our group doing dental work being invited on a day excursion to beautiful Tortuga Island, courtesy of Meza Dental Care.

A two-hour tour bus ride from San Jose with other tourists who had been picked up at hotels around the city, brought us to Puentarenas, a port town of Costa Rica on the Pacific coast. Puntarenas was once Costa Rica’s prosperous, coffee-exporting gateway to the Pacific and one of the most important seaports in the country. Today it is a commercial fishing port, a terminal for ferries and a docking station for cruise ships.

On arrival in Puentarenas we all boarded a vessel for a scenic two hour boat ride across the Gulf of Nicoya to the tropical paradise of Tortuga Island.  Dark muddy waters gradually changed to sparkling turquoise waters as we passed many small, rock islands near Tortuga.

Tortuga Island, or Turtle Island, is one of two islands that make up the Islas Negritos Biological Reserve off the Nicoya Peninsula. The volcanic reef surrounding the island is home to diverse wildlife making it great for snorkeling or diving. Several of us joined a snorkeling tour to a nearby island soon after arrival. We chased small tropical fish, but no live coral was to be found.

The tropical atmosphere on Tortuga Island was intoxicating. We walked the hot sandy beach and cooled off in the inviting, clear waters. We danced in the white sand to the lively rhythm of a Caribbean musical group. A nice buffet was served up to hungry guests. Some relaxed in lounge chairs under the shade of palm trees. We bought colorful sarongs which were waiving in the gentle breeze at the beach shop.

Jean and Anne ate fresh oysters on the beach which were caught by a local fisherman who had pulled his small boat up on the beach. Much to our delight, in one oyster he found a tiny pearl and in another a live baby lobster.

Merrilee hiked in the surrounding hills taking in sweeping views of the picturesque bay where our boat was moored for the afternoon. While returning to the mainland late that afternoon, we listened to more live music and snacked on fresh tropical fruit.

The following morning the three of us women who were having dental work done, Anne, Jean and Merrilee, made our way to Meza Dental Care clinic. What followed was an interesting and productive week of dental work interspersed with a few fun-filled days in Costa Rica’s mountains.

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Thank you to the staff at Meza Dental Care for your hospitality, professionalism, and quality dental care you gave our group in 2018.

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Bario Amon, San Jose

 

 

 

 

Bario Amon is a historic neighborhood adjacent to downtown San Juan which is home to a cluster of coffee grower mansions constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In recent years, many of the area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants and offices

It is one the richest and finest architectural complexes of the capital. The neighborhood was founded in 1890 by the coffee-grower businessman Amón Fasileau-Duplantier.

Bario Amon is in close proximity to Meza Dental, one of the dentists we recommend for our dental tourism participants

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Our recommendations of hotels & restaurants in Bario Amon

 

Hotel Don Carlos & Cafe Amon

Boutique downtown hotel with charming restaurant called Cafe Amon

Hotel is decorated with a colorful array of fine art of Costa Rica

www.doncarloshotel.com/

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Hotel Dunn Inn & Restaurant Alma de Amon

Boutique downtown hotel.

Charming restaurant has an excellent variety of Latin American food

http://www.hoteldunninn.com/facilities/

www.facebook.com/AlmadeAmon/

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Day Tripping from San Jose – Part 1I

Alajuela

Alajuela is a large, busy town near the Juan Santamaria International Airport. It has a lovely main square with fountain and dynamic central market.

It is not a tourist destination but good to know about because of its close proximity to the international airport and its colonial past that is present in its historic colonial buildings which are scattered around the center of town. There are nice walking streets downtown which are great for people watching and shopping. The inviting covered market rivals that of Grecia and other towns in the area.

Costa Rica’s second largest city in terms of size, Alajuela lies 20 kilometers northwest of San Jose in the beautiful Central Valley. There are many outstanding therapeutic spa hotels and resorts in and around Alajuela City.

Founded in 1637, Alajuela played an important part in Costa Rica’s history. It was an active supporter of independence from Spain and a colonial administrative center for nearby coffee plantations.

 

 

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Heredia

The small, quaint Heredia city is located a few kilometers from San Jose in central Costa Rica midst vast coffee plantations and lush greenery. Founded in 1705, it was the former coffee capitol of Costa Rica. It is now home to the country’s National university. It is nicknamed “City of Flowers”, due to the many beautiful gardens and flora found around there.

The main attraction of Heredia is its beautiful colonial architecture that can be seen all over town. In the heart of the city, surrounding the main square, is Heredia’s historic church built in 1796.

 

 

 

 

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http://www.govisitcostarica.com/regions.asp

Day Tripping from San Jose – Part 1

Sarchi

The town of Sarchi, which is about 15 minutes northwest of Alajuela City, is known throughout Costa Rica for its beautiful and intricate arts and crafts and souvenirs. It is perhaps most widely recognized for its colorful and decorative oxcarts that have been made here for over a century and sold all over the country.

The oxcart plays a key role in the country’s history. They were used to transport coffee beans and other goods to markets and ports. Starting in 1840’s most of the rural roads were very rough making the oxcart the sole means of transportation for families.

 

 

 

 

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Grecia

This quaint little farming community is a jewel of the central valley of Costa Rica. It is 20 minutes north of Alajuela city and offers dramatic scenery. The leafy green main square, anchored by the metal church, Catedral de la Mercedes, is inviting. The large covered marketplace is a gem overflowing with fresh tropical fruits, good bakeries, meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and good prepared food in traditional small sodas. The area offers a butterfly arena and a regional museum.

 

 

 

 

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Poas Volcano

Poas Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s largest and most active volcanoes and one of the largest volcanoes in the world. It stands at a height of 8885 feet. The crater of Poas Volcano is over a mile across and 1050 feet deep. The last eruption was in April, 2017.

It is located one and a half hours north of San Jose in the Poas Volcano National Park. There are well-paved roads to the volcano. One of the easiest and most accessible spots to see cloud forest around San Jose.

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http://www.govisitcostarica.com/regions.asp

Puerto Viejo, a Charming Resort Town on the Caribbean Coast

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, known simply as Puerto Viejo, is a charming, laid back coastal town in southeastern Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast. A popular tourist destination with wide open beaches, it is a mixture of a modern beach town and isolated indigenous habitat. The town is known in the surfing community for the biggest and most powerful wave in Costa Rica, known as Salsa Brava. This area was historically English with Puerto Viejo known as ‘The Old Harbor.”

Bicycles are the “de riguer” way of cruising around town and to nearby beaches. Horse back riding along beach trails is a highlight. There is a good selection of international restaurants. Accommodations, restaurants, cafes and bars cater to every budget.

In addition to Ticos (native Costa Ricans), there are a substantial amount of Costa Ricans of Jamaican descent. This is a result of the Costa Rican Caribbean’s history with cheap labor. There is a huge smattering of *expats mainly from USA, Europe, South America and Canada. The outskirts of town and the mounntains are home to the Bribri Indians.

The nearby Gandoca-Mananillo National Wildllife Refuge has rainforest, wetlands and mangroves. The howler monkey is native to the region.

Getting to and from Puerto Viejo – public bus, shared ride van shuttles, and private transfers. For detailed information about these options visit the following link: www.puertoviejosatellite.com/transport-to-puerto-viejo.php

www.puertoviejosatellite.com/about.php

* Short for expatriate. An expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than their native country.

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La Fortuna de San Carlos Recommendations

ACCOMMODATION RECOMMENDATIONS

Hotel/bungalow accommodations slightly out of town

Montana de Fuego, La Fortuna (overlooking Arenal Volcano)

www.montanadefuego.com

Charming bungalows; nice restaurant. Lovely setting with swimming pools of different temperatures (not natural hot springs) and fabulous views of the volcano. Reasonably priced. Located about 5 kilometers outside of La Fortuna on road to volcano.

Hotel Linda Vista (located on the back side of Arenal Volcano)

www.HotelLindaVista.com

Lovely boutique” hotel located in isolated community off dirt road with dramatic views of lake and volcano. About a half hour drive from La Fortuna.

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Budget accommodations in town

Arenal Backpackers Resort luxury downtown hostel/hotel

www.ArenalBackpackersResort.com

Dorms, private rooms, and pools tucked away in a leafy environment.

 

 

 

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OTHER IN-TOWN RECOMMENDATIONS

Day Spa Herrera – Top rated by Trip Advisor for sweedish massage & facials

https://dayspaherrera.weebly.com

Arenal ExpeditionsRecommended by Trip Advisor

www.arenalexpeditions.com

Restaurant Nanku

http://www.restaurantenanku.net/en

Great food, thatched roof, open air feeling

 

 

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GETTING TO LA FORTUNA via TOURIST TRANSPORT

Interbus Costa Rica  – http://www.interbusonline.com/la-fortuna-de-san-carlos-ing

Costa Rica’s tourist transport network; private transport service hotel to hotel throughout Costa Rica.

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La Fortuna de San Carlos , A picturesque resort town

La Fortuna de San Carlos is a picturesque town at the foot of dramatic Arenal Volcano, both of which are main tourist destinations in Costa Rica. The town and surrounding area offer a wide variety of hotels, charming restaurants, eclectic shopping, and a wide range of outdoor activities. The area is a three hour drive from San Jose.

La Fortuna was founded in the mid 1930s by settlers that came from various parts of the region. In 1968, Arenal Volcano violently erupted and buried several nearby villages. La Fortuna survived the eruption and became the central town in the Arenal Volcano area. The volcano has been the country’s most active volcano for the past 43 years.

Activities in the La Fortuna and Arenal area which can be enjoyed include spas and hot springs, horseback riding, white water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, waterfall rappelling, hiking, canopy tours, and boat tours.

www.FortunaWelcome.com

www.arenal.net/arenal-volcano-overview

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Spas & Hot Springs in La Fortuna area

Throughout La Fortuna there are several natural hot springs with temperatures ranging from 30° to 50° Celsius, which emanate from the depths of the volcano through rivers located in the earth’s crust. Arenal Volcano naturally heats the water of many, such as Tabacon River, Eco Termales Hot Springs, and hot springs located on hotel properties. Resort spas surround the volcano. Free hot springs abound in the area. Locals will take you there.

Following are a few popular hot springs resorts which are located just outside of town overlooking Volcan Arunal.

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resortwww.tabacon.com

Eco Termales Fortuna www.ecotermalesfortuna.cr

Baldi Hot Springs Resort Hotel and Spawww.baldihotsprings.cr

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Waterfalls in the area

La Catarata de la Fortuna www.cataratalafortuna.com/en

A 70 meters high waterfall which is reachable by following a path with approximately 530 steps. It is located in an ecological reserve, about a 15 minute drive from town.

Rio Celeste waterfalls www.arenalexpeditions.com/rio-celeste-tour-costa-rica

The Celeste River, notable for its distinctive turquoise color, is in Tenorio Volcano National Park. The park is about a one and a half hour drive from La Fortuna.

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*See our posting in this blog with a list of recommended accommodations, spas and tour operators in La Fortuna de San Carlos.

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FAQ’s

When do Dental Tourism events take place?

Usually around the first week of April

Why is the organization a not-for-profit?

Because of a personal commitment to friends and acquaintances who join us to share a special adventure together and at the same time get some quality dental work done at a price considerably less than what they would pay for the same dental work in the USA.

To give something back to the country we are taking from. We have identified a couple of organizations relating to the indigenous population which we want to support.

What services are offered to guests who come on these trips?

Assistance in advance with booking flights, accommodations, and finding a good dentist

Food at accommodations of choice on arrival (for a fee)

Food shopping (for a fee)

Transportation for excursions not offered by dental clinic (for a fee)

Packing list

What are my obligations to do in advance?

Book flight

Book accommodations

Interview and decide on a dentist

What expectations should I have?

Alone time as needed

Warm, friendly atmosphere with caring friends

WIFI

Quality dental care in state of the art surroundings at half the price of the same in the USA

What are the qualifications for someone to be a participant on one of your trips?

– One of a party of two must be having some dental work done

– If a person having dental work done wants to bring a guest, the guest must be committed to our mission

– All participants must be over 18 years of age

– Participants should be friendly, independent-minded people

– Previous overseas travel experience is helpful

– Spanish speaking not necessary, but helpful

What is the maximum size of our group?

Ten persons

How many persons in our group will be doing dental work?

Minimum of 50% of participants will be having dental work done.

Am I allowed to bring a guest if I am going for dental work?

Yes, each person doing dental work is welcome to bring one guest who is or is not planning on having dental work done. All participants must be committed to our mission statement.

What will my out of pocket expenses be while on this trip?

Food

Dental work

Transportation

Accommodations

Day and multi-day excursions with or without our group

Is there an interview process to go on a trip with your organization?

Yes, anyone who is serious about joining us is invited to sit with an organizer on a one on one basis and discuss details. A final interview will take place before acceptance.

Is there an application?

Yes. Supplied by organizer on request

How are accommodations chosen?

We get together with applicants at some point to help them choose accommodations. We discuss shared and/or private accommodations – whatever the applicant wants.

Accommodations can be chosen online. Airbnb is recommended. There are hotels we have researched and recommend. Important the accommodations chosen are in good proximity to dentist of your choice.

How does transportation work getting to and from dental clinic of my choice?

If staying within a designated area of the dentist you choose, free pick-up and drop off at accommodations is provided by dentist. If staying outside designated area, transportation needs to be arranged.

How does transportation work for our group for one day and multi-day excursions?

We have private tour operators we work with. Public transportation is readily available.

How do I choose a dentist?

We have made a list of the top three dentists we recommend in this blog. We have done thorough research to come up with these three.

Search “google” for “dental tourism Costa Rica” to find more.

See our “favorite links” tab in this blog for more ideas.