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Groupon Costa Rica: Don’t Be Fooled By “Deals” Like These

Groupon Costa Rica: Don’t Be Fooled By “Deals” Like These

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on November 6th, 2017.

Update:

The below Groupon Costa Rica vacation package example was spotted online in 2013 and our blog post below was originally written shortly thereafter. However, we continue to see similar Groupon Costa Rica vacation package “deals” offered on Groupon’s website by travel agencies advertising Costa Rica travel, and for this reason the below post remains live on our blog since its focus and purpose remains current. All mention of specific prices below reference 2013 rates, however even when increased to today’s rates, we maintain that the value of many Costa Rica vacation package “deals” spotted online is questionable.

ARE YOU PAYING TOO MUCH FOR YOUR COSTA RICA VACATION?

It’s official, we are way too protective of Costa Rica travellers. We are obsessed with making sure each of you have the most positive travel experience possible in the most cost-efficient manner; so much so that it hurts. How do we know? Because it felt as if a part of our heart had been ripped out of our chest when we came across yet another example of travellers and their pocketbooks getting taken advantage of by corporate travel bullies. As we elude to in our related blog post 5 Red Flags To Look Out For When Buying A Costa Rica Vacation Package, the term “tourist trap” goes beyond the label given to a popular and commercialized tourist destination, and encompasses a wide range of shady practices that have unfortunately become all too common within the travel and tourism industries. Although legal, some companies’ practices have caused us to question the ethics behind their business, especially when the end result of their operation is a blatant disadvantage to a client or customer. Sometimes the line is fine and it is hard to know what is right and wrong. In other cases, the line has been drawn over one hundred times with black permanent marker and we cannot help but shout and wave our arms around to get your attention when it has been crossed. So here we are, in our leotard and cape, hands on our hips and channeling the superpowers within us to stand up for you (and dare we say, truth, justice, and the ethical way?).

GROUPON COSTA RICA: BEWARE OF BAD APPLES IN THE FRUITFUL BUSHEL

The other day we came across the following Groupon Costa Rica vacation package offer:

groupon Costa Rica

First things first, we admit: we love Groupon. We have used the company on numerous occasions to purchase items for ourselves and gifts for others. We love the concept behind the company, and given that we are discount operators extraordinaire at Pura Vida! eh? Inc., we tend to take a liking to most business ventures that share our interest in helping others save money. However, beyond our admiration for Groupon, on more than one occasion we have questioned the Costa Rica vacation packages offered by some travel agencies promoted on the website. In fact, the example shown above nearly made us sick to our stomach.

Before you speed read through the rest of our post in search of the name of the travel agency that offered the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package displayed above, let us confirm that you will not find it. We hardly name names in our blog posts with respect to negative commentary (it is simply not our style or in our character to do so), as our purpose is to assist and inform travellers–not badmouth other companies. Some days it takes a lot of inner strength to not give in and post a list of the companies we have come across that operate (in our opinion) on the other side of the line, but we believe far too much in the power of good to ever do so. Perhaps one day nice guys won’t finish last.

Moving forward, the following are the specific details of the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package we spotted online.

Note:

  • The specific Groupon Costa Rica offer shown above advertised two Costa Rica vacation packages: one for a 6-night vacation and the other for a 7-night vacation. Although both Groupon Costa Rica offers threw us for a loop, for the purpose of this post we focus solely on the 6-night package offering.

Groupon Costa Rica example: 6-night volcanoes of Costa Rica package for two

Included in the package are:

  • Airport and ground transfers
  • 3 nights standard accommodations with WiFi at the Sleep Inn San Jose in downtown San Jose (for nights 1, 2, and 6)
  • 3 nights standard accommodations with WiFi at the Magic Mountain Hotel (for nights 3, 4, and 5)
  • Daily breakfast
  • Half-day tour of Poas Volcano National Park with entrance fees and English-speaking tour guide
  • Half-day tour of Arenal Volcano National Park with entrance fees and English-speaking tour guide
  • Half-day Safari float at Peñas Blancas river with English-speaking tour guide

As per the Groupon Costa Rica offer, the travel agency noted that the original price of the package was $1,665.00. The Groupon Costa Rica promotion costs were listed as the following:

  • Option 1: $999.00 to travel 10/8/13–12/10/13 (up to a $1,665.00 value)
  • Option 2: $1,259.00 to travel 1/6/14–4/30/14 (up to a $2,100.00 value)

Note:

  • The below package analysis focuses on the pricing for Option 1.

NOT ALL GROUPON COSTA RICA DEALS ARE ACTUALLY “DEALS”. HERE’S WHY.

So you’ve always wanted to travel to Costa Rica. Lucky for you, everything included in the Costa Rica vacation package outlined above is exactly what you are looking for. You’re ready to buy, and why wouldn’t you? You’re already saving $666.00 off the original vacation package cost of $1,665.00 (thanks Groupon!) which leaves more money in your pocket for another trip next year. It’s a great deal. You’re ahead of the game, right?

Wrong. What if we told you that the value of the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package is less than the original cost of $1,665.00? Far less. What if you learned that the Groupon Costa Rica “deal” price wasn’t much of a deal at all, but that it simply reflected the true cost of the trip. Or worse, what if you learned that the Groupon Costa Rica “deal” price was actually higher than the Costa Rica vacation package’s actual value. Would you still want it?

Truth be told, the actual cost of the Groupn Costa Rica vacation package described above is less than both the original package price of $1,665.00 and the Groupon “deal” price of $999.00. How do we know? Because we did the math and read the fine print. Yup, we took the steps that many travel agencies assume travellers will skip. How else could they get travellers to pay more than necessary for their own vacation?

groupon Costa Rica

groupon Costa Rica

Calculating the cost of the actual Groupon Costa Rica vacation package

Let’s start by leveling the playing field. The travel agency that offered the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package included in the fine print text that 15% must be added to the quoted cost of $999.00 for “tax and fees”. Instantly, this increases the advertised price of $999.00 to the total purchase price of $1,148.85. Here’s how the total purchase price should be calculated.

Given that we work with over 250 companies in Costa Rica ranging from hotels to tour operators to transportation service providers, we are familiar with the majority of prices offered for Costa Rica trip items. In most cases, we can pull out our contracts, check our rate sheets, and see if or when a particular company is overcharging for a particular item. However, since we know that as travellers you do not have access to the same information that we have as industry workers, we are happy to conduct a package cost analysis for you in a way that will allow you to repeat the same process on your own when when you examine any other Groupon Costa Rica vacation package you come across online.

Groupon Costa Rica example: Examining the cost of the hotels

Since the Groupon Costa Rica offer provided the names of the hotels included with the package, and also confirmed that standard accommodations were factored into the cost, a simple search on both hotels’ websites produced the following prices (for stays between October 8th 2013 and December 10th 2013):

  • Sleep Inn (San Jose): $79.00+tax/night, or $89.27/night with taxes included (see the Sleep Inn’s website for a confirmation of the room rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes 3 nights at the Sleep Inn, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $267.81 (taxes included)
  • Hotel Magic Mountain (La Fortuna/Arenal): $105.00+tax/night, or $118.65/night with taxes included (see Hotel Magic Mountain’s website for a confirmation of the room rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes 3 nights at Hotel Magic Mountain, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $355.95 (taxes included)

TOTAL COST ASSOCIATED WITH HOTELS (6-NIGHT STAY FOR 2 PEOPLE): $623.76 (taxes included)

Note:

  • Costa Rican sales tax is only 13% and not 15% as the travel agency opts to charge on top of the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package’s quoted cost of $999.00. See the “Hidden Fees And Double Taxation” section of our related blog post Costa Rica Vacation Package Scams And Red Flags for more information about double taxation scams and how you can protect yourself when reserving a vacation.

Groupon Costa Rica example: Examining the cost of the tours and activities

Since the Groupon Costa Rica offer provided the names of the tours and activities included with the package, a simple search on the tour operators’ websites produced the following costs (for tours taken between October 8th 2013 and December 10th 2013)

  • Half-day tour of Poas Volcano National Park with entrance fees and English-speaking tour guide: $49.00/person (see Expeditions Tropicales’ website for a confirmation of the tour rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes the half-day tour of the Poas Volcano National Park for 2 people, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $98.00 (taxes included)
  • Half-day tour of Arenal Volcano National Park with entrance fees and English-speaking tour guide: $49.00/person (see Desafio Adventure Company’s website for a confirmation of the tour rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes the half-day tour of the Arenal Volcano National Park for 2 people, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $98.00 (taxes included)
  • Half-day Safari float at Peñas Blancas river with English-speaking tour guide: $49.00/person (see Canoa Aventura’s website for a confirmation of the tour rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes the safari float at the Peñas Blancas river for 2 people, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $98.00 (taxes included)

TOTAL TOUR/ACTIVITY COST (3 DIFFERENT TOURS/ACTIVITIES FOR 2 PEOPLE): $294.00 (taxed included)

Note:

  • Costa Rican sales tax is already included in the tour and activity prices. This means that the 15% “tax and fees” charge that the travel agency opts to add to the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package’s quoted cost of $999.00 is in addition to the tax already included in the tour and activity costs. See the “Hidden Fees And Double Taxation” section of our related blog post Costa Rica Vacation Package Scams And Red Flags for more information about double taxation scams and how you can protect yourself when reserving a vacation.

Groupon Costa Rica example: Examining the cost of the transportation services

Under the “getting there” section of the Groupon Costa Rica advertisement, it is confirmed that shuttle services are the method of transportation included with the package (furthermore, in the “questions” section of the promotion, a travel agency representative confirmed that airfare to and from Costa Rica is not included with the package). A simple search on transportation service operators’ websites produced the following costs (for transfer services taken between October 8th 2013 and December 10th 2013):

  • Shuttle service from the SJO Airport to the Sleep Inn: This service is FREE as it is a complementary service included with the stay at the Sleep Inn (see the Sleep Inn’s website for a confirmation of the complimentary airport shuttle service)
  • Shuttle service from the Sleep Inn (San Jose) to Hotel Magic Mountain (La Fortuna/Arenal): $47.00/person (see Interbus’ website for a confirmation of the shuttle service rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes a shuttle service from San Jose to La Fortuna/Arenal for 2 people, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $94.00 (taxes included)
  • Shuttle service from Hotel Magic Mountain (La Fortuna/Arenal) to the Sleep Inn (San Jose): $47.00/person (see Interbus’ website for a confirmation of the shuttle service rate)
    Since the Costa Rica vacation package includes a shuttle service from La Fortuna/Arenal to San Jose for 2 people, the total cost associated with this portion of the package is $94.00 (taxes included)
  • Shuttle service from the Sleep Inn to the SJO Airport: This service is FREE as it is a complementary service included with the stay at the Sleep Inn (see the Sleep Inn’s website for a confirmation of the complimentary airport shuttle service)

TOTAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICE COST (4 DIFFERENT SHUTTLE SERVICES FOR 2 PEOPLE): $188.00 (taxed included)

Note:

  • Costa Rican tax is already included in transportation service prices. This means that the 15% “tax and fees” charge that the travel agency opts to add to the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package’s quoted cost of $999.00 is in addition to the tax already included in the shuttle services’ cost. See the “Hidden Fees And Double Taxation” section of our related blog post Costa Rica Vacation Package Scams And Red Flags for more information about double taxation scams and how you can protect yourself when reserving a vacation.

When we combine the total hotels cost ($623.76), the total tour/activity cost ($294.00), and the total transportation cost ($188.00), it is revealed that the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package’s true total value is $1,105.76, despite the vacation package being advertised as having an original cost of $1,665.00.

Wait a minute. The original Groupon Costa Rica vacation package was advertised as costing $1,665.00 and the “deal” price was promoted at $999.00 (or $1,128.87 with taxes and fees included), yet we’ve just determined that the actual value is less than both of these amounts. How is that possible? Did we miss something? Let’s double check.

  • All of the accommodations, tours/activities, and transportation services included with the Costa Rica vacation package have been accounted for.
  • What about the Wi-Fi access and daily breakfast that is also included with the package?
    These are complimentary amenities provided by the the Sleep Inn and Hotel Magic Mountain. They do not require an additional fee as their cost has already been incorporated into the package total via the nightly hotel rate.
  • What about the tour entrance fees and English-speaking guide for each tour?
    All three tours (the Poas Volcano National Park Tour, the Arenal Volcano National Park Tour, and the Safari Float on the Peñas Blancas River) already include an English-speaking guide and any applicable entrance fees. Neither requires an additional fee as their cost has already been incorporated into the package total via the per person tour/activity rate.

What else are we missing?

Nothing. Every item listed as included with the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package has been accounted for and the math adds up. The only thing missing is an explanation from the travel agency as to how they calculated the original package cost of $1,665.00 and why they think their special Groupon Costa Rica promotion is one travellers would find valuable.

WHY DO GROUPON COSTA RICA “DEALS” SOMETIMES COST TRAVELLERS MORE THAN THEY TRULY NEED TO PAY?

Since we know that the actual value of the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package is $1,105.76, we also know that the travel agency who created the vacation package inflated the price by a landslide. Doing so allowed them to reduce the cost by a few hundred dollars, enough to trick travellers into thinking that the Groupon deal is an amazing one. Sure, in the travel agency’s defense, they likely have a list of reasons for the price gap ranging from the number of employees they need to pay to the business expenses they need to cover to the commission cut they promised Groupon for the business exposure. However, none of these excuses change the fact that travellers who purchase the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package described above will pay more for their Costa Rica trip than it is actually worth.

DON’T OVERPAY FOR YOUR COSTA RICA VACATION PACKAGE; GET IT AT TRUE VALUE OR FOR LESS!

We feel the need to celebrate. Not only have you taken the time to work your way through this calculated post, but you’ve invested a part of yourself in your own travel experience. If you didn’t care about your vacation or the mark it is bound to leave on your checkbook then our blog post’s title probably wouldn’t have caught your attention. Thankfully it did, and you’re now better prepared to examine Groupon Costa Rica vacation packages (or better yet, all Costa Rica vacation packages) with a more cautious eye.

So, where should you go from here? For those of you who are not already aware, Pura Vida! eh? Inc. offers countless free discounts, cash back savings, and promotion codes for a variety Costa Rica trip items. If you are considering travelling to Costa Rica, skip the prefabricated vacation package and plan your own trip–we bet it will cost you less overall to do so. Assuming the above Groupon Costa Rica vacation package was built using the various savings offered for free through Pura Vida! eh? Inc., the total vacation cost would be only $1,026.91; that’s $638.09 less expensive than the original cost of the Groupon Costa Rica vacation package, $101.96 less expensive than the “deal” cost promoted on Groupon, and $78.85 less expensive than the actual value of the trip. If that’s not looking out for you and providing savings in the most truthful, fair, and ethical way, let us know what more we can do.

When you are ready to plan your own Costa Rica vacation, our related blog post How To Plan A Trip To Costa RIca can help guide you through the process of doing so, and if you’re a first-time Costa Rica traveller, the “articles categorized under our blog’s Introductory Costa Rica Trip Planning Resources section will likely be of great use to you. Of course, if and when you need us, we’re here to help; don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below or contact us here.

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you fallen for a “travel deal” online? What did you do about it?

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6 thoughts on “Groupon Costa Rica: Don’t Be Fooled By “Deals” Like These”

  • Scam alert… I’m researching a Groupon package tour (fine i won’t name it) and discovered even more scams. There is the 15% tax that you pointed out. When I called the company, I was told that I’d have to pay over $200 of fees on top of the Groupon price to reserve. This was posted anywhere on the Groupon. Also, accommodations at an all-inclusive resort is actually hotel only. There is an option to upgrade for all-inclusive service for over $300. The fine print posted on Groupon (and company website) is also a bit worrysome–only 50% refund if I cancel…

    Sadly this is still one of the most affordable group tours. I’m used to bus tours and cruises, so I am a bit scared to go for the PuraVida independent travel and feel more secure with a group of people (more trapped too, i admit). I wish I can find something to tip the scale so I wouldn’t go with a company I know is kind of a scam… Feeling frustrated.

    • Professor Crunchy –
      Yikes! That is awful! There is nothing worse than finding a great “deal” only to uncover its layers and find out that the base cost is way more than what is advertised. I hate that we had to write a blog post on this topic at all (and I hate that you have found out the same for yourself) but I am glad to hear that you took the extra step of inquiring with the trip provider directly. Regardless of whether you book their package in the end or not, at least you won’t be incredibly surprised later as you can plan for the extra “fees” in advance. Your note about the “all-inclusive resort” stay not actually including the all-inclusive resort meal plan is sneaky. I couldn’t imagine checking in at my hotel once in-country (ready for an all-inclusive trip) and learning on the spot that my inclusive trip wasn’t so inclusive at all. What a vacation downer.
      For group travel and considering non-Groupon trip options, you are 100% correct – Pura Vida! eh? Inc. was designed to help travellers build their own custom Costa Rica trips (ie. families, couples, independent backpackers, etc.) and not those looking for a group travel experience (ie. where the group travellers from place to place together, stays at the same hotel together, etc.). For the “deal” you spotted through Groupon, is it a group travel package? I don’t usually see group travel trips to Costa Rica advertised on Groupon, but I also have not been on their website in ages and things could have certainly changed since I last poked my head around online.
      Pura vida! 🙂

  • I actually came across a groupon deal very similar to this, and came across your page while doing some research on Costa Rica Travel. Thank you SO much for this insightful read, you have been a big help.

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