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Arenal & MA with kids 8 & 10 - which tours and transportation question

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Hi all,

Some of you have been helping me on my other thread but I thought I should start a new one with a more appropriate topic title. Here's my other thread in case you're interested.

http://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-central-america/on-the-right-track-family-trip-to-costa-rica-with-8-10-yo.cfm

We have booked rooms at The Springs in Arenal and at Tulemar in Manuel Antonio and now I'm' on to considering which tours to book and what to do about transportation.

I have seen that there are lots of threads on transportation, but I don't know if having kids (or travelling in a group of 4, perhaps) would affect someone's advice on whether to rent a car and/or whether to get a driver. For instance, maybe it's hard to get a taxi in La Fortuna that fits 4 people, or there may be other considerations that I'm not thinking about. Though I know others have done it and thought it worked well, I don't think we'll do public transportation.

Our itinerary:
Thurs - arrive 9:15 pm SJO - stay at airport hotel
Fri - drive to The Springs
Fri - Wed - Springs
Wed - travel to MA
Wed - Sun - Tulemar - depart Sunday at 11:45 am from SJO

I've seen the rental car vs. driver debate, and both ways have been recommended so I'm sure it's up to personal preference. I am not really afraid of driving, but my husband has unfortunately lost his license for a few months (don't ask) so I would be the sole driver. We'll have the drive to Arenal, the drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, and then return from MA to SJO on our last morning. All the long drives should be in daylight.

I see 3 options.

- Get 1 rental car for the whole time
- Get a driver for the 3 longer drives and rent while in La Fortuna and MA
- Get drivers for 3 longer drives and take taxis in La Fortuna and MA.

Does one make more sense than the others?

At Tulemar, I know they do not serve dinner on the property, but they say that there are many restaurants outside the gates. It seems like a very large property. Will we need a car/taxi to get to those restaurants?

Another option: would you drive (either in rental car or with driver) or fly from MA to SJO. I'm leaning towards the drive, so we don't have to worry as much about luggage weight and flight delays, but in some ways it can be easier to just fly.

Regarding tours, we will have 4 full days, not counting travel days at the Springs. The hotel sent us a list of their tours. I know we can book on our own, but just starting with their list, what I saw on TripAdvisor and what I read about in my Eyewitness Travel guide book, I've come up with the following.

- Arenal Hanging Bridges (half day)
- Sky Trek Zipline (half day)
- Cano Negro (full day) or Penas Blancas (1/2 day) - I've heard more raves about Cano Negro but I wonder if it's a long day for the kids?
- The hotel offers a 4 hour volcano hike. I don't know how much of that is transportation time. I think that would be interesting but I don't know if it would be too strenuous for the kids. Has anyone else done this with kids?

My husband expressed interest in a night hike. We should be able to fit that in since I plan to do the other tours first thing in the morning if possible.

What about the Sky Tram? Is that worth doing?

Mostly I'd like to spend our afternoons at the Springs in the pools or springs. We may do tubing and horseback riding in the afternoons too. And I think we'd like to visit the wildlife preserve at The Springs.

Is there something glaring that I'm missing or something I should cut out? Would it be better to leave a full day open in Arenal? My current plan would have us booked for a tour every morning, if we do a volcano hike.

We will have 3 full days in Manuel Antonio (Wed is travel day and we depart Sunday morning), and I plan to spend more time on the beach. According to the Tulemar website we can see quite a bit of wildlife right on the grounds. I remember reading that most of the things you can do near Arenal (ziplines, hanging bridges) you can also do in Manuel Antonio, but I'm sort of feeling like if our time in Arenal is so scheduled, maybe we'd like to wing it more in MA. Anything I MUST do near MA?

Thanks for your help!!

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