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Costa Rica - 9 days in Feb - itinerary question

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My wife and I will be in Costa Rica for 9 days in February. We will be renting a car and enjoy hiking/nature and wildlife viewing. We would like to visit Poas, Irazu, Arenal, and a Pacific beach. Unfortunately our schedule is a little fixed in places because both Wed. evenings and all day Sunday we need to be in the Central Valley area (Alajuela, Heredia). Below is a tentative itinerary:

Day 1 - Wed: Arrive @ 12:30 - stay near Alajuela

Day 2 - Thurs: Irazu (and Guayabo National Monument, if time allows)

Day 3 - Fri: ?

Day 4 - Sat: ?

Day 5 - Sun: stay near Alajuela

Day 6 - Mon: Morning drive to Arenal Observatory Lodge

Day 7 - Tues: Arenal Observatory Lodge

Day 8 - Wed: Arenal Observatory Lodge and drive back to Alajuela area

Day 9 - Thurs: Poas and La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Day 10 - Fri: Early morning flight out from Alajuela

Basically, our trip works out so that both Wed. evenings and Sun. of our trip we need to be in the Central Valley (Alajuela, Heredia) area. The primary question I have relates to the 3-days during the first Thurs through Sat.

If possible, we would like to visit Irazu Volcano that Thursday morning. Guayabo would also be interesting if time allows, but not necessary. (Does anybody know about how much time most people usually spend visiting Irazu or Guayabo?) We'd then like to travel someplace where there is a beach, since the rest of our trip doesn't really go near one. Neither my wife nor I would do any surfing, swimming, etc. So we're just looking for a beach that is pretty: a good place to take some pictures, walk around, relax maybe do a little hiking.

Here are the two options we're currently considering. I'd be curious if either seems doable or if somebody else has another option that is good.

1.) Manuel Antonio - we'd drive towards this area from Irazu on late morning/early afternoon Thursday. Spend Friday at Manuel Antonio National Park. And Saturday drive south towards Domincal or Ballena National Park to spend the morning. Then late morning or early afternoon head back towards Alajuela.

2.) Southern Nicoya Peninsula - we'd drive towards Puntarenas from Irazu on late morning/early afternoon Thursday. Then depending on timing we'd either stay in Puntarenas and take an early car ferry to Paquera or better yet take a ferry to Paquera on Thursday and stay the night somewhere on the Peninsula. We'd then have all day Friday and Saturday morning to visit some combination of Cabo Blanco, Montezuma, etc before getting back to the Alajuela area before dark.

I know this probably a bit rambling, so please let me know if you have any questions. There's so much to do in Costa Rica, the temptation is to try and do too much in one trip. And thanks in advance for any advice you can give.


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