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Help me plan 10 days in Costa Rica for early May!

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I know the answers are out there, but there's just so much! Some of the information is old and some is confusing. After trying to sort through it all, I figured my best bet was to get y'all's help. Warning: it's a long-ish post!

My wife and I are planning on visiting CR in early May for 10 days (9 nights), arriving on a Thursday and leaving on a Saturday. My initial thought is to fly into SJO and out of LIR, visiting places as we travel north, and ending our trip with a little beach time on the Pacific.

We want to visit the "must see" destinations (I realize there are a lot), but we're also fans of "off the beaten path" stuff. We're thinking of renting a car at SJO and driving south to Terraba and staying with the tribe, visiting anything nearby that is unique and awesome on our way back north, and then heading to...Alajuela? Something farther north? Somewhere else? I just don't know, and this is where I'm getting a little overwhelmed.

Things we're interested in:
- natural wonders/attractions (obviously)
- hiking to remote and unique places
- lazy boat rides
- relaxing hot springs
- a day or two at a beach near Liberia on our last day(s)

I was thinking we'd avoid tours, unless there are some that are really great. As far as transportation, I'm comfortable renting a car and driving, though I keep reading about horrible rental companies and bad roads. Makes it sound like I should really pay for the highest level of insurance, but that practically triples the cost of a car rental. I don't usually get insurance when I rent in the States. Am I overthinking it or should I just go ahead and do it? We're fine with public transportation, I just figure we can't do the more "out of the way" things without a car.

Also, I would like to stay in more unique places (like with the Terraba tribe), but they can still be "nice". I'm not opposed to chain hotels, but if a nicer or more unique experience can be had for about the same price, I'd rather drive a little bit for that. Hostels are probably out, though.

So...what do you think? Does the SJO-Terraba-LIR sound like a good plan? What places should we definitely visit (even the touristy ones)? Any suggestions for unique or special places we should visit or things we should do?

Any help or advice you can provide would be most appreciated!

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