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10 days in Costa Rica in November, considering cutting out Arenal --mistake?

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10 days in Costa Rica in November, considering cutting out Arenal --mistake?

Old Mar 17th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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10 days in Costa Rica in November, considering cutting out Arenal --mistake?

Hi,

I will be arriving in CR on Nov. 22 and staying for 10 days. I originally planned to rent a 4x4 and go all over, but I have decided to narrow the focus of the trip and spend more time in fewer places, with an emphasis on relaxation.

Although I have heard wonderful things about Arenal, since our trip is in November, we are concerned that we might get a lot of rain or cloud cover and won't get the full experience. (I also dont know if the volcano will even be active then --is that a dumb question?).

We really want to get a beach and a rainforest experience and after reading many of these boards (soooo helpful!), here is my tenative (very, very, very tenative) plan (any comments?):

Arrive in San Jose, take a shuttle to either Peace Lodge, Vista del Valle or
Villablanca, and stay for 3 nights. During the days, take day trips to Poas Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall.

Shuttle back to San Jose, take a Nature Air or Sansa flight to Puerto Jimenez and stay for 6 nights at Bosque del Cabo (everyone raves about this place!).

Do you think we are making a mistake by nixing Arenal and Manuel Antonio? I figure the weather may not be good for Arenal anyway, and we will be getting the rainforest / beach experience at BDC. If this were your initial itinerary, how would you improve it?

Also, I am considering bringing my Nikon D80 SLR camera --do you think the humidity may ruin it?
Thanks in advance ...I love the fodors boards, everyone helped make my last trip to Paris absolutely amazing, and I hope that by starting so early with my vacation planning, I can make Costa Rica just as wonderful!

kitamaria is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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It really depends, I think your trip as now would be fine, and I agree with skipping MA after the Osa. On the other hand, if you spent only 1 night in the Alajuela area then 2 nights in Arenal, I don't think you'd rue that decision either. Arenal is always active year round, some days you see it some days you don't, it's just a chance you take. Last year I was there 3 days and it was clear all 3 but ran into someone later who had been there the week before and had never seen it. I think either you can't go wrong with.
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Old Mar 17th, 2007, 03:20 PM
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We were in Costa Rica at the beginning of December last year. We arrived in the early afternoon and drove straight to the Peace Lodge for our first night (absolutely loved it!).

The next day we spent the morning and early afternoon in the La Paz gardens and then drove to Arenal for the next 3 nights. Maybe you could consider something similar to kick off your trip?

We really liked the Arenal area. It was a nice contrast to the time we spent in MA afterwards. It did rain quite a bit in Arenal, but there was a tropical depression hovering over that part of CR while we were there. We were told that it was rainier than normal the week we visited. Even so, we had a great time and managed to fit in the ziplines, Cano Negro, the Hanging Bridges and Tabacon Hot Springs. There were enough breaks in the weather that it did not affect our enjoyment of the region. We never got to see the lava, which was disappointing, but we had a really great time regardless. A co-worker of mine had visited there over Thanksgiving weekend (a week and a half before me) and had nice clear weather the whole time, so you just never can predict these things.

As tully mentioned, you probably won't go wrong with either the 3 nights at Peace Lodge option or an option that includes Arenal.
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Old Mar 17th, 2007, 03:30 PM
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Thanks tully and cmerrell.

I am considering doing 2 days at Peace Lodge and then taking a shuttle to Arenal for 2 days (If I do that, should I skip Voas since Arenal is better?). Since I want to get to Oso Peninsula afterward, it might be harder if I do end up going to Arenal since there aren't any direct flights. That would mean I would have to go back to San Jose to catch the flight to P. Jiminez. Sorry...so indecisive!
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Old Mar 17th, 2007, 04:24 PM
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We didn't get over to Poas in December, but I believe the park is only about 20-30 minutes away from Peace Lodge/La Paz. Seems like you can easily fit it in if you'd like to. I don't know if Arenal is 'better'; just different. Both of them are active volcanos and that's just not something most of us get to see every day!

It is true that heading up to Arenal and then back down to San Jose for your flight to the Osa is a fair bit of extra travel. I think it took us about 2.5 to 3 hours to drive from the Peace Lodge to La Fortuna. It would be doable if you have a couple of nights to spend. I guess you have to factor in how 'on the go' you'd like to be for this vacation. Arenal is a terrific destination, but if you feel you will be on the road too much, you can always save it for another trip.

Either way, you'll have a great time. It's a really beautiful, fascinating country.
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Old Mar 17th, 2007, 06:04 PM
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We're doing a very similar trip, only we're starting in Arenal for 3 nights. We get into San Jose around 11am, so we are heading right there the first day. Then we're going to stay at Peace lodge for 2 nights and then to Osa and stay at BDC for 4 nights. We're going at the end of April, so I'll let you know how it all works out! We could have easily added one or maybe two extra days at BDC if we cut one night out of the Peace Lodge or if we went from Osa to San Jose right home. But I wanted to go for the two nights at the Peace Lodge so we weren't rushed leaving the Arenal area on the day we left which still gives us a full day and a half at Peace Lodge for the activities there and in that area before we have to leave. And I didn't want to cut it close coming back from Osa and trying to make a flight out of San Jose the same day, but I know people do it and it can be done! So we're spending our last night in San Jose.

You might want to try something like that and fit all three place in.
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Old Mar 17th, 2007, 06:21 PM
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ShellD, that sounds fantastic! Let me know how your trip goes...(and I just may mimic it). Btw, how are you getting around from San Jose to Arenal and Arenal to Peace Lodge? Interbus? or are you renting a car?
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Old Mar 18th, 2007, 06:14 AM
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kitamaria, we decided to go for it and rent a car. We're using Tricolor. It wasn't too expensive and we figured this way we'd have the freedom to come and go as we please and do some exploring on our own. If you need any info, let me know!
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Old Mar 19th, 2007, 04:55 AM
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I know the decisions are always hard. Here are a couple of my thoughts....

1. Poaz volcano is about 15-20min away from LaPaz and you could "do" this site in as little as 30-45min. Poaz is going to be a very different experience than Arenal. At Poaz you are looking into a crater with vents, geysers (you are very far away so they will look small - don't think Yellowstone here) and lakes. At Arenal you are looking up from the base of the cone-shaped mountain. There is plenty to do in this area, so go there for the other stuff and if you see lava, it's a bonus. You can't do hot springs or real zip-line canopy tours at Osa.

2. LaPaz has nice waterfalls, but we felt it wasn't worth the price considering you can see the actual LaPaz waterfall from the road (free of charge) and there are plenty of waterfalls to experience near Bosque del Cabo.

3. Sansa airlines has round trip flights from SanJose to/from Arenal. If I was going to go from Arenal to Puerto Jimenez, I would look into flying as opposed to driving back to San Jose only to fly to PJ. Though I realize cost will also be a factor.

4. We also have a Nikon d80 and had no troubles with the humidity (we went in Feb). We had just got the camera, so we were learning at the same time.

Good Luck! Let us know what you decide.
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Old Mar 25th, 2007, 04:10 AM
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I know I'm in the minority here, but I would skip Arenal. We did Arenal on our first trip to CR, but wouldn't do it again. You might not see any lava flow, and the Tabacon Springs is very touristy. (OK, start throwing rocks now.) If you are going for the rainforest experience, the Bosque de Cabo (or Lapa Rios) area is so much more dense and full of nature than the Arenal area. You can stay in the Central Valley (Peace Lodge, Vista del Valle, Xandari, etc) at the beginning and end of the trip. The cool air will feel wonderful after being in the jungle. You might want to go for Sansa instead Nature Air. They leave from Juan Santamaria airport, which is much closer to this area. Have fun!
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 07:54 AM
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Marcia,

Is there another area you would recommend that would be a good compliment to the Osa Peninsula? We are going to do Osa for 7 days, and have 4 additional nights (11 nights in CR)...
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 08:28 AM
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I've taken 2 vacations in Costa Rica and visited different areas. All I can say is that Arenal was amazing and I would not have wanted to miss seeing it. I will always recall the soot in my eyes and the fear in my heart feeling the earth move.
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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Arenal was one of the highlights of my trips to CR, I definitely would not pass it up. The volcano, the area in general is lovely and so many activities to keep you busy. I think it would complement Osa nicely.
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 02:04 PM
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Ditto on Arenal. . .and our experience at Tabacon in the a.m. and early afternoon (well, through the entire afternoon, actually) was not touristy at all. Very few people in the a.m. (this during high season), but it picked up a little in the p.m. More crowded at night. It's a beautiful property.

And the main attraction at La Paz for us is not the falls, although the 5 of them are magnificent. We'd viewed the actual La Paz falls from the road several times. Walking through all of them is way more interesting. BUT, the main attraction for us is the butterfly observatory (truly outstanding) and the abundance of interesting birds and hummingbirds. We are looking forward to spending a couple of nights there and just enjoying the property leisurely and through the eyes of our little 2 yr. old granddaughter who will be most excited at everything she sees! She's my little birding partner already. . .pointed out an American Robin to me the other day and called it by name. She spotted it way before I did!

As I mentioned in a rather long report, when you see the La Paz property and take in the way it has been designed and all that it offers, the $29 price tag doesn't seem so steep. It cost that much to go to a movie and buy popcorn!
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