12 days in Costa Rica with 4 kids

Old Jan 29th, 2009, 09:21 PM
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12 days in Costa Rica with 4 kids

I will be visiting Costa Rica this summer with a 14, 11, 6 and 2 y/o. We are flying into San Jose on 7/2 and heading right to Arenal. How many days do you think we would need to do La Paz Waterfall, canopy tour, hanging bridges, sky tram/sky trek and visit a hot spring? We will be heading to Manual Antonio after we leave Arenal with no real agenda other then to chill on the beach and go see some wild life. I was thinking 4 or 5 days in Arenal and then drive down to MA. I have lots of questions.

How safe are the beaches in MA? Do they have Rip Tides and Strong Currents? Do you know of any beaches on the Pacific that are popular with families because they are calmer then most?

On the drive from Arenal to MA are there lots of things to stop and do to break up the drive or should we just get in the care and push on through?

We are thinking about staying at Los Lagos in Arenal and Si Como No in MA for the water slides for the kids.

Is it worth the drive to the Cloud Forest in Monteverde or will the sites in Arenal be on par with this?

Does it make more sense to visti Arenal for a 3/4 days, head to Monteverde and then visit Tamarado or Coco instead of MA.

I appreciate any input or suggestions.
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Old Jan 30th, 2009, 04:53 AM
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Playa Hermosa, Playa Conchal, Playa Flamingo, Playa Samara are all good Pacific beaches. The 2nd beach inside Manuel Antonio park is GREAT for families.

Hope this helps a little bit. Others will chime in. En route to MA, stop at the Rio Tarcoles to view the crocs. There are gift shops and snack places as well. Makes a good break. Someone should stay with the car at all times. Theft is common for those who let down their guard! Have fun!
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Old Jan 30th, 2009, 05:32 AM
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www.playamontezuma.net

www.ylangylangresort.com

most popular and kid friendly

calm nice water...
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Old Jan 30th, 2009, 07:42 AM
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How you budget your time will really depend on the "hardiness" of your crew.You can certainly do all you listed in Arenal in 4 days.Most of the tours that involve hiking will have areas that are a little strenuous,especially if you are carrying a 2 y.o.!The hanging bridges are great but make sure everyone is OK with heights.As you progress through the bridges they get higher and longer.The last bridge is really hi and long and absolutely thrilling.When you first hear the volcano rumble, you might think its thunder,but its not! The drive to MA will take at least 5 hours.If you do stop to see the crocs on the Tarcoles bridge be aware that to see them you walk out on a bridge with a small area to stand on with traffic going by-it might be best to take the kids out there in 2 groups.I might suggest lunch at Steve-n-Lisas on the right just after the bridge.Try the pargo rojo entiro(whole fried red snapper) its great.You can also many times see scarlet macaws in the trees just north of the restaurant.On south to Quepos there are a number of places to stop,but you may want to get to your hotel and then venture forth from there on another day.It takes about 2 hours to drive to Quepos from Tarcoles.Carrara park has easy,well marked trails for hiking.As for the beaches, go with shillmacs recommendations.Alot of the beaches in CR are not like US beaches.Most are rocky and have dark colored sand .The beaches in MA are nice but be careful with your stuff-I have seen the monkeys grab purses and small backpacks and then dump them out high in a tree looking for food.You will certainly see alot of wildlife but alot of tourists as well.As far as Monteverde is concerned it tends to be a little more appealing to birders and hikers.Its one of my favorite places but can be wet,chilly and muddy.That being said, it is gorgeous.The cloud forest is literally dripping with life and every inch of every tree or rock is covered .The Chomogo trail is a sight to see!Have a great trip.
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Old Jan 30th, 2009, 08:05 AM
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We usually stay in Arenal for 4 days. I think that's the perfect amount of time to spend there. MA is very popular with families, and I think you would be happy there. It's very easy to get around, things are close together, the beach inside the park is gorgeous, and there are a lot of good restaurant choices with sunset views. Personally I wouldn't subject kids to that long bumpy ride to Monteverde unless they were absolutely set on seeing a quetzal, the cloud forest, etc. It was very cold and rainy when we were there in July. At night I had to wear a sweatshirt and fleece jacket. Although you might get luckier with your weather. We loved stopping to see the crocs under the Tarcoles bridge, just heed the warnings, and you'll be fine.

Los Lagos and Si Como No are great choices for families. If the Peace Lodge is open again when you go, two nights there would be a big hit with your family. They have an aviary, butterfly house, monkeys, cats, frog house with nocturnal tours and 5 beautiful waterfalls you can hike to. The rooms are over the top with fireplaces and waterfall showers. They are closed since the earthquake but may be open again by the time you take your trip. It's about an hour outside San Jose, so good to do at the beginning or end or your trip.
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Old Feb 27th, 2009, 05:56 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I am going to be purchasing my flights today. Looks like I will be flying into SJ on 7/2/09 and deprting SJ on 7/14/09. Once I know if I am going to rent a SUV or hire a driver I will throw up my itinerary and get some feed back.

Thanks for all of the suggestions.

J
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Old Feb 27th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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Just a note - La Paz Waterfall gardens is a couple of hours (each way) from Arenal. I had read that it wasn't going to reopen until August - but that might be Peace Lodge (on the same property) rather than the La Paz gardens. You might want to check in with them before making plans.
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Old Feb 28th, 2009, 08:14 AM
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We too are flying in on 7/2. We are fam. of 4, kids 11 and 10. We will be staying at Los Lagos 7/3-7/6 and heading to MA for 4nts then to Montezuma at the Ylang Ylang. Maybe we might run into each other!
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Old Feb 28th, 2009, 09:08 AM
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Some of the beaches in MA are not safe - the one in the park is lovely. Don't underestimate the power of riptides. We were caught in one - my youngest was 10 and a strong swimmer so we got out. It could have been much worse.

We liked Los Lagos in Arenal and Playa Carillo very much.

My kids loved Monteverde - frogs, snakes, etc. Arenal didn't measure up for those things but perhaps if we'd gone there first, it might have. They liked the caving outside Arenal.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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I have changed it around a little. We are flying in a few days early to try and squeeze a little more things in.

6/29 Fly into SJO and check into Orquideas Inn
7/1 Drive to Peace Lodge for 2 nights
7/3 Drive to Los Lagos Hoteal for 4 nights
7/7 I am still trying to figure out where to stay. I am now leaning towards going to Mal Pais instead of M.A. Will the kids see some of the same wildlife in Mal Pais as M.A. We are leaning towards staying at Villas Hermosas.
7/13 Drive to Orquideas Inn for last night
7/14 Fly home.

Any input would be apreciated.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 04:42 PM
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Nords, have you confirmed that Peace Lodge will be open? They took a hit with the January earthquake and as far as I know haven't announced their reopening. But then perhaps I've just missed that announcement!

I do think that Manuel Antonio is by far your best option with regard to beautiful beach/water and activities as well as wildlife. The transfer by ferry to Malpais is a long day (possibly up to 7-8 hours) and I can't imagine doing it with a 2 year old. Also, you have to coordinate your travel time with the ferry departure and allow an hour or so advance arrival there before ferry departure to buy tickets and queue up--as opposed to just getting in the car and going whenever you are ready, about 5-6 hours to Manuel Antonio. 6 hours with a couple of breaks for the kids, like at the Rio Tarcoles to see the crocs.

Just my dos colones! Hope it all works out well for you. We'll be at MA with our granddaughter July 7-10. We really like Tulemar Bungalows for the private beach--and it's a really nice swimming beach as well. Maybe we'll see you there if you select this option. I'll keep my eyes peeled for you!
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 06:55 PM
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I spoke with the Peace Lodge today and they are scheduled to open late June or early July. As we get closer to our departure date we may have to change hotels based on them being behind schedule. We can either grab a room at their sister resort in Arenal or extend out stay at the Orquideas Inn.

We looked at renting one of the Mot mot's or bungelows at Tulemar. That is still an option right now based on the info you provided on getting to Malpais.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 07:11 PM
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Well, sure you could do Malpais. It just doesn't have anything over MA really--and that time thing with your little one. Good luck in the planning! So glad Peace Lodge is within sight of reopening. Hopefully they will stay on schedule--it is a great experience.
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Old Mar 31st, 2009, 06:56 AM
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We stayed at Los Lagos because we couldn't get our first choice, and it turned out to be one of the kids favorite places on the trip. I must say, we went to Arenal 2 different years and stayed several days each time, and never did see the volcano because of clouds!!! It is a real hit and miss adventure. We stayed at the Mariposa instead of Si Como No, again, because they were full, and we absolutely loved it there also. Our suites were incredible and the view was out of this world!! Have a great trip.
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Old Mar 31st, 2009, 09:56 AM
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If you can get the mot mot villa at Tulemar in MA, I wouldn't hesitiate. It's a great place for kids. Their private beach is wonderful. They have boogie boards and kayaks right there. We never even made it to the park itself! Our kids had a blast and you'll see monkey's galore - right on your deck! The currents can be strong, I didn't let my kids go past their waist in the water without me or my husband - but I had a blast with my daughter boogie boarding for hours at a time!

In Arenal, we stayed at Los Lagos and my kids loved it! Their pools are great - the water slides are fast! They have their own hot springs - not huge, but sufficient - especially for the kids. We did their horseback riding and it was the kids first time on horses (ages 7 and 9) and they did great - it was a long ride, and in the rain for part of it, but it was a lot of fun and the guides were good with the kids. We also did the zip lines on Los Lagos property and it was very good also. Most will not take kids under age 8 - but they will. My daughter went tandem on most lines and both kids loved it. Again, it was very professional and the guide my daughter had took great care of her!

Your trip sounds great! I hope the Peace Lodge is reopened for you - it would really round out the vacation!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2009, 05:20 AM
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I want to thamk everyone for their help with this trip. I ended up booking the following

6/29-7/1 Orquideas Inn
7/1-7/3 Peace Lodge (The Springs Resort if Peace Lodge closed)
7/3-7/7 Los Lagos Hotel
7/7-7/13 Tulemar Bungalows
7/7-7/14 Orquideas Inn

I have a reservation for a 4x4 that will fit all 6 of us but I am considering hiring a driver. I am not too concerened with the road conditions or saftety aspect as I am with missing something that a local would have more insight on. Do most people hire a driver or just rent a car and wing it?

shillmac, I will be in Belize in a month and I wanted to know if you are familiar with a few resorts that I am thinking about on Ambergis Caye. I will post in that forum.

J
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Old Apr 3rd, 2009, 05:28 AM
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I think it's a pretty even split. We always hire a driver and enjoy that we can sit back and enjoy the view while they point things out and answer questions. Other people love to do it on their own; the areas where you're going are easily drivable.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2009, 07:46 AM
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We like the flexibility of having the rental car, especially in Arenal. The area is spread out and it gives us the freedom to just up and go when we wanted, especially for meal. And especially with kids. You won't really need a car in MA, but I wouldn't have minded having one there. On our last trip, we had a car from San Jose, while we were at the Peace Lodge, drove to Arenal and had it there and then turned it in there and hired a driver to MA and back to San Jose. Not sure if it saved us any money, but with the kids, we didn't want to make the long drive to MA - we wanted to sit back and relax. In hindsight, the drive ended up being much longer with a driver because he made more stops than we would have made. But it was nice in a way because we had a much more cultural experience.

I would keep the car in Arenal.

I'm thinking of Belize this summer too! Where are you planning on staying?
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Old Apr 3rd, 2009, 09:40 AM
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I'll look for your posts.

Speaking of Manuel Antonio, one of the above posters mentioned a problem with riptides. Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the 2nd beach inside the park is very calm. The first one, not so much!
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Old Apr 4th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Congrats on getting everything booked! Sounds like a wonderful trip. I'll be in CR around the same time as you, actually at Orquideas on 7/2 and 7/3. Definitely nice having a car in Arenal and even MA if you want to be able to do some exploring on your own. The roads between San Jose and Arenal and Arenal and MA are pretty good, so no need for private drive for that reason, plus with six people having a car vs a taxi to carry everyone would be more convenient.
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