14 days in Costa Rica in February

Oct 21st, 2018, 07:09 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2018
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14 days in Costa Rica in February

Hey All, my wife and I are headed down to Costa Rica for a honeymoon/anniversary/winter getaway this February and we are really excited. We're going to fly into Juan SantamarŪa on 2/6 and fly out on 2/21, so we'll get 14 whole days to explore the country. We're thinking or renting a car while out there but aren't sure yet, and we'll be joined our first week by a close friend as we check out all the Caribbean coast of CR has to offer.
I haven't figured out where exactly open to suggestions. We're all in our mid 30's, moderately active, and looking for a laid back vacation that allows us to really enjoy Costa Rica's natural

I haven't figured out where exactly we'll stay yet, and am open to suggestions. We're all in our mid 30's, moderately active, and looking for a laid back vacation that allows us to really enjoy Costa Rica's natural beauty.

i have been doing a lot of research on air bnb, booking.com, vrbo, etc and have got to say there are a lot of really awesome properties, it's hard narrowing it down. After that, our friend departs and we head up to La Fortuna for a few days before checking out Monteverde. To cap the trip off, I thought it would be romantic to have a night on the Pacific side and be able to watch one of those famous Costa Rican sunsets but that could just be a pipe dream due to time/travel constraints.

so my tentative itinerary would look like:
2/6: Arrive, night in alajuela
2/7: leave early. Night in Tortuguero. Maybe a stop in Braulio Carrillo along the way
2/8: Night Two in Tortuguero(?) otherwise head down the coast toward Cahuita/Puerto Viejo/ Manzanillo
2/9-2/12: Take in the beauty of the south Caribbean coast, snorkle, swim, hike, chill, etc.

First week is easy peezy. Second week is where things get a little cloudy.

2/13-2/16: Arenal. Wondering about this drive. Google say 5.5 hrs. Is that too much to tackle in a day. If so, where would be a good middle point to stop?
2/17-2/18: Monteverde. Unsure how long we need here. Heard a lot of conflicting reports as to the merits of this place
2/19-2/20: ??
2/21: depart

This is a pretty rough idea of my plans and I'm super open to any suggestions. Appreciate it, thanks!!

additional q's:
I've read that having a car isn't super necessary on the Caribbean coast, would it be possible to forego having a car the first week and only rent one for the latter half of the trip up in the mountains??

How necessary of a stop is Monteverde? A lot of sites recommend it as a can't
gwarzilla is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2018, 02:20 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 12,535
For Tortuguero, I'd definitely spend 2 nights there. It takes while to get there, so with only 1 night, you wouldn't have enough time in Tortuguero to make it worth the journey.

For a stop between the Caribbean coast and Arenal, consider Puerto Viejo de Serapiqui. We made an overnight stop there and it was great. That area is really neat and was really convenient for dividing up the drive.

We had a car on the Caribbean coast and were happy that we did, but you can definitely travel around without one. We liked the ability to come and go and explore as we chose without any advanced planning. It just depends on what you want to do.
november_moon is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2018, 07:57 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,326
We had a 9 hour drive from Manuel Antonio to Cahuita. We broke it up by staying near Guapiles at Casa Rio Blanco. We loved it! Screened cabinas, we could hear the river below and the rain on the tin roof.
MichelleY is offline  
Oct 24th, 2018, 09:26 AM
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We love the Arenal area and have been back many times - tons to do there. We liked Monteverde; to us it skews kind of older - good if you like bird watching since they have quetzals there, also good hiking in the Reserve; the environment is cooler there since it's a cloud forest. We had to wear sweatshirts and fleece jackets at night. You can also go ziplining but we prefer it in the Arenal area since the weather is warmer and you can get volcano and lake views. We did two nights in Tortuguero and loved it - great wildlife; I don't think you would be there in turtle season though, for the ones we saw the season started in July. You'd spend most of your time on a boat touring the canals looking for wildlife.
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 24th, 2018, 12:08 PM
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Ooh...that does sound lovely. I'll have to check into that. I'd also be interested in staying somewhere near the Burilio Carrillo National Park, as that sounds like a very interesting place to check out.
gwarzilla is offline  
Oct 24th, 2018, 12:28 PM
  #6  
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Hey thanks, good info. I would really like to see Quetzales while I’m in country. I was in Guatemala years ago and they way they were spoken about made the bird seem almost mythical, a resplendent flash of green in the misty gloom of the forest.

Monteverde does sound pretty cool with the canopy tours along the walk ways and all that.

I'm really excited about Tortuguero, tbh. I think it will be a fun introduction to Costa Rica by getting to see so much wildlife in such a remote location. I am a bit sad that there won't be any nesting turtles when we're there, but oh well. Touring the canals sounds fun enough. Speaking of exploring the canals, I'd be really curious to hear some people's experiences with the different modes of transport around the park. I know the (electric?) boat tours are likely the most popular way wildlife watching, and canoes likely the most immersive, but how are the walking trails in and around there??

Also, I'm curious as to suggestions of thoughts on the best place to stay on the Caribbean side or even jump impressions of the various downs from Puerto Viejo on down??
gwarzilla is offline  
Oct 24th, 2018, 02:38 PM
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Most people stay at the lodges in Tortuguero; some put you into tour groups that you do your activities with. We were lucky to stay at the Tortuga Lodge where we got our own guide for the two of us; we did everything via motorized boat just because you can cover a greater area. We saw monkeys, toucans, otters, etc. Lots of blue morphos. We thought it was great. We did see people canoeing also; I'd be worried I'd get lost since the canals are a maze, but they all seemed to enjoy it. There's not much to the town itself and from most lodges you would have to take a boat to get there. Lots of mosquitoes when we visited but we went at a rainy time of year. We never did any walking trails.
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 24th, 2018, 08:53 PM
  #8  
 
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You could spend 2 nights at a Tortuguero lodge, then combine that with a stay further down the coast at Puerto Viejo or Cahuita. Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo gets rave reviews.
MichelleY is offline  
Oct 25th, 2018, 04:35 PM
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We stayed at Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo - we loved it. It's on a nice, wide beach a little bit outside of town - plenty of palm trees, so lots of shade if you want it. They have lounge chairs on the beach and drink service in the afternoon. My favorite part was the self-serve coffee service on the beach starting at around 5 am. I was out there every morning with my book and a cup of coffee. The hotel itself has nice gardens, a small pool, an open-air restaurant/bar, and a variety of rooms. It's all set back from the beach a bit - so the rooms aren't beach-front, but some rooms do have views.

The town of Puerto Viejo is a 5 minute drive/taxi, maybe 20 minute walk either via the road or the beach - very nice walk along the beach. Puerto Viejo itself is very lively - lots of shops, restaurants, and bars in a relatively small geographical area. I think it's probably the only place in the area with any real nightlife. If you want to be in the thick of things - staying in town is fine, but we were glad to stay in a quiet place outside of town and then just go into town when we wanted that atmosphere. There are some small beaches in town - and some water-front bars and restaurants where people can order food and drink and have a swim. We saw plenty of people in the water with drinks in hand.

We also spent a little time in the town of Cahuita - it is known for the national park there, and that's what most people go to visit. It's a small, quiet town - much quieter than Puerto Viejo to be sure. Almost all of the activity is at or near the entrance to the national park. The town itself is right on the water, but the waterfront is rocky so no beach in town. The adjacent national park has beautiful beaches though - white sand, clear water, very calm. You just have to walk a couple hundred meters into the national park.

We also went to Punta Uva, which was beautiful - probably the prettiest beaches in the area. It's also pretty quiet there as well. We mostly just went to the beach - didn't really explore much in that area. The day we went was really hot, so we really didn't want to do anything except bob around in the water.
november_moon is offline  
Dec 13th, 2018, 03:11 PM
  #10  
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Follow Up aka counting the days

Hey all! Just a couple things I wanted to ask/suss out as our departure date grows nearer and our itinerary a bit more clear.

Bummed to inform that I donít think weíre gonna make a stop in tortuguero this time, unfortunately, unless we do it as a day trip or something. We definitely have the time to fit it in, but the rest of the party wanted more beach time 🙄

Weíre just spending the first week in an air bnb in Cocles, so Iíd love any recommendations yíall might have for that area (activities, food, tours, etc)

Would definitely love to hike in Cahuita but have heard a guide isnít super necessary, and instead maybe do the boat tour around the park.

Manzanillo-Gondoca sounds like park better suited for a guide for a couple reasons but also really cool. Had anyone visited that lagoon, can you get there by paddle board/kayak or boat a better option? Itíd be awesome to spot some manatees (among countless other critters).

Since weíre staying in an air bnb, weíll try to eat at home often to save money but thereís no way we donít have a few meals(and drinks) out. Iíd love any recommendations yíall have

The second leg of trip will involve renting a car in PV and then heading up to Arenal area for three days. We have reservations at Tabacon resort for on Valentines Day and Iím curious as to other peopleís experiences there. The accommodations are definitely price, and thatís fine itís my honeymoon, but how do they compare to other hot spring resorts in the area? I guess I donít want to feel like Iím just Paying for a name.

while Iím up there Iíd love to see both Rio Celeste and CaŮo Negra, would it be possible to combine these into a single day trip or what would be the best plan to visit
those locations?

Our last three days will be spent out in Monteverde hiking around the forests there. The quetzal tops my list of birds I wanna see when down there, and Iím really hoping I can
manage to spot one in the cloudforest. Any recommendations on this? Also Iíd love to here of any good places to eat or drink around Santa Elena.

That about does it. If I can think of anything more, Iíll add it. If you think of anything more, lemme know.

Thanks for everthing!
gwarzilla is offline  
Dec 14th, 2018, 04:56 AM
  #11  
 
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Tabacon has the prettiest, most elaborate hot springs in the area. It's expensive, but definitely worth seeing and experiencing. Have not stayed at the hotel. I believe the hotel and the springs are across the street from one another. You can't easily combine Rio Celeste and Cano Negro; they both really need a day to themselves. Desafio has tours that go to both if you want to check with them. For Monteverde, hire a guide to do a hike in the reserve. Ours found a quetzal in the parking lot before we even started; you have a good shot at seeing one. If you ever get a chance, there's a town called San Gerardo de Dota that has tons of quetzals; we saw about ten in one morning there with our guide Marino Chacon.
volcanogirl is offline  
Dec 14th, 2018, 10:29 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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We spent 4 days in the Puerto Viejo area about 10 years ago, so I hope my recollections help. Playa Cocles is just south of PV. It has beautiful sand and I think there is pretty good surfing in this area. I spent an afternoon hanging out on this beach. On another day, by myself, I headed down to Manzanillo beach. Not as pretty. I was alone and did not feel safe, so hung out with some other women at the beach.

We we stayed in a house between Cahuita and PV, but usually headed to PV to eat. Breakfast was at Bread and Chocolate... every day. And our final, special dinner was at La Pecora Nera. Excellent and $$$.
MichelleY is offline  
Jan 1st, 2019, 02:32 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 98
We stayed at Congo Bongo guest houses in Manzanillo. We stayed in July and it was beautiful but super buggy. Iíve heard itís less so in Feb. when a friend stayed there. We did a chocolate tour in a Bribri community that was interesting. We didnít love the Carribean side, but I think we were there at the wrong time (ocean was rough and muddy).
florclover is offline  
Jan 4th, 2019, 07:45 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 49
Definitely do Tabacon even if you donít stay there. I agree with VolcanoGirl, totally worth it.

For Caribbean side, we love going to the different beaches. Our favorite is Punta Uva. Itís worth going into the park in Manzanillo just for the beaches and views. The water was quite clear when we were there in August and people were snorkeling.
There are plenty of good restaurants to choose from, read some reviews on TripAdvisor to see what catches your eye.
rlpatterson05 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2019, 07:59 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2013
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I also wanted to tell you about Pure Jungle Spa in Puerto Viejo. We were on our honeymoon as well and booked a couples 90 minute chocolate treatment and massage. It was amazing! We booked ours for 7pm. I believe it being dark and rainy that night only added to the experience.
rlpatterson05 is offline  
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