1st time to CR - Please review proposed itinerary!

Old Oct 6th, 2006, 02:33 AM
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1st time to CR - Please review proposed itinerary!

We are planning a family vacation for July 2007 - including me, my husband, daughter (18) and son (13). My daughter has been to Costa Rica twice, both times to attend school and stay with local families. She absolutely loves it! So we decided to check it out for ourselves next year, with a family vacation, lasting anywhere from 2-3 weeks.

We would like to stay active, see a good bit of the country and have some R&R at the end. My daughter insists that driving is out of the question (bad roads, bad drivers), so my first question is, can we get to these places without a car? Is this option really one to rule out?

I've done some research, both on this board and others, and have come up with the following places to stay. Please offer your suggestions, I'd appreciated it! Here it goes:

Fly direct MIA to San Jose. Get picked up by first Inn:
Finca Rosa Country Inn which is located 15 minutes from the airport in Santa Barbara de Heredia. We are thinking of 2-3 nights here, at the beginning and end of our journey.
http://www.finca-rblanca.co.cr/info/index.shtml

We can then make our way north to Mawamba Lodge in the Provence of Limon - Tortuguero.
This place offers boat safaris as well as "safaris" to look for turtles on the beach. They also offer fishing. We are thinking of 2-3 nights here. http://www.grupomawamba.com/mawambal...ies/index.html

We will then make our from San Jose up to Arenal Volcano Inn in the Provnce of Guancaste. (By bus? Car? Plane?)
http://www.arenalvolcanoinn.com/index.html
There are a number of activities that one can do here, but it seems that some times of the year it is very wet. Fishing, culture, hikes, and safari boat tours are a few of the activities, and of course the view of the volcano is the attraction. We are thinking of 4-5 nights here.

In this same provence is an area called Playas del Coco which is closer to the Pacific Ocean. Here we can stay at a nice place called Rancho Amadillo Estate
http://www.ranchoarmadillo.com/
They seem like they will arrange alot of activity or none, depending on what we want. You can also fly here from San Jose, so if the volcano place is close or if they can arrange actitvites and transportaion there, we can just fly here and use this as a base for activities in the area. There is an aiprort in this area, so we may just be able to leave from here back to MIA. We are thinking of 4 -5 nights here.

The R & R option I came up with is a stay in Provnce of Guancaste at Playa Samara, but I'm not sure where exactly this is. Villas Kalimba seems to be not too far from the above place, about one and a half hours from the Liberia aiport, and is located nearer to the beach.
http://www.villaskalimba.com/
We are thinking of 1 week here. There is also the option to take spanish classes in this town. If we do, we may extend our stay here.

Are all these options realistic? We would like to fish, hike, mild white water rafting, go on boting safaris, etc. Please offer your suggestions, as I feel I'm shooting in the dark. Thanks much!
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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ttt - Help, anyone please?
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 08:16 AM
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BahamaBreeze, your itinerary looks great, just not sure if you will want to spend so much time in and around San Jose, unless you have tours and things to do and see already planned. Also, I highly recommend renting a car. When I was there three years ago the roads were in bad condition, but when I went back this past summer, what a difference. Roads, except for those far out from civilization, were in great shape. You do have to be aware that Ticos are agressive drivers, but not more than some sections of the US. By having a car, it allows you to see so much more and at your own pace. Also, the trip by car from San Jose to Arenal and Guanacaste area is absolutely beautiful and an incredible trip. Have fun in CR.
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 08:47 AM
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Thanks ewesthoff! I'm getting very excited about this trip! We'll look into a car rental now.

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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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I would also recommed renting a car for your 3 week stay, as long as you are comfortable with driving yourself in a foriegn country.

Yes, the roads are bad in places, but they are not "undriveable" by any means. My experience is that within a few hours of driving, you will most likely be acclimated to both the road conditions and the driving of others.

Plus, getting lost and discovering unexpected places can be half the fun on a vacation in my opinion, as long as you don't mind.

I'm leaving on my next trip in about a month...should be able to offer some more advice then!
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 08:57 AM
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Forgot to mention, if you DO rent a car I'd go w/ a Daihatsu Terios or something similar...something that's 4x4 and offers some ground clearance.
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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Your itinerary sounds really nice. I'd just add a thought or two.

Try to work the Tortuguero portion of your journey in as last as possible in July. You'll have better luck seeing the turtles nesting later in the month. July is the month they are just getting started, so at the very beginning, the chances of seeing one are a bit slimmer. We were there July 17 & 18 and saw one turtle nesting. It was enough, but our turtle hike could just as easily have been a bust. I was very thankful! We had intentionally changed our itinerary, moving our Toruguero trip up a week, hoping to see turtles nesting. Could you begin with Arenal and finish with Tortuguero?

The other thing is that Playa Samara is, no way, 1.5 hour from Liberia airport! More like 3 hours. Do take that into consideration in your planning. The drive time always takes longer than it looks as if it should!

We like the Playas del Coco area, but weren't all that crazy about Samara. Probably wouldn't go back there, but would like to visit the nearby beaches of Nosara, Garza, and Ostional.

We especially like the Playa Conchal, Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero area. About an hour south of Playas del Coco. Actually, 40 minutes if you take the short cut through on the Congo Trail, a dirt road that cuts through the country. We thought it was much better than the highway in July (the highway south of Liberia toward Belen) was in the worst state we'd ever seen it. Someone wrote recently that the Monkey (Congo) Trail was really bad, but we thought it was a great road. Fairly smooth and wide. We did have to ford a couple of very shallow little rivers, but they were narrow and shallow, and this is standard procedure for traveling across Costa Rica!

What a lovely trip you have shaping up! Good luck and have a great time!

Oh, by the way, we ALWAYS spend July in CR and have never had anything but the best of weather. Guess we've been lucky!
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Old Oct 7th, 2006, 04:31 AM
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Thank you airwayvz and shillmac for your very helpful suggestions! We're looking into driving now, and shillmac, I'll also look into those areas suggested on the beach south of Playa de Coco. Thanks for taking the time to post your feedback!
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Old Oct 7th, 2006, 11:46 AM
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i drive from playa samara to liberia regularly, it shouldn't take you more than 2 hours max!
villas kalimba is on the beach and is a good choice.
the language school in samara is right on the beach:
http://costa.rica.typepad.com/photos...ulturajpg.html

i would sugeest you stay in playa ocotal rather than coco, it has a bit of a seedy side at night.
stay in ocotal, party in coco!! my suggestion in ocotal is villas casa blanca! definitely to a day on the biggest yacht in Coco, the don bosco:
http://www.costaricasailingtours.com
go to nearby deserted beach playa huevos for a bbq, sail back for sunset.

http://costa.rica.typepad.com/samara...ome/index.html

http://costa.rica.typepad.com/playas...ome/index.html

http://costa.rica.typepad.com/la_for...ome/index.html

http://costa.rica.typepad.com/samara...ome/index.html

http://costa-rica.typepad.com/playa_...ome/index.html
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Old Oct 7th, 2006, 05:43 PM
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BahamaBreeze--we love driving around CR--wouldn't do it any other way. It just gives you a tremendous amount of freedom to see and do at your leisure. Some of the roads are not so great, true; but there are a few that will surprise you and be better than you might have imagined!

Guanacaste--I stand corrected. Haven't actually driven that Liberia-Samara route all in one piece. It has always seemed to me that Nicoya is a good 1.5-2 hours from Liberia and then I was thinking it took us an hour from Nicoya to Samara. It's been 3 years, though, so I've probably forgotten! I got accused of driving too fast on another thread so maybe I was driving too slow on this route! That's good that it is only a 2 hour drive--much more accessible for those flying into Liberia. I just can't imagine doing it in 1.5 hour! Perhaps I was figuring it with a stopover in Tamarindo, who knows?
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Old Oct 8th, 2006, 02:47 PM
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Thanks, guanacaste, for your suggestions! I've been reaearching just about all day, and the more I look, the more locations I see that I like! Now I understand why my daughter wants to return again, and again (first time she stayed 10 days, the second time one month, now she wants to go back again for 2 months!) Costa Rica definately looks like the kind of place I will want to return to, and I haven't even been yet! Thanks for all the helpful suggetions!
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Old Oct 19th, 2006, 03:00 PM
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BahamaBreeze,
We took a family vacation to CR two years back and visited Arenal, Cano Negro, Rincon de Viejo, Manuel Antonio, Tortuguerro and Cahuita. It was a wonderful trip. That was our first trip to CR and we were also uncomfortable about driving in CR. WE hired a van and driver/guide ($75 a day plus gasoline) who took us to all these places . I found him through the classified sections of the online edition of TicoTimes, a San Jose daily. That took the agony out of driving unfamiliar and not-so-good roads and we were able to relax and enjoy the trip.
No matter what you decide, you will have a great trip.
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