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OSUbuckeye Mar 31st, 2018 08:59 AM

2 week trip to Costa Rica Dec 2018
I just booked our first trip to Costa Rica, leaving 11/30/18 & returning 12/13/18. We are flying into San Jose, where we are staying 1 night & then transferring to the Arenal Area for 4 nights at Volcano Lodge, then to Monteverde for 3 nights at the Cloud Forest Lodge, Manuel Antonio for 4 nights at the Parador Resort & Spa & then back to San Jose for 1 night.
My husband & I are both in our early sixties but very active. We love to hike & experience an area & see everything possible as if this might be our only trip to a location. We are both very interested in the wildlife of CR, zip- lining, etc. I am looking for suggestions for the best & not to be missed things to do at each of our locations. Is zip-lining better at one area than another? Night tours at each location? Etc. Etc.
Also, should we book our activities & excursions ahead of time or work with the staff at each of our hotels in arranging tours? We have already booked transfers with drivers between different locations but is there an area where we should rent a car to get around? Are local buses & transportation okay to use to get around?
We also would prefer packing light & are not into fancy clothes & high end restaurants. What kind of clothing to pack for this time of year, besides rain gear?
Thanks for any & all suggestions:)

volcanogirl Mar 31st, 2018 11:14 AM

The Arenal area has some nice excursions to see wildlife. The Cano Negro tour, a nice tour in a covered boat, is excellent. Desafio is a great company to go with for tours. Good chance to see monkeys, sloths, caimans, and water birds. Penas Blancas safari float is fun too; you won't see as much wildlife as at Cano Negro, and the float is done in a rubber raft. For hiking, check out the Mistico Hanging Bridges, and there's also a nice waterfall hike you can do. You can also do a volcano hike. For ziplining we like Sky Trek, some of the highest lines in the country, and you get nice views of the volcano and the lake if the weather is good. A tram takes you up so not a lot of climbing or hiking involved. The Arenal Observatory Lodge has the best wildlife in the area; you can hike their trails for a fee. We stayed there on our last trip and saw monkeys, toucans, aracaris, and tons of coatis.

In Monteverde, we did a guided hike of the Reserve - good place to see quetzals. Also did a fun night hike at Hidden Valley - saw some new things like a porcupine and a fox that we haven't seen elsewhere. We did ziplining there with the Original Canopy Tour.

In Manuel Antonio, we like Manuel Antonio Expeditions for guides - used them for a guided tour of the pretty national park and the Damas mangrove boat tour. The national park has tons of wildlife, lots of monkeys, fairly tame. There's a beautiful beach inside the park if you want to swim. We always book all our own tours; some hotels will only reserve with certain providers. That's fine if you don't know who to use, but if you have preferences it's good to book yourselves. We've also been sailing and snorkeling there. Snorkeling was a dud for us due to sediment in the water so I'd give a pass on that. Visibility isn't that great.

volcanogirl Mar 31st, 2018 11:19 AM

As far as transportation, the Arenal area is the most spread out. Taxis are available but they can really add up. Some hotels offer a shuttle into town so you could check on that. When we stayed at AOL, they had one for seven or eight dollars per person. When we stayed at the Lost Iguana, they let us ride their employee shuttle. A lot of people like to have a car in the area just for added freedom. For most tours, they'll pick you up and drop you back off at your hotel. We used taxis in both MA and Monteverde. MA also has a public bus.

For clothing, Manuel Antonio is almost always pretty hot. Wear shorts, tshirts, tanks, capri pants. Monteverde can get chilly; we wore fleece jackets and sweatshirts at night, so pack something warm just in case. Arenal is in between. We bring cheap rain ponchos to have on hand. It's nice to have your own binoculars as well. For shoes, I bring running shoes, flip flops, and a quick dry water shoe like Keen's.

OSUbuckeye Mar 31st, 2018 02:56 PM

Thank you so much for the useful tips & ideas, Volcanogirl!! I have started a notebook with all the activities & tour names you have given me.

volcanogirl Apr 1st, 2018 08:26 AM

Happy to help, OSU!

florclover Jul 7th, 2018 05:31 PM

We have never rented a car in CR. We use taxis around town.
In Monteverde we used a company called Forest Alive for a hanging bridge tour. You can do bridges without a guide, but it was so much better with a guide. They can spot so many animals and interesting plants that we would have missed. We also did a night tour with them which was pretty wild (well, our two-year-old came, so maybe not so wild).

In Manual Antonio we used Jade Tours. Our favorite day around MA, though, was horseback riding to a waterfall with Brisas del Nara company. It comes with breakfast cooked by Grandma.

MinnBeef Jul 8th, 2018 06:56 PM

I also stayed at the Arenal Lodge in late Jan. 2016. The food is pretty meh but the views of the volcano are jaw dropping and the hiking and wildlife are terrific. I also zip lined at Sky Trek, booking a morning jungle hike and afternoon ziplining through Desafio Adventures. It was my second time ziplining (the first being in Puerto Rico) and it was absolutely mind blowing. The first line is roughly 700 ft. Up in the air as you travel at roughly 40 mph straight out to the volcano. You then zigzag down the course with great views of the lake.

I also spent 3 nights in Manuel Antonio which was fine but Arenal and the ziplining are what became my lasting memories of Costa Rica.

volcanogirl Jul 9th, 2018 09:50 AM

Minn, if you're talking about the Arenal Observatory Lodge, they have a brand new menu and new chef. Breakfast and lunch were good; dinner was a bit pricey and too fancy for us but still fine.

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