3 wks CR with 3 kids in July - advice

Old Jun 4th, 2007, 12:02 PM
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3 wks CR with 3 kids in July - advice

We are leaving for CR at the end of June with 3 kids ages 15,13 and 8 for three weeks and are getting nervious.
We are mainly interested in wildlife, nature and hiking, and need some advice or changes to our itinerary:
Arrival in San Jose at 2 pm,staying near airport and renting a 4x4.
day 2 - Poas and La Paz Gardens.
days 3-6 (4 nights) - Arenal staying at Volcano Inn.
days 7-9 (3 nights)- Monteverde.
days 10-11 (2 nights) - Rincon de la Viejo.
days 12-14 (3 nights) - Manual Antonio.
days 15-16 (2 nights) - Puerto Viejo
day 17 - San Jose
days 18-19 (2 nights) - Package to Tortuguro at Mawamba Lodge.
day 20 - flight home at 1 pm.

Should we expect any bumpy roads (potholes) except for the road to Monteverde?

At Rincon - is it better to stay around the park?

Should we skip the Carribean side?





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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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My wife and I visited CR in Dec 05 and had a wonderful week. Stayed in San Jose at a very romatic B&B 1 night then hired a driver to take us to the Mt Arenal area for 2 nights. Used a semi private bus to get to the pacific side for 3 additional night. Most of the guides don't recommend driving if you can avoid it. I agree with this opinion. Roads are very bad and not marked well. Make sure you take the kids on a zip line tour when in the Arenal area, you and they will never forget it.
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 12:47 PM
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Our boys were 15,13 and 9 when we went last July. We flew into Liberia, drove directly to Posada el Encuentro near Rincon de la Vieja where we stayed 2 nights. It was lovely and managed by a delightful couple. We toured the volcano area, hiking most of the morning. We ended with a dip in a cool spring fed pool on one of the trails. Our host arranged a zipline tour near the volcano that we all enjoyed. Next day we went to Palo Verde park where we stayed overnight at the biological station. It was an adventure due to the heat and no a/c but the guided tour of the jungle the next day made it worthwhile. Roads in were awful. Another fun side trip was Another fun side trip was Thermo Mania, a hot springs area north of Bagaces. We continued to Playa Carrillo where we stayed at El Sueno Tropical, another fabulous hotel. We had a small apartment w/kitchen which was perfect. We loved it as did the kids. Nosara was well worth the drive. There was a biological preserve at the Hotel Lagarta Lodge that we hiked in about an hour. Neat mangrove swamp w/crabs, etc. We want to go back. Never found good snorkeling on the Pacific side. Heard it's better on the Caribbean. Have fun!
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 02:18 PM
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I think you have a very good itinerary, but it needs a few changes. Don't worry about driving--it isn't that bad; we've done it for years. The road to Monteverde is potholed and rough, but there's nothing about it that should give you pause. Most of the roads are very decent, and fairly well marked.

The problem is toward the end. It will take you way to long to drive from Manuel Antonio to Puerto Viejo (8 hours at least with a stop or 2). You will really only have 1 full day there. It's a fun little area, but you really should choose between that location and Tortuguero.

The turtles will be nesting in Tortuguero. July is a great time to visit, and seeing that is a marvelous experience. So I think I'd be tempted to let Puerto Viejo go this trip and aim for Tortuguero, then finish up with an extra day or so around San Jose, perhaps Vista del Valle. There's a lot to see and do in that area.

Another thought is to go ahead and drive over to Puerto Viejo, but don't backtrack back to San Jose before going to Tortuguero. You can arrange to meet someone at the Japdeva Wharf in Moin to transport you on up to Tortuguero. It's a fascinating journey, and I think your children would really enjoy it.

We did this last year, from Puerto Viejo. We used Modesto and Fran Watson with the Riverboat Francesca. Hired a taxi driver to take us to Moin, then met up with them for the ride up the rivers/canals. We stayed at Laguna Lodge. The reason we were without a vehicle at that point was because we were returning from a short trip to Panama by way of Puerto Viejo.

So you have some options. But do rework those last few days. There is absolutely no reason for you to do so much backtracking. And also, some people do Tortuguero for just a single night package. We really like the 2 night package, but you could conserve a day there if you needed to.

Also, if you drop Puerto Viejo and end up with an extra day at the end of your journey, you could tack it on at the beginning and spend 2 days in the Poas/La Paz area. Do you already have hotel arrangements in place?

Hope this hasn't confused you further. Just food for thought. . .
Good luck--you're gonna have a great trip!
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 02:40 PM
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I think that you might be trying to do a little too much with the kids. The first week looks great but then it looks like a lot of driving with very little time spent in each area. I would eliminate Puerto Viejo, and spend more time in Manuel Antonio, and or Rincon. Maybe even switch to a Guanacaste Beach and decrease that drive time. (Although we loved MA)

I am having the same problem with our trip this summer. There are too many places I want to go! But I need to narrow it down so that we enjoy our time in each place we do go.
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 02:45 PM
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Regarding Mawamba, I don't know if you know this but it is pretty rustic. They had our family out in this set of bungalows that didn't have a covered walkway leading to them and we got dirt all over the floor and couldn't keep it clean. Plus the lighting in the bungalow was poor and there was no place to put our bags--no shelves, hooks or anything. It was just very tough being there. That being said, there are things about that place that make it worth while, like the wildlife especially the red eyed tree frogs everywhere. Just brace yourself for a "camping" experience.
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 03:34 PM
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We are staying in Rincon de la Vieja for 2 nights this summer as well. As much as I like the area, I really think it can be enjoyed with 2 nights. Manuel Antonio, on the other hand, could probably use 4 nights--or at least that would be a possibility. We've never stayed longer than 3, but there's quite a bit we've not done there, like the Damas Mangrove Tour and Finca Valmy horseback, both things I'd like to have time to do one day.

Hopefully somewhere among all the input you are getting, you'll see your way clear! Sometimes, things just fall into place and make perfect sense all of a sudden with this itinerary business!
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 03:34 PM
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If you can, take the Cano Negro tour out of Arenal; it's a neat boat ride near the Nicaraguan border - you will see a ton of wildlife. It's one of our favorite memories. The kids would probably like the hot springs at Tabacon too. Although it could get a bit pricey. It's really popular, so they keep raising the price!
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Old Jun 5th, 2007, 07:13 AM
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Thanks shillmac and others for your helpful advice.
I was not sure about the last leg of the trip from MA to PV. I thought it is a 5-6 hour drive, but at 8 hours it really does not make much sense.
O.K now that Puerto Viejo was eliminated, I have 3 extra days. Is one more day in Monteverde will be too much? (make it 4 nights). I will definitely add one more day at MA (make it 4 nights), and one more day around San Jose before leaving for Tortoguro as I already have my first days booked. My Mawamba excursion is also booked so I will prepare for camping experience there.
I plan on doing the zipline in MV (is Arenal's better?),Cano Negro tour from Arenal (which company goes inside the reserve?),Tabacon hot springs and the waterfall (maybe horseback riding).
I am sure the kids are going to have great time.
You are so right shillmac, and I hope I can see my way clear and come up with the perfect itinerary!
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Old Jun 5th, 2007, 08:51 AM
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You are already on the way to getting it just right. I wouldn't advise a 4th night at Monteverde. Manuel Antonio, yes. Also, I think you would have a better experience with the ziplines at Arenal--try Arenal Paraiso with 18 cables.

Don't worry about your lodge experience in Tortuguero. We stayed at Laguna Lodge and it was a bit rustic, but at no time did we feel as if we were camping. We've camped a few times, and this was not camping! It will be fine.

If you end up adding an extra day at San Jose, then you might enjoy a day trip to Irazu Volcano (different from Poas or Arenal), Orosi Valley, Lankester Gardens. . .not sure how much your kids would enjoy that--great for adults! Very pretty. You could also do a tour up toward the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui area. Check out the Highlights of Costa Rica tour with Ecoscape Tours. www.ecoscape.com (not sure if the word "tour" should be in there or not). It will give you a very nice overview, but includes Poas, and you will have already done that? It also includes breakfast at a coffee estate, a drive by the main falls at La Paz (not into the property), a stop for lunch at Selva Verde over on the Caribbean lowland side, a slow jungle cruise down the Sarapiqui River. Full day.

You might also enjoy Zoo Ave in Alajuela--an animal rehab place, lots of birds, but other animals as well. Well worth the couple of hours it takes.

Don't worry about down time that isn't planned. You can always get a suggestion last minute from a hotel tour desk in San Jose. We really like the Hotel Don Carlos for its excellent tour desk and tour desk operator, Juan Carlos.

Enjoy--you're getting there with the planning!
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Old Jun 5th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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Oops, yes, it is www.ecoscapetours.com!
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Old Jun 5th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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For Cano Negro, we used Sunset Tours and loved them. We didn't see anyone else on the river for hours, and they served us a great lunch of arroz con pollo, beans, rice, and fresh pineapple. Very fun day, and we got incredible pictures of caimans, sloths, howlers, capuchins, and different birds. We would highly recommend them. We booked the tour through our hotel, but there is an office in La Fortuna if you'd like to book it yourself. I think the kids (and you!) would love it.
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Old Jun 5th, 2007, 12:07 PM
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Oh yes, we loved Zoo Ave. You can actually read our trip report at http://www.markandmonica.com/Travel/costa_rica_2005.htm
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 06:32 AM
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One more question -

On the way from Rincon to MA, would it be a good idea to spend a night in the Tarcoles area and visit Carara NP?
Are there any recommended hotels in the area?
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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If you're going over the Rio Tarcoles, don't forget to stop and look at the big crocs that live underneath the bridge; we saw about 15 of them, and they were huge. Be sure to have someone stay in the car with your stuff though - it's a notorious spot for breakins. There's a little parking lot near the bridge where you can park.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 11:20 AM
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timartan,
We are spending a couple of nights at Villa Lapas near Carara Biological Reserve next month. I'm sure there are a few other hotels (several in the Jaco area), but we're going to be birding, so prefer VL.

It would make for a long day, but if you left Rincon early enough, you could still spend a few hours in Carara and make it to Manuel Antonio by dark.
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