7-8 Days in Costa Rica

Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 06:17 PM
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7-8 Days in Costa Rica

My wife and I will be traveling to CR for 7-8 days in mid-April. It will be the first time in Central America for both of us. We're looking for a good mix of nature/culture and adventure. We're around 30 years old, like to have fun and eat great food but not huge drinkers/partiers. My wife has a difficult time with very long car trips (motion sickness/nausea issues), so we're trying to minimize the amount of time we spend in cars and buses (which we know is not ideal for CR, but we're still going to make a go of it). We are considering doing 4 days in Arenal/La Fortuna followed by 3 or so days in Puerto Viejo in Sarapiqui (not talamanca) to do some rafting and stay at an ecolodge. Obviously Arenal is well documented, but there is minimal information on Puerto Viejo on these forums. We think we're ok without going to the beaches because we've done a lot of beach vacations before, but we're willing to listen to dissenting opinions if told that going to beaches are an absolute must in CR. We would appreciate any insights offered by folks who have been there and people who are well traveled in CR in general to tell us if this is a good itinerary. Again, this is our first trip to Central America and CR, so we want it to be wonderful and memorable. Are we crazy for skipping Manuel Antonio and Monteverde? Are two cities enough to keep us entertained? Thanks in advance!
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 07:34 AM
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PV area is sort of rustic dodgy backpacker vibe

if that is your cup of tea go for it.

if you miss www.manuelantoniopark.com

you miss a lot...

Best for me www.riostropcales.com for rafting

head for MA not PV...
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 07:52 AM
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I think 4 days in Arenal is about right - great area - haven't been to PV yet. If you want to avoid the roads in CR, you might check out Sansa or Nature Air; you can fly to a lot of destinations if you want to. Two cities is definitely appropriate for your time frame. You might take a look at the Osa.
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 09:59 AM
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I love the Sarapiqui area. I've stayed at Selva Verde twice -beautiful grounds, howlers, sloths, iguanas, loads of birds on their property. You can hire a private guide to go across the river to their private reserve - saw six great green macaws feeding in the almond trees along with lots of frogs.

In Sarapiqui you can also do a variety of guided tours at La Selva Research Station, hikes, chocolate or bat tours at La Tirimbina Rainforest Center, white water rafting or boat trips.

I don't think beaches are an absolute must - all depends on the type of trip and what you are looking for. Many people like the Arenal/MA mix because it gives them volcano, rainforest and beach mix on one trip. I think it's the most popular combo for first timers.

Monteverde is a lovely cloud forest area, but you will see more wildlife in Sarapiqui - or at least I have on my visits.

Do have your wife take non-drowsy Dramamine for the car trips as the roads can be a bit curvy.
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 10:50 AM
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Yes, good advice, c. I got car sick the first trip, and now I take Dramamine and wear Sea Bands and haven't had any more problems.
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 03:21 PM
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Thanks for the advice, everyone. We're definitely going to fly into SJO and go to Arenal first. Second location still TBD. In terms of getting from SJO to Arenal, the earliest flight we can take would arrive at SJO at 11:40am. I've heard transportation is difficult if you don't start early, so with getting through customs and other airport issues, will we still have time to get to Arenal that same day? What's our best bet in terms of transportation?
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 03:30 PM
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Oh definitely, it's only about 3 hours and doesn't get dark until around 5:30. You can fly like I mentioned above, drive, take Interbus, or hire a private driver. We use Carlos Bogarin www.destinos-encantados.com. SJO to Arenal runs around $140ish for a private driver; Interbus is more affordable but you have to run on their schedule and share the ride. It's a good affordable option. Private drivers have the benefit of stopping for whatever you'd like like snacks, bathroom break, etc. They can act as a tour guide of sorts and point things out along the way. Carlos spotted toucans for us. A lot of people do the drive themselves without any problems, but you wouldn't want to drive between cities after dark just because things aren't well marked, and rain and fog can roll in.
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Old Feb 28th, 2010, 05:27 PM
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VG - thanks for all of your help on this thread and others. I was just looking at a drive time chart that someone posted in another thread, and it said that Arenal to Puntarenas is only about 3 hours, and Puntarenas is only an hour and a half or so from SJO. As mentioned, we're hoping to minimize drive time but still see great places, so now I'm considering SJO->Arenal->PA->SJO. Haven't read much about Puntarenas on the board. Can anyone offer thoughts on the area?
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Old Feb 28th, 2010, 06:05 PM
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Sarapiqui is a very short car ride from the Arenal area. As noted above, lots of very good, reasonably priced ecolodging available. There is a fantastic assortment of eco-activities available there.

It's not crazy to skip Manuel Antonio or Monteverde.

If you have your own car in Sarapiqui, you can drive to Rios Tropicales's rafting center and raft the Pacuare. A run of the Pacuare winds up being the highlight of many people's vacations there.
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Old Feb 28th, 2010, 06:06 PM
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Oh, regarding Puntarenas--SKIP IT.
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Old Feb 28th, 2010, 06:32 PM
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Thanks RAC. Is there enough to do in Sarapiqui to occupy 3 days? I'd definitely like to do a rafting trip and we've heard there are some fun bat/chocolate tours. I just don't want to feel bored since CR is such an exciting vacation. Also, some have mentioned that this is kind of a seedy area - is that true based on your experiences?
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Old Feb 28th, 2010, 06:55 PM
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We were there for four nights. We didn't do everything there was to do.

It is absolutely not a seedy area.

here's a link to our trip report from the area.

http://www.fodors.com/community/mexi...-pura-vida.cfm

Photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3126735...7614425822344/
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 08:13 AM
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The Sarapiqui area is one of the most biodiverse areas within two hours of San Jose. I think it's very underrated in terms of popularity and would never call it dodgy or seedy! The eco-lodges may not be high end luxury, but are clean and comfortable with amazing grounds teeming with wildlife.

There is plenty to do for three days - hiking, rafting, birdwatching, botanical gardens, bat and chocolate tours, kayaking.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 09:08 AM
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I think Quovadis was referring to the other Puerto Viejo when he said it was a seedy area.
I don't know how much driving it is to get to the Pacuare from Sarapiqui, but it is definitely worth it. The Pacuare is a world class rafting experience--adventure and beauty. You can also stay at one of the lodges on the Pacuare if you want.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 09:38 AM
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It's a very simple drive from Sarapiqui to Rios Tropicales--about 90 minutes (actually closer than San Jose is). It costs less than a trip where they have to pick you up.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 09:11 PM
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We stayed at Selva Verde near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui 3 years ago on our first trip to Costa Rica (trip #3 coming in 1 week!). It's an easy drive, good road, not too curvy or mountainous, from Arenal to Puerto Viejo. Could be a good choice if motion sickness is an issue. I don't remember how long of a drive it was...2 hours? We took an afternoon rafting trip while there, which was fun...saw lots of birds, monkeys, etc., but it was not major whitewater. We went into the town of Puerto Viejo a couple times and ate at some good sodas. I agree with Shooie...it's the other Puerto Viejo that is a little seedy (been there, too). On the Selva Verde grounds, we took some good guided hikes and saw tons of birds, frogs, howlers, baselisk lizards, etc. The food at Selva Verde was fine, not really special, but OK. There's actually a nice pool at Selva Verde, so we spent an afternoon relaxing by the pool. So I think it was a neat area to visit. If you stay at Selva Verde, ask for a unit that is close to the river, as opposed to the highway.
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Old Mar 9th, 2010, 01:21 AM
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Contact me.
Do not get involved with tourist traps and fly into Liberia if at all possible.
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Old Mar 9th, 2010, 10:17 AM
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No, you don't want to fly into Liberia when planning an Arenal/Sarapiqui trip.

I second the Sarapiqui suggestion and agree with Colibri and RAC. It's a GREAT area and plenty to do with 3 nights. Selva Verde Lodge is good as is La Quinta.

We also like the other Puerto Viejo, and wouldn't consider it seedy--just very rasta. Cahuita/Puerto Viejo/Manzanillo is a great area to visit.

For your purposes in keeping the driving at a minimum, I think your Arenal/Sarapiqui plan is excellent. Have heard glowing reports from Tirimbina. La Selva is also excellent.
I certainly don't think you'll miss the beach!
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Old Mar 9th, 2010, 10:18 AM
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Oh and by the way, totally would NOT recommend time at Puntarenas. It doesn't even come close to having what the Sarapiqui area has in terms of adventure and things to do.
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Old Mar 9th, 2010, 11:08 AM
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Fly into SJO for Arenal/Sarapaqui - agree with above.

Have only checked out La Quinta and it looks nice. Haven't seen Selva Verde but it's on my list! Beautiful area.

Puerto Viejo (the beach one ;-) ) is a beautiful area too. Returning for the 3rd time in 3 months and can't wait!
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