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RSBWCU May 11th, 2010 09:20 AM

7 days in CR don't want crowds, just nature
We have 7 days and don't want to spend the whole time driving. Things we want to do Arenal, La Selva Bio Station, possibly a beach. Activities- zipline, cave tour, horse back, hike in rainforest. We don't like crowds & want to see local culture as many animals as possible.We are flying in & out of San Jose.

Kay2 May 11th, 2010 09:21 AM

Do you have a question or just letting folks know your travel plans?

volcanogirl May 11th, 2010 09:25 AM

I would do a split between Arenal and the Osa Peninsula. Two spots we like are the Lost Iguana and Bosque del Cabo, but there are a lot of good choices.

In Arenal, you can zipline at Sky Trek, do the Venado Caves, horseback ride to the waterfall. We love the Cano Negro tour for spotting wildlife. You could also check out Eco Termales natural hot springs for dinner.

Tons of good hiking on the Osa and the best wildlife we've ever seen - all 4 kinds of monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, coatis, an anteater, agoutis - you name it.

hsmithcr May 11th, 2010 10:20 AM

If you don't like crowds and you want to see wildlife, skip Arenal which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The Osa Peninsula is great for wildlife.

There are other possibilities-- visit the northern part of the country - Miravalles and Tenorio Volcanoes are two places with not that many tourists, lots of wildlife and local culture. You can also go to Tortuguero which is popular but really worth it and not as crowded if you go in the rainy season.

Check out these websites:

RSBWCU May 11th, 2010 10:41 AM

Yes we are trying to figure out what to do. We will have our boys 8 & 11 with us. Do we have enough time w a rental car to spend a few nights in Arenal, La Selva and then Tortuguero?

hipvirgochick May 11th, 2010 10:48 AM

If it were me I'd choose two areas with 7 days. Will you have to spend 1st or last night near airport?

Although La Fortuna/Arenal is a high tourist destination spot it is well worth visiting...people go there for a reason. Arenal/La Selva or Arenal/Tortuguero or even Arenal/Puerto Viejo if you want to include a non-touristy beach area.

volcanogirl May 11th, 2010 12:00 PM

We loved Tortuguero too, but be aware that you can't swim at the beach there. Are you going to be there in turtle season?

I totally agree with hip. Arenal has so much to offer. I wouldn't skip it. Maybe it depends on where you stay, but we've never felt crowded there at all and the sheer number of activities available is a big bonus. Plus the chance to see an active volcano and enjoy the hot springs.

volcanogirl May 11th, 2010 12:01 PM

I meant to add that Tortuguero is good for two nights; most of the lodges will put together a package for you.

hsmithcr May 11th, 2010 12:05 PM

I agree with picking two places. Sit down and write out a detailed itinerary with travel times, etc, and see for yourself if you want to do this much moving around. For travel times, you can check or

If you arrive Costa Rica anytime after about 1 pm, you should stay your first night in Alajuela and start out in the morning. The exception to this is if you are flying on a domestic airline to your destination or have a hired driver or can make a shuttle. In general, it is better to spend your last night in Alajuela in order to be sure of getting to your flight on time. Of course, if you are flying from some destination into the airport or if your flight is very late in the day, travel the same day would work.

Arenal is popular because it is the site of a live volcano where you might be able to see the lava flow at night. If it is cloudy, you won't have any luck. It is also popular because there are lots of things to do in the area such as zip lines, hot springs, etc. The OP said, "we don't like crowds" and this is the reason I recommended against Arenal. All the things you can do in Arenal, you can do elsewhere, except for the lava flow.

volcanogirl May 11th, 2010 12:24 PM

I understand your reasoning, but like I said we've never personally felt crowded there. At our hotel, we can hike the grounds for a couple of hours without ever seeing anyone else. EcoTermales limits entry to 100 people so doesn't seem crowded. Our Cano Negro tour usually has around 10 people on it. I've just never felt the crowded vibe there but could depend on the things we do.

If you do Tortuguero, I'd do it at the end of the trip. Flights out are at around 7:00 a.m. and the flight back to San Jose is short and quick so you can avoid having to stay near the airport unless you want to. We boated in and then flew out; you can check the schedule on Nature Air or Sansa. Boating in allows you to see a lot of wildlife, everything from crocs to monkeys to otters.

hsmithcr May 11th, 2010 03:16 PM

Volcanogirl - when you say "our hotel" do you mean the hotel you own or the hotel were you stay?

And I think that "EcoTermales limits entry to 100 people" says it all.

Anyway, this has been a good discussion and I hope it will help the OP make up his/her mind.

volcanogirl May 11th, 2010 05:35 PM

Well, I wish I meant the one we own, but I was referencing the place where we always stay. It's set on about 120 acres of beautiful land and full of hiking trails and has a river running through it. You can go for hours without spotting anyone else. One of our favorite spots. If I ever do happen to own a hotel in CR, it will be free for all Fodorites. :)

shillmac May 11th, 2010 07:38 PM

Let me know when you get started on that!

RAC May 12th, 2010 05:00 AM

If you stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, you will have plenty of nature and great wildlife and NO CROWDS--it is set several kilometers from the closest public road. The remoteness has its downsides, of course, but it's a unique location. And you'll have the best view of the volcano in the entire region.

La Selva is also a good place to go to see nature. It is an active research laboratory, so you won't see crowds of tourists but you will see a decent number of scientists and grad students conducting research. La Selva is fairly close to San Jose (2 hour drive) and relatively affordable. The wildlife and nature opportunities there, and in the Sarapiqui region in general, are tremendous.

volcanogirl May 12th, 2010 05:10 AM

You got it, shillmac - Imperials on the house.

Cattail May 12th, 2010 05:19 AM

Just so you know, Venado Caves is far from a nature tour; it's fun, but I'm not sure I'd do it again. The guides knew nothing about what we were seeing, and worse, encouraged folks to touch, and inadvertantly damage, objects.

traveler2005 May 15th, 2010 10:23 AM

I think too, you have to consider the definition of crowds. A crowd could be considered the lines to get on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty or to visit St. Peter's in Rome or even walking down the sidewalk in NYC or Chicago. Compared to that, all of Costa Rica is pretty much empty. Twenty people on a hike or visiting a zip line is not really a crowd. So keep that in mind if you are worrying about crowds.

lyniebish May 16th, 2010 08:52 AM

I have to agree that Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is an amazing place. Not many tourists and lots and lots of animals and nature all around you. Another is La Amistad International Park, but with teenage boys, they may be bored here.

I just visited Arenal for the first time two weeks ago and while there were tours, activities, and more tours, I felt as if almost every tourist in Costa Rica was there. This is just my opinion, I like to be off the tourist trail. However, I'm happy I experienced it, and while cloudy, the volcano was beautiful and I saw two species of birds that I hadn't encountered before.

Pura Vida and enjoy your trip

GSteed May 20th, 2010 05:01 AM

Do a whitewater raft trip....

gatechfan May 20th, 2010 03:46 PM

Depending on when you go is also key as this now the low season in CR. A great place to stay in La Fortuna is Hotel Silencio del Campo, #1 in the area on Tripadvisor. We just returned from there and the place was great, not crowded, individual casitas, beautiful grounds, great views and its own hot springs. Kid friendly, family owned, your boys will enjoy the mini doberman and chihuahuas as well as parrots. For private transportation my recommendation is [email protected] - excellent in every way. Sky Trek is good, but with kids you may also want to consider EcoGlide as well, a little less daunting to the 8 - 11 crowd and has a secondary line! :)

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