8 nights in CR enough for Arenal + MA + Osa?

Old May 2nd, 2007, 08:18 PM
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8 nights in CR enough for Arenal + MA + Osa?

Hi I'm planning my first trip to Costa Rica in August. Most interested in seeing the Volcano, Manuel Antonio and Osa Peninula, may be Monteverde. But we only have 8 nights, 9 max.

Good news is our flight from NYC will arrive in SJO at 11:15am, unlike many flights that arrive in the evening, so we can go straight to Arenal or MA. Which of these itineraries would you recommend?

day 1 SJO drive to MA, 4 nights
day 5 drive to Osa, 3 nights
day 8 fly to Arenal, 1 night
day 9 drive from Arenal to SJO, 12:15pm departure

day 1 SJO drive to Arenal, 1 night
day 2 drive to MA, 4 nights
day 6 drive to Osa, 3 nights
day 9 fly to SJO, 12:15pm departure

C (skip Osa)
day 1 SJO drive to MA, 6 nights
day 7 drive to Arenal, 2 night
day 9 drive to SJO, 12:15 departure

So which of these or any other suggestions? We're a couple in our 30's, no kids. Interested in wild life, nature hikes, the beach, sailing/fishing/surfing if available, good food, and some pampering. We have heard all about CR being a beautiful country and flights from NY are not very long, so we plan to go back and don't feel the need to cramp it all in this trip. Just want a taste of some highlights and still feel relaxed.

Thanks for your help!!
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 2nd, 2007, 08:47 PM
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My guess is people will chime in here and suggest you pick 2 places for this amount of time. It appears you are pretty set on MA and Arenal. If that's the case consensus is to spend at least 3 nights in Arenal. I think if you pick Osa you should give up MA.

It's hard deciding, isn't it? It took me forever! Good luck!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old May 2nd, 2007, 08:53 PM
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Thanks Hipvirgo!

So are you suggesting a first-timer should head to Osa before MA? They're kind of equal in my mind after what I've read so I'd love to hear opinions to help choose one. Or should a first-timer do MA + Osa first and skip Arenal?
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 2nd, 2007, 09:25 PM
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flatfeet -- I apologize if my previous post sounded like hands-on experience. Actually, I was turning over advice I've picked up on over the past several months here on Fodors since I began researching the areas, like you. My trip is actually May 19, so I'm very excited Do you want more beach time, or more jungle time? What is your budget? Osa can get expensive, and is more isolated, but more densely populated with wildlife. Arenal will be unique to the hot springs, volcano and Cano Negro tour (I think both Arenal and MA would offer hanging bridges, zip lines); MA for the beaches and wildlife; Osa for the seclusion and abundant wildlife (way more than MA from what I've read). I would do 3 nights Arenal, 5 nights Osa (2 nights in Puerto Jimenez for some beach, and 3 nights at Bosque Del Cabo for wildlife and many, many hiking trails). We aren't going to MA either though, so it may be personal choice. Instead we're going to Puerto Viejo to the Caribbean side (and Arenal, Osa and Central Valley, but we have 16 days).

Good luck in your planning! There are so many choices!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old May 2nd, 2007, 09:43 PM
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Wow 16 days, I'm jealous!

Your tips are definitely helpful. I just started doing research on this board and some other tourism sites for past week. Also have been hearing about CR from friends (suddenly everyone seems to be going there and everyone proclaims eternal love when they come home).

I think our main goals are wildlife, peace/relaxation and nature. Some pampering, but not too posh to the point of feeling too removed from the land. Also want to be close to the ocean as much as possible. Husband is a science/geology geek so he'll love the volcano. Budget is under $250/night.
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 04:48 AM
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I'd too say either MA or Osa but not both on same trip. Osa is a wonderful slice of heaven; MA is agreat as well but more popular/crowded but is good for a first trip. I definitely wouldn't attempt all 3 with only 8 nights. Have a good time planning, you can always go back to catch what you missed, we all do!
tully is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 09:42 AM
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flatfeet - Sounds like Arenal and Osa would be a great mix for you and hubby. Airfare to Osa is about $180/pp. Sansa airport is adjacent to SJO, Nature Air is 1/2 away. Check out the flight times to coordinate best with your departure home. Bosque Del Cabo (Osa) will be a little more than $250 (depending on your cabina) but read the reviews here from those who think it's well worth it. In Arenal there are many hotels to choose from, and the possible 2 nights in Puerto Jimenez (check out Iquana Lodge) will enable you to stay under your budget. We went for "an average" budget, staying at a B & B in Puerto Viejo for $55/night, Arenal (El Campo Del Silencio) for $90/night, a couple other recommended hotels around $75/night, but topped it off with Peace Lodge at $200/night and BDC at $250/night. Way more than I was willing to spend...at first... Oh, yeah, regarding the 16 days, I'm draining every last drop of my vacation time
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 02:59 PM
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I just won a luxurylink auction! 5 nights at La Mansion Inn for $380, so I guess we'll be going to MA if the date availability works out!

What to do with our other 3-4 nights? Spend them all at Arenal?
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 06:22 PM
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Wow! Congrats! I hope the dates work for you travel in August.

Will you have a car or be taking shuttle?
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 07:53 PM
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We just put Continental flight on hold with airmiles, flying direct NYC-SJO Aug 4-14. Hubby and I reworked out vacation schedule so now we have 10 nights in CR!

So with the 5 nights at La Mansion Inn from the auction, where else should we go? How about this:

8/4, arrive SJO 11:15am, 2 night Arenal (should we drive or fly to Arenal?)

8/6, fly to Osa, 3 nights

8/9, fly or drive to MA, 5 nights

8/14, early flight from Quepos to SJO, catch noon fligt home

Should I skip Osa or Arenal? Or should I keep 2 nights in Arenal, and stay only 4 nights of our 5-night package at La Mansion Inn MA so we have one more night for Osa (total 4 nights)?

Please help!!
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 08:47 PM
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That's great flatfeet! I'm excited for you With 10 nights, you have more options, but make sure you're aware of the travel time. If you have $ to fly, rather than shuttle, that will help.

You could:
Fly to MA - 4 nights
Shuttle to Arenal - 2 nights
Shuttle to SJO, Sansa Air to Osa - 4 nights


Fly to MA - 5 nights
Shuttle to SJO, Sansa Air to Osa - 5 nights


Fly to Arenal - 3 nights
Shuttle to MA - 5 nights
Shuttle to SJO and arrange transport to Peace Lodge (or elsewhere in the Central Valley) - 2 nights

Or: Go back to adding 2 nights in Monteverde.

Now I'm just giving you more choices! SORRY!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 08:53 PM
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Hi flatfeet,

I made my first visit to Costa Rica last December and like so many here, became totally smitten with the country and am planning my second trip for later this year (to the famed Bosque del Cabo this time around!).

Our first trip took us to the Peace Lodge (at La Paz Waterfall Gardens) for 1 night, Arenal for 3 nights, and Manuel Antonio for 3 nights.

These are all wonderful destinations for a first time visit. They are easily accessible and offer a really nice variety of things to do and see.

Based on your proposed itinerary, here are a few things to consider:

There is a lot to do in Arenal. With only 2 nights, you will barely be able to scratch the surface. We had 3 nights there and wished we had had an extra day.

Both driving and flying will take a chunk of time on each travel day. We had a rental car and enjoyed the added flexibility it provided. A car would really come in handy for Arenal where activities are fairly spread out. MA would be quite easy to get around without a car, and few people bother to drive to the Osa Peninsula. 'To Rent or not to Rent' is basically a personal preference decision. We liked driving ourselves through the gorgeous countryside.

Remember that for your flight home, you should try to be at SJO about 3 hours in advance of your flight. If your flight should be delayed heading out of Quepos, you may be cutting things a bit close. I think the earliest flights leave around 6:30-ish or 7:00, so in theory you could make this work.

Ten nights definitely gives you better time to fit in a 3rd destination although most past recommendations I've seen here might lean more towards a minimum of 3 nights each for Arenal, Osa, and MA. Your extra night could be tacked on anywhere (although MA is the obvious choice with your deal at La Mansion).

Whatever you settle on will undoubtedly make for a wonderful trip. Keep reading and posting here. There's an absolute wealth of terrific insight and knowledge. The more I read, the more I want to keep planning trips to see all the locales that people love so much!
cmerrell is offline  
Old May 3rd, 2007, 10:10 PM
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Hipvirgochick and cmerrell,

Thanks so much for your very helpful tips! You're right, lots of choices. We will try to fly inland as much as possible to try to save time. Husband just suggested Mal Pais as he heard it's good for surfing. So I'm researching on here like mad right now. I hope the La Mansion people get back to me tomorrow about availability. Our Continental flight is on hold only until midnight tomorrow...

Thanks again. I'll keep digging in here and keep posting.
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 4th, 2007, 05:10 AM
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You have gotten some wonderful advice. Good luck with your Auction timing. I would think that at that time of year you should have good luck getting in. Bosque del Cabo will only be just slightly over your budget at that time of year if you stay in the standard cabina. If you factor in the fact that all your meals are included, it could end up being cheaper than a place where you would have to buy your meals and pay $250 per night.
Suzie2 is offline  
Old May 4th, 2007, 06:36 AM
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Thanks Suzie! I've read a lot of wonderful posts here from you with great info. The $250/night budget was set before realizing we could have free flight (miles) and and the cheap auction package. So I'll increase the budget for the rest of our stay. Bosque del Cabo sounds amazing! Hubby is researching Mal Pais and I'm researching Osa. We've contacted both Bosque dC and Case Chameleon about availability and will wait to see which one has room for us...

One more Q about Arenal...if we're not into zipline and hotspring, will we still need 3 nights there? We're mostly into nature, the ocean and relaxation. Every year our august vacation is for unwinding and an escape from the city/new york.
flatfeet is offline  
Old May 4th, 2007, 10:24 AM
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Okay! Go for the deluxe at Bosque if you can. Bosque is perfect for you from the sounds of it. It is certainly where we go to relax and get our nature fix. You can stroll or hike. Heck you can even get a ride down to the beach and back if you are in real relaxation mode. The Pacific trail will be a hard climb back up but there are some neat hot tubs in the tidal pools. Be sure to have something to slip on your feet, that sand is HOT.

I have heard some really good things about Mal Pais/Santa Teresa. Playa Tambor might be another place to look. Honestly, I haven't been there so will leave that to people who have to best advise you.

For 8 nights I wouldn't push it too hard. Like you said, you can always go back.

There is a 2pm Sansa flight to Puerto Jimenez via Drake Bay. Sansa is within walking distance of the International Airport. You could easily make that. I would recommend at least 3 nights there.

From Puerto Jimenez you could fly back to San Jose and rent a car, drive up to Arenal for 1 or 2 nights and then backtrack to the Nicoya Peninsula for your last few nights or head down to Manuel Antonio.

You could also just skip Arenal for this time and fly up to the Nicoya. You can rent a car or some ATV's once there to get around.

If you find you want to look at another place you could consider a place not too far from the airport like Finca Rosa Blanca, Vista del Valle, Xandari. From there you can visit the La Paz Waterfall gardens, Doka coffee plantation, Poas volcano. Lots of quicky day trip options.

Suzie2 is offline  
Old May 4th, 2007, 11:09 AM
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Suzie, thanks! We actually have 10 nights now! Wish I could edit the post title. So besides the 5-night MA auction package will have 5 nights to spare.

Thinking about Osa (3) + Arenal (2) or Mal Pais + Arenal. Or just skip Arrenal all together and do 5 MA + 5 Osa/Mal Pais. All depending on vacancies. Have sent in booking requests now waiting for Arenal Observatory Lodge, Bosque del C and Casa Chameleon to get back to me.

Thanks for everyone's help so far, I'll keep posting!
flatfeet is offline  
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