Advice on first Costa Rica trip

Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:32 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 29
Advice on first Costa Rica trip

We are two mid thirties couples planning our first trip to Costa Rica from Oct 20-27th. So far our itinerary is as follows. 2 nights Arenal Observatory lodge, one night Hidden Canopy Treehouse Monteverde and then we have 3 remaining nights. We 're undecided between spending them in Jaco (with a day trip to Manuel Antonio) or renting a small house on the beach in Tambor. We are looking for an authentic Costa Rican adventure. We'd like to be a little "off the beaten" path which is why we're leaning towards Tambor. The only issue is our International flight leaves San Jose at 12:30 p.m. and we were going to catch a Nature Air flight at 8:00 a.m from Tambor back to San Jose. During my research someone mentioned that the rains quite often delay or cancel the small airplane flights. Has anyone had any experience with this? Should be stay in Tambor only 2 nights and then fly back the day before and stay near San Jose? Any other help or input would be greatly appreciated. We are also considering renting a car to come back from Tambor to San Jose. What would you recommend the flight or driving yourself. (We have already hired a private driver for the first 4 days of the trip.
stvmic is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:48 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Tambor isn't exactly off the beaten path anymore. It used to be! You'll probably be okay with the 8:00 a.m. flight. But just so you understand, cancellations do happen (it has happened to us, but not with a connecting flight out of the country). You'd be taking a slight chance, so you'll have to come to terms with that for yourselves.

Do you have reservations yet? Arenal is worth more than 2 nights, at least 3. Same for Monteverde. So I question the wisdom of doing the 2/1 split for those 2 locations. Especially given the fact that it takes a good amount of time to get in and out of Monteverde. Not sure when you are going to EXPERIENCE Monteverde at all.

If it were my first trip, I'd also skip Jaco. I'd do 3 nights Arenal and head straight to Manuel Antonio. I realize you are looking for "off the beaten path", but none of the places you've mentioned is that. There is a reason Arenal and Manuel Antonio are the 2 most popular destinations in the country. Together they offer a great overview of the country--lots to do and beautiful for relaxing as well! They aren't crazy crowded either.

Just my 2 cents. . .
shillmac is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 06:20 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,950
Instead of Tambor do Montezuma or another southern Nicoya area.

And, I agree that 1 night in Monteverde is a big mistake--it's a complete waste of time given the logistics of getting in and out. Take the extra night and tag it onto Arenal.
RAC is offline  
Sep 4th, 2009, 03:07 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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You really need to stay two or three nights in Monteverde to make the trip worth it; if you can't do it, I'd skip it this trip. It's a long bumpy road to get there and you wouldn't have time to enjoy it with just one night. If you're able to add more time there, you can use the Jeep Boat Jeep with Desafio to cut an hour off your travel time - only about $25 per person. The views as you cut across the lake are very nice.
volcanogirl is offline  
Sep 4th, 2009, 03:26 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Skip Tambor not great best for first timers

usually rent a 2WD the whole time save a ton

Have fun,
qwovadis is offline  
Sep 6th, 2009, 02:07 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 3,254
We loved both Monteverde and Arenal. I agree it's inadvisable to do 1 night in Monteverde and 2 nights in Arenal...not enough time to enjoy either. Remember in a rainforest it may rain in the afternoon which further reduces your hiking and site-seeing time. I recommend you choose either Monteverde or Arenal, and spend 3 nights there.

My husband is a biologist, and his specialized interests were the reason we stayed at both Monteverde and Arenal. But we spend 3 nights at each. Still, as a nonbiologist, I didn't feel it was necessary for me (or the average tourist) to see both Monteverde and ARenal in the same trip. Try to choose one or the other.

Have a great time!
Melissa5 is offline  
Sep 26th, 2009, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
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Currently I'm sitting here with my friend, in Costa Rica, in Monteverde. To help you, I figure the best advice is to combine a travelers opinion and a local.

Advice on Tambor. Skip it. It's far. You have to take a ferry there. And you want to return on a flight. Now, if you wait until the last minute and luck runs out, and the rains begin you could be stuck there. They cancel flights because of rain often.

If you skip Tambor spend two nights in Manuel Antonio. It's amazing. It offers a national park, beautiful beaches and its really relaxing.

Spend your last nights in Jaco because its closer to the airport and will allow you to enjoy Costa Rica longer.

For the last three days don't worry about transportation. You can easily catch a private shuttle, share a shuttle bus or experience a true Tico moment on the public buses.

As it turns out, I have a friend that stayed at the Treehouse Boutique Hotel in Monteverde and still raves about it daily. So enjoy!

As for Monteverde in general, many things to do here. You need do a canopy tour, I personally recommend Extremo. Visit the suspended bridges at Selvatura and the insect museum there. Definitely go hiking in a reserve, there are two. The Santa Elena Reserve and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Both are nice. If you like art, check out the galleries in town. You can also ride horses in the mountains, visit the Frog Pond and experience the night walk tour.

Enjoy you trip!
Must_have_fun is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2009, 05:14 AM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 1
I just returned from Costa Rica. The roads around Monteverde are very narrow and rocky but well worth the trip. I would suggest the El Trapiche Coffee tour there for a great fun look at a family owned coffee and sugar cane farm. You can book it with your hotel. I also booked a English tour at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Our tour guide grew up the area and knows the forest inside and out. It is administered by the local high school and the fee benefits the school.

I flew from San Jose to Tamarindo, a Pacific coastal surfing town, on Sansa Air. You can also take Interbus, a shuttle van service but it will take five hours. It was a very comfortable flight and I would email them about rain delays. Tamrarindo is a little expensive but the beach is great for surfers and sunbathers alike. You'll hear birds and monkeys and see the sunset over the ocean. It is full of expats owning restaurants and hotels and a good base to travel off the beaten path. I spent one week studying Spanish there so I got to know some local Costa Ricans.

In San Jose, I would recommend Casa 69 - a European style B & B with hotel amenities: cable tv, private bathrooms and a better continental breakfast. The owner let me visit the bakery where the daily bread is made. It is good if you want to walk into San Jose and eat, attend museums, and practice your Spanish. You can also book one and 1/2 day tours to Arenal, etc. with tour operators and use it as a base without moving. Casa 69 will book a private taxi to the airport for $20. You can email the owner and he will gladly offer you travel advice. If you just need a place to crash near the airport, then book a room in Alajuela where the airport is located.

Good luck and pura vida (as they say in Costa Rica)!
lenaluzcafe is offline  
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