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dobosotto Feb 1st, 2008 04:25 PM

Arenal & MA which side tours to pre-book??
First let me thank all of you for your previous posts. They have helped us greatly in planning this trip. We are celebrating my husbands 50th birthday with a trip to CR the last week of February. We have 8 days/7 nights and will stay in Arenal at Linda Vista del Norte for 3 nights then Villa Nicolas in MA for 4 nights. We have rented a car, and my husband is a fearless driver and is not worried about the slow roads, so we have flexability and dont have to worry about transfers. We don't want to Micro-manage all of our time there but realize that some side tours are better pre-booked. We have already booked an evening at Eco-termales. And are reserving a night tour with Rainmaker. But that is all so far.

Here are the questions: What company would you reccomend in either location for Zip-line tours. And which location would be better (We are both fairly athletic but not necessarily adrenaline junkies) Anything else in the Arenal area that is a don't miss that we may want to prearrange?

In the MA part of the trip we would definitely like to Kayak (open water or flat water not white water) but really hate getting into a large tour group. We kayak quite a bit and usually hate the tours because one person holds the whole group back. Do you know of any private guides or small group guides. What about snorkleing in the MA area? Is it any good there? Any guides reccomended?
My understanding about the Park itself at MA is that a guide is a good idea but we could let the hotel arrange one once we are there.
Any and all imput is greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance

sumi Feb 2nd, 2008 08:55 AM

We're going to be in CR during the same timeframe as you. We're staying at Lost Iguana in Arenal and have been advised by their tour desk that the two reservations we should try to make prior to arrival are the hot springs (Eco Termales) and canyoning. We also pre-booked a white-rafting tour for our first day there just to avoid a last-minute scramble.

hipvirgochick Feb 2nd, 2008 09:16 AM

Good for your husband and his fearless driving! I actually have a question for you...what is the night tour with Rainmaker? What does it consist of?

In Arenal, we enjoyed the zip-lines with Mundo Aventura. There are 11 zips and you get some great views of the rainforest and waterfalls, plus includes a short horseback ride at the end. There is some rather steep hiking involved.

Have a great trip!

dobosotto Feb 2nd, 2008 11:04 AM

sumi, Thanks for the advise. we will check into the canyoning. My husband may be interested in the white water. I'm not sure. We have already booked Eco-termales, but may try to go to tabacon also on a second night, but we will play that by ear. We are planning this trip somewhat last minute so keep in touch as your planning continues and we will do the same if we find some interesting info. Who knows, maybe we will run into you there.

hipvirgochick, Thanks for the tip on mundo aventura. It sounds like what we might be looking for. I have only read about rainmaker conservation project. But the night tour as I understand is a guided walk thru the preserve at night that is approx 2 hours long. Apparantly the guides can point out nocturnal wildlife that we would never find. I was torn between the daytime hanging bridges there or the amphibians and reptiles (nite tour) We may also go there in the daytime if time allows. Rainmaker has a website, but there is not alot of info on the tours on it. But some of the news and articles on the conservation project are interesting. And the once believed harlequin toad was found alive and well in there, so it has to be cool.

Linda137 Feb 2nd, 2008 11:29 AM

I wouldn't pre-book too much. Have a number of ideas of what you want to do and finalize plans once there. Most day trips are put together either the day before or the morning of - things aren't too formal in CR plus you'll talk with other travelers, pick up local brochures or narrow things down much more once you are there. We have seen a lot of people pre-book and not go because it just wasn't what they wanted once they could see all their choices.

Booking day trips through your hotel can sometimes get you better pricing plus you get picked up/dropped off right at your hotel. Also, the tour company wants the continued business so they tend to make sure you are happy and satisfied.

Since you'll have a car in Arenal, you might want to go into LaFortuna for lunch or dinner. Don Rufino's has some great food/drinks and the people watching isn't bad either. The driving in that area isn't too challenging and the roads are in good condition.

The 3 hr. horseback ride into the foothills of Arenal is fantastic. Saw lots of birds, monkeys and even a sloth. Great view of the valley once you are up there.

Enjoy! You are going at a good time. We were there in November and didn't realize how much rain they still get at that time of year.

CarolM Feb 2nd, 2008 03:20 PM

For ziplines, the best in MA is Canopy Safari (plus I read they also have a "tarzan" swing now!) I also loved the ziplines at Arenal Paraiso -- great views, high up, but you still feel like you're within the canopy.

In Arenal we did the waterfall rappelling tour with Desafio and it was great... a bit athletic and a lot of fun. You do a few long rappels down alongside the waterfalls and down-climb the river.

You'll love Villas Nicolas :) While in MA, check out the best little "soda" called Angel's for great local inexpensive food.

Several years ago I did the Rainmaker tour during the day... walking across that long, high narrow hanging bridge was great! I actually like the "terrain" of the Rainmaker preserve better than MA park... it's more lush, no crowds, and there's a river that flows through the area. Our guide was great in pointing out various plants, a sloth, a poison arrow frog, etc. but overall there is more wildlife in the park, I think. I bet doing the night hike in Rainmaker will be cool. I've done a couple night hikes in Monteverde, and it's definitely a great experience.

You should kayak through the mangroves in MA. I think you'll enjoy it with a tour group, because it's really more about spotting wildlife -- monkeys in the trees, iguanas, etc. I don't think the groups they put together are too big. At the hotel they can arrange all the tours for you easily.

By the way, I've heard snorkeling isn't good in MA.

MarkHays Feb 2nd, 2008 03:44 PM

We just booked our fourth week+ trip to the Arenal area. (Yes, we love it!) Here are a few tips:


Renting a car is a very good idea. The roads are fairly good -- but watch out for monster pot holes that can literally tear the wheel off your vehicle! (And drivers swerving around them.)

Great Hikes:

You should definitely try some of the hikes around Volcan Arenal. The National Park at the foot of the volcano has a number of good trails -- maps are available at the entrance. Try the "New Lava Beds" trail, which will take you to a recent lava flow. You can climb through the strange lava formations, with great views of the volcano. (This flow was still hot and steaming when we were there in 1994.)

Our favorite is more adventurous: the Old Lava Beds trail, which starts on the back side of the Arenal Observatory. It crosses a small river -- and heads up a ridge on the side of the volcano. The trail winds through the triple-canopy jungle. Good hiking shoes or boots are mandatory. As with any hike through the jungle, keep a sharp eye out for wildlife -- beautiful birds and very poisonous snakes! (Particularly when you climb / step over a log.) It isn't too tough; our son hiked with us when he was 8 years old. If you're lucky, Volcan Arenal will treat you to a thunderous BOOM! en route. Note: DO NOT go beyond the "Peligroso!" sign at the end of the trail. If you have seen the photos of the pyroclastic flows that periodically roar down the side of the volcano, you know why!

The Hanging Bridges:

A must-see, for a small fee -- located just outside La Fortuna. The trail winds through virgin rain forest, with narrow suspension bridges across steep gorges. You walk through the tree canopy at different levels, with breathtaking views. A tip for the more adventurous: Also take the guided night tour. The jungle comes alive when the sun goes down. Our guide was an expert in everything that creeps, flies and crawls. (We brought our LED headlamps on the second trip, just for this adventure.)


Highly recommended! You can glide up to jungle at the edge of the lake, and see wildlife that would never be visible when you're hiking. The Rio Frio in the Cano Negro preserve is agreat adventure -- roughly two hours from La Fortuna near the border with Nicaragua. We saw caymans, rare Capuchin and Spider monkeys and sloths, and more exotic birds than we could count. (This is an easy flat-water paddle.) Sunset Tours can everything, and it isn't expensive. The guides are very knowledgeable. Note: for anyone who has never kayaked before -- try it here. All of the kayaks are "sit on tops". Absolutely no training or skill is required.

tully Feb 2nd, 2008 06:45 PM

From what I've seen on a tv show, the Rainmaker tour looks amazing, wish I'd pushed myself harder and made that trip when I was there. I agree though about not pre-booking too much. I'd have a good idea in mind what you want to do and then have the hotel set up. Some days you may find hiking all day is exactly what you want to do, others you may peter out and want to loll around with a drink in hand (which is totally acceptable!) Agree also that Canopy Safari is a top-notch operation, that was my first zipline ever and they made me feel so safe and I ended up having such a great time. What a great place for a birthday, have fun!

airwayvz Feb 2nd, 2008 07:23 PM

Yep, Canopy Safari is a good operation...go with them. Villas Nicolas books MA Park tours with Nature Adventure Tours -or at least they did when I was there. Pablo / Paul runs NA Tours and is a nice guy, you can probably email him to see about a private tour - . And while you're at it, talk to him about his Damas Island Mangrove tour...he may have kayaks but I'm not sure.

dobosotto Feb 3rd, 2008 05:16 AM

Linda, Thanks for the imput, we will take your advise and let our hotels help us out once we are there. I hate to be boxed into an itinerary. Good word on Don Ruffinos, my husbands favorite subject is where to eat, so any other tips that anyone has on that note are appreciated.

Carol, Angels sounds great too. Have you been to manuel antonio more that once. We have heard nothing but great things about Villa nicolas and were glad to get a room there. You helped us make the decicion about kayaking. We were on the fence about mangroves/damas island vs open ocean down thru MA. Mangroves sounds great. Cancel the snorkeling, too much else to do anyway.

Wow!! What great trail information. I had forgotten to ask about that but It is one of our biggest plans in arenal. We will probably forgo the rapelling and other things for some good long hikes. The Hanging Bridges were on our list, Cane Negro may be a little far for us with limited time. It seems like a trip back is already in the works and we haven't even gotten there yet.

It is a consensus. Canopy Safari sound like the most highly reccomended. Thanks for the tip on nature adventures tours. We will get on the website and see.

CarolM Feb 4th, 2008 11:00 AM


I just re-read and saw that it'll be your husband's 50th -- agreed, a great place for a birthday celebration! Actually, for my 40th I spent the weekend in MA, and did the Canopy Safari ziplines that day (a great way to prove how young I am) :) I've been to MA twice, and love it. The first time I stayed at Costa Verde... one thing you might want to do is head over to Costa Verde one evening around sunset, have a drink and wait for all the little squirrel monkeys to come around. There are huge troops of them that run through the trees on the hotel's property... it's amazing!

I'm glad you'll kayak the Damas Island mangroves... this way you get to kayak AND see tons of wildlife. Also, by seeing the mangroves you'll see a lot of the same wildlife as you would have seen at Cano Negro (which really is a long day). So good call all around.

Also, you'll probably want to try out Cafe Milagro in MA -- right across from the hotel -- for coffee, snacks, sandwiches, etc.

dobosotto Feb 4th, 2008 06:16 PM

We originally tried to stay ate costa verde, but they were all booked up. But I understand that it is near Villa Nicolas. It will be great to go over there for a drink, sunset & the monkeys. Great Ides! We have compounded a list of places to eat, reccomended quides, and places from everyones tips. It should make Jerry's 50th a very special trip.
One last question. No-one ever mentions insects. Are they bad. We actually have full body mosquito suits (not nearly as weird as it sounds. We have them from backpacking in alaska, wyoming and the boundry waters. And they work great) would it be worth packing them for the night hikes?, or a waste of time. I'm not much for bug spray.

CarolM Feb 5th, 2008 05:46 AM

Your plan sounds great! Yes, Costa Verde is pretty close to Villas Nicolas... an easy walk.

Regarding insects, I think it won't be an issue for you (not in MA at the end of February). This is still the dry season. I live in South Florida and I've had worse occasional problems with mosquitos here than I ever had in CR! By the way, I'm one of those people that really gets bitten badly, too. I do take repellant with me in CR but most of the time don't end up using it. Here's what I suggest: take those Off "wipes" with you -- the individually wrapped ones. They're easy to slip into your purse or pocket, and it's just like a little "handiwipe" so you don't have to cover yourself in spray. Also, this way you don't have to spray yourself before you go out for the day -- just use it if you really need to.

My other suggestion is for the days you know you might be in potentially buggy areas (the mangroves or MA park for example) wear thin, long pants (cotton pants or nylon hiking pants). This way if you end up needing repellant you can just put it on your arms.

nina Feb 5th, 2008 07:05 AM

Has anyone done the horseback/canopy tour with Arenal Canopy tours?

They agreed to a good price ($38!) for the 4 hour tour, I was just wondering if anyone can comment?


Keith Feb 5th, 2008 08:04 AM

Linda Vista del Norte only books with a few of the companies. If you have settled on the ones you want, you may still have to book yourself.

For example, when I asked them about Eco Termales, they said they only deal with Baldi.


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