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Arenal and Osa: Seeking advice

Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 04:58 AM
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Arenal and Osa: Seeking advice

We're planning a trip for next May (thanks already to a couple of fodorites for sharing your photos) and I have a couple of questions. Our trip will be nine nights. Here's the breakdown:

First night in SJO. Morning transfer to Osa, stay four or five nights. Transfer back to SJO, head to Arenal for three to four nights. Back to SJO on last morning for 1:00pm international flight.

Here are my specific questions:

1. We're most likely staying at Bosque Del Cabo on Osa. We want to do the dolphin tour/animal sanctuary while there. Are we better spending our first night in Osa in Puerto Jimenez and doing that excursion from there before transferring up to Bosque? I figured this will save both time and $$, though it will give us one less night at BdC.

2. Transfer to Arenal from SJO: Would it just be easier to hire a driver? What's the cost to hire a driver versus renting a car? Will we regret not having a car when we get to Arenal, or are taxis plentiful and inexpensive? I'm all about avoiding hassle, though I do love a good adventure.

3. Transfer to SJO on last morning: we have a 1:00 international flight. Are we best to just return from Arenal early that morning or should we head back to SJO the evening before? Is is pretty easy to find reliable drivers to pick you up early in the morning?
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 05:53 AM
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I don't see any advantage to staying in Puerto Jimenez. The transfer to BdC is not that long. Plus, BdC is pretty special. There is not anything close to it in Puerto Jimenez. You will have a better experience just staying at BdC the whole time.

I personally would prefer to have my own car. There is a lot to explore in the Arenal area, and it is quite spread out. Relying on taxis would be time consuming and frustrating. There are some activities you can do on your own if you have transportation. But without, you will be paying for more tours. You will also find yourself just eating at your hotel to avoid the hassle. I always like to have my own wheels.

Plus, I think the drive between SJO and Arenal can be one of the most scenic in Costa Rica. Having your own vehicle allows you the flexibility to choose your own route and schedule. These are all good roads too.

I would opt for the last night in San Jose, or at least in Alajuela. Figure that you have a minimum three hour drive back from Arenal. Give yourself an hour of wiggle room to get lost, or to deal with an unforeseen problem. You need to check in for your flight three hours ahead of time. So on that last day you have to be on the road by 6:00 AM. By the time you get on the plane, you will have been at it for seven hours. This is before the long flight home.

I personally would prefer staying near the airport, sleep late, and have a nice leisurely breakfast before departing for a short ride to the airport.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice.

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
(Travel professional)
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:07 AM
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Thanks Pat. A quick follow up:

If we spend the last night near SJO, we'll have only two nights at Arenal. Is that enough time? We'll stay in the area until probably 3:00pm on the day before our departure and then head back to SJO. Doesn't seem like enough time - should we cut our stay in Osa from five nights to four to give us more time in Arenal?

So much to see, way to little time.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:25 AM
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Hi, alw - I wanted to address your question about the animal sanctuary tour. We just got back from BdC, and you have to hire a boat to take you to the sanctuary because it's across the gulf. The cost of the boat is $120; you will also have to pay to be driven the 45 minutes from BdC to Puerto Jimenez to catch the boat. I believe that was $45, so there will be added charges for taking the tour from BdC. We opted to stay there because it was worth the cost to us, and we didn't want to miss any time at BdC.

Going from SJO to Arenal, we hired a driver through our hotel. The cost was $120. Our hotel had a free shuttle that went into town, so we just used that and caught taxis back, but most people do have cars in Arenal. My husband just wanted to relax and not drive, but since you love a little adventure, I'd probably rent a car. The drive is about 3 hours, and the roads were in good shape - beautiful scenery along the way.

I agree with Pat - I would stay the last night in SJO/Alajuela - much more convenient than doing the drive back the same day. Have a fun trip!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:29 AM
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P.S. - You can definitely do the Osa in 4 nights; that's how long we stayed, and it was just about perfect. We hiked the trails, did a tour with Phillip, did birding with Carlos, saw dolphins, and went to the animal sanctuary. Perfectly feasible.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 07:18 AM
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Wow - thanks to you both. Very helpful info.

We arrive May 1st, the "start" of rainy season. I've heard that evening flights can sometimes get delayed or even detoured to Panama City if the weather is bad. We're set to arrive on a Delta flight at 8:45pm.

Logistically, it's much easier to do Osa at the beginning. I'm concerned about planning an early morning flight to PJ for the day after our arrival and then missing it due to an SJO arrival delay. Is this a founded concern or am I making a big deal out of something that is unlikely to occur?
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 09:01 AM
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alw1977 - I would stick with the early morning flight. Sansa/Nature Air will work with you if there are any delays, which are unpredictable, so you may as well think positive and it will probably be fine! Also, I wouldn't worry too much about rainy season, but bring rain ponchos. I was there later in rainy season and hardly had any. You just never know.

If you don't want to drive, Interbus offers an easy option to Arenal and back to SJO for about $35/pp.

If you think you might want to do the Arenal leg first, you could take Interbus from SJO in the a.m.. Spend 2-3 nights and return via Interbus to catch Sansa to PJ on their 1:05pm flight. Spend 4-5 nights at BDC and return to SJO on their latest flight out at 2:30pm. Just a thought in case you decide to save BDC for last.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 09:26 AM
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I agree with hip, you can't predict the weather. We just got back from the Osa and didn't have any rainy days whatsoever - just one 10-minute shower in the evening one day. I would stick with your plan.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 10:59 AM
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We did the animal sanctuary while at BdC in March. We split the cost of everything with two other couples and it worked out great. I think we went on our third day at Bosque. You'll most likely meet other people there that may want to split the cost as well. It's a fun trip. The folks from Bosque will arrange everything including a box lunch for you to bring along.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 07:47 PM
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I mentioned this in my email and I'll agree with the others, I really wouldn't plan the trip around the rain....it comes and it goes and doesn't often disrupt that much. Early May you should be fine, I always go in the "rainy season" but rarely had much rain, mostly late in the day or night. (And may I say there is nothing like sitting in the pitch darkness on your porch at Bosque watching a thunder/lightening storm - simply wow).
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