Arenal, Monteverde & Tamarindo QUESTIONS!!

Old Sep 28th, 2004, 02:44 PM
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Arenal, Monteverde & Tamarindo QUESTIONS!!

I'm trying to fine-tune our itenary and welcome any comments! Thanks already to shillmac for some good input.

1 - If we arrive in SJ at 1:45 p.m., do we have time to clear customs, get our car and drive 3-4 hours to Arenal or Monteverde? Or, should we plan to stay the night in SJ?

2 - Anyone feel strongly about whether we should hit Arenal or Monteverde? I've heard that Arenal is often clouded over and you can't see the lava on most days in the green season (We'd be there late Nov).

3 - After Arenal or Monteverde, we're heading to Tamarindo area. Any suggestions for good beaches and/or places to stay? We're interested in laying out and being able to take a dip in the water.

Thanks!

Malia
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Old Sep 28th, 2004, 06:10 PM
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Q1 : Assuming you've never driven there, I would say "no" to Q1. Assuming on-time arrival, customs on a slow day is a breeze. Car rental paperwork time could be 20 minutes. Orientation and last-minute food/drink before you drive Hwy 1, could be another 30 minutes. It gets darker earlier with cloud cover, and while it IS completely possible to navigate to Arenal at that time of the evening, you may not be 100% comfortable doing so. The roads into Arenal are not full of potholes as most would have you believe. Other roads, yes - potholes and slower driving times - such as on the way to Monteverde.

For a relaxed vacation sense, maybe a person has an authentic CR meal and stays overnight before waking early, collecting a rental car and making the most of a full day...

Q2 : Yes, Volcan Arenal can be clouded over during the days. The best views can be had during the night, when clouds tend to dissipate. That said, there will be nights when clouds do not dissipate. During the daytime, a person can see white puffs of smoke/ash from the chunks of lava skipping down the face of the mountain - and white plumes of ash billowing skyward. Not as dramatic as the orange/red/yellow at night.

Remember, the volcano moves at its own pace. Nothing like being told by a local that we arrived 2 days after a great eruption.

Q3 : Half of our group traveled to Tamarindo in Sept., and we did not, therefore, I am passing on this question.

Have you also checked Frommer's, Virtual Tourist, the ICT and Googled for lodging in Tamarindo?

Best regards,
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Old Sep 28th, 2004, 06:11 PM
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We went to both Arenal & Monteverde...the volcano was very cool, as were the lake, the La Fortuna Waterfall, and the hot springs....that being said, if I had to choose, I'd go back to Monteverde. There's something magical about the cloud forest. It's quiet & the town is very small...the roads to & from Monteverde are horrific, but it's totally worth it if you have any interest in nature. Also, the canopy tour there (at Selvatura) was AWESOME! I can't fully explain why, but Monteverde is incredible!
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Old Sep 28th, 2004, 06:17 PM
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My 2 cents. . .if you decide on Arenal, you can make it that evening--probably around 6:00 (provided you leave the rental agency by 3:00-3:30). Triple Sec has a good suggestion as well in relaxing at Las Orquideas (my pick) or exploring locally and heading for Arenal the next morning.

If you decide on Monteverde, you'll definitely want to stay near the airport until morning. It will take you about 4-5 hours from the airport.
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Old Sep 29th, 2004, 07:48 AM
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Thanks so much for all of your input! I keep hearing that the road to Monteverde is horrible... Is that because of the potholes? (It's starting to remind me of the Road to Hana...) I think if we went there first, we'd stay the night in SJ, but if we did Arenal first, we might leave from the airport...

I do wonder one thing - If we don't stay the night in SJ, we really won't see the city at all. Since this is the capitol of CR, is it something that one should see, however short?

Also - Alethea - I am very curious about what you said about there being something magical about Monteverde and that you'd choose going there over Arenal. That's the same thing my boyfriend's friend (another guy) told us... Really makes me so curious! Where did you guys stay?
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Old Sep 29th, 2004, 10:35 AM
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San Jose is the least attractive of the Central American capitals, I've been told. That said, it does have some interesting sights. Good for 2-3 hours of walking around downtown (more if you are interested in either the gold museum or the jade museum, both very nice). If I had to choose between taking in some of the outer areas of San Jose and San Jose itself, I'd head to the country!

Anyone who has 2-3 days to spend in the central valley would definitely enjoy taking in both the city and the surrounding area--particularly if it is a first time experience for you.
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Old Sep 29th, 2004, 04:29 PM
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You wouldn't have any trouble making it to Arenal--IF--you don't get lost along the way--AND--and there's no major accident that ties you up for an hour or two. Monteverde is a bit more dicey.
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Old Sep 29th, 2004, 06:05 PM
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The good news is that there is excellent signage on the road to Arenal. It's almost a straight shot to the north once you exit the Interamerican.
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Old Sep 29th, 2004, 06:34 PM
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We really enjoyed our stay at Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo this past summer. ($135 a night for a beautiful bungalow including brkfst) Great set-up for laying out in either lounge chairs or hammocks on the beach, and the current wasn't that strong on that part of the beach for taking a dip. It was an easy walk to restaurants or to get to town .... Nogui's for lunch -- and the Lazy Wave was good for dinner, but Pachonga's (across the street from the Lazy Wave and up a bit) was our hands down favorite.
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Old Sep 29th, 2004, 06:57 PM
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dcmalia, I don't know if we were exceptionally lucky or what, but we were in Arenal for 3 nights in August and saw fabulous lava displays for 2 nights. We were constantly told we would never see the lava in August, so you just never know.

We didn't go to Monteverde because of the difficulty in getting there so I can't comment about Monteverde. We loved the Arenal area and could have spent more time there. We went on the Hanging Bridges, Canopy Tour at Arenal Paraiso and the Cano Negro Boat Tour (a full day tour). Didn't have time for Tabacon or La Fortuna waterfall. If you go to Arenal, plan on at least 2 full days.

If you spend the night near the airport, I second the recommendation that Shillmac made for Las Orquideas.
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Old Sep 30th, 2004, 03:06 PM
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All great tips, thanks so much! I have altered our trip plan to the following:

Day 1 - Arrive SJ 1:45 p.m. Drive to Arenal.
Day 2 - Arenal.
Day 3 - Drive to Tamarindo.
Day 4 - Tamarindo.
Day 5 - Tamarindo.
Day 6 - Tamarindo.
Day 7 - 6:30 a.m. flight from Tamarindo to SJ; 1 p.m. flight home.

- OR -

Day 1 - Arrive SJ 1:45 p.m., stay night.
Day 2 - Drive to Monteverde.
Day 3 - Monteverde.
Day 4 - Drive to Tamarindo.
Day 5 - Tamarindo.
Day 6 - Tamarindo.
Day 7 - 6:30 a.m. flight from Tamarindo to SJ; 1 p.m. flight home.

Now the only thing I'm still undecided about is whether to do Arenal or Monteverde! Haha, maybe I'll flip a coin. ;-)
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