Arenal or Manuel Antonio

Old Sep 14th, 2011, 06:51 PM
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Arenal or Manuel Antonio

Hey everyone! My wife and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica for 6 nights in March and we are having trouble deciding between Manuel Antonio and the Arenal area. Since we don't have very long I think we'd rather stick to one location instead of spending a lot of time traveling. We like these locations because there is lots to do from both. We are looking for beautiful rainforests to explore and lots of wildlife. The beach is a big bonus, but not necessarily what we are going to Costa Rica for. We'd love to see monkeys and sloths. I know both locations have rainforests, but would you say that one is better for animal/nature-lovers than the other?

Thanks, and it's been fun reading everyone's tips and trip reports!
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Old Sep 15th, 2011, 03:15 AM
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Personally would head for www.bosquedelcabo.com

for a true jungle experience...

manuelantoniopark.com small rain forest nice

arenasdelmar.com tulemar.com costaverde.com head there

of your 2....

www.xandari.com around your flights you can pick up

Poas Volcano there if you do not wat to drive a

couple of hours up to Arenal.net

Tabacon.com my fav might go for a nite or 2

well worth it... Happy deciding,
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Old Sep 15th, 2011, 05:08 AM
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You'll see a LOT more monkeys and sloths in Manuel Antonio. The food's also better. On the down side, there's nowhere to go to escape the touristy nature of the area. Arenal has several lodges set off to give a better sense of seclusion.

Manuel Antonio is not a rain forest in March--more like a dry forest--dry season is pretty dry there.

Arenal will be much more rainforest.
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Old Sep 15th, 2011, 09:13 AM
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We prefer the Arenal area, but if your main focus is wildlife, MA is better for that. There's a huge concentration of wildlife inside the park, and a lot of the hotels have monkeys on the property.
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Old Sep 15th, 2011, 12:25 PM
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We might be changing our mind about not doing two locations. Both places still sound great. We're thinking two nights in Arenal to do the hanging bridges and Fortuna Waterfall or Rio Celeste, and then three nights in MA to see the national park and do a mangrove kayak tour. Too much?
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Old Sep 15th, 2011, 12:41 PM
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I'd do three nights in Arenal if you can swing it; there's so much to do there including the waterfall hike, Cano Negro tour, natural hot springs like Eco Termales and Tabacon, the Hanging Bridges, the volcano, and rafting and ziplining if you want those. Sometimes the volcano gets enshrouded in fog, so the longer you stay, the better chance you have of seeing it. When you're planning, remember that MA park is closed on Mondays.

Arenal isn't known for its wildlife, but we've seen toucans and coatis where we've stayed and monkeys on our volcano hike. Our best wildlife experience there was when we hired a guide to take us for morning birding, and we ended up seeing howler monkeys, toucans, an anteater, and even a peccary - about 5 minutes from our hotel. Couldn't believe our good luck since we've never done that well on our own. Both Sunset Tours and Desafio offer good tours if it interests you. Also hire a guide for the Hanging Bridges to up your chance of seeing wildlife there. If you have time the Cano Negro boat tour is a lot of fun, and we've seen monkeys, sloths, water birds, and lots of caimans there.

We did MA and Arenal for our first trip, and it was great to see two completely different areas and both the volcano and beach experiences.
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Old Sep 17th, 2011, 08:35 AM
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We spent two weeks in Costa Rica during the month of March, including a 3 day trip to Arenal. We stayed at the Los Lagos resort, which was very nice, however the entire time we were there it rained or was cloudy and it was not possible to see the volcano.

We also spent a week in Manuel Antonio at Si Como No hotel and loved it. We toured the mangrove swamps, took a snorkeling/whale watching/dinner/sunset cruise, did canopy zip lining other touristy things in the area.

Based upon my experience, I would consider a short trip to Arenal if that's possible, however I would spend the bulk of my time in Manuel Antonio to experience the rain forest of Costa Rica.

Good luck - you'll love it. We are renting a home in Manuel Antonio for January and February to really experience the area.
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Old Sep 17th, 2011, 08:53 AM
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cdr, how was your snorkeling experience in MA? We did a sail/snorkel and couldn't see much of anything due to all the sediment in the water, but we were there during rainy season.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 08:51 AM
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If you stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge, you will see more wildlife in Arenal. It's closest to the volcano, but remote from town. Of the places we've stayed in Arenal - it was by far our favorite, just for the nature feel we got when we were there. We saw monkeys every morning...several birds. The grounds are beautiful and there's nothing like being that close to the volcano! I probably wouldn't stay there without renting a car - even if you just rent it while in Arenal.

In Manual Antonio, we stayed at Tulemar Bungelows and never felt it was too touristy. They have their own private beach and the property felt very remote. The food in that area is very good. Many restaurants to choose from. I would definitely do a split between both locations if you can.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:01 PM
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My wife and I are headed down for a week next month. We are doing four nights in MA and two nights in Arenal. The transfer shuttle is only costing us $80 and takes about a half day. We will be doing a sail and snorkel tour in MA and a waterfall rapelling tour in Arenal. If you haven't already booked your hotels, etc., you might check out anywherecostarica.com. They have a lot of good info about the different areas of the country, and have a free booking service that will customize a plan for any kind of itenerary you want. I booked our hotels and shuttles through them, and booked our tours through PureTrek. I am actually surprising my wife for our 10th anniversary, she knows when we're leaving and basically what to pack, the rest will be a total surprise when we get to the airport!
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