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ag123 Sep 11th, 2007 09:11 AM

Arenal or Monteverde?
Hello All,
My boyfriend and I are planning our first trip together, to Costa Rica arriving 1pm Nov 23 and departing 8am Dec 1.

Was so happy to find this forum - what a great community! We are flying into Liberia and have on the agenda Arenal/Monteverde/Northern beaches (Tamarindo? Playa Hermosa? Papagayo? Any tips welcome J ). I am sad to be missing MA but we want to scuba while there.

I have a few questions, the first one being if this is too many places to go...that will be 2 nights each place with a night in Liberia. I really want to experience the volcano (weather permitting) and hot springs, while my boyfriend wants to see the best rainforest and wildlife possible. Is the rainforest in Arenal like Monteverde's? If not, is there a more accessible place to see it in the areas we will be in? If picking between Monteverde and Arenal which one is better for a first-timer?

We decided to go with low-budget ($40 - $70) hotels the first half of the trip in order to stay in nicer places ($125-$175) the last half…I would love any suggestions on itinerary and/or hotels. Thanks!

Keith Sep 11th, 2007 09:18 AM

I am mainly posting to bookmark your post, but as I plan my first trip, the more I learn, the more that Arenal sounds like the most interesting of the two.


volcanogirl Sep 11th, 2007 09:56 AM

I would definitely go with Arenal - seeing the volcano is amazing. We were lucky enough to see it all 4 nights of our trip; sometimes it gets socked in by fog, and you can't see it. Monteverde is good for plants and birding, but we skipped it because we didn't have time. Most people will recommend Arenal over Monteverde. Definitely try to do the Cano Negro tour out of Arenal - it's a great place to spot wildlife; we saw caimans, sloths, howlers, capuchins, birds, etc. It makes a fun day.

JeanH Sep 11th, 2007 10:36 AM

I loved Monteverde. One of my favorite memories of my trips to Costa Rica. I'm also pretty sure I'm the exception. Unless you're really into plants, Arenal is probably the better option for you.

rmeyer Sep 11th, 2007 11:06 AM

For most people, Arenal would be the choice because of the varied things to do and see. Personally, I loved Monteverde because the rain/cloud forest was just amazing. The hiking was unreal and lots of wildlife. Monteverde also had the best restaurants of my trip. Great canopy tour too. However, it is a bit remote and more difficult to get to than Arenal, and if you aren't an avid hiker, etc. you may not enjoy it as much as I did.

cmerrell Sep 11th, 2007 05:35 PM

Hi ag,

I think 2 nights per destination would be pretty rushed.

If you are going to whittle down to 2 locations, I think you probably will get more recommendations for Arenal than Monteverde. Not that Monteverde isn't a worthy destination, but there's just such a great variety of things to do in Arenal, plus you have a shot at seeing a live volcano in action!

As volcanogirl mentioned, the Cano Negro tour out of La Fortuna is a great way to get some excellent wildlife sightings (we also so coatis and tayras on our hotel grounds everyday, and heard howler monkeys on a few occasions). The Hanging Bridges will give you that primeval cloud forest type of feel. The area is beautiful and just really has a lot to offer.

volcanogirl Sep 11th, 2007 05:46 PM

rmeyer, what types of wildlife did you see in Monteverde?

rmeyer Sep 12th, 2007 06:44 AM

Volcanogirl -

We hiked a long loop in the Monteverde Reserve, didn't see a soul along our hike which I think helped with wildlife sightings, it was lightly raining as well which added to the experience and I think kept people away.

We saw lots of howlers as you would expect, very vocal, and very aware of our presence...2 actually climbing down the tree (together) and pointing at us in a frantic motion which really blew us away. We saw 2 sloths (but we saw the majority of sloths in MA), lots of coati...coming right up to us looking for food which is sad. Don't feed the animals everyone....

We were able to see 1 quetzal and also walked right by a large black guan which was very cool. The black guan was pretty deep in our hike. Some armadillos and lots of different colorful birds and reptiles that I could never name, obviously lots of hummingbirds. We also did a night hike, went over to the hummingbird feeders and there was hundreds of bats feeding, flying right over our head in every direction but never hitting us, very intense.

It's not just the wildlife though, the cloud forest is so lush and beautiful it's like you are walking through something fake at Disney.

volcanogirl Sep 12th, 2007 10:14 AM

Thanks for sharing, rmeyer - I never hear anyone discuss the wildlife in Monteverde, other than the birding - it sounds really nice. I may just have to put it on my "to do" list! Of course that list keeps getting longer and longer...

ag123 Sep 13th, 2007 08:44 AM

Thank you everyone for the feedback...hard decision but since I have to pick one I will go with Arenal. Now I gotta figure out what beach! decisions decisions.
Does anyone know if there are any cloud forests or reserves similar to Monteverde that are an easier drive from Arenal or Northern pacific?

volcanogirl Sep 13th, 2007 10:09 AM

Not sure if this would interest you, but about an hour north of San Jose is the Peace Lodge - it's a nice, cool climate with lots of hills, lush greenery - they have a great waterfall hike on the property to five big waterfalls. The mist rolls in and everything is really beautiful. Poas volcano is close by.

ag123 Sep 13th, 2007 10:31 AM

Yes! Was just looking at the Peace lodge last night actually and wondering if it is too far out of my way for a stop - we are landing in Liberia, visiting Arenal and a Pacific beach (don't know which one though). Is it on the way to either of these places or within a reasonable distance?

rmeyer Sep 13th, 2007 11:09 AM

If you are going into Liberia, I think Peace Lodge would be out of the way. If you were flying into San Jose I would say go. I don't have any experience with the northern beaches, only Manuel Antonio. However, it seems like people who fly into San Jose, end up in the Manuel Antonio area, and people who fly into Liberia, end up on any number of northern beaches. Distance wise, this is easiest.

MarciaM Sep 14th, 2007 10:17 AM

Not far from Arenal is Hotel Villa Blanca, which is an easier cloud forest to get to than Monteverde. It's a beautiful drive there, and very nice facilities.

jfkosu Nov 18th, 2007 01:23 PM

I would appreciate knowing which zip line your recommend in Monteverde. Please reply to [email protected]
Thank you

CarolM Nov 19th, 2007 06:20 PM

Original Canopy Tour was great... you also get to climb up inside a strangler fig tree, as well as do 2 short rappels.

I've heard good things about Selvatura as well.

Linda137 Nov 19th, 2007 09:15 PM

Hi ag123

How funny - my boyfriend and I are arriving at SJO around 1 pm on 11/21 and leaving Liberia at 8 a.m. on 12/3. We are rafting the Pacuare this Friday, then three nights in Arenal and then we finish up in Tamarindo.

Have you packed yet? I'm having trouble getting to sleep at night.

ag123 Nov 20th, 2007 11:50 AM

Yes I am packed for the most part! Having trouble though because I don't want to bring to much, or not bring enough.

Our schedule is pretty packed, our final itinerary is:
2 nights at Arenal Observatory Lodge
1 night La Carolina
3 nights Sol y Luna in Playa Grande
1 night Bosque Del Mar in Playa Hermosa

You guys have the right idea going for over a week - I booked our flights before realizing that 7 nights just isn't enough in CR. If we had the extra time it would be spent on the Pacuare, sounds like we like the same things!

Yes, I am already too excited to be sleeping at night and my brain is checked out from work. Good luck, Maybe we will be running in to you :-)

colibri Nov 20th, 2007 11:58 AM

rmeyer - Thanks for the wildlife info at Monteverde. We are in the minority as we've chosen Monteverde over Arenal for our trip since I'm very into plants and hummingbirds - I think it's the right place for us!

Between Selvatura Park and the other reserves,there should be plenty to keep us on the go.

Anyone have an idea of March temps at Monteverde? Everyone says cooler, but I can't seem to find any sites that tell if that's 50's, 60's, 70's or what.


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