Arenal Tours

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Aug 6th, 2008, 01:03 PM
  #1
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Arenal Tours

We are going to Arenal for 5 days in 2 weeks and i was wondering if we need to book our tour in advance (i have heard good things a bout sunset tours) or if were ok to book our tours at our hotel (silencio del campo). Is there a place in La Fortuna to book tours as well?
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Aug 6th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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Plenty of tour options when you get there. The only thing I might book in advance is the Ecothermales hot springs, as it is strictly capacity controlled and by appointment only. Well worth it though.
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Aug 6th, 2008, 03:24 PM
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We booked our Cano Negro tour and our Eco Termales dinner ahead just because I had my heart set on doing those two things. We've always booked everything else when we got there. Like dw said, Eco Termales sells out frequently; they limit entry to 100 people.
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Aug 6th, 2008, 04:13 PM
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Volcanogirl, how did you book ahead for Eco Thermales? I'm going at the end of the month and really want to go there. I couldn't find a direct website for them.
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Aug 6th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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Peepjr....your hotel will book Eco Thermales for you. Unless you're going during prime time i.e Spring Break, I would not worry about it being sold out. We went in June and nearly had the place to ourselves. FYI- our hotel made reservations that day. Enjoy!
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Aug 6th, 2008, 06:24 PM
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Hi, peep; we did a combo of Eco Termales with a volcano hike and booked it through Sunset Tours. I was glad we did because we met people in Arenal that had wanted to visit Eco T. and couldn't get in. They had to go to Baldi and didn't enjoy it.
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Aug 8th, 2008, 04:50 AM
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We stayed at SdC a couple weeks ago (it was our favorite hotel from the trip, you'll love it!) and I e-mailed them ahead with the tours I wanted to do...they booked them for us no problem. As the others said, book EcoThermales ahead if you really want to do it (and you get a little discount through the hotel, I think the owners of the two places are family). The day I originally wanted was booked up for a school (a week beforehand too), and I heard of other people not being able to get in during our trip so I'm glad I booked that ahead of time.

We tried to book Sunset for the Cano Negro tour but they ended up picking us and another couple up and handing us off to Aventuras Arenal...which we weren't too happy with. Just something to keep in mind, you might not get to tour with the company you want if they don't have enough people booked.

I don't think you'd have trouble booking anything if you waited (aside from Eco) but I just felt more at ease knowing we managed to book everything we wanted to do.
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Aug 8th, 2008, 07:35 AM
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I stand corrected on Eco Thermales . Book ahead
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Aug 8th, 2008, 07:58 AM
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Immelbatoast,

Can you tell me what you didn't like about Aventuras Arenal for the Cano Negro trip? I'm curious as to what they did or didn't do versus Sunset Tours or did they go to a different area of the marsh?

Thanks!

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Aug 8th, 2008, 11:08 AM
  #10
 
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I'm pretty sure it was Aventuras Arenal we used for Cano Negro, but can't remember for sure. They did a great job and the tour has always sounded exactly like Sunset Tours.

The big difference I've found from reading peoples reviews is if they have a great guide or not. Our guide and boat driver were both excellent, and I read consistenly great reviews about Sunset.
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Aug 8th, 2008, 09:27 PM
  #11
 
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Yes, it was the guide that we didn't like (and I wasn't too happy with not going with Sunset tours either considering I booked with them..it was just an unexpected switcharoo and I've heard rave reviews about Sunset). As far as I know they both have the same course.

We had the same guide for a volcano hike the day before and it was okay, but he really didn't seem very "into" his job...he just didn't talk much and didn't really give facts about any wildlife we might have seen. He was better on the Cano Negro tour but even then it wasn't too informative, it felt very "This is a (name)...*everyone takes pictures*...There is a (name)". Our boat driver was spotting almost all of the wildlife though, he did a good job!

Our later experiences with other guides who gave us more information on the animals made us realize that even more. Some guides are really passionate and others treat it like just a job. Hope that makes sense!
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Aug 9th, 2008, 08:05 AM
  #12
 
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I'm sorry to hear that your guide was sub-par for Cano Negro, immelbatoast. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic person makes all the difference in the world! I'm glad you had better experiences later in your trip.

Sunset Tours has an office on the main drag in La Fortuna, tcossey. We went on two tours with them and were very pleased. We were able to book everything through our hotel, which made things more convenient for us. We were there at the beginning of December before peak tourist season got underway and had no problems booking things once we arrived at our hotel. Ecothermales may be an exception so follow the advice and book ahead if you particularly want to visit those hot springs (which sound wonderful!).

Silencio may work primarily with Aventuras (rather than with Sunset). Hip enjoyed the activities she booked through Silencio del Campo, so that tour group must do a good job overall. Unfortunately, immelbatoast got stuck with an employee who perhaps wasn't as into the job as others are...

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Aug 9th, 2008, 08:10 AM
  #13
 
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When you are in town (La Fortuna), walk by the offices of any of the major tour companies, like Sunset and Desafio, and get their brochures. They aren't pushy and you can look over the choices and go back later to book.
We used Sunset for a Penas Blanco River float, and I can't say enough about the guide. Very educated and kind, easy to be with. And even the van driver was great. On the way back, he somehow spotted a sloth off in a tree, pulled over and we all traipsed out into the brush on the roadside, guide got out a scope and we looked at the sloth and guide helped us photo it thru the scope.
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Aug 9th, 2008, 01:56 PM
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Thanks immelbatoast on Aventuras Arenal guide info. I think that's who we are booked through for Cano Negro, so I was worried that they did a different route on the river or something. I'm hoping we don't have the same guide you did! We've always lucked out with excellent, enthusiastic and informative guides in the past.
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Aug 9th, 2008, 02:57 PM
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We also did some tours with Aventuras Arenal (booked through a third party), and I would probably recommend using a different company. We did the volcano hike and hot springs tour with them and the group was pretty large, about 14 people. This was the largest group we had for any tour while in CR. Also it was on a Friday, and the MO of the guides seemed to be to try to get groups of girls to go to the discoteca. (It wasn't just our guide, we had pulled over to see some monkeys and a second bus pulled over as well, and we heard that guide talking to a small group of girls in his group, asking them what they were doing later...they should go to the discoteca.)
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Aug 10th, 2008, 01:33 PM
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Just back from our 6 days in the Arenal area... trip report to come! But thought I'd chime in on this since we were just there.

We went through Desafio for our Cano Negro tour, and ended up with a tour guide from Sunset. When we got back, the very friendly staff person at the Desafio desk called Eco Thermales for us to make a reservation for us (not as part of a tour, just on our own).

Eco Thermales was booked up for that day (well, she called at around 4 so that's no surprise) and for the day after. Just to give you a sense of the wait times. So we called at 4ish on Tuesday and they had availability at all 3 entrance times for Thursday.

Since we had 6 days, I figured I didn't need to book in advance but could when I got there. That was difficult for us since we were staying at a rental home (not a hotel). We were always out and about during the time when their offices were open to take reservations. I was glad that the Desafio folks were so helpful and called them for us while we were sitting in their office!

I think you can also book through Arenal.net, but it can be a bit confusing. I tried that from our rental house, and got no reply even though they show you a screen with a reservation number (they do say that the reservation is "unconfirmed" or something along those lines). So after waiting a day, I called the info # at arenal.net and that's how I found out that they had tried to make the reservation, but there weren't any openings for that day (and they didn't bother to check other days). I'm not sure why exactly that I never heard back from them one way or the other.

BUT Eco Thermales was fabulous, and worth every bit of effort to get the reservation. We went at night, on our own, and it was fantastic. If I had it to do over again, I'd get the chicken dinner and not the beef!

What the other poster mentioned about the staff at the tour company offices (Sunset, Desafio) is true--I can only speak for Desafio, but they were extremely friendly and didn't pressure us to do any tours with them. Answered a lot of questions, arranged our ET reservation, etc.

We did see Aventuras Arenal boats on the Rio Frio during our Cano Negro tour. Our boat was full (about 20 people) and our guide was chatty & friendly (maybe overly so!)--very engaged, anyway. The Aventuras boats looked a lot less fun, I have to say. It didn't seem like the guide was looking for wildlife or chatting with people or anything. We had both our guide and our boat captain scouring the trees & the water for everything. I think the boat captain was just as important as the guide, actually--he was often chatting with us and entertaining us and couldn't always be watching outside the boat. The captain was amazing at spotting things and pulling us as close as possible.

It absolutely POURED during our Cano Negro tour, and I think we saw less wildlife because of it (birds, anyway). We did see lots of monkeys, though. Even though it was very wet, we were glad to be there on the river instead of hiking a trail somewhere. At least the boat had a roof!

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Aug 10th, 2008, 02:35 PM
  #17
 
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Just a note on Eco Termales and booking through arenal.net. From what I have heard from others, you can book Eco Termales at arenal.net, entrance or entrance + dinner. We booked a tour including the volcano hike + Eco Termales (incl. dinner) on arenal.net and while the tour includes dinner it is not at Eco Termales. The only hot spring package that included dinner on location was Tabacon. For everyone else you were dropped off at the hot springs of your choice and were picked up after an hour for dinner at a nearby restaurant. So, if you are booking through arenal.net, I would just recommend that you confirm that the dinner is at Eco Termales if that is important to you (I know many people really enjoy the dinner there).
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Aug 10th, 2008, 03:06 PM
  #18
 
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Huh, that's really strange! I wonder why they wouldn't include dinner there at ET.

The dinner on site is optional, but we all ate there. You can tell them when you want to eat when you arrive and check in. (We went at 5pm and ate at 7:45.) I think it was $15 per person on top of the admission fee. Drinks varied in price between $2 and $6 I think depending on whether they were alcoholic or not or fancy mixed fruity drinks, etc. They operate on the honor system so you pay everything when you leave.

The passionfruit & pineapple juice we had with dinner was wonderful!
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Aug 10th, 2008, 05:13 PM
  #19
 
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I totally agree about the chicken at Eco T. It was so good, and we liked it better than the beef. I also had a pina colada that was good and reasonably priced; we met people who had to go to Baldi, and they paid $10 per drink there, which seemed outrageous.
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Aug 13th, 2008, 03:20 PM
  #20
 
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We booked a horseback ride with Chaves Tours to La Fortuna waterfall - kids ages 8 and 6 loved it! Also booked Eco Thermales on the same day - awesome and great food - the monkeys were in the trees.

Next day we did the Cano Negro tour which I loved but wished we had done a little hiking and tried to see some lava that night - we were too tired to stay up after the haul to CN.

Saved the ziplining for MV - which was a great fun day as well.
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