Calling All Costa Rica Experts :-)

Mar 5th, 2011, 03:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 31
Calling All Costa Rica Experts :-)

My partner and I are experienced travelers; however, no experience in Latin America.
We are planning 3 full weeks in Costa Rica this June. We're looking for LOTS of beach time/relaxing along with a little nature/sightseeing. Costa Rica Tourism connected me with "Costa Rica Trails" -- they have recommended:

1 night San Jose (we'll do Marriott on points)
7 nights Manuel Antonio - Mimos Hotel
4 nights Arenal - Magic Mountain Hotel
8 nights Tamarindo - Divia Beach Resort
1 night San Jose (Marriott on points)

My only requirements to Costa Rica Trails: Central Location/Walkable to restaurants or activities, On or near beach, Air Conditioning. (Nice beach with swimmable water is ideal!)

Any experience with above hotels? Other suggestions?
Is 4 nights too long in Arenal?
Any place we should consider, instead of the above?
Are # of nights in each locale sufficient?
Any other thoughts, ideas, comments, suggestions are welcome!

Thank you!
David_Dunn is offline  
Mar 5th, 2011, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 130
I would offer that 4 nights in Arenal is too much. It's VERY touristy and the big draw is the volcano. There is some can rent a moped type bike and ride around (we were ripped off...they said we had scratched it and wouldn't give us our deposit back)....2-3 at most. Manuel Antonio is great if you want relaxing beach time. Nice beach...good restaurants...And joing a tourguide thru the forest...They'll point out sloths, snakes,monkeys, etc.7 days is a long time but if you're beach people, go for it. You might consider a stop on the way down to Manual in Jaco Beach. You'll pass it going down. Definitely take tours. Tourism is their main economy and the tour guides are quite good. Lovely country...lovely people! I go there to the dentist about once a year!
anavert is offline  
Mar 5th, 2011, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,950
Four nights in Arenal is NOT too many. It's true that La Fortuna is a cheesy tourist town, but the solution is to just not a lot of time in town. You can even stay on the opposite side of the volcano for places with real charm and natural wonders. There are more than enough activities to fill 4 days there--rafting, hanging bridges, ziplines, hiking, Cano Negro, hot springs, etc.

15 days between Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo seems like overkill, though. Better beach options in Mexico, to be honest.
RAC is offline  
Mar 5th, 2011, 04:35 PM
Join Date: May 2007
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Four nights is about how long we usually stay in Arenal. There's tons to do there. We stay on the edge of town at the Lost Iguana out by the lake, and it's gorgeous - really natural with great trails and a beautiful view of the volcano. There's a beautiful waterfall where you can hike and swim at the base, the Cano Negro tour to see wildlife that RAC mentioned, zipline at Sky Trek, rafting with Rios Tropicales, and gorgeous hot springs - Eco Termales and Tabacon are popular, volcano tours, and hiking at the Hanging Bridges (hire a guide to up your chances of seeing wildlife). To me, seven nights in Manuel Antonio would be too many - about three or four would work for me, but sounds like you really want a lot of beach time. You might look at Buena Vista Villas or Tulemar Bungalows to see what you think. I don't know if you have looked at the Osa, but that's a really amazing area with tons of wildlife. I agree with RAC, all that beach time would make me wish I had seen other areas of the country, but you might love it.
volcanogirl is online now  
Mar 5th, 2011, 04:52 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
I think too long in MA and Tamarindo and not crazy about their choice of hotels. In MA I'd do 3-4 nights, look into Costa Verde Hotel, Mango Moon, Si Como No, for starters. Haven't stayed in Tamarindo but Capitan Suizo gets raves, and it's also a little out of town so you you're not right in the middle of town. 8 nights is way too much IMHO, I'd do 3-4, although if you're looking for beaches, they're are nicer ones. Since you have a god amount of time, I'd also look into the Osa, 5 nights would be good.

One more thing, I'd look into other hotels in Arenal than Magic Mountain, many others with much more personality. You can book easily all of the hotels and tours yourself, instead of a tour company.
tully is offline  
Mar 6th, 2011, 03:03 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 189
If you were to keep your current itinerary, I would suggest flying into San Jose but out of Liberia. Doesn't make sense to drive all the way back to SJO.

I'm a beach person & even I agree 7 nights in MA & Tamarindo are too much. Personally, I would skip Tamarindo & head over to the Osa. We spent 3 nights at Bosque del Cabo (hiking & nature sightings) & 3 at Iguana Lodge (on beach)and loved it. If you choose the Osa I would change your itinerary to:

1 night San Jose
4 nights Arenal
7 nights Manuel Antonio - Mimos Hotel
4 nights BDC nights
4 nights Iguana Lodge
1 night San Jose

I'm jealous, the longest I've been able to stay has been 10 days. Enjoy!!
petite43 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2011, 05:05 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Costa Rica Trails good company for budget/moderate but

check tripadvisor reviews on your hotels decent moderates

not great maybe would be better at MA.

MA Park is nice for a few days inside the park is fine but

Playa Espadilla there is sort of brown sand dodgy tents

abound not the best area you would do better to head up to

for nicer beaches...

Plenty to do in Arenal makes

a nice day trip

better hotels if budget is good.

Rent a car for freedom and flexibility always best for me

Have fun,
qwovadis is offline  
Mar 6th, 2011, 11:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,136
I'm not even an expert and I can tell by the choice of the hotel in MA that this agency might not be "listening" to what you wanted.

Have you considered a guidebook and doing your own trip planning with the help of Fodorites?
mlgb is offline  
Mar 6th, 2011, 02:43 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 157
Hi I agree with going to the Osa I think petit43 schedule would be great. I would possible spend 1 more night in san jose and see the volcano poas and do a coffee tour or sarchi. Then head to manuel antonio. I loved si como no and costa verde is nice too in MA. In arenal check out silencio del campo.
cmazza is offline  
Mar 7th, 2011, 04:21 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Absolutely agree 4 nights Arenal is ideal, 7 nights MA and Tamarindo too much.

4 night Arenal
4 night MA
4 Montezuma (Ylang Ylang)
5-7 Osa Peninsula--------- Iguana Lodge/Bosque del Cabo

Would not recommend Diria in Tamarindo, right on beach, but that beach has had a difficult time keeping itself clean (contaminated water).
shillmac is offline  
Mar 13th, 2011, 08:32 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 320
Contact Marina Kuperman at She helped us with our trip last Nov. and we could not have been happier with her ideas and suggestions. She got us better prices than any that I found online myself. You will be happy with her service. Many have reconnended her on this forum.
rfbk50 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2011, 11:06 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2
Before figuring out WHERE to go, figure out WHAT you want to do. FInd ou what options appeal to you most... not just hotels but activities. Look at some sample active itineraries to see what appeals to you. For example, for nature, look at If you are more into adventure, look at

HOTELS: Most of the tour companies will book your hotels which pay the best commissions, not necessarily places that make the most sense for what you want to experience. Where to go VERY MUCH depends on WHEN you are going - for example, Manuel Antonio in peak season is a lot like Coney Island.
tuckerc is offline  
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