Car Rental and Driving Questions

Nov 5th, 2007, 07:48 AM
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Car Rental and Driving Questions

So we want to rent a car only for the SanJose to Arenal portion and take interbus from arenal to monteverde, monteverde back to san jose.

So my question is - how are roads for just this portion (San Jose to Arenal).

Second question - we wanted to stop along POAS and La Paz Waterfalls and we would have our suitecases with us since our final destination is Arenal.

Will this be a problem to have suitcases in a rental car while we are stopped?
luvtravelin is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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The roads from San Jose to Arenal were in pretty good shape compared to some of the other roads we saw; I don't think you should have a problem. Personally, I would not leave my suitcases in a rental car. Have you thought about spending a night at the Peace Lodge?
volcanogirl is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 09:14 AM
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Hi Luvtravelin,
I am having the same issues with suitcases, we will be driving ourselves our whole vaca and want to stop and see sights along the way but have heard leaving suitcases in cars is a big no no. If anyone has tips would love to hear it (we want to stop at Las Pumas Wildlife rehab and Rio Celeste on our way from Arenal to Playa Grande)
ag123 is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 09:49 AM
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The roads from San Jose to Arenal and from Poas and La Paz and to Arenal that direction are fine. They are very mountainous with no guardrails at points, but they are not filled with potholes and are safe driving if you take is slow. The scenery is beautiful and the driving is fun.

Volcanogirl's suggestion to stay at Peace Lodge for a night would solve your luggage storage problem! I wouldn't leave my bags in the rental car at Poas, and it's not recommended to leave them anywhere out of your sight. Poas has a very large parking lot and there will be a lot of cars parked there. Even if there is security, which I can't remember if there was, they couldn't watch all of the cars at one time.

I don't know if you could have someone at La Paz watch your bags where you purchase your tickets. You could call them and ask them.
ShellD is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 02:23 PM
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Taking a big chance on leaving the bags. There is actually a sign in the La Paz parking lot, so they are not taking responsibility. . .

It might be okay, but then again, it's a big gamble.

Remember that you won't be driving from San Jose, but rather from the airport in Alajuela (about 20 minutes WEST of San Jose and closer to Arenal).

A couple of nights at Peace Lodge would really be nice and would solve your problem even better than one night, my opinion (giving you time to see Poas and surrounding area as well as fully enjoy all that La Paz has to offer).

shillmac is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 12:49 PM
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Thank you for the replies.

Well peace lodge is booked for the dates we will be there.

So the other option is to stay in San Jose and do our site seeing from there.

Can I see all the following in 1 day leaving from SanJose and coming back in the evening: POAS, Coffee Plantation (don't know the name), La Paz Waterfall.

Also - is it best to rent a car and see the above or take a tour package? If tour package, then any suggestion to which one and price?
luvtravelin is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 02:11 PM
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luvtravelin - you may want to consider staying at Xandari in Alajuela:

We stayed there in July/August and it is within easy striking distance of Poas, La Paz, and Doka Coffee Plantation. See end of this long trip report for my description of what driving to these places in a rental car was like:
MRand is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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For all of those spots you could do the Ecoscape tour or similiar. It's an all day tour, runs about $85 if I remember correctly. The one I went on didn't go into La Paz but stopped outsdie to see th e waterfall, plus a cfoffee estate breakfast, Poas, lunch at Selva Verde and a boat ride.
tully is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 04:02 PM
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I looked at the ecoscape tour site and it definitely looks like what we are looking for. But it seemed like they weren't giving enough time at the la Paz Waterfall so I found another tour by called the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Combo Tour.

Has anyone taken this? Is it recommended?
luvtravelin is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 05:01 PM
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I haven't taken it, but it looks really nice! It hits all of the big spots and you get to go into the Waterfall gardens, not just stop at the falls. I think you'll really enjoy it!
ShellD is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 05:36 PM
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I haven't done that tour personally, but I would definitely recommend doing one that actually goes inside the gardens. Just driving by amd seeing one of the falls would mean missing out on some great stuff. Totally agree with Shell. The gardens were one of our favorite things.
volcanogirl is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 05:39 PM
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yea this one:

says they take you to the falls as well as the humingbird garden and butterfly garden. so i was assuming this is a good package...but was hoping to get some feedback from people who used them in the past.
luvtravelin is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 06:58 PM
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The link you posted is probably a great tour. And you'll enjoy spending time inside La Paz.

The Highlights Tour offered by Ecoscape, while it doesn't go into La Paz Waterfall Gardens, covers a bit more country. I think you will be in 4 different provinces. You give up the tour of La Paz, but you gain lunch and some look-see time at Selva Verde, a roadside stop at a neat little hummingbird gallery/restaurant/giftshop (with a waterfall in the distance) and a visit to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, including a relaxing cruise down the Rio Sarapiqui for wildlife viewing--all of this in the Caribbean lowlands. Returning to San Jose, you'll pass through Braulio Carillo Parque Nacional and be treated to some splendid views. It's a more comprehensive tour, a huge loop. I loved it.

We've since visited La Paz 3 times, and have enjoyed that property immensely as well. Either way, you'll have a very nice day.
shillmac is offline  
Nov 9th, 2007, 04:22 AM
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We left from Tricolor near the airport and went straight to the Poas Volcano Lodge. We dropped our luggage and it was an easy drive back to La Paz to spend the afternoon. The next morning we were up early to go to Poas and saw it before the clouds moved in. Then we moved onto Arenal and arrived there in the afternoon. Just a thought.
We are now looking at going back for our third trip this summer. CR has us hooked.
cherbear is offline  
Nov 9th, 2007, 05:36 AM
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Thanks shillmac - yes the tour you mentioned sounds amazing too. Now it is a matter of selecting what we want to do since both itineraries sound fabulous.

Do you have to pre-pay when reserving these tours or do you think we can just arrange it when we get there from the hotel?

Cherbear - thanks for the idea. Unfortunately we are already booked with our hotels so we are planning on using alajuela as the point of origin and plan on siteseeing using a tour group. Originally we wanted to rent a car and see everything, but the whole "leaving suitcases in rental car" was such an issue so we added on a day in alajuela so we can leave our stuff in the hotel room.
luvtravelin is offline  
Nov 13th, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Hey Cherbear...did you drive? You must have gotten in early in the day to get to Paos Volcano Lodge then to the Waterfall park. We get in around 2:00 in the afternoon (if all goes well) hardly enough time to get through customs/immigration and then get the car etc. We would like to get as close to the LaPaz as possible so we can take it in the next morning without leaving our stuff in the car, but in the hotel. Any suggestions?
ragrant555 is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 04:12 PM
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I don't know how often cherbear checks the boards (she and I have been friends for years--and work colleagues), but you COULD reasonably get yourselves up to La Paz area by 5:30, 6:00 at the latest. It isn't totally dark until 6:30 or so. You should have your car by 4:00 (and most likely a bit earlier--I'm trying to estimate on the long side), if your flight is on time.

For the next few comments, I am assuming that you are renting from one of the agencies that is on the road to Heredia (most are). We use Tricolor.

From the car rental place, you only need to head on up the road toward Heredia (about 30 min drive, often congested, but not a long distance). There is a place to gas up on the way, not far from your rental agency. The car will be almost empty when you get it.

Once in Heredia, you make a right turn and go to the little town of Barva where you will continue on about 45 min. to La Paz. Not far at all. On the way, you will come to another little town (can't remember the name) and make a right turn there. I think there is signage here. If in doubt, just ask. Then continue on to Vara Blanca where you turn right again to get to La Paz, which is just a short distance up the road.

The one hitch might be making the correct turn in Heredia. Traffic will be nutso and all the streets are unmarked and one way. But people do it all the time, so don't think you can't! You can always hire a taxi driver to lead you out of town (would probably save time rather than trying to ask and figure out yourselves--unless you have strong Spanish skills). When you get into town, you will come to a city park with taxi drivers parked all around it.

So if you have your car by 4:00, 1.5 to 2 hours should be PLENTY of time to get yourselves up to La Paz area (or Poas Volcano Lodge). Once you are out of Heredia and on the road up to La Paz, you can make a quick stop for some snacks to tide you over!

You will also pass by Colbert's (on your left) which is about 10 min. from the entrance to La Paz (and just before Vara Blanca). It is an excellent French restaurant and one you might like to return to later.

I don't want to lead you astray, but it sure seems to me like you can do this pretty easily (again, depending on your on time arrival).

Just for reference (and we've done this drive many times), we can make it to La Paz in a little over an hour from this rental agency "row" . So when I tell you that 1.5 hour or 2 hours would give you enough time, I'm taking into consideration that you might have a bit more trial and error.

If this all sounds too fuzzy to be comfortable for you, you might opt to spend the night at Hotel Bougainvillea (sp?). It is just outside of Heredia and would move you about 30 minutes closer on your arrival day, giving you about a 45 min. drive the next a.m.

Anything make sense?
shillmac is offline  

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