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tunadoc Jul 11th, 2007 10:39 AM

Caribbean vs Central Pacific Coasts of CR?
Hi folks. My first post in this forum. Thanks for the help your posts have already provided in planning this trip.

I'm trying to choose between a visit to the Caribbean coast (i.e. Puerto Viejo/Cahuita) or the Central Pacific (i.e. MA, Dominical/Playa Uvita). . . or possibly trying to squeeze in some of both.

Here is the background:

This a 16 day honeymoon trip for my wife and I, starting July 28 (we were one of the many 7/7/7 couples). We're in our mid-forties, and she has some difficulties walking (although she thinks she can make it around the 4 km canopy walk if we go very slowly). I'm a biologist that loves the wilderness and looking for animals; she likes that, too, but beaches are a high priority for her. We plan to rent a 4X4 (an expensive option, so we plan to opt for budget accommodations most of the time, with an occasional splurge).

I've been to Costa Rica once before for about 8 days and know I want to revisit Monteverde and Arenal (maybe actually see the volcano this time, ha ha!). But I think we'll skip the Nicoya Peninsula (which I briefly visited) in order to seek out more lush beaches to the south.

What I'm thinking so far for an itinerary is something like this. . .

* 3 nights Monteverde (could be reduced to 2)
* 3 nights Arenal (could be reduced to 2)
* 3 nights in the Central valley - La Paz Waterfalls, Poa Volcano, Sarchi, maybe Irazu Vocano or museums in town.

* 2 nights Manuel Antonio. What I'm thinking of here is to avoid the weekend (is it really that crowded in August?) and the Monday closure. So this would probably be a Monday and Tuesday night, with just the Tuesday in the park.

* 2 nights in the Playa Uvita/Ventana area. My thinking here is that these seem scenic, less crowded (but with some minor nightlife nearby), and that it may be possible to find budget accommodations near the beach.

* 1 night along the mountain route back toward San Jose.

* 1 night in the Alajuela area in prep for a noon departure.

At one point, I had considered splitting time between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts (maybe seeing only MA). The argument for this was more variety (we are accustomed to staying only a night or two in each place when traveling, crazy as that is), what I assume is better snorkeling and warmer waters in the Caribbean (I would be swimming by myself, as she doesn't), and the sloth rescue center that a friend highly recommends. But then I thought it might be more sensible to focus on one area or the other and I liked the pictures I've seen of the mountains right next to the sea along the Pacific coast.

My wife, who previously had said she would leave the planning completely up to me, now says she was looking forward to being a "Caribbean Queen" (although she says she will be happy either way). So I would appreciate any advice on the relative merits of the coasts, or any observations on the itinerary I've outlined. For instance, maybe we could plunge right into MA even if it is the weekend.


hipvirgochick Jul 11th, 2007 11:45 AM

Wow! First of all congratulations on your honeymoon :) and your planning!

It sounds as if you are going for a longer trip, looking for moderate accomodations. Is this correct?

I can recommend a couple of places for you to check out that we loved.

In Arenal - El Campo del Silencio. They are individual bungalows, super nice tico owners, pool and jacuzzi, close to Eco-Thermales hot springs, restaurant on site.

In Puerto Viejo - Banana Azul.
We stayed in the Red Frog room, which is fabulous. But if you want a better view of the ocean and gardens, you could check out the Howler Suite, which has a jacuzzi tub. They are 100 meters or less from a swimmable beach, and are situated between Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. We are going back next year. The sloth rescue center was enjoyable. They had several babies, teenagers, and a few adults.

Good luck choosing!

tunadoc Jul 11th, 2007 12:16 PM

Thanks, hipvirgochick.

Yes, with so many nights it can add up if we spend too much on lodging. Gotta save some money for the sights and souvenirs. But it's always great to wake up to a nice view or exotic birds just outside. And a jacuzzi is always a nice splurge!

Two of the nights around Arenal are already booked at the Arenal Observatory Lodge; I wanted to maximize the chances of seeing the volcano since I was skunked on the last trip through. But we were planning on a third night closer to town or the hot springs, so el Campo del Silencio is a possibility. I'll check it out.

Still trying to decide about which hot springs to visit. . . Last time I went to Tabacan and enjoyed it. But it has really gone up in price and it sounds like we may have to book way in advance (and I'm unsure of timing). Maybe Eco-Thermales is an option.

hipvirgochick Jul 11th, 2007 12:44 PM

Oh yeah, I've heard great things about the Observatory. We didn't have a car, so couldn't stay there. However, we had a different view of the volcano which was from the base, but about as close as you could get (or at least it seemed like it!) in cabina #2. Eco-Thermales is really lovely if you should decide to try it. They also have a dinner which gets much better reviews than Tabacon, and a bar (if that interests you). Hope you are doing the Cano Negro tour for the wildlife!

tunadoc Jul 11th, 2007 01:01 PM

Is the bar at the Eco-Thermales actually in the hot springs? I recall that fondly from Tabacan.

At the moment, we weren't planning on the Cano Negro tour. We live in Miami, and I've assumed that the wildlife would be similar to what we can see in the nearby Everglades. But I could be wrong in that, or the wildlife might be more plentiful on the Cano Negro tour. What kind of boat is involved? Since my wife doesn't swim, she avoids canoes and is hard to persuade into small boats. Another reason we hadn't looked too hard into the tour.

hipvirgochick Jul 11th, 2007 01:19 PM

Sorry tunadoc :) The bar is not swim up. It's just a few feet from the springs though. I noticed people had drinks while strolling across the pools. It's on the honor system so you just tell them at the end what you bought, and pay then. There are 6 pools, from cold to hot.

As far as the Cano Negro tour, the wildlife will be far different from the Everglades (that is, unless you have monkeys, sloths and native Central American and migratory birds there :). There are caimans though! Also, wildlife is plentiful. Many, many sightings. For many of us it is a highlight of time spent in Arenal. It is a very pleasant and informative tour. The boat is a large, canopy covered boat. Not scary. Probably sits 40 people, but there were only about 15 in our group.

tunadoc Jul 11th, 2007 01:42 PM

There are a lot of strange things in the Everglades (case in point: ), but no monkeys, sloths, etc. that I know of.

Thanks for your help. We should take another look at that tour. And the hotels you suggested look great.

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