Central Highlands and Central Pacific, Costa Rica

Old Sep 9th, 2018, 07:16 AM
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Central Highlands and Central Pacific, Costa Rica

My husband and two 18 year old kids are planning a trip to Costa Rica in June. This will be our third time to Costa Rica over the past 30 years. We have already spent time in San Jose, Monteverde, Arenal, and Tortuguero, so we are looking to spend our time elsewhere this time. We are looking to split our accomodations into two locations-The Central Pacific and Central Highlands. We are planning on staying 8 nights. My first questions is should we stay 4 nights in each location or split our time differently? I would also like hotel recommendations. We like "nice" places without the crazy prices. We wouldn't want to spend much more than $250 a night.

In the Central Pacific, we thought our home base would be in Manuel Antonio. We are interested in Manuel Antonio National Park, crocodile safari on Tarcoles, Carara National Park, etc. Any other suggestions on things to do in the area? We don't like surfing, atv, or extreme adventure. We enjoy hiking, waterfalls, culture and food of the area, etc.

In the Central Highlands area, I'm not sure what hotel location would be best. I would like a location that is relatively close to all the places we want to venture off to. This will be the last part of the trip so we are closer to San Jose airport when we fly home. We are interested in going to La Paz Waterfall, Doka Estate (coffee tour), Braulio Carrillo National Park, Savegie Biological Reserve, Los Quetzal National Park, Irazu volcano, etc. I know we probably won't have time to go to all of these places. So I am confused as to the best place to stay...Alejuela, Heredia,

Thanks so much for your help!
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 08:47 AM
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We like Tulemar Bungalows in Manuel Antonio; you'd have to check their prices to see if it's in your budget. It's a great spot, and they have their own beach. We like Manuel Antonio Expeditions for the guided tour of the park. Also for the Damas mangrove boat tour. We used Jose's Crocodile tour for our Rio Tarcoles trip, and they were very good as well. You might also really like the Villa Vanilla spice tour - very cool tour where you can see where things like cinnamon and chocolate come from by touring their gardens; at the end they give you nice little desserts and drinks made from the things they grow, very pretty views too. Have not done it yet, but people love Vacation Buggy - it's a nice waterfall excursion. Lots of good open air restaurants in that area; you can walk from Tulemar if you're careful along the road.
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 08:49 AM
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For the central area, we like the Peace Lodge or Xandari, but they're both pretty pricey, usually only stay a night or two, but would get expensive for longer than that. The La Paz Waterfall hike is great. You can also hand feed hummingbirds there at certain times of day. Also really like the Doka Coffee tour.
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 09:57 AM
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Great-I saw Tulemar bungalows and they look nice. There is a lot of variability in the types of rooms. We would go with the most basic room type. Hopefully they are just as nice and I'm hoping they have air conditioning. We would definitely like the Villa Vanilla spice tour. Would we arrange this through Tulemar or should I look for a private tour company?
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 10:01 AM
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I also saw a good deal at Xandari. Do they have air conditioning? Most importantly, do you think their location will work well with the places I mentioned above? We wouldn't want to travel more than an hour or so to the places we are interested in. Thanks, volcanogirl!
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 11:02 AM
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We've stayed at Xandari a couple of times; they don't have air conditioning, but we didn't need it. It's up in the hills with pretty views, and the temps really cool off at night. One night we had dinner in their open air restaurant, and they came around with blankets for everyone!

We've stayed in the most basic rooms at Tulemar and still liked it. We did have air conditioning, and you need it there.
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 11:04 AM
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If I remember correctly, Villa Vanilla has contact info. on their website. I think I just emailed them directly to reserve the time we wanted.
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Old Sep 9th, 2018, 12:23 PM
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I'd try to include a night or two at Savegre Lodge itself (or somewhere else in San Gerardo de Dota).
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 07:29 PM
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Any thoughts on renting a car versus relying on other transporation/drivers? We are flying in and out of San Jose airport and will travel directly to Manuel Antonio...I'm thinking it is a 3 hour trip.
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Old Sep 14th, 2018, 02:49 AM
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Yes, it's about three hours from SJO to Manuel Antonio; the roads are in good shape in that area. A private driver would probably run you $150-$180ish for that ride, a car rental maybe about $60 a day or so. Just depends on your personal preference. Things in MA are pretty close together compared to some other areas that are more spread out like Arenal.
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Old Sep 14th, 2018, 05:40 PM
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O.K., thanks. We will probably end up renting a car. I just got a little nervous because I read about how bad the road conditions were, lack of signage and people getting lost, car burglaries, etc. We are booked at the Paramar Resort in Manuel Antonio and Xandari Resort in Alajuela. I e-mailed about the Villa Vanilla tour. It sounds awesome, so we are all set for that as well. It is too bad Paos Volcano is still closed for touring. I think Irazu will be too far to travel from Alajuela as a day trip. Thanks for your suggestions!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2018, 01:41 PM
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In the Manuel Antonio area we did a horse backing riding trip with Brisas del Nara. Itís a familyís ranch. They pick you up, serve you breakfast, ride to the familyís waterfalls and swimming holes, then back to the ranch where grandma serves lunch.

Near La Paz waterfalls we stayed at the Hotel Altura. Itís a few guest houses on a property with some animals, fire pits, swings, gardens. They serve breakfast, too. No AC, but we were there in July and were freezing!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2018, 06:59 AM
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Thanks, florclover, I will check out Brisas del Nara. Hopefully it won't be too far. It seems like most of the activities around Manuel Antonio are such a far drive. The crocodile tour is 1 hour 45 minutes away.I am happy to hear that it was freezing in July. We were concerned about not having A/C because here in Florida, no A/C in the summer is torturous!
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Old Sep 28th, 2018, 08:01 PM
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I think it was about 30 min away. They picked us up. Iím familiar with the crocodile tour. We havenít done it, but we did stop there on our way from airport to Manuel Antonio. You can stand on the bridge and watch the crocodiles which was enough for us!
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Old Sep 29th, 2018, 01:55 AM
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We did our croc tour with Jose's Crocodile Tour and loved it. Fun to see them from the bridge too.
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Old Sep 30th, 2018, 07:12 AM
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florclover, thanks for the info on Brisas del Nara. We will be booking a tour with them. You mentioned you went to see the crocodiles on your way from the airport to Manuel Antonio. Did you travel out of San Jose Airport? Thanks, volcanogirl, I'll go check Jose's Crocodile tour.
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Old Sep 30th, 2018, 04:45 PM
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Roads aren't too bad. Signage could be better, but using Waze in conjunction with a map works well. Car break ins are a problem though, so you dont want to stop for sightseeing with luggage in the car, or when you are out sightseeing, dont leave anything visible in the car - no bags or anything like that. Beach towels and wet swimsuits - no problem, but just dont put them in a beach bag that makes it look like something interesting could be in the car.
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Old Oct 1st, 2018, 07:40 AM
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Jose met us on the main road and let us follow him. We gave him an estimated time that we would be there. Thought that was nice and made it easy to find.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2018, 06:06 AM
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Yes, we were traveling from San Jose airport to Manuel Antonio.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2018, 06:08 AM
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And we used Jade Tours for our tour of Manuel Antonio. If you are looking for other activities in the area Iím sure their website has some ideas.
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