Classic Costa Rica without the crowds

Nov 6th, 2019, 06:43 AM
  #1  
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Classic Costa Rica without the crowds

Hi there,
I would love help with itinerary planning for Costa Rica. We're heading there for spring break 4/8/2020-4/21/2020 due to my son's school schedule. I know this is not ideal as far as avoiding crowds. I would love to come up with an itinerary that included beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife (monkeys and sloths in particular), but in a less popular area. I don't want to feel like we're missing out, but we're most interested in remote feeling locations and don't like crowds. We're adventurous in an exploring sort of way, not adrenaline sort of way.
I'm thinking the Osa peninsula. Any other thoughts or ideas? Any beautiful places to stop along the way? Will we regret not going to the NW corner with volcanoes and beaches?
We're renting a car at SJO and will have it for the duration of our trip. Thank you, Jessica
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Nov 6th, 2019, 10:21 AM
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I haven't been to CR during Spring Break, so I don't know how applicable this is, but when we were in CR last year, we went to the Puerto Viejo de Serapiqui area, which we really enjoyed and was not crowded at all. We spent 1 night there between Arenal and the Caribbean coast and we wished that we had planned for more time in the area. we stayed at the La Selva Verde Lodge (https://www.selvaverde.com/) which is right on the river, just outside of town. We saw some monkeys and a sloth on the property. The town itself is small, but has several restaurants, a grocery store, bank, pharmacy, etc - all the normal stuff. The afternoon we arrived, we went on a nature hike with a guide into the old growth rainforest across the river from the lodge, which was great - we saw some bats and plenty of birds. The next morning we went on a boat on the river - for a while we were the only passengers on the boat, then the captain got a call that a few other people were interested in getting a tour, so we swung by the dock and picked them up, then continued cruising around on the river. We saw quite a few monkeys and a lot of birds. We were hoping to see some kind of reptile - maybe a caiman, not sure - the captain was looking, but didn't spot any that day. He said sometimes you can find them, but not always.
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Nov 6th, 2019, 02:06 PM
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We love the Osa Peninsula - excellent for hiking and wildlife. Bosque del Cabo is a great place to stay; it's pretty expensive though. Also really like Selva Verde that november mentioned; if you go, ask for cabin back by the river because the rooms toward the front can have road noise - we loved the river boat tour and got to see a big croc and monkeys when we went; their guided hikes are great too. You have quite a lot of time so you should visit a few different areas. We love the Arenal Observatory Lodge - excellent for hiking and wildlife; they also have a free guided hike each morning. You can also see the volcano, do a waterfall hike, and do other wildlife tours like Cano Negro, Penas Blancas, and the Bogarin Trail owned by a local family who act as guides. They have beautiful natural hot springs in the area too like Tabacon and Eco Termales - it is a tourist area, but we never feel crowded at AOL. Xandari is really nice for a first or last night.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 05:09 AM
  #4  
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Thank you both so much!
So, in your opinion, we shouldn't skip Arenal? Maybe we'll do Arenal, Uvita, and Osa? Any other recommendations for not crowded beach towns?
I'm going to research your recommendations and I'm sure I'll have more questions!
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Nov 7th, 2019, 07:47 AM
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We didn't find the Arenal area particularly crowded. Things are pretty spread out. It's touristy, in that there are a lot of things of interest for tourists, so a lot lf people go there, but it wasn't tons of people. The busiest place we went was SkyAdventures where we ziplined. We went to Ecothermales for hot springs- there were people there too, but not crowds. At Mistico Hanging Bridges, there were only a few cars in the parking lot when we pulled in - we acually wondered if they were even oepn that day, there seemed to be so few people around - lol. Again, this wasn't spring break, it was September, so Spring Break may be somewhat different, but I'd be surprised if there were any really large crowds anywhere unless you end up arriving someplace at the same time as a large bus tour.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 07:55 AM
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Yea Eco Termales is nice because they limit the number of people who can get in, so it doesn't get crowded. We like Manuel Antonio for beach time, but I think it would be too crowded for you. It's one of the most popular places to go. Dominical and Uvita are alternatives that will be less crowded.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 10:16 AM
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When our boys were 10 & 12 we spent about two weeks staying at Bosque del Cabo (Osa) then Tulemar (Manuel Antonio) then Tabacon (Arenal), then last night prior to flight at Xandari. All were great though the overwhelming favorite was Bosque Del Cabo, just an amazing experience. Monkey’s, sloths, scarlet macaws, toucans, every day. Beach on Pacific side too rough for swimming, but beautiful wild beach to walk down to a waterfall. Hiked down to gulf side beaches to swim, we were about the only ones there and Bosque sent pick-up down to bring us back after the third beach.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 11:38 AM
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Bosque del Cabo looks a little above our price range. We may be able to swing it for 2-3 nights if it's a must do! Are there any other places in that area you'd recommend? Would staying in an Airbnb be a terrible idea?
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Nov 8th, 2019, 12:53 PM
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The main appeal of the Bosque del Cabo is their excellent trail system for hiking and all the wildlife on site. We saw all four kinds of monkeys just from the front porch of our cabin. Also had scarlet macaws regularly flying by and toucans. Even saw an anteater. They have wonderful guides as well. Not sure an Airbnb would offer that. I have heard people recommend a place called Casa Bambu so you could check on that one. I don't know their prices.
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Nov 11th, 2019, 07:23 AM
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What are your thoughts on skipping Arenal and going to Los Quetzales area in an effort to avoid tourist and minimize driving.
Maybe Uvita, Capo Matapolo, Los Quetzales? Uvita and Capo Matapolo are definite. Just trying to find a third place to visit that's beautiful and not busy.
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Nov 11th, 2019, 07:36 AM
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Is it near San Gerardo de Dota? If so we liked that area. Great place to see quetzals but very chilly at night.
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Nov 11th, 2019, 10:54 AM
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Yes, near that area! Do you think we'd regret going there over Arenal? Sorry, I know I'm asking you to read my mind.
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Nov 11th, 2019, 11:49 AM
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I think that because there are so many great places to visit in CR, a person would be hard-pressed to regret a choice of destination Arenal is a cool place, but it isn't the end-all-be all of CR. There are tons of other really good places too. I wouldn't worry too much about choosing another place and skipping Arenal if that makes more sense for you.
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Nov 11th, 2019, 03:14 PM
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I think it depends on what you'd like to see and do. There's so much to do in the Arenal area, and we love that. San Gerardo de Dota area is mostly just for birding. We went specifically to see quetzals. We saw about ten one morning with our guide. Marino Chacon at Savegre Hotel Lodge is excellent if you need one.
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Nov 11th, 2019, 04:18 PM
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I work in conservation and I despise birding. Don't tell anyone.
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Nov 12th, 2019, 09:47 AM
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we rented a lovely house in dominical for a week with our teens (villa tucan tango) where we did horseback riding to waterfalls, surf lessons, remote beaches, etc. we then drove to cabo matapalo in the osa where we rented villa vida verde (also on vrbo.) kids climbed a strangler fig and we did a tour with a biologist, horseback ride and kids rapelled down a waterfall and did a boat ride and visited wildlife sanctuary. while we liked the osa, it is very remote and the beaches are not swimmable (great for surfing.) we hired a cook for lunch and dinner.

we are returning to dominical for new years eve this year. tons of activities and dining options and not as remote. we saw tons of animals here too.
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Nov 12th, 2019, 12:40 PM
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Then definitely don't go to Los Quetzales or San Gerardo de Dota; I think you'd be bored to death. Was there something about Los Quetzales that appealed to you?
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Nov 12th, 2019, 12:41 PM
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Sounds nice, plambers!
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Nov 12th, 2019, 06:07 PM
  #19  
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A friend recommended that we skip Arenal and visit Los Quetzales on the way back to SJO to minimize driving. We'll definitely skip it.
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