Costa Rica- 1 week September

Old Apr 28th, 2015, 11:32 AM
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Costa Rica- 1 week September

Hi all,

Working on a quick trip for SO and I to Costa Rica in early September of this year. I could really use advice on where to begin- I am lost!
We're hoping to split our time between "the jungle" and "the beach". In the 'jungle' we'd be looking for a place to zip line/hike/bike. Clean, safe hotel with good food nearby. For the beach, we're hoping to find a resort where we can just relax.

Could some of you lovely Fodorite's at least get me pointed in the right direction regarding locations to start looking in to? I'm well versed in booking travel/traveling in Europe and Asia, but have never been to Central or South America, so am just totally confused on distances/road conditions(driving vs flying)/what's pricey etc. Flight wise, looks like we'll be landing late Saturday PM, leaving mid-day the following Sunday, if that is useful!

Budget, not including airfare, is around $3k for the two of us, we can be a bit flexible with this however!
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Old Apr 28th, 2015, 04:33 PM
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The Manuel Antonio area fits all of your criteria. Jungle close to the beach.
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Old Apr 28th, 2015, 07:20 PM
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Most first time travelers do a combo of the the La Fortuna/Arenal area and Manuel Antonio. The first offers great ziplining at Sky Trek and nice hiking at the Hanging Bridges, volcano, and waterfall. Manuel Antonio has nice beaches and easy access to fairly tame wildlife. We did that combo for our first trip, and it gave us a nice overview of the country. Keep in mind that September can be very rainy for a lot of the country, not always predictable though. You can drive yourselves, fly Sansa or Nature Air, take the Interbus shuttle, or hire private drivers through your hotels.
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 05:19 AM
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Oh great thanks so much!
Did a bunch of research last night, and I was thinking Arenal and beach-I'll look into the Manuel Antonio area!

In terms of weather, how rainy are we talking? Daily rain for an hour, or full days of rain paired with full days of sun?
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 05:59 AM
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Wanted to add- this is our very basic trip overview as of now:
Land SJO Late 9/5
9/6 San Jose
9/7 Drive to Arenal
9/8 Arenal
9/9- 9/11- Beach
9/12- Drive beach->San Jose
9/13- SJO-DFW
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 08:18 AM
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You can mouse over the areas you're interested in on this map to get a general idea of weather patterns.

http://costa-rica-guide.com/Weather/WeatherMap.html

You really can't predict how much rain you'll get in a day, but for most areas rainy season runs Mayish to Novemberish. September and October can get a lot of rain. We went to the Osa during July and didn't get a drop though so you really never know. I would be prepared to get some rain though.

If it were me, I wouldn't bother staying in San Jose on 9/6. I'd head to the Arenal area that day. The prettiest parts of CR are outside the city. San Jose has lots of razor wire and fast food restaurants. I have several trip reports if you want to check them out for more details. Both Arenal and Manuel Antonio are about 3 hours from San Jose and about 5 hours or so between each other to give you an idea of travel times.
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 08:45 AM
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I've never been to Costa Rica, but I know in Mexico (along the coasts) September can be the very rainiest, wettest month of the year.
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 11:33 AM
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Thanks Volcanogirl, going to look up your trip reports!

I lived in SW FL for 5 years, where it rained a 5pm daily in June, 4pm daily in July and 3pm daily in August and ALL day in Sept!
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 12:59 PM
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Sure, needmore, happy to help. If you want more info. on tours in the Arenal area, check out the websites for Desafio and Sunset Tours; those are the companies we've always used, and they're excellent. There are also nice natural hot springs in the area - Tabacon and Eco Termales. Those are fun to visit in the evening after you're done touring for the day. We've stayed at the Lost Iguana (out by the lake), Nayara, and The Springs Resort and Spa (got a Groupon deal here) in the Arenal area; in Manuel Antonio, we like Tulemar Bungalows. Costa Ricans are good at marketing; they usually call it "green" season instead of rainy season. Things are lush and green once the rains start.
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 08:37 PM
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I agree with VG, skip the day in San Jose and head to Arenal. Check trip report for ideas, but so far, you have a great plan.
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Old Apr 30th, 2015, 02:50 PM
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I'd also head to Arenal on the 6th. That would give you 3 nights in each location.

We've stayed at both Tulemar (Upper Mot Mot to be exact) and Gaia in Manuel Antonio. Both were great but we especially loved Tulemar.

We had a late arrival at SJO and found the Hampton Inn convenient for our first night. It's literally right by the airport and has a 24 hr shuttle.
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Old May 1st, 2015, 12:18 PM
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Super helpful Patty- thank you! I've spent many a night in Hampton Inns
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Old May 5th, 2015, 01:56 PM
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We just returned from 11 days in CR (our second trip) and split 4 nights near the Arena volcano and 7 nights on the beach in Guanacaste.

The 'jungle' portion of our trip was at the Nayara Gardens/Nayara Springs hotel. Its small, a little expensive and well worth every penny. From Nayara, we went on a Sky Tram and hike, Volcano walk (can be skipped), went to thermal springs, had a 60 minute massage and a day trip to Rio Celeste. Restaurants are excellent and the springs pool is very quiet and relaxing. Its rated the top hotel in Central America and recently, #2 in the world. Casitas are huge and service is outstanding. We used the hotel for a private transfer from the airport and then from the hotel to our beach location.

The beach location was Riu Palace where we'd stayed before. I think its a great property for first-timers but we used it more as a jumping off spot. We rented a jeep from Thrifty at the hotel...DONT use them!!! Day one was beach hopping to Coco and Hermosa then up to the Four Seasons and back to Hermosa for dinner and sunset at Roberto's. Day two was a day trip along the beaches to Tamarindo with multiple stops along the way for beach time, coffee, beer and relaxing. Day three was the most adventurous to Samara where we may end up staying on our next CR vacation. We interspersed the beach travel with days at the hotel.

You can zip line from any location with a tour company. Central American TOurs (CATours) does a great job and Reiner as a guide is excellent in his knowledge of animals, fauna, plants, flowers, etc.

Are you looking at all for nightlife? If so, I have a work colleague who spent a week at MA and was very unhappy - loved the animals and beach but was also looking for active bar time and discos - you won't find them there according to her. Do you have to fly into SJO? Liberia might be an option as well. Assume that any driving that takes you off the PanAm highway or more major roads will be like country blacktops in the states. The 110 miles from Liberia airport to Nayara took 4 hours - there is construction and a lot of backups for various other reasons.

We decided after a long day of travel not to tackle driving on costa rican roads at night so we did use the hotel transfer service. I did the math and its was actually cheaper to use them and then rent a jeep for the 3 days we wanted to explore on our own.

On our first trip, we did excursions to Monteverde, Arenal, Coco, Palo Verde (last minute and loved it). Our plan has been to do one day of beach/pool and then an excursion. Next trip will have deep sea fishing and surfing from Samara.

Enjoy!
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