Costa Rica - 12 days, 2 kids, moderate budget

Old May 25th, 2010, 11:55 AM
  #1  
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Costa Rica - 12 days, 2 kids, moderate budget

We plan to go to Costa Rica in early Aug for about 12 days with our 2 kids, ages 7 and 9. Here are our thoughts for itenerary. Please make comments and suggestions. We especially need information regarding buses and shuttles since we don't feel comfortable renting a car. I do speak fluent Spanish, rest of family is learning.

Day 1. Arrive in Alajuela, stay at La Vida Tropical B & B, maybe go to Zoo Ave if we have time (or is this best early morning?)
Day 2. - They have a highlights tour that includes Tour Includes: Breakfast, visit to coffee plantation, Poás Volcano N P, Botos Lagoon, visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Lunch, jungle ride on the Sarapiquí River, visit to a butterfly and tropical frog garden, snacks, and sightseeing the Braulio Carrillo National Park.
Day 3,4 - Tour to Tortuguero. I have read on the Tortuguerovillage.com website about how to get there on your own by public bus and then the boat from Cariari. Has anyone done this? Are we better off taking a tour to get there since this is our first time? Can anyone suggest a tour? Can we get picked up in Alajuela instead of SJ?
Day 5,6 - leave for Arenal - what is the best way to get there? How long will it take? Stay at Arenal Obervatory Lodge
Day 7,8 - Head to Atenas - We are considering moving there and want to visit a private school there.
Day 8, 9 Head to Manuel Antonio - How to get there? How long will it take?
Day 10 Marino Ballena - Whale Watching tour, Can we see turtles there also?
Day 11- Back to Alajuela
Day 12 - leave for home
Are we trying to fit too much in? If I did what would you cut out? Did I leave adequate traveling time between places?

All comments and specific suggestions are welcome. I may work with a travel agent but wanted to get my own sense of an overplan first.
Thanks,
Karen
maestrakaren is offline  
Old May 25th, 2010, 02:23 PM
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We did a somewhat similar trip two years ago with our kids. I do think maybe you have it a bit rushed though. I think the combo tour on day 2 might be a lot. With kids, maybe a day pass at the Waterfall Gardens is enough - you can easily spend a full day there, maybe stopping at Poas on the way there if you get an early start. I can't imagine trying to fit in a coffee plantation, jungle boat ride and Braulio Carrillo into an already pretty full day.

For Tortuguero, a lot of the lodges do packages and we went with Fran and Modesto Watson, which ended up less expensive than booking transportation and lodging separately. They picked us up in San Jose. They and both one and two night packages, but if you can do the 2 night, you really get much more out of the visit. For the most part it seems you have to go back to San Jose before going to Arenal, from Tortuguero. When we planned the trip, to go from Tortuguero directly to Arenal was going to cost a lot more and be much more confusion transportation wise. We did the canals in, and flew back to San Jose.

I think you need at least one more day in Arenal, there's a lot to see and do there and you're going to be spending a lot of time travelling from place to place. Maybe take a day from Manuel Antonio and put it in Arenal.

We had lunch in Atenas and it was beautiful!

You can try Interbus or look for a private driver. If you do a search on the board you'll get a lot of recommendations. The drivers can get you from one place to another. We've used a driver and also rented a car.

Sounds like a great trip and your kids will have a great time!
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Old May 25th, 2010, 03:52 PM
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Thanks for your response. How did your children do on the ride out to Tortuguero? 2 1/2 hrs. by bus/van and then 3 1/2 hrs. on the boat seems like a long day. I guess the bigger concern would be to repeat it to go back on the 3rd day. I guess that is why you flew back to SJ. About how far did you need to travel to get the plane back to SJ?
Do you (or another reader) know about Marino Ballena? I am really interested in seeing humpback whales which I read would be coming through there in Aug. I think I also read we could see turtles there. Would a combination of Manual Antonio and Marino Ballena give us a decent selection of wildlife and we could skip Tortuguero this trip? (That probably sounds shocking as it seems that everybody does Tortuguero.) I am just trying to make our trip be less rushed. I think that the length of the trip to and from Tortuguero (esp. if we cannot easily transfer to Arenal from Tortuguero) might just tax the kid's patience too much. Thoughts anyone?
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Old May 25th, 2010, 04:07 PM
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We went from Arenal to Tortuguero, but it was kind of pricey because we weren't doing the big group tour that people usually do. There's an airport right in Tortuguero, right along the canal - the flight back to SJO is very quick. With kids that young, you would probably want to fly at least one way. We loved boating in and seeing all the wildlife, but on the day we left, we were ready to move on and didn't want to take the long boat ride out. Where are you planning to stay in Tortuguero? Usually the lodges there will put together transportation for you, and they have a set meal plan as well since there aren't a lot of restaurants around. Laguna Lodge, Mawamba Lodge, and Turtle Beach Lodge are popular. We love Tortuga Lodge, but since you said budget, I'd look at the other three since Tortuga is a little pricier.
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Old May 25th, 2010, 04:20 PM
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Beautiful area around Marina Ballena. Didn't whale watch but lots of other things. Great area and good combo with Manuel Antonio, especially if you can spend a couple nights there. You should check out Shelter from the Storm or Villa de las Aves.

The trip to Tortuguero is pretty fun even with the transportation. If your kids can fall asleep in the van (like mine) then maybe not so much of a problem. I went with Turtle Beach Lodge last year. Perfect location, right on the beach backed by canals you can kayak straight from the lodge. I think our group was 10-12, mostly from Spain and CR, actually quite fun since I was traveling by myself. I boated in and flew out as well. Returning this year but using Fran and Modesto Watson (Laguna Lodge), mentioned above, which I also think would be a great choice for your family.

Don't feel bad if you don't make it to Tortuguero, actually, a lot of people don't. But it is pretty extraordinary.
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Old May 25th, 2010, 06:16 PM
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I think we have decided to skip Tortuguero this trip and spend more time in Arenal and in Manuel Antonio/Marino Ballena. We think we will enjoy Tortuguero more when they are a little older and we have more time to spend there. I will look into the places you mentioned near Manuel Antonio. How did yyou get to Marino Ballena?
Thank you.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 05:14 AM
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To be honest, while my kids liked Tortuguero, it was our first stop on the trip to CR, they would have been fine skipping it. I think your decision is a good one. Seeing the turtles was by far a highlight of the trip for us, but for my kids, the amount of boat rides in the canals was a bit much for them. They did fine with the trip to Tortuguero - it was definitely long, but since it was the first leg of our trip it was still an adventure. But they would have much rather spent time at the pool at the lodge than go out in the boat over and over again once we go there! And there were actually several people there who seemed to feel the same way. When we were there, there was not great wildlife spotting it seemed. However it was incredibly beautiful. And we did plan the trip back to San Jose by plane to save time and avoid the boat and drive back with the kids. The flight is only about 20 minutes I think and the airstrip is right next to Laguna Lodge, where we stayed.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 05:37 AM
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I think you're fine to skip Tortuguero; Manuel Antonio is really made for families with young kids. It will be a hit.
volcanogirl is online now  
Old May 26th, 2010, 05:42 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. Instead of Tortuguero we want to go to Manuel Antonio and Marino Ballena. We want to go on a whale and dolphin tour at Marino Ballena. There is mention of olive ridley turtle nesting in Aug. there. Has anyone spent any time at Marino Ballena? Also, the Marino Ballena NP website mentions a program from 2005 (not very updated) about where you can help collect the eggs and release the baby turtles. I did email them for more information to see if they are still running the program. Does anyone know about this? Thanks. Karen
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