Costa Rica - airport choice & Marriotts?

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Dec 6th, 2018, 02:31 PM
  #1
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Costa Rica - airport choice & Marriotts?

Hi All,
Going to CR for 9 days in mid February with my fiance; our first time there. Trying to use Marriott points and wondering which hotels you would recommend. Right now holding a room at Punta Islita and Westin Guanacaste. My real question is what are come can't miss stops / activities in that area? And is flying in/out of San Jose a terrible idea since it is 4+ hour drive to/from the beaches? Or a good idea so we get to see part of the country?

We like to lounge by the pool/beach as much as getting out and hiking around. Love good food and cold drinks. Thinking we want to spend at least half of the time at/near the ocean and then move to either another beach or into the country for other activities.

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by Saidmatt; Dec 6th, 2018 at 02:36 PM.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 03:51 PM
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I have not stayed at either of these resorts, but they are both on my wishlist. I donít know how you like to vacation, but I would not spent my entire time at one resort. Punta Islita is more isolated, on the hillside above the beach. But to me, that is part of the appeal. Costa Rica is not known, particularly, for sugar white sand beaches and I believe PI has a darker sand.

The Westin used to be called the Paradisius Playa Conchal (I believe) Prettier beach. More developed area and closer to Liberia airport.

Not sure what you are looking for, but for a resort type trip, either or both would be great.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 03:59 PM
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If you want to split this up interior and beach, you could fly into San Jose and spend 3 or so nights near the Arenal volcano. Then transfer to the Westin for beach time and relaxing, flying hom from Liberia. Either self drive or arrange private transportation.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by MichelleY View Post
If you want to split this up interior and beach, you could fly into San Jose and spend 3 or so nights near the Arenal volcano. Then transfer to the Westin for beach time and relaxing, flying hom from Liberia. Either self drive or arrange private transportation.
Thanks for the feedback. What are some of the highlights around Arenal volcano? Also, is private transportation reasonable? I was planning on renting a car since we are going to be covering some distance; that looks like at least $400+ with insurance.

Thanks!
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Dec 7th, 2018, 08:30 AM
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There's a lot to do in the Arenal area - it has the volcano, hiking at the Mistico Hanging Bridges, hiking trails at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, a beautiful waterfall, the Bogarin Trail owned by a local family where you can see sloths and other wildlife, the Cano Negro boat tour with Desafio is also great for wildlife, the Penas Blancas safari float, ziplining at Sky Trek, rafting with Rios Tropicales, gorgeous natural hot springs like Tabacon or Eco Termales if you want something quieter. You can also visit the Proyecto Asis animal rescue center or go tubing at The Springs Resort and Spa. Tons of adventure activities you can do.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 09:50 AM
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We rented a car also. Roads vary in condition from nice, paved asphalt to potholed gravel. If a map says 60 miles, it will take twice as long to get there than here at home. Plus, it is usually dark by 5:30.

Perhaps volcanogirl can give you more information on hiring drivers.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 10:02 AM
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We usually hire private drivers through our hotels when we reserve them. If you drive yourself, don't drive between cities after dark and don't leave anything in your car unattended.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 03:10 PM
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Also I don't know if you'll need to spend a night in San Jose, but the Marriott there is super nice with a beautiful pool area and wild parrots in the trees. We stay on points if we have an early or late flight time.
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Dec 8th, 2018, 10:11 PM
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We rented a car for our trips and were happy with the choice. We rented through Vamos and it went really smoothly.
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Dec 9th, 2018, 03:07 PM
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Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the info. If there was only one attraction you could do near Arenal, what would you suggest?
Thanks!
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Dec 10th, 2018, 02:14 AM
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Do you want an adventure activity, to see wildlife, or natural beauty?
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Dec 10th, 2018, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by volcanogirl View Post
Do you want an adventure activity, to see wildlife, or natural beauty?
Wow, tough question, probably all three if possible. I think anything that takes us outdoors is great but we'll probably be hiking around when we are closer to the beach. So let's say wildlife and natural beauty. Thanks!
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Dec 10th, 2018, 06:15 AM
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For wildlife, the Bogarin Trail. For natural beauty, the waterfall hike. I would also not miss a night at the natural hot springs.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 10:12 AM
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Because the main feature of Arenal area is the volcano, I would choose to do a hike in or around the national park there. In addition to the Bogarin Trail and the waterfall hike, there is also a guided hike at Arenal Observatory Lodge each morning to a nice water fall. we didn't see a ton of wildlife on that hike because we were with a group, which meant that we were a big noisy, but we did see a lot of birds and a few animals, and we learned a ton from the guide.

And I agree - whatever you decide to do, definitely spend an evening at a hot springs place. We went to Eco Thermales, which we really liked. There are other places too - I think Tabacon is more lux, Baldi is a bit more of a party atmosphere.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by volcanogirl View Post
For wildlife, the Bogarin Trail. For natural beauty, the waterfall hike. I would also not miss a night at the natural hot springs.
Thanks, all of your suggestions are awesome. By "night" at the hot springs, do you mean it is better to go for dinner/evening vs. lunch/afternoon? Just wondering why as without your suggestions I probably would have gone in the afternoon.

Thanks!
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Dec 10th, 2018, 03:54 PM
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Yes, for the hot springs, go in the evening. It's nicer to sit in hot the water after the sun has gone down and it's a little cooler than in the heat of the afternoon - and with all the lighting, the evening is really atmospheric. You can choose to eat dinner at the hot springs - that's what we did - or you could eat before or after. At Eco Thermales, the evening time slot is from 4 to 10 (or something like that - maybe it started at 5) - we got there at the beginning of our time slot, soaked in the pools, had dinner, soaked some more and stayed until about 8 or 9. Afterward we went back to our hotel and had a wonderful sleep.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 02:29 AM
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I always suggest the evening because very few things are open at night, so it's nice to do the springs in the evening and save the daytime for things like hiking and spotting wildlife. Also enjoy them more after the day has cooled off a little bit like november mentioned.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 10:41 AM
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We also did Eco Termales. We went for lunch then soaked for the afternoon. We had gone zip lining in the pouring rain! Pretty wet and chilly. Nice to go to the pools afterwards. We chose daytime since we didnít want to drive back to Arenal Observatory Lodge in the dark.

Getting back to your plans: read trip reports here and do some research. I think you could do 2 locations with your time frame.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 12:49 PM
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We had dinner at EcoTermales and enjoyed it. At Tabacon, we didn't eat, but we received some sort of discount for going later in the day.
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