Costa Rica: Arenal or Monteverde

Nov 5th, 2015, 03:17 PM
  #1  
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Costa Rica: Arenal or Monteverde

Hello,
Thank you in advance for any responses! Reading this forum has been very helpful already. My husband and I are planning our first trip to Costa Rica. We will have 9 nights total, but the first and last night plan to stay near the airport, as we get in late and leave early. We know we want to go to Manuel Antonio, but are debating where else to go. I've mainly been looking at Arenal or Monteverde, but am open to other ideas as well. We mainly want to see wildlife and go hiking, preferably without always having to be on an organized tour (I'm not opposed to doing some guided things, but would like to be somewhere where we can do things on our own as well).

Also, I was thinking of spending 4 nights in Manuel Antonio, and 3 in the other location, but would love input on that as well.

Thanks so much!
cclemer is offline  
Nov 5th, 2015, 07:38 PM
  #2  
 
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I would pick Arenal. Easier traveling, better roads.
MichelleY is offline  
Nov 5th, 2015, 08:15 PM
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Definitely Arenal for me too - tons to do there, great adventure activities, the volcano, the waterfall, natural hot springs like Tabacon and Eco Termales, and in general better weather than Monteverde which can get quite cold. Roads are definitely in better shape too like Michelle mentioned. The Arenal Observatory Lodge is a great place to stay if you want to see wildlife - we saw lots of monkeys and toucans right on the property, coatis too. I'd also recommend the Cano Negro tour and Penas Blancas river float with Desafio. Good hiking at the Hanging Bridges, waterfall, and volcano. Toucan Rescue Ranch is good for a first or last night if you're a wildlife lover.
volcanogirl is offline  
Nov 7th, 2015, 05:04 AM
  #4  
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Thanks so much for your help! Volcanogirl, I've been reading your trip reports and getting so many great ideas, thank you! A lot of what I read about involves tours - is there hiking / exploring you can do on our own in Arenal (and in Manuel Antonio), or is it recommended to do everything with a guide? I would ideally love to do one or two tours to learn more about the wildlife and history, but also have unscheduled days to explore on our own.

Also, would you recommend spending 4 nights in Arenal, 3 in MA, or the other way around?

Thanks so much!
cclemer is offline  
Nov 7th, 2015, 05:17 AM
  #5  
 
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Oh, yes, you can definitely do things on your own - all the hiking like at the waterfall, Hanging Bridges, etc. can be done on your own. We like to hire guides because they really up your chances of seeing wildlife, but not necessary if you just want to go independently. Can definitely do the hot springs on your own too. Same with Manuel Antonio; we love Manuel Antonio Expeditions because they spot things we would never see, but very easy to tour the park on your own if that's what you'd like to do. If you stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge you can hike independently every day on their trails. It's far from town so pretty easy to spot wildlife. The closer you are to town, the less wildlife you'll see in general. You could also do a day trip to Rio Celeste, about two hours away from the Arenal area to see the beautiful blue river and waterfall there. We did that with a guide and wished we had gone on our own so we could explore on our own vs. sticking to someone else's schedule. It's gorgeous. I'd recommend more time in Arenal unless you're really beach people.
volcanogirl is offline  
Nov 9th, 2015, 03:46 AM
  #6  
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Thank you so much! That is so helpful - I just looked at photos of Rio Celeste and it looks beautiful. We will definitely do some things guided to see learn about more wildlife, but it is great to know we can do things on our own as well.

Thank you!!
cclemer is offline  
Nov 12th, 2015, 10:05 AM
  #7  
 
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If you can afford this place they have a lot of wildlife on site, and you can walk along the beach to the Manuel Antonio Park.

http://www.arenasdelmar.com/manuelantonio/
mlgb is offline  
Nov 12th, 2015, 10:37 AM
  #8  
 
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c, if you decide you want to stay near Rio Celeste, the Rio Celeste Hideaway gets great reviews. Might be fun for a night.

Tulemar Bungalows in Manuel Antonio is another good spot.
volcanogirl is offline  
Nov 16th, 2015, 02:36 PM
  #9  
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Those both look great, thanks so much!
cclemer is offline  

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