Costa Rica driving question

Jan 2nd, 2004, 03:49 PM
  #1  
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Costa Rica driving question

Hi,

We're leaving for Costa Rica in a few days. We'll be driving from San Jose to Arenal and then Arenal to Manuel Antonio.

We'll be renting a 4x4.
How are the road conditions for these road trips? Are the road mostly paved?

Thanks a lot in advance.
xymox is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2004, 05:51 PM
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koa
 
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Cant speak for the drive to Arenal, but the drive from the airport to Jaco beach is paved.After Jaco on the way to Manuel Antonio, its paved but can be a little rough with large potholes. Just be prepared for winding roads, slow trucks, and drivers who pass on blind curves.
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Jan 2nd, 2004, 06:08 PM
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The drive from San Jose to Arenal is paved. Road conditions can be bad, especially if the rains have been heavy in the provious green season. I've made that drive with no problems a few times, but the last time (Sept 02) there were several pot holes and sections of the road we closed. Couldn't complain, it made for great adventure! If you give yourself plenty of time you should be fine. The trip usually takes about 3.5 hours...give or take. Also try not to drive long distances at night and make sure you have a really good, updated map.

Cakes is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2004, 07:27 AM
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It's paved.
estebanp is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2004, 04:33 PM
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Roads vary by location. Roads are fine in San Jose. But, you were SMART to rent a 4x4- a necessity while traveling near Arenal- when driving around the lake you'll be on a paved roadway, only to find yourself moments later HUGGING the mountainside on a very narrow VERY BUMPY dirt road! But don't let that frighten you- it's an adventure- & a beautiful drive with amazing wild life! Make sure you stop at the hot springs in Arenal- VERY relaxing after that drive! The roads in & around Manuel Antonio are generally fine- depending on where you stay, there is a steep windy mountain to climb- but the road surface is fine-- the "tiny" taxis "fly" up & down that mountain! All in all, make sure you give yourself more time than you think you'll need to & from Arenal. My husband & I have been to Costa Rica twice (Last trip in Feb 2003). We LOVE it & will bring our 4 year old next time out! ENJOY IT!
SierrasMom is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2004, 08:19 PM
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Thanks! These are very helpful tips. We also thought of visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest, how's the road condition around that area? Do you think it's a good idea to stop by Monteverde on our way to Manuel Antonio? (if we were to leave Arenal around 9:00pm, spend some quality time in Monteverde and arrive MA by 5:00pm).

Thanks agagin. You guys are great!
xymox is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 05:35 AM
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Did you mean leave Arenal at 9am? You sure don't want to be drivng between Arenal and Monteverde in the dark. The last 20 or so kilometers of that drive are brutal. Never got out of second gear. Huge rocks embedded in the road as well as giant pot holes. Monteverde is definitely not a day trip. I love the place, but it deserves some time.

Jean
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Jan 4th, 2004, 06:44 AM
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The ride to Monteverde through Tilaran is variable. The mountain road up from Tilaran is unpaved but has recently been graded and it is about 1 1/2hrs from Tilaran to Monteverde. The rest of the road from Fortuna is pretty much paved. There are some side roads just past Tabacon that are not paved but are fun to drive on. They are the road to Arenal Lodge and Observatory lodge.
Suzie2 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 05:23 PM
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Sorry. I meant driving from Arenal at 9:00 AM, stop for a couple of hours in Monteverde (like 2 hours) and then head to MA (arrive around 5:00 PM or earlier). Is this doable?

Thanks.
xymox is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 06:08 PM
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I don't have information on current road conditions since my husband and I were in Costa Rica in Jan. 2000. However we did much the same trip you are doing except we drove from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, then to Arenal, next Monteverde, then back to San Jose. The only drive that wasn't memorably bad was between Manuel Antonio and San Jose.
My advice would be to allow a great deal more time than you think it should take to drive. We were driving from Monteverde to San Jose on a Sunday morning and once we got on the Pan American Highway the traffic was scary.
Ambulances and tow trucks were parked on the roadsid and appeared to be just waiting for business. And passing on bind curves was very common and terrifying.

We spent two nights in Monteverde and found that a bit long since it rained incessantly and we didn't do as much hiking as we'd planned. We took an early morning tour of Monteverde with a guide the hotel arranged that lasted about 2 hours. It poured the whole time but we did see the quetzal (spelling?)and howler monkeys. Saw lots of hummingbirds in the area too.
I'm glad we went to the Cloud Forest, but without the guide, I wouldn't have seen much.

The night we spent in Arenal, it was again rainy nd we couldn't see the volcano. I agree with SierrasMom about Tabacon Hot Springs. The grounds are beautiful.

Enjoy your trip,
krisz
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Jan 4th, 2004, 07:08 PM
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Monteverde is not a stop you can make on the way to anywhere. It is a destination of its own. The drive from Arenal to Monteverde is about 4hrs up into the mountains. Then it would be about 5 hrs from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. Anything you would want to do would take a couple of hours at least. You won't want to try to drive down from the top of the mountain on a road that is narrow, windy, unpaved road in the dark.
Suzie2 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 05:43 AM
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Since Monteverde is not a day trip, I think we should book a hotel/lodge in Monteverde for 1 night. Any recommendation?

Thanks.
xymox is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 07:16 AM
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There are places for every budget from about $7 a night on up. Wildlife is best seen first thing in the morning or just before dark. You could do the butterfly garden, Finca Ecologica, or one of the canopy tours if you get up to Monteverde by noon. Best thing to do would be to arrange for a guided tour of Monteverde very early in the morning so you can get on the road before lunch. This would give you time to stop somewhere on the way to Manuel Antonio for something to eat and to stretch your legs. The road from Jaco to Manuel Antonio is a pretty straight shot so you shouldn't have any problem once you get to that point.
Keep in mind that Costa Rica has pretty much 12 hr days year round.
Suzie2 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 08:33 PM
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How long does it take to drive from Arenal to MA without stopping at Monteverde? What is the shortest route to go?

Thanks again.
xymox is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 08:55 PM
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about 5 hrs. You would backtrack the way you came if you came from San Jose through San Ramon. I think we went down through Atenas this past year and then down towards Jaco. Allow a little extra time to get lost. It happens to the best. All part of the adventure.
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