Costa Rica first timers

Old Oct 21st, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Costa Rica first timers

My husband and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica mid-February and we're thinking around 7 nights. We want to split our time between a beach stay and a stay around Arenal Volcano. We can either fly into San Jose or Liberia but aren't sure what the better option is for travel between beach and Arenal Volcano.

Does anyone have suggestions on where to fly into and what beach area is our best bet for this vacations? We wants to take in as much wildlife as possible too, so any hotels with an abundance of wildlife would be a major bonus...monkeys on my balcony? Even better! I've read about some hotels with waterfalls and great hiking trails close by too, that would also be perfect. We will not be renting a car because I've heard its best to hire a driver there.

Send me some of your suggestions that you have experienced and loved in Costa Rica. We travel at least twice a year and this is our first childless vacation in a long time so we want to take in as much as possible. We are outdoor people who love a good adventure and of course some hot weather too!

As fas hotel budget goes we are not looking for a cheap stay at the beach or crazy over the top, an all inclusive would be nice as well as beach activities (i.e., snorkeling, kayaks, paddle boards....you get the idea).


Thanks in advance!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 08:51 AM
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We stayed in Upper Villa Mot Mot http://www.vrbo.com/163728 at Tulemar in Manuel Antonio a few years ago and had monkeys on our balcony every day. There are trails, a beach and good wildlife viewing in the Tulemar complex which consists of bungalows and private homes http://www.4tulemar.com/ It's not an all inclusive. It's more like staying in a vacation rental with additional amenities. There's concierge and on property shuttle service, chairs, boogie boards and kayaks at the beach, a few different pools and a small beach bar/cafe open during the day. We didn't rent a car and used a driver to/from SJO. From Tulemar we could walk to several restaurants and a grocery store and for activities we were picked up.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 09:59 AM
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We've stayed at Tulemar too, got the recommendation on this board, and we loved it. It's great that they have their own beach, and they have a lot of different options for villas/bungalows. We've stayed in lower Mot Mot, and that's nice for a couple, also Lower Casa Panorama, and in one of the bungalows. The bungalows do not have balconies, so if you can afford it, I'd opt for getting something with a balcony. We saw howlers and capuchin monkeys, sloths, and aracaris right on the property. Their service was great, and we liked that we had a kitchen for keeping drinks colds, leftovers chilled, and breakfast items on hand - very convenient. We really liked using the free boogie boards every day. Like Patty, we could easily walk to several restaurants nearby. You just have to careful along the road, but Agua Azul and Barba Roja are good casual spots.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 10:00 AM
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That should say "be careful" - sorry about that.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 11:26 AM
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When you say to be careful while walking the roads should I assume you mean from traffic? I checked out Tulemar and it looks great, the prices for the uppers are reasonable too. Have either of you hired a driver to go to Arenal? From what I have gathered it is about a 4hr drive but I could be wrong, also anywhere from $150-$200 for cost. The prices don't bother us, it's more the travel time between the airports and 2 seperate destinations...also being prepared for crazy driving! I think I'm still recovering from the New York cabbies over the summer.

How long does it take to get from the San Jose airport to this hotel? Driving only, I am not comfortable in small planes. Anywhere recommended for Arenal? That's where I want my adventure to be, so we may stay there for 4 nights and 3 at Tulemar (because it looks awesome!).

Thanks so much for any and all feedback and suggestions!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 02:27 PM
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Yes you need to watch out for traffic, no sidewalks and not well lit. You might want to carry a flashlight. Sounds like where I live now! IIRC it took 2.5-3 hours for the trip from SJO to Tulemar but we also made a couple stops along the way. I haven't been to Arenal. Here are my pics from upper Mot Mot share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AZNnDlk5YtmbH8A We also stayed at Gaia on the same trip which was very nice as well and has trails on site but we both preferred Tulemar.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 03:08 PM
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Yes, there's one main road that has most of the hotels and restaurants running along both sides of it. It's dark, and there are cars that go whizzing by. We just walked along the side of the road and were fine, but you just have to pay attention. We always book drivers through our hotels when we reserve them. Have also used Carlos Bogarin from Destinos Encantados, and he's very good, very fluent in English and helped us spot some wildlife. He even brought chilled bottled water in the van for us. Between MA and the Arenal area took us about 4.5ish hours, could be closer to 5 if there's traffic or if you stop along the way for restroom break, etc. We always fly in and out of San Jose. Both MA and Arenal are 3ish hours from the airport but in opposite directions.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 03:12 PM
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http://destinos-encantados.com/ is the link for Carlos, the driver I mentioned. Tulemar will set up a driver for you if you want them to.

In the Arenal area, we've stayed at The Springs Resort and Spa which is really nice; we had a Groupon deal. They have a beautiful river on site, kayaking, tubing, horseback riding, and tons of hot springs - it's pretty swanky. Have also stayed at the Lost Iguana - more rustic and set away from town out by the lake, and at Nayara - a smaller boutiquey feel to it. Silencio del Campo is really popular if you want something more affordable.
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