Costa Rica Fodorite Experts: Itinerary Advice?

May 14th, 2007, 05:28 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 541
Costa Rica Fodorite Experts: Itinerary Advice?

My oldest teenage son will be completing a three week travel/study program in Costa Rica in late July (much of the time in Osa), and the rest of the family(father, mother, college age daughter, younger teenage son) would like to join him there for an additional week to ten days for our first trip to Costa Rica. We are interested in combining some interior travel with a beautiful beach area with good swimming/surfing possibilities. Possible itinerary:

Arrive in San Jose
2 nights - Peace Lodge/La Paz
2/3 nights - El Silencio del Campo/Arenal?
4/5 nights - Pacific Coast/Malpais?
Return to San Jose for departure

A few questions:

1. Is Peace Lodge/La Paz close enough to San Jose to spend our first night there, or should we plan to stay the night of arrival in San Jose?

2. Are 2 nights in the Arenal area sufficient to at least see the highlights or should we allow 3 nights there?

3. Is Malpais a good selection for the beach portion of the trip?

4. About how long would it take to travel from Malpais to San Jose by car/ferry/car?

Thanking you in advance for your thoughts and recommendations.
MRand is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 06:48 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 23,877
Hi, MRand! I can help you with a couple of your questions. My husband and I are heading to the Osa and are staying our first night in Costa Rica at the Peace Lodge. I asked them how close they are to the airport, and I just got a response from them saying they're approximately an hour away. If you don't want to spend that much time travelling, we stayed a night at Grano de Oro in San Jose last year, and it was nice and comfortable, and they had good service, as well as a fabulous restaurant.

We also went to Arenal last year and stayed at the Lost Iguana; we were there for 4 days and 3 nights. It was the perfect amount of time for us, but we spent a full day doing the Cano Negro tour, which I can't recommend highly enough. It was the place where we saw the most wildlife, and we loved it. The Arenal area offers a lot of activities; I guess it just depends on how many of them you'd like to do. Enjoy your trip!
volcanogirl is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 07:58 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 248
Peace Lodge is not that far...in a good clear night is about 45 minutes to an hour...is not that hard to get there from Int. Airport..but if you are getting here in a very late flight ...maybe the best is to stay at one of the Airport hotels like Best Western...it does not make sense some times, to drive in the dark to a place you do not have any idea where it is...just to sleep!!

Silencio del Campo is OK..great location, they are located next door to Aguas Termales...I highly reccomend the Aguas Termales!! good food!! 3 nights will be perfect if your family enjoy outdoors...it is a lot to do there!

Mal Pais is a great choice...all that area is very nice...nice isolated beaches around and the vegetation is the best!!

driving time...Mal Pais...Ferry about 2 hours more or less depende on road condition!! ferry 1 hour and twenty minutes...and from Puntarenas to San Jose 1 hour and thirty minutes...5 hours at least...

R.A Luis

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!
roadadvisor is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 08:13 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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No expert but 5 times to CR.
If the hour drive is too long after your flight Orquidias Inn or Buena Vista Hotel are two nice places with restaurants about 15 to 20 mins. from the airport on the outer edges of Alajuela. Buena Vista is wonderfully quite at night. Qorquideas has more traffic noise but larger grounds, nicer pool area, better restaurant ambiance, and if you care, a Marilyn Monroe themed bar.

Three nights with the Cano Negro tour is good advise in the Arenal area.

Malpais that time of year should be very nice. Some place I've wanted to venture but not in the hot dry season during Feb/March when we usually travel.The car /ferry Mal Pais to San Jose is about 5/6hrs.

Have a wonderful journey!
Earthtraveler is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 08:48 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 470
What time do you arrive in San Jose?

If it is too late in the evening, I would spend the first night in San Jose or near the airport. Then head to Peace Lodge from there. This is a beautiful lodge, in a beautiful spot. But it is expensive, and you need time to enjoy it. So if you arrive late in the evening, I wouldn't bother with it for the first night.

Another thought would be to spend the first night near the airport and fly to Quepos the next morning. It is not crowded there during July, and your son could easily travel from the Osa to meet you there. Good beaches, nature, and restaurants.

You could then head up to Arenal, and finish at the Peace Lodge.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice.

Warm Regards,

Pat Hewitt
(Travel Professional)
Pat_Hewitt is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 02:38 PM
  #6  
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Thanks for the help and great suggestions volcanogirl, roadadvisor, Earthtraveler, and PH. volcanogirl - I get the impression that you have a strong preference for Lost Iguana over Silencio del Campo?
MRand is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 06:59 PM
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Posts: 10,212
Another good choice at Arenal is Arenal Paraiso. Nice property and grounds. They have their own ziplines--18 cables which is pretty extensive. Nice thermal pools and a little spa. Tabacon Spa on the hot springs property, though, is fabulous. Worth the splurge, absolutely worth it!

I like Malpais also, but getting there certainly DOES chew away at your time--twice. Personally, I think you should consider it at least 6 hours. We've never been able to get to Puntarenas in an hour and a half yet! Usually about 2 hours. And we've been there and driven enough that we tend to speed along with the best of the Tico drivers! Best to allow an hour before ferry departure, then the ferry ride itself to Paquera is 1 hr. 30 min. Another 1 hr. 30 min. drive to Malpais. That said, Malpais is truly a special place and is changing rapidly. SO different now than from our first visit there in 2004. The development everywhere is crazy out of control. You DO have to plan your time to coincide with the ferry. . .check the schedule at www.nicoyapeninsula.com and check again a day ahead--tends to change frequently.

Pat's idea of the "ease" of Manuel Antonio is a good one. It would certainly take a bit of pressure from you with regard to transfer time and is also a lovely area. Everyone should go there once! But you don't get to stay "on the beach". So if that's important to you, you might opt for Malpais. Most hotels in MA are up in the hills, but with fabulous views, many of them. The park itself is well worth a trip there--it's excellent. Park is closed on Monday.

In the Malpais area, you also would enjoy the town of Montezuma and the falls there. Also Cabo Blanco Reserve. A strenuous hike, but very good for wildlife viewing. Takes a day, getting an early start. Closed Mon. and Tues, unless that has changed.

4 nights Malpais area enough. Certainly enough for Manuel Antonio (3 enough for me in Manuel Antonio). I'd recommend 3 nights Arenal for sure.

Another little Tico hotel (and our choice these days) is Hotel Villa Bonita. If you arrive late, there's none better. It's 5 minutes from the airport (in the direction of Peace Lodge) and is operated by Humberto Brenes and his wife Carmen. Lovely and very hospitable Costa Rican couple; great little B&B with excellent breakfast. (We'll be there a night here and there in June and July--perhaps our paths will cross. Their little son is celebrating his 1st birthday in July. We were there when he was born last year!). Wi-fi available as well as desktop for guests use. Bathtubs! This is rare unless you are paying $250 a night! HVB charges about $50 for a night.

You've got a good basic itinerary and your times and number days are pretty much on. You DO have a few options, though, now, and I'm assuming you wanted that! Enjoy the planning--it's half the fun!
shillmac is offline  
May 14th, 2007, 07:55 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
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I like Lost Iguana...because give me the feeling to be in a very remote area...and is a kind of remote...but once you are there you will understand my opinion...

Silencio del Campo is located at the main road...from La Fortuna to the Volcano...the good location of Silencio del Campo...is the location of the Aguas Termales just minutes away and a lot closer to town, maybe 5 minutes!!

R.A Luis

Just Buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!
roadadvisor is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 04:09 AM
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Posts: 23,877
We loved Lost Iguana, but I know Silencio del Campo gets great reviews on tripadvisor.com. Lost Iguana is away from town and set up in the hills. Some people don't like that it's more remote, but that really appealed to us. The view we had was spectacular, and the lava was flowing in that direction during our stay, so we got to watch it every night from our balcony. Silencio del Campo looks really nice too; I don't think you could go wrong either way. Enjoy!
volcanogirl is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 09:54 AM
  #10  
 
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We work with both Silencio del Campo and Lost Iguana. They are both nice, but comparing the two is like apples and oranges.

Lost Iguana is more upscale. The Luxury Suites have jacuzzi's with a volcano view on the balcony, king beds, and some have outside rock showers. The Standard rooms also have great views, but no jacuzzi and a more traditional bath. The setting is a little more remote, and they have a very nice restaurant. This is a favorite with our honeymoon couples.

Silencio del Campo is smaller and roughly half the price. It has a convenient location on the main road. It has less privacy, but easier access to the local attractions. The individual cabins are simple, but very clean and in good repair. It is run by a very nice local family, and the restaurant is more typical. This is the favorite of our travelers on a budget.

Two good choices. It just depends on what you are seeking.

I hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice.

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
(Travel Professional)
Pat_Hewitt is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 08:17 PM
  #11  
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Very, very helpful. Thank you for all of your suggestions. That's what makes this such a great forum for travel information.
MRand is offline  
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