Costa Rica -- Help With Itinerary

Old Feb 7th, 2012, 02:31 PM
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Costa Rica -- Help With Itinerary

So, after much debate we have made plans to visit the Arenal Observatory Lodge (for 5-6 days) and the Peace Lodge (for 3). We are very much into nature, hiking and seeing whatever wildlife we can. We are not adventurers (i.e. no ziplines or rapelling). For those of you who have been, what are the activities we should not miss? I'm wondering if we have time for a trip to Cano Negro, for instance. The woman I spoke with at the hotel is saying it's a 4 hour drive to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.....is that possible? I was hoping to get there for the day. In any event, any advice would be most appreciated -- we are two adults and a 9 year old nature lover. Also, do you think this itinerary sounds good.....or are we spending too much time in the area? Please advise. Thank you!
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 03:30 PM
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Yes, you definitely have time for Cano Negro. We use Sunset Tours, and they're excellent. If you can get Zender Chacon, he's an excellent guide. You might also like the Penas Blancas river float. We did that on our last trip and thought it was really fun. The 9-year old would probably like visiting Proyecto Asis - it's an animal rescue center where you can get close to the animals and feed them. We were able to feed monkeys and a sloth there. You might consider a guided hike at the Hanging Bridges and maybe a visit to the waterfall. You can swim at the waterfall if you want to. And don't forget the natural hot springs - we really like Eco Termales; Tabacon is nice too but was crowded when we were there.

You can't really go to Monteverde for the day. The road is in rough shape - long and bumpy. If you wanted to, you could cut a day off your Peace Lodge stay and a couple of days off your AOL stay and then include Monteverde in your trip. It's good for about 2 or 3 nights. Desafio offers a Jeep, Boat, Jeep service that will take you there if you want them to. You save time on the roads by cutting across the lake, and the views are really pretty.

We usually stay in Arenal about 4 nights and Peace Lodge for two nights, so I do think your staying a little long in both places, but whatever works for you guys. The Arenal area has tons to keep you busy.
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 04:20 PM
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Thanks for the info. So, if we were to reorganize our plans.....we would want to go from Arenal to Peace Lodge to Monteverde? (Or do I have the order wrong?) It is very difficult for me to judge from the maps I'm looking at what the actual distances are (or in what order -- or from where to where -- we should travel). Assuming I can rearrange our reservations to some extent, what order would be best to try to hit all three locations? I appreciate the help!
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 04:52 PM
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The Peace Lodge is only about an hour from the SJO airport, so to me it makes sense to do that at the beginning or end of the trip. Are you guys driving yourselves or hiring a driver? The roads between Arenal and the Peace Lodge were damaged by an earthquake years ago. I don't think they've been fully repaired yet.
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 06:04 PM
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You definitely need to switch your order. I agree with VG...PL at beginning or end of the trip. You need at least 2 nights in Monteverde and we did the jeep boat jeep from there to Arenal. You can't look at a map to decide, but I did the same thing when I was planning our trip and had the same idea you have about a day trip. NOT!!!

There is a great website that gives times between locations in CR. I can't find the link at the moment, but you might be able to do a search on here and find it. The link is posted occasionally for this very reason. LOL
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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Thanks.....right now we have Arenal at the start of the trip (for 5-6 nights, which everyone is starting to concern me it way too much), then Peace Lodge for 3 nights at the end of the trip.
Maybe we start at Arenal......then go to Monteverde......then Peace Lodge? Is Monteverde a definite "worth see" with regard to animal viewing? Our main agenda on this trip is to see as much wildlife (including birds) as we can in the area. I was hoping that we'd see some in Arenal, some at Peace Lodge (we are happy to take excursions, go hiking, etc).....but obviously I could use some guidance!!!
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 07:15 PM
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We saw some wildlife in Monteverde. The area is known for having quetzals, and we were lucky enough to see some of those. We also saw toucans, howler monkeys, a sloth, a porcupine and some other wildlife. It's not abundant though. Some people don't see much. We did a hike in the reserve and a night hike at Hidden Valley, and that's where we saw most of the wildlife.

For abundant wildlife, I'd take a look at Manuel Antonio if you want the sort of tame version, and the Osa if you want a little more off the grid. Look at Tulemar Bungalows and Bosque del Cabo to see if those types of places appeal to you. I love the Peace Lodge. There's not a whole lot to do in that area though. You can take a day to tour the property with the waterfalls, hummingbirds, aviary, butterfly house, nocturnal frog tour, etc. and then maybe another day to go to Poas or the Doka Coffee Estate tour. For me three nights there would be a little long. Two seems better to me.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 03:29 AM
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Congrats on your trip.Have personally stayed at both your hotels. waterfallgardens.com nice food so so plastic feel some caged animals.Prefer www.xandari.com

Arenalobservatorylodge.com an eco camo feel closest to the volcanoup several milesof very bad road fording s stram or 2 with rain.Smithsonian view rooms are nice but food so so and
other rooms not good. Prefer tabacon.com or lostiguanaresort.com

Monteverdeinfo.com FondaVela.com is my fav there you would need at least an overnite.Hotelvillacaletas.com for closest nice beach hotel to airport.

Pick 3 areas you like andrent acar mapache.com or odysseytourscr.com driver/guide between the 3...

Have fun!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 03:31 AM
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costarica.bookit.com for deals... many skip Monteverde and add
manuelantoniopark.com arenasdelmar.com costaverde.com

Good luck!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 06:29 AM
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Thanks all for your help. So, if we have 9 nights to visit Costa Rica......and we (as I'd mentioned) are not into ziplining but enjoy hiking and want to see as much wildlife as possible (my child is a wildlife nut), I'm wondering if I've picked the best destinations. (The Osa sounds great but we are going to save that for next trip.) So, wildlife/beauty-wise which areas should we be focusing on........Monteverde....Arenal.....Peace Lodge...Manuel Antonio? I'm having trouble understanding how far these are from each other.....and how many places we can comfortably visit in 9 days? We had not planned on Manuel Antonio because I thought it was too far to include and maybe not worth it in terms of seeing wildlife -- ie too touristy. Is it right on/near the ocean? I suppose it might be nice to include some beach time. Also--any web resources that would help me better plan would be welcome! And, should we rent a car? I'm starting to think we are going to be doing a lot of traveling around and maybe that's easier than a driver. Sorry for all the questions but this is our first trip!!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 08:58 AM
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Peace Lodge looks beautiful and many people like it, but it's expensive and appears too Disneyesque for me. Maybe Arenal (3-4), Monteverde (2-3), Manual Antonio (3-4) would be a better itinerary unless you are dead set o PL. We didn't go to MA, but it is supposed to be good for wildlife. Many like the area, but I've heard others say it's too touristy.

In MV we also saw a quetzal on our morning hike in the Santa Elena Reserve along with many other birds. Like VG, we did the night hike at Hidden Valley, but didn't see many mammals. We did see birds though, a sloth, a tarantula and leaf cutter ants (one of my favorites!)

The OSA is wonderful...so do keep it on your radar for a future trip!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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We did a combo of Arenal and Manuel Antonio for one of our trips, and it was a great combo of beach time and volcano. Tulemar Bungalows is a popular place to stay. Check it out and see what you think. Manuel Antonio is a beach destination - very nice beach inside the park and lots of wildlife that's very used to people - especially lots of monkeys. It's a very popular place to go with young families. There are tourists there, but it's still appealing, not tacky touristy. Personally I would pick that over Monteverde for a child that age just because of the beach factor and how easy the access to wildlife is. It's about five hours between Arenal and Manuel Antonio. Both Arenal and MA are about 3 hours from the SJO airport if that helps. I would keep Arenal too. I'd keep the Peace Lodge for a night or two - kids love it there, and the waterfalls are gorgeous. We also loved handfeeding hummingbirds - they do that twice a day. I'd probably go four nights Arenal, three Manuel Antonio, and two Peace Lodge. Monteverde was cold and rainy when we were there and the road to get there isn't great. I'd probably save that for another trip unless you're really into birding and seeing the cloud forest. The Peace Lodge has a cloud forest environment as well so you'd see a bit of that there.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 12:01 PM
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You have 9 nights and want to see wildlife, so I agree with Deb that PL may be too much like Disney. I suggest Arenal for 3-4 days, Monteverde 2-3 and Manuel Antonio or somewhere else in the Southern Zone for 3-4 days. The town of Manuel Antonio is tacky and touristy, but Manuel Antonio National Park is beautiful and the guides will point out a lot of wildlife. I find it difficult to watch people feeding monkeys there though.

It is hard to figure out how long it takes to drive from one location to another
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 12:26 PM
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It is hard to figure out how long it takes to drive from one location to another, but we (with 3 children) travel comfortably from San Jose to Manuel Antonio in 3 hours (or 4 if you stop to see the crocodiles and eat at a great restaurant where you sit on swings). The Taco Bar is easy to find in Jaco.
Yes, Manuel Antonio (town and park) are right on the ocean, although many hotels are not on the beach.
We too thought that the Southern Zone was too far away on our first trip but we should have gone and now we never miss it. If you just want beach time, then it's not necessary to go south, but the Osa is where the wildlife is the most abundant. With a 9-year old who wants to hike and to see wildlife, I'd rent a treehouse in the Finca Bellavista treehouse community instead of Manuel Antonio www.fincabellavista.net As well as the usual toucans, parrots, hummingbirds and butterflies, in January we saw a boar on the path, kinkajous in the trees above us, and some cool night animals. (I recommend a night tour with a guide there too). It is our kids favourite spot.
You're right, it is easier to rent a car. When you get quotes, keep in mind that you will have to pay the expensive mandatory insurance upon picking up your rental car. Our cheapest rates have always been with www.vacationcity.com
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 12:27 PM
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Here is a map to show how far driving from one city to another - http://www.yourtravelmap.com/costari...hp?&width=1024

Maybe you could do 4 nights Arenal, 3-4 nights Monteverde and 1-2 nights Peace Lodge? Or sub the Sarapiqui area for Monteverde?
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 01:08 PM
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One thing we did in Arenal that was great was to hire our own guide to take us out wildlife spotting. We used the guide that I mentioned above, and he took us out hiking by the lake. He found some neat stuff for us including toucans, howler monkeys, an anteater, and a peccary which we had never seen before. A good guide makes a huge difference. We probably wouldn't have seen any of that on our own except in a place like the Osa or Manuel Antonio where the wildlife is everywhere. Wherever you go, definitely hire a guide for the best spotting. It can be really hit or miss.

Regarding where to go, I'd recommend you look at some pictures on tripadvisor and check out the ratings there. A lot of people post their own pictures, and it will give you a good idea of what certain areas and hotels are like.

We always hire drivers through our hotels when we reserve them, but a lot of people like to drive, and if you're adventurous it could be fun.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 01:55 PM
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Thank you all for your help!! Really great to have all of these insights......so I feel pretty set on Arenal and Manuel Antonio. The big decision now seems to be.....do we stop for a night or two at Peace Lodge (I've been told it's more "zoo" like, but sounds relatively easy to get to) or make the trip to Montaverde (which sounds great because it's more "natural" but doesn't seem to offer nicer lodging and I'm concerned about the drive because my child is prone to motion sickness). Is Montaverde really worth going out of one's way for.....or will we see the same wildlife (albeit contained in a reserve) at Peace Lodge?
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 02:16 PM
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We saw a lot more wildlife at the Peace Lodge than we did in Monteverde. The Peace Lodge wildlife is mostly rescue animals though. They have a big aviary that you can walk through full of toucans and other birds flying around. They have the ranarium that you can walk through at night with a flashlight. The frogs aren't caged, so they're hopping all around you. One hopped on my head! They also have a butterfly hatchery where you can walk through and have all the blue morphos flying around you and watch them go through the stages of development. They have some monkeys and some big cats - you can't walk through those areas - that part is more zoolike to me since they're behind glass. They have a big hummingbird garden full of feeders, and twice a day they pass out nectar tubes and the hummingbirds will land on your hand and drink out of the little tube. They have tons of hummingbirds; the rooms have feeders on the balcony too so they're always out there buzzing around. They have a trout "lake" that's more like a big pool where you can fish. And they have a gorgeous hike full of waterfalls - five I think. The rooms are really over the top with waterfall showers, fireplaces, and jacuzzis. The views are gorgeous - very green with misty clouds. We did see a little "wild" wildife there including some coatis and pretty birds. We liked staying there after staying at some more rustic areas in CR. It's nice to relax in your waterfall shower after getting so sweaty and sort of roughing it in other places.

Monteverde has lots of hiking, and also has big green spaces full of misty clouds. The lodging isn't as upscale in that area. We stayed at Fonda Vela and liked it, mostly for the grounds. The whole area is a little more rustic. It has a very natural vibe. To me that area skews a little older; we saw lots of birders there. It's also very popular for ziplining. Sky Trek and Selvatura are two really popular attractions. The road is rough, very bumpy and full of potholes - sort of like a country gravel road would be in the U.S. I take Dramamine for a lot of roads in CR, and I took it before we went there so I was fine. Even though the road to Arenal is in good shape, it's very winding and hilly with a lot of curves and ups and downs. I got car sick the first time we went and have taken Dramamine on all subsequent trips. I'm not one to ever get car sick so it surprised me. Hopefully your child will be okay.

Like I mentioned above, I'd go to tripadvisor and look at pics for Peace Lodge and Fonda Vela just to compare the two. I think one would probably appeal to you more. Both areas have something to offer, but they are so different.
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