Costa Rica in a week--help needed!

Old Jun 12th, 2014, 04:55 PM
  #1  
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Costa Rica in a week--help needed!

Dear Fellow Travelers,

I am traveling with my partner to Costa Rica next month (July--unfortunately during the rainy season). We are only afforded a week of vacation and we are eager to engage in as much hiking and sightseeing as possible (we love simply being in nature, but adventure excursions are up our alley as well). I am completely at a loss as to where to go in CR with such a limited time frame--we would be so grateful for any suggestions! We are flying into Juan Santamaria SJO and trying to keep expenses low.

-What sights are great for nature lovers?
-How do we navigate transportation from the airport to other areas and back on a budget?
-We would greatly appreciate hotel/tour/food recommendations and/or anything else you can think of!

Thank you in advance for all of your wisdom and assistance! This is a terrific forum!
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 07:43 PM
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July is not a hardship. It is the rainy season now, but July usually means an hour or so of rain in the afternoon. That's very manageable.
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 07:17 AM
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RAC
 
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I would say the Sarapiqui area (most lodging is very affordable there) and/or the Arenal Observatory Lodge near Arenal (most of Arenal is not great for wildlife and hiking, but the observatory lodge is lights-out for both, and affordable).
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 10:43 AM
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I agree - Arenal is a great suggestion. Good hiking at the Hanging Bridges, the volcano, and the waterfall. Lots of adventure activities like ziplining at Sky Trek, waterfall rappelling with La Roca, rafting with Rios Tropicales, and the hot springs are worth a visit too. There's also a beautiful lake there. There's a shuttle called Interbus that's pretty affordable and popular.
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 05:19 PM
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Tortugero with the Watsons is another thought. Not terribly expensive, and a great introduction to Costa Rica. You could couple this with a trip to Arenal. We saw quite a bit of wildlife at the Observatory Lodge.

How many nights do you have, and how early will you arrive at the airport the first day and leave on the last day?
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 08:40 PM
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Thank you to everyone for these wonderful suggestions! I have heard fantastic things about Sarapiqui, Arenal, and Totugero. Those three areas sound like an excellent place to start.

Cattail,
We plan to arrive in San Jose at 12pm--would this leave us enough time to travel to Tortugero or Arenal on the first day?
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 12:57 AM
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Are you planning on renting a car or taking a shuttle?

Assuming that you have five full days in Costa Rica, I would concentrate on one or two areas. Travel between locations will eat up a lot of time. One fun way to get to Arenal would be to combine transport with a white-water rafting trip; I believe that a couple of operations do this.

Conversely, if money isn't real tight, you could easily spend your entire week in the Osa.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 03:44 AM
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It takes about three hours to get from SJO to the Arenal area, so you could definitely do that your first day. You can drive, fly, get a private driver, or use the shuttle that I mentioned above - that's the most affordable option, but you have to work with their schedule. Tortuguero is more isolated; most people that go there stay in lodges and have the lodge arrange their transportation. Since it's canal-based you have to boat in or fly in, but boating would be more affordable, and you can see some nice wildlife along the way.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 05:11 AM
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Adding to what vc said, the Tortuguero tour guides, including the Watsons, generally pick you up from a hotel within the city limits. So - a workable plan might look something like this:

Day 1 : San Jose Hotel: relax, see the city
Days 2 and 3: Tortugero tour
Day 4: San Jose hotel, or, if early enough, Arenal
Days 5, 6 and 7 Arenal

One bonus of July is that you might see the turtles in Tortuguero!
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 08:10 PM
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Volcanogirl and Cattail, you two are the best!! Thank you for the incredible tips. We are thinking of heading from SJO to Arenal on Day 1, perhaps spending 2-3 days in Arenal, and 2 days in Tortuguero.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 09:07 AM
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I might suggest not doing Tortugero, since the travel time chews up quite a bit of your limited time.

No one has mentioned going from Arenal down to Tarcoles River (to see the crocs), to Manuel Antonio, then back to San Jose.

I do like Arenal Observatory Lodge for wildlife (they include a free morning walk timed to catch the monkeys. Be prepared for a rough ride the last leg. Personally I did not think the food was that horrible, just stick to something simple. I thought the breakfast buffet was quite good.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 09:28 AM
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One thing about Tortuguero, July is one of the rainiest times to go there. We've been in July and still really enjoyed it, but we had constant huge downpours. We packed books and stuff just in case we weren't able to do our activities. We did get to see turtles and a lot of wildlife in between deluges. It wouldn't stop me, but just a heads up.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 08:26 PM
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mlgb, the trip to and from Tortuguero was so interesting and such fun, we considered it all part of the tour. Yes, it can be rainy in July, or anytime in that area of the country, really. Arenal too. FYI: I remember reading somewhere that one is more apt to see the Arenal volcano from June-August than the rest of the year; not sure if this is based on fact, but June/July is the only time we had a clear view in several trips to Arenal.
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 04:41 PM
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Dear All,

Thank you for all of your advice; we are so very grateful! My partner expressed an interest in visiting a beach location, and a friend of mine recommended Manuel Antonio (specifically, La Posada jungle bungalows). Would it make sense in only a week to visit Arenal, Manuel Antonio, and Tortuguero? We made reservations at the Arenal Observatory Lodge as suggested, so that is the only one set in stone.

Thank you!!
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 05:16 PM
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I wouldn't. Travel eats up so much of your time, and map distances can be deceiving. A Manuel Antonio/Arenal itnerary is often recommended to first-time visitors. I haven't been yet, mostly because I like to go to the more remote Osa. However, vc and others can give you fabulous recommendations for this area!
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 05:20 PM
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Thank you so much, Cattail! I will certainly look into Manuel Antonio & Arenal. It will be a shame to miss Tortuguero given all of the wonderful things people have said about it, but you're right; there doesn't seem to be enough time for all three.
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 05:43 PM
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I think I would choose MA over Tortugero. You'll see the white faced capuchins, coatis, Jesus Christ lizard, and possibly the squirrel monkeys. Plus, you can actually swim in the ocean there. On the way from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, there is the famous Tarcoles Bridge with the crocs.

La Posada is very popular and affordable, and right next door to the park. Good luck with getting a room there, I couldn't, even in green season.

Villas Nicolas is another option up on the hill, buses or taxis back up if you don't feel like walking.
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 05:43 PM
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Oh yeah, sloths too.
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 04:46 PM
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Mlgb,

Thank you for the excellent advice! We managed to get two nights in La Posada. I will look into Villas Nicolas for the third (La Posada was booked solid for the third night); thank you for the recommendation!
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 07:37 PM
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We liked Manuel Antonio too; our hotel has lots of capuchins and sloths. We even got to see a baby sloth and an aracari. In MA, you can get pretty close to the wildlife because it's so used to people. A guided tour of the park is nice, and we also did the Damas mangrove tour with Manuel Antonio Expeditions. We did the Villa Vanilla spice tour too.
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