Notices

Costa Rica in early May!

Reply

Mar 26th, 2012, 08:02 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 63
Costa Rica in early May!

Hello! I am so excited to finally be planning a trip to Costa Rica! I've wanted to go since 2009 but had to postpone because of the delightful first addition to our family. But now the little one is just over 2 and will be spending a rare week with her grandparents who can't wait to spoil her - meaning me and the mr. get the entire week to ourselves!

i really want to have a good mixture of relaxing (beach, hot springs) and adventure (ziplining, rain forest exploring). and costa rica seems perfect! i'm tentatively planning to fly into san jose, then head directly to Arenal for hot springs/rainforest activities/etc before ending in the manual antonio area for the beaches. likely will arrive on a sunday and depart on a friday, so don't want to cram too much in. anything that is a not to be missed?

i've been researching hotels in the Arenal area and of course, all the nice ones are super expensive. is there anything that is a great gem for no more than $250/night? the nayara so great but soo pricey! the lost iguana looks good (3 nights for the price of 2!)- but it doesn't have an on-site hot springs. is it worth it to go with a venue that has it on-site?

thank you!!
knemo
knemo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 26th, 2012, 09:00 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 30
Hola! First, you have picked a great month to visit! The weather cools off in May and while you may see some rain, May through early July is my favorite time of year in CR. Leaves & Lizards is another place you might want to consider in the Arenal area...same level as Nayara but not as pricey and family friendly. If you want to be on a beach that has all the amenities and comforts of the states I would recommend the larger towns of Flamingo, Tamarindo, Conchal that have the all inclusive resorts. Very touristy and crowded. If you want something quieter and more "typical" check out the area of the Nicoya Peninsula from Nosara to Mal Pais. You will find a nice blend of touristy and rustic/remote. Favorites of mine are Luna Azul, Cristal Azul & Ylang Ylang. All three are fantastic but Cristal Azul has incredible privacy and is located on one of the nicest beaches in the country. If you consider the Southern Zone as an option, check out Los Cocos in Zancudo or Aguila de Osa! Very nice but Guanacaste is easier to access from the Arenal area. Manuel Antonio is nice as well but I find it very crowded and too touristy.
amagkid is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 26th, 2012, 09:09 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 15,623
Ditto, Flamingo and Conchal (Playa Basilito is in between) in Guanacaste are beautiful beaches, with lots of lodging options. (Also pretty close to LIR, if you are flying through there.)
Lost Iguana is a wonderful resort, and is closer to the famous zipline and only a minute or so from a very nice rainforest bridge walk. (And frankly, I may be alone here, but the 2 hot springs I visited were overcrowded, overpriced,not hot enough, and not worth the time to me.)
sylvia3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 26th, 2012, 11:20 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 22,983
We've stayed at the Lost Iguana several times and love it. I actually like it better than Nayara, even though Nayara is great, because LI gives you that wonderful feeling of being in a beautiful jungle. Like sylvia mentioned, it's right next door to the Hanging Bridges and pretty close to Sky Trek. They also have a nice spa. I'd go to either Eco Termales or Tabacon for your hot springs visit; those are both nice. To me, one night at the springs is enough. I've never felt the need to stay somewhere with springs on site. Some of our favorite things to do are the Sky Trek zipline, hike at the waterfall and swim in the beautiful river there, hike the volcano and Hanging Bridges, visit the springs, and do either the Cano Negro tour or Penas Blancas river float. Rafting with Rios Tropicales is fun too. The Manuel Antonio area is very pretty - beautiful beach inside the park, easy access to wildlife, and lots of hotel and restaurant choices. Some popular places to stay are Mango Moon, Si Como No, Posada Jungle Lodge, Tulemar Bungalows, and Costa Verde.
volcanogirl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 26th, 2012, 02:31 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 5
Knemo-I am so excited for your Costa Rica vacation! You and your husband will love it here and it will be the perfect blend of romance/relaxation and adventure! You should be able to find some good deals as most accommodations drop their rates in May. Volcanogirl has some great recommendations for hotels in Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio has the perfect mix of gorgeous beaches and lush rainforest/wildlife (Guanacaste-dry region doesn't have as much as the lush rainforest as Manuel Antonio), plus all of the adventure activities (ziplining, ATV tours, horseback riding, waterfall rapel, rafting etc) are less than 30 minutes away from Manuel Antonio so you don't have to spend all day in the van getting to your tour location. Guanacaste is nice, though because it is a lot closer to the Liberia airport if you can get airfare through there.

Have a fun vacation!
ShayTulemar is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 4th, 2012, 09:12 PM
  #6
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 63
Thanks everyone! I've just booked our tickets for the second week of May and canNOT wait! Used miles so didn't have the best flights to choose from but as it is we arrive at SJO just before noon on Sunday 5/6 and depart at 3pm on Fri 5/11.

Am considering going directly to the Arenal area and staying in that area for the entire duration of our trip. Something about making the long trek down and then back up from the Manual Antonio area doesn't seem enticing given the short duration of our trip but is that a bad idea? Perhaps combining the Arenal area with the closer Cloud Forest?

Thanks so much in advance!!
knemo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 5th, 2012, 04:46 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 22,983
With such a short time frame, I think you could just stay in Arenal the entire time. There's plenty to do there to keep you busy. It takes a little over three hours to get to the Cloud Forest from the Arenal area if you wanted to do that. We used Desafio's Jeep Boat Jeep to get there. Pack a jacket if you decide to go to Monteverde - it was chilly and rainy for us.
volcanogirl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 5th, 2012, 06:37 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 1,085
If you stay in Arenal for your entire trip, make sure to go on the Cano Negro boat trip - you'll see abundant wildlife and water birds, plus the huge iguanas at the bridge. All the tours stop there.

We liked Arenal Paraiso - nice cabins looking directly at the volcano, several hot springs on site along with their own zipline with 11 platforms. Rates are very reasonable, under $150, I think. http://www.arenalparaiso.com/app/cms/www/index.php

If you are looking for a cloud forest environment, I suggest looking at Bosque del Paz http://www.bosquedepaz.com/ which would be very convenient on your drive to Arenal - just turn off at Zarcero. To me, it's a hidden gem, small family run lodge, beautiful cloud forest trails dripping with lichens, mosses and bromeliads, loads of birds, excellent food. It's cold at night, but they have extra blankets in the rooms. It's much easier to get there versus Monteverde although MV offers many more activities. BdP is good for a night or two.
colibri is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 5th, 2012, 10:51 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 30
You may want to have a back up plan in case! Everyone I know who planned a trip to Arenal wished they had made it over to a beach..while there is so much to do in that area and the cloud forest is very cool......dont let the drive to the coast intimidate you...it is not that bad at all and a great way to see the country! With no real "highways" you cruise along a leisurely pace and can stop along the way and get roadside snacks. This is a very easy country to navigate!
amagkid is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 5th, 2012, 12:43 PM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 63
How long does it take to go from Arenal down to the MA area? And is renting a car/driving recommended over getting a driver? Thanks!!
knemo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 5th, 2012, 04:00 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 22,983
It takes about 5 hours and then about 3 hours to get back to SJO airport. We had a driver - encountered some potholes, one way bridges, and things like that. A lot of people drive it though. Our last trip only included Arenal, and we had a great time but we've had the chance to see other areas - up to you and how much traveling you want to do. MA was very hot when we were there and Monteverde chilly - two totally different climates. Another option would be to pair Arenal with time in the central valley - go to Poas, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Doka coffee tour, etc. The waterfall gardens are about an hour from SJO. You can hand feed hummingbirds there which we thought was very cool.
volcanogirl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 6th, 2012, 11:33 PM
  #12
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 63
i am so torn on whether we should hit up both areas of Arenal and Manuel Antonios or just focus on Arenal. Here's my draft itinerary for our short trip:

Day1: Sun 5/6, Arrive at SJO at 12pm. Rent a car. Drive to Arenal Area. Arrive by XX? Relax the rest of the day, unless there's enough time to do an activity?

Day 2: Mon 5/7, Activity! Am thinking of the Sky Trek Zipline outfit. Should we also include their sky walk/hanging bridges? In the afternoon, hope to hit up one of the local hot springs.

Day 3: Tue 5/8, Activity! Would like to get to a waterfall. Sounds like Alberto's Hour Tours end up at a waterfall that you can swim in. Is this the one to check out? Or are there other waterfalls better suited?

Day 4: Wed 5/9, Travel day to Manuel Antonios via rental car. Any nice places/activities to stop along the way so it's not a straight 5 hour drive?

Day 5: Thu 5/10, beautiful beach relaxing - Biesanz? Can this be coupled with some sort of nature tour? Those are the 2 big draws of the MA area, no? The beautiful beaches and the abundant wildlife?

Day 6: Fri 5/11, Will need to head back to SJO (~3 hrs from MA?) in time to catch a 3 pm flight home.

Seems like too short of a trip! Any suggestions/feedback super welcome and appreciated!!! THANKS!
knemo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 6th, 2012, 11:59 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 63
also - is the volcano still erupting? i seem to be reading here and there that it's been dormant ... for a while?
knemo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 7th, 2012, 05:59 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 15,623
The volcano has not had lava flowing since 2009. There is a visible plume of smoke from the top (and a vent site on the flank visible from the right angle; don't forget binoculars. You might confuse the top plume with clouds, but watch carefully with binocs). This is a great visual map for hotels and volcano, etc.
http://www.arenal.net/arenal-costa-rica-map.htm
Sky Trek zipline takes a while from start to finish (long bumpy road up, lots of hurry up and wait); you might want to do a hanging bridge walk elsewhere (the one near Lost Iguana is very nice, and cheaper, and quieter; it's also in the general vicinity once you're on the main road, a nice drive over the dam). Although we always hear that early is best for animal viewing, others have said that their best experiences were afternoon. Regardless, it's a beautiful way to spend a couple of hours. Keep your eyes peeled for troups of coatimundis along the road near Tabacon.
Waterfall: park at the top of the trail ($10). (You can also swim, after a small walk downstream). There's also a free cascades to swim in a short walk from town. Check out various videos from these guys (including cheap/free tips); they also do tours now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Xb6...feature=relmfu
sylvia3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 7th, 2012, 09:45 AM
  #15
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 22,983
Sky Trek is a great zipline. I'd probably go to the Hanging Bridges though instead of Sky Walk. I'd just go to Fortuna Waterfall on my own vs. paying for a tour. Swim in the crystal clear river - gorgeous. Traveling from Arenal to MA stop at the Rio Tarcoles bridge to see the big crocs down below, but don't leave anything in the car unattended. The most beautiful beach is inside the park, so I'd pick that over Biesanz. Pair it with a guided tour of the park to see the wildlife. Like sylvia mentioned, there's no current lava flow. We still love the area and all the great activities.
volcanogirl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 7th, 2012, 10:16 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 15,623
The Tarcoles bridge stop is much nicer than it used to be during the neverending road construction phase. If you are ill at ease, take turns looking at the crocs, but don't not stop to see them! (I saw one very close to the slope from the west side parking lot (north side of the bridge), where the car was easily visible from the bridge.) Good place to grab snacks and/or souvenirs.
sylvia3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 9th, 2012, 12:25 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 2
It's too bad you don't have more time. I've been to Costa Rica 20 times and have never gone for less than two weeks. Distances are deceptive on a map in Costa Rica. Most of the roads are not in great shape and it's very easy to get lost. If you want to stop off for an hour or so on the road to Arenal (La Fortuna), I would suggest Zoo Ave about 20 minutes north of the airport. It's a rescue zoo that takes in animals that are illegally kept in captivity or injured and rehabilitates them to be released back into the wild or provides them a home if they can't be returned to their natural environment. When I was there in 2007, they had several Resplendent Quetzals that were being rehabilitated.
I love the Arenal area. I like Paraiso Arenal for the price, view of the volcano, and their own hot springs on site. It's a very nice facility with your own cabina. You need to get one of the Superior cabinas up near the top of the hill for the best view. Yes, the volcano is in a low activity phase. Before 2010, it was really spectacular with erruptions every few hours, really fantastic at night as the red lava was flowing down the side of the volcano. You definetly need to spend at least half a day at Tabacon Hot Springs. It's incredibly beautiful and well worth the money.
The trip to Manuel Antonio is a bit long and strenuous. It really depends on how much you love the beach. Personally, I would go to Monteverde instead, but only with the jeep, boat, jeep travel method, or otherwise you have to drive all around Lake Arenal.
If I were only taking a trip for 5 days, I would probably book a tour rather than driving it myself. Driving in Costa Rica can be a bit stressful. It depends on how adventurous you are. I've taken the tours with Expediciones Tropicales to Arenal/Monteverde, La Paz Waterfalls, and Poas Volcano, and really enjoyed them.
Renting a car in Costa Rica can be quite expensive, the insurance costs as much as the rental fee, and you have to leave a deposit of up to $1,500 on your credit card which could take weeks to be released back to your account. Hertz seems to have the best prices, but the highest deposit.
And finally, I would never try to drive from the coast and make a plane the same day. You are going to be there during the beginning of the rainy season, so there could be rock slides that could triple the time it takes to get from the coast to the airport in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. There are also sometimes, rarely, strikes that shut down the highways. If I were you, I would arrive in San Jose the evening before, stay at a downtown historical hotel like the Gran Hotel Costa Rica or a more modern hotel like the Holiday Inn, then in the morning after a great buffet breakfast go to the Museo de Oro or Jade Museum and Teatro Nacional in the heart of the city. Downtown San Jose is pretty safe during the day, not safe out on the streets after 8PM or so when the police who are everwhere in downtown during the day, get off work, and there's no shift to replace them from what I've seen the last year of so. Leave downtown by 12:30PM and you should be to the airport two hours before the flight leaves.
Jay_Redden is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 9th, 2012, 02:45 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 15,623
We've never had to pay a deposit for a rental car; and the extra insurance cost to us was ~$10/day, not terrible.
Perhaps our advanced age helps us to read maps, but we've never gotten lost, although we came close in SJ (I never want to drive in that city or Alajuela again.
We got a 4WD Suzuki Jimney through Solid for less than $500 for 16 days; that included everything (our cc covered CDW; the Liability cost was $10/day). We've also had good experiences with Europcar. Others have gotten better prices, esp. for sedans, but I thought that was pretty good for a 4WD.
sylvia3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 9th, 2012, 02:57 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,191
Wise decision to stay at Arenal the entire time. Logistically, it isn't very realistic to attempt 2 separate and distant locations in less than 7-8 days. Yes, it can be done and would be enjoyable, but there is a great deal to do in the Arenal area. I think Costa Rica beaches are nice, but they are not the typical white sand, turquoise water beaches of the Caribbean.

My suggestion would echo some of the others. Do the Cano Negro trip, maybe an overnight or two to Monteverde Cloud Forest. Daytrip to Volcan Tenorio and Rio Celeste, one day for ziplines and hot springs. . . .and time to just relax or fit in something that appeals to you once you are there.

Two days each location (Arenal, MA) doesn't do much justice to either area. That said, both are enjoyable areas. We used to skip around like that a lot. Just depends on what appeals to you--and how much of the Arenal area you are willing to forego. Manuel Antonio isn't crowded by Disneyworld standards. . .nowhere close.
shillmac is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:07 AM.