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Costa Rica in January - now starting the trip planning

Costa Rica in January - now starting the trip planning

Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 06:21 AM
  #1  
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Costa Rica in January - now starting the trip planning

Good morning everyone

Many thanks to VolcanoGirl for helping me to narrow this down, and I'm reviewing the various posts here for other ideas. I have plane tickets now, a book, a map, and no plan! (yet).

I am in and out of SJO and am likely going to split my 9 nights between Manuel Antonio and Arenal areas. Next up - to find lodging. I have to say that I am surprised at how expensive some of the lodging is, my local friends who go there have mentioned how cheap they find their visits to CR and when I was mulling Hawaii over CR, they said that CR was much cheaper in general.

I will need a driver which might also dictate where I stay, too.

At any rate, I'm going to look at a variety and see what strikes my fancy. Tulemar looks to be in the around-300 range for some rooms which I think will be my top end although I'd prefer to spend less. I sent them an email asking if they had five nights free. I'd spent the other four near Arenal (unless the activities around Arenal are more far-flung and would need more than four nights and I can flip it around - I want to really spend some time on canopy tours and zip lining and hiking and I don't have a frame of reference just yet on where things are).

I see from poking around that Selina Manuel Antonio is crazy cheap - under 50 bucks a night? Is that for real and is that a decent place to stay or not?

More soon, thank you!!
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 09:25 AM
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We just returned from CR last week - 18 days and had a wonderful time. We, too, flew into SJ, but we rented a car to drive to Arenal area, and for the entire time we were there. I think one could easily do without a car and still see a lot.

In Arenal we stayed at Paradise Hot Springs Hotel, and we loved it. It's not too far outside of La Fortuna, but without a car you would probably need to uber or taxi to places. The rooms are in beautiful four-plex casitas, and the grounds are stunning. There are nine hot spring pools of varying temperatures, and a fairly decent restaurant. We thought we were going to miss the rainy season, or at least avoid much of it, but there were torrential rains much of the time we were there. The air is so warm and soft, we still had a great hike down to the waterfall, and we even went white water rafting on the Balsa River, which was super fun. I thought the rain would bother us, but we actually kind of enjoyed it.

After Arenal, we spent four nights in Tamarindo. We stayed at Jardin del Eden - a boutique hotel in town with lovely private grounds and a beautiful swimming pool, as well as access to a beachfront "garden" with lounge chairs and a small tiki bar. The service at this hotel was out of this world - and breakfast and dinners at their restaurant were included. The room we had was sparkling clean and very modern - the bathroom was huge with a great walk-in shower. Staff couldn't have been better. And no children. The beach at Tamarindo is wide and flat - perfect for long walks and shell collecting. The ocean water is warm and calm. Amazing sunsets. Waking up to the sound of the howler monkeys in the mornings was fun.

We then drove to Manuel Antonio for our final six nights - stayed at Si Como No Eco-Resort. Again, a gorgeous property, and our room - really more of a suite - had stunning and expansive views of the sea. There are separate swimming pools for families and for adults only. Breakfast included, and they have two restaurants. We had dinner at both, and were slightly underwhelmed. We found other restaurants in MA to have much better cuisine at lower prices. (Emilio's and Ronny's Place were our favorites) We took a tour of the park - well worth having a guide to see the animals that are camouflaged in the rain forest. We also went white water rafting on the Savegre River - gorgeous scenery and we got to take a walk halfway through to a beautiful waterfall and have a swim. We used Iguana Tours for the rafting and our guide was great - really knew the river and always made sure we were safe and having fun.

Hope this is helpful to you - I think you'll have a wonderful time!
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 03:30 PM
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Join Date: May 2007
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Silencio del Campo and the Arenal Observatory Lodge are two other popular places to stay in the Arenal area. AOL has lots of wildlife on site, great trails, and a free guided hike each morning. It's located out near the lake so has more wildlife. We used their shuttle to go and from town; it cost eight dollars per person when we used it. You can set it up through the AOL front desk; you have to go on their schedule. Four nights is great for the Arenal area. We love Tulemar; if it's in your budget, I'd go for it. Really nice that they have their own beach since very few places do, lots of sloths and monkeys on site as well. Have not stayed at Selina, but it seems to get very mixed reviews - have read about rude staff and construction but no personal experience there. Is it a hostel? Fifty bucks is a great deal for that area.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 05:54 PM
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Thank you SCDreamer and VolcanoGirl!

I emailed all of them. So far, AOL replied and has Jan 17-22 free (five nights) and that is it, and, Tulemar has a mix of Jan 18-22 open but not the 17th. That is great but only the first half of my trip in both locations - I'm hoping Tulemar can accommodate me on the second half.

I have to figure out if AOL for five nights (versus four) would work for me - if I can get around easily without a car, and is this very much a self-help kind of place or do they have concierge to help you arrange tours, etc.

I'll look at my book tonight to see which area should get the extra 5th night! Coming together...
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 06:28 PM
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try Erupciones Inn in Fortuna/Arenal. Very charming, up against the volcano, the owner has horses that meander by. A nothing fancy, but still good breakfast. This was MUCH cheaper than any resorts.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 06:38 PM
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Thank you Cheryl!

It just occurred to me that the drive time (no stops) between the two locations is going to be five hours - most of the daylight day assuming I hit the road at 9 AM and we have a few pit stops along the way.

If my first location is five nights, that is four full days (Sat Sun Mon Tues) then drive all daylight time Wednesday, and then Thurs-Fri-Sat are full days at destination two (four nights), with the morning of Sunday and then off to airport. My 1545 departure probably means being at airport at 1345 which means leaving at 1045 (assuming two hours before departure is enough). Four days and three days, of sightseeing time. The rest will be driving to/from the hotels and to/from the airport (and of course evenings/dinner/relaxing at pool)

So I'm going to suss out which area needs that extra day - hard to pick!
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 02:02 AM
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AOL has an entire list of tours that you can book. They also have people at the front desk who will help you. They arranged our guided tour of the Bogarin Trail for us. It's not a fancy place, but we loved our Smithsonian room - fantastic views of the volcano when the weather is good. Desafio is a good tour company in the area; we've done most of our tours through them so that's another option. AOL has included free breakfast when we've stayed there. When you go between the Arenal area and Manuel Antonio, be sure to stop at the Rio Tarcoles bridge to see the huge crocs down below.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 02:05 AM
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Daylight comes really early in Costa Rica; the howler monkeys and birds will probably wake you around 5:30 a.m. so you get quite a bit of early morning daylight. You'll probably find yourself falling asleep by 9:00 p.m. Tours start early too - a lot of times at 6:30 in the morning or so. They recommend getting to the airport three hours before your flight.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 02:40 AM
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Yes! Iím going to do it. Smithsonian room is the only one available at 200 a night which is a good price. I will have to find a driver from the airport to them and also from them to MA.

slowly this is coming together (logistics anyway)

thank you!!

edit: thank you for the airport tip, I guess my last day we get on the road early if I want to see anything on the way to the airport - but otherwise NLT than 930

why three hours, is it big or is it chaotic?
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 07:49 AM
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We've used Carlos Bogarin with Destinos Encantados, and he was great. You can also hire a driver through AOL when you book your room. Carlos is fluent in English. Some drivers aren't. You could contact both to get an idea of pricing. AOL is off a long bumpy road. I think you'll really like the Smithsonian room.

Costa Rica Transfers, Costa Rica tours, Costa rica transportation, costa rica travel

Three hours is the standard rec. for international flights for a lot of airlines. The lines can be long at SJO; we've only needed the three hours once. Also you have to pay a departure tax of around thirty dollars to leave Costa Rica. A lot of airlines include it in the ticket now, but make sure yours does. If not you'll have to wait in line to pay the tax.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 12:05 PM
  #11  
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Thank you again!

I'm trying to narrow down the last four nights and then I will give it a rest. Im finding that many of them have a cancellation policy that is "within the 30 day window and you only get 50% back". That seems unfair in high season as they would surely rent those places out again in a snap?!

I have AOL for the first five.

The Manuel Antonio area I'm waiting on Tulemar's answer, and I've also found La Mariposa, Parador Resort, Las Cascadas the Falls, and Costa Verde (so far).

Any reason to pick any of the above as top pick (or any of the above to put last!).

Costa Verde looks quite reasonable and seems to be well located. Not as "fancy" - I'll see how the "fancier" ones come back to me and then decide.

One of them has a treetop room!
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 01:44 PM
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Costa Verde and La Mariposa are pretty popular. Si Como No is another popular spot. Have heard good things about Parador as well. Costa Verde has a restaurant made out of an old plane - a lot of tourists like to see that.
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Old Dec 25th, 2019, 03:26 PM
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I heard from Tulemar, they can put me in the below:
  • Tulemar One Bedroom Villa One bedroom with a king or 2 queen beds, bathroom, full kitchen, and balcony with ocean and jungle views. Available for $525 a night plus 13% value added tax and 4.5% resort fee; $2,479.79 total. Please note that this option involves a room change on the 24th.
https://tulemar.com/properties/one-bedroom-villa/

With the AOL at just under a grand all-in, that would be 9 nights for 3500 dollars. On the one hand that is a bit higher than I wanted to pay but on the other hand Tulemar seems to be very well regarded.

I will see what shows up in my email tomorrow and then decide. This is the only one I've heard back from so far.

Thank you so much for all of your posts, volcano girl, here and elsewhere!

Last edited by flygirl; Dec 25th, 2019 at 03:29 PM.
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Old Dec 25th, 2019, 07:50 PM
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Oh wow, that's pretty steep. We've stayed in Lower Mot Mot and Lower Casa Panorama; I think we paid less than that, but it is a wonderful spot.
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Old Dec 26th, 2019, 12:33 AM
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It really is! Having the first five so much less lowers the average but I still havenít checked into driver costs which probably isnít cheap either.

i have to say Iím surprised overall, I was told how very cheap CR is especially compared to say Hawaii. This so far is seeming to be more expensive than Paris. The most Iíve paid for a hotel (in memory) was almost 600 a night in Vancouver (Pan Pacific) in 2005. I stayed in 5 stars in Asia which were less. Oy!

I think Iíll hold out for the others. 600+ really is silly isnít it.
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Old Dec 26th, 2019, 02:08 PM
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No Costa Rica isn't a cheap destination; we've had several friends comment on that. You can save money by eating at local sodas, etc. but staying at the popular hotels can be pricey. Same with doing tours, going to the natural hot springs, etc. The tourist areas definitely have tourist pricing.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 08:38 AM
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Good morning everyone

As I must mentioned on AlessandraZoe's thread, I have zero zip planned other than plane tickets and a place to sleep, and I leave Friday. I'm assuming/hoping I can do a lot on the fly. I do have to get a driver to and from the airport and from one hotel to the next one.

I see the weather report, which at least shows me Friday-Wednesday which are my Arenal Observatory Lodge days. La Fortuna weather report. It looks like high 70s as a high and some rain. In general, did you find that you needed to pack anything warm for the evenings, in January? I don't know how far afield I will be going yet. I will at least pack a rain shell and have a rash guard hoodie, and, a jean jacket. Both there, and, Manuel Antonio (Quepos weather station, which for the Friday-Wednesday time period, which are NOT my days but at least the current trend, it looks like highs of low 70s.) I'm hoping this is going to be a sundress and sneakers /flip flop trip other than the aforementioned few layers. I do play to hike as much as I can, but I can do that in a sundress and sneakers. My running gear is all long legged and that may be too warm. I do have hiking pants, also long, but maybe will breath better than spandex.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 04:05 PM
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A high of low 70s for Manuel Antonio doesn't sound right. It's usually pretty hot there - high 80s, low 90s. We've needed AC every time we've gone. Arenal is usually pretty moderate, but it can get chilly or warm. We've had a day where we needed light jackets and it was quite windy. It's a little more unpredictable there. I usually pack something long-sleeved, one long pair of pants, and a light jacket just in case, along with shorts or capri type pants. You're smart to bring a rain jacket as well, much easier to use when you're hiking than an umbrella that would block your view and get tangled in things. For the most part you don't need anything dressy unless you're going to a particularly nice spot. I packed some dresses and heels for our first trip and never again, kind of impractical. A sundress would be fine.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by volcanogirl View Post
A high of low 70s for Manuel Antonio doesn't sound right. It's usually pretty hot there - high 80s, low 90s. We've needed AC every time we've gone. Arenal is usually pretty moderate, but it can get chilly or warm. We've had a day where we needed light jackets and it was quite windy. It's a little more unpredictable there. I usually pack something long-sleeved, one long pair of pants, and a light jacket just in case, along with shorts or capri type pants. You're smart to bring a rain jacket as well, much easier to use when you're hiking than an umbrella that would block your view and get tangled in things. For the most part you don't need anything dressy unless you're going to a particularly nice spot. I packed some dresses and heels for our first trip and never again, kind of impractical. A sundress would be fine.
thank you, I thought the temps seemed cool but it is the Quepos weather station. Is there a better weather station to reference?
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 02:39 PM
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I just looked on accuweather, and it says high of 92 degrees. It won't let me post the link for some reason.
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