Costa Rica Itinerary

Old May 16th, 2018, 09:04 AM
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Costa Rica Itinerary

My husband and I are going to Costa Rica in September, and I thought I'd run the itinerary by you before everything is nailed down - see what you all think. We are mid-40, just my husband and I on the trip. I've been to CR before about 5 years ago, This will be my husband's first trip. We both speak Spanish. I wanted to create an itinerary that wasn't too rushed, but still allowed us to see a variety of things in the country. I think this is a pretty good balance between moving around to see different areas, while still allowing time to relax and hang out.

Here's the itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive at SJO mid day, rent a car, drive to La Fortuna, stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge

Days 2-4: La Fortuna area
We plan to take a couple hikes at AOL, visit mystico hanging bridges, spend an afternoon at Ecothermales, do some ziplining (haven't decided where). Not sure what else we will do - we don't want to pack our itinerary too much, but like having ideas in our back pocket. We want to make sure there's still time to hang out by the pool, or on the deck with a beer watching the birds.

Day 5: Morning - drive from La Fortuna to Braulio Carillo NP, stay at Tapirus Lodge. Afternoon at Braulio Carillo NP - guided hike

Day 6: Morning at Rainforest Adventures aerial tram and ziplining. Afternoon drive to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side. Stay at Banana Azul.

Days 7-9: Puerto Viejo and Caribbean coast
Our plan is to visit Cahuita NP, Kekoldi Indigenous reserve, Caribbeans coffee and chocolate tour, poke around the towns of Cahita and Puerto Viejo, relax on the beach and by the pool a bit at the hotel. We probably have time for more things - we'll see how it unfolds, but want to make sure we have time for hanging out.

Day 10: Mid-day drive to San Jose/Alajuala, return car. We don't have a hotel reserved yet, but will stay someplace close to the airport - probably in Alajuela.

Day 11: Early morning flight home

So that's it. I think it will be a pretty nice introduction to CR for my husband - see a fair amount without being too rushed. We're staying away from the Pacific side since it will be September and especially rainy on that side. My previous visit was on the Pacific side, so all of our destinations will be new to me as well. I wanted to add Tortuguero to the itinerary, but felt it would make it too rushed - next time.
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Old May 16th, 2018, 01:45 PM
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Color me skeptical about an afternoon hike in Braulio Carrillo--almost guaranteed that there will be rain and fog then. Personally I'd go with Sarapiqui area as a stopover between Arenal and Pto Viejo--not that it doesn't rain there, but warmer, generally better lodging available, and you're not guaranteed of rain. Plus, quite a variety of tours to choose from.

I'd recommend hiring Abel Bustamante as a guide for Cahuita, and also that you check out Manzanillo (we saw more there than at Cahuita).

Hotel Bougainvillea works great as a place for a first or last night place for people visiting the Caribbean coast--about 20-30 minutes from the airport and very close to the Caribbean highway.
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Old May 16th, 2018, 02:58 PM
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We love AOL. Don't forget they have a free guided hike every morning at 8:30. They also have a new viewing tower called The Nest if you want to go up in it - have to have a guide with you; it gives you some nice views. I like Eco Termales, but I'd do it in the evening so you can do other activities during the day, kind of nice to go once it's cooled off a bit. We did something new on our most recent trip - the Bogarin Trail - great place to see sloths - we saw five! Also caimans, poison dart frogs, an owl, and red-eyed tree frogs. It's right near the Catholic church. They have a bird feeding station at the end where they put out fruit. We saw a crake there which was a new one to us. Sometimes toucans there. I'd recommend the fruit smoothies at AOL for when you're out on the deck - very tasty. The Fortuna waterfall is a nice little hike if you have time, very pretty.
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Old May 16th, 2018, 03:00 PM
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We like the Sarapiqui area too that RAC mentioned; we stayed at Selva Verde and loved it for the amazing wildlife - lots of toucans, poison dart frogs, etc. And we did a fun boat trip on the river where we saw crocs, lots of monkeys, and some cool birds.
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Old May 16th, 2018, 03:36 PM
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Thanks for the recommendations.

I originally chose Braulio Carillo NP to break up the drive from Arenal to the coast so we could see that park and do the aerial tram and ziplining at Rainforest Adventures. But, we plan to also do the aerial tram and ziplining around La Fortuna so we don't necessarily have to do that twice. I think staying in the Sarapiqui area and doing a boat trip would be excellent. We don't have any boating planned for this trip. Selva Verde looks like a really neat place. I will read up on that area.

Regarding the choice of going to Ecothermales in the afternoon or the evening, I had originally thought about the evening for the reasons you mentioned, but I was concerned about driving back to AOL after dark. I'm fine driving at night in rural areas - I have lots of experience with that - but most of the information about CR says to avoid night driving. And with AOL being 20km from Ecothermales, I was hesitant. If the road is decent, then I wouldn't mind saving the thermal springs for the evening.
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Old May 17th, 2018, 04:33 AM
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Could I please ask how much the lodges are? We are also a couple who will visit later in the year. Thanks
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Old May 25th, 2018, 07:38 AM
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I've been looking into substituting Sarapiqui for the Braulio Carillo stop, and the more I look at it, the more I like the idea. And Selva Verde looks great. I'd really like to do a boat tour on the river - do you think it would be better to do a boat tour on the afternoon we arrive or the next morning before we head off to the Caribbean side? I'm thinking the next morning - cooler, less chance of rain, more active animals. We could do the boat tour in the morning, have some lunch, and then head off to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - I think that drive is about 3.5 hours, so if we left Sarapiqui by 1 or so, we'd have plenty of time to make the drive before dark. That leaves the afternoon we arrive free. Any ideas about what to do that afternoon? La Fortuna to Serapiqui is only a couple hours drive, so we'll have a decent amount of time available.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 09:00 AM
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I tend not to do things the afternoon we arrive because you can get delayed, and I don't want to feel rushed, so I would lean towards doing it the next morning. That being said, we did it at 2:00 in the afternoon and still saw all the wildlife I mentioned above, so I think you would be good either way. The boat guides didn't speak much English, but they would point out the animals and name them. They have all kinds of guided hikes at Selva Verde - morning birding, afternoon hikes, night hikes, so you could explore doing those too if it works with your schedule.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 09:01 AM
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Also meant to add that there's a new road between the Sarapiqui area and La Fortuna, really cuts the travel time, and the road is in good shape.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 02:07 PM
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I split my time between AOL and La Fortuna town in order to be closer to the Falls and to Baldi which is the cheap hot springs in town..still fun.. quieter as you walk to the back vs up near the street. Don't eat there, though.. and the water slide is very fast!
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Old May 30th, 2018, 07:15 AM
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Hello, this year me and my family are going to hire a yacht and sail from Panama to Costa Rica, any suggestions?
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Old May 30th, 2018, 07:35 AM
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Kate, it's probably best for you to just google the lodges and see the rates; they can change based on season, time of year, room type, etc. That will give you the latest information.
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Old May 30th, 2018, 07:38 AM
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nm, you're right; the road to AOL is unlit, long, and bumpy so maybe best not to do it after dark. It is a straight shot right off the main road with no other turns so you wouldn't get lost, but it might be hard to see at night. Other option is to take a taxi, but that would run about $30.
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Old May 30th, 2018, 09:31 AM
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The road to AOL might be rutted enough to shake the fillings out of your teeth, but not especially hazardous. However if there's been a lot of rain..then potholes (and wildlife and people walking on the roadways) make driving anywhere at night dodgy. Then there is the inability of GPS to get you where you need to go...and the lack of addresses....
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Old May 30th, 2018, 09:40 AM
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Thanks for the advice - especially about driving at night to AOL. Splitting our stay to stay a night in town might be a good idea - something to consider. I am not worried about finding my way from La Fortuna to AOL after dark - like you say, it is a straight shot, plus we will have driven the road at least a couple times in the day light already and I am used to driving in rural mountain areas without good signage, so that's not a problem - but rough road in the rain might be a challenge.
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Old Jun 1st, 2018, 07:30 AM
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You probably saw on my other post, but the Sarapiqui area was hit by some kind of tornadic weather event. La Selva sent us an email about it, and that area looks very hard hit with hundreds of downed trees, bridges, electrical wires, etc. Would be good to check with them if you plan on going to that area. Hopefully there will be a swift recovery. It's only been a couple of weeks.
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Old Jun 11th, 2018, 03:10 PM
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Yes, I did see that they had a heck of a storm there. Our trip isn't until September, so we are good.
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Old Jun 12th, 2018, 10:03 AM
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I'm looking forward to your trip report already.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 10:16 AM
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Here are some of the places I went to: La Selva Biological Station, Trimbina Rainforest, Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, Monteverde Reserve, Tarcoles River Adventure.

For your consideration.
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Old Jun 24th, 2018, 06:02 AM
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We just got another email update from La Selva; so far they have 1,000 trees down but they're making really good progress at getting the trails cleared.
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