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Costa Rica itinerary - 4.5days, midDecember

Old Nov 1st, 2005, 08:13 AM
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Costa Rica itinerary - 4.5days, midDecember

Hi-
Been around Fodors for a couple months, brand new to the Latin America board!

My husband and I are headed to Costa Rica next month for 5days/4nights. We're flying in and out of San Jose, and we're not real beachy people. First trip to Latin America, really excited about the jungle and animals. We are not into luxury, and are hoping to make this a reasonably-priced trip, we don't want to go overboard.

Here's what we're thinking:
Arrive in San Jose midday. Drive to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Stay there for 2 days. Do river cruise, the reserves. Then head to Arenal for 2 days. Do the volcano, Tabacon hot springs, canopy tour, maybe Cano Negro. Drive back to San Jose.

Does this sound ok? Is there enough to do in Puerto Viejo to make it worth it?

Any suggestions on where, and what type of car, to rent a vehicle? I have heard most of the roads are dirt roads - do I need to get a 4-wheel drive vehicle?

How's the food? My belly is kind of picky. Would I be wise to bring some Immodium? Anything else I should know about food/drink?

Other suggestions were Tortuguero and Tamarindo/Flamingo beach, but I think these would be too difficult with flights.

Any input/suggestions are much appreciated.

Thanks!
BostonGal is offline  
Old Nov 2nd, 2005, 08:43 AM
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I read more of the books last night, and I'm not quite sure why Puerto Viejo was suggested to me.. the info I read didn't really appeal to me.

I wonder now if we should do Monteverde instead? Or some other 2-night destination that I have not yet thought about.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2005, 11:22 AM
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Just clicked on and noticed you hadn't received any suggestions yet...Perhaps for your first trip, take a look at Arenal, Monteverde,and Manuel Antonio. You should see many animals and a variety of Costa Rican landscape. You should really look at what hotels you are interested in because December starts the busy season. You will want to book ahead because all the hotels seem to fill up quick these days. Costa Rica is the hot travel spot right now.
Best of Luck!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2005, 09:01 AM
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Thank you surfexec - I am looking into hotels now!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2005, 11:32 PM
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BostonGal,
Perhaps a 4 day trip with Arenal for 2 days, Manuel Antonio for two days? You'd have "jungle and animals" that way as well. Depending on the time of your return flight, you could drive from MA to SJO the day you depart (about a 3.5 hour dirve?) IF your flight is afternoon or later. The road from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is paved, not dirt; nevertheless, my son was glad for a 4 wheel drive car (Gran Vitara). Many folks on Fodors recommend Tricolor rental car.
It surely can't hurt to bring immodium, but people I know who've been to CR haven't had tummy probs.
Note that I've NOT yet been to CR so this reply is based on experiences of my kids' trip there, research for myself, and LOTS of reading on Fodors Latin America board!
Hopefully some of the Fodors CR specialist people in addition to surfexec will post ideas for you.
Good luck, and happy planning!
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Old Nov 4th, 2005, 12:27 PM
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Thanks CaliNurse-
Our return flight leaves San Jose at 3pm, so indeed we'd have time to drive back from MA.
Thanks for the input - at this point, I think I just have to take what I can get with availability!
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Old Nov 4th, 2005, 07:27 PM
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I think your original plan of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and Arenal is just perfect for a 5 day/4 night trip to Costa Rica. They are fairly close together but quite different in what they have to offer. Do you really want to spend the majority of your vacation in a car traveling from one place to another?

Manuel Antonio and Monteverde are extremely time-consuming to get to unless you fly. Both required several days to really experience all they have to offer. I think you should save them both for your next visit (and there WILL be a next visit, I believe!).

The Sarapiquí area has plenty of interesting places to visit and things to do. Just driving there, up and over the mountains is a rewarding experience, and once you get there, you won´t be bumping into other tourists everywhere you go, either! Visit La Selva Biological Station or Tirimbina, both spectacular and under-visted, and then enjoy a leisurely float up the Sarapiquí River. This is the REAL Costa Rica, beautiful and abundant in wildlife. Kids and animals will come down to the riverside to watch you float by.
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Old Nov 5th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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I agree with raderbarbarian that Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui region is a great place to visit! Manuel Antonio is as well, but will be so crowded next month. Also, keep in mind that you are going to give up the better part of one of your days making the transfer from Arenal to MA (about 6 hours).

That entire area north of San Jose from Arenal over to PVdS is fabulous and so very Costa Rican! You can really get a feel for life in this wonderful place in and around the small villages and roadside stops as you travel between Arenal and PVdS.

Stop for a few hours (1.5 would do it) at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, see Poas Volcano in the early morning --by 8:00 a.m.(so very different from Arenal--you look right down into the crater). It is very near La Paz, allowing you to do both before noon, unless you want to linger--and you may!

DEFINITELY book a tour through La Selva Biological Reserve--it will be a highlight of your trip. It's just south a few km from the town of PVdS. Take a jungle boat cruise down the Sarapiqui (you board at the river's edge there in PVdS). You can combine these 2 activities as well one day.

Check out Pozo Azul on the internet and see if it is something you might be interested in.

Stop at the roadside hummingbird gallery between La Selva and La Paz (a great place for a snack as you watch the many many hummers with a gorgeous waterfall in the background).

Stop by the Doka Coffee Plantation (about 30 min from airport) for a tour and don't forget to bring some home! Your coffee loving friends would be very happy with this little memento! In fact, this would be a good thing to do your last day before arriving at the airport. There is a 9:30 tour, I think. And coffee bean picking might be in full swing!

You will be so darned amazed with this entire area. If the beach is not a big deal to you this trip, I'd sure opt to stay right there in that north central/Caribbean slope area and take it all in. Just perfect for 4 days.

In the PVdS area, both La Quinta de Sarapiqui and Selva Verde are good places to stay. I think meals are included at Selva Verde. Breakfast is included at La Quinta.
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Old Nov 5th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Just another short note--you are very lucky not to be leaving until 3:00--this gives you many options. You could do the Poas/LaPaz tours that day easily. Start at Poas, head over to La Paz about 9:30. Leave by 11:00 for the airport--45 minute drive.

You could also do one of the activites (not sure if both would be pushing it) that last morning, then enjoy the drive back down toward San Jose through Braulio Carillo Parque Nacional--there are some breathtaking vistas. The only problem I can think of with that is that if you are a first time visitor and not familiar with getting through or around San Jose, it could absolutely cost you a lot of time figuring it out. Second thought, the first suggestion was a better one--or the Doka Plantation! You can see that part another time!

Good luck--have a wonderful trip to this land of Pura Vida!
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Old Nov 7th, 2005, 06:08 AM
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shillmac & radarbarbarian -
THANK YOU - you have eased my mind!! I just heard back, and I think we're heading straight from our flight to Sarapiqui for 2 nights, and then to Arenal for 2 nights.
I wasn't sure if that was the best route to go with the time we had, but you definitely are making me feel better about the decision. And thanks for all the suggestions - I knew of a few, but certainly not all.
I appreciate all your help!
BostonGal is offline  
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