Costa Rica-Itinerary

Oct 3rd, 2004, 06:18 PM
  #1  
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Costa Rica-Itinerary

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Costa Rica in January. We have decided to spend 4 days at Tabacon Hot Springs Lodge, 2 days at Vista del Valle hotel (near San jose) and then 4 days in Osa Penninsula. Does this sound like a smart itinerary? Are we missing out by not spending any time at the popular beach areas? We are doing this on our own and would appreciate advice!
TinaKeane is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2004, 06:48 PM
  #2  
 
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You have a very smart itinerary. Starting out in the Arenal area, then moving back down closer to the airport is a good idea. I am assuming you are flying to the Osa. Not many people choose to spend 6 days in the Arenal/Vista del Valle area, but there is really a lot to see and do, and the climate is so nice. You can do a lot of activites and have plenty of time to relax and slow down a bit as well. You can do "beach" on the Osa. Have a great time! January is a good travel month for CR.
shillmac is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2004, 06:51 PM
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Don't know about the other places but know Tabacon well!! You are also at Arenal Volcano when you are at Tabacon. Both are incredible, however 4 days is a lot. 2 days or 3 days max. You can spend the day at the hot springs and watch the volcano at night. It's a very cool place.
cordoba is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2004, 07:26 PM
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True, Tina is spending more time at Arenal than most people do, but still they can find interesting ways to spend the time.

1. Day trip to Cano Negro Reserve (January a perfect time to visit because of migrating birds)
2. If they have a rental vehicle, they can drive outside the immediate area and explore even as far as the Rio Sarapiqui and Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui (long day, but nice drive)
3. Venado Caverns, La Fortuna Waterfalls
4. Enjoy a "spa day" at Tabacon
5. Go horseback riding
6. Volcano hiking
7. Spend a day on Lake Arenal--try some windsurfing!
8. Canopy Tour (zip lines)
9. Hanging Bridges

shillmac is offline  
Oct 4th, 2004, 11:20 AM
  #5  
lvk
 
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As usual, Shillmac is right on. We spent 4 days at Arenal in August and don't regret it for a moment. There are plenty of things to do there. Also, I've talked to people who only stayed 2 days and never saw the top of the volcano or any lava flow. Check out www.arenal.net for more info on the Arenal area in general.

You'll be getting some great coastal time on the Osa Peninsula (it's on our list for next time ), so don't worry about missing the "popular beach areas". IMHO, Costa Rica's natural beauty goes way beyond the beaches.

You don't say what your interests are, or whether or not you'll be renting a car. If you decide to hire a driver, we highly recommend Oscar who works out of Vista del Valle and also freelances.



lvk is offline  
Oct 4th, 2004, 01:16 PM
  #6  
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Thanks. I haven't sorted out yet whether transfers or renting a car is the best bet for us. I'll keep Oscar's name in mind.

I'm thinking that you guys are right and maybe we should spend 2 days at the Tabacon Resort and then go to Monteverde for 2 days then 1 night at Vista del Valle before heading to Osa. Sound better?
TinaKeane is offline  
Oct 4th, 2004, 02:26 PM
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For us, 3 hotels over a 5 night period wouldn't appeal. But it's do-able.
shillmac is offline  
Oct 4th, 2004, 04:14 PM
  #8  
Iza
 
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I think the first plan you have is better if you are looking for more relaxation and slower pace. The second plan sounds doable but rather busy. Also keep in mind that you may have to spend the first and last nights near the international airport (depending on your arrival and departure times). Vista del Valle is a great small hotel and a wonderful way to start your vacation. We had mixed feelings about Tabacon (it tries very hard, and succeeds, to be a bland American style hotel and it has very little character) but the Arenal area is very nice and you will find plenty to do there - Shillmac's list of activities is right on. I am assuming you will be flying to Osa. Where are you staying on Osa?
Iza is offline  
Oct 5th, 2004, 12:36 PM
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I keep changing my mind. Are we missing out by not going to Monteverde? What about Los Angeles Cloud Reserve, I can do a day trip there from Vista del Valle, anyone ever been there?

TinaKeane is offline  
Oct 5th, 2004, 12:38 PM
  #10  
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And yes, we will be flying to Osa. We are staying ath the Bosque del Cabo, which I've heard great things about.
TinaKeane is offline  
Oct 5th, 2004, 12:56 PM
  #11  
lvk
 
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Tina,

Yes, you are missing out by not going to Monteverde. You're also missing out on Manuel Antonio, the Guanacaste Coastal region, the Caribbean Region, and countless other great areas of Costa Rica. The point is, there are lots of wonderful places to discover, just not all in one 10 day trip.

I know how you feel, you're not sure when you're going to get back there, so you would like to see as much as possible. However, this means you may spend most of your time packing, unpacking, checking in, checking out and driving from one place to the next, instead of enjoying what each area has to offer.

Although Monteverde and Arenal look pretty close on a map (I was fooled by this too), doing both in 4 days might be pretty strenuous.

Only you and your husband know what's best for you, but I would have to agree with Iza and Shillmac. Your first itinerary sounds much more enjoyable.

lvk is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 02:33 PM
  #12  
Iza
 
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Tina, we drove by Los Angeles and as far as distance is concerned it is very doable as a day trip from Vista del Valle. The surrounding area is very pretty too. I would consider it as a great alternative to Monteverde, especially if you are thinking about staying at Vista del Valle for a couple of days anyway. So maybe your itenarary should be something like this:
3 days Tabacon
3 days Vista del Valle
4 days Osa Penninsula
I think you would this very enjoyable itenara and relaxing.

And don't worry. Once you go to Costa Rica once, you will be hooked and you will return to visit other areas ;-)
Iza is offline  
Oct 6th, 2004, 03:18 PM
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Tina,
Above suggestions regarding Los Angeles Cloud Forest a good one. Also, I think it would save you a night if you did Tabacon-Osa-Vista del Valle in this order. That way, you would already be at a hotel near the airport (Vista del Valle) at the close of your vacation. Otherwise, won't you need to come back from the Osa a night early so you can stay near the airport before your departure flight out of San Jose? You would be "killing 2 birds with one stone", I believe. Such an ugly thought when discussing Costa Rica as a natural paradise!
shillmac is offline  
Oct 7th, 2004, 05:01 PM
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I have a pocket full of pennies and feel I must spend 2 cents - even though I'm the late entry here.

We arrived at Tabacon after staying elsewhere, and the wife had endured a raw/unpolished raft trip safari, I couldn't get her away from Tabacon. "Spoiled" isn't accurate, but you understand what I mean? We were meant to continue on to Monteverde and stay the next night there.

Tab's that nice of a place, however, you really should consider a couple of days for Monteverde and all the other relatively nearby options available.

Using Tabacon as a home base, a person could take a day trip across the lake and then wonder why they spent 1/3 to 1/2 of their day in transit.

When you schedule your daytime events in Arenal, please consider the early starts that are offered - as opposed to the afternoon departures. If it rains in January while you are there, it may rain in the afternoon, as it did for us in September. We were remiss in not following this guideline and got caught in warm rain when we wanted to use the camera.

Checking in at Tabacon, they will provide a "menu of activities" with times, costs, items to bring. See if you can get this list sent to you now. Then compare the prices when bypassing the hotel's markup and schedule with tour operators directly. Just an idea. Some people are insulated from cost and are comfortable paying the management fee.

Travelers who are not ordinarily "morning people" - or have major time zone differences from home vs. CR, should re-align their schedules and make the effort to start early.

Okay. I'm done. You'll have a great trip no matter where. Cheers!
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Oct 7th, 2004, 05:20 PM
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Thanks for all your help! I think I'm going to stay at Tabacon for the 4 days, they have day trips to Monteverde and I also have the option of going to Los Angeles . We also decided to rent a car so we have a little flexibility.

And, we are flying on an early flight from Osa to the airport and will then catch a late afternoon flight home to NY so we won't have to come back and spend a night in San Jose before we leave. I hope it works out...
TinaKeane is offline  
Oct 7th, 2004, 06:21 PM
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It will work out just fine! What a fun way to start the New Year! You guys enjoy every minute
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Oct 8th, 2004, 07:45 AM
  #17  
lvk
 
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Sounds Great! Hope you have a wonderful time and post a trip report when you return. Just a couple more tips:

TripleSecDelay had a good point about the tours. Since you have a car, check in La Fortuna with the tour companies. This can save you about $10 per person vs. booking with the hotel. (adds up after 4 days!) Sunset Tours, Aventuras Arenal and Jacamar are a few that I know.

We really enjoyed the zip lines at the Arenal Paraiso hotel. The guides were fun and the zip lines exciting. They took pictures so we didn't have to bring our camera. The CD of all the pictures costs $30 and there were over 200 pictures on it. We are very glad we did this.

There is a new zip line canopy tour in Arenal recommended on this board - Skytrek? You might want to check that out too.

lvk is offline  
Oct 8th, 2004, 04:08 PM
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Yes, SkyTrek has a fairly good website.
Be aware that some customers are paying $40-45 USD per person to take the SkyTram to the ziplines at SkyTrek - about 20 minutes(?) from Tabacon, within view of Volcan Arenal's non-active side. Don't pay any more, even if they "try to sell you a used car", okay?

The same company also offers hanging bridges at SkyWalk / SkyTram / SkyTrek in Monteverde.

When we were at the Arenal site of SkyTrek first week of September, they were completing the very last zipline - should be completed by the time TinaKeane arrives. (If that's a destination you select.) At this site, they use a handle braking system that is much safer than grabbing the cable with a gloved hand to slow your descent. Overall, this was an empowering experience for many in our group. 230 meters above ground? You betcha!! Again, please go early to beat the rain, if that's your time of year to visit CR.
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Oct 9th, 2004, 08:33 AM
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You have got a lovely trip planned. That said I would also like to add my two cents.

As far as going to Monteverde, even though I say often that it is not a day trip, people do do it. IMO Monteverde/Santa Elena deserves more than a couple of hours to really appreciate the area. You might want to rethink your reasons for even going to the two cloud forests you mentioned. Monteverde and even Los Angeles might not be worth the time and money for such a short time. If it is to get a comparison between the different types of forests, you will have plenty of opportunities from Arenal and V de V.

To give you some ideas....Hanging Bridges offers much of the same flora and fauna as the cloud forests further up because it is at a higher elevation and catches many of the same clouds as Monteverde and you have the hot springs after. The old lava beds are fascinating to me to hike on, and you have the hot springs after. Cano Negro is an awesome place for birds and some wildlife. You will be at the tail end of the rainy season and should still have enough water to possibly get a peek at the Jabiru stork. Potoos, wood storks, herons, kingfishers, caimens, monkeys....a great place to spend a relaxing day. And...if your bottom is sore from sitting in a boat, yep, you can sit in the hot springs after.

From V de V you can visit Poas and La Paz waterfalls for more cloud forests and see even more beautiful things like the waterfalls, butterflies, hummingbirds and a volcano!

Ecoscapes will give you the opportunity to see both cloud forests and rainforests in one day.

If your reason for going to Monteverde is to ride the zip line...Arenal has plenty of options for that.

If you have a car you will have a great opportunity to explore around Lagos Arenal. There is a great German Bakery on the main road that goes by the lake for a break. Windsurfing, fishing, another great idea.

As far as the beach time. Bosque offers a more relaxing, less crowded opportunity to enjoy them. It will be a long hot hike down to the shore but what an amazing amount of things you will see doing it! And, you can get a ride back up. The gulfo dulce trail is where we see the most wildlife as well as right behind the bar/pool area on the Trogon trail.

Enjoy!

Jessie_ is offline  
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