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alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 10:53 AM

Costa Rica itinerary and lodges -- please help
I have been dreaming about going to CR for a long time and I even posted questions in the past in this forum about CR but something always got in a way of going. Well, I finally have the tickets for June and I am very excited :). However, I am also confused by all the options. Please help!

We will have only seven days in CR due to the free ticket availability. Where should we go for our first trip? We have two adults and two boys who will be 8 and 9. We are going in the middle of June.

Our flight arrives at 3:30pm so we probably will have time to be driven away from San Jose to our first destination on the day of the arrival. Our flight home leaves at 4:30pm so we can also probably travel on that day as well from our last destination to the airport.

I would love to see the Osa Peninsula and visit the Arenal area. Do you think there is enough time for both? The kids would also probably enjoy staying at the peace lodge for a night but then fitting in all three would be too much? What would you recommend?

My main desire is for activities not to be more than 30 minutes from our hotels. It is a big plus if the hotels have their own hiking trails with wildlife or hanging bridges or hot springs nearby. For example, we loved Lamanai in Belize because we could do nature trails, go on the water or see the ruins in a matter of minutes.

I have compiled a list of hotels and lodges that sound appealing but the list is way too long so I really need your help with planning. My budget is relatively flexible.

RAC Sep 22nd, 2015 05:05 PM

Physically possible? Yes.
Advisable? I'm inclined to say no. Probably should pick one or the other.

Recommendation for Arenal is pretty easy--Arenal Observatory Lodge.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 05:43 PM

What about Arenal and Manuel Antonio? I guess that would involve too much driving in one week?

If we go just to Arenal, I would probably stay at two places. Arenal Observatory Lodge for wildlife and then somewhere closer to town for tours? Do you think that makes sense?

volcanogirl Sep 22nd, 2015 05:55 PM

I think the Arenal and Manuel Antonio combo is good. That's what I would do. Tulemar Bungalows in Manuel Antonio is a great place to stay, and they have their own beach. We did that combo for our first trip, and it was great. Both are great locations for young families. We've stayed at AOL and loved it for the wildlife. The Springs Resort and Spa is nice if you want upscale; we stayed there on a Groupon deal. Silencio del Campo is popular too.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 06:05 PM

Thank you, volcanogirl. The springs resort does not appeal to me. It looks like Disneyland :) But Tulemar Bungalows look great and are on the top of my list for MA. I wish I could do Osa and Arenal. Do you think three night in Osa is too short? Also have you ever considered flying from Arenal to MA?

volcanogirl Sep 22nd, 2015 06:48 PM

Ah, gotcha. I suggested it because you mentioned the Peace Lodge, and they have the same owners. You would probably really like AOL then. The wildlife is great like RAC said. Silencio del Campo has springs on site if that's important to you. Friends of ours just stayed there with their kids, and they loved it. I think you can do Arenal and the Osa if you give up the Peace Lodge portion.

The drive between Arenal and MA is pretty easy, so we've never flown it. I would fly to the Osa though if you decide to go there instead of MA. It's only about an hour from SJO if you fly. Bosque del Cabo is a great place to stay if you like hiking and wildlife. If you want a beach then maybe Iguana Lodge. MA will give you lots of restaurant choices; if you go to the Osa you would probably eat most of your meals at your lodge.

Patty Sep 22nd, 2015 07:33 PM

If you want the isolation of LOL, I wouldn't go to Manuel Antonio. But if that's not a priority, Tulemar has lots of wildlife on the property. I wouldn't go to 3 places in one week.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 07:38 PM

Thank you. So currently there are two options for us.

1) Arenal for three nights. Osa for four nights.
2) Arenal for six nights plus Peace lodge for one night.

With 1) I am concerned about several things:
* not having enough time at Arenal
* getting to Osa from Arenal in one day
* departing Osa on the same day as our international flight although our flight is at 4:30pm so not early at all

Which of the concerns do you think are valid?

For option 2) we would probably stay at AOL for three nights which would allow us wildlife viewing and then we would stay somewhere like Arenal Springs Resort or Los Gatos or Arenal Kioro Suites which would allow us to do adventure stuff -- hanging bridges, zip lining etc.

What do you think about option 2?

And which option would you choose?

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 07:40 PM

Los Lagos, of course, not Los Gatos

RAC Sep 22nd, 2015 07:46 PM

If you're doing Arenal, whynot Sarapiqui or Rio Celeste instead of Manuel Antonio, where you'd need to be driven in tourist vans to see anything outside your hotel's pool area?

Osa is a bare minimum 4 night destination-three full days. It's just not a place you do on a whirlwind schedule. The idea when going there is to soak it in and get away from 'civilization'--and it takes some effort and expense and planning to get there.

What I would do would be

Day 1: arrive, stay somewhere low key near airport
Day 2: catch early plane out to Osa.
Days 3-5: Osa
Day 6: catch flight back to SJO, check into Peace Lodge, enjoy the cool temperatures, explore waterfall gardens
Day 7: visit nearby Poas volcano early, some more time at Peace Lodge,then transfer to airport

RAC Sep 22nd, 2015 07:47 PM

Arenal is not a 6 night destination in my opinion. The Osa--you could easily spend a month there.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 07:50 PM

RAC, thank you for your suggestion. That is certainly an option I have considered and I actually already have prices from different lodges for exactly that option. However, I am worried that the boys will be disappointed they will not get to do any zip lining or hanging bridges. Is there a possibility to do something like that by Peace Lodge or on Osa without driving more than 30-45 minutes?

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 07:52 PM

RAC, you think we will be bored at Arenal even if our first 2-3 days are about wildlife and the last three days are about adventure? Hm...

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 07:53 PM

And for Osa, what do you think about Drake bay Wilderness Lodge? Their prices are more reasonable than BDQ or Lapa Rios and they are right on water, which is appealing.

volcanogirl Sep 22nd, 2015 08:09 PM

I feel the exact opposite of RAC; there's tons to do in the Arenal area that your kids would love. The Osa is primarily hiking and wildlife. We always stay about 4 nights in the Arenal area, and have gone several times and still not done it all. I think the boys might get bored on the Osa; I don't see it as a great destination for young kids. Our friends with young children have all loved the Arenal area. I think we spent three nights at BdC when we went, and that was about right for us.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 08:14 PM

volcanogirl, so out of my two options above, which one would you choose? or would you attempt the third option -- 3+4 night itinerary with Osa and Arenal? If you did Osa and Arenal, would you do 4 nights at Arenal and 3 nights at Osa or vice versa?

RAC Sep 22nd, 2015 08:29 PM

There are zip lines on both sides of the Osa--one near Drake Bay, the other near Puerto Jimenez. So, that problem is solved.

There's lots of stuff to do in Arenal, but very little you can't do somewhere else. And it is very, very, very touristy.

The Osa offers opportunities to explore the ocean, so you can snorkel to see everything from sea turtles to sharks, or go on boat trips to see whales and dolphins, explore remote beaches, kayak through mangroves, surf, etc.

Boys would LOVE The Night Tour with Tracey the Bug Lady.

Not trying to one-up Volcanogirl, but we've spent 13 nights in the Osa (4 in Drake Bay sandwiched around 2 at the Sirena ranger station on one trip, 3 each at Bosque del Cabo and Iguana Lodge sandwiched around one night at Bosque del Rio Tigre)--and didn't even scratch the surface.

volcanogirl Sep 22nd, 2015 08:35 PM

I would always pick more time in Arenal vs. time in the Osa because there's so much to do in the Arenal area. Regarding the Peace Lodge, have you looked at pics of it? You say that you don't want someplace Disneyish, and I really think the Peace Lodge kind of leans that way. I loved it, but if you lean away from Disney, it might not be your kind of place.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 08:58 PM

Volcanogirl, yes, I have seen the pictures. I think that one night of Disneyland before our trip home will be the right amount of Disneyland :) But we don't have to go there.

alisa23 Sep 22nd, 2015 08:59 PM

RAC, I understand but some of the trips you are describing will be too demanding for us. For example, the snorkeling trip to Cano Island would require too much time on the boat.

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