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schwing83 Nov 12th, 2012 10:33 AM

Costa Rica Itinerary Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Drake Bay
We are planning our honeymoon for April, and have around 11 days (including travel). We would like to do Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, and possibly the Drake Bay/Corcovado area. Would something like this be feasible? We are thinking of renting a car.

Day 1: Arrive around noon, drive to Paos, stay first night here. Is it possible to see the crater/Butterfly Waterfall on this afternoon or early the next morning?

Day 2: Drive to La Fortuna / Arenal in the morning. Overnight Arenal.

Day 3: Arenal

Day 4: Arenal activity in the morning, drive to Monteverde in the afternoon.

Day 5: Monteverde

Day 6: Drive from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio

Day 7: Manuel Antonio

Day 8: Manuel Antonio

Day 9: Drake Bay - Day trip to Corcovado

Day 10: Drake Bay - Day trip to Cano Island

Day 11: drive to San Jose / fly out OR Fly from Drake Bay to San Jose. The latest flight we can get is 3pm.

Would you spend more/less time in any of these areas?

Would you recommend staying in Paos on the first night or skip it and drive straight to Arenal/La Fortuna/Monteverde?

Would it make more sense to do Monteverde first, THEN go to Arenal? If so, should we wait until AFTER Arenal to rent a car then drive to Manuel Antonio?

Has anyone been to both Monteverde and the Los Angeles Cloud Forest? Is one significantly better than the other?

Is it possible to do the day trips from Drake Bay to Corcovado and Cano Island?

If we had to skip one, should we skip Monteverde or Drake Bay?

Any other tips are greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

RAC Nov 12th, 2012 11:19 AM

Four destinations in 11 days is too much.

For example, you have Day 8 as Manuel Antonio but Day 9 being a day trip to Corcovado from Drake Bay. It's a full day travel from Manuel Antonio to Drake Bay.

To address your questions/itinerary days in order:

Day 1. You can almost be guaranteed you won't see the Poas crater in the afternoon--any time after 10:30 in the morning it is likely to be clouded over. However, you could visit the La Paz waterfall gardens. But that would depend on what time you actually arrive, clear immigration and customs and baggage claim, pick up car, get oriented, eat lunch etc.

I would probably just choose a hotel and settle in for the day, and then hit Poas early the next morning on the way to Arenal. Orquideas Inn is at the cross-roads to both Arenal and Poas--we've stayed there twice and found it to be a great value (nice grounds, pool, good food, large room for $99). If you're looking for something more honeymoonish, look at Xandari.

That is of course, if you're going to Arenal.

Which 3 out of the 4 destinations you prioritize is very, very much subjective. There's no objective way to judge between seeing a quetzal in flight and enjoying beach time.

You can do day tours to Corcovado and Cano Island from Drake Bay--most people do just that. Boat tour to Sirena ranger station is probably the best bet.

If you do Drake, I would probably take Manuel Antonio off the list instead--but that's a hard call. Manuel Antonio has more modern hotels (with all levels of pricing)and a wide variety of restaurants. Drake Bay has more expensive lodges where you eat at the lodge with the other guests. But you're right on the ocean, and certainly don't feel like you're in Florida or Southern California. Drake Bay is much wilder, off the grid, feels like a real adventure. Manuel Antonio is kind of Costa Rica 101--gives you a feel for the place without taking you outside of your comfort zone.

Drake Bay also has the famous Night Tour with Tracy the Bug Lady.

If you do Drake, I would strongly recommend just flying in/out. You wouldn't use your car at all there, and it's a looong way to get there.

No idea on comparison between Los Angeles Cloud Forest and Monteverde--of course more tourist infrastructure and more tours available at Monteverde, and quetzals.

Arenal--again kind of like Manuel Antonio, it's Costa Rica 101, with volcano and adventure activities instead of beach and sloths+monkeys at the national park in Manuel Antonio. Wide variety of accomodations including luxury/honeymoon type places, plus restaurants, tours etc.

Shorter version: pick which three places have the most appeal for you in totality (experience, budget, attractions, lodging, food)--you can build an itinerary out of any combination of three places.

schwing83 Nov 13th, 2012 04:51 AM

Thanks RAC!

I think we are leaning towards skipping Monteverde to dedicate more time in the south and have a more relaxing time in Arenal. It seems like many of the activities we would be interested in doing in Monteverde can also be done in Arenal or Manuel Antonio.

A few more questions before I try and rework the days:

Is it possible to stay in Dominical or Uviat area while visiting Manuel Antonio? Or is it better to have a hotel in each place?

That being said, for seeing any of Osa, would you recommend:
-- Staying in Drake Bay and doing day trips
-- Flying to Puerto Jimenez
-- Doing day trips from Dominical/Uviat to Drake Bay/Corcovado/Cano Island
-- Having a hotel in Manuel Antonio, then moving south to Drake Bay and doing day trips

I'm wondering if it will make the most sense to have a hotel in Arenal, then a hotel in Manuel Antonio, then move to Drake Bay....Or if it is possible to do hotel in Arenal and hotel in Dominical/Uviat with day trips to Osa. I don't want to make the traveling to Drake Bay/Osa too extreme, if we are skipping Monteverde I want it to be worth it and I don't want us to be too exhausted to get there!

Will we want or need a car in Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Dominical or Osa?

Is the driving and scenery you see along the way a part of the experience that we would miss if we took only flights?


volcanogirl Nov 13th, 2012 08:00 AM

I agree with RAC; three locations is about right for your time frame. Monteverde is the one I would pass on unless you really want to see the cloud forest or are really into birding. I wouldn't plan on doing day trips to the Osa, better to just stay there. We usually only fly to areas that are more difficult to get to like the Osa or Tortuguero. We flew from SJO to Puerto Jimenez and were then picked by our lodge; in the short drive to the lodge we encountered herds of cows in the road, small streams to drive through, road construction, and trees across the road - I was glad we weren't driving. Most people feel comfortable driving everywhere else, and the scenery can be really impressive. We usually use private drivers to go between towns and taxis once we get there, but since Arenal is spread out a lot of people like to have a car there. Manuel Antonio is much more compact; we were able to walk to a lot of restaurants, and tours will pick you up and drop you back off. On the Osa, we ate all of our meals at our lodge and used them for tours.

RAC Nov 13th, 2012 09:44 AM

The only way to see the Osa really is to stay in the Osa.

We did Drake Bay plus two nights inside Corcovado in 2011. This February we're doing Puerto Jimenez and Cabo Matapalo on the other side of the peninsula. Generally, Drake seems to be a bit more of the adventure side, whereas Puerto Jimenez/Matapalo side seems to be more traditionally honeymoonish/luxury places--though that's a very fuzzy line--there's plenty of luxury places in Drake, and adventure activities on the other side.

Sounds like skipping Monteverde is the way you're headed, which makes sense.

I believe you can visit Uvita/Dominical from Manuel Antonio.

If you're going to the Osa, it would probably make sense to not rent a car and probably get a private driver for the trip to the Osa and then fly out.

What would probably make sense would be:

Day 1: Arrive, settle in, relax,

Day 2: Get a very early start, stop by Poas for a few hours in the morning, then proceed to Arenal area.

Days 3-4: Arenal area (choose activities per your preferences)

Day 5: head to Manuel Antonio

Days 6-7: Manuel Antonio

Day 8: Proceed to Osa peninsula

Days 9-10: Osa activities (Cano Island, Sirena, etc)

Day 11: Fly back to SJO, and then catch flight back to USA.

Of course, a credible argument could be made to just settle on two destinations--maybe Arenal or Manuel Antonio plus the Osa. Even cutting down to three destinations, still quite a bit of time lost to travel. Out of 11 days, you'd be traveling on Days 1, 2, 5, 8, and 11.

Of course, as an alternative, especially if you have a private driver instead of renting, you could just head straight to Arenal on your first day and just skip Poas.

volcanogirl Nov 13th, 2012 10:23 AM

You could consider staying somewhere near Poas your first night instead of staying near SJO. The Peace Lodge is very honeymoonish, but if it's too pricey there are other places. It's only about an hour from the airport and then you could hit Poas first thing in the morning and maybe visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

schwing83 Nov 13th, 2012 03:47 PM

Thanks everyone!

I'm still having a hard time getting a handle on the Osa Peninsula.

If we do Arenal, then stay in Manuel Antonio, do most people prefer to see and do Osa from Drake Bay or further in and down the peninsula towards Puerto Jimenez/Matapalo?

I definitely like the sound of doing Cano Island and seeing Corcovado, maybe horseback riding or fishing (although I've noticed the fishing trips look pricey)...we will also want some relaxing time at the lodge or beach since it will be the last days of the honeymoon. Any thoughts on which area might suit us better? Is Drake Bay significantly easier to transport to and from and therefore due to our time schedules may be easier?

Will Drake Bay still give us a similar taste of wildlife/remote beaches/activity that Puerto Jimenez/Matapalo would? I'm wondering if Drake Bay will not be different enough from the Manuel Antonio area to warrant a change - and therefore Puerto Jimenez/Matapalo would be more worth it?

Thanks so much again!

RAC Nov 13th, 2012 04:02 PM

Drake Bay will be more like Puerto Jimenez than either would be like Manuel Antonio, guaranteed.

Drake and Puerto Jimenez both draw from the same group of tourists.

You can do a beach more easily at Puerto Jimenez (look at the Iguana Lodge).

But, for a one day trip, Drake Bay is the place to visit Corcovado as well as Cano Island--due to ocean currents/waves, you can only boat into Corcovado from the Drake side, not the Puerto Jimenez side.

I would do the beach time at Manuel Antonio--that's the main draw over the Osa actually (beaches are more remote and the surf rougher in the Osa).

Before committing to the Osa, I would price out the kind of places you want to stay at. There can be some sticker shock involved--rates for high end places range from $400 to $700 or even more per room per night (includes meals, but still . . . )

volcanogirl Nov 13th, 2012 06:41 PM

Anywhere you go in the Osa is going to be way more off the grid than Manuel Antonio. MA is more developed, and the Osa has a more wild natural feeling. We like Bosque del Cabo near Puerto Jimenez. Here's a video to give you an idea of what the area is like.

kernmedia Feb 28th, 2013 05:54 PM

Highly recommend the Osa Peninsula for the private beaches. There's awesome snorkeling and scuba diving and Nat Geo labels it as the most intense biological place in the world or something. See more at

fcfarmgirl Mar 2nd, 2013 07:17 PM

We stayed at La Paloma Lodge in Drake Bay for our 10th anniversary. Their packages typically include a day trip by boat to Corcovado and a day trip to Cano Island. La Paloma was fantastic, and we enjoyed both of the tours offered. It would be a great place to honeymoon.

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