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Costa Rica itinerary questions... first timers need HELP!

Costa Rica itinerary questions... first timers need HELP!

Old Mar 15th, 2004, 10:49 AM
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Costa Rica itinerary questions... first timers need HELP!

Hello,
Firstly, I want to thank everyone who have answered my other posts. I've been reading my guide book (Lonely Planet) & the posts here, & have come up with a list of what we would like to do. We (family of 4) have never been to Costa Rica. Will have 7 full days, excluding travel days, & will travel in June or Aug. Want to see the highlights on this trip, & would like to split the trip between relaxing beach time at pretty beaches with swimming and/or snorkeling (we are not surfers or divers), & seeing the rainforests, volcanoes, canopy tour. I appreciate opinions and advice on how to narrow down our itinerary. We like to spend 2-3 days at each place, & obviously have to consider travel time between each destination. Have decided not to go to Caribbean side or southern CR this trip.

1) Definitely want to go to Manuel Antonio - how many days should we spend there? Are there any canopy tours in MA?
2) Would love to go to Arenal to see the volcano, rainforest, hot springs. Some posters seem to think Aug is not a good time to visit Arenal because of the rain. What do others think? Would it rain all day or only couple of hours in afternoon or evening?
3) Also interested in the beaches at Guanacaste. How long does it take to get from MA to Guanacaste beaches?
4) La Paz waterfalls & butterfly farm sound great, too. How does it rate compared to other sights?
5) Has anyone been on Rainmaker Canopy Tour near Quepos? or the Rainforest Aerial tram near Braulio Carrillo? Is one better than the other?
6) Also interested in Monteverde & Santa Elena & the sky walk.

I apologize for all the questions. As you can see, I need help in paring down the itinerary!
Thanks for any advice/suggestions!
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Old Mar 15th, 2004, 11:39 AM
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Dear Kwoo,
7 full days will only allow you 2-3 places. It will be a mistake to try and do more with this type of schedule. For first timers, I always think that Arenal, Central Valley and Manuel Antonio is a wining combination. You can have it all on one trip, but don't worry, you will love it so much, you will be back for more...
A logical schedule would be something like this:
first and last night near SJ.
2 nights Arenal (national park, hot springs, la Fortuna), 2 nights Central Valley (Poas, canopy tour, Turubari park, Carara park to name a few), and 3 nights Manuel Antonio (national park, beaches, relaxing, Quepos).
Feel free to write me directly for any more questions or information. I also recommend you look at an old post "some thoughts about planning a trip to Costa Rica", you may find it helpful planning your trip.
Pura Vida,
Neta Talmor
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Old Mar 15th, 2004, 11:40 AM
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With only 7 full days, and knowing you are comfortable with moving around a lot, maybe spend 2 nights at Arenal, 2 nights at Monteverde and 3 nights at Manuel Antonio. Although, you can see just as much wildlife if not more in Manuel Antonio as you can Monteverde. Considering the hardest road you will travel is the road to Monteverde, you may want to skip this portion of the trip. It really is not a great time of year for Monteverde. It will be very wet. It may be wet in Arenal too, but you can still enjoy the hot springs! If you were to skip Monteverde, you could add a night to Manuel Antonio and a night at La Paz Waterfall./Gardens.
There are three canopy tours in MA. Canopy Safari, Dream Forest and Rainmaker. Rainmaker is a walking tour on suspended bridges, the other two are 'Tarzan' style.
From MA to northern beaches will take anywhere from 5 hours on up, so I don't know if you'd want to go there on this trip or not, unless you skip MA, which I would not miss for a first time visit to the country. Plus at the time of year you are going, you will miss most of the crowds that this area attracts.
The caribbean side will have more rain this time of year, as will southern CR, so I'd save those areas for another trip too.
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Old Mar 15th, 2004, 01:11 PM
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Are your 7 days including or excluding first and last nights which you probably will have to spend near SJ? As usual Neta and Ally have good suggestions but if you only have a week and have to spend first and last night near SJ then you really just have 5 other night which means 2 destinations at the most. Arenal (2 nights) and MA (3 nights) is a great combination for the first time visit. Arenal visibility in August (and during the rainy season generally) is not predictable (on our first visit there we had rain, fog and clouds for 2 whole days) but that area is very beautiful anyway and should not be missed. I myself love Guanacaste but I still think that MA is a better destination for the first timer.
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Old Mar 15th, 2004, 04:57 PM
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Thanks to Neta, Ally & Iza for your helpful suggestions. I think we would eliminate Monteverde from this trip since people think it is difficult to get to and will be very rainy.

Unless our plans change, we will have 8 nights/9 days. I know there is a flight from Boston that arrives in San Jose at 12:40pm so I am hoping we will have time to make it to our first destination for the first night. Most likely we will have to spend our last night in San Jose. So we should have 7 nights to play with.

I'm thinking a possible itinerary would be MA, Arenal/hot springs and then Poas/La Paz. How long does it take to travel from MA to Arenal? And from Arenal to Poas? I know the drive from San Jose to MA is about 3 1/2 hours, and from Poas to San Jose is 2 hours.

Maybe we will leave out Guanacaste from this trip since it takes a long time to get there, and we will have our beach time in MA.

I appreciate any more help anyone can give. Thanks!


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Old Mar 16th, 2004, 06:29 AM
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Kwoo, sounds like you have a good plan now. If your flight arrives before 1pm that should give you enough time to drive to Arenal the first day (if you set off by 2:30 you should be in good shape). Then spend 2-3 nights there and then drive to MA to spend 3-4 nights there. It may be a good idea to spend the last 2 nights near SJ and do a day trip to La Paz and Poas during your last day. Let us know if you need hotel recommendations and have a wonderful trip!
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Old Mar 16th, 2004, 01:23 PM
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I would do exactly what Iza would do, with the possible exception of La Paz. If your flight leaves San Jose Later than 2:00pm I'd stay at Peace Lodge at La Paz. If not, then somewhere closer to the airport. Keep in mind that La Paz is about an hour from the airpiort and you need to be at the airport two hours before your flight.
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Old Mar 16th, 2004, 04:12 PM
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Thanks everyone for all your helpful suggestions.

How far is Villas Nicolas from MA?

What would Peace Lodge cost for a family of 4? It might be out of our price range. We usually pay around $90 - 130. Can anyone recommend a hotel near Poas? We don't need a lot of amenities but like a clean, fairly attractive hotel in a good location.

People seem to like Arenal Paraiso. Any other suggestions?

Thank you so much!



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Old Mar 16th, 2004, 04:52 PM
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Orquideas Inn is right on the road to Poas and they have a tour desk with drivers ready to go right there. I used Luis just recently and we made the day up as we went along. It is just outside Alajuela. The outside walls are quite colorful. The rooms themselves are pretty basic but clean and they were just finishing up wiring for tv so should have tv in the rooms now. There is a nice sized pool, a pair of Toucans, a couple of macaws. The food was good and everything well kept up.
For a place just slightly closer to San Jose (they even have free hourly shuttles into the city), Hotel Bougainvillea would be a good option. Of course there is the Hampton Inn Suites right there by the airport, not my kind of place but have heard it is nice.
I would definitely vote for Arenal Paraiso.
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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 09:36 AM
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I 'second' the recommendation of Arenal Paraiso and Orquideas. But, I have stayed at Orquideas Inn several times and in the past, children under a certain age were not allowed. The hotel changes owners since I've been so I don't know what the policy is now. Suzie has been there since the owner change...maybe she saw kids there?
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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 09:47 AM
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Didn't see any kids but didn't see any signs not allowing any either. Their web site does have prices for children.
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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 11:11 AM
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Hello,
My daughters are 23 and 21 so I don't have to worry about hotels not allowing children.

How far is Orquidas Inn from Poas and La Paz? What town is it in? I'd like to try & find it on my map. Thanks.

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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 11:42 AM
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Orquideas is in Alajuela. About 15 minutes from the airport. I have never gone to La Paz or Poas from there but plan to on my next trip in May. I asked the same question to Suzie about drive time from La Paz and she says about 30 minutes, maybe 45. I don't know how much further to Poas.
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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 12:09 PM
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Hello Ally & Suzie2,
Thanks for your help. I'm thinking that Orquideas or Pura Vida might be a good place to stay for 2 nights at the end of our trip. It sounds like we could easily go to La Paz & Poas from there for a day, and then easily go to the airport the next day when we fly home. (Unless we go there at the beginning of our trip..I haven't sorted that out yet.)
I love this travel forum. We don't like to travel with a tour group, and this travel forum (along with guide books) makes it so much easier to plan your own trip. Last fall we planned our whole trip to Prague and Poland with the help of guidebooks & this forum. & it worked out perfectly.

I just heard from my daughter this morning (we were waiting to hear what her work commitments are this summer) and it looks like we will be going in August. I'm sure I will have more questions....

And I just thought of one! We may rent a car (haven't decided yet for sure). Has anyone driven from San Jose to Manuel Antonio? Does it realistically take 3 1/2 hours & what is the drive like?
Thanks again.

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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 03:03 PM
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Just hang a right outside the driveway to Orquideas and you will be on your way up the mountains to La Paz. Very easy trip. Can't remember the name but there is a little tico restaurant on the way up on the right hand side that was absolutely wonderful for breakfast. I would think their other food would be just as good. It was really cold that day and they had a big fire going in the fireplace. It was rustic but the food was good and it had lovely views.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 07:34 AM
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Yes, the drive from Alajuela to MA would be about 3-1/2 hours. It's a paved road and easy, unless a brigde gets wiped out. Don't worry about that though. Many people drive this road.
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Old Mar 19th, 2004, 06:25 PM
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Hello,
I have planned an itinerary & would like people's opinions. I think we can stay 1 or 2 more extra days than I orginally thought. We will definitely be traveling in August, and we are considering renting a car.

Day 1 - Arrive San Jose, hopefully at 12:40pm. Drive to MA - 3 1/2 hours.
Day 2 - MA
Day 3 - MA
Day 4 - MA
Day 5 - Drive from MA to Arenal: 5 - 6 hour drive. Overnight in Arenal.
Day 6 - Arenal/Tabacon hot springs
Day 7 - Arenal - maybe Cano Negro Boat Tour
Day 8 - Drive from Arenal to Poas. Someone told me this might take 4 hours, but she wasn't sure. Does anyone know for sure? Possibly overnight at Poas Volcano Lodge - only 16 km from the volcano.
Day 9 - Poas (if we don't see it on Day 8) and La Paz. Drive to Alajuela (30-45 min drive)& stay overnight there, possibly at Las Orquideas Inn. Sightsee around Central Valley.
Day 10 - Sightsee around Central Valley or San Jose.
Day 11 - Fly home.

Without adding the 2 days, we wouldn't have any time to see the Central Valley and/or San Jose. We thought it would be nice to spend about 1 1/2 days driving through the villages, such as Zarcero & Sarchi, maybe tour a coffee plantation, World of Snakes OR sightsee in San Jose for a day. What do people think?

Thank you for your helpful suggestions!




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Old Mar 19th, 2004, 08:34 PM
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Sounds like a good trip. I spent a lovely day horseback riding in a private coffee plantation up hill from Grecia. Then spent some time in Grecia, had lunch there and walked around a little. Also, visited the church. Very unusual building materials.
then went to Sarchi for a little while before heading back to the hotel.
In case you didn't get to see all the birds you wanted, Zoo Ave is a nice place to visit near Alajuela. For the city, you could take a taxi to the Gran hotel which is centrally located. The National Theater is right across the street and there are lots of shops as well as mercado central nearby. Or you could just sit at the sidewalk cafe and people watch.
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