Costa Rica - Location, location, location!

Old Oct 17th, 2002, 07:53 AM
  #1  
Lenore
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Costa Rica - Location, location, location!

We are trying to plan a trip to Costa Rica for April or May 2003. We're having a hard time figuring out how many and which areas to visit. It will probably be an 8-9 night vacation. We are a child-free couple in our early 40's who likes to hike, bike, explore waterfalls and other natural beauty, kayak, snorkel, white water raft (maybe), golf (husband only), gamble (if available, but not required), and general sightseeing. We are NOT interested in camping, fishing, horseback riding, or the club scene. Which 2-3 areas of CR would you suggest for us? How long does it take to drive from one area to another? Thanks!
 
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 09:07 AM
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Tia
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Lenore:

Definitely the Arenal area! It's a must see!!!!

Tia
 
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 09:40 AM
  #3  
Iza
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I would suggest a couple of days in the Arenal area (to see the active volcano and enjoy some hiking, waterfalls and hot springs in the area) and then a few days either in Manuel Antonio where you will have a good opportunity to see rainforest and beautiful beaches or on Nicoya Penninsula (we liked Tamarindo). Keep in mind that you will probably have to spend your first and last nights in San Jose area (depending on your flight schedule).

Driving times: San Jose to Arenal 3-4 hours, San Jose to Manuel Antonio 3-4 hours; San Jose to Tamarindo 5-6 hours.
 
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 01:08 PM
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Lenore
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I agree, the Arenal area looks like our kind of place. How many days should we plan there? Then I think a beach location next, but which one? We don't like wasting too much valuable vacation time driving from point A to point B!
 
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 02:06 PM
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Tess
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Lenore,

Getting around Costa Rica is not as quick as one would imagine by looking on a map. The only way to expedite the travel process from point A to point B is to fly. I've flown on Sansa Airlines (one of CR's two domestic airlines) between Tamarindo & San Jose and then between Quepos/Manuel Antonio and San Jose. Unfortunately you can't fly from San Jose to Arenal (town is La Fortuna) --- that used to be a route, however I'm guessing the proximity of the volcano made it unsafe. To get to Arenal, you only have the choices of taking the bus or renting a car. Either way it's at least a 3.5 hour trip (4.5 hrs on the bus & its' stops).

I've been to beaches in both Tamarindo & Manuel Antonio. You've mentioned that your hubby is a golfer; I'd suggest you look into spending your beach visit in Tamarindo or one of the other towns in that region. This NW section of Costa Rica seems to have more of the golf courses --- there are a couple in the Central Valley (area just outside San Jose).

Another suggestion is when you're choosing where to stay for your first/last nights --- opt for Alajuela or towns outside of San Jose, proper. I was in CR last month (my 2nd trip) and I enjoyed my first/last night stay in Alajuela. Yes, there are a couple worthwhile sites in the city. Yet in my opinion, SJ is rather unmemorable.

 
Old Oct 22nd, 2002, 01:55 PM
  #6  
Tia
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Lenore:

I agree with Tess about San Jose. We got stuck staying two nights there. While the hotels were WONDERFUL and relaxing, we felt like they were two days we were missing out on jungle hikes, fabulous views, etc. I have heard really good things about Alajuela and I think we'd opt for doing that if/when we go back again.

I'd say as far as time in Arenal at least a couple days there. We booked four, but ended up only being able to stay three as we had a shortened trip due to bad weather in the states when flying out. We could've stayed in Arenal for many more days. For us, there was so much to do there. I think you could go to CR for two weeks and still not see all there is to see. Personally, Arenal was my favorite area so I'm a bit biased!!

Tia
 
Old Oct 22nd, 2002, 03:47 PM
  #7  
Jane
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I agree with Tess about staying in Alajuela. We stayed at one of the local B&Bs which has airport service (Cannon´s Oasis) and it really helped make the trip enjoyable and relaxing!
 
Old Oct 22nd, 2002, 04:55 PM
  #8  
casey
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9 nights you can usually get away with seeing 3 locations...8 nights might be pushing a bit

Depends on how much you want to travel. If there are just two of you, you may want to rent a car and/or fly to some of the more remote places. A typical 8-night trip is to drive up to Arenal on day one (if you arrive before 1pm), stay three nights at the volcano and then head to a Guanacaste beach (Tamarindo, Conchal, Ocotal) which is about a 4.5 hour drive. Stay there five nights relaxing on the beach and taking day tours, then head back to San Jose before flying home. You can also combine Arenal with Manuel Antonio (which is a great beach) but the driving time is longer as it's further south. You can fly to Tamarindo, Liberia and Manuel Antonio.

If you are looking for isolation, Punta Islita (on the Nicoya Peninsula) is a great resort hotel that's far away from it all.

For first-world quality gambling, you really need to be in San Jose. The casinos at the beach resorts are usually empty. There is plenty of golfing in the Guanacaste area (3 golf courses near the beach) and in San Jose. Sea kayaking is available at most of the beach towns, but for river stuff (kayaking and rafting) you'll need to either do a day trip from San Jose, Arenal or Manuel Antonio.

For my money, Manuel Antonio is the best destination for first-time visitors.

Casey

 
Old Oct 23rd, 2002, 09:37 AM
  #9  
Lenore
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Thanks All - Are you saying it takes longer to drive to Manuel Antonio than to Tamarindo from the Volcano/Arenal area? I just bought a Frommer's last night and have barely gotten into it, but it looks like San Jose (or that neighboring town) for the first night, then off to Arenal for about 3 nights, then to one of the beach towns for 3-4 nights (with maybe a day trip to the cloud forest, or is this too much?) and then last night back in San Jose before flying home to FLL. Of course, I'll know more once I get through the guide book!
 
Old Oct 24th, 2002, 08:50 PM
  #10  
Earl
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If you want a true natural destination go to the only remaining rainforest of any size in Costa Rica those that surround the Golfo Dulce. I have lived here for 7 years so I am biased.

Forget driving you can fly anywhere in the country in 45 min and save a day or 2 on bad roads.
You can hit the casinos as you come or leave San Jose but they do not compare to other locations
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 07:06 AM
  #11  
Laura
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Hi Lenore,

I suggest the Arenal area. Montana de Fuego and the Arenal Observatory Lodge. send an email to jdwatersports.com and ask for Cindy or Corinne. they were both very helpful. my suggestion to you is get rooms now. Arenal area is completely filled up for March already. Also, check out La Paz Waterfall and Pacuare whitewater rafting. buena suerte!
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 10:05 AM
  #12  
Lenore
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Thanks Laura, but are you serious? Book in October for an April or May vacation? I've barely researched this destination and no where near ready to book hotels or flights yet. We haven't even decided which areas to visit. I've got to have a tentative itinerary before I can start booking. Also, it would be almost impossible for my company to okay vacation time this far in advance. They will think I'm insane to even ask since we are just now approaching our busy season!

By the way, Frommer's say that Easter week (the week leading up to Easter) is a big deal for Costa Ricans and that a lot of things will close for the festivites. Easter is April 20th in 2003. So should I avoid the middle two weeks of April? I don't want to wait too long since rainy season begins in May. More advice please!
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 10:15 AM
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Iza
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I hear that Easter week is very busy in CR. But don't be scared off by the rainy season. We travelled to CR twice, both times in August, and had a wonderful time.
If you wait till 1-2 months before your trip, you may not be able to get rooms in your first choices of hotels. Remember that a lot of these hotels are very small, between 10 and 20 rooms. So it doesn't take much to fill them up. At the beginning of October I thought that maybe we could swing a trip to CR during the Thanksgiving week and I made some inquiries. The hotels I wanted were full or almost full for that week.
Last year, I booked in March for our August trip and was able to get exactly what I wanted.
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 11:15 AM
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Lenore
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Okay, good advice. I was planning to have our decisions and choices made by Christmas, and then work on finding price deals in January. Do you think that's too long to wait? Just how rainy is it during May in Costa Rica?
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 11:47 AM
  #15  
Ally
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May is not bad at all! You may not even see rain!
 
Old Oct 26th, 2002, 09:36 PM
  #16  
Lenore
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I checked a weather website and it shows April as averaging less than 2 inches of rain, while May averages 10+ inches. I don't want to spend my vacation watching it rain.....I see plenty of that right here in Florida!
 
Old Oct 27th, 2002, 12:36 PM
  #17  
Cristian
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Lenore, I strongly recommend you email a tour operator called Costa Rica EcoAdventures at [email protected] They are incredible and specialize in what you are looking for. Good luck!
 
Old Oct 28th, 2002, 07:49 AM
  #18  
Ally
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Lenore,
10 inches of rain in a month is not really that bad! If you're so worried about rain though, stick to the Northern Pacific coast, such as Nosara or Tamarindo area. You may get some afternoon showers, but they will be refreshing as it will be very hot! You will certainly not see rain for your entire vacation, so try not to worry!
(By the way, here in Austin it's been rainy everyday for over a week and I'm sick of it. Forcast says we may see sun tomorrow. I sure hope so!)
 
Old Nov 2nd, 2002, 04:03 AM
  #19  
Brenda
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Lenore,

A group of 3 couples are traveling to CR in December 2003 (54 more days!) One of the group always keeps an extensive journal I'm sure he will share if you'd like. We are all in our 40's early 50's and share some of the same interests you've listed. We are using Central America.com and have a wonderful travel agent named Alberto...he put together a 12 day trip for us that is pretty economical. When we get back, if you'd like, we can let you know whether we recommend this firm or not...please let me know. We're going to Corcovado, Arenal, Monteverde, and Torteguero.
 
Old Nov 2nd, 2002, 04:39 AM
  #20  
Leo
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December 2003 (54 more days!)

It is only 54 days to December 2003? Did I miss something?
What year is it now?
 

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