Costa Rica trip advice

Old Feb 16th, 2004, 03:38 PM
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Costa Rica trip advice

What do you think of this trip? Is it scary to drive ourselves around? This trip focuses on San Jose, Arenal, and Monteverde. Will this give us the adventure/nature that we are looking for? Thanks for your suggestions!


Upon your arrival to San Jose you will picked up by your transfer guide and taken to your hotel for your first night stay. Enjoy the day walking around downtown San Jose, where you can visit the many museums and the local handicraft stores. Early on the morning of Day 2 your 4x4 vehicle will be dropped off at your hotel. You will then drive from San Jose to Arenal, which is approximately 3 hours north of San Jose. There you will stay at the beautiful Arenal Lodge where you can explore the Arenal region, complete with hot water springs, waterfalls and the active Arenal Volcano.On Day 4 your will drive approximately four hours through beautiful terrain to the peaceful town of Monteverde.
The road to Monteverde has been known to be a bit bumpy so be prepared! You will be spending 2 days in Monteverde, where you will have the opportunity to walk through the splendid Monteverde preserve. In the preserve there is a variety of trails from which to choose from. On Day 6 you will proceed to make the drive back to San Jose where you will be spending your last night. The drive is approximately 4 hours so plan to make a few stops along the way. On Day 7 your transfer will arrive 3 hours before your departure and bring you to the airport for your flight home.

Day 1. Arrive at San Jose. Transfer to Fleur de Lys (Standard Double Occupancy)
Day 2. Drive to Arenal. Stay at Arenal Lodge (Standard Double Occupancy)
Day 3. Arenal area. Arenal Lodge
Day 4. Drive to Monteverde. Stay at Belmar (Standard Double Occupancy)
Day 5. Day in Monteverde area. Hotel Belmar
Day 6. Drive to San Jose. Hotel Fleur de Lys
Day 7. Transfer to Airport. Depart
$434 p/ p
soniela is offline  
Old Feb 16th, 2004, 05:18 PM
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The road to Monteverde 'a bit bumpy'??? Two years ago it was one giant pothole after another interspersed with big rocks jutting out of the road bed. I do hear it's been recently graded so may be better. That being said, it was great fun. It was really only the last 25 kilometers or so that was really rough. You just had to realize you were never going to get out of second gear and enjoy the views.

We spent a day last year wandering around San Jose. Can't say we enjoyed it that much.

Jean
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Old Feb 16th, 2004, 05:30 PM
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I think you have a good plan. I have seen this pkg. advertised. Don't worry about the driving. There are a lot of decent roads in C. R. As said, and unfortunately, that is not one of them! But, true, it is probably better than it has been in the past. They are improving their system all the time. And, if you can relax a bit (while being very careful) the views are indeed beautiful. That is the good part about it taking so long to get from one place to another--always very scenic! As for San Jose, it isn't that bad! There are several highlights very close to the Fleur de Lys that you might want to try to fit in. Try to check out (look inside) the Teatro Nacional. It is beautiful. The performances there are very nice. Across the street is the Plaza de la Cultura (lots of people hawking stuff here, but not bad to sit, watch the crowds, and sip a coke). Also very near (within a block) is the Museo de Oro or Gold Museum. It is absolutely state of the art and located beneath a bank (I think the Banco de Costa Rica) near the Plaza de la Cultura. Just adjacent to (on the north side of) the Teatro. These are great ways to spend a few hours while you are waiting. In the Hotel Don Carlos, just 4-5 blocks from there to the north --a block down from the tall insurance building, you will find a huge gift shop--the largest in town. And all over that area are many little Costa Rican independent gift and souvenir shops. There is a large supermercado nearby where you can pick up bags of Cafe Britt (a good brand) coffee if you'd like to bring some home for a third of the price of gift shops. . .especially at the airport. It makes great gifts. So, you CAN enjoy your time in San Jose. If you are looking to go out the night before, get a taxi (next to nothing) to take you over to El Pueblo, a mall of restaurants, art and souvenir shops, and bars. It is definitely worth a look-see! Have a great time!
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Old Feb 16th, 2004, 05:56 PM
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The pland sounds good, but I honestly think you can get a better deal booking eveything youself. Some people don't mind paying a little extra for the convenience of having everything taken care of. I can understand that too!
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Old Feb 16th, 2004, 06:47 PM
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Jean, shillmac, and LAfadeaway,

Thank you so very much for your extremely helpful advice!

I'm starting to wonder if I should plan this myself, instead of booking the trip as a whole. This package does not include Maneul Antonio, and I think I might be missing out if we don't go there. What do you think? I don't want to pay double the price for booking everything individually. I would love to stay in Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio (and of course San Jose...only because we need easy access to the airport). Is this too much for a 7 or 8 day trip?
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Old Feb 17th, 2004, 03:28 AM
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Our first trip to Costa Rica was nine nights, first and last in San Jose, two nights in Arenal, two in Monteverde and three in Manual Antonio. It was a lot of moving around, but it was fun. Depending on what time your flight home leaves, you may be able to fly from Quepos to San Jose the same day you fly home. That would certainly make your trip possible with eight nights.
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Old Feb 17th, 2004, 03:50 AM
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Dear Soneila,
I think you shouldn't miss Manuel Antonio, or at least some other beach (I personally think MA is the best choice, and the national park especially with its forest backed beaches and prolific wildlife). But, in this case you will have to skip something else. I would choose not to go to Monteverde, especially on a 7 day trip. The drive to and from Monteverde is tough and rough, and very exhausting, and at the end, you will only have 1 full day to spend there. It is a matter of opinion, of course, but I find Monteverde a bit overrated. But that's not my point, the point is, you are coming for a very short time, and I don't think it would be wise to go to stay in 4 different places. If you decide to go to MA, you need to take something else out.
Regarding booking everything yourself. You can do all the research yourself and then book it yourself, or use a good agency to do it for you. Some of the best agencies won't charge anything extra for their service, and you will feel more comfortable knowing that there is someone to go to in case of a problem, or even an emergency. I recommend www.vacationscostarica.com I know many of their travel agents, and they are excellent. You can write Carrie (the sales manager) directly and ask her to give you a quote for whatever you decide you want ([email protected]).
If you are not going for this package, you can choose a hotel outside of SJ, and not in the city. That may make your life a little easier, going to the airport and getting back from other destinations.
Please, feel free to write me directly if you need any more information or help planning your trip.
Pura Vida,
Neta Talmor
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Old Feb 17th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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We did the same trip as JeanH for our honeymoon and it was amazing. 10 days, 9 nights at I think around $1200 for both of us. Don't be worried at all about driving yourself; I was at first but quickly got over it. Use common sense and you'll be fine. That being said, I was so happy we did the package deal instead of doing it ourselves. There was someone to pick us up at the airport take us to the hotel, then someone to take us from the hotel to the rental car. And the same for returning the car and going back to the airport. I don't know how much you've traveled, but it was my first trip out of the country so it was a nice comfort, plus you know the hotels you're staying at will be nice. Plus, we heard enough stories along our trip from other travelers that I would probably do it again. I would definitely recommend a trip to Manuel Antonio as the others have. We spent I think 3 nights there which maybe was one day too many, we only stayed one in Monteverde and it would've been nice to spend more time there especially after the hellacious drive it takes to get there! Just kidding (sort of). The drive isn't dangerous or scary it's just that you have to go really slow and you're getting jostled around the entire time. From what people had told us we were expecting to be digging our car out of a washed out road and be in 4 wheel drive the whole time so it was much better than anticipated. I would say Costa Rica is an awesome trip, go before it gets taken over by tourism and isn't the beautiful place it is now.
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Old Feb 17th, 2004, 06:35 PM
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All this is so helpful, but I can honestly say I'm beginning to get more confused! I just returned from Borders and I picked up a copy of the Frommer's travel guide.

My questions:

1. I'm still trying to figure out if I can do Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio in one trip. Maybe something similar to JeanH, but only 2 nights in MA.

2. I think I can plan it myself. I don't want to stay in luxury hotels, but I also don't want to shower in groups with strangers!!! (as stated in the Frommers book). But how do I get around? Should I use in-country flights mixed with buses, or rent a car? What would be more economical?

Thanks fellow travellers!
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Old Feb 17th, 2004, 10:03 PM
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You can do Monteverde, Arenal and Manuel Antonio in one trip. If you are going to both Monteverde and Arenal, I suggest two nights in each (the roads are bad and you need the down time before driving again). I stayed in both places for two nights each and found it to be the perfect amount of time.

I agree that MA is a good addition. How long you stay (here and in the other locations) depends on what you want from your vacation. When in MA, I just hung out at the beach, visited the national park and relaxed. For me, it warrants three nights, but you might be different.

As for transportation, I enjoyed having a rental car. You will hear a lot of driving horror stories, but it is NOT that bad! (That being said, the road around Arenal Lake is riddled with potholes and one of them damaged our gas tank at a cost of $300) Another option is to arrange transfers once you're there. For instance, I took a transfer from Arenal to Monteverde (when our car broke down) for $25 and upon seeing the route, was glad we didn't have to drive. I think it might be a little more cost-effective to do the transfers.

If you don't have a car, don't stay at the Hotel Belmar in Monteverde (as listed on your itinerary, where I stayed) because it is quite removed from town and restaurants/bars.
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Old Feb 18th, 2004, 06:46 AM
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KatieS: What is a transfer? Would that be like a bus?
Thanks!
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Old Feb 18th, 2004, 06:54 AM
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Soniela,
I read your email and can relate to all the info on Costa Rica. We went to CR in 2/04 and we loved it. I wrote about our trip and our travel tips on Costa Rica #1 Manuel Antonio/ Interbus and Costa Rica #2 Arenal. It was my experience that from one area to another took at least 3-4 hours if not more by transfers. For me I had to think about our past vacations. If I liked being at a place for a couple of days or if I am someone who likes to visit just one or two places but for longer. I think it is reasonable to travel to all the places you would like to but I quickly discovered I am someone who likes to see everything!
If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them. Have a great time!
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Old Feb 18th, 2004, 05:36 PM
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When I say transfer, I mean arranging for your transfer from one location to the next. I meant a private transfer, but obviously, you can take public buses as well. For example, when we were stranded in Arenal, the guys at the front desk arranged for us to take a jeep down to the lake, then a boat across the lake, then another jeep (jeep was their word, its really a van) to monteverde. Lots of people use this option. At the same time, one of our friends needed to travel back to San Jose and the hotel staff arranged for a van to pick her up - the van picked up a few other people at Arenal hotels before heading to San Jose.

I really liked the freedom of having a car, but the road to Monteverde in specific made me thankful that I didn't have to drive it. If you don't feel the need to have a car in each location to drive to meals or whatever, then I highly recommend arranging for transfers through your hotels once you're there.
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