Costa Rica - Where To Spend Extra Day?

Old May 24th, 2021, 04:30 PM
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Costa Rica - Where To Spend Extra Day?

Hello there! Booked our flights to/from San Jose for late January next year and have found myself sucked down the rabbit hole of online information. Could really use a little help steering in the right direction. We're two active adults in our 60s and more into easy hikes, canopy tours and animal watching than bars, pools and deluxe restaurants (although I'll never turn down a comfy chair, cold drink and great view!).

9 nights (including near the airport both the nights we arrive and before we fly out) leaving 7 for touring. We plan to rent a car for the whole trip and don't need to buy the extra insurance. Prefer to have the flexibility of a vehicle but could be talked out of it.

23rd - arrive and sleep near the airport
24th & 25th - have a refundable AirBnb booked in Manuel Antonio. Wanted another night but it's not available. Love the look of this place so would prefer to keep this reservation if possible.
26 - 30th (5 nights) - this is my conundrum. Considered Monteverde and then Arenal but that seems a bit rushed, yet five nights in Arenal seems a bit long. We'll be doing some tours and hiking but not a lot of adventure things like rappelling and rafting.
31st - have to be near SJO again as its an early morning flight on the 1st.

So, I'd considered going south to the Oso Peninsula after MA before going up to Arenal but then started wondering if we should just stay south and skip Arenal totally? Would that be a dumb thing to do since it seems all first-timers head to Arenal? See my problem...too many options 🧐🤯 so I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Last edited by sardog; May 24th, 2021 at 05:21 PM.
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Old May 25th, 2021, 03:35 AM
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There's really a lot to do in the Arenal area. If you stay somewhere like the Arenal Observatory Lodge you'll have great hiking and lots of wildlife on site. They have a free guided hike every morning. You could also do the guided hike at the Bogarin Trail - great place to see sloths and colorful poison dart and red-eyed tree frogs, as well as some birds. Do the waterfall hike, not really a hike, mostly just steps down and back up, but very pretty. The Cano Negro boat tour with Desafio is also good. And you could visit the beautiful natural hot springs in the area like Tabacon and Eco Termales and the Hanging Bridges. We've also taken a fun cooking class there. Personally I wouldn't bother going to Monteverde with such a short time frame. If you wanted another night in Manuel Antonio, you could always just stay in a different hotel or AirBnb.
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Old May 26th, 2021, 12:45 AM
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Thanks, Volcanogirl. I think we're leaning toward including Arenal for 3-4 nights before heading back to SJO for our flight home. Now just to decide if we want to spend the remaining 1-2 nights between MA and Arenal along the coast or head up to Monteverde in a big circle and go to the MV Cloud Forest for a day. Any recommendations for other places north of MA before cutting over to Arenal area? I'll feel so much better once we get the basic itinerary down!

Now wishing we'd made the whole trip a couple of days longer but there's that pesky little thing called "work" to get home to...
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Old May 26th, 2021, 08:22 PM
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Hi Sardog,

Volcanogirl has been one of my CR "mentors" for years, but I will advocate for some time in Monteverde. Some of our most magical CR moments have happened there, including 2 out of 2 visit sightings of Quetzals. We have done the opposite of you - San Jose to Arenal/Monteverde and then south - but it really doesn't matter which way you do "the circle" . We generally spend 2 nights in Monteverde and 3 in Arenal. The Cloud Forest Reserve guided tours are beyond excellent. You finish the walk in the hummingbird garden - literally "fanned" by hundreds of hummingbird wings. The town of Santa Elena has great food and there are many accommodation options. As Volcanogirl mentioned, Arenal has so much to offer. I second her recommendation of the Observatory Lodge. An amazing place to enjoy both resort life AND the best of CR's wildlife. River rafting in this area is fun as well and we've seen tons of critters.
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Old May 27th, 2021, 01:56 AM
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You definitely could do Monteverde. We enjoyed hiking and seeing quetzals there. With only seven days for touring, three locations would be too many for me, but totally up to you and how much you want to fit in. If you end up going to Monteverde, be sure to bring something for if it gets chilly. We wore sweatshirts and fleece jackets at night, and our hotel had the fireplace going.
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Old May 29th, 2021, 09:05 PM
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Thank-you both so much for replying and I apologize for the delay. I think we've finally figured it out, thanks to your input. We're going to do MA for two nights, spend the next day wandering up to Monteverde, two nights there with the full day at the Cloud Forest and area. That will then give us three nights in the Arenal area with two half days and two full days to explore. I think we're going to stay at Airbnbs the whole time as we really like to have the convenience of a kitchen and prefer quiet in the mornings/evenings. Again, thanks for your help and input; it's so hard to plan things out when you have no feel for distances or road conditions! We'll just have to make a return trip in the future to hit the other areas
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Old May 30th, 2021, 12:28 AM
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Sounds good, glad you got it all settled. I'd recommend asking about security at an Airbnb. Friends of ours stayed in one, and it was broken into while they were sleeping. Probably not very common but you may want to check if there's some sort of gate or something. Petty theft can be a problem so don't leave anything in your car unattended. Have an amazing time! I love when I get all the places picked out and can start planning. Good feeling.
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Old May 31st, 2021, 07:34 PM
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I think breakins are more common than the locals on Tripadvisor let on. I found out about the crime situation (not all of it petty) after I got home.

I know that many of resorts and reserves have armed guards. I wouldn't want to stay alone in an AirBnB.
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Old Jun 1st, 2021, 07:34 AM
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PS instead of an AirBNB in town in Arenal, I also recomemend AOL.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 03:51 PM
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For the Arenal area, if you are looking for peace and quiet, you can't beat AOL. And it's beautiful there. We stayed in the Smithsonian Rooms and sat out on our patio in the mornings and evenings, enjoying the view or the volcano and watching the animals. I know you guys are looking for Airbnb so that you have a kitchen, which AOL doesn't provide, but it does have the quiet you are looking for. And it is very safe.
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