Costa Rica with the In-Laws in January

Old Nov 8th, 2013, 06:01 PM
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Costa Rica with the In-Laws in January

Hi everyone my wife and I are starting to plan a trip with her parents to Costa Rica in early January (possibly late December - still in the air) and I am looking for suggested itineraries as I really don't know much about Costa Rica and always thinks its best to get ideas from people who have actually been to the place you are going.

We are thinking of flying from California on a Thursday and arriving back home on a Monday night - is that enough time or should we shoot for a full week?

About Us - My wife and myself are in our early 30s, somewhat active (we like going for hikes and being outside) and have done a lot of traveling including backpacking through South America. We know a little Spanish although we are pretty rusty. We really enjoy good food and restaurants, beaches, all things nature and just kicking back and relaxing.

The In-Laws - both in their mid-50s and fit for their age. Experienced travelers who prefer staying in nicer luxury or boutique accommodations. They also enjoy nature and a little adventure, although my mother-in-law is scared of heights (so no zip-lining unfortunately . They LOVE seafood, so if you know of any good seafood restaurants please don't hold back.

In summary I think what we are really looking for is some good beach time, to see some nature highlights like the volcanoes I have heard about, eat at some of the nicer restaurants and stay at the more comfortable places. We have used airbnb in a number of countries and are open to that in addition to more traditional hotels. We would also be open to tours and excursions if you have any recommendations for cool things to do or things not to miss.

If you need any more info please let me know and thank you in advance for any and all advice!
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Old Nov 8th, 2013, 06:31 PM
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A Thursday-Monday trip will effectively give you three days in Costa Rica. If you can swing a whole week, do it.

If you can do January rather than late December, do that also. Things get very crowded and expensive during the holidays. Many of the best places are booked far in advance at that time of year. With Christmas and New Year's falling midweek this year it's hard to say when the crowds and prices will dissipate. I'd go for something solidly in the first full week of January or later if you can.
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Old Nov 8th, 2013, 08:23 PM
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I'd take a look at Tulemar Bungalows in Manuel Antonio and either The Springs Resort and Spa or Nayara in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. I'd do at least three or four nights in each area.
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Old Nov 8th, 2013, 10:18 PM
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I also recommend manuel Antonio for a nature/beach area. The beaches in the park are a gorgeous sight and the park has lots of wild life (capuchins will literally walk up to you on the beach and tour guides can point out sloths, etc.). And Arenal is a nice area with the volcano--much more urban. However, Arenal was my least favorite. Outside of hiking to cerro chato (for experienced hikers--very steep)/rio celeste and seeing cano negro (highly recommend) and hotsprings (way too overcrowded, don't recommend), I didn't think the place offered much. I also loved Monteverde, which was just a breath-taking place with lots of national parks and I just liked the atmosphere there a lot. It's really relaxing, and slow-paced. Plus it's closer to manuel antonio so it's better to visit monteverde in conjunction with manuel antonio than Arenal. We were able to cover all three places in 2 weeks. In one week, you'll probably get to visit two.
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Old Nov 9th, 2013, 08:07 AM
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You have received some great advice already, so I don't have a lot to add.

Though I have to respectively disagree with the negative Arenal review. I love Arenal. I have been going there for over twenty years, and I never tire of it. The crowds depend on the hot springs. These days, all the bus tours go to Baldi. What a zoo! I like The Springs Resort. More upscale and less crowded. There are lots of cool adventure / nature tours in this region as well.

But I do agree with the info offered on Monteverde. I have a small house there, and go at least twice a year. You mention that you are hikers. This is a dream destination for hikers. Perfect for birders too.

I also agree with Jeff. Three days is way too short. Go for a week. There is so much to do and see in this country. Airfare is pricey, I would squeeze out all time I could. Go in January. The best deals are sold out for the week between Christmas and New Years. If you can find anything at all, you are going to pay a premium price. Plus you should wonder why they have space, while the rest of the country is sold out!

Volcanogirl has the right idea about splitting time between two locations. This is a very diverse country. The three areas mentioned (Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio) are all completely different. It is worth your time to explore a couple of options.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice.

Warm Regards,

Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional
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Old Nov 9th, 2013, 08:49 AM
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I have to respectfully disagree about the Arenal area too. We love it there and have been several times. Eco Termales limits the number of people who can enter, and it wasn't crowded for us at all when we went. They even do their drinks on the honor system. We stayed at The Springs Resort and likewise it wasn't crowded for us. I don't get an urban feeling from the area - it's very jungly where we've stayed, particularly at the Lost Iguana out by the lake. Great hiking at the volcano, Hanging Bridges, and the gorgeous waterfall too. Cano Negro tour, Penas Blancas river float, and spectacular adventure activities with Rios Tropicales, La Roca, Sky Trek, Sunset Tours, and Desafio. There's not much to the town itself, just the main road with hotels and restaurants scattered alongside, the park, the church, and all that. To me the true beauty is away from town. Tintin, which hot springs did you visit? We also visited Tabacon, and it was crowded for us. I think it's a great area to visit though. Have not heard a lot of good things about Baldi.
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Old Nov 11th, 2013, 08:27 AM
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Thanks to everyone who has replied so far! These are all great suggestions.
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Old Nov 11th, 2013, 01:21 PM
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Definitely shoot for at the very least a week - more if you can.
Another place to look for in Arenal is Tabacon. For Manuel Antonio, Tulemar sounds like the the perfect place for your family. If you're looking for beach time, there's a private beach, and it has the luxury aspect that will appeal to your in laws. Plus, the best seafood in the area within walking distance of the resort!!
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