CR- Activities in Arenal, MA and Monteverde

Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:07 PM
  #1  
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CR- Activities in Arenal, MA and Monteverde

Hi Everyone,

I posted a while back. I am going to Costa Rica in late November with my mom. I am 33 and my mom is a little older. We are both quite active and love adventure. We have our hotels booked and hired a driver for the transitions between cities (except Arenal to Monteverde). Now we are planning the activities.

First, should we book activities before we get there? (we going on thanksgiving and staying for nine days)

Second, what are the must-do activites in Arenal? Monteverde? Manuel Antonion?

I know that I want to raft in one location. I would like to zip line somewhere.. I would like to see lots of wildlife. And rappling. Suggestions?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! I am also a person who does post detailed trip reports (See the Asia forum and my Thailand report).

Thanks,

Jennifer
JennPBD is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:13 PM
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In Arenal, the Cano Megro day trip gets a lot of rave reviews. I really liked the SkyTrek ziplines, they are very high and extremely exhilirating. A 1/2 hike to the volcano is a nice easy walk, as is the Hanging Gardens.

In MA, I really liked Canopy Safari for ziplines (plus they have 3 rappels), Finca Valmy for horseback riding and of course a hike in the park (I would suggest a guide for your first visit). Reminder the park is closed Monday and is best early.

Haven't made it to Monteverde yet.

I would have a rough idea of what you want to do and then would book your activities once there.
tully is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 05:11 PM
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Hi Jennifer, I went to CR with my mom several years ago, and we had a blast together! I'm sure you'll enjoy it just as much.

Tully gave you a good list of activities for Manuel Antonio and Arenal. I'd add to that the Damas Island Mangrove boat tour in Manuel Antonio. This tour, as well as the Cano Negro tour from Arenal are where you'll probably see the most wildlife... sloths, monkeys, birds, iguanas, etc.

I think there are rafting options out of the Manuel Antonio area, but I'm not familiar. Perhaps someone else might be able to make suggestions.

You'll find that there are some activities that you could do in all the places you're visiting... for example, you can do zip-lines in all 3 places, hanging bridges in both Arenal and Monteverde (I liked Selvatura in Monteverde), horses in all 3 places I believe... and so I'd try to get a feel for how much time you have in each place to determine what to do where.

It seems that the most "action packed" places are Arenal and Manuel Antonio (in terms of choices of activities). Monteverde is more about exploring the cloud-forest, which is amazing. You might want to consider doing a night hike here... there are several options. Also, be sure to hire a guide to see the Monteverde Cloud Forest... you'll see so much more than going on your own.

Since you mention rappelling, there is also waterfall rappelling in Arenal... I haven't done it yet, but I'm going in December. Two companies that do this are Pure Trek and Desafio. Your hotels can recommend and/or book tours for you, or in Arenal you can walk into the town of La Fortuna and book with Sunset Tours (a really good company in the area).

CarolM is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 10:32 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I am in Arenal for 3 days, 2 days in Monteverde and 3 days in Manuel Antonio.

Any suggestions for a night hike in Monteverde? guides or tour companies?


With respect to the hot springs in Arenal, would you suggest going at night? I have so many other things I want to do during the day! I am looking into the smaller hot springs. Suggestions?

Thanks for all the suggestions!

Jennifer
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Oct 23rd, 2007, 10:53 AM
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Hi, Jenn - you can definitely do the hot springs in the evening. We did Cano Negro during the day and then went to Tabacon in the evening. Eco Termales is another good option if you'd like something smaller.
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 04:58 PM
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Your trip sounds almost exactly like my first trip (in terms of days spent in each place)... and it was a perfect combination. I agree with volcanogirl to hit the hot springs at night, to free yourself up for other daytime activities.

Regarding night hikes in Monteverde, I did two: one at the Finca Ecologica, and another, Hidden Valley. Your hotel will probably be able to book this for you. I think you'll find that most hotels will be able to arrange all kinds of tours for you, from guided hikes to zip-lines, etc. For something like white-water rafting, which might require more coordination and transportation, you might want to look into booking ahead.

CarolM is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 06:57 PM
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Carol, we've travelled all over CR, but we've never made it to Monteverde; you've really made me want to go!
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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There is just so much to do and so little time.

River rafting?? Any suggestions? Should be do this in Manuel Antonio? Arenal? Any suggestions on rafting companies?

I read somewhere on this Board about an evening hike in Arenal, but can't find it now! Suggestions?

Thanks again for everything! (BTW I have convinced my mom to do the rappeling in Arenal.. not sure which company yet. I want to do the more extreme one while she would prefer Pure Trek).

Thanks,

Jen

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Oct 24th, 2007, 10:52 AM
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I forgot to ask this question..

Carol, we are not going to have a car anywhere we stay. We hired a driver to take us to Arenal and from Monteverde to MA. Are we going to feel stuck? Are taxis or other forms of transportation readily available in Monteverde?

We were thinking of doing to jeep/boat/jeep (I think that is how it goes) from Arenal to MA. Have you ever done that?
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Oct 24th, 2007, 11:29 AM
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I know, there are so many options, but I think you'll have plenty of time to do everything. You said you have 3 days, 2 days and 3 days -- be sure to factor in travel time from place to place to figure out how much "true" time you have for activities.

Sorry, I can't help you out with rafting 'cause I never went, but maybe someone else can.

In MA, note that the MA park is closed on Mondays. If you go rafting from here, that could be one day, then on another day you could hike the park with a guide in the morning, grab some beach time, then take the Damas Island mangrove tour in the late afternoon (it's beautiful to go then, because the sun is setting). I also really loved the Canopy Safari zip-line tour here... they were the best.

In Monteverde, as I said, I recommend a night hike, a guided hike of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and the hanging bridges at Selvatura (there are more zip-lines in Selvatura in case you didn't get enough!)

In Arenal, everyone is recommending Cano Negro. It's an all-day thing, so if you find that you're short on time, an alternative is the Penas Blancas river float tour... it's a few hour tour and you go on rubber rafts (but not whitewater, just smooth gliding). It's a good opportunity to see howler monkeys in the trees overhead, birds, iguanas, etc. Cano Negro is supposed to be the best for wildlife sighting, but this may be a good alternative if you're jam-packed. I'd also do the late afternoon volcano hike (so you're there at sunset to hopefully see lava), then head over to one of the hot springs afterwards. Then rappelling will be half a day (I'd do the morning tour to free up your day). If you've done zip-lines and hanging bridges in the other places you're visiting, you'll see how you'll have enough time for everything! Other than Cano Negro, I'd think in terms of "half days" for tours. Make sense?

Regarding transportation, I didn't do the jeep/boat thing, so I can't help you there. We had drivers take us to all 3 places, so we didn't have a car anywhere we were either. In MA you won't need a car. In Arenal, I suppose it's a luxury to have one, but you won't necessarily need one -- you can grab taxis. Also, keep in mind that most tours can pick you up from your hotel. Where are you staying in Monteverde? I have to say that's the one place we felt a little "stuck" without a car (for finding restaurants), but not too bad. We were at the Monteverde Lodge, so we ate at their restaurant the whole time.

CarolM is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 12:02 PM
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Thanks Carol. I am going to follow all of your suggestions. They sound perfect and will allow me to do everything I want to do.

In Monteverde we are staying at Hotel El Establo. I guess I can handle being stuck for 2 days...

I will seek out more info on rafting.

You are a life saver!

JennPBD is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 07:00 PM
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Hey Jen, glad I could help... let me know if other questions come up, and I'll try to help out!

Volcanogirl, you must go to Monteverde one day... I'm glad I could inspire you! Here's some more inspiration (because I'm evil!) ... there's something about the feel of this area -- the eerie, misty clouds so close to the ground, the lushness and amount of vines, the cool air, and if you're lucky, spotting a quetzal is unreal.

I think the best way I can put it is Monteverde is more "subtle" than MA or Arenal, for example. It's a great place for birding, obviously, and I think overall it's got a more peaceful vibe... the village was founded by Quakers. I really like the park much better than MA. Okay, yes, two very different places, but the trails in the Monteverde Cloud Forest are less populated, and it feels more remote somehow. It's exactly what I pictured in my mind -- before I went to CR -- of what a "rain forest" might be like. Also, Santa Elena Cloud Forest, in the same area, is supposed to have even fewer tourists.

Since my next trip is so short, I can't work in Monteverde this time (it's harder to get to, as you might know), but since I need my cloud forest "fix," I'll be staying at Villa Blanca a couple nights, and exploring the Los Angeles Cloud Forest.

Anyway, here's a good site to have fun with:

www.monteverdeinfo.com

CarolM is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 07:27 PM
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Okay, you convinced me! Just when I think I'm going to go someplace OTHER than CR, I get lured back in - LOL! I will definitely check out the website too. MA was a little too crowded and Americanized for us, so MV is really appealing. Thanks for all the great info.
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Oct 25th, 2007, 01:40 PM
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I was in CR last January and I LOVED it!
We stayed in Arenal for 5 nights and we did as much as we could! Here are my recommendations:

-Cano Negro: I really recommed it. We took a million photos and enjoyed seeing the natural beauty of the country from the safety of the boat. Bird & monkey watching is prime

-Tabacon Hot Springs: It's very "resort" but VERY cool. We ate dinner at the resort then headed for the springs! The resort provides locker rooms for you with admission.
There are tons of places to hang out, so you don't feel overly crowded like at a resort pool.

-Zip Lines: We used SkyTrek and I will definitely recommend them. The staff all spoke english and went over safety procedures. You also do a few practice lines before you take the initial dive. They also offered a hike if you aren't into the whole zip-line thing.

-Volcan Arenal National Park: My #1 recommendation. We were chatting with another couple in the hotel lobby and they recommended this to us. I am SO glad we went. It's just a few dollars to get in, and there is a hiking trail that leads you up to a great view of the volcano. You also get to hike over a field of black lava rocks from an erruption a few years ago. While we were there a few toucans flew over us and we saw a family of monkeys! To me, this was the best value Arenal had to offer.

-Cataratas del Rio Fortuna (Arenal Waterfall): This to me was amazing. The hike down to the waterfall is steep and not for everyone. But if you decide to go, you'll love it. Just a pure beauty. BTW, if you want to go swimming, the water is freezing. =)

-Hanging Bridges: take it or leave it. It's a long hike and you really get to experience the rainforest, but if you don't have time...pass.

We booked the SkyTrek & Hot Springs through our hotel the day we arrived. The hot springs have a limited occupancy (they will fill and not allow anyone else in), so book that when you arrive! The rest we played by ear depending on the weather and how we felt.

Have a great time!!
EternalTourist is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 07:20 AM
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hey jen,

a poster on another thread jogged my memory about the whitewater tour company that i'd heard good things about... rios tropicales:

http://www.riostropicales.com/english.htm

you can do tours out of various places -- there's a half day out of MA for $70 on their website (i'd call the toll-free number to see how much info you can get). i think that trip is the rio naranjo? perhaps you could go out of san jose too, depending on your trip's logistics. anyway, i just thought i'd point you towards them. it is also possible/probable that your hotel can book this for you. where are you staying in MA, btw? just curious!
CarolM is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 04:09 PM
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More great information.. Thanks

We are staying at the Costa Verde in MA in the penthouse. I read it was a nice place. The penthouse has no air conditioning so I was nervous, but Wilson (my driver) thinks we will be fine! I HOPE!

Jen
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Oct 26th, 2007, 05:14 PM
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Just FYI, We're doing a whitewater rafting trip on the Pacuare with exploradores outdoors, they'll pick us up on SJO and return us to La Fortuna for NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE, that way, we essentially get a free transfer to La Fortuna! It works in reverse too, they'll p/u in La Fortuna and return you to SJO in the evening, and their fee is the same as companies that return you to the same pick up locale.

Oh and, they even gave my kids a $20/each student discount. Very nice and helpful on the phone too.
nina is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 03:14 PM
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Hi again Jen, I've stayed at Costa Verde and loved it! Great choice. Be sure to go down to the Anaconda restaurant (on the hotel premises) around dinner time when all the little squirrel monkeys come around! They run through all the trees (looking for food, but don't feed!) and it makes for amazing video It's really quite thrilling if it's your first time seeing a monkey (out in the wild, that is).

I think I forgot to mention a good MA tip: after your guided hike in the park, take off on your own for a little exploring, and hike the "Mirador Trail." The views will NOT disappoint. It's a little steep in places, but well paved and not too strenuous. Go all the way to the top and you'll get an amazing view that's worth the energy.
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Oct 29th, 2007, 02:34 PM
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Thanks for all the tips. I feel more ready to go now and have a rough activity itinerary!

Carol, I now have a question about money... Do you recommend cash, travellers checks? What demoninations?

Thanks!
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Oct 29th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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Hi, Jenn, we just brought cash with us (mostly $20s), and it was readily accepted everywhere we went - just got change back in colones. We never even had to exchange our money. We paid for most of our hotels with credit cards, but had one that requested a personal check.
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