CR itinerary too ambitious?

Old Oct 25th, 2006, 10:41 PM
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CR itinerary too ambitious?

Hi. Just like thousands of other gringos, we will be descending upon lovely CR in late December. I hear that I am very late in planning this (who knew?) but this is the best time for me to take off work. So I say, "Que sera, sera," and I'm doing it anyway. I even plan to enjoy myself. LOL (I don't mind meeting up with my fellow Americans overseas, as long as we don't overwhelm the locals to the point where they hate us--or I end up hating us because we've managed to wipe out any local character or screw up the environment completely.)

That said, one of my hobbies is photographing nature/wildlife, so I do look for places where nature is and people aren't. But I'm also an artist so I love looking at crafts, museums, etc. We've got from Dec 22 through Jan 2, so that gives us 10 full days in CR. Given those facts, is the following itinerary too ambitious, or would anyone suggest alternatives for two people who are more interested in hiking/cloud forest/nature/art/photography than romance and beaches?

Day 1: fly in to SJO at 2 pm
Day 2: fly to Osa Peninsula
Day 3: day in Corcovado NP
Day 4: fly back to San Jose, possibly walk around SJ or day trip to Braulio Carillo aerial tram if time
Day 5: aerial tram if not yesterday, Sarchi, San Jose walk/shop
Day 6: Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfalls on way to Arenal, night volcano viewing and/or hot springs
Day 7: Arenal to Monteverde, possibly zip line tour
Day 8: Spend day in Monteverde Cloud Forest, suspended canopy walk in afternoon?
Day 9: Drive to Manuel Antonio area
Day 10: Day in Manuel Antonio NP
Day 11: NP is closed on Mondays - kayaking or collapse on nearest beach?
Day 12: Fly or drive back to San Jose, depart at 2:45

Thank you in advance for any suggestions. Basically, I'm going to be happy wherever we go, because I'm not freezing my butt off at work, but I don't want to be responsible for running the two of us ragged, either!

Thanks, guys.

tripMe is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2006, 01:45 AM
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Yes, unfortunately, it is an itinerary better suited for a 12-15 day stay. I'm just curious if you have checked for accomodations on the Osa, Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio? You are more than likely going to have to make plans AFTER you see what is available and where. For Christmas/New Year's, it is VERY late in the game. Some people have already reserved NEXT Christmas!

That said, please plan on at least 2 nights at Arenal and 2 nights in Monteverde. At least. . transfers often take anywhere from a half day to a whole day, and you don't want to have to leave within just a few hours of arriving! Frustrating, to say the least.

The Osa Peninsula needs at least 3 nights. I can't even imagine attempting it in less.

Allow at least 2 nights in the airport area for sightseeing in and around San Jose, either at the beginning or end of your trip. Poas, Sarchi, San Jose itself, etc. I'd skip the Aerial Tram, but you might enjoy the Highlights Tour out of San Jose, which will give you a great overview of some very nice areas, including Braulio Carillo. It's a full day tour.

Definitely, you are going to have to pick and choose. You're good for about 3 loctions, depending on arrival/departure times and the need to spend the first and/or last nights near the airport. Good luck with the accomodations!
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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 03:34 AM
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I've heard the aerial tram is not worth the trip, I'd skip that. As shillmac has said, you have too much planned into too short of a time, plus where you go might be dependent on what you can find available-this late most are booked. The Osa needs at least 3 nights, and MA - while great - will be redundant after the Osa. I'd start with the Osa & Arenal areas and see what you find available and then go from there.
tully is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2006, 04:44 AM
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You have left plaaning your trip far too late. Also, if you want to be 'where nature is and people aren't' you need to eliminate several of the proposed locations on your itinerary.....

You are also trying to do too much in a short period of time.

I suggest you find CONFIRMED accomodation somewhere [Arenal would be a good choice, maybe combined with somewhere in the northern Pacific area], then proceed from there.



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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 09:07 AM
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Thanks for your replies. Actually, I have been researching this trip for two or three months, but couldn't get decent airfare. I was inclined to postpone until next year, but my brother was determined and bought tickets last minute with frequent flyer points. Now I have to make this work.

So I know the problems with the peak season and I appreciate your warnings about hotels, but at this point we're committed to these dates. Like I said, I know it's not an ideal time or way to experience CR, but I'm trying to make the best of the opportunity I've been given.

Why the northern Pacific?--I thought Guanacaste was known mainly for its resorts and beaches. Or do you mean the Nicoya Peninsula? Will definitely look into it.

As far as hotels, I'm hoping persistence will pay off. I've already gotten replies from Fonda Vela and Arenal Observatory Lodge with no availability, but I sent emails to several other places last night. I tried Montana de Fuego, Arenal Lodge, Lost Iguana, Chalet Nicholas in Nuevo Arenal, the Arco Iris Lodge and the Monteverde Lodge. Have not yet had replies from these. I visited, which I saw mentioned here, and will try all of those listings as well. Any additional suggestions are welcome.

Will also work on paring down the itinerary. Thanks for the heads up on the aerial tram. We'll probably skip it at this point. As for Manuel Antonio, we were looking there because it's near a Marriott and we might be able to get a "friends and family" deal there. I know that probably seems like goofy reasoning to you guys, but at this point I was thinking any help we could get with accommodations would be good!

Off to revise the itinerary...again.

tripMe is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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The Marriot on the Pacific is actually located about 30min north of Jaco which is 90min or so north of MA, so you'd be about 2hrs from MA if staying there, although I hear it's a beautiful resort (although not at all secluded -- has a golf course, marina, etc). There is also a Marriot near San Jose I believe.

Have you tried contacting places on the Osa? Haven't been to CR yet, making big plans for next year and everyone seems to agree that MA is a bit of a let down after spending time on the Osa.

I've made reservations also at Bosque de Paz which is about an hour outside of the airport but very secluded w/ private hiking trails through rain/cloud forest that you might want to contact

I had trouble finding hotel vaccancies in Arenal at the main hotels trying to book 6 months in advance -- I found the best bet was to contact, they seem to have a good grasp on what hotels have availability throughout the area

Good luck!
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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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i'd skip Osa, definitely not time in your intenary.
instead of Monteverde- where most hotels are already booked, try the town of Santa Elena, i stayed last month in a new lodge on a coffee farm:

great, with your own cooking facilities, hot water and surrounded by wildlife. i paid USD65 a night, but it will be about usd95 in Dec!
i tried the Arenal Tram last month for the first time last month, nothing special.
spend the money on a day trip to Cano Negra wildlife Reserve instead, loads of wildlife to see and photograph.
aventuras and sunset tours in la fortuna are good!
as for beaches, dece is going to be booked for all the popular beach resorts, maybe try somewhere 'off the beaten track' like Playa Carrillo, its one of the most beautiful beaches in CR and 5km south of Playa Samara with all its restaurants and activities.
i stayed at El Sueno Tropical which has the best restaurant in the area.
you also should consider the Caribbean instead, not so many 'fellow Americans'
spend as little ti,me as poss in SJ, it's a dump!!
here are my travelblogs which might help you decide:

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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 02:05 PM
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We are also going to Costa Rica Dec. 23 and will be there till Jan. 6 I found a room at Los Lagos in Arenal. Many hotels in some areas have minimum stays for the holidays. Bosque del Cabo was nearly compeltely booked. We did Manuel Antonio after the Osa once and will never go back to Manuel Antonio. will send you a list of available hotels in Arenal. I think they also can help you with Monteverde. The middle part of our trip we are going to Nosara but for your first trip I think Arenal and Monteverde would be great if you can be flexible.You might also be able to combine nights at different hotels, not the best situation but may be necessary. If you have cheap long distance you can call the hotels because sending emails back and forth may lose valuable time when space is tight. You will love Costa Rica no matter what. It will be our sixth trip.
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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 04:54 PM
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Thanks again, guys. So far I've gotten four positive replies, three in the Arenal area and one in Osa. So, if I book those, I'd end up doing three nights near Corcovado and up to four nights near Arenal, possibly in Nuevo Arenal. I know that's possibly a bit off the beaten track, but we'll have a car so we can travel a bit, I think. I'm trying to remain as flexible as I can right now!

The booking near San Jose is not a problem; we just need to pick our exact days at the SJ Marriott.

So, I'm hoping this is a good sign, and the hotel situation is not quite as bleak as I feared. I'd hate to skip MA completely as photos make it look spectacular, but the Los Suenos booking is looking a bit squishy, so if I can't find a single solitary hotel room for two nights anywhere within two hours of the NP during the time we're in CR, then we're definitely not going to see it this time around.

How's that for making a decision? <grin>

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Old Oct 26th, 2006, 06:29 PM
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It's rarely mentioned on Fodor's, but there is a fantastic hotel on the San Carlos River just north of Muelle (which is a short 30 min. or so drive from Arenal)--east past La Fortuna.

Tilajari Lodge.

There might well be availability there, and it is a real treat, offering all the same day trip tours as the Arenal area hotels.

Sounds like things are beginning to take shape for you. I agree with Tully that Arenal and the Osa would be a nice itinerary.

You might also consider the hotels in the Rincon de la Vieja area--such as Hotel Borinquen or Guachepelin. Nice area with a lot of activity. Also, tends to attract less people. North of Liberia, so close to the north Pacific beaches.

I understand the challenges you are dealing with in your planning. Hopefully your determination will pay off. If I had the opportunity, I'd be doing the same thing--scrambling for rooms! Do look into Tilajari--think you'd be pleasantly surprised. But the lake area would also be nice.
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