CR: need an advice

Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:50 PM
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CR: need an advice

Hi

My husband and I are planning a trip to CR and desperately need some advice?

We're going to CR for 9 days and planning to visit Arenal (2 days), Monteverde (2 day), and Pacific coast (Guanacaste) (4 days).

First, I'm not sure if we should plan the trip ourselves or go through a tour company? Is there a big price difference?
If we decide to go through a tour company, can you recommend one?

Second, we thought to rent a car for 9 days. But then I've heard that driving a car in
Monteverde area could be pretty painful, so we decided it is better to arrange the transportation. What is the best way to do it?

How feasible is it to rent a car just for the time period when we'll be on the
Pacific coast, so that we can drive around on our own & explore the area by
ourselves?

What should be booked in advance (hotels, some tours, transportation?) and what can we do already in CR?

Thanks for your advice!

Masha
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 01:10 PM
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You can book it yourself and stay in nicer places for less money. I did this and had no problem.

A friend of mine just made the drive from San Jose to Guanacaste and lived to tell about it, although she said she did make some wrong turns and got lost a few times. For that reason I chose not to drive myself but instead booked private guides through the hotels and hired a taxi the rest of the time. It worked out great.

If you are concerned about the road to Monteverde I highly recommend an alternate cloud forest called Bosque de Paz. It is privately owned and just amazingly beautiful, with nearly no tourists. When I visited it there was just us, 1 other couple, and the owner. They even provide transportation to and from your hotel and will make stops to Saarchi or whever you want to go along the way. See bosquedepaz.com for more info.

Lastly, I recommend you book before you go, just to be sure you will be able to stay at the places you want to. Most hotels are small and may not have availability if you wait until you get there.

Good luck and have a wonderful time. I LOVED Costa Rica!

Joni
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 01:22 PM
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You can pick up a rental car at just about any point in your trip. Monteverde doesn't have any to rent but most other places do.
As far as transportation is concerned there are tons of options. A lot of people take little puddle jumper in country flights. You could even check with your hotels to see if they can arrange something for you. Many of them can arrange just about anything you would need.
Whether you reserve places ahead of time or just wing it when you get there would depend partly on your fussiness about where you stay and what time of year. You can get some pretty good deals just showing up at some of the hotels during the slower months like May and June. Right now would not be the best time to go down without something although you could find room somewhere. It just might not be your first or second choice. I just got back and quite a few people were talking about how few rooms were available in some of the places like Arenal and Monteverde. They said there were many families traveling. Even down on the Osa many of the places were booked up that same week. Things were quieting down for a little while but the next spring break rush is not far behind.
You might need to drop Monteverde depending on when your flights arrive and leave.
Keep in mind that the more northern Guanacaste coast (Nicoya and northward) takes much longer to get back to San Jose from if you are going to try to make a flight on the same day. Manuel Antonio is only about 3-4hrs depending on how bad the truck traffic is getting back over the mountains.
If you get into the country by about 1:30 you would have time to get to Arenal as it is only about 2 1/2hrs from the airport if you go through San Ramon. If you get in later and want to rent a car I would stay in Alajuela overnight and have the car company deliver the car to you the next morning. This would save you a pretty good airport tax on rental cars.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 01:28 PM
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If you decide to travel to Monteverde, I wouldn't worry about driving it--unless you and your husband are really nervous about it. I haven't been there, but I know the roads are not good. Neither are a few other roads in Costa Rica (and I have been on many of those!). With care, it really isn't much of a problem. The scenery is always fantastic. . takes the pain of the potholes away! The car is actually a pretty good way to get around. . .I wouldn't do without one. Try this plan:

The turnoff to Monteverde is on the highway between San Jose and the Pacific Coast. Make Monteverde either your first or last leg.

1. Arenal
2. Pacific--about 3 1/2 hr. from Arenal
3. Monteverde--on the way back to SJ

Or reverse that order. For some reason, I think it would be more relaxing to get the rough driving over with first. Like go to Monteverde first, then do the beaches, then drive to Arenal for a couple of relaxing days before you leave the country. The drive from Arenal to San Jose is a pleasant 2 or 2 1/2 hours.

Even better, I would skip Monteverde and combine the Arenal part of the vacation with a couple of more days exploring the Central Valley! There is SUCH beautiful country a couple of hours in ANY direction from San Jose. . .so much to see!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 03:05 PM
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You didn't mention when you are intending to go, and that would have a bearing on whether you want to book ahead or not. We just came back from a trip to Costa Rica during President's week. We had reservations for our first night but not for thereafter. It was not a problem. As was previously stated, if you go after April, it should be less of a problem.
I have to disagree that "you can pick up a rental car at just about any point in your trip." If you are planning on taking transport from San Jose to Arenal, or from Arenal to Monteverde, I think the closest place you could rent a car would be either back in San Jose or in Liberia. The drive to Monteverde (indeed the drive from Arenal toward the Pacific Coast) is very bumpy. But if you go slow and enjoy it, it's not really "painful."
I also disagree with suggestion that you should go from Arenal to the Pacific Coast and then back to Monteverde. In order to get to the Pacific Coast (i.e. Nicoya Peninsula) from Arenal, you have to drive to Canas, pick up the Interamericana, take the Interamericana south, and then cross over the Tempisque Bridge toward Nicoya (or take the Interamericana north to Liberia and head southwest toward Nicoya.) Either way you are driving right past the road to Monteverde before you even get to Canas. Monteverde is only about 15-20 miles from there. I wouldn't drive all the way out to the Coast and then all the way back in to Monteverde.
I think your original plan is great.I disagree with the suggestions that you should skip Monteverde. It's really beautiful. The cloud forest is like nothing I've ever experienced before (or after.)
One more suggestion, if you are planning to see only those three areas (Arenal, Monteverde and Nicoya Peninsula), it would be simpler to fly in and out of Liberia instead of San Jose. If you do head for the Northen Pacific (Ocotal, del Coco or Playa Hermosa), let me know, I have a couple of restaurants to recommend.
Enjoy.
Roger
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 10:25 PM
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Having just returned (Monday, March 1) from doing a very similar trip - Arenal (2 days), Monteverde (3 days) and the coast for five days - a couple suggestions.

- We rented a Jeep and I loved the driving! In and out of Monteverde is extremely rough, but with or without a driver or tour bus, it will be extremely rough. You must drive so slowly around Monteverde that safety never is an issue.

Drive with care, watch for potholes, drive a solid 4X4 vehicle and remember to watch the road despite the temptation to enjoy the views.

We went in late February and I had a lot of trouble booking hotels around Arenal volcano and in Monteverde. I was rejected by my first three or four choices in both places. If you want to get a nice place & a good value, book in advance.

We met people who spent all day scouring for hotels rather than enjoying the sites. That being said, I'm sure it depends on when you go.




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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 05:54 AM
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Myself and 4 friends are taking a similar trip 3/22-3/29, and wondered if we need to book tours in advance (like canopy tours, etc.), or if we can arrange them when we arrive. We already booked hotel in Arenal, Staying Montana de Fuego 2 nights.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:05 AM
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TCWGator,
There is no need to book any local tours in advance. You can always ask the hotel you are staying in to arrange it for you for the following day. I have never heard of any problems getting a place in these tours.
Feel free to write me directly with any more questions or information.
Have fun, drive carefully.
Pura Vida,
Neta Talmor
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:06 AM
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Thank you for your reply to my message. I have one more question - we are are arriving in San Jose 3/22, staying in Alajuela at Orquideas, then driving to Arenal on next day, staying Montana de Fuego 2 days, then driving to Nicoya Peninsula to go to beaches for 2 nights before returning to San Jose. Do you think we will have any trouble finding places to stay without reservations at beaches?
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:12 AM
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Dear TCWGator,
I believe you will not have a problem, especially if you don't have a specific hotel you MUST go to. If you know where you are going to, you can always make a couple of calls the night before to check availability, just in case, but I don't think you need to make reservations in advance.
Feel free to write me directly as well.
Pura Vida,
Neta Talmor
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:24 AM
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You can get a rental car anywhere in the country. There are generally delivery fees if there is no local office. You could pay the delivery fee to get the car and then return it in San Jose or Liberia on your way out of the country. Alamo does have a rental office or did right behind the Catholic Church in La Fortuna (Arenal).
As far as getting a car in the Guanacaste area there are several offices for different car rentals in many areas and they will deliver right to your hotel or you can get a taxi to go get the car yourself. If I remember correctly, a couple of the larger hotels in the Guanacaste area have car rental offices in them.
There is a company that specializes in Monteverde/Arenal but they offer transportation and services to many other points in Costa Rica. Monteverdeinfo.com
There are a couple of fairly inexpensive private bus companies that are comfortable to travel on-Interbus and Fantasy Bus (Greyline).
Tour companies do have a little wiggle room in room prices and at times you can get a better rate on your own if you are not shy about asking. The lower rates would depend on the time of year also.
I do agree with the idea of going to Arenal to Monteverde to Guanacaste. Otherwise you will be backtracking somewhat. It takes long enough to get anywhere down there without doing that.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:27 AM
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To TCWGator,
Check with your car rental company to see if they would deliver the car to you at Orquideas for free. It would save you having to pay the airport tax on the rental if you pick it up there. The cost of a taxi to Orquideas is about $8.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:50 AM
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Thank you Suzie2, how much is the airport tax. We reserved from Dollar at airport.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 08:34 AM
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If you don't have a particular place that you would like to stay on the Nicoya and like budget places, I am going to recommend the Hotel Brasilito at Playa Brasilito. It is between Tamarindo and Flamingo. Also near is Playa Grande, Playa Conchal, and Playas Potrero and Pan de Acuzar (Sugar). Clean, roomy, RIGHT on the water, a 5 minute walk up to beach to Playa Conchal--one of the most beautiful beaches in c. R.--a 10 minute drive to Flamingo, 20 minutes to Tamarindo, you get the picture. The rooms are about $30 oceanside or $15 back a ways. Nice restaurant with good food, very small, but quite homey. This is a unique place and there in not usually a problem booking here. Especially the week that you have mentioned when Spring Break should be waning. There are lots of nicer places, but there is something about this place. . . .www.brasilito.com
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 08:42 AM
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The airport tax is 12% of the total bill. This is on top of the regular taxes for car rentals in Costa Rica I believe.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 10:17 AM
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In January, the roads around Monteverde were a disaster. I don't like to drive anyway, so we hired cars and drivers--they aren't expensive. A taxi anywhere in Monteverde is $5 or $10.

You really creep along the potholed dirt roads in Monteverde--hopefully they've regraded and spread new gravel by now, but I wouldn't count on it. Taxi drivers and guides told us they have to get new shock absorbers every 2-4 months.

The rest of the roads we were on in CR weren't bad--some potholes, almost all just 2 lanes. And the 2 lanes caused traffic problems as many trucks are underpowered and overloaded. Even thought many of the roads were pretty good going from San Jose to Monteverde and then from Arenal to San Jose, we had lots of delays because of slow trucks, broken down vehicles, trucks dumping their loads on sharp bends, etc.
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 03:10 PM
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Thank you all for your advices (I haven't open the forum for 2 days and was pleasantly surprised when I open my thread)!!

We're going to CR on 3.27-4.05, so we don't have much time left?

I'm going to organize our trip by myself. (The tour company I communicated with considers that my estimated budget is too small. And I
really have a challenge ahead of me to fit in this budget)

I changed my previous plan a little bit:
Arriving in the early afternoon in SJ on March 27 (we already bought tickets to/from SJ, not Liberia)
We need to organize transportation to bring us to Monteverde. Why Monteverde at the very beginning of our trip? Because I was thinking about doing the horse-riding trek from Monteverde to La Fortuna/Arenal volcano
http://www.monteverdeinfo.com/horseb...al_volcano.htm) instead of get to Arenal area by car.
March 28: do canopy tour in Monteverde.
March 29: horse-riding to La Fortuna/Arenal volcano, visiting Tabacon hot spring.
March 30: exploring the Arenal area, night hiking
March 31: leaving Arenal, go to Pacific coast- Guanacaste. (what kind of transportation? - not decided yet)
I'm not sure what particular place at Guanacaste first - I didn't study this area yet. We'd like to rent a car there (if we rent a car only for coastal area - do we still need 4X4 vehicle?) and spend the rest of our vacation (April 1- April 4) exploring the Pacific coast area. We're thinking to stay 2 days in one place and 2 days in another (MalPais - ?)
Because our flight back to San Francisco is very early in the morning, we'll return to SJ the day before our departure (maybe flying to SJ?) and spend one night in SJ.
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 03:39 PM
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I'm not sure you will get the most benefit from splitting your beach time in two different locations. MalPais is definitely too difficult to get to to try to work it into the time frame you have. I would suggest you spend your time at one of two places. . .either the Manuel Antonio area down by Quepos (probably about 6 hours by car from Arenal) or the Tamarindo-Flamingo area (about 4 hours by car from Arenal). Both areas could keep you entertained pretty easily for 4 days! Although I personally really like the Tamarindo/Flamingo area, others would tell you to go to Manuel Antonio. And it is breathtakingly beautiful!
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