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CR Trip Report, Arenal, Monteverde, MA

Old Mar 2nd, 2005, 03:59 PM
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CR Trip Report, Arenal, Monteverde, MA

First I want to thank Shillmac et. al. who responded to my posts. Their suggestions were right on. Spent 2 days in Arenal, 3 in Monteverde and 3 in M.A. 1 night coming and going in S.J. Didn't feel rushed and it thought it was the right amount of time in each place.
We flew to S.J. from Mexico City arriving at 1030 PM. Going thru immigration took 45 minutes as they use minimal staff at night, and another flight got in about 5 minutes before us.
Spent first night at the San Jose Marriott (we used points) which is about 5 minutes from the airport. The next morning they called AVIS who picked us up for the 3 minute drive to their office. We were on the road 10 minutes later in a new Kia Sportage 4x4. We enjoyed the additional clearance the 4x4 had. Roads were well marked and we used the maps provided by the hotel and AVIS.
Stopped at Sarchi. Good for a bathroom break and coffee. Cheapest postcards in C.R.
Trip to Arenal took 4 hours including Sarchi stop. Road was recently repaired and saw about 10 potholes.
Hotel Arenal Paraiso was easy to find and the cabins were comfortable. The volcano was visible and we could see lava rolling down the sides. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in about 5 PM and that was the last we saw of the volcano.
Breakfast was good, but our friends made the mistake of eating dinner there..we opted for town and had a very good meal at Nenes.The next day we walked to the water fall which, hardly had any water flowing as it's dry season and did the hanging bridges. Our friends did the zip lines and were disappointed because they didn't see very much, but enjoyed the ride.
Left for Monteverde and took the route around the lake. A beautiful drive until we turned off for Monteverde, then the paved road disappears and becomes a dusty, rutted dirt road with deep ditches and lots of loose rocks and gravel. Slowed down to a crawl and arrived 5 1/2 hours later at the Arco Iris Hotel in Santa Elena. Small simple rooms but lots of hot water and a nice shower.
Ate dinner at De Lucia's in Monteverde, excellent food and good service.A small buffet breakfast with lots of fresh fruit and yoghurt and we were off to the Cloud Forest, about a 10 minute drive from our hotel. Parked about 20 feet from the entrance, paid the entrance fee and were a dircted to a theater where we saw a short video about the area, then were divided into groups of 8 and off we went. Our guide was excellent and spotted many birds, including a quetzal,insects, and lots of lovely plants. We got some great pictures thru his spotting scope.
Tour lasted 3 hours and then we walked several other paths by ourselves for a few more hours. Rested on the hotel lawn sipped beer and ate dinner at the Morphos. Another good dinner on the most uncomfotable chairs in the world.
The trip to MA was an hour on the terrible road, then we hit the Pan Am highway, breathed a sigh of relief, increased our speed from 20 k's an hour to 95 k's an hour and were ready for lunch when we arrived at the Tarcoles Bridge. People were throwing fish to the crocodiles who dutifully fought over the pieces. Drove thru Jaco, and am glad we didn't stay there. Was able to hit the ATM for a cash infusion and on to La Colina, which was perched on a hill midway between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Again very simple, basic rooms. Our room overlooked the ocean and there were 2 small pools, one with a swim up bar. Drinks very reasonable. Was able to fill a very large plastic bag with all of our dirty clothes and get them back the next day, cost was $10.00 for the bag. Breakfast consisted of 5 choices ordered from a menu, including juice, fruit and coffee. You can order eggs, french toast, pancakes etc.
MA park was a 10 minute drive from the hotel, paid the $7.00 entrance fee, but didn't hire a guide. Anytime we came across a group staring at a tree you could rest assured there was an animal, bird etc. there. After walking around for 3 hours we settled on Tres beach and stayed there for the rest of the day. About noon a tent was erected and an hour later a bride and groom appeared for a wedding. Everyone on the beach joined them.
The next morning we drove about 10 miles to Isla Damas to see about a tour thru the mangroves. Unfortunately we arrived at low tide and had to return at 3 PM. A tour from Quepos costs about $50.00 per person. We rented a boat for the 4 of us $50.00. The trip thru the mangroves lasted 3 hours and our sharp eyed guide spotted bats, a boa contrictor, many birds, monkeys etc. A worthwhile trip. Went to Si Como No Hotel Resort for drinks and to see the sunset.Their view wasn't much better than ours, the drinks overpriced and weak. Drove to Karolas for dinner, the best meal we had in CR.
The next morning we headed back to S.J and the Marriott. Arrived about noon and drove into S.J. Visited the beautiful National theater,pre Columbian Gold Museum, and Jade Museum. All three took about 4 hours and were back in the Marriott pool by 3 PM. Caught the early morning flight to Mexico City.
To summarize: People were very friendly, great range of hotels, interesting roads, good food and excellent weather. Would recommend CR
to anyone.
arbegold is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2005, 06:08 PM
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Hi Arbegold:

Thank you for your trip report as we will be going end of April. Seem like from your comment, below, Karolas is a place yet I did not see it on map. Where exactly is it and what is name of restaurant you so enjoyed? You wrote,

"Drove to Karolas for dinner, the best meal we had in CR".

Thank you. ~Debbie
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Old Mar 2nd, 2005, 07:58 PM
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Karola's is a restaurant in Manuel Antonio. Great food. Enjoyed your report, arbegold--so glad you had a great time!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 04:01 AM
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Karolas is indeed in M.A. , opposite Cafe Milagro , down a steep little driveway . Next to the little road that takes u to Makanda etc. ....
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 05:27 AM
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What a great report! thanks. we're going in three weeks so i'm busy writing down suggestions. one question - how ong did the drive from monteverde to manual antonio take? also, where did you rent a car? thanks!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2005, 07:20 AM
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julierae-- I can answer about renting a car. We found best price for one of Costa Rica's largest car rental companies:

Poas Rent a Car Costa Rica
1-888-607-7629
[email protected]
Ph (506) 442-6178
Fax (506) 442-6685

website: http://www.carentals.com/

They saved me $100 over competitive rates from other Costa Rican and American companies. They have answered all my questions with e-mails. Hope this helps you.

ciaodeb is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2005, 07:51 AM
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Julierae: It took about 4 1/2 hours to drive from Monteverde to M.A. This included the stop at Tarcoles and a slight detour thru Jaco.
We rented thru AVIS as they gave us the best rate for a 4x4. Best to check with all the agencies as we found that prices can vary by as much as $100.00. Be sure to ask if the rate includes the manditory insurance which runs between $9-$15 per day, and all taxes.
arbegold is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2005, 11:45 AM
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arbegold,
I am planning a trip for early may w/ a pretty similary itin and am trying to figure out travel btw places. It's going to be a 8 day tripWould you drive again if you had to do it over again? Did you feel like you were in the car most of the time?
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Old Mar 15th, 2005, 07:02 PM
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Hutch,
We wouldn't do it any other way. The total driving time for the 8 days was between 16-17 hours and that was with stops for food, photo's,gas etc.
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