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chicagonyc Dec 15th, 2006 01:17 PM

December trip to Costa Rica

I'm organizing a last-minute trip 12/24-12/30 to Costa Rica for my wife and I -- our first time.

From my research, I'd like to bookend the trip in San Jose, and in the middle visit the Arenal and Manuel Antonio areas. But I'm open to suggestions from you all for alternatives within reasonable distance from San Jose.

A couple of questions:

* We arrive on the 24th. Will CR be closed down for Christmas (we're Jewish, so we'll be up and about).

* Is driving a good idea to get around, or is a bus doable?

* What are the recommended immunizations?

* Is La Fortuna close enough to Arenal? I noticed a nice hotel called "Lands in Love" that is located there.

* I'm considering Parque Del Lago for the San Jose hotel. Any experiences there?


chicagonyc Dec 15th, 2006 01:20 PM

One more question:

* Is it better to go SJ -> Arenal -> Manuel Antonio -> SJ, or to MA->Arenal?

shillmac Dec 15th, 2006 05:46 PM

The order of your itinerary won't make much difference. Arenal and Manuel Antonio are equidistant from San Jose, about 3 hours, with 6 hours between them, more or less. Your choice.

The problem is going to be finding a room. Many places have been booked for 6 months or more. Most will be full at this point. These are hands down THE two most popular areas in the country and the Ticos (Costa Ricans) will be enjoying them as well since their kids are out of school for vacation. Good luck!

Someone posted recently that Costa Verde in Manuel Antonio had space. You'd better start making some phone calls right away!

tjones_34 Dec 16th, 2006 09:54 AM

I had to cancel my reservation at mangomoon which is a beautiful hotel located in Manuel Antonio ( for Dec 27-30th. I booked way back in August and the place has been booked for the holidays since fall. The room is still available (to be truthfull in disclosure, if it is not re-rented, I will be charged a cancellation fee). But, nevertheless, as you can see from the website ( it is a beautiful place in an absolutely gorgeous location. The room has an ocean view, and at $225 a nite, its a bargain. I have been to Manuel Antonio many times and it is absolutely one of the most spectacular places in the world. contact joni at Mango Moon to make a reseration 011-506-777-5323, or alternatively email her -- stay(at)

I would be happy to share any other information I have if you want to contact me at tjones_34(at) In any event, have a great trip, you will love Costa Rica and Manuel Antonio.

guanacaste Dec 16th, 2006 10:36 AM

youŽd better book sooon!!

la fortuna is the town that is nearest to Arenal Volcano:

chicagonyc Dec 16th, 2006 10:39 AM

Thanks for the advice.

Will we be able to rent a car on the 24th? I'm afraid everything will be shut down.

chicagonyc Dec 16th, 2006 10:42 AM

I was wrong about the location of Lands in Love. It's located halfway near San Ramon and La Fortuna.

shillmac Dec 16th, 2006 11:28 AM

I agree with the others! Call Mango Moon immediately! Yes, you'll be able to rent on the 24th. Contact Tricolor--you won't need a 4X4, so you can take what they have which should make it easier for you. Up to you about splitting your time. You'll find plenty to do either location for the time you have.

Good luck!

chicagonyc Dec 16th, 2006 11:37 AM

I found a hotel called the Paraiso Carlisa, located between Jaco and Quepos, that looks nice.

Is that too far from the park?

shillmac Dec 16th, 2006 12:59 PM

No, that might actually be a nice location. You can get to Manuel Antonio in about an hour, maybe a little less, depending on the exact location of the hotel. You'll also be close to Turu-Bari park and Carara Biological Reserve. Both would be excellent choices for day trips. I think I'd be tempted to grab whatever I could find at this point! Talk about flying by the seat of your pants! :)

shillmac Dec 16th, 2006 01:09 PM

This hotel is actually NOT between Jaco and Quepos, but over at Puriscal. Have you looked at a map?

The drive to Manuel Antonio would be more like 1.5 or 2 hours which is still not that big of a deal. You will still be pretty close (within an hour) of Turu-Bari and Carara.

The good thing about this location is that it is about an hour from the airport. You'll need to get some good directions to get you started. You actually take a little road that goes back behind the airport toward Santa Ana, then Cuidad Colon.

This area of Costa Rica is an area not frequented by tourists, which, at this particular time of year is a GOOD THING! Puriscal is a very nice little town. There is an excellent restaurant in town (on a street corner not far from one of the banks), but I can't remember the name. The road to Puriscal and beyond toward Orotina is actually in pretty good condition, although it's been about 18 months since I've been on it.

I think you've found yourself a good deal! Congrats!

On the day you plan to visit the park in Manuel Antonio, leave early, by 5:30. You should arrive at the park and be ready to hire your guide outside the park entrance by 8:00. The park is closed on Mondays. Take your swimming gear and backpack with snacks/drinks into the park with you and spend the day at one of the beaches inside. The second one is very nice and swimmable.

You might consider driving back another day to do the Finca Valmy horseback riding tour (you might ought to book that in advance--or check with them to see what they would suggest).

Damas Mangrove Tour--the same.

Have fun--Pura Vida!

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