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desperately need good trip plan for Costa Rica 6/25 thru 7/11

desperately need good trip plan for Costa Rica 6/25 thru 7/11

Old May 21st, 2009, 06:20 PM
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desperately need good trip plan for Costa Rica 6/25 thru 7/11

My girls 24 & 28 and I (60 yf) will be visiting CR during the stated dates and I would certainly appreciate suggestions on how to schedule our stays so they can see rainforest, volcano (active one) and beaches, the only thing I want to do is the Tortuga Isle day tour. I thought to stay in SJ the first 3 nights and the last night. I tried crvacations but the price was a little much. Want to experience one "luxury spa/resort" but only for a few days. All seem to be north and I do not want to do the domestice flight thing nor do I want to rent a car (terrorized by Mexican drivers). Daughter says buses unreliable. Any help would be greatly appreciated as this is our first time going to cr and probably our last as a family group. They want to stay in the forest I read Arenal Observatory and thought it might be ok for 3/4 days. But how do I get there from SJ? And from there to other recommended site?
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Old May 21st, 2009, 06:30 PM
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You can either hire a private driver through your hotel or ride Interbus. We always hire a private driver - it will run you around $140 to go from SJO to Arenal. If you decide on that option, they will be waiting for you at the airport to whisk you off to paradise. Arenal would be great for your volcano time. We stay at the Lost Iguana www.lostiguanaresort.com. Manuel Antonio is great for beach time - national park full of wildlife and a very pretty beach. Lots of hotel and restaurant choices in this area depending on what you want and your price range. If you want a posh place in the San Jose area, you might try Xandari - nice property with a spa www.xandari.com.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 07:42 PM
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Agree with vg, would do a split between Arenal & Manuel Antonio, with (if needed) your first and last nights in San Jose. There are many nice places to stay in both places, all depending on your budget.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 08:38 PM
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Arenal and MA get my vote too. If you want something less expensive in Arenal I would recommend Silencio del Campo. Xandari is an amazing resort with a shuttle to and from the SJO airport. In MA check out the possibility of renting a condo from VRBO. My family of 4 found a wonderful 2 bedroom home overlooking the ocean.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 09:45 PM
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Interbus is a great way to get around. Arenal and Manuel Antonio are easy to get to, beautiful and offer lots of things to see and do. If you stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge you would probably want to have a car. Since you said you didn't want to rent a car Lost Iguana might be a good choice for you, but for less $ Silencio del Campo can't be beat for local flavor, on site hot springs and wonderful owners. Interbus is a great way to get from place to place and easy to reserve. There are lots of places to stay in Manuel Antonio. If you state your budget that will help with responses.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 02:56 AM
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I agree - Silencio del Campo gets consistently good reviews and would be a nice spot for you. In terms of what to see and do, Arenal offers a lot of activities - volcano watch, hike the Hanging Bridges, zipline at Sky Trek, go to the natural hot springs like Eco Termales, hike the waterfall, and do the Cano Negro tour with Sunset Tours to see wildlife. It's a fun spot. If you go to MA, remember that the park is closed on Mondays. The Damas Mangrove tour is popular there, as is horeseback riding. We hired a guide to take us through the park and saw a lot of wildlife. This part of CR is pretty Americanized and most people speak English. Very easy place to get around.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 12:35 PM
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Hi,
I would recommend staying only one night in San Jose and going straight to Arenal. There are lots of shuttle services and there are no Mexican bandits on the roads. They are really safe here. However, your daughters are right, the buses aren't totally reliable.

I don't recommend you stay at AOL for 3-4 nights. There isn't all that much to do there. You're better off staying there 2 nights and then moving over to Arenal area where you can take a easy hike through the hanging bridges in the rain forest, and soak in gorgeous hot springs. This is an experience of a lifetime, soaking in naturally heated pools while you watch the volcano lava show. You do get the best show at AOL!

From there I would head over to the beach. You can stay at Punta Leon resort which is close to Jaco where the Tortuga Island tour leaves from. Punta Leona is gorgeous with its own beaches and pools and beautifully manicured. You can stay here for a couple of nights and then head over to Manuel Antonio.

In Manuel Antonio you can do a bunch of activities for everyone. Plus, do the National Park tour. It's a dry tropical forest with guaranteed wildlife sightings and gorgeous beaches.

Hope this helps,
Marina K. Villatoro
http://travelexperta.com
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 03:57 PM
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Marina, what makes a "dry" tropical forest? Can you educate me?
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 06:54 PM
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THANKS to all of you. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your replies! This is going to make my job so much easier. It is one thing reading reviews (my sceptical daughter says owners & workers post them too lol) but to have recommendations from people like yourselves is what I value. BTW I am trying to stay under $3,000. So you can see I was quite worried about the high transportation fees. I am taking each & every comment & suggestion to heart as I start my planing all over. I am ditching tour agents, travel agents and my first meager attempts :+)
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 09:21 PM
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volcanogirl, I've always heard Manuel Antonio referred to as a moist forest. Rainforests (at least according to Philip at Bosque del Cabo) are places where it literally rains every day. More like Amazonian forests, right at equator level. He even calls the Osa a moist forest. Same for MA. Technically I'd go with his opinion.

Now up in Guanacaste, that is a dry tropical forest, very little rain during certain months.

To the original poster (OP), AOL is a difficult choice if you do not have a vehicle. It is about 15 minutes from the main highway (9km of rather rough unpaved road). As far as I know, there is no shuttle. Maybe taxis, but they wouldn't be cheap over a period of days. Great hotel, though, and in my opinion certainly good for 3-4 days if you don't mind driving a little bit to some of the activities. It is VERY close to ziplines, national park entrance and also Hanging Bridges. It is about 20-25 minutes from the town of La Fortuna where the Fortuna falls are--and where the tour to Cano Negro leaves. Cano Negro would be a really ideal way to spend one of your days.

Personally, I've not heard a lot of good reviews of Punta Leona, but must admit I've not researched it too much. June 25-July 11 is a lot of days for 2 locations. 16 nights, right? I do think you should consider a few days around San Jose and Xandari would be a good choice. Any spa stay at a notable spa will be pricey. But probably well worth it. We really like the spa inside Tabacon Hot Springs, for what it's worth. Also, I think you girls would enjoy seeing and doing things in the area between San Jose and Arenal. You could easily spend 3 nights in this area. Orquideas Inn is an excellent place with their Wadi Tours to keep you entertained. Rates are really reasonable there. Lots of little towns to visit in that area, giving you a good feel for the local flavor.

I think you might even consider taking the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Montezuma or Tambor for 3 nights and do your Tortuga Isla tour from there. You certainly have the time for it.

3 nights near San Jose (Xandari, Orquideas?)
4 nights Arenal
3 nights Montezuma (or Tambor)
4 nights Manuel Antonio
2 nights near or in San Jose

One day city tour would be fun. There are some things worth seeing: Plaza de la Cultura, Museo de Oro, Jade Museum, Teatro Nacional, etc. Recommend Hotel Britania or Hotel Don Carlos, very close to all of the above mentioned.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 09:23 PM
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By the way, I'd recommend Interbus to get you from place to place. You won't really need a vehicle anywhere, except they are handy at Arenal. You could always rent one for 3 days while you are there. Very simple. Easy driving, good roads. Not wild and crazy at all, like you are imagining.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 09:47 PM
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Thanks, shillmac - I had never heard the term before. It certainly seemed moist when we were there!
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Old May 24th, 2009, 04:46 PM
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Thanks to everybody!! I really appreciate the details you gave me. Well, I worked out the following:
day SJ
Xandari
Quepos (no hotel yet)
Blue Banyan
Volcano Lodge
Lost Iguana
SJ
do you think I'm crazy? Well what is the best route or should it be reversed? Can I schedule pick ups and drop offs with interbus? Iwas wondering about the domestic flights thru nature air some half price service caught my eye. I am taking all help to heart and appreciate it too. Not in my comfort zone but having fun as well as apprehensions.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 05:22 PM
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Interbus has specific pick-up and drop-off times, check their website and it will tell you the times from place to place, and the pricing. I'm a little confused about the schedule above though...are you meaning to stay outside of of Quepos (at the Blue Banyan) then in Quepos as well? Probably get best bang for your buck to stay on the Manuel Antonio road itself, gibes you more options for activities, hotels and restaurants. Same thing about the Arenal hotels, are you planning to switch hotels during your stay?
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Old May 24th, 2009, 06:50 PM
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I probably wouldn't switch hotels during your stay somewhere if that's what you're intending to do - it will cut into your time there. I'd just pick the best place in each spot and stay there until you move on to the next city. You can take Sansa or Nature Air - be aware of their luggage limits though, usually about 30 pounds.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 01:20 PM
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Hi VG, it's actually more about the flora than the arid air. There is very little actual arid air in costa Rica. However, Manuel Antonio is a dry forest. The trees are shorter than they are in Rainforests, Guanacaste is definitely dry, but if you go to any of their parks they are moist as well. It's just the type of flora. Plus, lets say Corcovado which is 100% rain forest, it rains almost 90% of the year.
In Manuel Antonio and Guanacaste they have distinct rain and dry seasons.

Plus, you most likely felt humidity and heat, rather than actual moisture. I know it sounds silly, but there really is a very big difference.

Hope this helps clear it up.
Marina K. Villatoro
http://travelexperta.com
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Old May 25th, 2009, 01:30 PM
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One more thing, VG, about dry and rain forests. It's also the amount of canopy there is. Rain forests are almost 90% canopy, very little actual sun gets down to the ground, where the moisture never leaves from. Dry Tropical Forests have less canopy and the actual moisture evaporates faster, that's where you feel moisture from.

Bye
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Old May 25th, 2009, 01:32 PM
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Thanks, Marina!
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Old May 26th, 2009, 10:10 AM
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I am going in July and had a similar mindset in wanting to spend some time in one "nicer" more "upscale" hotel.

I suggest not spending 3 days in San Jose - there is no need and from my research, there is not much to do there. I would spend one night and then travel the next day (by interbus or private driver to Arenal).
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