Driving vs. being driven

Old Nov 3rd, 2007, 06:36 PM
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Driving vs. being driven

One travel agent strongly discouraged us from renting a car in CR. We've driven Ireland, Belize, Bahamas and large US cities. My husband wants some more input before we finalized traveling from San Jose to Arenal to Monteverde to Manual Antonio. Also we are leaning toward booking at Mariposa while in MA. Will there be monkeys? Costa Verde couldn't offer a bungalow which we really wanted if staying there. We have two teens, so also looked at the Mango Moon which looks cute but less amenities than Mariposa. Si Como No was booked for the dates we wanted. Any advice will be appreciated. Where to stay in Monteverde? Honestly would like to avoid going through the costa rica expeditions group just to make hotel reservations (Monteverde Lodge). Is flying back from MV/Quepos more advisable than driving. We have an early afternoon flight out so could leave early in the morning if driving? sorry so long please respond if you can to any part
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Old Nov 3rd, 2007, 11:51 PM
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Latin american driving in general can get a little exciting at times. I was driving with a friend in Argentina who was doing 90 miles per hour on the highway in a smallish volkswagon while talking to her maid on her walkie talkie and nursing a 2 year old. The joke in CR is that there are so many pot holes at times that when you see a Costa Rican driving straight he is probably drunk. (they have actually done a lot of work on the roads in recent years but there are still some not so great ones) I would think you have done enough driving elsewhere to feel comfortable enough in CR. I have been on those roads in Belize and some of them are pretty rough. I didn't see much of the roads in the Bahamas as we traveled around by speed boats to other islands most of the time. Even the signage has gotten better. It still isn't great but you should be able to get to your destinations fine.

Some basic things like not leaving personal items in your car while sight seeing. Tire puncturing is an unpleasant practice by some people down there so don't just pull over on the side of the road if you have a flat tire. The good samaritan that pulls over to help might not be so good. Costa Ricans pass on curves while traveling up the mountains. Don't drive at night. Arenal isn't so bad but other places can be tricky.

Monteverde Lodge isn't all that great of a place. Most of my more recent stays have been in pensions and dorm type places (spanish classes and more recently a tree identification course) so I can't give any current reviews on any other places although I have stayed at several. You might want to look into El Sapo Dorado, Poco a Poco, Arco Iris. Poco a Poco is actually just down the street from Monteverde Lodge.

As far as driving or flying the morning you leave, the airport recommendation is to arrive 3 hours prior to your departure. The drive to the airport...I would allow at least 3 hrs plus time to turn the car in and hope there are no accidents on the way.
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Old Nov 4th, 2007, 06:24 AM
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Many people rent cars in CR without incident. I'd ask your TA if their opinion is based on personal experience or something read in a book. As suzie said don't leave belongings in your car, and drive defensively - often stop signs are afterthoughts.

As far as monkeys - you may see some, probably will but they are on their own schedule and show up when they feel like it. You can increase your chances by getting up early when they are most active, plus they are often to be found around the Anaconda restaurant at CV around sunset. Costa Verde has great views from their studio plus rooms, their rooms have 2 beds or you could get 2 rooms. I don't know much about Mariposa, you could also look into Villa Nicolas. I just spoke with someone who used CRE and stayed at Monteverde Lodge, let's just say they did not have high praise and the price was very marked-up. It will take about 3 hours to drive from MA to SJO, flying is 20 minutes and Sansa lands right next to the airport.
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Old Nov 4th, 2007, 08:12 AM
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We hired private drivers to drive us between spots in CR. If you're a confident driver, I really think you'd be okay. My husband wanted to relax and not deal with potholes and waiting in line at single-lane bridges, things like that. For the most part, the roads were really not that bad, just that a lot of times things aren't clearly marked, you can get rain/fog, and I wouldn't want to drive at night. If you're comfortable with it, I think you should go for it, just so you get the sense of adventure and have some freedom. If you want to just sit back and enjoy the view, then go with a private driver.

We stayed at Mango Moon and had a lot of capuchin monkeys - La Mariposa was right across the street - it looked nice enough, but we haven't stayed there personally. Costa Verde is probably the most popular spot on these boards; Tulemar Bunaglows is popular too. And maybe check out Villas Nicolas that tully mentioned.

We came back from MA the night before we had to leave and stayed at the Grano de Oro in SJO so we wouldn't have such a long day - 3 hours back from MA to SJO and then getting to the airport 3 hours early; we liked the idea of breaking things up.
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Old Nov 4th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Thanks for all your great information. Does anyone know is it doable to leave San Jose in the morning, take in the la Paz waterfall gardens and then head to Arenal for overnight stay?
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Old Nov 4th, 2007, 01:47 PM
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Yes, totally doable. Just give yourself plenty of time & remember it's dark around 5:30ish.
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Old Nov 4th, 2007, 01:52 PM
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Yep, totally doable. Plan on about an hour to go from SJO to the Peace Lodge. If you want to see Poas, it's best to go first thing in the a.m. before the fog rolls in.
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