family trip this X-mas

Mar 26th, 2005, 07:26 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 13
family trip this X-mas

I am trying to plan a first family trip ( 2 adults plus 3 children (13 yr, 11 yr and 9 yr) to Costa Rica this December and already have flight reservations to arrive in San Jose 2 pm on 12/17 and depart 3 pm 12/24.
As I imagine that is a busy week, I would like to go ahead and get reservations. The more I read the more confused I get!!!!

What would be a reasonable intinerary for 7 nights?

I was planning on spending the 1st night outside of San Jose, then 2 nights around Arenal, 2 nights in Monteverde, and the final 2 nights in Manuel Antonia-driving back in time the final morning for the 3 pm
flight. Is this too much?

Is it worth spending 2 nights in Tortuguero
if I just have 7 nights-skipping Manuel Antonia.


Should I rent a car or arrange private transportation?

Should I do this independantly or go through a local agent?

thanks

Pedneuro11
Jacksonville, Fl


pedneuro11 is offline  
Mar 26th, 2005, 10:43 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,211
A good rule of thumb for enjoying Costa Rica on a first trip is 2 locations per week. Sure you can do 3, but you are going to give up 8-10 hours of vacation time in moving around, checking in and out, etc. I'd recommend either Arenal or Monteverde plus Manuel Antonio for your first visit. An Arenal/MA combo is very common for one week.

Don't trade Manuel Antonio for Tortuguero if you are wanting beach time. Also, you might prefer to save visiting Tortuguero for when the turtles are nesting July-October.

It's good that you have a late afternoon departure time. That helps, doesn't it?
shillmac is offline  
Mar 27th, 2005, 05:58 PM
  #3  
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 13
If I limit us to 2 areas I was thinking about 3 nights at Arenal
(Arenal Paraiso) and 3 nights at
Manuel Antonio (Tulamar or Si Como No)
-seem reasonable??? or would Monteverde
be better than Arenal???

It would be ideal to have all 5 of us
stay in the same suite/cottage/bungalow
instead of 2 separate rooms. Are there
any hotels in the area that would have
that ability?

What about car rental vs. arranging private transportation.
-I figure a 4x4 SUV will cost about $600-700 for the week (taxes, gas, liability insurance), plus some anxiety
of getting lost, not speaking Spanish,
etc
-What would private transport run from
San Jose to Arenal, Arenal to MA, then MA back to the airport in San Jose?
-Do I need a car once I get to the above hotels or is transport available for the tours?

thanks

Pedneuro, Jax
pedneuro11 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2005, 06:29 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 149
We just did the same trip, but for 8 nights. We went to Arenal and MA. Arenal Paraiso does have rooms (double deluxe) that can sleep 5, and Costa Verde does also (studio-plus). Costa Verde was perfect for us. Great views, nice restaurant (the monkeys come just before sunset - the kids would love it). Driving was pretty easy, beautiful, and the freedom to get around the cities was great. We really enjoyed driving and would do it again. I booked everything independantly without much trouble. Good luck planning and Enjoy!
dhswor is offline  
Mar 28th, 2005, 01:53 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,211
dhswor's hotel recommendations are excellent ones. Arenal Paraiso offers an amazing view of the lava flow at Arenal, should you get a clear night. Haven't stayed at Costa Verde, but it gets wonderful reviews.

Also, the advice regarding a vehicle is right on, and we enjoy driving as well. When we first started driving around CR 3 years ago, we spoke very little Spanish and got along just fine. SJO-Arenal and Arenal-MA are easy routes. We, too, liked the freedom of our own vehicle and the ability to venture off during the day to explore on our own.

We might feel differently if we had children with us--I'm not sure. The private transport is a good idea as well. You could get your 3 transfers for $300, I think. Another option is Interbus transfers--not private, but very nice small turismo vans that you can book ahead. They will run you about $30 per person, so for a family, private would be best. And the driver will be able to share so much information with all of you.

Lisa (who posts frequently) lives in Manuel Antonio and she recommends a driver named Carlos. Others have suggested other drivers and you can look up those posts. I've not read a single post from someone disappointed with a driver they have had. So do what seems comfortable for you. You can hire taxis to take you around at Arenal and Manuel Antonio (rather cheaply). Also, at MA, there are free shuttles to the beach and back (the hotels are on the hillside).
shillmac is offline  
Mar 28th, 2005, 05:43 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 18
My best advice would be to make your hotel reservations NOW! Believe it or not lodging options for the holiday season in Costa Rica sell out early in the year. Some friends of us were unable to find anything suitable last year.

I would choose Arenal over Monteverde. Frankly, I found that Monteverde was a little crowded and Arenal offers the extra excitement of the active volcano. Manuel Antonio is a great option for family travel... plenty of fun adventure and activities. The only problem is that it will be quite crowded both with tourists and "ticos".

If you donīt find space in Manuel Antonio, you may want ot try out Punta Islita in Guanacaste. They have gorgeous villas that can host entire families. They even have private pools! Breathtaking location and very warm service makes this our favorite destination in Costa Rica.
www.hotelpuntaislita.com

If you do go to Manuel Antonio, make sure you stop for coffee at Cafe Milagro. You will be in for a treat!

cheers,

em
emma1968 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 05:50 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 13
I would appreciate feed back/advice on my current plan for the 5 of us

Arrive 12/17 in SJ at 2 pm
-rent a full size SUV (toyata 4 runner or equivalent)
-drive to MA (Tulemar)that afternoon
-1 BR villa with rollaway for
3 nights (12/17,18 and 19)
-drive to Arenal late afternoon of 12/20
-spend nights 12/20,21,22 and 23 at Arenal Paraiso
-drive back to SJ in the am of 12/24 for a 3 pm flight

Questions/comments;
1. will it be too much to drive to Tulemar the afternoon of 12/17, anticipating we won't get out of the airport till 3:30 at best
2. the rates go up on 12/20 at Tulemar
-hence I was going to 3 nights, there
and the last 4 at Arenal.
3. Is 3-4 days at Arenal too much?
4. Does Arenal paraiso have any suites available that may be comfortable if I am going to squeeze all 5 of us in a room?

pedneuro11 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 08:44 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,211
It is very possible at that time of year with planes arriving full of people (peak season), that it will take you longer than usual to pick up luggage, go through immigration, and get your rental car picked up and on the road. Especially with there being 5 of you--seems like my husband and I speed along a lot faster when it is just the two of us. It could easily be 4:00 before you get on the road.

Plan on arriving at Manuel Antonio after dark. Around 7:00 or 7:30, possibly. Try to grab something to snack on on the way so you don't have to eat until after you arrive in MA.

Get on the Interamerican highway heading west to Puntarenas (I think this is the best route since you may be driving after dark). Once you arrive there and turn south to Quepos (signs are clear), you shouldn't have any trouble with getting lost. You will just need to be very careful and watchful. The road is decent until just before you get to Quepos. We've driven after dark many times. This is not a road that would cause me concern. Some would!

You could stay overnight near the airport, of course; but then, you would lose most of the next day (especially traveling with a family) getting around, checking out, having breakfast, and getting to Manuel Antonio. You might not arrive there until 2:00 in the afternoon even though you had intentions of an early start. This time deception happens very easily!

You're going to have a great time, and I think you have chosen well. Wow! Planning already for December--I haven't been since last October and am anxious to get down there this summer and compare the crowds to last year's. The tourism scene is definitely on the upswing in Costa Rica! For better or worse. . .

shillmac is offline  

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