first time going to Costa Rica over X-Mas holidays

Sep 29th, 2005, 04:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 19
first time going to Costa Rica over X-Mas holidays

We have reservations from Dec.23-31st. Kids are 22,20 and 17 and want to relax as well as hike, raft and surf...I haven't had time to organize an itinerary/ Any suggestions? I think we want to go to Monteverde-need hotel rec.,...I think we will be there peak season. Any suggestions how to avoid the crowds? My husband wants to drvie but i am leary. Can anyone recommend a travel agent? or can we plan this ourselves? How many days should we spend where? Opinions? Thanks in advance.

tennisjan224 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2005, 03:51 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 953
We are doing a similiar trip, CR Dec 26th-Jan 3. Our sons are 23, 20 and 16. After MANY hours of research using this forum, tripadvisor, lonely planet, slowtravel, frommers plus reading Moon handbook and Insights for CR we decided on 3 nights in Manuel Antonio, 4 in Arenal and 2 in the Central Valley.

We used Gaialink to hire a driver from SJ airport to MA, then another driver to bring us to Arenal from MA. Using Ralph at Gaialink, we also rented a 4x4 to drive while in Arenal and the Central Valley. At first we were going to drive the entire time ourselves, but then figured we would welcome the opportunity to decompress amd enjoy the countryside without the worry of potholes and one lane roads until we acclimated to the area. Hopefully after being in CR for 3 nights we will be excited to then tackle driving!!!

Since it's such a busy time of year, and we really want to experience ziplines,I booked Sky Trek on their website. I may use Ralph at Gaialink to book a couple of other tours if I don't hear back from a couple of other websites soon. That does seem to be a bit of a problem. Plans include white water rafting, rappelling, Arenal volcano hike, waterfall hike, hotsprings (although not sure which one yet), Manuel Antonio National Park private tour, LaPaz Waterfalls and Poas volcano. Our sons do like to surf, but will have to settle for body surfing and small waves at MA. For great surfing check out Nicoya peninsula beaches and Dominical.

Because we are going during peak season and are visiting touristy areas, we are expecting large crowds!

I'm sure many experienced travelers will have other suggestions. I can't help you with Monteverde, decided that area would be saved for another trip. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Jayneann is offline  
Sep 30th, 2005, 04:57 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,372
Yes, you can plan all of this on your own. However it is definately peak season and many lodging offerings will have already been booked by now. Therefore a Costa Rica Travel Specialist may be the least stressful and quickest way to get your travel plans settled. Keep in mind a couple of things - one - most hotels will only have maybe 10-20 rooms - two - internet service is sporadic, sometimes you will get an answer almost immediately and sometimes it will take a few days.

Pat Hewitt of Costa Rica Travel Exchange is extrememly knowledgeable of Costa Rica, we have worked with him, and had a perfect experience. Here are his websites:

Driving is not really that difficult in CR, you just need to stay alert for people, pot holes, school zones, understand the signs, etc. However you may want to use a driver, transfers and/or domestic flights in order to make better use of your limited time.

Sounds like you have your flights set, what time are you arriving and departing SJO? Are you departing on the 31st, or is your trip through the 31st? This helps to determine where you need to be on your first and last nights. And will help us in suggesting the best routes.

Since you want to raft, I suggest the Pacuare River. Great fun! Beautiful scenery! You would need to overnight in or near SJ.

In Monteverde, you will want at least 2 nights, preferrably 3.

For the beach area 3 or 4 nights.

To avoid crowds - you are traveling in the busiest time, therefore you have to expect crowds. Just keep in mind that crowds in Costa Rica are not the same as crowds like Disneyworld or Cancun. You can be in a fully booked hotel and still only be one of 20-40 people.

Lots of recs for surfing on the Nicoya Pen around Santa Teresa/MalPais area, look at this website for some ideas.

Also as previously stated the Dominical area is good for surfing and I would suspect it may not be as crowded. Not sure how the recent flooding is affecting this area. But here are a couple of websites to help you learn more:

Keep asking questions, you will get it set!
dfarmer is offline  
Sep 30th, 2005, 08:39 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2
I was in Costa Rica 12/26/04-1-18-05.
Went to Tamarindo, Nosara, and Montezuma. traveling with my 2 teenage sons.
Will be ther again same time only sending boys back to school and staying a month this time.
I have never seen much review on this issue but you dont want to miss the festival for the last 2 weeks in December. Zopote fair or something like that. It is huge. We took a taxi over just to watch the bullfights.Cowboys and a huge crowd inside the ring chasing the bulls around the ring. Saw 2 guys get goured when we were there. this is CR equivelent of a us county fair. It was awesome. Beware of pickpockets. You will look like a tourist and dont be there after dark. Otherwise it will be a blast. Going again this year.
fisean is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 19
we arrive into SJ at 1:00pm and are thinking of going straight to Monteverde and then we leave 12N out of SJ on the 31st. Hotel suggestions?
tennisjan224 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 171
We went the week before Christmas which is not high season but drove our selves and booked everything. I just posted my travelogue again because the first one somehow never was accessible to search on the site.. must have done something wrong. It's called La Bosque de Paz and other recommendations. I have to say La Bosque de Paz (not the same as the other bosque) this is the absolute best place for birders and nature lovers. And because it is can't get crowded because there are only 20 rooms. Good luck. Make sure you go to Pacuare rafting.
Millie64 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 06:12 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 417
If you are arriving at San Jose at 1:00 p.m. and intending to rent a car and drive to Monteverde that same afternoon, I'd say that you are going to be cutting it close. You have to go through customs, which on the Saturday of Christmas week will definitely be crowded. Then you will have to wait for a shuttle to the car rental place, wait on line for the paperwork to rent the car, and then head out on the road. You won't have time to eat lunch. The drive to Monterverde is about four hours if you don't get lost. You really don't want to drive after dark, and it gets dark around 5:30 p.m.
Our flight to San Jose two years ago arrived at 12:30 p.m., but it took us over two hours to get through customs. By the time we got the car and got on the road it was after 3:30. We drove to Arenal, and frankly, it was scary. Next time, I would spend the first night in San Jose and get an early start the next morning.
rbrazill is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 11:40 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,372
Totally agree with rbrazil. Arriving at 1 PM, I would suggest heading to another location first or staying overnight near SJ. We have been lucky and gotten through the airport in minimal time, but we have also had the occasion of taking up to 2 hrs.

Going up the mountain to Monteverde is most definately not something you want to do after dark. This road is very narrow, full of potholes and large rocks, with hair pin curves edged by sheer drop offs and virtually no signs. Not to scare you - The drive offers beautiful views. But to give you an idea of the "why" you do not want to make this trip after dark.
dfarmer is offline  

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