First time in Costa Rica- 2 week itinerary

Old Dec 14th, 2019, 02:10 PM
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First time in Costa Rica- 2 week itinerary

My husband and I are traveling to Costa Rica for the first time. We'll be there for 15 days in country for the last two weeks of April. I'd love to get some feedback on our itinerary, including transportation. We love animals, easy hiking, photography, interacting with locals and quiet places. I picked the Caribbean versus the Atlantic beach because we love snorkeling and I'm hopeful the water is clearer on the Caribbean coast. We don't want to do any zip-lining, high canopy tours or birding. I speak fluent Spanish and am tending toward not wanting to rent a car unless absolutely necessary. Two years ago I traveled through a good portion of Cuba, using public buses and staying at Airbnb's.

Day 1 : Arrive at SJO in the evening, spend the night in Alajuela

Days 2-4 : Arenal, 3 nights at Arenal Observatory Lodge

Eco Termales, Wildlife rescue center, La Fortuna Waterfall, Bogain Trail, Proyecto Asis (wildlife facility), Don Olivo Chocolate Farm Tour

Day 5: morning: Arenal to Monteverde (van-boat-van tour)

Days 5- 8: Monteverde (3 nights)

Sloth sanctuary, guided tour of Monteverde Cloud Forest (Desafio Tours), 3 in 1 El Trapiche tour

Day 9: Travel from Monteverde to Sarapiqui - should we stop in San Jose over night and then rent a car?

Days 10- 14: Cahuita and Puerto Viejo- what are some "must-do's" there?

Day 15: Drive to San Jose, departure late at night
Thanks so much!
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Old Dec 14th, 2019, 04:12 PM
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I really like the Arenal area and all of your activities there; if you like wildlife, the Arenal Observatory Lodge is a good choice. They have the best wildlife in the area and a free guided hike each morning. Wonderful trails; it's off a long, bumpy road out near the lake. Aren't the wildlife rescue center and Proyecto Asis the same place? I don't know of a separate rescue center. If you have time, I'd take a look at doing the Cano Negro boat tour with Desafio; we've done some of our best photography there. Good place to see monkeys, caimans, etc. I'd take a look at doing a night hike in Monteverde; the one at Hidden Valley is fun, and we saw some things there we've never seen elsewhere including a fox and a porcupine. You never really know what you'll see. Monteverde is really known for birding, but it sounds like that doesn't interest you. It's a good place to try to see quetzals. It can get chilly at night so pack a jacket just in case. Where are you staying in Sarapiqui? Selva Verde has good trails and wildlife; we loved the boat tour we did - saw a huge croc and lots of monkeys and toucans. I wouldn't count on good snorkeling; Costa Rica is pretty well known for not having good snorkeling. Better to go to Belize or Mexico for that. We go to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific side for beaches.
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Old Dec 28th, 2019, 07:30 AM
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Thank you!

Hi Volcanogirl-
I just saw that my reply to you a couple of weeks never posted. My apologies!!! Thank you so much for the very helpful tips!!! We haven't selected out lodging yet, still working on the itinerary.
Would you recommend Manuel Antonio over the trip to Sarapiqui/ Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo? We love snorkeling but we don't have to do that on this trip. I'm also not sure the water on the Pacific or Atlantic will be warm enough in April.

Do you think that most of our trip is doable by bus? I'm trying to avoid renting a car except perhaps on Day 9 if we end up going to Sarapiqui.

I'd like to include some things on this trip that would allow us to interact with the locals. Perhaps we should consider staying in Airbnb's for part of the trip.

Thanks again!
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Old Dec 28th, 2019, 02:27 PM
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March and April are some of the warmest months for most of Costa Rica so I think you should be fine. We've never traveled by bus, but I know people do it; hopefully you can find some helpful information about that. It's also just before the start of the traditional rainy season which usually starts in May.
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Old Dec 30th, 2019, 07:42 AM
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Thanks again for your quick and helpful reply! After reading some more about Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo I'm leaning towards spending time at Manuel Antonio and saving the Caribbean side of Costa Rica for a future trip.
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Old Dec 30th, 2019, 08:09 PM
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We did a two week trip a number of years ago. 2 nights Peace Lodge, 2 nights AOL (cut short because of rain and cold, no kidding) 4 nights MA, 1 night enroute to Puerto Viejo staying at Casa Rio Blanco in Guapiles(we loved the overnight here). Then 4 nights in between Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. And final night near airport. I think MA may fit in better after Monteverde. It was a 9 hour drive from MA to PV, so that is why we spent the night at Rio Blanco. PV was very different, more of a Caribbean vibe. Some nice beaches and surfing. We were visiting family. Perhaps save if for another time and include Tortuguero?
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 06:17 AM
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Hi Michelle- When you traveled from Manuel Antonio to Puerto Viejo was there a reason you went through San Jose and on route 32 through Guapiles versus through Cartago (routes 230/ 10)? Never having been to Costa Rica I don't know if the latter is even a good option or if one should automatically go on 32.
We've actually changed our itinerary to include the Guanacaste area instead of Manuel Antonio and are going to spend 4 nights in Puerto Viejo.
Thanks so much for your help!
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 07:44 AM
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Hopefully the Guanacaste area won't be too dry and dusty for you; I don't think it really greens up until after the rainy season starts. It's pretty rare to do both sides of the country in one trip, but looks like you have time. I'm curious about what appeals to you in Guanacaste. Will be fun to see how the two sides compare.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 09:11 AM
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The Guapiles route is the most direct and I believe it is newer and better maintained. It was a long drive, so the overnight stop at Casa Rio Blanco was wonderful. They also gave us a shortcut route back to the airport to avoid the gridlock of San Jose. We stayed in Hone Creek with family, between Cahuita and PV. Nice little restaurants, beaches. I had a great spa day. The guys went fishing. Playa Cocles was very pretty, with the whiter sand. Travel times are sometimes slower because of traffic or road conditions and constant repairs. So give yourself time.
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