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travel_duo Sep 4th, 2004 06:51 PM

First time in CR.
We are in our 30's and planning 8 day trip. We plan to stay 2 nights in Arenal, 4 in Manuel Antonio, and 2 nights in the Peace Lodge. Is it better, driving wise, to stay at Arenal first then drive to Peace Lodge, then go to Manuel Ant. or is it better to go to Peace Lodge then Arenal then onto Man. Ant. we want to minimize driving and avoid hazardous roads. We are arriving Nov. 19-27. We can't drive a stick shift, do they rent SUV's that are automatic. Thanks

shillmac Sep 4th, 2004 07:32 PM

You can rent an automatic if you request one. I'd suggest Peace Lodge, then Arenal, and finally Manuel Antonio. Your longest drive will be from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. No matter how you mix it up, the total driving time will be about the same.

travel_duo Sep 5th, 2004 10:15 PM

Thanks shillmac, are the roads really that difficult to drive? Or is it better/cheaper to hire a driver/taxi.

shillmac Sep 6th, 2004 06:12 AM

Everyone traveling to CR for the first time and planning to drive is concerned about the roads. And, of course, it's all relative. What some consider terrible, others would say, "Aw, it's not that bad"!

The roads are narrow in places, and there are no shoulders. They are paved (with the exception of a very few in more remote areas), and some are in unbelievably good condition. Others have potholes. Some are more potholed than others. . . .

Also, most roads are curvy because they pass through some unbelievably beautiful country. You will need to drive defensively (much like anywhere else!) because Ticos can be rather agressive drivers. You will encounter people walking, riding bicycles, children and dogs all along the sides of the roads--as well as people on horseback and driving cattle (in some parts). It's amazing! Most folks don't have cars, there are no shoulders for them to walk on, so they end up on the road.

If you are one who can take it all in stride (it is, in fact, why we all like to visit different places, so we can experience the culture!), consider it a grand adventure, relax, not be in a hurry, and enjoy the beauty that will constantly be all around you, the roads will be a fun part of your trip. They always are for us. Go for it!

elcolibri Sep 6th, 2004 06:29 AM

If you are only 8 days in Costa Rica, may be it's better to use the shuttle bus (interbus or fantasybus) or a private driver. In this way you can enjoy the beauty of every part of the country you pass and don't need to care the road or direction.
We advise first the Peace Lodge, then to La Fortuna and Manual Antonio the last few days.
Have a nice time in Costa Rica!!

shillmac Sep 6th, 2004 06:41 AM

So there you have it, travel duo. People are pretty much evenly divided on this issue. So much depends on YOU. For us, a driver would be okay, (we love the Tico people and I know the drivers are great as well as a wealth of information), but we don't want a third person with us all the time. Making a wrong turn, stopping to ask directions, finding our way, are all things we have enjoyed doing as we explore. The routes you are taking are pretty simple, the places well known.

travel_duo Sep 6th, 2004 09:14 AM

Thanks shillmac and ecolibri for all of your info! You guys are awesome!!!!

Kwoo Sep 6th, 2004 03:29 PM

Hello travel duo,
We traveled to CR for the first time this past August, and rented a car. We LOVED renting a car. Having our own car gave us so much flexibility as to when we would leave our destinations, what route to take, when to make stops. The driving was not bad at all. Our route was SJO to MA, then MA to Arenal, then Arenal to Poas, then Poas to Alajuela. This is similar to your route, except the reverse. While driving over the mountains, the roads were narrow and curvy. You just have to be careful, go slow, and have patience when stuck behind slow moving trucks.

All the roads we were on were paved. We encountered only a few potholes. My husband and my 21-year old daughter shared the driving. We rented a SUV from Dollar that had an automatic shift.

The driving & road conditions were much better than we expected!!

Also, we feel the same way as Shillmac; we wouldn't want an extra person with us all the time. That is just our personal preference.

Jessie_ Sep 6th, 2004 03:47 PM

As far as having some one with you all the time. If you just have private transfers then you will only have someone with you for the short trips while transfering. The rest of the time you will be on your own. Arenal to Manuel Antonio would be the longest amount of time at about 5-6hrs depending on traffic and stops along the way. Considering that you have such a short time there, you would learn so much from your driver that you might miss on your own.

That being said, most of the roads are not too bad. Do watch for speed traps. Be careful if you stop at the Tarcoles Bridge to look at the crocs. It is famous for thieves stealing stuff out of cars. I wouldn't stop at Carara without someone to watch your things for the same reason. If you stop to eat, keep the car in sight. Just read a report recently about someone who had just gotten back and had one of the oldest tricks pulled on them....their tire was punctured and the thieves stopped and acted like they wanted to help with their flat tire. They were then robbed. This person has been traveling to CR for many years without a problem before now. I am not trying to scare you just letting you know that, with a little care, driving can be fun and part of the adventure.

Kwoo Sep 6th, 2004 03:55 PM

Jessie makes some good points about thieves. We did stop at the Tarcoles Bridge to see the crocs, but one of us stayed with our vehicle at all times. Whenever we stopped for lunch, we parked close to where we were sitting so we could see our vehicle at all times. If you decide to rent a car, just use common sense & be cautious.

There is a police officer on the road to Quepos (the road that follows the ocean). He stopped us for speeding on the way to Quepos but didn't give us a ticket. The day we left Quepos to drive to Arenal, we saw him in the same place. Just make sure you follow the speed limit.

shillmac Sep 6th, 2004 06:26 PM

Good idea to follow the speed limit! My daughter and I were zooming toward the Pacific coast on the Interamerican a couple of years ago when I came upon a police car parked by the side of the road. He put both hands on his head as if to say, "Ay, yi, yi"! We slowed down, he stayed put, and no harm done. It was kind of funny, though! We got very lucky.

travel_duo Sep 6th, 2004 09:12 PM

Thanks again,
kwoo,jessie, and shillmac!!!

travel_duo Sep 7th, 2004 06:52 AM

based on a couple of responses on the possibility of crime and our comfort level as first timers, we are probably going to either travel with minibus shuttle or hire a private car. does anyone know of an economical but fun way to travel from airport - peace lodge, peace lodge-arenal, arenal-manuel antonio, man-ant-airport?

Molly2 Sep 7th, 2004 07:52 AM

We were very satisfied with Interbus. It was very comfortable and their drivers were pleasant and careful. We made rest/ meal stops along the way, and the drivers pointed out interesting sights. Peace Lodge may have their own shuttle service. Of course, hiring a private driver is another, more costly, option. My husband and I wanted to be a bit more on our own, but considered a private driver, as we would stop exactly where we wanted, and a local would have the best advice.

Jessie_ Sep 7th, 2004 01:47 PM

Don't worry about taking the optional transportation rather than driving. No one is going to put a big scarlet letter (S for scaredy cat) on your chest LOL. The important part is that you are comfortable and enjoy your trip. Armed with all the info you have made the decision based on your comfort not someone elses. Have fun.

travel_duo Sep 8th, 2004 07:14 PM

We have an itinerary dilema. We are given the chance to stay an extra night for free (5 for the price of 4) at Mariposa in Manuel Antonio. Is that worth it to stay an extra day in Manuel Antonio and give up 1 day either at Arenal and stay only 1 night at Hotel Paraiso or give up 1 night at Peace Lodge and only stay there 1 night. Is there 5 days worth of stuff to do down there in Manuel Antonio.
Thanks for all of your help.

shillmac Sep 9th, 2004 04:13 AM

Personally, I think 4 days in MA would be plenty for most folks, although some have said they could've used 5 or 6 days. I don't think you should give up a night at Arenal. Not sure about Peace Lodge. I would say you could do just one night there, but that depends on what time you get there and have to leave the next day. I assume you want to see the falls while you are there!It is a tough choice, but don't cut Arenal short (remember you'll have to leave there fairly early on the day you transfer to Manuel Antonio). My inclination is to stick with your original plan.

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