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scout4 Sep 4th, 2006 08:23 PM

First time to Costa Rica
My husband and I are travelling to Costa Rica for the first time. We are going smack dab in the middle of the holidays - arrive 12/26 and leave on 1/5. We were thinking 2 nights at Arenal, 3 nights in Monteverde (or Santa Elena if it would be less crowded) and a 4-5 nights somewhere beachy & less touristy. On the other hand, a friend suggested that we skip Arenal & Monteverde and go straight to the Osa peninsula...but would rafting, zip line type activities be available there?? Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!!

sandyc Sep 4th, 2006 08:53 PM

I think your choices will be dictated by availability. You need to make reservations right now. Many places are already completely booked, as that is the busiest time of the year in Costa Rica. I have friends who are going at the same time and they couldn't get their first, second, or third choices for hotels, and they made reservations in July.

The Osa is awesome, but as you said, rafting and zip-lining aren't as available there, and hotels there are smaller and more likely to be booked already.

I'd do 3 nights Arenal, 2 Monteverde, as Arenal is bigger and there's more to do. The area of Monteverde and St. Elena together is pretty small, so I don't think it matters, but if you stay in Monteverde you can walk to some of the attractions. Beach hotels usually book faster than inland hotels, so that part may be more difficult. Maybe you can try Dominical -- Cuna del Angel or Roca Verde. Or if you want to go all the way to Puerto Viejo, there's a great small place -- Banana Azul. Don't wait any longer, and let us know what you came up with!


shillmac Sep 5th, 2006 04:13 PM

You'll have better zipline experiences (and white water rafting) in the central areas (or some of the beach areas). I'd suggest saving the Osa for another time. I've had March 2007 booked since April at Bosque del Cabo, and Leo told me back then that he was already booking some December 2007 dates (that's about 20 months in advance). Think about that! That particular hotel is one of the most popular, but the entire Osa is a very popular place, and very likely to already be booked for your dates.

I'd suggest 3 nights Arenal and 3 nightsw Monteverde. Given the time it takes to drive in and out of there, we didn't think 2 nights was enough for the things we wanted to do. There is great ziplining at both places.

Check on the area around Playa Hermosa, perhaps Hotel El Velero? We have friends who are going in December and have had rooms at Ocotal (a beach near Playa Hermosa) booked since this past February. Also, you might check into Hotel Brasilito, at Playa Brasilito. It is basic, but has hot water (and new AC) and a couple of GREAT upstairs rooms with hammocks just a few feet from the water and about a 5 minute walk from Playa Conchal (along the beach), one of the prettiest beaches in the country. Also it is very near to Playa Flamingo. Lots of good eating places in this area. . .Hotel Brasilito used to run about $50 per night during Christmas (we stayed there 3 years ago), but I'm sure it has gone up, of course, with the addition of the AC. Still, it probably remains a very good value. . .Good Luck!

scout4 Sep 5th, 2006 07:12 PM

Wow, things really book up quickly. Thank you for your suggestions! Osa and those northern Pacific beaches sound great.. but a friend also suggested Puerto Viejo so I think we are going to try and check it out. I will look into Banana Azul, it sounds like a great place.

As for Arenal/Monteverde...I'm starting to think that perhaps we should just go to Arenal and spend 4/5 nights there, just to cut down on driving and moving from place to place. What activities are avail at Arenal? I know we can hike, go to hot springs....can we do zip line, canopy tours? What about rafting??

ly5 Sep 5th, 2006 09:59 PM

We spent our honeymoon last July in Costa Rica and it was really nice. The people there are so friendly and helpful and the food was reasonable, fresh, and good. If you want luxury and privacy La Mansion in Manuel Antonio is where you should stay and if you're lucky you might catch a celebrity there. If you wanna stay somewhere that's fun and has a great beach for surfing then definately head into Tamarindo.

sandyc Sep 6th, 2006 12:12 PM

I once spent 7 nights in Arenal and I still wasn't tired of it. I like Arenal Lodge the best. It's out of the way, cozy, beautiful grounds, good service. For more luxurious accommodations, Arenal Kioro is nice. The rooms are beautifully decorated and have a jacuzzi facing the volcano. There's a wonderful spa there and good food too, although more expensive than others in the area. Here are some things you can do.

If you stay at Arenal Lodge: Walk through the peaceful rainforest trail. You can even sit down at the table in the middle of the rainforest and relax. Visit the beautiful butterfly house, and take a horse or walk around the other trails on the property.

Do the canopy tour at Arenal Paraiso Hotel.

Ride a horse to the La Fortuna Waterfall. Hike down to the falls and swim for a while while the horses rest.

Take a day trip to Cano Negro for incredible up-close wildlife viewing.

Go to lunch at Arenal Kioro then have the warm honey massage at the spa.

Spend a late afternoon soaking at Eco Thermales hot springs and have dinner there.

Take a day trip to the Venado Caves. A real cave experience -- no sidewalks, no lights.

Take a day trip to go whitewater rafting. We did it on the Sarapiqui. For most of these day trips, the tour operator will come pick you up at your hotel.

Go on a night hike at hanging bridges.

Go to the town of La Fortuna for souvenir shopping and go to the grocery store to stock up on coffee!

Get a naturalist guide to take you on a hike through the rainforest (on the ground). Our guide even had the kids fascinated. We did this on the property of the Eco Lodge on Lake Coter, but I'm sure there are other places.

Sit down, have a drink and enjoy the volcano.

Keep your curtains open at night, so if you wake up you have a chance to see the lava flow.

I'm sure I can think of more, but I'm getting tired of typing!


scout4 Sep 6th, 2006 02:21 PM

Arenal it is! It sounds like there is soooo much to do (I copied down everything....) One last quesiton: Has anyone been to Los Angeles cloud forest? I read that it is on the way to Arenal and maybe we could stay there for one night on the way??? Or should we just head ot Arenal?

sandyc Sep 6th, 2006 05:04 PM

I stayed at Villa Blanca in the Los Angeles cloud forest. It's only an hour and a half from the airport, and then just 2 hours to Arenal, so it's not a bad option. You'll have your own casita with a fireplace. It's cozy there -- I like it. If you like adventure stuff, there's a place called San Lorenzo, maybe 45 min. from Villa Blanca and on the way to Arenal. They have the highest zip line tour and they have a real good rappeling tour, great Tarzan swings, horseback riding, etc.


guanacaste Sep 8th, 2006 09:36 AM

i'd leave osa to anothere time stay in la fortuna, there's plenty to do:

then get the jeep-boat-jeep taxi across lake arenal to monteverde, monteverde has nicer hotels and restaurants but santa elena reserve is less crowded:

finish off with a couple of days on a beach like manuel antonio or samara beach: beach/home/index.html

but, you'd better book the hotels NOW!!

scout4 Sep 11th, 2006 04:00 PM

We are definitely going to stay in Arenal.... I tried to get a room at Arenal Lodge but they are booked. Any other recommendations?

plmrod Sep 11th, 2006 04:32 PM

we stayed at lomas del volcan and it was nice--very low key, rustic but beautiful grounds and the volcano was right behind our cabin

sandyc Sep 11th, 2006 05:18 PM

Arenal Paraiso is nice and if you want to splurge, Arenal Kioro has beautiful rooms, great food, good spa.

shillmac Sep 11th, 2006 07:39 PM

You might check with La Pradera in Fortuna. I've read a couple of good reviews on them and they are very reasonable. Good luck!

scout4 Sep 15th, 2006 05:49 PM

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.... we contacted several places that were all full, but then looked into La Pradera and I think we got the last room. I'm really looking forward to our trip :)

CRIdo Sep 16th, 2006 05:32 AM

I have reservations for La Pradera in March, haven't heard much about them...I'd love to hear your impressions upon your return -- hope you havea wonderful trip!

sean420 Sep 16th, 2006 06:10 AM

I stayed at La Pradera just a few weeks ago. The hotel is about 2km west of La Fortuna and the property is right across the street from the volcano which dominates the view. The grounds were nicely landscaped and there is a nice swimming pool with an awesome view of the volcano. There was another smaller pool that might have been a hot tub but it was being worked on when I was there. Our room was basic and clean with satellite TV, good air conditioning, hot water, large bathroom, and a small porch with chairs to relax while admiring the volcano. The restaurant and bar area was pretty plain and uninspiring. The only meal we ate there was the free breakfast which was basic but good nonetheless. There is fast internet connection available in the lobby. I think it was $4/hour.

Overall I thought it was a good bargan - we paid $65 for one night with all taxes and breakfast included

CRIdo Sep 18th, 2006 05:36 AM

Thanks sean420!

suze1 Sep 19th, 2006 10:28 AM

Just curious, what exactly is the Osa Peninsula and how does it compare with other places in Costa Rica.

shillmac Sep 19th, 2006 07:49 PM

The Osa is the little peninsula down on the southwest corner of Costa Rica. It has quite a reputation and was billed by National Geographic (if I recall correctly) as "one of the most biologically intense places on earth". At least that quote seems to be in every travel book under the sun! :) Lots of true rainforest down there, lots of wildlife. Beautiful and wild. . .

Naplo999 Sep 28th, 2006 10:51 AM

Don't skip Monteverde - it's awesome. Split those 5 days up between Arenal and Monteverde - take the Jeep Boat Jeep between the two. They are very different experiences. Plus the BEST canopy tour in the country is in Monteverde. It's the highest, longest, and fastest one around. There is one stretch where you zipline for a mile over the trees.

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