First time to CR: travelling with kids

Old Sep 26th, 2004, 12:07 PM
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First time to CR: travelling with kids

I am planning a CR trip in December, and this forum has helped me immensely in making my initial plans. Thanks!!

I have 2 kids, one of them 4 year old. We will be there for 3 weeks.I will be renting a 4wd for about 15 days, and using that for my central valley trip. My current plan is:

3 days in Monteverde, 2 days in tortuguero, 4 days arenal, 1 day cano negro, 2 days Rincon de la Vieja, 2 days Rio Sarapiqui, 1 day near Vulcan Poas, 3 days Manuel San Antonio, 2 days near San Jose

I needed some help with Driving times for the following:
1) Monteverde to Rincon De la vieja
2) Rincon to Arenal
3) Arenal to Cano Negro
4) Arenal to Puerto Vieja de Sarapiqui
5) Volcano Poas to Manuel San Antonio.

Other questions:
1)Canopy tour: Should we do this in Monteverde or Arenal? Some postings seem to indicate that there is a new one from SkyTrek in Arenal that is better? When I go on the Canopy tour, what is the recommended and reliable baby sitting in either Monteverde and Arenal?

2)Is it safe for my 4 year old to go rafting on Rio Sarapiqui?

3) Cano Negro: I am planning to go to Cano negro and stay for a day. i have no idea if this is wise, or where I would stay. Any recommendations on where to stay and what to do?

4) Doka plantation trip: I would prefer to do this early in the tour when I do not have a car. Any information on transportation to Doka from San Jose would be great.

5) Accomodation tips at Rincon De La Vieja and Monteverde and Tortuguero?

thanks in advance for all the help
SilasM is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2004, 01:28 PM
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My honest opinion is that you're trying to cover way too much territory in 3 weeks, especially with young kids. If you eliminated just one of your destinations, it would still be busy, but doable. I also wouldn't recommend the destinations you've listed in the order listed. I think I would try something like:

San Jose - Poas - Sarapiqui - Arenal (including Cano Negro) - Monteverde (or Rincon de la Vieja) - Manuel Antonio - Tortuguero - San Jose. Keep in mind that getting to and from Tortuguero can take an entire day. This usually requires additional nights in or near San Jose so your lodge can pick up and transport you to Tortuguero. If you fly out (which is what we did), you can arrive back in San Jose in plenty of time to get on the road to your next destination. Obviously, you would want to do the Tortuguero portion of your trip during the time you are not paying for a rental car. Getting to Tortuguero can be a bit of challenge logistically, but it is so worth it!

As to driving times:

I can't help you with Rincon de la Vieja.

I'm not sure why you would need to drive to Cano Negro as you can easily do it as a day tour by arrangement with your Arenal area hotel. It's a fabulous tour and they provide comfortable transportation with a guide and a delicious lunch. (We used Aventuras Arenal.)

Arenal to Sarapiqui is 2-3 hours, allowing for the occasional wrong turn and overturned truck blocking the road (it happens more often than you would think).

Poas to Manuel Antonio is approximately 3 hours.

1. I would recommend Sky Trek in Monteverde. Perhaps your hotels could help you arrange babysitting.

2. Sorry, no. No reputable whitewater outfit will take a 4-year old on the Class II or III sections of the Sarapiqui. You would be able to do the Sarapiqui river float offered through Selva Verde.

3. The only reason to visit Cano Negro is the boat trip on the Rio Frio. As I said before, I would highly recommend doing this as a day tour through one of the tour companies in La Fortuna.

4. Most of the San Jose area hotels offer tours of the Doka Estate which include transportation. If you wanted to drive yourself, I'm sure your hotel could assist in making a reservation of the tour and provide you with driving directions. You can also e-mail them at [email protected].

5. Not yet having been to Rincon, I can't help you there. In Monteverde I like Arco Iris (budget), Hotel Belmar (moderate), and Fonda Vela (expensive).
I've only stayed at Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero and liked it immensely.

TAGriffin is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2004, 01:50 PM
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Cano Negro is usually done as a day trip from Arenal with you returning to Arenal that night.

I would check with the rafting companies regarding the age of your son. There are some calmer rafting areas but don't know about a 4yr old. Rios Tropicales and Aguas Bravas both work out of Arenal/Sarapiqui area.

D1 arrive Time would make a big difference on suggestions for this day and your whole itinerary. You could possibly go directly to Arenal from the airport if you get in early. Or, stay near the airport and do a day trip the next day to Poas and the Doka Plantation. Could possibly even have time that day for a couple of hours at Zoo Ave (Ave means bird..Bird Zoo. Lots of birds to see but there are other things to see also). I am sure you have seen info on airport tax and benefits of getting rental car away from the airport. If not, let us know and we can fill you in.

D2 possible tours as suggested above or head on out to Arenal (3 hrs)and save tours for your last couple of days.

D3 Arenal

D4 Arenal possible day trip up to Cano Negro.

D5 Arenal day trip to Sarapiqui for rafting or slow boat wildlife viewing. (contact rafting co's to see how the age thing is going to work out as well as to find out what time you would need to be there if you are driving yourselves. The rafting co's do have transportation from Arenal to the rivers but, naturally, they will cost more than if you drive yourself.

D6 Drive up to Monteverde (4 hrs) Serpentarium, Butterfly garden (one of my favorite things to do) possiblities for afternoon. Bring some flashlights and go on the Finca Ecologica night tour.

D7 Monteverde Reserve in morning possibly and Sky Trek in afternoon.

D8 Monteverde

D9 transfer to Rincon de la Vieja (4hrs)

D10 Rincon de la Vieja

D11 Transfer to Manuel Antonio (5-6hrs depending on stops)

D12 MA

D13 MA

D14 MA

D15 MA

D16 transfer back to San Jose (3 1/2 hrs) return car.

D17 I would go to Tortuguero from here. You can go by bus and boat. Obviously will be a long day of travel. Your hotel/lodge in Tortuguero can help you make the travel arrangements. Only other options would be to drive to Limon from Pv de Sarapiqui, if you go there for a couple of days, and leave your car in the parking lot in Moin while you spend a couple of days in Tortuguero. Other options would be to bus boat one way and fly the other or fly both ways. You can not drive all the way to Tortuguero.

D18 Tortuguero

D19 transfer back to San Jose

D20 Sight seeing

D21 sight seeing or going home.

Times in () are just suggested times. Actual times can vary for many reasons such as accidents, sight seeing, getting lost, cattle on roads, bathroom breaks etc.

Obviously there are some changes to be made in the above itinerary that I did up. By putting it down in black and white where you can actually see what you will be looking at you can make changes logically. I have you down for a lot of days in MA. Probably more than you need but you can easily add a day elsewhere to shorten that up.

If you could give us a ball park price for what you are thinking for your hotels/lodges I am sure, collectively, we can all come up with some good ideas. 3 weeks is a wonderful amount of time there. I always feel gyped if I stay any less.
Jessie_ is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2004, 03:10 PM
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Thanks TAGriffin and Jessie, for the quick responses. I appreciate your taking the time to help me.

I am actually there in CR for 23 days, and I am considering fly-in/fly-out to visit Tortuguero.

I have refined my plans a bit based on your 2 responses:

D1: I will be landing late at night in CR.
D2: take it easy, do something near san jose. maybe Doka plantation tour.
D3: morning fly to tortugeuro
D4: tortuguero
D5: morning fly back to San Jose, rent a car, and go to Peace Lodge for a night.
D6: Go to Poas, and on to Monteverde
D7: Monteverde
D8: Monteverde
D9: Monteverde, and on to Rincon
D10: rincon
D11: rincon, to Arenal.
D12: Arenal
D13: Arenal (Trip to Cano Negro)
D14: Arenal
D15: Arenal to Sarapiqui
D16: Sarapiqui
D17: Sarapiqui
D18: Sarapiqui to Manuel San Antonio
D19: Manuel San Antonio
D20: Manuel San Antonio
D21: Manuel San Antonio
D22: Manuel San Antonio
D23: morning flight out.

I was considering staying in Manuel San Antonio for 2 days, and Dominical for 2 days, but based on your responses, I felt the above may be a better choice.

Do you still feel this may be too hectic?

I decided to splurge a bit in these areas: flights to tortuguero, peace lodge for a day, tabacon resort for a day. In all other places, I am looking to stay within a budget of 70 to 80$ per night.

Here are some lodges I am considering:
At Sarapiqui: La Quinta
At Arenal: Los lagos
At Manuel San Antonio: La Colina or some reasonable hotel in Quepos.
At tortuguero: Casa Marbella?
At Monteverde: I will explore TAGriffin's options, thanks!
At Rincon: no clue so far

If you still feel this may be too hectic, my inclination would be to skip either Rincon or Sarapiqui: probably Rincon de la Vieja.
SilasM is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2004, 04:22 PM
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I wish I had read the earlier reponses clearly before I replied:

From Poas, I will go to Sarapiqui, then to Arenal, and then Rincon, Monteverde and then Manuel San Antonio. As you folks indicated, that seems to be a better route. Thanks!
SilasM is offline  
Old Sep 27th, 2004, 12:38 PM
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My favorite for Sarapiqui is La Quinta. Haven't stayed at Los Lagos but all reports elsewhere indicate it would be a great place for you. Have only stayed at Tortuga Lodge in Tortugueros. MA is a little too touristy for me so I haven't been back recently enough to give current advice regarding hotels there. Things can change quickly down there.

As far as the amount of traveling, most of it will give you time to relax so you won't feel quite like you are living out of a suitcase. There are a couple of quick turnarounds for you but you have them nicely spaced between longer stays.
Jessie_ is offline  
Old Sep 27th, 2004, 03:18 PM
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I realize you have adjusted and readjusted your itinerary, and, as Jessie stated, you have a good plan. I'd just like to offer one more thought (hopefully not to further confuse you!).

So much of what you are planning is in the central valley (one of the most beautiful areas of Costa Rica, IMO). In fact, from Peace Lodge--which is in an ideal location for what I would suggest, you could have some wonderful days exploring this part of CR without having to pack up and move so much.

You could arrive and head off to Tortuguero the next day. When you return, you could base yourself at either Peace Lodge or any one of several nice hotels in this general loop north of San Jose and spend 4-6 days doing all of the things you have mentioned: Poas, Doka, Sarapiqui, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and in the process visit some very interesting small towns--Sarchi, Grecia, Zarcero.
You would even have time to travel past San Jose to the south and take in Vulcan Irazu (different from Poas), Lankaster Gardens, and the Orosi Valley.

Then, of course, continue on with the rest of your trip which sounds absolutely wonderful! How nice that you have so much time to enjoy.

As mentioned above (I think), the Sarapiqui jungle float trip would be just perfect for your 4 year old, although perhaps not as excited for the rest of you! It is still a good way to spend an hour or so.

I guess what I am saying (with such length) is that you could certainly enjoy the Sarapiqui area easily in one day from a central location. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending a couple of days there as well if that is your preference. Even so, it seems more feasible to go on up to Tortuguero the 2nd day, then do ALL of your central valley activities when you return and rent your vehicle.

shillmac is offline  
Old Sep 28th, 2004, 03:28 PM
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I'm really envious of you! We spent 5 weeks in march with our two small kids (1 and 2) and had a ball.

I can't add to anything here to be honest - we did a different trip. But I can say that the Zoo Ave in Alajuella (near SJ) is fantastic and will enable you and your kids to see lots of the animals that you may not see in your trip (or which you may see). We used La Rosa de America as our base in the SJ area (1 mile from Zoo Ave) and stayed there on 3 different occasions over the 5 weeks.

People in CR love kids - enjoy it!

Weespxx is offline  
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