Help with Costa Rica trip - leaving in a few weeks!

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Jul 13th, 2018, 06:42 AM
  #1
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Help with Costa Rica trip - leaving in a few weeks!

My husband and I just booked flights to San Jose for the first week of August. We can only take a week of vacation and we are bringing our 13 month old son. I have been chatting with a travel company and their quote is definitely in the high end of our expectations for what we wanted to spend regarding the itinerary and lodging. I'm curious if anyone who has traveled there with a toddler has tips, an itinerary recommendation, etc?

We definitely want as much nature as possible with a lodging that is comfortable (good water, AC, etc). We aren't the type of people that need all inclusive resorts but accommodations that are safe and in a great location are a must.

The travel company is recommending the first few days in Arenal and then Manuel Antonio beaches. I am a little concerned Manuel Antonio will be too touristy and curious what other people think?

Is it crazy to DIY this trip with a baby in tow?
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Jul 13th, 2018, 07:10 AM
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We did that combination for our first trip and really liked it. It's the most popular combo for first timers. We stayed at the Lost Iguana, the Arenal Observatory Lodge, Nayara, and The Springs Resort and Spa in the Arenal area. Silencio del Campo is very popular with young families if you want to check that one. In MA, we love Tulemar Bungalows, very nice that they have a beach and you get a frig to keep breakfast stuff on hand, keep drinks cold, etc. They also provide you with a concierge. We've planned all our trips ourselves. It's pretty easy to do. To travel from place to place you can rent a car, hire a private driver, take a shuttle like Interbus or Grayline, or fly on Sansa airlines. There used to be another airline called Nature Air, but they've recently gone out of business. Both areas have nice adventure activities, but they would be hard to do with a baby. In the Arenal area you could do the waterfall hike - it's beautiful. Also hike the Mistico Hanging Bridges. Go to the Bogarin Trail to see wildlife like sloths, poison dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, etc. You can also hike the trails at the Arenal Observatory Lodge for a fee if you don't stay there. Both AOL and the Lost Iguana are set away from town out by the lake, so they have better nature, but aren't that convenient to town. You might also enjoy the beautiful natural hot springs - Tabacon and Eco Termales are both nice. In Manuel Antonio, you can do a guided tour of the park, the Damas mangrove boat tour if you think your toddler could do it, and the Villa Vanilla spice tour. Manuel Antonio Expeditions is good for excursions. Have also enjoyed sailing and just beach time. The beach inside the national park is beautiful and full of fairly tame wildlife like monkeys and sloths. MA is touristed in that a lot of people like to go there, but it's not tacky touristy. There are some good open air restaurants around Tulemar. Some families like to go to Samara if you want to explore that option. You can drink the water in CR; we've been several times and have never gotten sick like we have in Mexico. If you're somewhere really isolated they might provide you with water, but I doubt you'd go anywhere like that with a baby. You definitely need a.c. in Manuel Antonio, but we've gone without it in Arenal and didn't miss it.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 07:58 AM
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THE first time we went to CR, my daughter was two. It was totally fine! We stayed a night at the Toucan Rescue Ranch for upclose animal experiences. We’ve been to Manual Antonio in July. It’s not the tourist high season. Like Volcangirl said, it’s popular but not tacky. It’s lovely, really. We did a tour with Jade Tours. We brought a Tula baby carrier for my daughter and toted her all over. We stayed at Hotel Costa Verde which was great, but it’s not right on the beach if that’s important to you.
In Arenal we did the water fall hike (baby in pack), Safari float (not sure if there’s a minimum age here), and we stayed at Hotel Kokoro Arenal. It was very family-friendly with a great pool.
In general, Costa Ricans Love babies and kids are they are very accommodating.

One issue due we had was that there are some funky seat belts in CR that did make some taxis a challenge.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 08:03 AM
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We also never used companies. We just made reservations directly with hotels. You can also just go to the desk of pretty much any hotel and say, “We’d like a tour to X tomorrow” and they know who to call. In Arenal we did some excursions through Anywhere Costa Rica and they were great. You can pre-arrange on their website. They had a chat feature that was really great— I basically said, “I’m bringing a toddler— what do you recommend?”
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Jul 13th, 2018, 08:34 AM
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Desafio is another good company in the Arenal area - we love them. flor, did you see that the Toucan Rescue Ranch recently raised their rates to $750 a night? I couldn't believe that! We loved staying there. I think you may have recommended it to us.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 11:48 AM
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No! I didn’t see that! And the two times we stayed there we rented out both bungalows. Well, I was thinking of just doing the tour next time instead of staying just for timing purposes. It seemed like such a good value before.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 02:34 PM
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I know - I just about fell over when I saw that. Glad we got to go when we did!
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Jul 17th, 2018, 09:46 AM
  #8
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volcanogirl - thank you for the info! I ended up deciding to DIY and booked 3 nights at Lost Iguana. I am still looking at where I want to stay in Manuel Antonio and I am still trying to decide if I want to rent a car or hire a driver. My husband is definitely more interested in a driver in case something happens with the car and we are stranded, etc. We shall see!

I know there are a lot of activities that aren't baby friendly but it does seem we can find a decent amount that are. If anything I am excited to see the wildlife and experience nature!
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Jul 17th, 2018, 10:31 AM
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The Lost Iguana is nice; we've stayed there a few times, sort of upscale rustic. We like the second floor rooms for more privacy. They have great balconies with rocking chairs on them; the property is very quiet, right next to the Hanging Bridges set away from town out by the lake. Hope you guys have a great time.
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Jul 21st, 2018, 11:27 AM
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I know most people rent a car, but we always hire a driver from airport to wherever and then use taxis. If you are doing tours at your destination they usually include transportation from your hotel. We’ve had great luck with drivers. If you are interested, they will stop and good places to eat and point out interesting things (and often stop) on the way.
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Jul 21st, 2018, 03:15 PM
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We usually hire a driver too; Carlos Bogarin with Destinos Encantados is good. He has a website. He might still be driving for the Lost Iguana; that's where we met him. My husband relaxes more when we have a driver, and he can sit back and relax.
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Jul 22nd, 2018, 05:18 PM
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Did you find that taxis and private drivers all had car seats readily available? I’d rather not bring ours since it’s just enormous and a pain to carry. I know scheduling private drivers in advance should be fine but I’m wondering about an impromptu cab around town. Can I use Uber with the car seat option?
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Jul 22nd, 2018, 06:21 PM
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We haven't used Uber. I think people use it, but I don't think it's technically legal in CR. I would bring your own car seat.
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Jul 23rd, 2018, 06:15 AM
  #14
 
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We always bring our own. I’d look for a light weight (maybe something you could carry on your back) version to carry around. I definitely wouldn’t count on car seats by tour companies. Even if they have one, who knows what it looks like? We were always able to leave the car seat in an office or restaurant somewhere when we were using taxis.

Last edited by florclover; Jul 23rd, 2018 at 07:08 AM. Reason: Punctuation
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Jul 26th, 2018, 04:25 PM
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Definitely recommend Desafio. I used them for a day hike near Arenal (I was already staying at AOL) and then the most incredible ziplining. You’d have to find child care at where you’re staying but the ziplining was mind-blowing.
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