Help with Travel Plan to Costa Rica

Jan 2nd, 2005, 10:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 27
Help with Travel Plan to Costa Rica

Message: Our family is headed to CR on Jan 14 - first visit, and we're really excited. (Our children are adults 27 & 25).

Right now our itinerary calls for us to land in San Jose at 2 p.m., rent a car and drive to Arenal (Arenal Observatory Lodge), spend the night and next morning there, then drive to Monteverde (El Sapo Dorado) where we'll spend the night and the next morning, then drive to the Marriott Los Suenos in Playa Herradura. Is this an unrealistic plan? After reading all the wonderful things experienced travelers have posted, I feel like we might have bitten off more than we can chew. We could skip one of those two stops before Los Suenos and extend the other if it makes more sense. Any help is much appreciated!

Also, any ideas of especially good things to do once we're at the Marriott? We definitely want to do a canopy tour, probably go horseback riding, hiking, etc. Again, any suggestions would be great.

I sure wish I had found this message board before we planned the trip - I think I might have done it entirely different! Hopefully we'll have another chance to go and travel around more.

Happy New Year to all!

p.s. this is my first attempt at posting a message - for some reason it didn't show up in the Costa Rica search so I'm trying again. My apologies if it shows up twice.
tina_p is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 02:15 PM
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I personally think you're not going to have time to truly enjoy either Arenal or Monteverde given your rushed scheduel. I'd pick one only, so you will at least have full day there. The drive from Arenal to Monteverde will burn up the most part of a full day and you don't want to do it at night.

I would probably chose to skip Monteverde and spend the extra night at Arenal to increase your odds of seeing some lava flow and giving you time to partake in other activities that the area has to offer, such as Tabacon hot springs. My husband and I spent three nights at Arenal this past summer and it still wasn't enough time!
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 02:18 PM
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One more thought... Arenal Observatory Lodge is quite far from everything else in the area and currently does not offer the best view of the lava flow. If you choose to spend two nights in the Arenal area, you may want to spend at least one somewhere like Arenal Paraiso or Montana del Fuego where you will have a better view of the lava if there is any.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 02:44 PM
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We just returned last night from our 2 week honeymoon in CR. We went from Arenal to Monteverde and it takes at least 31/2 hours. I would spend both days in Arenal if I were you but do not expect to see the volcano. At least for us, the 3 days we were there it was covered with clouds. We did not do the canopy tour while there although we did the tram and it looked pretty good(we did ours in Monteverde.) We booked a trip through our hotel(Tabacon) where we repelled down waterfalls. It was absolutely AMAZING and not to be missed! I highly reccomend doing it if you are up for adventure. We also went horseback riding in Jaco (Right by Los Suenos) up to this lookout point to watch the sunset. That too was wonderful. Lastly we went hang-gliding in playa Hermosa which is just south (about 20 minutes) from Los Suenos. We had a great time and all our excursions were truly memorable. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
cjulius94 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 03:55 PM
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I agree with the previous posters--drop one of the first two locations. I, too, would choose Arenal, although I'm sure Monteverde is wonderful. I just think the volcano and the hotsprings are DON'T MISSES!
shillmac is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 05:47 PM
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Thanks! After reading a lot of the other postings I was getting the feeling that we were just going to be in the car driving on bad roads, and not enjoying all the wonderful things I keep reading about.

For cjulius94: I'm really interested in the repelling down waterfalls!?!! My twenty-somethings would love it (and drag their willing but wary parents along). Since we are not going to be staying at Tabacon, could you give me a little more info about that so I can get it set up in advance? Thanks!
tina_p is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2005, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I will try and contact the hotel and get the info, I do not know it off hand and it was put on our bill for Tabacon. You can e-mail me directly at [email protected] will be easier. I can assure you your kids will love it. The guy we went with was Mario and he was absolutely great to be around. I will be in touch. PLease e0mail me so I have a way to send you the info. Thanks.
cjulius94 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2005, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Agreeing with the chorus: Stay the extra night in Arenal. You will be stressed out and not get to see much if you are traveling every day for the first three days you are in CR. We were in Arenal for only one night (11/30/04) and we DID see the lava flowing down the volcano, despite the cloud cover! Later in the evening, after the hot springs (which were AMAZING!), the clouds moved and we saw the lava spurting out of the top. It was a totally unreal experience!
dcmalia is offline  
Jan 4th, 2005, 03:23 PM
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It does seem that the lava comes out LATE at night. We asked our hotel to call us if there was any and they called us around 2:00 AM two different nights and there was a lot of lava. Amazing! We would have slept right through it otherwise.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jan 4th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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LA is correct that the Observatory Lodge is NOT where you want to be if you want a chance to see the volcano put on its show. The Lodge is now on the wrong side of the volcano.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 5th, 2005, 09:54 AM
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Many, many thanks to everyone who has been helping plan our trip!
We are now booked for two nights at Arenal Paraiso, so we'll have time to explore that area more, and we'll leave Monteverde for another time.
Any suggestions for places to eat there? The one recommendation I got was for the Arenal Paraiso Steakhouse. Any others?
Again, thank you to everyone who took the time to reply!
tina_p is offline  
Jan 5th, 2005, 10:10 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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We just stayed at the Arenal Paraiso. Didn't see the volcano- but if the clouds move, A.P. is in the perfect spot.

We didn't go to the Tabacon Hot Springs. If you want to go though, remember you have to make reservations! Arenal Paraiso is in the process of putting in 11 little hot springs pools as well as they have a main tiled pool with a swim up bar. Seven of the little pools are completed.

Restaurant recommendations- El Novillo has the tenderest steak in town. It's on your right hand side as you drive towards Tabacon from Arenal Paraiso. It doesn't look like much- kind of an open air pavillon. Portions are huge!
cinepez is offline  
Jan 5th, 2005, 05:27 PM
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We've been to Tabacon 3 times and reservations were never necessary--is it that busy now? Can't imagine! However, I do know that tourism is booming down there. . .
shillmac is offline  
Jan 5th, 2005, 05:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
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I second El Novillo. Doesn't look like much but the food is wonderful if you like steak and/or garlic. Great cheesebugers too for lunch. Even during the day it was fun sitting there and watching the hot rocks tumble down and leave smoke puffs along the way.
Jessie_ is offline  
Jan 6th, 2005, 10:14 PM
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Shillmac, I read somewhere that Tabacon has begun limiting how many people can be allowed into the hot springs at one time. So if you tried to go on a very busy day without reservations you might have to wait. But I imagine on slower days it's not a problem...
Melissa5 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 09:08 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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Tabacon- Maybe during off season reservations are not necessary. I was there the busiest week of the year and was asked by the staff there if I had a reservation (which I did not). We popped by there around 3pm asking about going at 7pm but nothing was available. There were 2 tour busses parked in the lot and the lot was jammed with cars. So we decided to content ourselves with the pools at our hotel, the Arenal Paraiso. They have just built 7 out of 11 planned pools and we could enjoy them for free.
cinepez is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 12:10 PM
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My husband and I are heading there in a few weeks and we are are so excited. This site is really helping a lot.

We still aren't sure where we are going or what we are doing. A lot of people have told us to "wing it" and that would be the best thing. I need to plan though.

dayandryan is offline  
Jan 7th, 2005, 08:30 PM
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We were at Tabacon last year, Christmas Day and the day after. No reservations and not what I'd call overcrowded. Plenty of room at the swim up bar. . .

That's why I asked--it surprised me--in just a year's time. That fits with all the other tidbits I'm hearing that business is booming huge in Costa Rica these days! Amazing!
shillmac is offline  
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