hotel help in Arenal and MA, please

Oct 1st, 2003, 10:50 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 16
hotel help in Arenal and MA, please

Hi All!

I've been perusing these boards for a month now and have found so much great information. Thanks to all that have contributed.

I will be going to Costa Rica Nov. 21-28. I have picked out an itinerary for my short stay, but am having problems deciding on the hotels...there are too many great ones out there! My boyfriend and I wanted to try and save on some money during our stay in either Arenal area or Manuel Antonio. Here's a list of some moderate and nicer hotels..where would you suggest we scrimp?

Alajuela Area (1 night):
*Orquideas Inn
*Vista del Valle

Arenal Volcano Area(2 nights):
*Tabacon Hot Springs (sounds like a deal since entrance is included)
*Arenal Paraiso

Manuel Antonio (3 nights):
*Si Como No
* Villas Nicolas
*La Mariposa

My main concern are good views (beach, volcano, etc) and assesibility to restaurants, shopping, activities. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance for the info and I promise I will post a trip report! If you think that it's worth it to splurge, then please let me know.

thanks much!
;p carol
hulapig is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 11:35 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,066
I think I'm the only person on this board who isn't enamored with Xandari. It felt like it needed some decent management when we were there in February. The rooms were drop dead gorgeous, but, the front desk/bar/restaruant just didn't measure up. Plus, what seemed to be an awful lot of questions that our poor cab drivers had to answer just to be allowed in the gate to drop us off. Felt like an armed camp. Vista del Valle sounds wonderful, but, if you're just there for the night, I'd opt for Orquidas Inn. I've never seen a bad thing written about it, and it certainly is much cheaper.

We stayed at Tabacon when we were in the area a couple years ago. If you can get a room with a volcano view, I think it's worth the money. Although it is a bit of a hike (or a shuttle ride) to the hot springs.

None of the hotels you mentioned for Manual Antonio are 'on the beach'. They're high up on a hill, although I do think Tulemar is part way down and has its own beach. I don't know for sure. We stayed at Si Como No a couple years ago. It was fun, but it is a bit 'Disneyish'. We had a wonderful view down the jungle covered hill to the ocean. Food at the 'casual' restaurant was pretty good, we didn't eat at the more upscale one. Si Como No, La Mariposa and Villas Nicolas are fairly close together, not a big deal to walk between the three of them. I think Tulemar is closer to Quepos, I'm honestly not sure. There are seveal excellent restaurants/bars in the vicinity of the first three.

Are you going to have a car? We've didn't use one on either of our two visits to the Manual Antonio area. Good bus system during the day, and reasonable taxis at night. And lots of places within walking distance. But, bring a flashlight! No sidewalks and a narrow road. You need to be able to be seen.

Have a great time.

JeanH is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 12:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 16
Thanks so much for the info Jean! I am so tempted to do Vista del Valle, Tabacon and Tulemar, but I know I shouldn't. We are going to have a car from San Jose to Arenal and back and then fly to MA, since it seems easy to get around by taxi. Besides, I think my boyfriend and I will get too carsick on all those bumpy roads. One car trip is enough! Thanks again!
hulapig is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,194
I agree entirely with JeanH .
And, since you won't have a car, Tulemar is not a good choice as there not many places within walking distance. Plenty of places within walk of the other three in MA. In fact, Si Como No and Villa Nicolas are right next door to each other, and La Mariposa is just down the street. If you go to La Mariposa, make sure you splurge on the new rooms. The old rooms in the main 'tower' are not worth it, in my opinion. But, even if you don't stay there, go for happy hour at sunset. Their bar has the BEST view.
Some of the rooms at Villa Nicolas are further down the hill so don't have the best views, so if you decide to stay there, ask for room 7Up or higher.
I LOVE Orquideas Inn. Been there 7 times!
Ally is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 23
We stayed at the Arenal Observatory Lodge near the Arenal volcano. Great place, built by the Smithsonian Institute. Some of the rooms have views of the volcano. A splendid way to wake up each day! Good food and the staff can arrange great outings. Tabacon was just too ersatz -- nothing about it seems real and it was expensive.

We also stayed at Villa Nicholas (in an upper apartment) and had a good time. Lots of room, a kitchen, a great porch with the best rocking chairs and hammocks.

Have a great time!
ZazuToo is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 04:38 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 27
I'll definitely have to agree with ally about staying at orquideas in alajuela - you won't regret it. in arenal we recently stayed at paraiso - the volcano view is perfect from there. its a nice place, helpful staff and it really is a lot cheaper than tabacon - even if you go to tabacon's hot springs and pay, as we did. didn't stay at any of your suggestions in ma but walked through si como no - looked a bit too touristy for me, nice view though. mariposa looked nice - bruce willis was staying there just before we were there! (if you care about these things!)
enjoy your trip,
suburbantrain is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 06:47 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 60

You don't really need a car in MA as has been said, but for the record the roads from Arenal to MA are not very bumpy. Roads are pretty good except for between Parrita and Quepos, where there are sporadic potholes and some bridges under construction. We found it fun to drive from Arenal, stopping for lunch here, checking out crocodiles there...

But we did break the drive up, staying at Los Angeles Cloud Forest one night.

Not sure how you fly from Arenal to MA...don't you have to get down to San Jose anyway to fly to MA?

Regarding Si Como No....most of MA is touristy. A few restaurants feel local (no matter where you stay, check out Mar Luna) but most of the hotels are along hotel row. We found Si Como No interesting, dramatic, and fun. I'm guessing you have seen their website and know what the place looks like. If it appeals, then why not?

jdla is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 10:49 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 27
i absolutely agree with jim about eating at Mar Luna - best restaurant we went to in costa rica - its a must.
suburbantrain is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 03:28 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 16
Hi All!

Thanks so much for the great feedback. I feel confident now that wherever we stay will be a good choice! My boyfriend and I are going to make some decisions this weekend so that we can book the hotels in advance...just in case there are other travelers going over Thanksgiving week.

I was thinking that we would drive from Arenal back to San Jose and then fly, but now I think it would be a better idea to just drive to MA and then fly back to SJ (assuming that we can leave the rental there) before our flight back to the US. I just contacted Costa Rica Expeditions to get a cost comparasion, and they seem great, but I may be able to do it myself for less.

Thanks to everyone for their advice. I love this message board! I'm on it all the time when I should be busy working!

;p carol
hulapig is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2003, 09:53 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 8
Hi Hula:
My husband and I are going to Costa Rica the same time you are. It is our honeymoon so we are splurging a bit but here is our itinerary:
Fly to San Jose and stay one night at Grano De Oro
Drive to Tabacon and stay at the Tabacon Resort and Hot Springs
Drive to Manuel Antonio staying 4 nights at Si Como No and 2 nights at Makanda By the Sea
Drive back to SJ and fly home
Planned the whole trip myself based on books and recommendations. Let me know if you need any help.
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drport is offline  
Oct 4th, 2003, 04:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,441
I really enjoyed my stay at Arenal Paraiso. Arenal Observatory is way out from the rest of the sight seeing. Most of the hotels you mentioned in that area are on a stretch of road between the lake and La Fortuna. You would need transportation to just about everything from them. Taxis are relatively inexpensive. To give you an idea of how it is situated you can go to to their map of Arenal (they also have one of monteverde). In Monteverde, I really like the Heliconia. It is right across the street from the road to the butterly farm and close enough to town and other attractions to be able to walk to many of them.
Suzie2 is offline  

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