Ideas for a trip to CR

Old Jul 6th, 2016, 11:39 AM
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Ideas for a trip to CR

My husband and I are in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Costa Rica next year and I am looking for some suggestions/input for the trip to help the itinerary take shape. We are thinking of July, but are open to suggestions for other times to visit - we know July is the Green Season, but we don't mind some rain as long as its not a total wash out, and we do like the lower prices outside of high season. We can travel any time other than April, November, or December though. I've been to CR once before for a conference, but only had a couple days to explore (saw just enough to know I wanted to come back) and my husband has never been to CR.

We'll have about 2 weeks for the trip and want a combination of adventure, nature, good food and drink, fun, and relaxation - we aren't big partiers, but a little bit of partying is always welcome We are mid-40s, fairly good shape, both speak Spanish reasonably well - we've both traveled in places where few if any people speak English. My husband is an avid nature photographer, and I am pretty sure than anything we choose in CR will provide him with plenty to take pictures of. Transportation will depend on the itinerary, I suppose. We are flexible - renting a car, taking buses and taxis, or flying - or some combination - whatever makes sense.

The Osa Peninsula is really intriguing to us, so I think we want to spend several days at a lodge there - I've been looking at various places, maybe something around Puerto Jimenez - spend some time visiting Corcovado park, kayaking in the bay, spotting animals, hikes, exploring the beach, just hanging out. I am open to suggestions though.

As a counter point to the off-the-beaten-track and quiet Osa, We'd like to also spend time in a busier beach area - someplace that has some restaurants, shops, bars with some decent nightlife, a beach to hang out on - someplace to have some fun, be more social, a bit of a party atmosphere - bars with live music are always appreciated. On my last trip, I went to Tamarindo, which was fun. We'd like to spend a few days in another town with a similar level of activity, but I am not sure where. We are in our 40s, so we don't want a town that is completely overrun with college students where we are the oldest people on the beach - definitely prefer somewhere with a variety of age ranges, but we do like a more adult atmosphere as opposed to someplace that is super family-friendly. Perhaps there is something that fits this description along the coast south of San Jose, sort of on the way to the Osa Peninsula?

We'd also like to spend a few days in the inland mountains - maybe around Arenal not sure - we'll fly into San Jose, and that's the opposite direction from the Osa Peninsula, so there may be someplace that makes more sense to visit south of San Jose. I know my husband would be really interested in seeing an active volcano and exploring the mountainous areas, which is why Arenal came to mind.

Any advice or recommendations you guys can give is greatly appreciated.
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Old Jul 6th, 2016, 01:06 PM
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Others will probably disagree with me, but I'd shoot for the dry season when in the Osa. Off the beaten path is a lot more attractive when the path is dry instead of a muddy quagmire. We've gone in February and were blown away.

Given your wish list, I'd probably do some kind of loop involving the Osa, the Uvita/Dominical areas just up the coast from the Osa, and the mountains and valleys between Dominical and San Jose--San Gerardo de Dota, Cerro de Muerte, San Isidro del General and the surrounding slopes, Chirripo, etc.

Three volcanoes fairly close to San Jose--Irazu, Poas, and Turrialba.

Here are our trip reports from the areas in question (all during February):

Osa (Drake Bay and Corcovado) and Central Valley (including Irazu):

Osa Peninsula (Puerto Jimenez and Matapalo):

Cerro de Muerte/San Isidro area/Uvita/Dominical/Tarcoles:
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Old Jul 6th, 2016, 02:15 PM
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We went to the Osa Peninsula in July and weirdly enough didn't get any rain; it was great. They say there's something called the little summer that hits around that time and reduces rainfall. I'd go again during that time. We stayed at Bosque del Cabo, and it was fantastic. Saw all 4 kinds of monkeys, sloths, an anteater, toucans, coatis, agoutis, and scarlet macaws right on the property; they have extensive hiking trails that are in great shape.

We like the Manuel Antonio area for beach; Tulemar Bungalows is great - they have their own beach and lots of wildlife on site like sloths and monkeys, also great photo opps in the national park - full of fairly tame wildlife and a gorgeous beach. Lots of open air restaurants nearby that you can walk to. You just have to be careful walking along the road. Don't miss the Rio Tarcoles will all the huge crocs down below. You'll pass it on the way to Manuel Antonio from SJO.

The Arenal area is great - tons to do and some pretty photo opps at the waterfall and at the Mistico Hanging Bridges. Tons of adventure activities and some fun natural hot springs like Tabacon and Eco Termales. We've stayed at several hotels there - The Arenal Observatory Lodge, Lost Iguana, Nayara, and The Springs Resort and Spa (Groupon deal) - really enjoyed all of them.
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Old Jul 6th, 2016, 03:06 PM
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If you want to see quetzals, San Gerardo de Dota has lots of them. We stayed at the Savegre Hotel - really chilly at night, but they have an awesome birding guide named Marino Chacon that we loved. A gorgeous river runs through the property, and they have a cool bar with a big fire pit.
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Old Jul 6th, 2016, 05:40 PM
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Thanks for all the advice. This is really great. This gives me a good starting point for research. I'm sure I'll be back with more questions
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Old Jul 21st, 2016, 11:58 AM
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We've gone to CR twice during July. The rain mostly hit in the afternoon, so, since the sun is up at 5AM, you just get an early start on the day. Each trip had maybe one day of all-day rain and on that day we just had to find something to do more indoors like butterfly pavillion, animal rescue place, etc.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2016, 12:03 PM
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november_moon, we just came back from a week at Bosque del Cabo. I've started a trip report so you can take a look at it as you make your decisions. I'll finish it up soon and post pics as well.

It did rain, but just for a few hours each day, and not enough that we had to sit in all day without doing anything. We saw and did a lot and had a wonderful time. And enjoyed the rains very much as well.

The green season rates and 6 nights for the price of 5 didn't hurt either.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2016, 07:23 PM
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We've been to Manuel Antonio in August and didn't find the rain interfered with our trip in any way. Actually I don't remember much rain at all and the sun was out before and after. It didn't feel overrun with any particular age group at that time of year.
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Old Jul 25th, 2016, 09:22 AM
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Can't help with the July question, I went in November and did nearly get washed away.

Another vote for Marino Chacon and San Gerardo de Dota.

Also enjoyed Arenal, staying at the Observatory for a few nights which is different than the town of La Fortuna, where I also enjoyed a night.

If you do a bit more research than I did you may find that from Observatory Lodge offers ways to get to both the La Fortuna falls (via horseback, maybe) and there are hotsprings on the way back to the main road. I just used La Fortuna as a base for that. La Fortuna might also fulfill your partying needs (people here don't like Baldi, but it is a place where the locals go to the hot springs to hang out).

Manuel Antonio also has that, and decent wildlife on site. Stayed at a pricey lodge, Arenas del Mar, which is also on a (so-called) private beach, but has the advantage that you can also access the public beach and walk into town. I liked it, excellent bird/nature guide that worked there at the time (Ersel). Dominical is another option, you can day trip to Hacienda Baru nearby.

I rented a car and drove the loop from the airport to San Gerardo de Dota (with an unplanned stop at Cartago due to road closure), down via San Isidro to Dominical, Manuel Antonio, Arenal and back to San Jose area (but stayed in the western suburbs, closer to the airport). I found San Jose city itself not worth the time for a visit, unless you've never been to a gold museum.

Was warned not to go to Osa in the wet season, glad I listened!
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