Info for trip to Costa Rica

Old Jan 8th, 2020, 06:23 AM
  #1  
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Info for trip to Costa Rica

Hi, my adult son and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica for this spring.We have some flexibility so please feel free to comment on any or all of the following:

Time: I thought March would be a good time. Does it matter if it is early or late March? Should we shoot for Feb if possible?
Duration: Because my son needs to be back for work, we are thinking of an 8 day trip. This can be tweaked.

Itinerary -- really could use help here and this is tentative.
We fly into San Jose. I thought we could settle into an airbnb or hotel and on Day 2 do a tour to Poas Volcano, La Paz waterfalls and a coffee or cocoa plantation (I forget the actual details) and then back in San Jose that night. Does this seem a good use of time or should we skip this and move on.
Day 3: I had thought of doing a river rafting trip on the Pecure River with the tour company picking us up in San Jose and then taking us to Arenal. I see now this river is out of the way. Perhaps not worth it? Or good fun?
Days 4 - 6? Arenal - see hanging bridges, thermal waters, etc. Not sure how many days are recommended.
Day 6 or 7 - Monteverde -- this seems close to Arenal
Day 7 or 8 - Manuel Antonio area - see national park and Damas Island Mangroves.

Thanks again for any suggestions. I want to get our airplane tickets first so would like to firm up the days. I then can do more with the itinerary but obviously the two are linked.

Burry
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 07:56 AM
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You don't have time to do all of that in such a short trip. Most people pair the Arenal area with either Monteverde if they want cloud forest OR Manuel Antonio if they want beach time. I think you'd really feel like you're rushing around too much if you try to do all three in such a short trip. We've done Poas, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and the Doka Coffee Estate tour. Really enjoyed all of them. It's my understanding that they recently changed Poas to operate on a timed ticket schedule, and you're only allowed to stay for twenty minutes. Not sure if it's worth it in that case since it's often enshrouded in fog, and you may not see anything there. When we went we had to linger around for quite a while to see anything. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are really pretty - a waterfall hike with five beautiful falls, and you can hand feed hummingbirds during certain times of day in the hummingbird garden; they also have a nice aviary and a butterfly house where you can see blue morphos. Not a fan of their monkey enclosure which seems too small to me, but really enjoyed everything else. Some people think it feels a bit Disneyish so take a look at photos and see if it's your kind of place. We enjoyed it. The Doka Coffee Estate tour is also very good; they take you through the entire process. We were there during harvest season and got to pick some of the "cherries" as they call them, also got tasting samples. Whether you want to do all of this on such a short trip is up to you. You could easily spend the entire time in the Arenal area and Manuel Antonio. We usually stay four nights when we go to the Arenal area. Monteverde is kind of a pain to get to - a long bumpy road. It seems close to Arenal but it's not a day trip. You'd have to stay two or three nights to make it worth the trip. It's a good area for birding and hiking and can get chilly at night so if you go pack something warm just in case. Manuel Antonio is worth at least three nights. We loved our tour of the national park - lots of monkeys and sloths; also really liked the Damas mangrove tour. Monkeys boarded our boat even though we went with Manuel Antonio Expeditions, a company that doesn't feed the wildlife. We haven't done the Pacuare, but people love it, good for those that like high adrenaline. We've done rafting with Rios Tropicales out of the Arenal area; Desafio is also a great company for tours.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 07:58 AM
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Regarding March, that's the warmest time of year for many areas in Costa Rica. The typical rainy season doesn't start until about May for most areas.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 08:51 AM
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I agree with volcanogirl. With 8 days, you need to choose 2 main locations.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 12:36 PM
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Thanks to all of you. So it looks like maybe the day trip of Poas, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and the Doka Coffee Estate tour may be worth it, then perhaps dividing the rest of the trip between Arenal and Manuel Antonio? The Pacuare river rafting trip sounds fun to me but I'm not sure we have time for it -- or better yet we might be able to raft out of the Arenal area.

Any thoughts on transportation from San Jose to Arenal as we weren't planning to rent a car?

The comment about March being the warmest time of the year -- does that mean it is a less desirable time to go? We have a lot of flexibility so could go in February (if I can find reservations) or April but I thought it might be rainy then.


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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 12:47 PM
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No, March is still a popular time to go. May be busy due to Spring Break though. February or April would be fine too, whatever works best for you. We usually hire a private driver to go between cities. You can usually book one through your hotel when you reserve it. We've also used Carlos Bogarin with Destinos Encantados and liked him; we got his name through the Lost Iguana. Both Arenal and Manuel Antonio are about three hours from SJO but in opposite directions. It's about five hours between the two. You can make a stop at the Rio Tarcoles bridge and see the huge crocs down below.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 12:56 PM
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Thanks, volcanogirl, you are terrific! If you spend four nights in Arenal and three in Manuel Antonio, do you mind telling me what you recommend as activities? If you don't mind, I might use that as a basis for our trip if it fits our plans.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 03:13 PM
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Sure, the Arenal area has tons to do. We like the Mistico Hanging Bridges for a nice hike, the waterfall hike and you can swim in the river there if you want to - the falls are beautiful, also love the Bogarin Trail owned by a local family to see sloths, birds, and colorful frogs, either Eco Termales or Tabacon for natural hot springs - nice to go in the evening, the Cano Negro boat tour with Desafio to see wildlife, the Penas Blancas safari float with Desafio, white water rafting with Rios Tropicales or Desafio, and ziplining at Sky Trek. We've also done a really fun cooking class with Costa Rica Cooking and Chef Scott, but you probably won't have time for that. You can also hike at the Arenal Observatory Lodge - good place to see coatis and colorful birds, especially near the observation deck in the morning because they put fruit out; they have a good trail system there. Take a look at these and see what appeals to you.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 03:17 PM
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For Manuel Antonio, we enjoyed a guided tour of the national park - lots of sloths and monkeys, the Damas mangrove boat tour - again monkeys!, the Villa Vanilla spice tour - good if you like cooking or gardening or eating, a sailing trip, beach time, and snorkeling (not great due to sediment in the water - I'd pass). We also just spend time relaxing on the beach. We like Tulemar Bungalows because they have their own beach, it's one of the more pricey properties though.
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 01:47 PM
  #10  
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VolcanoGirl, thank you so much for the suggestions! I plan to use them and will let you know what the itinerary is once it is set.
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 02:53 PM
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Happy to help, b. I should also say that if you do the Bogarin Trail, their trails are easy and flat. You need to go with the guided option though because you'll just walk by everything without a guide. We walked by sloths, poison dart frogs, etc. we would never have seen without him saying to look up, pointing things out, etc. Good luck with the remainder of your planning.
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 04:49 AM
  #12  
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Thank you, excellent suggestion. It would not be the full experience without a guide. Many things in the hopper right now but I hope to finalize things soon. Will really try to do a trip report when I get back.
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 07:55 PM
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Hi Burry -
Just spent 6 weeks in CR, you will love it. I’m guessing this is your first time. IMO, although I loved Manuel Antonio, you are going to end up with maybe 6 full days depending on flight times etc. I believe you could easily spend all of that time in Arenal and Monteverde and see two very diverse areas with plenty to do. After the Volcano, maybe head to Arenal from SJ and then take the Jeep-boat - Jeep to get to Monterverde. Volcanogirl knows all the places to go to as mentioned in her posts. I guarantee you that looking at the map it looks like it’s the size of Rhode Island, but it takes a lot longer to get around. You will be back, again my opinion, find an area and discover that to the fullest and you won’t have a trip that is 30% driving.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 04:28 AM
  #14  
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Thank you! Great suggestions especially the taxi-boat-taxi which sounds interesting in and off itself. We are going to try to expand the trip to at least 11 days to give us more time.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by volcanogirl View Post
Sure, the Arenal area has tons to do. We like the Mistico Hanging Bridges for a nice hike, the waterfall hike and you can swim in the river there if you want to - the falls are beautiful, also love the Bogarin Trail owned by a local family to see sloths, birds, and colorful frogs, either Eco Termales or Tabacon for natural hot springs - nice to go in the evening, the Cano Negro boat tour with Desafio to see wildlife, the Penas Blancas safari float with Desafio, white water rafting with Rios Tropicales or Desafio, and ziplining at Sky Trek. We've also done a really fun cooking class with Costa Rica Cooking and Chef Scott, but you probably won't have time for that. You can also hike at the Arenal Observatory Lodge - good place to see coatis and colorful birds, especially near the observation deck in the morning because they put fruit out; they have a good trail system there. Take a look at these and see what appeals to you.
Thank you for these great tips.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 03:21 PM
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Desafio is a good company for the Jeep Boat Jeep service; we paid about thirty bucks each. I like Monteverde, but with only two locations, I'd choose MA over it for the beach and the better wildlife, definitely add Monteverde if you have time for three spots though.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 07:55 AM
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If you can add a few more days I think that would be a game changer and easily add in Manuel Antonio. You had mentioned about transportation in your previous posts, you can hire a private driver, but also depending on the wallet,I found Costa Rica has a pretty substantial system of Shuttles that aren’t overly expensive. For instance if you did Arenal, Monteverde, you can get a shuttle back to San Jose and grab transport to Manuel Antonio. We rented a car for the whole six weeks because we did a lot of traveling and wanted to be fairly flexible. The drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio has pretty good roads so you might be able to rent a car for that portion, but I would also check on a shuttle right from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio bypassing San Jose altogether.
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