Initial plan - 2 weeks in CR

Jan 13th, 2008, 11:57 AM
  #1  
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Initial plan - 2 weeks in CR

Were in the initial phase of planning a 2-week trip to CR in Feb 2009. Well be flying (hopefully direct) from the East Coast to SJO. If Continental keeps the same schedule, we can be there around 12:30 pm. We are a couple in our early 40s, and this will be our first time to CR (and Central America, actually). The main interests are nature, photography, relaxation, good food, exploring a new area and culture.

The current plan/idea is:
4 nights in Arenal (Lost Iguana) well probably get a transfer from SJO to Arenal, then rent a car the next day in Arenal. For some reason, I dont think we want to drive the first day in CR. In Arenal (3 full days), do the hanging bridges, the Cano Negro tour, the lava hike, enjoy the nature, maybe do the hot springs and probably skip the zip line.

4 nights in MA (3 full days, probably the Buena Vista casas) well keep the car from Arenal and drive ourselves there. How is the drive? I think I read it is about 5-6 hours, is that accurate? In MA, do the park, horseback riding, maybe a sunset cruise, relax on the beach a little. What do you think about the Rainmaker tour? If we do the park, is it too similar or is it worth it anyway? Well drop off the car at the end of the last full day in MA and get a transfer to the airport the next day. Or, would it be possible to just drop it off at the Quepos airport?

4 nights in Osa (BDC) Well fly there from MA, most likely with a stop in SJO I did not see any direct flight from MA to Osa. There is so much we can do at BDC, that well probably play it by ear. I read so many wonderful things about it (they really dont need any advertising or PR, you all are doing a great job) so I know we will not be disappointed.

2 nights at the Peace Lodge this will be the last stop before flying back home. Well definitely hike the waterfalls, see the birds, frogs, butterflies, hummingbirds, orchids (wow, I need to get some more cards for my camera ) and hopefully get to see Poas volcano.

How does this sound? Too much/too little time anywhere? Are we missing anything in the areas we are planning on going? Is there any good option in any of the 3 areas well visit for a whitewater rafting? Is that even an option in February, which is supposed to be the dry season?
Thanks a lot

xyz99 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 12:50 PM
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Check with BdC. They can help with booking flights to the Osa. I like to have my PJ lodges do the flights for me because they automatically check and confirm the flights back. I know there have been flights directly from Quepos to Puerto Jimenez. As far as leaving your car at the airport.... I hope nobody tells you anything about the Costa Rican airports it would spoil the fun. Just plan on turning the car in at the company's office in Quepos if they have one and taking a taxi to the airport the next day. When you pick the car up find out how they want to work the drop off. They may just come to your hotel.

Your trip sounds wonderful. You have done your homework. I don't like to do more than 4-5 places on a two week trip because it seems too hurried otherwise. You can go white water rafting out of the Arenal area. The water level can be very unpredictable. I have been rafting many times at that time of year and have had really low water and very high water.
Suzie2 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 01:01 PM
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xyz99,
Just a thought or two regarding your plans. Very nice itinerary, by the way.

When it comes to traveling around CR, there are SO many options--something to fit everyone's comfort level.

Unless money is absolutely no object, renting one place and dropping off at another tends to be pricey. Like you and most others, we are glad to pay extra bucks for convenience, but in the Manuel Antonio area, you won't need a rental car nearly as much as you will at Arenal, which is all so spread out.

For your transfer to Arenal, you might want to consider Interbus, small turismo vans that have a huge network all over the country. Cost is about $30pp per transfer. You could then have them transfer you to MA as well.

There are shuttles from all the hotels down to the beaches of Manuel Antonio--it is a very compact area. By all means, do the national park tour and do it with a guide. You can hire someone yourselves right there at the entrance for less than you can book a tour through the hotel (about 1/2). The park is closed on Mondays.

Sounds like a great plan--bet you can't wait!
shillmac is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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Suzie,
Good idea, I will let BDC make the flight arrangement. Now...what about CR airports? What's the story? I assume small airports (do they have any facilities, maybe a food stand?) and small planes for domestic flights - how small are these planes?
We'll be soon on a small plane for an inter-island flight in the Caribbean, so I'll let you know how I feel about these small planes

Shillmac,
While we are not on a very tight budget, money is always an issue. Yes, sometimes we pay for convenience, sometimes not.
If we do the Interbus transfer from Arenal to MA, would they stop to the bridge with alligators/caimans/crocodiles? This is one of the main reasons I was thinking of keeping the car. Then, what about restaurants in MA, can we get there and back to our hotel by taxi? How do you call a taxi at a restaurant if you don't have a cell phone? Does the restaurant let you use their phone? Do we need to buy a local phone card? If so, how available are pay phones in CR?

Thank you both for all the other tips. I'm sure I'll have more questions on the trip details later. And yes, can;t wait
xyz99 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 01:54 PM
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xyz -- You have a great itinerary and you're in for a real treat! You have a good variety in your destinations which is a plus. We didn't visit MA, but instead went the Caribbean side, otherwise our trip last year was very similar and terrific. This March we'll be adding MA and staying at Tulemar. Since we're taking Interbus from Arenal to MA, I'll be sure to post back if they stop at Tarcoles or not. If it's not off the regular driving route, I'd be inclined to say they will stop. As far as the airplanes I think they run anywhere from 8 to 15 passenger. At Sansa I think there MAY have been a snack/drink vending machine. Otherwise it's pretty basic. Just a few chairs and a not so clean restroom. At the PJ landing there is nothing but a covered bench area, but you can stop at BDC offices if you need a bathroom stop (recommend before the bumpy ride)! Also, stop at the grocery store before heading to BDC to pick up snacks.
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 02:04 PM
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CR Airports - think long paved driveway that you happen to land on Actually Quepos is one of the fanciest, lol. It actually has a place to buy some snacks and a restroom. Puerto Jimenez you get to land next to a cemetery and there are no facilities (I'd heard that Sansa was going to be upgrading their little stand but haven't heard anything about it).

You're going to find in MA that, as shillmac said, it's very compact. The bus is extremely easy & cheap & goes by often, it's basically on a dead-end route (at the park) so not even a chance of getting lost or taking the wrong bus. I think a car would get less use than not, so think a interbus transfer from Arenal to MA may be ebest - but of course if you want one I'm sure you can find one that will allow a drop off.

I'm glad you're going to BdC. I worry sometimes I may come off as a shill, lol, but I truly believe it's one of those places that is a must see in CR (or the world). In fact I'm dragging my dad there in May, just so he can see what I'be been blathering about these past few years!

Oh, also, the Rainmaker tour I haven't been on but tried to get to the 2 times I went to MA. I recenelt saw a travel show and they featured it, looks outstanding. They showed this incredible bridge (you have the option to take another route if it freaks you out) that is single poles, with hand rails, like l l l l l (so much for illustration), you do have a safety rope attached - looked incredible!
tully is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 02:06 PM
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hipvirgo,
Please post back about Tulemar - we are still deciding between Buena Vista and Tulemar. It seems that Buena Vista gets better reviews on TA, but it looks (at least on the web) that the view from Tulemar is full ocean view, while from BV is only partial.
I'm a big sucker for views...so I'm very curious about that.

Good to know about the 'not so clean' batroom - I will try to avoid it. No coffee before the flight
xyz99 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 02:23 PM
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My friends hvc and Tully have addressed your concerns very well. Just want to add that I'd be inclined to agree that Interbus more than likely stops at that bridge. It doesn't take but about 5 minutes to view the crocs. They're just lying there, so not so much to see as far as action--but sometimes there are a LOT and they are pretty large. It's interesting, but doesn't require a lot of time.

I'm glad you are going to let BdC arrange air transportation for you. It's very helpful to let them do that.
shillmac is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 02:24 PM
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xyz -- For sure I will post back here about Tulemar. We return from CR April 7th so hope to check in after that. Buena Vista is a little out of my price range so I checked out Tulemar and found we could try the lower unit of the Mot-Mot (it's just for myself and 11 year old). Hopefully, I'll meet some new friends and also check out some of the other accomodations when I'm there. What type of unit do you think you'd be interested in? One of the bungalows?
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 03:06 PM
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Tully,
Thanks for re-stating that well not need the car in MA. This is great, Im sure buses and taxis will probably be cheaper than car rental plus extra charge for the different town drop off.
And thanks for the info on the Rainmaker Im surprised I dont read more about it on this site, but I guess people are going to MA mostly for the beaches. For us, the main interest will be the wildlife and photography, so well probably take the Rainmaker tour.
You say that you tried twice to do the tour but didnt was it because it did not work with your schedule, or do you need to book it advance and you didnt, or because its only offered on certain days, or why?
That bridge will probably scare me to death (Im afraid of heights) but I think I can do hanging bridges. I hope I can
xyz99 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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Shillmac,
Thanks for coming back It might not take too long to see the crocs, but for us, city people (not from Florida), seeing them will be interesting and new. From a distance

Hipvirgo,
Our current choices for MA accommodation are: a 1-bedroom villa at Buena Vista, or the upstairs apartment at Mot-Mot or a Tulemar Premium bungalow.
All, thanks a lot with the three of you, who needs a travel agent????
xyz99 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 03:33 PM
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LOL! Regarding the crocs--absolutely they are a highlight--didn't mean to imply otherwise. We consider it sacreligious to cross that bridge without stopping--have done it a dozen times and no doubt will continue! We're always curious just to see how many there will be. We were with a couple one time whose response was, "Oh we don't need to stop; we've been to an alligator farm!" We stopped. Uh, hello, does the term "in the wild" mean nothing?!
shillmac is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 04:46 PM
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xyz - just simple scheduling! Not sure I'll ever go back to MA but if I do the Rainmaker is a definite for me.

Also, near the Si Como No hotel is a little store, think the name is Super Josette or something of the like or you can take the bus into Quepos and the first stop is at the Pali Supermarket. Nice to have soda's, water, snacks on hand.

The Finca Valmy tour is great, then you end up at his house and can can have a dip in the pool while they make you lunch. Ask your guide to show you a Mimosa plant, I love those little things.
tully is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 04:58 PM
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Tully,
Thanks for the mimosa plant tip had no idea it grows in CR thats the plant that closes its leaves when you touch it, right?
Finca Valmy is definitely in the plan. However, that would be my first time riding, do they have calm horses? How long is the tour? Will I be able to walk afterwards?

Shillmac,
I saw pictures of the crocs taken from the bridge, but Im wondering, is it possible to take any picture not from above, but more from the crocs level? I do not want to get close to the crocs, just on their level, at a safety distance. Is it possible?
xyz99 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 05:10 PM
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Our two week trip in November was very similar to yours: Lost Iguana, Buena Vista Villas, and BdC. We loved each place.

Regarding BVV, we had a one bedroom Villa and the view was amazing! We originally had planned to book the top floor of Mot Mot, but it was not available. We really wanted a patio and that helped us in our decision making. Not all of the Tulemar Bungalows have balconies. BVV and Tulemar share the same property and are mingled together on the hillside. We also really enjoyed the two pools for the BVV guests. Really, they all looked lovely and I highly recommend the property.

As far as BdC.... you won't be disappointed. I must say I was slightly concerned that it wouldn't live up to the rave reviews, but it easily did. I would recommend the massage in the jungle. Unforgettable.


campjulie is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 06:01 PM
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xyz -- I think we will be doing the Finca Valmy too...so I'll post back about that as well. I'm looking into the Rainmaker tour too, but not sure we'll have time if we get attached to the beach at Tulemar.

There was a girl who was afraid of heights at BDC too. Took her a few tries, but she made it across the hanging bridge to the Tropical Garden. Yay! I think she was on her hands a knees for a portion. There's a trail that goes around to the TG if you can't make the bridge though!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 08:57 PM
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I have flown in 6 seaters on up to about 15-18 seats. We even had a pilot once that had to sit on a book so he could see. Yikes! That did not inspire a whole lot of confidence.

I guess the cat is out of the bag. I love to see peoples faces the first time they fly into PJ when they don't know what to expect. It still brings a smile to my face when I think back to my first time many many years ago. I get a kick out of seeing the changing facial expressions. First comes the surprise and then the smiles and on occassion laughter. Quepos is quite modern compared to PJ. When we flew a charter flight out of San Vito one year it seemed like half the town showed up for the event. There was just a rusty old bench with a cover and a tattered windsock next to a dirt runway.

Do bring an extra card for your camera. One thing for sure...Costa Rica has more photo ops than you can imagine with its incredible diversity.

Don't know about Interbus stopping at the bridge. It would be nice for you. The crocs are just one of the great things you can see. That area also has wonderful birding. If you get lucky you could even see your first Scarlet Macaws there. They do have scheduled stops along the way for bathroom breaks and food on most routes but I haven't seen them stop just for an interesting sight, at least not the ones I have been on. MA isn't one of my favorite places so I haven't used Interbus for that route. When we had a car in MA in the early 90's it was actually a pain to use for some things.

I can never resist "petting" one of those mimosa plants when I see one. They are found in many places down there.

Tully, What fun that your Dad is finally going with you. I have something here for Kim but it is rather large. With him going down do you think I could send it to you to take? If you want I can email you the dimensions so you can say for sure. I know you don't like too much extra. I may have to skip a visit to BdC this trip because I have to stick pretty close to home with the construction going on and we are hauling stuff down for the house so don't have much room for extras. Still can't imagine a year without a visit there so will probably stop in for a night or two in the summer when the house is done. I'll be ready for a rest.

Suzie2 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2008, 09:49 AM
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xyz99, no, I don't think you can get down on their level. I've never seen anyone try it, and I don't remember a "way down". The crocs sometimes are all over down there, so I'm thinking you'd best be content with your "aerial" photos!
shillmac is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 08:56 AM
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Your best bet would be to try the river trail at Carara or the boat trip. You can arrange that from Manuel Antonio. It would mean a lot of driving though on that one section of road. Don't know that it would be worth it although there is a lot to see in Carara. How about a night at Villa Caletas or Villas Lapas on your way down. Easy to do if you are driving. Just take a night off of one of the other places.
Suzie2 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 10:50 AM
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re the horses at Finca Valmy - yes they have plenty of horses to choose from so they will get you one suited to your experience. I had a horse for many years, so he gave me a "lively" one, but even she was easily controllable; they pretty much know the routine and follow the lead horse.
tully is offline  

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