Iteniary Help

Jan 29th, 2008, 01:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 4
Iteniary Help

I am an avid reader of all of your posts and am grateful to you for sharing your wealth of information. I am applying for a teacher grant to travel to CR this summer for 10 days. I want to experience the nature, art, and culture of this amazing place. I would appreciate it if you would look over this itinerary and give me suggestions. Thanks in advance.

Arrive SJO
Rent a car (Question #1-Who to rent from or do you see a way of doing this w/o renting a car?)

2 nights at Peace Lodge (Q #2-Is there a route that can take me by Sarchi to get to Peace Lodge or how do I work in a visit to Sarchi?)
La Paz Waterfall, Paos Crater, Coffee Plantation

4 nights in Arenal (hopefully Arenal Observatory Lodge or do you have another suggestion, Def want to be in the position to see volcano)
Hanging Bridges, Eco-Termales, Cano Negro, Maleku Reserve, Sky Tram/Sky Trek

2 nights in Monteverde (Q #3-Where to stay)
Cloud Forest, CASEM, Cheese Factory, Selvatura Tree Tops Walkway, Reserva Biologica Bosque

2 nights at either MA or Osa (Q #4 Where to stay and what to do in MA)
Beaches, Rainmaker (?), National Park (?) (Q#5 Would this be repetitive after Cano Negro?)

If we go to Osa we would like to stay in BdC (Q#6 Should we drive the car back to SJO and fly? How much is that likely to cost? Or is a drive feasible? Also what are the costs of guided hikes once we get to BdC? I definitely have budget considerations in applying for this grant)

Q#7 Are there any not to be missed galleries or craft stores? I am definitely interested in seeing the Chorotega pottery but donít feel I have time to drive all the way to Guaitil. I also want to see other native crafts like masks, drums, weavings, etc.

Thank you so much. You guys are the best!
arteach is offline  
Jan 29th, 2008, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Your itinerary sounds good with one exception. 2 nights isn't quite enough at Monteverde (given the effort it takes to get there) and 2 nights is ABSOLUTELY not enough for the Osa. Minimum of 3 each place. If you could do 4 nights on the Osa, that would be optimal.

I'd suggest that if you REALLY want to visit the Osa, you drop Monteverde from your itinerary. You may also need to drop a night at Arenal. I say this because yes, you do need to return the car to SJO and fly. You'll want an a.m. flight (or most people do) and that would necessitate returning your car the late afternoon before.

You can visit Sarchi as a daytrip from La Paz--and the other places you mentioned. Poas requires an early arrival (8:30 or so) for the best chance to see the crater. After that, head to the Doka Estate, then over to Sarchi. Just know that you will be using up your full day at La Paz OFF the property and there is SO much to see and do ON the property. Is there a way you can arrive there early in the p.m. so that you will have that afternoon to enjoy the grounds? Poas, Doka, and Sarchi will take up most of the next day. You might plan otherwise, but I'm guessing you wouldn't return to La Paz before 3:00 p.m.

Could you skip Sarchi this trip and visit Poas and Doka on your way to Arenal? That would allow you to enjoy your stay at Peace Lodge--my goodness, you'll want to spend SOME time in those lovely bungalows-- you're sure as heck paying out the wazoo for them! And they are fabulous. . .

These are just a couple of thoughts. You can plan an itinerary just as you have done, but you really need to get down to hour by hour and think about how much time it will take you to get from A to B, what time you'll be arriving/departing from the airport, etc. What originally looks workable usually requires some adjustments when you start thinking about how to work it all out realistically.

Good luck and have fun!
shillmac is offline  
Jan 30th, 2008, 01:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 4
Thank you so much for your suggestions. I truly appreciate your insight. I'm thinking that we will stay at Peace Lodge for 2 nights, Arenal area for 4 nights, and then drive back and stay somewhere near SJO so we can fly to Osa for 3 days. When we fly back from Osa we will stay overnight in the same place near SJO. Would you mind helping me with the following: Best place/price to rent a car, where to stay in Arenal (is AOL a good choice?), where to stay near SJO (would like to return the car the night before and would need to stay somewhere that will help us transfer to the airport). I am so excited about this trip I can hardly stand it. It sounds like an adventure of a lifetime!! Thank you for your help.
arteach is offline  
Jan 31st, 2008, 05:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Okay, here goes. These would be my recommendations:

AOL is very good, but a bit out of the way, so a car will be very handy. The grounds (and the birding) there are fabulous. We like the view of the lake as well. I remember how the restaurant opened early to accomodate those of us who were leaving early for tours. You don't see that very often.

We always use Tricolor and have had excellent luck with them--and good prices, no hidden costs.

If that doesn't work, leave off the "s".

Within 5 min. of the airport is Hotel Villa Bonita, a great little Tico owned B&B. The owners are friends of ours, a great young Costa Rican couple, Humberto and Carmen. You can stay for $50 per night, including laundry service (for those who stay mid-trip), breakfast, TV, wireless internet. No restaurant, but within a couple of blocks, 2 very good ones.

Humberto will assist you with anything you need. He knows the guys at Tricolor well, works with them on a regular basis, and will help you with your rental if you need. They can even deliver to you over there, if you want to just taxi to the hotel when you arrive. We usually pick our vehicle up first, but then we know our way around a bit. Hotel Villa Bonita has a map on its website. Humberto will arrange taxis for you as needed--$3 or so to the airport.

We also like Orquideas Inn, but rarely stay there anymore, as it is a little further out than we prefer. But a great place, a little more pricey, but not by much.

It IS the trip of a lifetime--and you'll want to go back! Have a great time--what part of the summer? We'll be there during July and part of August.
shillmac is offline  
Jan 31st, 2008, 06:54 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
"We'll be there during July and part of August."

oh will you now?

tully is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2008, 12:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 4
Shout out to Shillmac--You have been so great to share your information and opinions. Thank you! We hope to be traveling end of June/first of July. I just submitted my grant so keep your fingers crossed! After all the research and planning I will be so excited if we get to go. I'm still waiting to hear back from Peace Lodge about availability. If that doesn't work out we might just drive from SJO to Santa Cruz and start with visiting the Chorotega potters. Any idea how long that would take? Better yet, where can I find a site that gives me distances between locations?
arteach is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2008, 02:55 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 7
The Arenal Lodge is the most peaceful, friendly and beautiful place to stay near the Arenal Volcano and the mountain jungles of Costa Rica. We just booked our fourth trip -- for August of 2008.

This review details why we keep returning to the Arenal Lodge -- along with tips for transportation, things to do in the area, the best adventure tours, best hiking trails, best time to visit, volcano viewing, etc

> Location
As some of the other reviewers have noted, the Arenal Lodge is roughly 10 minutes outside of La Fortuna, the main town in the area -- well off the main road. This is a BIG plus. You are far from the bustle of the town, which has grown significantly due to the increase in tourism. The Lodge also sits on a 2,000 acre preserve, on the top of a hill, in the middle of the jungle. You will be awakened by howler monkeys in the morning -- instead of traffic noise. The view of the volcano is awesome.

> Getting There From the Airport
The Lodge can arrange for a private shuttle from and to the international airports in San Jose or Liberia -- a great idea. If you have driven the mountain roads in Costa Rica, you'll agree! (We drove from San Jose on our first trip.) The front desk at the Lodge can arrange everything; ask for Rolando's transfer service.

> Local Transportation
To hike the trails around Arenal Volcano, visit the Hanging Bridges, etc., you should rent car -- particularly if you plan to stay for 2+ days. With a car, you can explore on your own. The Lodge can arrange for a rental car / SUV to be waiting for you when you arrive, and you can leave it at the Lodge when you go. We always ask them to reserve a small SUV, e.g. a Toyota RAV. Local driving is safe and easy, but watch out for the potholes! (We also use Sunset Tours for kayaking and river rafting, where a guide and equipment are needed.)

> A Good "Home Base" for Adventure:
On our first trip in 1994, we started with the typical Costa Rica itinerary: a couple of days at Arenal, then on to Monteverde, then the beach. After we arrived at the Lodge, we cancelled everything else. We discovered that this the perfect "base camp" for hiking, kayaking, fishing, river rafting, trips to Monteverde, the Cano Negro preserve, etc. At the end of the day, we return to drinks on the balcony overlooking the volcano, and great food. No need to pack, drive and unpack. Now we typically spend a week or more at the Lodge.

> A Family-Friendly Place to Stay:
Everyone is very nice and helpful, from the front desk to the owner. They arrange everything when we stay -- fishing on Lake Arenal, river rafting, lunch for hikes around the volcano, the SUV rental, etc. The Lodge is also an ideal place for kids; private, small and personal. You don't have to worry. The new pool is a nice addition; my wife and I can relax after the day's adventure -- while our son swims and plays. In the evening, the rock lined hot tub is a romantic place for a couple.

> Excellent Restaurant:
If you're going to stay somewhere for a few days, it sure helps to have a great restaurant -- not the typical 'hotel restaurant'. Be sure to try the steaks and fish. The dining room has a wall of windows that overlook the volcano, and a deck that's nice for drinks in the evening.

> Best Rooms:
I strongly recommend the Junior Suites, Matrimonial Suite and the Master Suite -- which all have decks and great views of Volcan Arenal. The 'chalets' are good for larger families; they also have clear views of the volcano.

> Rain and Weather:
Arenal is located in the mountains, surrounded by rain forest. The temperature ranges between 70F and 80F, and varies by only 4 or 5 degrees yearound. The average annual rainfall in Nuevo Arenal is 4.2m (168"). It rains nearly every day from mid-May through February. During the short "dry season", rain still comes frequently however; a two-day break is rare. Typically this means a tropical downpour for a short time each day, followed by sun -- or a longer rain in the afternoon/night. (Think Maui.) Storms can blow in from the ocean, however, with steady rain for a couple of days. A light Goretex-style rain jacket is a very good idea for hikes, along with water/mud compatible shoes or boots.

> Best Time to Go:
We have tried different times of year, and prefer the 'green / low' season (summer). Tourist crowds are down, no lines at the entrance to Monteverde, rooms are less expensive -- and the frogs are out. (An amazing symphony at night!) We didn't notice much difference in the rain or the temperature.

> Best adventures:
Hikes, kayaking, river rafting, fishing, horseback riding -- or simply put your feet up on the deck, with an excellent margarita or Chilean wine! Here are some suggestions:

(1) Volcan Arenal in Action:

Volcan Arenal is one of the most active and consistent volcanoes in the world -- a natural wonder to see and hear, and ever changing. During our first visit, it sounded like 1,000 747 jets taking off, a howling roar. The last time, it was fairly quiet, with a periodic BOOM!, and a constant stream of hot lava rocks that cascaded down the side of the volcano. (Visible during the day, and glowing red at night.)

A few important notes: Don't expect fountains of lava, like the photos shown on many websites. Big eruptions like these occur only every few years. Don't expect a 'command performance' during a short stay; Arenal may be resting, or clouds may cover the summit. If you stay for a few days, however, or get lucky -- prepare to be impressed! Definitely try the hikes around the base of the volcano in the National Park; this is the best way to see Arenal up close. Bring binoculars and a good camera or video cam. Drive up to the Observatory or the hill behind the Laguna resort on a clear night, to watch the red hot lava rolling down. DO NOT hike beyond the "Peligroso!" signs. Fiery pyroclastic flows periodically race down the side of the volcano, and will kill everything in their path. You can't outrun them.

(2) Easy Hikes:

> There is a nice 'hike through the jungle' on a cobble-paved path at the back of the Lodge preserve. It takes about 30 minutes. The 'butterfly garden' is located at the entrance, with Blue Morpho and other Costa Rican butterflies. Depending on the time of day, you will hear (and sometimes see) howler monkeys moving through the tops of the trees.

> The National Park at the foot of the volcano has a number of good trails -- maps are available at the entrance. (You'll need to drive; the Park is 10 minutes from the Lodge or La Fortuna.) Try the "New Lava Beds" trail, which will take you to a recent lava flow. You can climb through the strange lava formations, with great views of the volcano. (This flow was still hot and steaming when we were there in 1994.)

> The "waterfall" hike that starts at Arenal Observatory is also easy and very nice. (The Observatory is roughly 20 minutes from the Lodge. There is a small entrance fee for each vehicle.)

(3) Adventurous Hikes:

There are lots of options! One of our favorites is the Old Lava Beds trail, which starts on the back side of the Arenal Observatory, crosses a small river -- and heads up a ridge on the side of the volcano. The trail winds through the triple-canopy jungle. Good hiking shoes or boots are mandatory. As with any hike through the jungle, keep a sharp eye out for wildlife -- beautiful birds and very poisonous snakes! (Particularly when you climb / step over a log.) It isn't too tough; our son hiked with us when he was 8 years old. If you're lucky, Volcan Arenal will treat you to a thunderous BOOM! en route. Note: DO NOT go beyond the "Peligroso!" sign at the end of the trail. If you have seen the photos of the pyroclastic flows that periodically roar down the side of the volcano, you know why!

(4) The Hanging Bridges:

A must-see, for a small fee. The trail winds through virgin rain forest, with narrow suspension bridges across steep gorges. You walk through the tree canopy at different levels, with breathtaking views. A tip for the more adventurous: Also take the guided night tour. The jungle comes alive when the sun goes down. Our guide was an expert in everything that creeps, flies and crawls. (We brought our LED headlamps on the second trip, just for this adventure.)

(5) Kayaking:

Highly recommended! The Lodge can arrange kayaking on Lake Arenal and local rivers. You can glide up to jungle at the edge of the lake, and see wildlife that would never be visible when you're hiking. The Rio Frio is another great adventure -- roughly two hours away in the Cano Negro preserve near the border with Nicaragua. We saw caymans, rare Capuchin and Spider monkeys and sloths, and more exotic birds than we could count. (This is an easy flat-water paddle.) The Lodge will arrange everything with a local tour group, which isn't expensive. The guides are very knowledgeable. Note: for anyone who has never kayaked before -- try it here. All of the kayaks are "sit on tops". Absolutely no training or skill is required.

(6) River Rafting:

There are a number of excellent options. The 'Safari float' on the nearby Peñas Blancas river is great for families; an easy float, no rough water and lots of wildlife. (Our son held a poison dart frog -- and still talks about it.) The 'white water' runs on the Sarapiquí are more adventurous, but still a good choice for most families. Again, the guides were excellent and very knowledgeable. The Lodge can make the arrangements.

(7) Fishing on Lake Arenal:

For the more adventurous: You have to get up when the sun does, but this is an experience to remember -- even if you don't catch a thing. You will see the sun rising over the volcano, from a small boat in the middle of the beautiful lake. Our son hooked a nice rainbow bass on our last trip. We brought it back to the Lodge, and they served it for his dinner that night. The fishing guide is amazing; our son didn't speak much Spanish, and he didn't speak much English -- but they caught a fish together. Something he will always remember.

(8) Horseback Riding:

My wife tried this on our second trip and loved it. Trails wind through the Lodge preserve, to a view point at the crest of a hill. She said the guide is a true "horse whisperer" -- highly recommended.

(9) Just Relax!

This is also a great place to put your feet up, relax on your deck or by the pool, read a book, enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, etc. My wife and I both have serious careers, and this is a perfect place to unwind.

MarkHays is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2008, 05:35 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 3,750
Mark -- What is your deal? You've cut and paste the same post 7 times today and those are your only posts ever on this forum.

hipvirgochick is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2008, 06:33 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
hvc - my first thought was okay, someone has written up about their stay and then when I got to the 132nd paragraph or whatever I thought ah the advertising disguised as personal review ploy.

Mark - if you don't work for should.

To the OP - good luck with your grant.
tully is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:23 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Hi Tully,
Well, yes, but still haven't totally ruled out Mexico. It's just a matter of WHEN in July we finally get there. Still no progress in the decision making area. . .regarding that one!

To Santa Cruz/Guayitil, you can expect about 4-5 hours. Guayitil is something like 10km from Santa Cruz, down a side road from the main highway. You might spend a couple of nights at Playa Nosara or Playa Samara (something like 1.5 hour from Santa Cruz).

To Peace Lodge from the airport, about 45 min to an hour.

Peace Lodge to Arenal, maybe 2.5 hours? We have never driven to Arenal from there.

Arenal to Santa Cruz, your're looking at 5 hours.

Manuel Antonio to SJO, about 3 hours.

Santa Cruz to MA, about 4-5 hours

Hope this helps somewhat. Driving times are all estimates. Sometimes the traffic moves faster than other times. Or if you're just tooling around looking, you might tend to pull over and look about more. Always watch your car when traveling with your things. Constant eye.

It takes awhile to get an itinerary that seems to fit just right and that you are finally at peace with. It's definitely a process. Good luck!

shillmac is offline  
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