Itinerary advice

Old Sep 12th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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Itinerary advice

We are planning our first trip to CR in January. We are 35, active and without kids. We love nature and animals, and my husband especially loves Turtles, but since the Loggerheads are the only Turtles that may be nesting in January, we are thinking of waiting for another trip to see them. Here is what I put together. Is it too much? Recomendations for any of the items with question marks or other thoughts? Thanks so much.

Day 1 Arrive San Jose at 7AM, Drive Poas Volcano, Coffee Planation, La Paz Waterfall, and stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge for 3 nights.
Day 2 Hike either the Cerro Chato and Rio Fortuna Waterfall, or the El Silencio Arenal Volcano Hike.
Day 3 Canyoning or Kayak Lake Arenal, Hot springs??, Town of La Fortuna.
Day 4 Take the Boat/Taxi to Monteverde. Hike in the cloud Forest, Attractions??, Where to stay?
Day 5 AM canopy Tour, Travel to Manuel Antonio. Where to Stay?
Day 6 AM or PM on the Beach?, Surf lesson?, Manuel NP Tour in AM or PM?
Day 7 AM in Manuel Antonio, Travel to Osa Peninsula and stay 3 nights at Bosque del Cabo
Day 8 Sea Kayak or Snorkel
Day 9 Hike in rainforest of the Osa
Day 10 AM in Osa Peninsula-, Fly to San Jose, 2 nights at Hotel Grano de Oro
Day 11 Raft Rio Pacuare
Day 12 Fly home
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 11:01 AM
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Five destinations is too many for 11 nights. I would edit it down to three or maybe 4.

Monteverde is a two-night minimum destination--it's either worth 2-3 days or none at all.

Your day 1 looks extremely ambitious--maybe too ambitious. Poas and La Paz waterfall gardens wound up being an all day activity for us. But, if you just want to see the La Paz waterfall and not spend 2 hours inside the park, the schedule makes more sense.

If you're going to stay at Bosque del Cabo, you can probably skip Manuel Antonio.

So, I would recommend:

Nights 1-3: Arenal
Nights 4-5: Monteverde
Nights 6-9: Bosque del Cabo
Nights 10-11: San Jose area.

I would also recommend contacting hotels for availability immediately. Arenal Observatory Lodge and Bosque del Cabo are particularly prone to lacking availability.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 01:41 PM
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I would pick either Monteverde OR the Osa for your trip; you don't really have time to do both. Definitely don't want to go all the way to Monteverde for just one night - very long bumpy ride to get there. If you do go to MV, we enjoyed Fonda Vela - nice new junior suites with small frig and bathtub, view of the gardens, good restaurant on site, and we saw toucans on the property. We did the Original Canopy Tour and a cool night hike at Hidden Valley and enjoyed both.

You have an awful lot going on on the first day. Have you thought about just staying at the Peace Lodge your first night to be close to Poas and the Waterfall Gardens?
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 02:06 PM
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Thanks for the input.

I did check with Arenal Observatory Lodge and are in the process of making a reservation for the first three nights. If it's too busy to go to Poas, I think we'll pass. We have seen and hiked something similar in New Zealand last year, so it wouldn't be our first time seeing a volcano crater and lake. We hope to get lucky to see the lava flowing at Arenal though as we haven't seen that before.

My husband decided to nix the rafting trip, and we aren't much for visiting big cities, so we'll be removing a day in San Jose and just stay there the night prior to flying home. So that gives us another day to spend elsewhere.

What do you think about Manuel Antonio? I know it may be more touristy and the animals are a bit less wild, but will we still see as many of them as we'd see on the Osa? I think our decision right now will be between these two. If we eliminate MA, then likely won't have any beach on our vacation, but we did spend a week in Mexico this year, so that wouldn't be the end of the world. I just don't want to miss key wildlife or other "must see" sites.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 02:27 PM
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www.tulemar.com Villa Mot Mot great if you go to MA

www.fondavela.com MV great if you go.

might pare back a smidge for better experience

Have fun,
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 03:27 PM
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i live in heredia, which is a fairly short drive to manuel antonio and have been there many times.my advice is not to base your trip on the expectation of seeing alot of wildlife. you may, you may not. the canopy tour is fascinatig itwould offer the best chance you would have of seeing the local fauna. things like sloths or a glimps of some small critter scurring around is possible but the monkeys, birds tend to be more active during early mornings and hunker down when its raining. of couse you never know, i pulled off the road there a few month ago and had the begeezes scared out of me by a howler monkey
pura vida!! jeff
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 03:39 PM
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also want to ad you are correct in nixing san jose. big city, nothing special. downtown, in particular "gringo gulch" has that seedy tijuana feel to it and the museums are average at best. if you have a half day to kill and you want to see city life, walk around my "hometown" of heredia.near the airport, its safe, has some beautiful old spanish buildings and a delightful old style food market full of stalls with all kinds of unique stuff. fun place to people watch
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 06:19 PM
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In MA, the big attraction for us was the great beach inside the park. We saw a lot of animals, but sometimes it almost felt like a zoo; the monkeys would come right up to us looking for food. In the Osa, the wildlife was jaw dropping. One day from the front porch of our cabin, I saw an entire troop of howlers, followed by spider monkeys, followed by capuchins swing right by. When I was in the tub, they would swing overhead. Scarlet macaws flew by like clockwork every afternoon. Amazing, jaw dropping really. If you want hiking and wildlife, go to the Osa. If you want a great beach and good restaurants, pick MA. Keep in mind that the Osa is a little more off the grid - can't use blow dryers and such and so isolated that you don't need a lock on your door. MA will have good seafood and sunset views over the water. Just a matter of personal taste I think.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 06:21 PM
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I forgot to mention that I think you have to put Tortuguero on your to do list for next turtle season; we just loved it there. The wildlife was amazing. I think you guys would love it.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 09:37 PM
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If the beach isn't a big deal, and the cost isn't an issue, yeah I'd choose the Osa over Manuel Antonio.

I'd do Arenal/Monteverde/Osa--three nights in two of the locations and four nights in the other. I'd rent a car in the Arenal area-the AOL's unique location means it's isolated.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 09:21 AM
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Thanks for all of your suggestions. I have a couple more questions.

In Arenal, there are two hikes that I have read about doing and I wanted to know if anyone has had experience doing either of these?

CERRO CHATO VOLCANO:
Arenal Volcano’s little big brother, Cerro Chato Volcano, is not as high or as active as its younger sibling, but it is a wonderful destination. Pass through dense rainforest and marvel at the crystalline waters in the crater lagoon or have a dreamy paddle on its mirror surface. After leaving the crater you can climb down to the impressive La Fortuna waterfall and have a rewarding swim at the base of these magnificent falls.
Departs from the hotel.
Duration: 4 hours. Hike to the crater lagoon.
Duration: 6 hours. Hike to the crater lagoon and visit to La Fortuna Waterfall.

“El SILENCIO” NATURE HIKE:
For an unforgettable evening, enjoy our peaceful “El Silencio” Nature Hike through secondary growth forest and experience jungle sounds and aromas as well as volcanic glows during your walk. In 1989, Arenal had a powerful pyroclastic eruption (a lateral flow of hot gases, rock fragments and ash) that blew out part of the northwest wall of the crater. On the walk to the observation point over the western flank, you can glimpse resident fauna (monkeys, toucans, etc.) as your guide explains the interesting facts about volcanic activity. Later, on the northwestern flank, you’ll enjoy an unobstructed view of Arenal’s activity as you learn the details of its history. The lava seen as black rocks at the start of your hike will begin to glow red after sunset due to their high temperatures.
Daily departures from the hotel at 3:30 p.m.
Duration: 3 hours.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 09:59 AM
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You will see monkeys and toucans at the AOL without leaving the grounds. If it is a clear night, the AOL is the best possible location. As an alternative, I would ask about a private tour of the national park. It was the same price and our guide (his name was either Christian or Tristan) was fantastic.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 11:41 AM
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We did the El Silencio hike with a guide several years ago. Booked through AOL, it was a comedy of errors (long story); we ended up doing the guided hike twice, both times in the rain. The first time we saw very little, as we didn't really get to hike. The second trip was more rewarding, saw a viper snake, nesting birds.. not much for lava. We waited for dusk at a small soda, sipping tea to warm us from the chill of the rain. Saw a few red streaks, that's it

After,we were super-lucky to get back to the lodge across the rising river in an ancient car with no windshield wipers! It was all quite an adventure, due to circumstances more than anything! In dry season, with no huge glitches, this might be a great hike! Let me know!
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 02:31 PM
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We've done the waterfall hike and loved it, not Cerro Chato though; we were scared off by the required "expert fitness level" that it mentioned. I believe ParkerSunshine attempted it if you can find her trip report.

We did the volcano hike as well - we had a lot of rain so it really affected our visibility. We had great lava viewing from the Lost Iguana, so I think we could have passed on the volcano hike. I think we would have enjoyed it more if we had had good visibility, but we did see monkeys and toucans which was cool.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 02:45 PM
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Thanks for setting my expectations on how much if any lava we may see on the hikes. Maybe this is something I should try to shoot for in the future in Guatemala at Pacaya or in Hawaii. We'll enjoy the hike regardless of what we see and there are several free hikes to do from AOL, I just didn't know if it was worth paying for a guided hike.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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PLEASE READ THIS ABOUT HIKING Cerro Chato. UNLESS YOU ARE VERY FIT AND AN AVID HIKER, I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. I absolutely loved Costa Rica but that one experience, although was a great conversation piece, I could have done without. Me and my husband are fit, but that hike we found brutal. If you go to my blog, scroll down and you can see 1 - a video I made about my trip and 2 - a review, that also provides links to long and shorter reviews here on Fodors that I wrote - somewhere in those reviews I wrote about the hike. OH actually I also talk about it in the video. Now, if you hike all the time etc GO FOR IT. If not, stick to La Fortuna and wear your bathing suit to swim at the bottom. www.hollywoodwannab.blogspot.com
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Old Sep 15th, 2009, 05:28 AM
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Giant leatherbacks nest between December and March at Playa Grande. January would probably be a good time to see them.

That said, I'd probably do this even a little differently than others have recommended. My inclination would be 4 nights Arenal (to get 3 full days), followed by 4 night at Bosque del Cabo (you'll wish you had more) then wrap it up at Grano de Oro and rafting.

You could drive up to Arenal and back, then fly to the Osa using either Sansa (near SJO) or Nature Air, near San Jose city, about 25 min. from SJO. You can even fly Sansa down there (for convenience, closer to Arenal) and return on Nature Air, which is close to Grano de Oro.
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Old Sep 18th, 2009, 07:25 AM
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Shillmac,

I didn't realize the nesting season for the leatherbacks was so short. I was hoping it would overlap at some point with other turtle seasons to make another trip to focus more on that. If we decided to make a visit to playa grand in this trip and exclude something else. How long do you think we'd need? Is 2 days, 1 night enough, or are opportunities to see them slim and we should allow several days?
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