Itinerary Advice Needed - 6 days in CR

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Nov 20th, 2007, 08:09 PM
  #1
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Itinerary Advice Needed - 6 days in CR

Hello -
My husband and I will be traveling to Costa Rica arriving in San Jose in the afternoon on Sunday, Feb 10th and leaving in the morning on Sunday, Feb 17th. Essentially we will have 6 full days to travel.

Any advice on an ideal itinerary given the short amount of time we have? We were thinking of Arenal and BdC but are concerned that we would spend too much time traveling. One of our thoughts were to split time between Arenal and another destination (Montevideo?) and not go to BdC this trip. The other alternative would be to spend the entire time at BdC. Any thoughts? We definitely like to travel "off-the-beaten-path" and enjoy outdoor activities - hate touristy places.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Nov 20th, 2007, 08:34 PM
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The combo of Arenal and BdC would need a few more days.

Spending the entire time at BdC would be nice, but they are sure to be completely booked for February (and probably have been for months).

You could do Arenal and Monteverde, certainly, but each location REALLY needs 3 nights to do it justice and to fully enjoy the experience.

Depending on arrival/departure times (and due to early nightfall and road conditions) you may very well need to spend the first and last nights of your stay near the airport which is located west of San Jose (about 20 minutes) in the provincial city of Alajuela. When you say "arriving in the afternoon and leaving in the morning" it seems this would be the case.

So you COULD be talking about just 4 nights away from the airport. This is NOT a bad thing. . .

If you aren't looking for beach time (and, of course, Costa Rica is NOT about its beaches, more so its tropical forests) you could have a really great time spending your entire time at Arenal. Not a problem as there is so much to do there--all of it lots of fun and quite interesting.

Please keep in mind that the area within an hour of the airport is full of great locations to visit as well--La Paz Waterfall Gardens (and Peace Lodge on the property which is over the top fabulous but probably full--worth checking, though), Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Estates--lots of neat little towns, all between the airport and Arenal.

One hotel that is good as a base is Orquideas Inn, about 20 min. from the airport. If you spent the first 2 nights there (great little place with good food, reasonable prices, fun bar, excellent tour desk, etc) you could do your first full day as a tour from there with a guide. In that day you'd be amazed at all a guide would be able to show you and all that you could do. You'd get an excellent taste of Costa Rica! The best companies/guides really know how to pack a lot of great stuff into a day. The group working out of Orquideas Inn is one of the best you could hire. . .Wady Tours.

Then the next day head up to Arenal on your own for 3 nights. You can have a rental car delivered to the hotel your 3rd morning. The drive is a fairly simply one of 2.5 hours or so. Seeing the volcano, relaxing in the hot springs (Tabacon or Eco Thermales), the boating tour up to Cano Negro for wildlife viewing, hiking the volcano or La Fortuna Waterfalls, would easily take care of the next 2.5 days. . .Take your time driving back to Orquideas Inn and the airport area on your last full day.

Just a few thoughts. . .hope they are helpful to you!
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Nov 21st, 2007, 07:09 AM
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Thank you so much for your help!!! We can go to BdC for the whole time as they do have availability, so would you recommend going to BdC for the whole time or going to Arenal/Montevideo. We land on Sunday at 3:00pm and leave the following Sunday morning at 7:45AM.
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Nov 21st, 2007, 07:40 AM
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If BdC has availability, it would be wonderful to spend all of your time there!

For me, "availability" would NOT mean one of the houses in the tropical garden or any of the other casas that require a 10 min or so walk at night. That just doesn't appeal to us, although Casas Blanca and Miramar have such gorgeous ocean views.

We prefer the convenience of the casitas near the restaurant and wouldn't choose to stay there unless one was available.

BUT that's just us. Others have had excellent experiences and don't mind those short hikes after dark.

Honestly, you could have a very nice experience either way you go.
Looking at your itinerary, you'd need to spend your first and last nights near the airport no matter where you go. So you could fly down to the Osa on Monday morning, returning Saturday. You could even return Friday if taking in some of the beautiful areas near the airport appeals to you.

If you think you are interested in the Osa and BdC does indeed have availability that you are happy with, then you need to make a decision right away to get the flights down there and back that you want. They will make those reservation for you, which is very helpful. Good luck, whatever you decide. It's a beautiful country.

The Osa will probably one day be as overdeveloped as the rest is getting, so it would behoove everyone who wants to see it to get on down there!
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Nov 21st, 2007, 10:46 AM
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Agree that if BDC has availability to book it. Spending that last night at Orchideas and taking a trip to La Paz is a good option too.
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Nov 23rd, 2007, 02:43 PM
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So we decided to skip Osa this time because staying at BDC would require us to switch rooms a couple of times and thought that this would be less than relaxing. Do you think if we hired a private driver to take us to Arenal that arriving at 3:30pm in San Jose would allow us to go to Arenal that night or should we stay in San Jose? I just want to make sure that we are maximizing the short amount of time we have to enjoy Costa Rica and to see the most that we can see while still relaxing. Please let us know if just staying at Arenal will allow us to do this. Thanks again for your help!!
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Nov 23rd, 2007, 03:15 PM
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If you hired a driver, you could definitely get to Arenal your first night; it only took us about 3 hours to go from SJO to Arenal. We loved Arenal; I think you'll like it. Be sure to do the Cano Negro trip; it was one of our favorite things - you'll see a lot of amazing wildlife there. Sunset Tours is a great group to use.
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Nov 23rd, 2007, 05:49 PM
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I'd feel the same way regarding having to switch rooms. . .not a big deal, I guess, but somewhat of an inconvenience.

You'll have PLENTY to do between Arenal and the area between Arenal and the airport.

As volcanogirl assured you, with a driver, you could certainly make it that first night, BUT by the time you collect your things (are you checking luggage?), get through customs, and out of the airport, you'd be making MOST of the trip in the dark. And by the time you arrived and checked in and had dinner (actually, you won't want to wait THAT long for dinner, I'm pretty sure. . .), you wouldn't be up for much more than hitting the hay (a midwestern expression meaning sleep!).

We, too, like making the most of our time in Costa Rica, but traveling somewhere when you can't see where you're going isn't so much fun--certainly not relaxing. There's so much beauty to see! It still seems to me that it would make sense to have Orquideas Inn pick you up for your first overnight at their hotel, where you can relax and unwind at the Marilyn Monroe bar. Relax being the key word here at the beginning of your adventure. It would be time for dinner by the time you arrived there and their food is excellent.

The next morning you could head on up to Arenal, and be able to take in everything there is to see on the way. I don't think I'd stay the entire time there, but 3 nights at least would be good--or 4. I still believe that you would greatly value a couple of nights sightseeing in that area between Arenal and the airport, either at the beginning or end of your trip. There is enough, certainly, to occupy your time (and still leave you wishing you had MORE time)!
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Nov 24th, 2007, 02:48 PM
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Can you tell me where Montezuma is in relation to Arenal and the San Jose airport? This is what we are thinking for an itinerary: Spend 1st night in San Jose, nights 2, 3, 4 in Arenal, nights 5, 6 in Montezuma and our final night in San Jose. Does that sound like a manageable itinerary?

Thanks!
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Nov 24th, 2007, 07:26 PM
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No, I'm sorry to say it doesn't sound workable. Montezuma is a more remote location requiring quite a long drive (at least 7 hours; 8 more likely) and ferry crossing from Arenal. Montezuma back to SJO another 6 hours or close to it. For just 2 nights it isn't a good idea. If you had 4 nights to spend there, it would make more sense!

If you have a map to look at, you'll see that Montezuma is on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula--great place to visit sometime when you have more days.

I sympathize with you in trying to work out your itinerary. We went to CR once for 6 nights--arriving on Christmas Day. We drove straight to Arenal, stayed 2 nights, then over to Playa Brasilito area for 3 nights before driving back to San Jose to spend the last night near the airport. It was fun, but we sure could have used another 2 nights! We spent 12 or 13 hours driving.

If you can get by without the beach visit, I really think you might benefit the most by just immersing yourselves in all that Arenal and the surrounding area has to offer.
Good luck--and remember, no matter what you choose--you'll have a great time!

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Nov 24th, 2007, 07:28 PM
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pg, you could spend a night or two at the Peace Lodge - it's a beautiful property only about an hour from SJO and not that far from Arenal. It has nice grounds with 5 waterfalls on the property that you can hike to. Might be a good option for you to pair with Arenal.
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Nov 28th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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shillmac, and others w/ knowledge:

from the nicoya penn., is getting to the liberia airport faster than getting to san jose?

i'm planning a trip similar to pgshorty's and appreciate your comments about how long it takes to get to san jose from nicoya. i'm wondering if getting liberia might be faster and therefore give us more time to work in nicoya.

thanks!!!
cj
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Nov 28th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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It depends--what part of the peninsula are you referring to?

Going to Liberia really doesn't offer you an advantage from the SOUTHERN Nicoya (tip of the peninsula). Once you take the ferry across the Golfo de Nicoya from Paquera to Puntarenas, you'll find your self about 2 hours from either Libiera or San Jose. And you won't benefit from avoiding the ferry and driving up the peninsula on highway 21. It's too darned rough in places, making the transfer pretty bone jarring without saving you much time.

Now if you're talking about an area like Samara or Tamarindo, then yes, you'd be closer to Liberia. For example, from Tamarindo to Liberia is about 1.5 hour. From Tamarindo to San Jose it's close to 5 hours. But then I don't really consider Tamarindo on the peninsula--it's a bit too far north to be considered part of the peninsula.

Samara is further south and more on the "peninsula" part. It is closer to Liberia.

Hope this is helpful!
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Nov 28th, 2007, 06:55 PM
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Thanks, shillmac! Today as I was reading my CR book on the subway (NYC) I realized the span of the peninsula and began to consider the Tamarindo area for the last part of my visit. Right now, I'm roughly thinking of the following days

1 - Rafting Pacauare
2 - La Paz Waterfall Gardens
3,4 - La Fortuna/Arenal
5,6 - deciding b/w Monteverde, Manual Antonio and northern Nicoya

I'll likely pad another day or two at the end.

I'm interested in Monteverde, but would really like to spend a day or two on the Pacific coast and rather than spend all my time on the road, I think I should just stick w/ one or the other. Re: MA, I'm concerned that maybe the area will be too crowded w/ tourists for me. I'm going to search the boards for comments on Samara/Tamarindo area to help me decide.

For a first timer, do you think Monteverde or MA is worth foregoing the coastline if I'm more of a quiet beach town kind of person (who's interested in hiking and wildlife)? Of course it all depends on one's personal preferences, but yours comments have been very helpful!

TIA!
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Nov 30th, 2007, 01:26 PM
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Monteverde isn't my favorite part of Costa Rica (that said, I still liked it!), but just know that MA AND Tamarindo are both quite touristy. You might like someplace like Samara or Nosara (nearby) for less crowds, more of a laid back feel.
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Nov 30th, 2007, 01:27 PM
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Oops--should mention that MA has never SEEMED that crowded to us. It is a great place for hiking (in the park) and wildlife viewing--just noticed you mentioned that. Probably better than Samara area or Tamarindo, for sure. Tam is more of a party town.
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Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:39 AM
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Thanks, shillmac. It's looking like I'm only going to be getting away for 4 or 5 days now. I could go somewhere else, but think I might as well still go to CR. So it may end up being rafting and Arenal, maybe a one day pass through MA or a northern Nicoya town?

I'm not very interested in San Jose. To make the most of my time, I'm considering going straight from the airport and staying the first night in Turrialba near where Rios Tropicales puts in. I'm getting the impression there's not much to see there, though. Would you agree and suggest dining and staying overnight in San Jose?
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Dec 2nd, 2007, 02:17 PM
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You only have 4-5 nights in Costa Rica? I'd stay the first night in San Jose and let Rio Tropicales transport you to Turrialba and back. I think it would be a hassle for you to get yourself there being unfamiliar with the country (in that is the case).

Then you can rent and head up to Arenal for a couple of nights. That wouldn't be a bad package at all.

It would be great if you could have 5 nights. Your first two will need to be in San Jose if you raft. You'll return late in the day. That's okay, though. Take a taxi to El Pueblo for the evening or sign up for a Pueblo Antigua folklorico dinner/dance show.

Next a.m.--get a taxi to take you to one of the car rental places near the airport (like Tricolor, our favorite), rent a car, and head up to Arenal.
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Dec 2nd, 2007, 02:18 PM
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Sorry, maybe I should explain El Pueblo in case you don't know--it's a "mall" of restaurants, bars, discos, artisan shops. Fun way to spend an evening.
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