Itinerary help

Old May 27th, 2015, 10:56 AM
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Itinerary help

We, a couple in our 30s, have our tickets booked to visit CR in October (16-24th). I have read quite a few trip reports and suggestions but I am still unable to chalk up an itinerary. Could you kind folks help me with it a little?

I had initially thought of spending the entire time in the OSA peninsula but the weather map indicates it might be a bit too rainy for October - is that correct? This would have made my life easy but if it is not possible, where else should I look at finding abundant wild life? Tortuguero? We are not too interested in monkeys and the like though.

Having read many of VolcanoGirl's posts (thank you, btw), I decided that Arenal is a must place to visit - hot springs and river float really piqued my interest.

Keeping all of this in mind, what would you guys suggest?

16Oct - SJO (flight reaches at 12:30pm)
17-20 - Arenal/La Fortuna area
21-23 - ??
24Oct - Fly back from SJO at 12:30pm

A bit about us: We love animals and nature (have been all the way to Africa to see some) and like to do things at a quiet pace - relax and observe, is more of our style. Coffee plantation/sugar plantation tours and other village tours is right up our alley, horseback riding and snorkeling would be awesome.
Where will we be able to do these things?

Also, looking for accommodation where we could cook for ourselves since we are vegetarians who love our food and don't wish to live on rice and beans. Any suggestions for those? I was thinking of looking at airbnb but would really appreciate some pointers regarding those.

Very excited to go to Costa Rica and am enjoy the planning bit as well. Thank you for your help in advance, kind folks.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 12:01 PM
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Yes, I would definitely avoid the Osa in October. Some of the lodges even shut down then due to getting so much rain that time of year. I do love the Arenal/La Fortuna area - you can horseback ride there, do the Cano Negro tour to see wildlife, do the Penas Blancas river float, visit the Proyecto Asis animal rescue center, hike at the waterfall and Hanging Bridges, and visit Tabacon or Eco Termales natural hot springs. If you like observing animals, one of the best things we've done is to hire a guide through Desafio and also through Sunset Tours to take us out hiking by the lake; we saw toucans, howlers, a peccary, and an anteater. Wildlife is usually not that easy to spot, so a good guide can make all the difference. Both of them have comprehensive websites. We did a nice tour of the Doka Coffee Estate when we stayed in the Poas area, visited Poas Volcano as well. Tortuguero is a nice spot for about two nights; you spend most of your time traveling the canals looking for wildlife and then hiking out at night to see the turtles in season. We loved the Tortuga Lodge. Or if you like relaxing and observing, you might like Monteverde - nice hiking, birding, etc. there; we did a fun night hike at Hidden Valley where we saw a fox, porcupine, and some other wildlife we hadn't seen before. Costa Rica does not have much in the way of village tours or good snorkeling for the most part. I hear good things about Villa Hermosa in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. You could check with them and see if you can do your own cooking there. I'm curious about your statements that you like wildlife but aren't interested in seeing monkeys - are there certain animals that you're interested in? Manuel Antonio has abundant wildlife, but I'd expect it to be pretty rainy in October.
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Old May 27th, 2015, 06:25 PM
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Wildlife in Central America isn't as easy to spot as in Africa due to the vegetation unless you're in Manuel Antonio and then the monkeys will find you I'm also curious what species you're interested in seeing. Snorkeling isn't great in CR. Village tours aren't that common either. CR is pretty developed.
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Old May 28th, 2015, 05:24 AM
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Thank you for your input, VG and Patty - gives me a better idea of what to expect. The pictures from the trip reports made me think that there is wildlife everywhere in CR, but that surely will not be an issue at all. Being amidst nature should be wonderful. About the topic of monkeys, having come from India, have seen them all my life at close quarters, and hence the non-interest.

VG - you've convinced me about Arenal. Is it better to stay in LaFortuna or the Arenal area if one wants to do all that you listed? We'd prefer to stay in an off-the-beaten-path kinda place rather than in the city.

Also, which area should we stay in Tortuguero? Around the NP itself? Can I stay in Arenal and go to Tortuguero? Trying to avoid any unnecessary travel if I can.

I did read trip reports about the sugar/banana plantation tours. Does any one know if there would be any that I could go to near Tortuguero or Arenal? I am not looking to go on a tour in particular but want to see the intimate way of life in CR, away from the city.

One other thing regarding car rental, do we need to rent a car if we are going to only two places? I am guessing if we live out of the city, a rental will be more convenient - right?

That's all I can think of for now. Will come back with questions once I have made some hotel bookings. Thank much for your help!
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Old May 28th, 2015, 09:18 AM
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I wouldn't stay in town at La Fortuna; there's really not much to the town itself - a church, a park, small shops, a disco, some small restaurants. Most of the hotels are scattered along the road outside of town. We loved staying at the Lost Iguana out by the lake. Arenal Observatory Lodge is also popular. Maybe look at Silencio del Campo too, although that one is towered over by a huge hotel. The Lost Iguana definitely has an off the beaten path feel to it and is set on a huge acreage with beautiful volcano views. You don't have to have a car there; you can get taxi service, but taxis will get expensive if you want to go to and from town to visit restaurants, and having a car could be convenient. Most tour companies will pick you up and drop you back off at your hotel. We actually did go from Arenal to Tortuguero, but it was atypical. Most of the lodges do group packages that pick everyone up in San Jose. Tortuga Lodge does more customized tours, so we had them get us a private driver to go from the Arenal area to Cano Blanco where we were picked up by a boat. Most lodges have you eat and tour in a group, but Tortuga Lodge is more individualized; it's more expensive but definitely worth it for us. We had our own tour guide to take us out on the canals at the time of our choosing, etc. Just depends what you're looking for. Most of the lodges are scattered along either side of the canal/river; you have to take a boat if you want to go into town, but again town isn't where you want to stay.

Our driver took us to a banana plantation on the way from Arenal to Tortuguero. We didn't do a formal tour, but got to see all the bananas being picked, put on conveyor belts, etc. It was interesting. There was a man selling fresh coconuts there, and he lopped off the top of one so we could drink the coconut juice inside. No need for a car in Tortuguero since there aren't really any roads; you travel by boat there.
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