Itinerary Review for 1st trip to Costa Rica

Aug 18th, 2003, 02:07 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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Itinerary Review for 1st trip to Costa Rica

Hi
After reading gobs of posts, I think I've come up with a potential itinerary- with some questions included.
We'll be visiting Nov. 3- Nov. 16th. I realize this is rainy season, but otherwise, we'll have to wait until June or later. If you see any good/bad ideas, please let me know... thank you all in advance.
Day 1: Arrive SJO ~1:00 p.m. Easy flights.
Question #1: We're interested in white water rafting... should we stay the night to raft the Pacuare the next day, or.... raft the Pacuare on the end of our trip, or... do a rafting trip from another location?
Day 2: Pacuare River or Arenal
Looking at Tabacon Resort - sounds touristy, but love the idea of hot springs any time of day.
Day 3: Hanging Bridges and hot springs/pools. Maybe horseback to La Fortuna.
Day 4: Horseback trip/transfer to Montverde. Anyone done this trip (Desafio Stables)?
Hotel undecided but seems Fonda Vela may be good option. Up for suggestions.
Day 5: Canopy tour with Original CT or Skytrek. Rainforest tour.
Day 6: Drive back to San Jose to catch a flight to Osa Peninsula. Don't know what flights/times will be available into Puerto Jiminez. I know OP will be hot and humid, but we love wildlife and remote wilderness.
Bosque del Cabo sounds great based on Suzie2 and others.
Day 7: Tour Corcovado NP
Day 8: Fly to Manuel Antonio. Hoping we can fly from PJ to Quepos... sounds like a maybe.
Hotel - either Makanda or La Mariposa.
Day 9: Husband to go sportfishing. I could go horseback riding again. Is there good rafting from here?
Day 10: Relax
Day 11: Head back to San Jose. We have a 2:00 p.m. flight from SJO. Hoping we can catch a flight from Quepos in time. If not, we'll spend a night in SJ - Xandari perhaps.
That's a lot of info and questions. Again, thanks for any advice.
Leslee

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Aug 18th, 2003, 05:44 PM
  #2  
 
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Leslee, We stayed at Tabacon a couple of years ago. The views of the volcano were awesome. We didn't see much lava at night, but lots of steam and boulders rolling down the side of the mountain. We also had a pair of toucans in the tree not far from our room who hung out there every morning. They were awesome. The hot springs are at least a quarter of a mile from the hotel, down a fairly steep hill. We walked down and back with no trouble, and there is a shuttle. I just thought you should be aware that the springs are 'right there'.

We drove from Arenal to Monteverde, an adventure in itself. I don't know if I'd try it during rainy season though.

We stayed on the Drake Bay side of the Osa Peninsula, but Bosque del Cabo does sound really neat. Next time....

Makanda is a wonderful property. We stayed in one of the 'cheaper' studios and couldn't have been more pleased. The pool is lovely and the service very good. Once again, it's a steep walk up the hill to the 'main road' where most of the restuarants and such are. We stopped for a drink at La Mariposa. Rude waiter, which certainly colored my perception of the place. I think there are great rooms there, but also some that aren't as nice. Ask lots of questions. We've also stayed at Si Como No and enjoyed it as well. Very few kids when we were there. Nice swim up bar. Views were great. I saw some bad reviews here recently, doesn't reflect our experience in February 2002.

I think I'm the only person on this board who had a so-so experience at Xandari. The rooms are spectacular, but the place had a strange 'vibe'. I suspect something had happened around the area when we were there and things were unusually tense. The poor cab drivers had to answer 20 questions just to take us to the entrance. It was spooky. And way too many guns in sight.

Sorry, can't help with the rafting.

Jean
JeanH is offline  
Aug 18th, 2003, 07:20 PM
  #3  
 
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Regarding Jeans concern over the armed guards. Many of the hotels and lodges have them. We were woken up several times a night by the guard shining his flashlight around our cabin when staying at Arenal Paraiso. Most of the hotels/lodges do have them. Some, it will be obvious. Others, not. Some places even have guard dogs.
Now for Leslee,
As far as the Pacuare is concerned...it is a matter of personal preference. We always choose to go on the tail end.
The nice thing about you getting into the country so early is that you have the option to get to Arenal that same day and therefore really feel like you have started your vacation. This would be my personal choice. We always considered our rafting time our transitional time to have to head back to San Jose to go home but with just one last neat thing to do.
Tabacon is touristy and have heard that the food can be so-so. You do have the option of not eating all your meals there though. The hot springs are fun. The main pool has a swim up bar and water slide. The other pools are spread out around the property with beautifuly planted paths. The different pools are different temps also so you can switch around. They also have different make ups. Some are a little rough on your feet because of the river rocks.
As far as the horseback up to Monteverde..look into monteverdeinfo.com. They run a horseback trip up there as well. Jacques wife also owns Sabines Smiling horses and she is very diligent regarding her horses health and treatment. She doesn't do the trip between the two places but they have someone they trust do it who they know do not mistreat the horses. When we did the trip a few years ago the horses we went with were in horrible shape.
Suzie2 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2003, 08:16 PM
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AOL just dumped about 1/2 hrs typing about more suggestions for you trip. Got to get to bed but will continue with some suggestions tomorrow night.
Pura Vida
Suzie
Suzie2 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2003, 06:43 PM
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For Monteverde..Fonda Vela is a very nice hotel but not really near anything except the reserve. You would have to get a ride to see or do anything. Good choices closer to town would be Monteverde Lodge which is run by Costa Rica Expeditions. A great company that we used for several years to help us set up our trips. It is located just around the corner from town and is within walking distance of the Finca Ecologica and many other things. Hotel Heleconia is nice and the restaurant there is very good and reasonably priced. It is just a little further out of town but still within walking distance and is also across the street from the road to the Butterfly Garden which is one of my favorite places up there. I hear El Sapo Dorado is a decent place to stay but that the food is iffy. It is close to town also. Monteverdeinfo.com has a map that shows you where many of the hotels etc. are. If you have time to do a little shopping there are some neat art galleries along the road to Monteverde from Santa Elena and you can stop at Stellas Bakery for breakfast or lunch. Great food.
You mentioned liking to horseback ride. There is an absolutely beautiful ride down to the San Luis waterfalls.

If you do end up on the Osa around Cabo Matapalo...I wouldn't even worry about going to the actual reserve. It is all the same place. Corcovado isn't fenced in so the wildlife can be found in many places on the Osa.
I have heard some wonderful reports on Xandari but just looking at it on the internet tells me that we wouldn't be comfortable there. Looks like a lot of places I have seen advertised in the States. A lot of people like that kind of place so if you are one of them you would probably really like it there. Hotel Grano de Oro, Vista del Valle Plantation, Finca Rosa Blanca, Bougainvilla, are all nice options also for near the airport.
Now to throw a curve ball. A place that we are planning on going this coming trip is Peace Lodge at the La Paz waterfalls. Not the kind of place we normally go but I just gotta check out that bathroom if possible in the deluxe room! LOL. Even my husband is interested in seeing it.
A couple of last words....
Go to CR with an open mind. It is a wonderfully natural, beautiful, country and the people can be just as beautiful. There can be surprises around every corner. There can also be trouble...if you rent a car, don't leave anything in it while sight seeing even for a minute. Always USE DEET!!!! A friend of ours just got back and was sick as a dog from dengue. Didn't use his deet. Last year saw problems even in the cities because of heavier than usual rainfall. USE IT!!!
Happy travels
Suzie2 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2003, 07:12 PM
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hey suzie2 -- just checked out the website for Peace Lodge -- awesome!! Let us know how you like it!
cross is offline  
Aug 20th, 2003, 12:21 PM
  #7  
dlm
 
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I went to Costa Rica 8 years ago, so my information is not up-to-date, but I have done many of the things you are proposing. First, the white water rafting on the Pacuare is fabulous. I don't think it matters where in the trip you stick it in. Just do it. Second, Tabacon was one of the highlights of the trip. It may be somewhat touristy, but it's unlike anything else. The heated pools are fun and relaxing and it is amazing to see lava glowing from the volcano -- especially at night (we saw lots of lava, unlike the other poster). Finally, we did a horseback ride from La Fortuna to Monteverde. Hate to say it, but I would never recommend this trip. Not too many people did it back then, so even though many shops promoted it as an "available" trip, the truth was that it was infrequently booked and not well organized. Some negatives to the trip: 1) The "guide" did not speak any English so did not communicate with us the entire ride. 2) It was actually fairly dangerous for novices. There was a substantial stream crossing and some places where it was so steep and muddy that the horses were slipping. We had to get off and walk beside them at one point because it was too dangerous to ride. Also, the horses were not easily controllable (at least for someone who had not ridden much) 3) Since you're going to a rainforest, expect rain. It rained for probably half our ride. We were drenched, cold, and miserable when we finally arrived. 4) What we did not know until we had already paid was that there was no way for our luggage to accompany us. We were forced to put our luggage on a public bus, with assurances that it would be there when we arrived. Well, we arrived at Monteverde late and had to find someone to take us to the bus driver's HOUSE in the hopes that he still had our luggage. It was safe and sound, but we were panicked for quite a while thinking we had lost all our possessions. You may have a better experience, but I would seriously reconsider the horseback ride unless you are somewhat experienced and know that you like riding a horse for many hours, even in the rain.
Enjoy -- Costa Rica is wonderful.
dlm is offline  
Aug 20th, 2003, 02:40 PM
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Regarding the horseback trip. We went through the same thing years ago. But they now have 3 different routes they can take depending on the weather and the condition of the other routes. It is a beautiful trip.
Suzie2 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2003, 07:36 PM
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Howdy

Just returned from a fabuluous 12-day adventure that included rafting near MA. We took the full day Savegre raft from Iguana Tours. Great guides. Very scenic, clean river. Class II and III, which was rough enough for my wife but for me and the kids our guide went out of his way to "dump" us a few times (separate raft). We had the smaller 4 person rafts (larger rafts would have been boring). Took a short hike to a gorgeous waterfall that we had to ourselves. The drive to the put-in was long and bumpy but interesting...saw Scarlet Macaws along the way.

Heard from others that the Naranja river provides more excitement (Class III and IV), less driving, and crocodiles.

Off topic: if in MA make a reservation to have dinner at Mar Luna.

Jim
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Aug 20th, 2003, 08:22 PM
  #10  
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Thank you all so much - sorry for the lost typing Suzie. Okay, so some revisions might be:
Rafting the Pecuare on the tail end of our itin. or rafting out of MA ... Jim, is that where the Naranja goes out of? Checked the monteverdeinfo website for the horseback trip- their outfit sounds good and I would look at using them (Jacques/Sabine). Hotel switches might be: Monteverde Lodge and Finca Rosa Blanca (some great rooms on their website). Sounds like I can stay with Tabacon, Makanda and Bosque del Cabo. Loved the Peace Lodge - esp. the bathroom - but don't know if we should base that far from "town". And I will be sure to pack lots of DEET! Don't want those pesky bugs everyone's writing about
Thanks again and any other info still appreciated! Leslee
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Aug 20th, 2003, 08:29 PM
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Naranja is also out of MA.

If you are up for adventure and are a rafting buff, the Pacuare seems to be the place of choice. Almost everyone seems to have included it in their trip.

The day we rafted the Savegre, 6 people from Iguana tours were on the Savegre, 26 were on the Naranja.

Jim
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Aug 25th, 2003, 04:27 PM
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Have you checked out the Rios Tropicales web site. They give a pretty good description of many of the rivers that can be rafted in Costa Rica. There are a couple of trips out of Fortuna that they don't descibe but most of the others are there.
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Aug 25th, 2003, 06:53 PM
  #13  
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Thanks everyone.
Boy Suzie, you are dependable - I truly appreciate all the time you spend helping with CR plans.
Okay, this is goofy, but I'm to the point of making reservations and I'm vascilating on which places to include in my itinerary. I feel like the definites are: Monteverde, Arenal and Manuel Antonio. I'm thinking about rafting the Naranja (thanks Jim) in order to allow more time in MA and less in San Jose. I will also check out the Rio Tropicales website before making the decision. (thanks Suzie)
Now, do I include Osa Pen. or switch to Nicoya Pen.? I don't think I would be so undecided on Osa except for 2 things: 1) weather in Nov. and 2) a couple special hotels in Nicoya area... they are Florblanca and Punta Islita. Hmmmm...I welcome any advise from anyone!
Thanks in advance,
Leslee
Leslee is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 08:16 PM
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The rainy season does last just a tad longer on the Osa. It seems to work its way down the country and then disappears for another year. If you can wait just a couple of days more, Iza will be back with a full report on Florblanca which sounds just beautiful.
Both the Savegre and Naranja can be done from Manuel Antonio. I can't give you a personal comparison because I haven't done them. I have done the Reventazon, Pacuare, and the Sarapiqui.
Suzie2 is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 06:11 AM
  #15  
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Thanks again Suzie...
I'm thinking the Naranja sounds like a good, i.e. convenient option based on the RT website. Guess I ought to wait a bit if possible to see if Iza posts her trip info. Good idea.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 09:50 AM
  #16  
dlm
 
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Just another reminder to use DEET . . . When we returned from our trip, my boyfriend was hospitalized for several days due to dengue fever he got in Costa Rica. It's scary. Take it seriously.
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