Itinerary: Which diving beach?

Old Oct 30th, 2007, 06:20 PM
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Itinerary: Which diving beach?

I will be going to Costa Rica with my wife and 13 year old daughter next March. We were thinking of flying in to San Juan then renting a car and driving to the Poas Volcano, visit the La Paz Waterfall Garden and stay there the night. Is it possible to get to Poas on the same day if we arrive in San Jose around 2PM?
Next day off to Arenal/La Fortuna for three nights. Haven't figured out what hotel yet. Which have a good view of the volcano? ($ or $$). Include a side trips to Cano Negro, zip line...
Then off to one of the beaches. My wife and daughter do not dive however they will allow me to go out a couple of times while they do something else. Any recommendations for the best beach as a base of operations? I will probably dive two out of the three days we will be there, and laze on the beach the in between.
When its all over we plan to drop off the car in Liberia and fly home.
Old Oct 30th, 2007, 07:55 PM
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No, you won't want to spend time making your way to Poas that first day. It is best visited EARLY in the a.m. when you have a chance of seeing the crater. The clouds roll in at some point during the morning, then the show is over! Without the crater view, it isn't much. You will probably make it to La Paz about 5:00, just before dark (and probably dark by the time you settle in).

La Paz and Peace Lodge is a very special place, SO you really need to stay there 2 nights so you'll have the full day to enjoy it. It's too expensive otherwise. Do you see what I mean? Say you stay your first night there. You'd need to plan to stay on the property for a good part of the day to adequately enjoy all it has to offer. I'm not sure what time check out is, but it seems to me that, unless you stay a 2nd night, you'd just be sleeping there. It's a very expensive sleep! The rooms are so unique (and fun), you'd want to be able to spend some time IN them!

Another option is to stay somewhere near the airport, like Orquideas Inn, and visit Poas and La Paz on your way to Arenal the next day, arriving at Arenal later in the day, around 5:00 or so.

These are just my thoughts. If you could arrive at Peace Lodge (La Paz) around 2:00 in the afternoon, then one night would make more sense. But arriving later in the day sort of robs you of part of the experience.

Check on diving at the northern Pacific beaches. One of our favorite areas/hotels is Flamingo Beach Resort (for its proximity to the beach) at Playa Flamingo. This is about an hour from Liberia, or an hour and a half. They have a dive business at the hotel. You could also stay closer to Liberia at Playa Hermosa or Playas del Coco and find plenty of dive operators.

Good luck! You have a good plan--it's just working out the logistics of those first few days. How many days do you have in all?
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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Thanks for the info regaring getting two nights in at La Paz. We've been to Hawaii and seen the volcanoes there. It's more Waterfall Garden (butterfly, hummingbirds) I was thinking of at the Poas Volcano. What else is would you recommend?

I am thinking 8 to 10 days, maybe 12 if we can fit them in. We need to check with my daughter's school to see when we can leave/need to be back.

So one night in San José and then La Paz in the morning? Or straight to La Paz and spend two nights? Where else to stay beside the Peace Lodge (2 nights for three would probably push the trip budget up too much)?

Any hotel recommendations for the Arenal. I am thinking we would stay 3 or 4 nights. Do you recommend setting down roots or switching hotels along the way (We want to do Cano Negro.)

Is it worthwhile to zip straight to he beach after that or do another night somewhere along the way.

It is difficult to decide on a beach. I heard that Coco and Hermosa are good for diving. Does it really make a difference if it is one of those beaches or Playa Flamingo? One of the factors to consider is what my wife and daughter can do the days I am diving. Also I like good food.

Thank you for all the good advice.

Old Nov 1st, 2007, 05:43 PM
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Check on Lost Iguana Resort...gets lots of positive feedback (we're staying there 3 nts in June)
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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 07:58 PM
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You're still trying to decide on number of days, but IF you can work if the extra time, I'd stay somewhere near the airport the first night. Orquideas Inn is very good (and a great value). By the time you get a car and get there, it could very well be 4:30 or so. You'll be hungry, tired, and it's a great place to relax and chill with a fun bar staff and fellow travelers in the evening. It's a bit tough to get there (finding it).

We also like (actually prefer these days) the $50 Hotel Villa Bonita, 5 minutes from the airport. The host couple, Humberto and Carmen Brenes, are so much fun and extremely hospitable. There are a couple of very good restaurants nearby, couple of blocks.

Do try to splurge on the 2 nights at Peace Lodge. You will NOT regret it, and there comes a time in everyone's vacation when the splurge is just the thing to do! You can make it up by staying a little cheaper all the rest of the nights. And it will be very easy to do that, without sacrificing too much comfort. If you arrive midday, after visiting Poas and Doka Coffee Estates (very interesting, same area), you'll have an entire afternoon and all the next day, and then the next night. I think it will be a highlight of your trip, personally!

At Arenal, you can save a few $$ easily by staying somewhere like Arenal Paraiso for around $100 or $125 per night, 2 queen beds. Nice little bungalows, nice property, ziplines on the property, hot springs, spa, gift shop, thermal pool, swim up bar.

Sure, Playas del Coco or Hermosa would fit the bill as well for diving. Plenty to do and this area is connected to Potrero/Flamingo/Brasilito/Conchal area by the Monkey Trail (Congo trail). It's a 30 min. short cut through the country on a dirt road. Need 4X4, but it is absolutely do-able. We did it at night even, from Playa Flamingo, to eat at our favorite restaurant in the Hermosa area--Ginger. There was no other traffic.

No need to book more than 3 hotels plus your first night lodging. Keep it simple.

1st night--near airport

2nd and 3rd--Peace Lodge

4th, 5th, 6th--Arenal (or just 2 nights if you get there fairly early from Peace Lodge. . if you can't get 12 days worked out

7th, 8th, 9th, 10th--the playa

Fly out of Liberia. . .

You could stay somewhere like Poas Volcano Lodge for a lot less $$ than Peace Lodge, but then you have to pay $30 each for admission, so just bite the bullet and go for the gusto! BUT if you decide NOT to stay at Peace Lodge, that will gain you an extra night somewhere, I guess. . . .

Hope this helps. . .it's fun talking to you! I'm hoping to get back there in March also. . .
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Old Nov 3rd, 2007, 06:43 PM
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Sounds like a great itinerary. I'll work up the budget and see what we can fit in. Next step, Meet the Teachers and try to negotiate 12 days. Then the budget. I'll keep in mind what you said about the Pease Lodge.

For Arenal we are considering the following hotels: El Silencio del Campo; Lost Iguana; Arenal Paraiso Resort and Spa; Arenal Observatory Lodge.

In Hermosa possibly Villa del Sueño;
Bosque del Mar Hotel Playa Hermosa.

Decisions, decisions. We'll start to look into places to eat next. I heard about Ginger's. Sounds good.


Old Nov 3rd, 2007, 06:49 PM
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We really liked the Lost Iguana; hipvirgochick stayed at Silencio del Campo, and she always gives it a thumbs up.
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Old Nov 4th, 2007, 07:10 PM
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Okay, it's all firming up.

Two nights at the Peace Lodge,
Four nights at the Arenal Observatory Lodge,
Four nights in Play Hermosa (in a hotel to be named later) including two days of diving.

Drive or taxi, or even guide?
How much should we budget for food per day (I like to eat well when it is worthwhile)?

Thnaks everyone.
Old Nov 5th, 2007, 09:25 AM
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Prices varied, but I would say we spent about $25 for the two of us to eat dinner each night. We found the food to be pretty affordable. At one spot, we both had casados and an Imperial, and the total bill was only twelve bucks. We got such a kick out of it because our previous trip had been to Hawaii, and that gave us major sticker shock.
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Old Nov 5th, 2007, 06:07 PM
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You can estimate about $40-$50 per day, drinks extra. We've done it for much less, but in more out of the way places with fewer tourists. Expect about $5 for a breakfast, that or a slight bit more for lunch, and dinner in the range VG mentioned.

Food in CR isn't all that much to write home about, but a few of us "die hards" really enjoy the rice and beans, tropical fruits, casados, fresh fish, chicken, etc. We have friends (who place a high priority on dining) and they would not be pleased! But we are there for the beauty, adventure, and local color--we prefer to eat as the Ticos do! For us, it adds to the experience.

Once in a while, we find a "hidden gem", such as Colbert's French restaurant near Peace Lodge and enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary rather than comida tipica! (typical food) There, including a bottle of wine and appetizers, you can expect to pay about $50 for two (although it could be done for less).

Some of the restaurants in the nicer hotels are charging around $30 per person for dinner these days. We tend to avoid them as our experience has been that the food isn't quite worth the $$. Villas del Sueno in Hermosa is an example. It may be excellent, but we went out for all meals except breakfast--in order to enjoy some of our favorite haunts as well as try some new places.
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Old Nov 5th, 2007, 06:55 PM
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Regarding Arenal we have stayed twice at the Los Lagos and will be staying again this December with our kids ages 10 and 12. We have really enjoyed this hotel as the rooms are nice with a view of the volcano, zip lines on property, garden, several pools with hot sping pools and waterslide. Anyway, for food try the Vegabondo in La Fortuna as they have the best pizza. As for the beach we love Malpais for the surf and the laid back attitude. Have fun...
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