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Lindsay_in_DC Jan 12th, 2007 07:48 AM

Last minute planning in Costa Rica
We are leaving next Monday (Jan 22) for Costa Rica and I need help deciding where to go on the first night. Originally, we thought we were going to get in late on Monday and would have stayed near the airport, but our flights were switched, so we arrive at 1:45pm, pick up the rental car (Adobe Car) and can get out of town. Here is our itineray - please let me know your thoughts on something w/in reasonable distance that would add to our vacation...

Mon, Jan 22 - arrive San Jose 1:45pm, pick up rental car. Where should we go from here?
Tues, Jan 23 - drive to Arenal, check in Lost Iguana Resort
Weds, Jan 24 - Cano Negro tour + hot springs at night
Thur, Jan 25 - other stuff around Arenal
Fri, Jan 26 - leave early for drive to Manuel Antonio, check into Costa Verde, turn in rental car in Quepos, enjoy rest of day exploring
Sat, Jan 27 and Sun, Jan 28 - in and around Manuel Antonio
Monday, Jan 29 - 10:40am, fly to San Jose and out to Atlanta from there

So, please let me know where you think we should go on the first night. I know many people have suggested Peace Lodge, but is there anything else? Would Monteverde be feasible? Is it drivable, and is it too similar to the Arenal area? Thanks in advance....

dfarmer Jan 12th, 2007 08:26 AM

No Monteverde is not feasible! Everything looks relatively close in CR, however the trip to Monteverde is a very rough drive - AND one that you do NOT want to be caught on after dark.

Since you mention Peace Lodge - another possible idea is Poas Volcano Lodge. You should be able to get here before dark. Tour Poas early AM (before the clouds roll in) then head over to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and still have time to get to Arenal before sunset.

Or just head to someplace like Orchideas Inn, just 15 mins from SJO and on the way to Doka Coffee Plantation, Poas, La Paz and on to Arenal.

Orchideas is a great place to get acclimated, unwind after your flight, have a good meal and a delicious breakfast and get an early start the next day.

4everywhere Jan 12th, 2007 08:34 AM

We were just there in December. Your itinerary looks wonderful.

Stayed at Orquideas Inn after 1:45 pm flight arrival. Liked staying near airport cause we were tired, gave us a chance to get money at a bank, and stock up on wine, have a nice relaxing dinner.

Next am, drove to Poas, then to Peace Lodge, hiked the falls, liked the "exhibits" though I didn't expect to..., then drove on to Lost Iguana, got there about 6 pm. Watched lava all night from Hotel Restuarant and our lovely suite! It was a nice day!

Spent two full days (3 nights) at LI. Loved the hotel, the pool, the views, hanging bridges, AP zip line, and Pure Trek Canyoning. Wished we had done Cano Negro.

The drive to MA from Arenal took us about 5 hrs. Got stuck behind slow busses a couple of times. MA was very interesting. I loved the beach, the monkeys, etc.

We stayed at Vista del Valle our last night. Very beautiful place, and I highly recommend it as a place to stay your first night. You might hike down to the waterfall, or just lounge by the pool that first afternoon. Maybe take in a coffee plantation tour the next morning on way to Arenal. VDV can make good suggestions. Vista del Valle is easy to get to from the airport (no confusing towns to drive thru like on the way to Orquideas Inn), but do count on it taking about 30 minutes. Stop and get a bottle of wine (or maybe do that duty free?) And relax your first night.

Your trip looks soooooo great! Enjoy the hotels! Also, I know people say you don't need a car in MA, but I still would keep the rental til your flight home... There's ample parking at the beach and at your hotel, and you just might like the flexibility and not have to wait for the bus... But either way, it will be good whatever you do!

Earthtraveler Jan 12th, 2007 08:36 AM

Dfarmer gave you good suggestions.

Another alternative for the Monteverde cloud forest experience could be Bosque de Paz Lodge and reserve about two hours drive north of Alajuela. The higher elevation forest is different than Arenal area.

4everywhere Jan 12th, 2007 08:43 AM

Oh, one more thing, I like dfarmers suggestion.

Orquideas was great!!!! The dinner and breakfast were divine. We just had a bit of difficulty getting there, probably because we were nervous for our first time driving in CR. Those gutters are major!
By the next morning, we were pros....

Vista del Valle or Orquideas Inn? You just cannot go wrong with either choice or route.

EternalTourist Jan 12th, 2007 10:59 AM

I won't be much help, but I was so glad to read your post because I'm in the same boat!

Thank you all for your advice!

I'm traveling Jan 26 for 9 nights. I'm flying into LIR and then making the trek to Arenal for a few nights before heading back to the coast (possibly Playa Hermosa area).

For your nights in Arenal, did you have trouble finding accommodations? Does anyone have any recommendations on where to stay?

Should we pre-book our tours? We definitely want to do the Cano Negro tour as well as the hanging bridges, canopy tour, etc...

If we don't rent a car, what's the best way to get around town?

Are there any "must sees" between Arenal and the north western beaches?

Is 3 nights in Arenal enough, or do you recommend 4? Do you think we have time to fit in another area before heading north...maybe Manuel Antonio for 2 nights and then the beaches for 3?

Sorry for writing a book, I just realized how little time we have before our trip!

shillmac Jan 12th, 2007 11:16 AM

I like the Las Orquideas suggestion, but also the Poas Volcano Lodge suggestion. . .like Bosque de Paz, Poas Volcano Lodge gets you into the cloud forest a bit--would be a fun place for overnight, although you wouldn't have much of a view due to the clouds! :)

Orquideas Marilyn Monroe bar quite fun. Good food, good company behind the bar. . .fun staff. Good breakfast! :)

shillmac Jan 13th, 2007 04:55 AM

9 nights is good to thoroughly enjoy these areas. I wouldn't add another one, although 3 locations in 9 nights is quite doable.

You have time to thoroughly enjoy the Arenal area--that's great. I'd stay 4 nights. There's a LOT to do there! Cano Negro will take one whole day. 4 nights will give you 3 days. I'd recommend doing the ziplines there--half a day. La Fortuna Falls--couple of hours; the hot springs--half a day and perhaps one night; Venado caves? Hanging Bridges? Horseback riding? Waterfall rappelling? National Park (Arenal) hiking?

One of the areas between Arenal and the northern beaches, but not on the way, is Rio Celeste. While at Arenal, take a day trip over to Volcan Tenorio and the gorgeous blue Rio Celeste! This would add another area to your itinerary without adding extra planning, transferring, etc.

Book your hotel right away and arrange the tours once you are there.

En route to the northern beaches, stop at Toad Hall, have a cappucino, and enjoy the beautiful overlook. We saw great birds here--and there are lovely pieces of local artwork.

Now you have 4 nights at the beach left, right? Which beach? Let me suggest the Playas del Coco/Playa Hermosa area as you mentioned, because from there you can visit ANOTHER area--the Rincon de la Vieja up north of Liberia.

So you have 2 easy locations and have seen 4 or 5 areas. . .Rio Frio up toward Nicaragua (Cano Negro); Volcan Tenorio and Rio Celeste (you can see Nicaragua from this area!); Arenal; the beach; and Rincon de la Vieja.

At Playa Hermosa, I'd suggest either El Velero or Villas del Sueno. El Velero is older, less up to date, but looks like a lot of fun right there on the beach. I'd stay there in a heartbeat. We stayed at VdS and it was nice, but the rooms (for the price) were a little small and dark and the walk to the beach 3 minutes or so.

Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip--I know you will---and write a report when you get back! :)

guanacaste Jan 13th, 2007 12:36 PM

Earthtraveler- id recommend El Velero over Villas Sueno as well, you're right on the beach and the bar there is the local 'hangout' for expats and locals!

great BBQ there every week as well!
you could do a day trip to Rincon or go panga fishing with or go out on the biggest yacht in the area in Coco,

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