Leaving in 6 days for CR, need advice!!

Old May 23rd, 2004, 05:35 PM
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Leaving in 6 days for CR, need advice!!

My husband and I are planning to go to Costa Rica for our 1yr anniversary leaving next weekend. We are flying in and out of Liberia, and are planning to spend our final 3-4 nights at the beach in the Papagayo area. We're looking for suggestions on where else we could go for the remaining 4 nights. We will be renting a car. We were thinking we'd like to drive down to the Florblanca resort in Nicoya peninsula, but are worried that it might be too long of a drive from Liberia Airport. Does anyone know what that drive might be like? We'd like another "home base" near the coast where we could experience other aspects of Costa Rica like the jungle!

thanks in advance for any advice you can give us!
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Old May 23rd, 2004, 05:56 PM
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You could do Flor Blanca in 4 days. What time does your flight arrive Liberia? And what time does it leave? That will make a difference. You will probably want to spend the last night nearby, the the Papagayo Peninsula is close enough.

From Liberia (plan on it taking 1.5 hr. to get out of the airport and get your car), you will drive down to Puntarenas (2-2.5 hr)and catch the ferry. You will need to check the ferry schedule. You can do this online (don't know the site, but type in Nicoya Peninsula ferry and it should bring it up). Plan to arrive at the ferry at least 30 minutes ahead of time. It will take you 1.5 hr. on the ferry to Paquera, then another almost 2 hours to Flor Blanca. Total will be close to 6.5 hours.

Another option would be Manuel Antonio. Wonderful area, more people, but easier to get to. From Liberia, you go to Puntarenas, then continue south to Quepos. About 4.5 hours. Manuel Antonio park is closed on Monday, but if you are there 3 nights, that won't be a problem. I would suggest 3 nights south and 3 in Papagayo. If you have extra nights, you can work it out however you want. You are going to love Costa Rica! The driving in this part of the country is relatively easy. If you go to Santa Teresa (Flor Blanca) the paved road has a few more potholes, and then you will have about 30 min. (from Cobano into Santa Teresa) of unpaved--a little washboardy, but not terrible.
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Old May 23rd, 2004, 06:08 PM
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Thank you so much for all the great information! Our flight gets in at 3:30pm, so it doesn't sound like we would be able to make it all the way down to Florblanca. Is there a nice interim destination where we could stay on the way down there? Otherwise, I like your idea of spending time in the Manuel Antonio area.
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Old May 23rd, 2004, 06:29 PM
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I would suggest a night at Flamingo Beach Resort in Flamingo. Still you will have a long day of travel the next day, but you could get here in time for an amazing sunset. It is a very nice hotel and reasonable right on the beach. . .about an hour from the airport. OR, if you want more of a town with bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. go a little further south (30 min) to Tamarindo. . .all kinds of hotels, restaurants, etc. here. Very interesting to explore at night. . also great sunsets, but the beach isn't as pretty! You won't gain all that much time, but it will give you a great place to enjoy the evening. . either one.

From these 2 places, you can actually avoid the ferry if you want to just drive on down the east coast of the Peninsula to Paquera. It might save you 30 minutes. The roads are decent except for unpaved the last 20 miles before Paquera. This is where you will start your drive down to the tip of the peninsula and across to Santa Teresa. The ferry experience is kind of fun, however!

If you are feeling pressed for time, just go on to Manuel Antonio instead. You have to look at the fact that you will spend the better part of a day getting to Santa Teresa and then also in returning to Papagayo.

From Tamarindo or Flamingo, you can leave 8:00 a.m. and be in Manuel Antonio shortly after noon as opposed to 2:00 in the afternoon.

We have found that it ALWAYS takes a little longer than we estimated that it would. . .that is just a given. By now, we tend to estimate upward when driving. . .if it takes a day, it takes a day (provided we have a day to spend). The scenery makes up for the long drives!
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Old May 23rd, 2004, 06:31 PM
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Something else, if you flight arrives 3:30 p.m., it will be at least 5:00 before you are in your car and on the road. Driving after dark is not recommended unless you are very familiar, and even then it is risky. People, animals, bicycles, on the road, and there are no shoulders.

You might want to consider driving over to Playa Hermosa or Playa Coco for the night (these are places you can get to before dark--5:45, very sudden!).
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Old May 23rd, 2004, 08:08 PM
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Shillmac,
You are so generous in your advice so please forgive me for my question but why are you directing these people towards the ferry from Liberia to get to Malpais? Or did I miss something?And maybe something to consider....since they would have to be in the Papagayo area for their reurn, maybe the last 3-4 days should be spent there.
Spend the first night in Papagayo.
Head out the next morning for Malpais.
Stay for the 3-4 days.
Return to Papagayo for ? days
Leave from Papagayo for home.
Sorry. I'm such a lazy traveler. I always look for the path of least resistance.
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Old May 24th, 2004, 05:31 AM
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LOL! Perhaps some clarification is needed! I understand they will be in the Papagayo area the last few days. There really wouldn't be another option flying out of Liberia!

You know of another way to go to Malpais without taking the ferry (which most people do)? If one is already on the Nicoya Peninsula (for example, Tamarindo, Flamingo), I mentioned that it is possible to just drive down the east coast of the peninsula to Paquera. However, we have done both, and the time difference is negligible.

How in the world would you get to MalPais without either taking the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera or making the slow drive down the Nicoya?

I'm curious now! As stated, poshparc won't make it very far toward either MalPais or MA with a 3:30 p.m. arrival in Liberia. I suggested staying nearby (Flamingo, Tamarindo, or Coco--even closer) the first night before heading south. Then, of course, they would be returning to the Papagayo Peninsula to complete the last few days of their time!
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Old May 24th, 2004, 07:07 AM
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lo siento! shillmac & poshparc. Apparently I have really confused the issue (Very late, too much wine, blah, blah, blah) After reading all the posts, I realized we were all on the same page as far as winding up in Papagayo. So sorry.
And yes, the day of arrival would have to be spent in Guanacaste.
I still maintain that it is faster to travel the peninsula than to go all the way over to Punterenas although it may not be for the faint of heart. I drove once from Playa Hermosa to Nicoya and then took all coastal roads until Tambor and then onward until Malpais and it took over 6 hours. Returning to Nosara via a more 'adventurous' route, only took 3.
But then, that was the very dry season and the rivers were low. So I'll just shut my mouth. Poshparc, listen to Shillmac and have a great trip!
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Old May 24th, 2004, 07:23 AM
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Thanks to both joeschmoe and shillmac for all your help in planning our CR vacation. It will be our first time there, so we are very excited!

I had a few more questions. If we only have time for 2 locations, do you think going all the way down to Malpais? Or does it make more sense to see that part of the country on a separate trip and focus in the areas that are closer.

What are the other "must-see's" in CR? It seems like in many of the posts, Arenal and Monteverde are also poplular destinations for people flying into Liberia. I've been to the volcano on the Big Island and hot springs in Japan, so I'm not sure if Arenal would provide me with the most unique experience. Please let me know if you think it would be a much different experience! So between Monteverde,Manuel Antonio, and Malpais, what do you think would be the best option for us. Because we're there only 7 nights, we don't want to end up driving too much. Unless it's something amazing that we shouldn't miss! I'm so glad there are so many of you who are so knowledgeable about Costa Rica!
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Old May 24th, 2004, 07:40 AM
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As to the ferry/no ferry drive from Liberia to Malpais, I think there are 3 options:
1 - go west from Liberia towards the coastal towns and then drive south through Filadelfia, Santa Cruz, Carmona, Naranjo, Paquera and then west again through Tambor and Cobano to Malpais.

2 - take the Panamerican Hwy south from Liberia to the turnoff for the new Friendship Bridge over the Tempisque River and then continue the same route as in 1 above once on the peninsula (picking up at somewhere between Santa Cruz and Carmona - I can't remember the name of the town)

3 - drive south on the Panamerican hwy to Puntarenas and take the ferry to Paquera (do not take the ferry to Naranjo as that would defeat the purpose) and then drive to through Tambor and Cobano to Malpais.

The stretch of road from Naranjo to Paquera is really terrible so you would do well to avoid it. Panamerican Hwy may also be faster than the secondary roads on the peninsula. Either way, I think there would be no real differences in travel time which should be about 6 hours in total. At this time of the year, there should be no line for the ferry.

We loved the Malpais area as it is remote, not crowded and very relaxing. If you want a bit more action and don't mind an area that is more developed, Manuel Antonio would be good. We like the Arenal area as well but I would not spend more than 2 nights there.

Florblanca is one of our favorite places in Costa Rica - enjoy!
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Old May 24th, 2004, 08:05 AM
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(picking up at somewhere between Santa Cruz and Carmona - I can't remember the name of the town)

Do you mean Mansion?
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Old May 24th, 2004, 10:24 AM
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Regarding MalPais, we chose to save that one for a separate trip. . .we just went there this past March. Planned our entire week around exploring this southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. BECAUSE of the time involved in getting there, this is indeed an option you might want to consider--doing it another time. And it is for sure you won't be shortchanging yourself by going to Manuel Antonio instead. . .as stated, beautiful area with a lot to do!

As to actual times comparing the ferry from Puntarenas-Paquera as opposed to the peninsula route through Santa Cruz, Nicoya, and points south, we have done both. The difference in time was about 30 minutes. The ferry route provides better roads, another little "adventure", and for 1.5 hr, you can relax and let the boat sail you along! We thought it was fun crossing the Nicoya Peninsula by ferry.
But then, we like to see as much as possible and are also glad that another time we chose to stay on the peninsula!

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Old May 24th, 2004, 10:38 AM
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Hi again, poshparc,
You had another question about other things to do. Monteverde would give you another view of Costa Rica, certainly. You could just spend the first night in Liberia (it is a neat little town to check out with its new mall and nice plaza/church square).

Then drive to Monteverde early on your second day (the drive would take about 4 hours). Stay 2 nights (ample time), then drive back over to the Papagayo Peninsula area and finish your vacation there.

See, there are SO many options, it's heck trying to decide! I think it would look something like this:

Day 1
3:30. . .arrive Liberia, rent car, over
night in Liberia

Day 2
8:00. . .drive to Monteverde--afternoon
available for sights

Day 3 Monteverde

Day 4. . .leave MV early, arrive
Papagayo early afternoon
Overnight Papagayo

Day 5. . .Overnight Papagayo

Day 6. . .Overnight Papagayo

Day 7. . .Overnight Papagayo?

Day 8. . .Flight from Liberia

I guess the question you need to answer for yourselves is: Just how much beach time do I prefer? If the last 4 days are enough for you, you would definitely enjoy experiencing MV.

If you like more beach time, I would go ahead and spend time in MA or at Flor Blanca near MalPais.

By the way, in Liberia, there is a very nice restaurant across from the church and upstairs above a clothing/shoe store called Paso Real. You can dine at an open air balcony overlooking the square. Very nice.

If you go to Monteverde, the advantage to staying in Liberia would be that it would put you right on the highway the next morning heading to MV.
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Old May 24th, 2004, 10:47 AM
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Shillmac, you've been so helpful I really want to thank you! I can already tell that CR is going to be one of those places that we keep wanting to go back to. Kenya had the same effect on us, but at least CR is only 7.5 hours away!

I think you raised a good question that my husband and I need to figure out, whether we want to stay at the beach or see other parts too. I definitely want to experience canopy tours and jungles, since that's what i associate with CR. Would Monteverde or Manual Anonio be a better representation of that? It sounds like MA is ideal because you have both. Would you agree the Monteverde would be more interesting than Arenal? One last question, how many hours from Liberia to Monteverde? Sorry for all the questions!

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Old May 24th, 2004, 11:21 AM
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We love Arenal, but, in light of the fact that you have had similar experiences in other countries, it might make sense to do other things. You can do the canopy at either MV or MA; however, Monteverde has SkyTrek which is supposed to be the "canopy king"!

MA is more rainforest, and MV is cloud forest. You will probably experience continual damp weather at MV. MA you should have sunny mornings and a little rain in the afternoon. Somehow, I think you would really enjoy Manuel Antonio, since it offers more beach time (and lovely beaches) in addition to a world of other activities. Another thing: on the way down there, you can check out Carara Reserve where the scarlet macaws fly in and out of as well as the crocs on the Rio Tarcoles.

I probably should not be advising you here because we've not been to MV yet. Hope someday to go, but in 7 trips (8 next month), we've just not done it yet! I DO know that the drive from Liberia to MV is about 4 hours. 2 hours of highway time (we've driven by the MV turnoff many times) and 2 hours on up to MV on the rough roads.

The truth is: Costa Rica is beautiful. You are really not going to make a bad choice. Sounds like you travel a lot. Do whatever you want, and if you like what you see and want to do more, that's another trip!

By the way, we have stayed on the Papagayo Peninsula before, and the hotels do offer a tour of Monteverde (I'm thinking you can do EVERYTHING if you want to spend one night of your Papagayo time on an overnight MV tour). We have spoken with people who have done this. So there's another option for you! Sorry! LOL. . it's a GOOD problem to have, no? Happy anniversary, and many many more!
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Old May 25th, 2004, 09:38 AM
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To Shillmac and joeb04,

Thanks for all your suggestions. I think given the driving time to Malpais, we are going to leave that for another time. You mentioned that Monteverde is a cloud forest and Maneul Antonio is a rain forest. What's the difference? I'm probably more interested in seeing interesting wildlife. Is one better than the other? Also, they are both about a 4 hour drive from Papagayo is that correct? Finally, which has the better hotel accommodations ?

thank you!
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Old Nov 6th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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I was reading this post b/c we will be driving from Montezuma up to Playa Hermosa -- Montezuma is an in between relaxation destination for us, coming across from Punta Leona.

Sounds like there is no other routes mentioned to drive back up to Guanacaste beaches. Looking at the map it appears there are roads leading through Cabano to Zapote to Carmona and on up Hwy 21.... would this not be a feasible / shorter route.

We'll be traveling at the end of November in a 4x4.
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Old Nov 6th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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We were on the road in July because the line for the ferry was so long we were going to be sitting there all day waiting--in the heat with an infant. We decided to drive on up from Puntarenas, cross the Friendship Bridge, then come down the route you are talking about--just so we could be moving and air-conditioned. It was bone-jarring rough. Talk about the road to Monteverde? This one made it look like a super highway. There is nothing to make me think it is now any better---if anything, worse. The ferry is a nice relaxing option and truly does not take any more time. We just happened to be there on Saturday morning of a huge national holiday.

We were on the same road 3 years ago, and it wasn't so bad then. It is horrendous now. I'd take the ferry--no question.
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Old Nov 6th, 2005, 08:55 PM
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posharc, the cloud forest and rain forest differ in that the cloud forest is higher elevation- up in the clouds- and so the flora and fauna can have some differences. The thing I remember most of Monteverde was the huge tropical oaks with epiphytes,bromiliads, and mosses covering them. Oddly enough the clouds were mostly missing when we were there as it was during a drought period. Otherwise Monteverde can be in the clouds so to speak and I suspect misty and mysterious on the trails. Also the temps can be quite chilly. We heard the bell bird there but missed the quetzal. Monkeys are in the area but didn't see them.
The rain forest is a lower elevation forest with more palms, heat, and other flora and fauna differences. In M.Antonio we saw plenty of monkeys, sloths, cotamudis- like racoon- and iguanas. The sunsets at M.Antonio can be awesome. The further south you go the more lush becomes the jungle.The Osa peninsual would be a great choice for jungle sometime.
Enjoy and remember to praise God for His awesome creation!
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Old Nov 11th, 2005, 12:53 PM
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Good Lord ! It just won't stop ! lol .... Friday night entertainment maybe ?
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