manuel antonio, arenal and monteverde

Jun 30th, 2008, 03:48 PM
  #1  
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manuel antonio, arenal and monteverde

Ok, so we've booked a trip to CR from Dec 28th-Jan 12th. I definitely want to see monteverde and arenal but we're flying in/out of San Jose. Any suggestions for what to stop at on the way to Arenal from san Jose? suggestions on the order of the trip....time in each place? My friend is leaving on the 9th-and I'm leaving a few days later on the 12t-I'd rather stay somewhere outside (but near enough for him to be closish to the airport) San Jose for his last night. Any/all suggestions are welcome-you have all been very helpful thus far.....
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Jun 30th, 2008, 04:02 PM
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We've stayed at the Peace Lodge, about an hour outside San Jose; the La Paz Waterfall Gardens there are a don't miss in my book. Grano de Oro in San Jose is also a good spot - excellent restaurant on site.
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Jun 30th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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You could do any number of things. You could:

1) Before Arenal, you could spend some time in the Central Valley and do whitewater rafting on the Pacuare, see Poas and La Paz Waterfall Gardens, spend some time in the La Selva/Sarapiqui area.

2) After Monteverde, you could spend time in either the southern Nicoya peninsula (Montezuma and Malpais) or the central Pacific (Carara and Manuel Antonio) or even both.

Realistically, you have time for at least three stops, and maybe four. You could do something like this:

12/28: Arrive and settle into hotel in Central Valley (Orquideas or Xandari, for example)
12/29: Raft the Pacuare or Reventazon
12/30: See Poas and La Paz
12/31: Drive to Arenal
1/1: Arenal
1/2: Arenal
1/3: Arenal
1/4: Arenal
1/5; Drive to Monteverde
1/6: Monteverde
1/7: Monteverde
1/8: drive to Manuel Antonio
1/9: Manuel Antonio
1/10: Manuel Antonio
1/11: Return to hotel near airport (if early flight) otherwise spend another day in Central Pacific)
1/12: Fly back
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Jun 30th, 2008, 08:49 PM
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I would be very grateful for more info on Arenal and Monteverde, because my family (wife and four kids) are going down to CR August 7 to 17. We would be in San Jose for friends' wedding first, leave San Jose August 10 (driving a 4WD) in the morning, and need to be in Playa Hermosa (staying at a friend's house) by the evening of August 12. So I want to fit in some of Arenal and Monteverde in the August 10 to 12 slot. Does it make sense to book a hotel for the night of August 10 in Fortuna, do Arenal, then book a hotel in Santa Elena August 11, then do canopy and zip lining, then drive west? Or could we pick one of those locations for two nights and do both areas from there? It doesn't seem possible given the way the roads look on the map, but I've never been there and haven't found anybody yet who can advise me. Many thanks.
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Jun 30th, 2008, 09:15 PM
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Given your time frame, I wouldn't attempt to do both Arenal and Monteverde; it's a pain to get to Monteverde, so unless you have time to devote to it, I'd spend the entire time in Arenal. It's a great area with natural hot springs, the volcano, hanging bridges, waterfall, the Cano Negro tour, ziplines - definitely no shortage of things to do there.
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Jun 30th, 2008, 09:26 PM
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I agree with volcanogirl.

There is no way to do both these areas in two nights. Figure three to four hours from San Jose to Arenal. Then three more to Monteverde. Then three to Hermosa. You will be exhausted, and won't have any time to enjoy the local attractions.

I would recommend doing only one location. With only two days, Arenal would probably be best. The best ziplines are still in Monteverde. But there are some good ones in the Arenal area, and this will make your travel much less stressful.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice.

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
(Travel professional)
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Jun 30th, 2008, 09:50 PM
  #7  
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RAC-
thanks for the clear information and ideas. How far is Manuel Antonio from San Jose? I think that it sounds like a good plan to head there a day before my friend has to leave-so I can spend my last solo couple of days taking a surf lesson and lounging on the beach.... I'm planning on doing a lot of hiking, rafting and other active stuff for most of the trip so it will be a welcome respite....
the Peace Lodge has been mentioned numerous times on this site so it sounds like a safe bet-any other suggestions of a place to stay the first night after leaving the airport?
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Jun 30th, 2008, 09:55 PM
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Oh, I think I should mention that we really don't need anything fancy. I consider fancy anything above $150/night especially considering the $ in costa rica. Preferably we wouldn't spend more than 40-$50 a night (each of course-but for one room). Just short of hostel accommodations-I stayed in a hostal (step up from hostel) in Spain and it worked out well. I also found a steal of a hotel in paris for $50 euros a night-if I can find it there-I have faith I'll find deals anywhere! after all, I've got almost 14 nights to budget!
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Jun 30th, 2008, 10:23 PM
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just found a cabina in mal pais-santa teresa for about $100 a night during peak season (which is I guess exactly when we'll be there....) how far is san jose and then arenal from this area? I'm trying to get a feel for whether we should stay 2 nights after we arrive and leave for arenal the 2nd morning or just move on to arenal the afternoon after our 1st night. one reason to move on is that we'll be traveling close to new year's eve and I'm worried transportation might be tough if we wait til the 30th/31st.........
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Jul 1st, 2008, 05:05 AM
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Villa Bonita and Orquideas Inn are popular affordable San Jose spots.
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Jul 1st, 2008, 06:24 AM
  #11  
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winesaavy:

From what we hear, it's about 3-4 hours from Manuel Antonio to the airport. But, you never know when you'll get stuck behind a slow vehicle going up a mountain.

Malpais/Santa Teresa are on the Nicoya Peninsula, so you'd have to take the ferry from Puntarenas. Which is what we did--we drove from Monteverde to Puntarenas, then took the ferry over and drove to Montezuma.

If you're on a budget, I'd definitely go with Orquideas over Peace Lodge. Peace Lodge is a very expensive place, and I wouldn't recommend staying there unless you could get the full benefit of the other attractions on the grounds, esp. the Waterfall Gardens. (If you're staying in the area at Villa Bonita or Orquideas, you can make the Waterfall Gardens and Poas part of a single day trip). We stayed at the Orquideas and found it pretty much perfect in terms of what it offered and price.

If you're planning on rafting, then you definitely should first stay in the Central Valley and raft the Pacuare. It's an amazing experience.

To give you some idea, here's what we did in CR this past February on a very similar itinerary:

Day 1) Arrive in morning flight, checked into Orquideas, saw Zoo Ave, Grecia, and Sarchi

Day 2) Pacuare river rafting

Day 3) Poas and La Paz

Day 4) Arrive at Arenal-- (drive took about 4 hours in heavy fog)

Day 5) Day trip to Cano Negro--evening at hot springs

Day 6) Drive to Monteverde (drive took about 4 hours)

Day 7) Monteverde (nature hikes)

Day 8) Drive to Montezuma (took about six hours including nice ferry ride)

Day 9) Montezuma

Day 10) Montezuma

Day 11) drive back to airport (with stop at Tarcoles croc bridge)

Looking back, this was probably a 14 day itinerary we tried to squeeze into ten days. If you're into surfing, Malpais might be better last destination. If you're into seeing wildlife and being closer to the airport, Manuel Antonio would be a better choice. Montezuma is more of a relaxed, hippy, hangout type of beach town (though you can do ziplines and visit places like Curu and Cabo Blanco).

For reference on prices, we paid about $100 for a very nice room at Orquideas, about $125/night for a volcano view room at Arenal Observatory Lodge, $180 for a big splurge in Monteverde--the three sory honeymoon cabin at Arco Iris, and $165 a night at the Ylang Ylang resort in Montezuma. All of those included breakfast, and Ylang Ylang also included dinner!

Here are the links to my trip reports:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...6&tid=35123538

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...6&tid=35123563

Photos:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...6&tid=35123762

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...6&tid=35123790

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Jul 1st, 2008, 03:03 PM
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RAC-
I like the look of Orquideas-so close to the airport! where do we go from there for the river rafting? do you think 1 night is sufficient or should we do 2 just so we don't have to drive after river rafting. I'm a bit worried about finding about traveling on New Year's eve so I think I'd want to do dec 28-30 at Orquideas. Rafting trip. waterfall, etc. drive to arenal on the 30th. 30th-Jan 2nd in Arenal (good day trips from here?) then 2nd-7th in Monteverde (any shorter day trips than montezuma?)7th-12th near or in Manuel Antonio........
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Jul 1st, 2008, 03:28 PM
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Rios Tropicales picked us up at Las Orquideas. It was 5:45 am, but they picked us up. It's a long haul from the San Jose area to the Pacuare area, but it's worth it. The Pacuare is considered a top-5 or top-10 river in the WORLD.

I'd do an extra night just to do a day of Poas/La Paz. I wouldn't worry about driving on the 31st--it's not like you're going to be out driving at 11:00 pm.

You can also do overnight, two-day rafting tours. But, from what I understand, you don't get that much more rafting in.
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Jul 2nd, 2008, 12:35 PM
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RAC-
sounds like a good idea. I definitely want to do the Pacuare and have never been rafting (I do kayak though). We'll probably check out the closer stuff our first day (since we get in around 10am) and then do rafting the 2nd day (since you need to leave so early). I'm sure we'll be glad we stayed a 2nd night after that.... As for driving-if you were going to Arenal which would you say is the best idea? bus, taxi, or car? Also-other than Manuel Antonio do you have a couple other spots to suggest on the way back to San Jose if we want to do a beach town?
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Jul 2nd, 2008, 02:53 PM
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You might be able to fit Poas and La Paz in during an early day. It sounds like you got in the same flight we took. (TACA from JFK?) But, keep in mind that you still have immigration and baggage claim to sort out. You probably wouldn't get to Poas until about 1:30 pm or so, which might not leave a lot of time for La Paz. Poas is also best seen early in the morning--otherwise clouds roll in. I'd recommend a third night--you have plenty of time.

I recommend renting a car if you can handle the idea. You're on your own schedule and can come and go as you please. Also, it's a lot cheaper than depending on private drivers. Just make sure to get a vehicle with good clearance (a 4X4) if you're going to Monteverde.

There's really no beach between Arenal/Monteverde and San Jose. Manuel Antonio and southern Nicoya are probably your best bets for that, with the latter being a little further away. Punta Leona is near Jaco, but you might as well do Manuel Antonio if you're in that neighborhood (in my opinion, haven't done MA yet).


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Jul 4th, 2008, 09:39 AM
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If you are really on a budget like I usually am...you could check out Jardines Arenal. They have dormitory sleeping for something like $10/night and also private rooms (which are quite nice) for $22.00/night per person and that includes a very good breakfast. If you book the private room..get the one at the back as the only drawback is the street noise in the morning on the main road.

http://www.hostelarenal.com/index.htm

Not as fancy as some of the higher priced hotels but we were out and about most of the time and spent very little time at the hotel anyway.
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Jul 4th, 2008, 10:55 AM
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Orquideas is a fun place. Different prices to fit budgets. I would not stay in one of the roadside rooms though because they are very noisy. A great breakfast buffet is included and the meals the rest of the day are very good and not terribly expensive. Easy access to Poas and La Paz. They also have a tour company that you can use if you decide not to drive. You could arrange to have a car delivered to you or for you to be picked up from Orquideas by a rental company, depending on how the rental company works, to get a car if you want to wait a day or two to rent one. If you decide to do the Pacuare it would be a waste of money to have the car just sitting there. On the other hand, you would want the car there early the next morning to get up to Poas when it opens. You would need to allow two nights at Orquideas to do the Pacuare and Poas/La Paz the next day. If you are driving yourselves to Poas etc you can find a map on the La Paz web site showing you how to go on to Arenal from there. People frequently do the Poas /La Paz trips the morning before they go to Arenal. If you want to skip Poas/La Paz initially and see it on the return end you could go with a rafting company that would drop you off in Arenal rather than return you to Alajuela. They would transfer your luggage as well.

Flying in and out of San Jose is not a bad thing for the places you want to see btw.

You can take a tour to the Sarapiqui area from Arenal as well as Alajuela. Cano Negro would probably be the better idea for the birds and wildlife by boat. La Selva in the Sarapiqui area is a great place to walk and see things. Reservations are necessary for La Selva.

It is about a 6 hr trip to Manuel Antonio from Arenal or Monteverde and would probably be a good end for you. Surf lessons and goofing off on the beach are both available and it isn't a bad ride back to the airport area unless you get stuck behind trucks as was mentioned. Hopefully the problems from Alma will be cleaned up and the route to MA will be a little easier from that respect.

Whatever you plan I would do it very soon. Places are already booked up for the holiday period.

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Jul 6th, 2008, 08:13 PM
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Suzie-thanks for the advice on booking and I have definitely decided to book us ahead for our 1st 3 nights at Orquideas-and then for the next 3 nights (new year's eve, new years day and the 2nd)to make sure we're not left without something. I liked the jardines arenal suggestion as far as price range-but does anyone have any other places they can recommend for budget travelers? we'll be spending new year's even in Arenal it seems-so...anyone have stories of good bars/restaurants there or should we just plan on toasting to ourselves in our cabina?
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Jul 7th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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You can get pretty reasonable rates at the Arenal Observatory Lodge if you're willing to forego a room with a view of the volcano. You can get a quite nice standard room for $90 or so, and that includes a balcony with a volcano view. (The standard room is actually bigger and nicer than the more expensive Smithsonian room)
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Jul 8th, 2008, 10:59 PM
  #20  
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RAC-
good idea-I'm booking us at the lodge for new year's even through Jan 2nd. out of curiosity-is there anything else near it? meaning, a town, restaurants, etc?

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