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Need help coming up with a 10 day itinerary for Costa Rica

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Jan 23rd, 2014, 05:03 PM
  #1
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Need help coming up with a 10 day itinerary for Costa Rica

Hey guys and gals, I need some help coming up with an itinerary for 10 days in Costa Rica. First of let me give you all some background so you can get a feel for what I enjoy. My wife and I are both in our late mid 20's, no kids and live in California. We love to do all things outdoors and love trying new things and going on adventures. I feel like I just filled out an online dating profile......Anyways we have traveled a bit over the last few years, making it to a few parts in Mexico, some Caribbean islands, Belize, Fiji, and each of the Hawaiian islands a few times. Through these travels we have found many things that we like and many things that we have not. Starting off with the diving, obviously that is one of the best parts of the trips and I feel it will be hard to beat what we saw in Fiji and the Rainbow reef and shark dive. We love all of the "off the beaten path" non tourist stuff that we found in Belize and Fiji. I did find that Mexico and the Caribbean islands we went to were just too touristy and everything was overpriced because ship loads of people show up to snorkel and zipline. I loved that I was able to explore the country in Fiji and Belize and still feel safe yet have a sense of adventure because of the culture. We're not huge fans of big cities while on trips either. Hawaii has been amazing each time we have been there but we want to try someplace new. Like I said before we love to dive, fish, snorkel and pretty much do anything in the warm ocean water. That being said, we also loved spending time in the jungle of Belize and seeing all of the wildlife and doing the hikes(most of which aloud us to be the only ones on the trail). So a good mix would be awesome. Lodging should be nice but doesn't have to be 5 star. Pretty much we want to do lots of stuff besides just sit on a beach and have a great adventure doing things we will be talking about for years to come! Anybody that has good experience in Costa Rica please feel free to chime in. We don't care whether we fly into Liberia or San Jose and most likely we will be renting a car to allow us to move around at our leisure. We will most likely be staying in the north since we are limited on time but I'm curious if Manuel Antonio could be a possibility to drive to. So anything really helps here guys…….Hotels, places to eat, great dive spots! Thanks!
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Jan 23rd, 2014, 08:01 PM
  #2
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I would skip the diving for Costa Rica. Just won't compare.

I'd recommend flying into the Osa and exploring that area of the country. Drake Bay, Corcovado, Puerto Jimenez, Cabo Matapalo--it's all outstanding and what Pura Vida is all about.
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Jan 24th, 2014, 03:28 AM
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The best hiking we've done has been in the Arenal/La Fortuna area with the Hanging Bridges, waterfall, and volcano and on the Osa Peninsula that RAC mentioned - that area is more off the grid and has tons of wildlife. We stayed at Bosque del Cabo and thought it was great. The Manuel Antonio area has really nice beaches and lots of wildlife like monkeys and sloths; it's very popular with tourists though so you would probably never be alone on a path or hike. If it still interests you, Tulemar Bungalows is a fantastic place to stay - they have their own beach which is really convenient. Agree with RAC, I'd skip the diving. We've been to Belize, and CR is amazing, but snorkeling/diving can't compare.
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Jan 26th, 2014, 12:14 PM
  #4
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Thanks for the replies. With my 9-10 days do you think it would be possible to split time between Fortuna, Osa and Tamarindo? Are there nice beaches and nice waters down in Osa?
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Jan 26th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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I would lean more towards two destinations in that time frame. It takes a long time to travel from place to place. The surf down on the Osa can be pretty rough in a lot of places; most of the beaches are kind of wild, and you could have it all to yourself.
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Jan 26th, 2014, 05:49 PM
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If you don't want touristy, then skip Tamarindo.
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Jan 28th, 2014, 11:39 AM
  #7
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Hey guys I have a rough idea of what we are going to do in Costa Rica now. Please let me know what you think and feel free to chime in about any part of it. The only things that I'm still not 100% sure about is whether we will do both La Fortuna and Monteverde or just one of them. So here would be the two different itineraries. The second one is if you guys feel like we would be too rushed in the first one. Thanks!

Option 1
4/25 Leave Sacramento at 7pm
4/26 Arrive in San Jose at 540am, Get a flight down to Puerto Jimenez at 821am, check in one of the resorts in Osa area. (One question here, would it be better to fly into Drake Bay and stay in a resort there or stay at resort closer to Puerto Jimenes. For the most part we just want to go into the park, see cool things and possibly dive but it's not a must)
4/27 Osa area
4/28 Osa area
4/29 Leave Osa on a flight sometime in the morning, rent a car in San Jose and then drive up to La Fortuna(I've heard it take about 3 hours or so), check into a resort in that area.
4/30 La Fortuna, possible go rafting, zip lining, hot springs or hiking to Rio Celeste
5/1 La Fortuna, do whatever we missed the day before
5/2 Drive to Monteverde (we could leave later in the day if there were more things that we wanted to do in La Fortuna before we left.) Drive takes about 4 hours????
5/3 Monteverde, Zip line
5/4 Monteverde, do whatever we missed and then drive to San Jose late, check in a San Jose hotel for our flight out early the next day
5/5 Fly back to Sacramento at 715am

4/25 Leave Sacramento at 7pm
4/26 Arrive in San Jose at 540am, Get a flight down to Puerto Jimenez at 821am, check in one of the resorts in Osa area. (One question here, would it be better to fly into Drake Bay and stay in a resort there or stay at resort closer to Puerto Jimenes. For the most part we just want to go into the park, see cool things and possibly dive but it's not a must)
4/27 Osa area
4/28 Osa area
4/29 Osa area
4/30 Leave Osa on a flight sometime in the morning, rent a car in San Jose and then drive up to La Fortuna(I've heard it take about 3 hours or so), check into a resort in that area.
5/1 La Fortuna, possible go rafting, zip lining, hot springs or hiking to Rio Celeste
5/2 La Fortuna, do whatever we missed the day before
5/3 La Fortuna
5/4 La Fortuna, do whatever we missed and then drive to San Jose, arrive early or late depending on things to do in SJ, check in a San Jose hotel for our flight out early the next day
5/5 Fly back to Sacramento at 715am
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Jan 28th, 2014, 12:14 PM
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I like the Osa/La Fortuna option. Adding in Monteverde would be too much travel time for me, and you can zipline in La Fortuna, but up to you. Rios Tropicales has good rafting, and Sky Trek is great for ziplining. We also liked waterfall rappelling with La Roca/Sunset Tours. We like Eco Termales (small and charming) or Tabacon (big and fancy) for hot springs. Both Sunset Tours and Desafio have good guides if you need one.
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Jan 28th, 2014, 12:23 PM
  #9
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I'd go for option #2-but I'd consider changing out Monteverde for Arenal just to give yourself a different ecosystem/climate system.

If you want to do Corcovado instead of Cabo Matapalo, I'd fly into Drake Bay and access Sirena ranger station via boat transfer. You could do a guided day tour, or you could do a stay inside the park for 1-2 nights, depending on your ambition level and appetite for logistics/planning. Otherwise you can stay at a place near Cabo Matapalo and have a very similar experience--Cabo Matapalo has better wildlife than Drake Bay, but of course Corcovado is supreme.
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Jan 28th, 2014, 02:52 PM
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If you go to the Arenal Observatory Lodge side of the Arenal area, you get a bit of a different microclimate, closer to Monteverde. AOL has a free morning walk timed to get the monkeys.

You could spend 2 nights at AOL and 2 on the east side (La Fortuna).
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Jan 28th, 2014, 02:54 PM
  #11
 
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The Lost Iguana is nice too - set out by the lake and right next to the Hanging Bridges.
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Jan 28th, 2014, 03:20 PM
  #12
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Arenal Observatory Lodge is definitely one of those adventurish-places--former Smithsonian research facility--lots of wild critters, amazing, amazing views, etc. But very remote, rooms are pretty basic, and the food is . . . very good at breakfast.
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Jan 29th, 2014, 09:44 AM
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I don't know if you have your heart set on going into the park, but we saw tons of amazing wildlife just hiking on the property where we stayed - all 4 kinds of monkeys, sloths, scarlet macaws, toucans, an anteater, agoutis, coatis, and more. It's the easiest wildlife spotting we've ever done.
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Jan 29th, 2014, 10:27 AM
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The breakfast is very good. I also had a surprisingly decent dinner, given all the moaning on Tripadvisor. Grilled chicken and fresh veggies on the side. Overpriced, of course.

Costa Rica isn't really known as a culinary destination anyways.

AOL also has horseback riding on site and the horses looked far healthier than those to the falls near Dominical.
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Jan 29th, 2014, 09:28 PM
  #15
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Ok we have another update! We've decided to just do 2 destinations so that we're not so rushed. We are going to do the first 4 nights up in La Fortuna and we are looking at the Hotel Arenal Springs, seems to get pretty good reviews and has a good selection of hot springs on site. Anybody have any history with this place? We will then head back to San Jose and catch a flight to Osa were I think we will stay at the El Remanso. Your thoughts on this place? Is it close enough to the park to make a day trip and see some wildlife? Also, what else is there to do around the El Remanso besides hike? @Valcanogirl, where did you stay that you saw all of that wildlife? Let me know your thoughts.
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Jan 30th, 2014, 02:30 AM
  #16
 
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I think two destinations is a good plan. Hotel Arenal Springs gets good reviews. Silencio del Campo is another one that's popular. We stayed at Bosque del Cabo on the Osa. Here's a video to give you an idea.

http://www.bosquedelcabo.com/index.html
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Jan 30th, 2014, 07:47 AM
  #17
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El Remanso is next door to Bosque del Cabo. I'm not sure they get as much wildlife as Bosque del Cabo, but everything I've heard indicates it is a wonderful place to stay.

Neither place will give you decent access to Corcovado--I would view those places (along with nearby Lapa Rios) as alternatives to hiking in Corcovado rather than as a base to hike in Corcovado. There's PLENTY of wildlife in that area--we saw peccary and a puma one morning on the trail at Bosque del cabo. Not quite as good as Corcovado, but still extraordinary.
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Jan 30th, 2014, 10:00 AM
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At BdC, we mostly just hiked. The lodges are isolated, so going into town or off property involves some time and effort. We did a great trip over to the animal sanctuary; we took a boat and saw dolphins along the way. We did some guided hikes on the property - they have early morning birding, a primary forest hike, night hike, etc. The big draw is the hiking and the wildlife. BdC has really well maintained trails. Have also heard Lapa Rios and El Remanso are nice - don't know about the quality of their trails.
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Jan 30th, 2014, 12:24 PM
  #19
 
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Looks like a lot of good suggestions for things to do, I won't offer any major changes. Just to make sure you have your expectations in line regarding car rental, I wanted to point out a few very important points regarding pricing and estimating your final bill:

- Costa Rica requires a minimum insurance of $14.99 per day. This is almost never advertised as a mandatory part of your final bill.
- There is a required deposit that varies based on the amount you commit to pay for daily insurance. With the minimum $14.99/day insurance, my deposit was ~$5000
- Some American Express cards (I think the platinum and up) offer an insurance for travelers that is applicable at global rental companies like Economy and Budget. I didn't have this, but it's worth looking into.
- Everywhere recommends GPS because the streets are crazy, this is another $10/day. There is almost no need if you have an unlocked smart phone. You can get a $20 SIM card at the airport (or most shops) from Kolbi ICE with enough data, texts, and minutes to last you for the entire trip and allow you to run navigation apps like Waze or Google Maps. Get Waze


Also, here are some points regarding driving in Costa Rica in general:

- Get an SUV. You're going to hit some of the craziest potholes you've ever seen. Your savings on a tiny economy car will immediately be obliterated and deducted from that hefty deposit when you hit one (or many) of these topographical nightmares. Plus you'll benefit from the greater payload and general comfort of a more spacious cabin.
- Keep your head on a swivel, stay frosty, drive defensively, etc. If you're not accustomed to driving downtown in major US cities or off-road in rural areas, driving in CR might not be for you. There are some very aggressive drivers in CR in all manner/size of vehicle and they will exploit every opening in traffic that they see.
- Mind the motorcycles, they are everywhere and 1200% fearless.
- Due to the humidity-induced rust and the hefty taxes imposed on car ownership, the quality of the average car on the road in CR is simply much lower than in the US. Thinking about cutting someone off? Remember: "don't pick fights with someone uglier than you, they have less to lose"


Other stuff:

- bring a cigarette lighter charger, you'll probably want it for something (phone, camera, etc.)
- utilize the red cabs! the real ones have lights on top, a yellow triangle on the side, and a meter inside (always ask for the meter "me gustaria el metro, por favor")
- public transportation is about as cheap as it gets and not too shabby, if you're feeling bold


All that said, have fun! Costa Rica is wonderful
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Jan 30th, 2014, 08:26 PM
  #20
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So based on what a lot of you guys have told me I've come up with a pretty good idea of what we are going to do but the only thing I'm not 100% on is whether to stay in Drake Bay or Cabo Matapalo. In Drake Bay we are leaning towards Pirate Cove just because of the price. In Matapalo we are trying to decide between El Remanso or Bosque Del Cabo. Both of those hotels have high rating and are similarly priced, does anyone know which is better for hiking, animals or some other reason?
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