Need help finalizing CR family itinerary!

Old Jan 9th, 2010, 09:21 AM
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Need help finalizing CR family itinerary!

My husband and I are planning to travel to CR in March with our 14-year-old son. We have 10-12 days to work with. After reading guidebooks, TripAdvisor and Fodors forums I think I have an itinerary but have a couple of questions.
The things we like to do are swim/beach, view the wildlife, adventure/adrenaline activities (zipline, rafting, etc.). We don't like moving around (changing hotels) too much as this is less relaxing for us.
With these things in mind it seems we should fly in/out of SJO. We would then spend 3-4 nights in Arenal area (I'm thinking the Lost Iguana or Los Lagos) and then fly to BDC on the Osa Peninsula for 5-6 nights. We would then fly back to SJO.
My questions are....should we also include MA? Or should we do the MA instead of Osa, as this is our first trip?
Should we drive ourselves to Arenal or hire driver or fly?

Thank you for any suggestions!
JuicyLucy is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2010, 10:02 AM
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This is exactly the same trip we are doing the first week in May. The only snag I ended up with, was no flight availability from La Fortuna to the Osa, so we have to drive back to San Jose(Pavas) to get our NatureAir fight to Puerto Jimenez. The flight cost about $200pp. If money is a concern, it would be cheaper to drive to MA

I have not been to Costa Rica, but I have been researching this.

My thought, since you don't like moving around(we don't either)I would either choose MA or the Osa. I am obsessed with going to BdC and planned the trip around that, so it made it easy for me--and the other couple travelling with us let me decide.

It seems to be a personal choice: car or driver. We are going to have a driver take us to La Fortuna and then back to the airport in Pavas. We have to get to the airport by 10:30 am--a 3 hr drive from La Fortuna--a driver will eliminate extra time for the car rental return. We won't need a car at BdC. Xandari will pick you up or drop you off at the airport. We are actually staying there the first and last nights.

We are staying 3 nts at Lost Iguana
4nts at Bosque del Cabo

Hope you write a trip report and include any suggestions you might have after your visit. Have a wonderful trip.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 10:21 AM
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You are making good hotel choices. My only concern would be that you are staying a long time at each.

I would consider adding a destination for a couple of days. You could add a couple of days in Tortuguero on your way to Arenal. We have been doing this for our clients a lot lately. You can go from San Jose to Tortuguero, and then straight to Arenal. A two night package here is adequate.

Or you could go from BdC to Quepos / Manuel Antonio. This will give you a couple of beach days, in an area with good restaurants and nature tours.

I occasionally get calls from folks that have a week, and want to go to Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, and maybe a four destination. So I spend a lot of time trying to encourage people to slow down a little, and do less.

The other side of the coin is that there is a lot to see, and you have enough time to add a third destination.

Just a thought.

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

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 10:52 AM
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I think your plan sounds great! BdC will have all of the wildlife you could see in Manuel Antonio and more so it makes no sense to go to both. I like the long time you spend in each place, but if you decide it's too long at BdC, then just add a day or two to SJO (stay at Xandari or similar) and visit the towns around there like Saarchi, a coffee plantation, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, etc.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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My husband and I went to CR last June and spent 4 nights in Arenal and 3 nights in MA. If I had to do it all over again, I would have spent another day in Arenal. There is so much to do there (rappelling, hiking, ziplining, river rafting, windsurfing, hot springs, etc.)and it is such a friendly town to just have dinner and walk around in at night. We rented a car and drove to Arenal from SJO in about 4 hours taking the long route and stopping in Sarchi and Grecia. It was an easy drive, but if we didn't have the GPS we would probably still be driving around Costa Rica LOL.

We then drove from Arenal to Manuel Antonio and it took 8!!! hours. We stopped for lunch and had a flat tire, but still it was a super, super, long drive on some pretty crazy roads. Costa Rica looks small, but it takes a long time to get anywhere. The park at Manuel Antonio was outstanding and we really enjoyed it, along with the beach and the beach scene, but the town reminded me of the super crowded Southern California beach towns and wasn't my favorite. We were there in the low season and I would hate to see it in high season. People were extremely friendly and nice though and there are some great restuarants. I just didn't feel the same friendly vibe walking around in Manuel Antonio that I did in Arenal.

There are a lot of things to do in that area too. I got injured so we had to do some sedentary things and went on a Mangrove tour and a tour of the Tarcole river to see the crocodiles (highly, highly, recommend) You could do a day trip down south to the beaches there, river rafting, ziplining, surfing, etc. We are very active and were on the go all day long and still didn't do all we wanted to do. I have never been to OSA but I think it would not be near as busy as Manuel Antonio and might not have as many "thrill" activities. Regardless, of where you go your 14 year son will love, love, it in Costa Rica. The best things I liked about Costa Rica were the wonderful people (so friendly, generous, and warm) and the amazing wildlife. Have fun!
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 01:31 PM
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Thank you all, for your fabulous suggestions.

Suru, where did you stay in Arenal area?

Monica, thanks for your input.

Pat, I was in the travel business for 17 years and so I can totally relate to experiences with past clients! It brings back memories. Thanks for your suggestions.

Lindain, I will certainly let you know how it goes. Thanks for your suggestions. I had better get those flights booked!
JuicyLucy is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2010, 03:42 PM
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I think suggestions are good here. I don't think you're planning too much time in any one place. 4 nights in Arenal and 5+ nights in Osa is a great plan.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 09:28 PM
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I wouldn't go to both MA and the Osa, but I might take a couple of your Osa nights and stay somewhere like the Peace Lodge. Arenal, Peace Lodge, and the Osa would be a great trip.
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 08:48 AM
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Thanks, hipvirgo chick.

Volcanogirl, you present an interesting option. The Peace Lodge looks lovely. Would it (and surrounding activities) be quite different from the Arenal area?

Also, I have been looking at Los Lagos in Arenal due to the kids' activities. The room reports don't look that great, though. Has anyone stayed there?
Thanks, all!
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 08:56 AM
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volcanogirl...I would love to be able to swing Arenal, PL and Osa. What is the minimum number of nights I would need to avoid feeling that I'm just jumping from place to place without really seeing the sites?
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 10:34 AM
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Lucy, I thought of the Peace Lodge since you mention that you like a relaxing trip - it's a really indulgent place to stay with waterfall showers, jacuzzi tubs, hammocks, nice views and balconies, and fireplaces that come on with the push of a button. They also have several huge waterfalls on the property that you can hike to. They were hit by an earthquake a year ago, but back open now, and two of the five falls are open again. The climate is cooler than Arenal, and it's a great place to spend a night or two. We did a combo tour of Poas Volcano and the Doka Coffee Estate from there, and it was great. Viewing Poas is hit or miss with the fog, but we got to see it! They also have a nocturnal frog tour that's fun to do. We were able to actually hold the little frogs when we did it, but I'm not sure if they still have that option so check with them. I'd check out pics and reviews on tripadvisor and see if it's your kind of place.
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 10:38 AM
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Hi, Deb - I think that's really a personal preference, but we usually stay 3 or 4 nights in Arenal, 2 at Peace Lodge, and then I'd probably stay at least 3 or 4 on the Osa. I always make a list of everything I want to do in the area and then decide on how many days that will take me. The Peace Lodge is pricey, and we like their standard room just as much as the Deluxe, so I wouldn't feel the need to pay for the more expensive room there.
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 11:21 AM
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We've stayed at Los Lagos and the rooms are perfectly fine. Nothing fancy but spacious and clean.
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Old Jan 11th, 2010, 01:00 PM
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Juicy...I'd definitely talk to Pat Hewitt. He knows more about CR than almost everyone on here. FTR- I used Pat to arrange our family trip and I can't say enough good things about the advice and arrangements he provided. Enjoy!
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Old Jan 11th, 2010, 03:26 PM
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Hi Pat - I'll be traveling from San Isidro (after climbing Cerra Chirrippo) to LA Fortuna and (a) don't know the best way to get from Point A to Point B and (b) am confused about the need to plan tours in advance and what tours to do while in La Fortuna/Arenal. We will only have two days in the area. I'll be travelling with my three children, ages 10, 12 and 14 so quietly watching the volcano at night with a glass of wine isn't on the list of activities. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 07:46 AM
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There's tons to do in the Arenal area - big on the list are the Cano Negro tour to see wildlife, zipline at Sky Trek, hike the Hanging Bridges, hike the waterfall and swim there, and visit the natural hot springs in the evening. We also went white water rafting with Rios Tropicales, and that was really fun.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 02:41 PM
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we stayed recently at the Montana de Fuego (3 nts), 5 km west of La Fortuna and had a great time there, good accommodations and restaurant. We hiked the hanging bridges, enjoyed the hot springs at Baldi (nearby) and toured the Cano Negro wildlife sanctuary (2 hours ride north).
We traveled to MA and stayed at Costa Verde (3 nts) and toured the National Park and enjoyed the beach. Great accommodation and food at Costa verde.
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