Northern Zone - Arenal + Monteverde Itinerary Advice

Jan 30th, 2011, 06:57 PM
  #1  
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Northern Zone - Arenal + Monteverde Itinerary Advice

Hello,

I'm traveling with a friend from San Jose to La Fortuna, and then on to Monteverde. We have 5 days for this area, and ultimately it's less than that due to travel to La Fortuna on day 1 from SJO, and leaving before dark on day 5 to drive to Tamarindo.

Things we want to do:
* White Water Rafting - most likely in Arenal area and seems that will take an entire day
* Zip Line (of course) - whichever place it's better
* Wildlife & Nature - at least a couple hikes/tours in both arenal and monteverde
* Hot Springs - we want to visit this in Arenal
* Volcano - would love to stay and see the volcano up close, whether tour or solo hike.

Questions:
* Should we spend 3 nights in Arenal and 2 days in Monteverde? or opposite. Remember full day lost to white water rafting.
* Where is the better (more exciting + cool walks) ziplining?
* Any general other ideas of things we should do?

Thanks so much for the assistance.

Chris
mcdanielism is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 01:32 AM
  #2  
 
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I think three nights in Arenal and two nights in Monteverde is about right. To me, Arenal has a lot more to do, and it will increase your chances of seeing the volcano since it gets enshrouded in fog/clouds. You can really zipline in either place, probably the most popular is Sky Trek in the Arenal area and Selvatura in Monteverde. Both have good hiking - the volcano hike, Hanging Bridges, and waterfall in Arenal and the reserves and night hikes in Monteverde. For hot springs, either Tabacon or Eco Termales. We did our rafting with Rios Tropicales in Arenal and thought they were great. AOL is a popular place to stay for people who want to be really close to the volcano.
volcanogirl is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 03:23 AM
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I agree with volcanogirl, especially given the day you want to spend rafting. That would leave you just 2 days in Arenal--barely enough to do all the things you want to do (that's all we had--we needed more time there). We enjoyed the Hanging Bridges and spending time at Arenal Observatory Lodge. We got significant rain on one day (and clouds the next), which cut into the hiking time, and we never did see the whole volcano--just a big cloud-shrouded lump. We intended to hike to the La Fortuna waterfall the morning we left for the coast, but the weather was still bad so we skipped it. Hopefully you will get better weather than we did!

We ziplined at Selvatura in Monteverde (see description in response to a recent question on this forum) and thought it was fantastic. A young couple we met there had also just done a zipline tour at Arenal and loved them both--the two were just a little different. I believe Selvatura was less expensive than the one at Arenal, if that matters to you.

Don't miss a night hike on one of the reserves near Monteverde (we did the Santamaria reserve with Bernal as our guide, a great experience). An early morning guided hike in the cloud forest is essential, but it's also nice to go back the same day (free entry all day with your park ticket) and hike other trails on your own. Believe it or not, we also enjoyed the Frog Pond--a guided walk through an indoor area with 12 big terrariums, each with different exotic frogs that you likely won't ever be able to see in the wild. We suspected it would be hokey, but it was surprisingly well done (something to do if you run out of other things to do.)
aprillilacs is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 07:25 AM
  #4  
bd
 
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I would recommend you stay in Arenal, since everything you want to do, you can do there. You're going to lose another half day getting from Arenal to Monteverde, especially if you are driving yourselves.
bd is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 12:58 PM
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I'm inclined to agree with bd. You might not have the experience of a night hike in Monteverde, but everything else is in the Arenal area or a short drive from it. Many of Costa Rica's roads are terrible and what should be a short distance quickly turns into a much longer drive than anticipated. Since you'll only be there for the three full days, I'd stick to staying in the one area. Personally, I much preferred Arenal to Monteverde.

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librarychica85 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 01:24 PM
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The consensus above may or may not be making a good bottom-line recommendation, but I'm not buying the stated explanations for skipping Monteverde. With Tamarindo as the next stop, detouring to Monteverde adds only a Tilaran-Monteverde side trip, of what, 1.5 hours each way? (yourtravelmap.com says 1 hour 34 minutes, a little less to Santa Elena.)
TiltedFlipCurves is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 02:02 PM
  #7  
bd
 
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Good point, Tilted. I bow to the expert.
bd is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 02:43 PM
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I must decline the appellation, but I can read a map.
TiltedFlipCurves is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 04:13 PM
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If losing a day, and assuming a night, to a rafting trip, then I have to agree with bd. Spend your short time available in Arenal. No matter what the driving times are stated online, you will still lose 1/2 day of valuable time. Arenal has more than enough to keep you busy - volcano, hot springs, waterfall, hiking, ziplines etc.
tully is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 05:53 PM
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I can understand the argument to skip the extra destination, but since I personally enjoyed Monteverde much more than Arenal (more compact, more intimate, and heck, we actually had a sunny day there!), I wouldn't recommend skipping it. So, as I'm sure you will do, give some thought to what your priorities are and go for it--you'll be happy with whatever decision you make.
aprillilacs is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 07:32 PM
  #11  
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Wow, lots of good information so I really appreciate all of you sharing your thoughts.

Now I'm mildly more confused but certainly you all give me something to think about. There are good points on both sides of the Arenal + Monteverde vs just one argument. I do think the journey (driving) itself will be part of the adventure and fun. I'm still leaning towards doing both but we shall see.
mcdanielism is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 01:17 AM
  #12  
RAC
 
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The restaurants in Monteverde are MUCH better than in Arenal. Also, it is a different ecosystem. The wildlife/birding/ecotourism is also better there (unless you're staying at the Arenal Observatory Lodge). Arenal's strength is adventure activities like rafting and canyoning, plus the volcano. In terms of Ziplines and hanging bridges, you can do those in either location.
RAC is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 06:20 AM
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On our first trip we did 3 nights in Arenal and 2 in Monteverde, and believe me it's worth going to Monteverde. In Arenal we did hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall, Eco termales hot springs (book it ahead of time). In Monteverde we did Selvetura zipline and Santa Elena cloud forest. Selvetura was AWESOME and the cloud forest was unbelievable, almost like a dream.

The rafting trip from Arenal will be a really long, full day, since the rafting is actually several hours away from Arenal. We did Exploradores Outdoors on our recent trip (not from Arenal, but from Puerto Viejo to San Jose) and it was awesome.
Andrea_loves_travel is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:35 AM
  #14  
 
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I went to both on my first trip to Costa Rica spending 2 nights in Monteverde and 3 nights in Arenal Wish I had more time in both - but I'm glad I did both!
We didn’t arrive in Monteverde in time for our planned coffee tour. Driving is challenging - but fun! Instead we went to the Ranario (Frog Pond) and had a surprisingly awesome tour. We had the best guide named Byron! Hang on to your ticket stub and return again (any day) around 6:30pm and you can walk through again for free. This is when the frogs are more active. It’s completely dark inside and they give you flashlights to find the frogs. The first evening we did the Hidden Valley night hike. I highly recommend both an early morning hike and one of the night hikes since you will see many different species. We did the zip lines and hanging bridges at Salvatura Adventure Park. This leaves you plenty of time to do other tours. For example – do an early morning hike at Monteverde and the afternoon zip line and hanging bridges at Salvatura. Bernal was our guide at the Monteverde Cloud Forest. He also does the night hike at Santa Maria. I will reply back with his contact information. The day we drove to Arenal was the only time we saw the volcano - just a few clouds around the top. Then it completely disappeared the next 2 days! We arrived just in time for an afternoon hike around the volcano and evening at Tabacon with dinner. The next day we went rafting (Wave Expeditions). The third day we did the 7am canyoning with Pure Trek Canyoning and then an afternoon ATV tour (mainly for my son). I highly recommend Pure Trek! What an adventure! http://www.puretrekcostarica.com/
Enjoy your trip to Costa Rica!
PerkelFlirp is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2011, 02:58 PM
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This particular forum has helped me with our end of March itinerary. Since we have only 7 nights, we'll do Arenal for 4 nights and Monteverde for 3 nights. We're flying into Liberia and renting a 4X4. We'll forego White Water Rafting since it takes up one whole day. I guess we'll do the Arenal zipline and forego the Monteverde one. We don't need to do 2 ziplines in only 7 days since they are both somewhat similar. We do need to get our beach time in for our daughter. I'll continue reading to figure that one out. Thank you.
Ruklin is offline  
Feb 18th, 2012, 06:00 PM
  #16  
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To follow up in a tardy fashion, we did end up doing the 3 nights in Arenal area, and 2 nights in Monteverde. Neither was quite enough time, but we did get a nice taste of both areas and I don't think I would do it differently. I'm glad I got to sample both places.
mcdanielism is offline  
Feb 19th, 2012, 03:01 AM
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Sounds like a great trip - did you get to do everything that you wanted to?
volcanogirl is offline  
Feb 19th, 2012, 03:11 PM
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Volcano girl. Not quite but good enough. Did not get to explore volcano as hoped via hiking but the zip line was a ton of fun and got to see a bit there.
mcdanielism is offline  
Feb 19th, 2012, 05:49 PM
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Good - you can always go back someday for more exploring. I like getting a taste of different areas so we know where we'd like to go back.
volcanogirl is offline  
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