November itinerary help?

Old Sep 11th, 2004, 09:30 AM
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November itinerary help?

<I'm still trying to figure out how to use the forums, so I apologize that this post is a duplicate of the one I accidentally put in the general Latin America category.>
Greetings Fodors regulars. This is my first post, and I'm very happy to be here.
I'm an Italiaphile and a regular on SlowTrav under the screen name "Livinwell". Since there is very little activity on that site for Latin America, the moderators of SlowTrav suggested I try Fodors. So here I am....
We will be in Costa Rica from Nov. 1st thru 10th. (flying home the morning of the 11th)
We arrive in San Jose at about noon and want to pick up our rental car and head straight for Monteverde.
We plan to spend 3 nights in that area.
Then on to Arenal for 3 nights.
We are looking for lodging recommendations for both of those locations. Comfortable with modern conveniences, but not fancy is all we need. This part of our trip will be for canopy tours, horseback riding, hot springs, nature walks, ect.
Our big confusion is where to go for our final three nights before we return to San Jose the night before our flight out.
We want to go to a beach location somewhere between Papagayo and Quepos. We are getting such conflicting advice, that I thought I'd try to describe our ideal and see if anyone can help.
We are sisters in our mid-50s, who take a vacation together every year. We are physically active, but not into extreme sports. A challenging canopy tour is on our list, but white water rafting is not. We aren't into the clubbing type nightlife, however my sister is single and 'looking'.
We would like to avoid resorts that cater to families with small children, the spring-break crowd, or to the young adult night club set. At the same time we don't want to find ourselves in a retirement community.
Neither of us is into laying on a hot white sand beach for hours on end. We are more interested in a greener setting at the waters edge with a choice of resorts that cater to a more upscale mid-life group of experienced travelers.
So our question is:
Along the Pacific coast, where are we most likely to find those types of resorts to choose from? And, do you have a favorite to recommend?
Forgive me for this first post being so long. I've never been accused of brevity. <grin>
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Old Sep 11th, 2004, 09:52 PM
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My suggestion is Manuel Antonio right by Quepos. I think it would offer you the most likely scenerio for your interests. There are several excellent hotels to choose from in this area, and the national park (right at the water's edge) is very nice.

Depending on what time you arrive in San Jose on your first day, it might be possible that you would need to stay overnight before heading for Monteverde. Arenal is different--you could be there in 3 hours. Have you considered doing Arenal first, then Monteverde, then the beach? It seems a more favorable arrangement, logistically.

If you do find it necessary to spend your first night near the airport, you could drop a night at either Arenal or Monteverde. That would still allow you plenty of time at either, I think.
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Old Sep 11th, 2004, 10:44 PM
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Considering that you will be arriving around noon and allowing some time for luggage and car rental you should be on the road by 1:30-2pm at the very latest and possibly sooner. If you do not dawdle or get lost you should be able to get to Monteverde that day with no problem. If for some reason you can't get on the road by 2pm I would consider staying near the airport that night and leaving first thing the next morning. The trip to Monteverde is about 3 1/2hrs. It is dark by 6pm. The road up to Monteverde is winding and unpaved with no guard rails on a narrow road. You do not want to be on this road in the dark. El Sapo Dorado is a nice place, I like the Heliconia also. Have looked at Belmar and Fonda Vela but they are further out so I haven't stayed there. They are both very nice. I generally don't have a rental car up there so like to be where I can walk to some places. You will have a car so getting around will be easier. I am sure you will get lots of suggestions on both Monteverde and Arenal. For Arenal, my first choices would be Arenal Paraiso, Los Lagos-both have very good views of the lava flows. Arenal Lodge is a very nice place a bit further out. If there are children about, they will most likely be at Los Lagos.

You could think about Arenal first. It is only about 2 1/2 hrs from the airport which would give you a little more wiggle room should you be delayed a bit.

I doubt if early Nov will have a lot of children around. Most holidays are over and school is in session. You probably could safely go just about anywhere and be comfortable in that respect.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 11:42 AM
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We stayed at the Belmar hotel at Monteverde (www.hotelbelmar.net) and it was fantastic!!! Very cozy rooms, not at all loud and wonderful staff!

I agree that with the places you are going you may want to look into going to Arenal first, then over to Monteverde then on the the Pacific coast. It will also make your drive to the Pacific coast shorter if you leave from Monteverde.

As for Arenal we stayed one night at Tabacon and one at Arenal Lodge. Arenal lodge was fantastic and we loved it! It is further away though and so takes a little more time to get to Fortuna and the springs. The views of the volcano were excellent....
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 03:50 PM
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Thank you all so much for your replies. We will follow your advice and reverse Monteverde and Arenal. Just goes to show that you can't trust internet maps. The one I pulled off a site called CentralAmerica.com makes it look like Monteverde is between San Jose and Arenal.
I'll begin researching Manuel Antonio as well. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.
For Monteverde and Arenal, we are not looking for luxury. I haven't begun looking for Arenal lodging, but I've narrowed Monteverde down to three at this point.
Does anyone have knowledge of, or experience with: Finca Valverde; Swiss Hotel Miramonte; or Los Cipreces?
I found them on monteverdeinfo.com.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 04:31 PM
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Note to Petsburg :
When you rent your car, you can save the 12% airport concourse tax by having the car delivered to your hotel, or by picking up the car at an off-site rental location. There is a cluster of rental companies next door to the Hampton Inn in San Jose. You can see the airport across the
highway from there. If you rent from Economy, the Manager is Juan. Stay away from Ricardo.

We paid $32/day + $25/day insurance (gov't mandatory) + $3/day BS fee = $60/day for Kia Something 4x4, A/C, CD, Automatic, 4 door and were happy.

Our friends drove from Tamarindo, Liberia through Monteverde to Arenal and told us that there is paving underway. The road was not as bad as some suggest, and the travel time was shorter. The date they were on Monteverde roads was 9-9-04.

We returned 9-11-04 from San Jose, Alajuela, Volcan Arenal, San Carlos, Pacuare, Tres Equis, Rafting, Canopy Tour, Safari Float, Hiking, Resort, etc.

Take large ziploc bags for clothes that get wet and do not dry. (Nothing really does). Also good idea to ziploc anything electronic. My Nikon digital camera case (nylon) got wet and the lenses fogged up.

Schedule your adventure trips during the mornings. It rains consistently from 2pm - 8pm. We were on a river from 3-5 and knew better, but were flooded with warm rain.

Zip-off pants are very useful, $8.00 plastic coat or poncho is a good cover. 100% Deet bug spray is available here in California. Used Clearasil for mosquito bites - dries them in 1-2 days.

Consider taking Rite in the Rain (brand name) paper pads - waterproof paper available from Campmor.com. Also, a pressurized pen such as the Space Pen (brand name). Great for translating words, remembering places other travelers or hotel staff refer to you, animal species, anything really. Good luck.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 05:20 PM
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Petsburg,
In that same area by the Hampton Inn (that TripleSecDelay mentioned), there are several car rental agencies. TriColor is there, we have used them, and you can get a 4X4 for a lot less than $60 per day (insurance and tax included). We paid about $280 for a week. They have among the best rates we know of. We have used them 3 times. . . twice during our last trip--at the beginning and at the end.
Also, if your credit card offers part coverage (many cards do), they will accept that portion and it will save you about $7 per day. You will want to check that out before you go.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 07:32 PM
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Petsburg,
One other thing. I don't mean to be contradictory, but I'm not sure that 100% DEET is a good idea. The 25-29% sprays are quite effective. A good one (one that came highly recommended on this board) is Ultrathon.
And also, I wanted to give a thumbs up to Arenal Paraiso. Great view, nice little bungalows (certainly not luxe, but nice enough), pretty grounds, etc.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 04:50 AM
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You might also want to pack some silica gel {the bigger containers are best, but hard to find}, in the zip-lock bag with your camera to help it dry.

I agree - breathable, zip-off pants are extremely useful. If you have gortex clothing or/and boots, bring them. Plastic does not breathe,and can be quite uncomfotable if it's humid.

You don't need 100% deet. We packed Ultrathon on advice from this site, and it worked perfectly.

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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 05:39 AM
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Good Morning "Molly". . . .
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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Right back at you, "shillmac"! :} {Still can't do those smiley faces!}.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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I agree : plastic is not advisable, however, not everyone is investing in PreCip Plus made by Marmot. I brought mine and people ooh'd and ahh'd. Very waterpoof and very breatheable.

I am completely with you that there are greener alternatives to DEET. I'm a tree-hugger myself. I must tell you that some in our group used 25-29% DEET, stood right next to us and were eaten alive while on a canopy tour. Everyone's body chemistry is different. We might not use 100% again in our lifetimes, as it ate my fingernail polish. Hmmmmm.

I mentioned $60/day because we didn't need a car every day. Yes, a car rental is less costly by the week.
We took a 2-day rafting trip on the Pacuare and knew that the rafting company shuttle to/from the hotel would have cost us an unused car for two days. When we stayed at Tabacon, we had no use for a car. When we went exploring, the car was undoubtedly an asset to be exploited. AMEX Platinum gave us the option of declining add'l insurance coverage. Call your CC company to determine.

Silica Gel packets : I wish someone had told me sooner.

Great advice, Shillmac and Molly2. Thank you. ;~)
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 12:11 PM
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You have gotten great advice (as usual) so far. I'll just add my 2 cents.

1. Another recommendation for the Arenal Paraiso. Great lava viewing from the comfort of your porch or bed. Get the deluxe cabin. We were also impressed with the cleanliness of the rooms and common areas.

2. We enjoyed the canopy tour at the AP also. Very professional guides.

3. If you're looking for a large-scale resort for your 3 days at the beach, you might want to look into the Los Suenos Marriott. If you're looking for something more intimate and Costa Rican in flavor, then this wouldn't be the place. The advantage of Los Suenos is that it is not as long a drive from Arenal/Monteverde. It is also closer to San Jose. You could do a day trip to Manuel Antonio.

4. For mosquito repellant, we used a combo sun-screen/insect repellant product that contained some deet. It was called "Repel". None of us had a problem at all.

5. For clothing, we wished we had brought more of those ventilated-type shirts, such as coolmax, (nike's brand is called dri-fit and adidas' is clima-lite). They're lightweight, dry fast and let the air flow through. We only brought 2 each, and kept washing and wearing them (I brought a little bottle of woolite).

Have a great trip!
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 05:00 PM
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TripleSecDelay, I should have said that in MY experience, gortex would made our trip much more enjoyable, and we didn't need 100% deet. But then, we spent a LOT of time outdoors, trudging through rain and cloud forests, often in especially humid, rainy conditions - on the Osa and Tortuguero {:
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 06:35 PM
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You guys are fantastic! I'm learning so much from your advice. (Which is also causing me to build a long list of follow-up questions.) But first I'll do some searches to see if the answers are already in other threads.
My sister has discovered the web site to La Miraposa at Manuel Antonio. I think her heart is set on it. To me it looks a little too much like a Honeymoon destination. I'm leaning toward the Si Como No or the Mango Moon. Any pros or cons out there you can share?
If you had a choice between the Los Lagos or the LosLomas del Volcan at Arenal, which would you go for?
We've narrowed Monteverde down to Finca Valverde or Los Cipreces. (The owner of Los Cipreces is also the director of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and the Sky Trek Canopy Tour which we are planning to take.)
The silicon advice is great.
I hate bug repellants of all kinds. Don't like to put chemicals on my skin. I realize that they will be a necessary evil though. My husband has uses Repel when he golfs in the south. Sounds like your telling me that may be strong enough?
Geezzz, I'd better shut up until I get my thoughts together.
Thanks again.
If you ever want to visit Italy (especially Umbria) I'm your go-to girl for info. <grin> I'd love to return the favor.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 06:49 PM
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Petsburg,
If it helps any, I don't like repellants either and seldom use them even in Costa Rica. I did spray some Ultrathon when we were on the Osa simply because of the humidity and density of the forests. It seemed more necessary. I seldom use it at the beaches and areas up north. But then I don't usually have a problem with bites. My husband and kids have more trouble and have to use it more often. So it depends, and it's possible you won't need any!

You might be able to buy some individually packaged wipes and keep them with you to use only if you see you are going to need them. Of course, with those no-see-ums on some of the beaches (Tamarindo is notorious around dusk), you won't know you got them until the next day!
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 09:14 PM
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Petsburg,

For what it's worth, the best meal I had in Costa Rica was the lunch I had at La Mariposa, overlooking the Pacific. The food, staff and view were wonderful. The swim up bar looked great also, but we didn't get to try it out.

My husband is usually a "mosquito magnet" on all camping trips we've ever been on, but he did not get bitten once in CR. (He only used the Repel once or twice)

I might take you up on that Italy offer, as we're heading to Lago Maggiore next summer. I've ventured onto Fodor's Europe board, but it seems kind of um ... let's just say not nearly as pleasant and helpful as the Latin America board.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 10:11 PM
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Okay everyone - you made me do it. I went into the garage and looked : sure enough, the 100% DEET we used is made by REPEL. A 1-ounce pump spray sold for $4.00 at Target and its quite compact, diameter of a quarter, and 5" tall.

If a person doesn't like chemicals, we also had with us mesh pants and mesh jackets that a person wears over their clothes. I have to admit that we used mesh nets made specifically for a person's head when we went to the observation point at Los Lagos because it was pitch-black. We were not bitten.

Our travelmates on our most recent trip will support the presence of the no-see-ums at Tamarindo. We didn't go there, but heard about the bites.

You're right about the polyester/cotton blend fabrics that are available now. Worth their weight in gold. You don't have to pay full price, either. If you have time to shop, check whatever discount stores are in your part of the world. Here, we have SportMart, Marshall's, Ross that markdown first-rate $60 clothing like the Dri-Fit from Nike and Climalite from Adidas to under $20.

Petsburg : I cannot speak for the Los Lomas. We did, however explore Arenal Paraiso and would have stayed there simply to experience another point of lodging if we hadn't already settle in to Los Lagos. Each of the cabinas is aimed directly at the active side of the Volcano.

We really liked Los Lagos. I posted on another thread and have copied/pasted here for you.

We had great experiences at Los Lagos. For $85.00 per night, including tax and a nice buffet breakfast, we had a room in their newest building (rooms 201-206) at the top of their grounds with an unobstructed view of the volcano's lava flows - visible only at night. The car-sized rocks can be seen and heard tumbling down the face of the volcano during the day, but are not glowing orange. They leave white smoke puffs as they skip down the mountain.
Anway, a remote-controlled A/C, a remote-controlled TV, two Queen sized beds with trundles, small fridge, safe, hair dryer, tub/shower, rear porch with bench overlooking valley and sunrise, front porch with small table + 2 chairs providing volcano views, around the clock security, an observation point accessible only by 4x4 (or the ankle express), hot pool, cool pool, slides, koi pond, crocodile farm, etc.

Keep in mind that smaller rooms were offered to us at the same price. They have an Arenal Paraiso feel to them as they are pointed directly at the volcano. The 200 Bldg is not. From our bed in room 201, you couldn't see the volcano. You could hear it!! The rooms such as 137 allow a 90 degree neck crane for a direct view of the volcano. I wanted this room, but because it was not the newest bldg and was a single Queen sized bed, my spouse convinced me to opt for the larger room w/2 Queen beds. Beware the water pressure in the shower - I'm pretty sure it rains harder around 3pm.

(if you have email, I have .jpgs)

Juan Carlos is the Manager, we also worked with Robert and Alejandra at the front desk. Night watchman is Angel (no English). Everyone in the office speaks English. My Spanish provides humor for the locals and gets the job done.

If you're a shutterbug, take a tripod and a zoom lens. It's a little like fishing and can be equally frustrating when shooting with a digital camera with a delay between the time you press the button and the shutter's reaction time. We're happy to say that ours were the best lava pix of the 7 cameras in our group from California. We just got lucky, that's all.

For $15 per person, you can visit another hot springs location ON the same main road around the volcano called Baldi Termae. They have restaurant, massage, beverages, and nine pools of varying temps and sizes. Not a 4-star resort like Tabacon, but worth it for us. My spouse and I had the entire place to ourselves from 2:30 until about 6:00 p.m. I thanked him for "renting out the whole place just for me". ;-)

I suggest that you bring your favorite CDs for the rental car, and be sure to request one with a CD player and automatic transmission. My feet are also on vacation and don't want to be shifting gears.

When we travel, we take our 2-way radios for a little more warm 'n' fuzzy feeling when separated on the resort grounds. Same thing we use at ski resorts or camping.

Be sure to let us know how your trip goes!!
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Old Sep 14th, 2004, 03:11 PM
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lvk...I've heard that about the Fodors Italy. I'm sorry you had that experience. You should come to check out SlowTalk. The Italy section of the message boards dominates there. And the people are fantastic. (You guys here on the Latin America board remind me of the ST Italy board. Maybe that is why I feel so comfortable here.)
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Old Sep 14th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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NOW...Our revised plans...
We arrive at 1:45 on Monday, 1NOV.
Plan to pick up our car and drive to Arenal.
Have decided on a superior room at the Arenal Paraiso.
From Arenal we go to Monteverde.
Have decided on the Hotel Finca Valverde.
We leave Monteverde for Manuel Antonio.
We are still waffling between La Miraposa, Mango Moon, and Si Como No. Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.
Leave MA for San Jose for our final two days. Flying out morning of 11th.
We are trying to decide how to split our first 8 nights.
We don't get to Arenal until just before nightfall. And the longest drive will be from Monteverde to MA.
Should we do a 3/3/2 split? A 2/3/3 split? or a 3/2/3 split?
We're so confused....
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