Please Critique My CR Itinerary

Old Feb 26th, 2004, 11:05 PM
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Please Critique My CR Itinerary

So, we bought our plane tickets today for July 17 to Aug. 4. I know that is a longs ways off, but here is the potential itinerary we've put together. Please let me know if this is reasonable or if you have suggestions.

Also, what areas do we need to have a car and which ones can we get by without? Do we need a 4x4 in any of these areas in July?

Any ideas regarding our activities? Let me know if there is something / somewhere we should skip or add. All suggestions are appreciated!

1st night, Alajeula - Vida Tropical (flight arrives at 6:30 PM)

3 nights Montezuma - El Sano Banano bungalows
activities - Tortuga Island, trip to Mal Pais, possible horseback to waterfall

3 nights Manuel Antonio - Villas Nicolas ocean view room
activities - Manuel Antonio Park, possible mangrove tour

3 nights Arenal - Arenal Paraiso (deluxe?) bungalows
activities - Caño Negro, volcano hiking, hot springs, and hanging bridges

2 nights Puerto Viejo de Talemanca - La Costa de Papito bungalows
activities - ?

3 nights Bocas del Toro - Some combination of Casa Acuario, Pargo Rojo, Al Natural, Punta Caracol or other suggestions?
activities - boat tour including Zapatillos Keys, snorkeling

2 nights La Paz Waterfall Gardens - Peace Lodge
activities - tour waterfall gardens, Poás Volcano, possible coffee plantation

Last night, Alajeuela - Vida Tropical (flight out at 7:30 AM next day)
activities - maybe visit San Jose for afternoon

Thanks for your input!
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 05:32 AM
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I am not familiar with all of your hotel choices, but I ahve heard nothing but wonderful review of the Peace Lodge, and Villas Nicolas is very nice. If you havent' booked yet, try to get condo 8 lower, its got the best view, and is near the entrance. 8 upper has a better view, but is quite a lot smaller.
Other than that, your trip looks great. We are actually going to go to arenal on Tuesday as we have relatives coming to visit us here in Manuel Antonio, and we want them to see it. We are staying at the arenal Lodge this trip, and will let you know how it is when we get back on Thursday night. Have a great time here, Walt
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 05:35 AM
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I forgot to address teh car issue. If you can afford it rent a 4x4 and keep it for the whole trip. Its just so much easier to have it. Taxis are cheap, but right now getting one in Manuel antonio is a headache, and a minimum of 30 minutes to wait. A lot of times they will simply say there aren't any. (unfortunately we do not have a car here so this is really bugging me lately). But in many areas you will be in areas that if you do not have a car, you will need to wait for a cab to do anything.
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 10:01 AM
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Thanks for all the info. Anyone have any more advice?
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 11:26 AM
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Since you are going to Manuel Antonio, I would not do Tortuga Island. The pictures are prettier than it really is. I went to Tortuga Island on my Jan trip. Were you planning on doing the catamaran tour to Tortuga Island? I'm not sure where Montezuma is.
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 12:29 PM
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The tour from Montezuma is much cheaper than the one from San Jose or Jaco, since Montezuma is on the southern tip of the Nicoya pinensula. We may end up skipping it, but I was thinking there may be some good snorkeling there.
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Old Mar 5th, 2004, 06:41 PM
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Well... I've changed my itinerary just a little bit. We have also decided to rent a 4x4. We will be leaving it at the Puerto Viejo B&B while in Bocas. Here is the latest:

1st night, Alajeula - Vida Tropical (flight arrives at 6:30 PM)

3 nights Montezuma - El Sano Banano bungalows
activities - Tortuga Island, trip to Mal Pais, possible horseback to waterfall

3 nights Manuel Antonio - Villas Nicolas ocean view room
activities - Manuel Antonio Park, possible mangrove tour

3 nights Arenal - Arenal Paraiso deluxe bungalow
activities - Caño Negro, volcano hiking, hot springs, and hanging bridges

1 night Puerto Viejo de Talemanca - Puerto Viejo B&B

3 nights Bocas del Toro - Suggestions for accomodations ???
activities - boat tours including Zapatillos Keys, snorkeling

3 nights La Paz Waterfall Gardens - Peace Lodge
activities - tour waterfall gardens, Poás Volcano, coffee plantation, Lankastar gardens

Last night, Alajeuela - Vida Tropical (flight out at 7:30 AM next day)
activities - visit San Jose for afternoon


Any new suggestions or comments, anyone??
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 07:05 AM
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Just looked at Vida Tropical's webv site - it looks like a great deal! Please be sure to write a trip report when you get back and let us know how it was.
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 11:35 AM
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Just returned from CR last night and thought is was a wonderful place to vacation. Spent the last night a the Peace Lodge and it is quite a place. The rooms are really something else, very uniquely designed with great views (and terrific beds). Visited Poas Volcano and lucky enough to have the clouds lift for pictures. Also went to the Tres Sisters Coffee Plantation which is nearby but tough to find.

We spent the other 7 nights at the Marriott Los Suenos, near Jacko. It is a very nice property with a nice golf course and marina. The fishing was awsome (but expensive).

Took a day trip (50 km) down to Manual Antonio. The beaches are beautiful but the park is small and can be seen easily in a day. By the way, the park is closed on Mondays. Unless you are looking for beach time, I'm not sure what you would do down there for the other days. The Rainmaker might be an option. Its about 15 km north of Quepos. After you turn of the main road you travel for about 7 km on a really rough dirt road. Frankly, we stopped on the way back from Manual Antonio and were kind of wiped out and it looked like it was going to be some work so we passed.

Another possibility is to drive up to Carara Biological Reserve which is about 15 km north of Jacko. The road between Capos and Carara is very good - relatively straight, wide and few pot holes. This park is much larger than Manual Antonio and much more rugged. Tons of birds including the scarlet macows. Saw deer, ant eaters, monkeys, cracodiles and carotti. Unlike Manual Antonio the monkeys seem to be wild and you need to search them out. I would definitly get a guide. We had a fellow by the name of Freddie who really knew his stuff.

Have fun.
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 11:57 AM
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Hmmm, do you think we should spend an extra day somewhere else and only two nights in MA, or should we stop somewhere between MA and Arenal for the night. If so... suggestions?
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 08:01 PM
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You could stop near Jaco for a night and visit Carara. The trails are fairly short and easy to walk on. The longest one is 3.5mi There is also a new place called Taru bari or something like that. Do a search for Percy on this board. He has a good report about it. If you do go to Carara or even stop on the bridge over the Tarcoles to see the crocodiles, do not leave anything in your car. This is a high theft area of items that people leave while sight seeing.
Jaco itself is a surfer town with lots of young people.
Quepos is the fishing village you come to before getting to the hotel "strip" for Manuel Antonio.
Most people seem to enjoy the mangrove tour. There are lots of options for rainforest tours, sunset cruise, fishing, horseback riding.
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 08:08 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions Suzie2. You're always so full of information!
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 08:43 PM
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Glad to help.
Any info on Boca? Saw you posted on at least one other board. Supposedly, Taca is going to have a direct flight from San Jose to Boca del Toro by next year. We are torn between wanting to see Manzanilla which is supposed to be beautiful and then crossing the border or just flying directly to Panama from CR. We also want to drive through some of the Panama highlands to do some bird watching. From there we were going to head back into CR near Golfito somewhere. Probably head back north somewhere near David in Panama. A lot will depend on how much time my husband takes for vacation.
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Old Mar 6th, 2004, 11:42 PM
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I thought about doing a similar circle, but decided we didn't have enough time. A direct flight from San Jose would be awesome! I can't believe they don't have one already.
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Old Mar 7th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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We stayed at Arenal Paraiso 6 weeks ago. It was very nice--perfect view of the current lava flow lines. You can ask them to wake you up if the volcano starts to put on a show.
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Old Mar 7th, 2004, 06:06 PM
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We loved hiking in Cabo Blanco near Montezuma - so different from other areas we had hiked. Montezuma was extremely hot and humid when we were there (June) so we did our activities in the morning and lazed around in the afternoons. The pool at El Sano Banano is wonderful (as is the food and drink at their restaurant).
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Old Mar 8th, 2004, 12:26 PM
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Just returned from 2 wks in CR where we rented a 4x4 (Nissan Frontier crew cab) for the first 9 days, and then flew, boated, taxi'd & bused for the rest.

If we were to do it all over again, we would not rent the car, and we would fly more places. Driving takes SOOOO long, which we knew, but the thing is, there isn't a lot of interesting stops/scenery between the "known places" of interest. From Quepos to Puerto Jimenez, for example, there was about 4 hours of driving through flat African oil palm plantations, which isn't interesting scenery. Then the 2 hours from Puerto Jimenez to Carate, which we were looking forward to because of the National Geographic Traveler CR guidebook so highly recommended it had a total of 10 minutes of good views. The rest of the time was negotiating huge ruts & holes, balancing the tires on the I-beams of bridges because the bridge surface was missing for a 3-foot stretch, driving through streams, and bouncing back and forth against a locked seat belt praying that the odometer was wrong and that the drive would shortly end.

At nights, we were limited to certain hotels because we needed secure parking (most high-end hotels have this, but not budget ones).

When we picked up the car, we were immediately stressed out because the agent noted every single minor scratch. Swirls in the clear coat were written down -- even one spot of bird crap that hadn't been completely washed off. We just knew that any ding or scratch was going to cost $1000!

We needed the high clearance of this 4x4, and we needed the 4wd several times -- even needed the 4-low gearing because of such severely steep gravel roads in places 1st gear was geared too high!

The rental cost $698 for 9 days, plus about $60 in gas. This would have bought several plane tickets & taxis, and would have given us more time at our destinations, rather than staring at more palm plantations.

The car advantage: we did enjoy stopping & eating at sodas & fruit stands. We *much* preferred the CR we experienced outside of the tourist destinations.
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Old Mar 9th, 2004, 08:35 AM
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I am staying at Vida Tropical next Friday night (3/19) and I will let you know how it is when I get back! I've heard very good things from a few of the people listed as references on the web page, tho none of them were there very recently. Jose Pellaya, the owner, has been very congenial in my email exchanges with him.
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Old Mar 9th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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Jose is a great guy. I don't stay at Vida Tropical, but somehow ended up conversing with him about Costa Rica. I think he answered a question or two I had about 3 or 4 years ago and we've been in touch ever since. He also has a ranch in the country that is a beautiful location. It's about 40 minutes outside of Alajuela.
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Old Mar 10th, 2004, 01:44 PM
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Jose has been very kind to me in our e-mail messages back and forth. I look forward to meeting him!
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