Please help plan our first trip to Costa Rica

Apr 1st, 2005, 05:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 57
Please help plan our first trip to Costa Rica

We are 2 active sixty-something couples planning a first trip to Costa Rica next February. We have 10 days and want to go to Arenal volcano for a couple of nights, Monteverde, Cano Negro and a few days at the beach. We are planning to drive everywhere. Should we fly in and out of San Jose or Liberia or into San Jose and out of Liberia? Can anyone suggest an itineray for us?
maryvh is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 05:01 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 56
Dear maryvh,
Fly into San Jose. The Liberia airport serves people that are going to the north of the country and staying there.... better than those that want to see different places.

I do not suggest that you rent a car for the entire stay that you are here.
Traveling around is difficult because of mountain drop offs, animals and "loco" drivers. Perhaps renting a car at different locations might help you better.

If you are going to Arenal, a transport cost about $120 and will stop here and there along the way and show you the fun things. I would stay in San Jose if you want to see the capital or in Alajuela near the airport if you want to avoid the big city. It is easier to leave Alajuela to go outward.

I send my guest (I have a private vacation planning service.) to Arenal by transport. If they wish to rent a car there are several agencies there.
Once over all the mountains.... the area around Arenal is lovely.

When in Arenal, there are hot springs, Caño negro tour and lovely things to do around the volcanos. There is a new butterfly garden there. And a beautiful tram ride up to the mountain top to view the lake. You can zip like Tarzan back down or those that wish can tram back down. I would suggest 3 days in Arenal. Or at least, the day you travel up, and two full days more.

From there, the most special way to get to Monteverde is by van and boat.
The companies pick you up at your hotel, take you across the lake to the other side and another van picks you up to go to Monteverde. That saves hours of driving on horrible roads and the view from the center of the lake is awesome!! It is a tour in itself.

In Monteverde, the cloud forest and other reserves, night tours, butterfly farms, cheese factory, etc. make staying up there very special. It is usually cool, even in our summer months. For me, I try to put my guests in Cabins. The real mountain adventure with a special touch.

You hear me talk a lot on here about Manuel Antonio. It is indeed my favorite. Manuel Antonio is about 5 hours from Monteverde and againd, a special transport is the best way to get down off that mountain. Once in Manuel Antonio, rent another car.
You will enjoy the trip a lot better if you are free to see the sites while driving along. That trip will cost you about $140. (gas is very expensive here, too.)

In Manuel Antonio there are two lovely beaches inside the park, a long stretch of one outside the park, tons of hotels in the jungles, trails if you like to hike, horses everywhere like in the other two places, more hanging bridges and a nice mangrove tour to a nearby island.

10 days is a good number depending on which time of day you arrive.

Be sure and have dinner on a mountain top your first or last night.... an experience you won't forget!

HOP [email protected]

hopabout is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 11:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 57
Thanks for the info an transportaion, Hopabout. Any suggestions on a mountaintop restaurant?
maryvh is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 12:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,211
Although private transport is ideal for many people who are nervous about driving in Costa Rica, getting around on your own is fun as well--provided you like to drive and do so with confidence! My husband and I have a great time making our way around the country. Granted, we haven't tackled the Monteverde roads (but won't hesitate when we decide to spend a few days there), but San Jose to Arenal is a piece of cake. So is the road to Manuel Antonio.

So, if you'd PREFER to drive, you can certainly do so--it isn't that bad. If you'd prefer NOT to drive, private transportation is your ticket! You can also transfer in small minivans using the Interbus system--safe and reliable, about $30 per person per transfer. Good luck!
shillmac is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 03:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,098
shillmac--if the Monteverde area roads haven't been worked on just before you get there, don't be surprised if your rental car spends some downtime waiting for repair parts to arrive. We encountered a number of broken down cars on our trip.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2005, 04:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,558
We found the most difficult thing about driving in Costa Rica was finding our way from point A to point B (poorly marked roads) and also the impossible washboard-like road conditions. From Jaco down to Manuel Antonio we often couldn't exceed 10 miles per hour. This was 6 years ago, so I don't know if much has changed since then.

We didn't like San Jose at all and wouldn't recommend spending the night there. Vista del Valle, about 25 minutes away, is an awesome place to stay (do a search here on Fodors) and they can set you up with transportation and/or a rental car if you like. They will pick you up from the San Jose airport. I dream about this place still, even after all these years.
Maggi is offline  

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