Rookie In Costa Rica - Bombin' It ... But Need Help

Mar 30th, 2009, 05:44 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
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Rookie In Costa Rica - Bombin' It ... But Need Help

Hello great Fodorites of the Costa Rican board! (you CR junkies know who you are, tully, shillmac, janenicole, volancogirl, steph270, etc. etc.) I've been feverishly reading all your entries going back for, like, a year almost and feel like I've got a strong handle on the country, the sights, the places, etc. Thank you so much for the wealth of information you've already been willing to share. As a CR rookie, it's helped me tremendously.

Now I'm asking for a little more help.

Planning our 5th anniversary trip -- we always said we'd do it big, and CR has been a place we've talked about for almost a decade. We're flying into SJ on Wednesday, June 24th (the day before our anniversary) at 11:50 a.m. Leaving on July 5th at 8 a.m. -- so 11 nights, 12 days.

My wife and I -- who are in our mid-to-late 30s (me being the 'late' live by the motto laid out in that book "The Beach" -- we're travelers, not tourists. We like authenticity. We like locals. We like boutique hotels. And we like experiencing the country we go to. We also like adventure. We've traveled to the Greek Isles, Berlin, Jamaica, Cozumel, Mexico -- but, by far, this is one we've had penciled on the map for a while.

My real question for all of you is on the sequencing of the itinerary. We've settled on a few things that we most definitely want to do/see:

* RAFT THE MIGHTY PACUARE: We've rafted in Vancouver and twice in West Virginia (the Gaulley), so we feel like we're veterans of the rivers. Heard lots of great things about Pacuare. I'm ready to bomb the river like it was Baghdad.

* EXPERIENCE BOSQUE DEL CABO: Gotta do it. Watched a YouTube promo and fell in love. Can't wait to just immerse ourselves in its magic.

* SIT AT THE FOOT OF A VOLANCO & ZIP LINE THRU THE JUNGLE: My wife -- a middle school science teacher -- is so excited about the idea of being near an active volcano. I'm down for some fast, high, long ziplines. Arenal seems like the spot to meet both those quests.

* BEACH LIFE W/O THE BUSTLE: We'd really like to spend some quality time sittin' around a quiet beach community, coolin' out and hittin' a few Playas. MA sounds not our style. But Dominical and Uvita exude a certain charm on the boards.

Here's my main issue: How the hell do I fit it all in!? Or even, can I do it!?

Right now I'm tentatively thinking the following (although any of this sequencing could change):

* Fly into SJ and the fly to PJ and spend 4 nights at BdC (Wednesday thru Saturday). Read where some of the Fodorites are going to be down there at that time -- what luck! Hoping to nail down Tucan, Mariposa or Congo to stay in ... Kinda want the breeze and the seclusion that folks talk of.

* Try to leave on the first flight out of PJ back to SJ. Haven't looked it up but anyone know generally when that is?

* Get to Arenal somehow that same day and spend 2 nights. Is there flights from SJ to Arenal? One person mentioned it but I couldn't tell if they meant Liberia. If we can fly, we'd prefer to spend the dough. If not, we'll rent a car and drive. We want to get there in the afternoon, hit the Ecotermales at night and then do the SkyTrek ziplining the next day. One more night and then be out. I know, I know, the Cano Negro is great and we'd love to do it but -- priorities! Maybe if we could do both SkyTrek and Cano Negro in one day?

* Somehow get from Arenal to Dominical to spend 3 nights. Is this a crazy idea? Is there a way to fly? Maybe to Quepos then hire a taxi or driver to take us to Dominical? Maybe Dominical isn't even the place we want to be for the beach R&R. Other suggestions? This is the part of the trip that seems less firmed up.

* Get back to SJ by Friday afternoon (leaving Sunday). Stay somewhere, leaning toward either Orquideas Inn or Grano d’Oro. Have an outfitter pick us up early on Saturday morning and go whitewater raft on the Pacuare.

* Leave early Sunday morning for the sad trip home.

OK, so, whew! That's what you all get with your loads of information!

Anyways. What do you think? Is it do-able?

1. Should we re-juggle in the order in some way?

2. Is the Dominical leg logical?

3. In terms of the whitewater rafting, is it best to just do it out of SJ or should we plan to go to into TURRIALBA itself?

Man, this is one tough country to plan for. Probably my biggest task since trying to figure out the sequencing of our ORIGINAL honeymoon in the 150+-islands of Greece!

Guess that means it's gonna be awesome!

Thanks in advance for A.) reading through this entire post; and B.) responding to it.

Can't wait for the "pura vida" life!
wickedslick is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:18 PM
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Others can and will give you better advice, but why not just have your beach time near Puerto Jimenez? You'll be down there already -- might as well make use of it. We just DIDN'T do that, and I sort of wish we had. Would've been a lot less travel and energy.

Go to BdC for 4 nights and then transfer over to Iguana Lodge or Yellow Coco or somewhere like that for 3 nights -- sounds wonderful to me. Once you see the color of the water down there, you'll want to get into it, trust me.

This will give you more energy and maybe more days at Arenal.
plumboy is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:25 PM
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Everything sounds good--hey, it would be just GREAT if you guys could join us in June. We think it's going to be a really good time, of course!

I have one suggestion: Dominical/Uvita area is pretty neat, but getting pretty developed as well, lots of real estate signs last time I was there, etc. How about staying in PJ for 2-3 nights at Iguana Lodge? Then you could do some kayaking, take the boat over to the animal sanctuary, explore the little town, etc. Iguana Lodge has that wonderful long streth of deserted beach, Playa Plantanares. This would conserve some of your time for sure. AND the club rooms are now $105--breakfast included, a very good value as the rooms are nice with bathrobes, etc. Ask for beachfront--it's upstairs and over the bar/restaurant. We're gonna be there as well, I think AFTER our BdC stay. You can also do the more expensive Iguana rooms with meals included if you'd prefer.

So I'm thinking, 4 nights BdC, 2 nights Iguana Lodge, fly back to San Jose on the 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. flight, either Sansa or Nature Air. Sansa probably more convenient since it is right there at the international terminal, or next door. Rent a car and drive (2.5-3 hours) to Arenal, 3 nights. Drive back to San Jose, stay 2 nights IN TOWN Grano de Oro or Don Carlos or Hotel Britania, raft the Pacuare on your last day. Orquideas is in Alajuela, where the airport is--about 20-25 minutes WEST of San Jose. The outfitters don't pick up there. Check with Aventuras Naturales or Rios Tropicales.

Whaddya think? If you get down to Puerto Jimenez from BdC early in the day and check into Iguana Lodge early, you'd have a little extra time. Animal Sanctuary you could do in the a.m., kayak in the p.m. (it's pretty neat). OR drop a day at BdC and stay an extra night at Iguana for extra beach chill time (the hammocks are nice!). OR you could do Iguana Lodge first. . .

Actually, you could reverse the order quite easily, but it isn't usually a good idea to fly back from the Osa the same day as your departure flight for the U.S. You could, though, put the Osa between Arenal and your last 2 nights in San Jose. We'd see you at BdC either way.. .

Good luck with the planning--it's half the fun!
shillmac is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:27 PM
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plumboy, we were of like minds, posting about the same time!
shillmac is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:36 PM
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Never expected a reply so fast! Thank you both! I'm definitely going to start researching Iguana Lodge. Makes a lot of sense and if you still get the beach ... Appreciate the great advice.
wickedslick is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 07:47 PM
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I like your enthusiasm! I will almost always rec Bosque and certainly at a time when we will be holding a GTG of sorts. Mariposa is the most private, though at Tucan I felt pretty secluded as well. Congo is a little closeer to other cabinas (but you can still wander around on the deck in your pj's and I don't think anyone could see you) but the view....the Lapa is nice as well, it is on the other side of Congo.

Couple differnt could fly from PJ (early am) to Quepos but it would still go thru SJO. Or by the time you add up fares plus a taxi from Quepos to Dominical (and the time) you may be able to get the same rate or less for a taxi to Dominical, and see the area - though probably be about double the time.

There are a lot of really nice hotels in the area - I'm staying at Shelter from the Storm before I go to Bosque but looked at several around there - Paradise Breezes, Cascadas Farallas, Cuna del Angel, Rancho Pacifico and Villas de las Aves. I picked SFTS mainly for the small size, nice owners and central location. Agree with Plum though you could get some beach time in down near Bosque as well and would be easy to set-up.

You can fly from PJ to Arenal but you will most likely have to change planes in SJO. Could be pricey, to save a little you could also fly out early from PJ then have a private driver take you to Arenal, would possibly be less. I'd punch in your dates at Nature Air or Sansa and see what's coming up.

Don't think you'd have time to do SkyTrek and Cano Negro in the same day, but SkyTrek does operate almost all day long so you could see if you could fit in the day you arrive or the morning you depart.

Not much help on the rafting, too wussy myself. What a wonderful anniversary trip you're planning, hopefully we'll be at Bosque the same time and can offer you a toast.
tully is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 08:12 PM
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Looked up Iguana Lodge. Wow! One question: Where is that exactly located? It never says on their site, other than "4 meters" from PJ. Is it on the Bay or the Pacific side? Looks incredible.
wickedslick is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 08:20 PM
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Very close to PJ, like 5 miles or less. It faces the Golfo Dulce.
tully is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 08:52 PM
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Happy anniversary!

Sounds like you've been doing your research. ;-) Yes, some of us will be at BDC end of June and it would be great to meet you guys. I think shillmac gives good options and order. Logistically, it might be easier in the amount of time you have to stay at Iguana Lodge, but I wouldn't dismiss Dominical/Uvita entirely. For me and how I want to round out my upcoming trip I feel that Dominical/Uvita will have more to offer than Iguana Lodge would. Just my first time to that area though and staying at Shelter from the Storm (same time as tully), and really looking forward to it. Also spending the last couple of nights at Orchideas and leaning towards rafting the Pacuare at the end of the trip. Definitely don't miss Arenal, although it would be nice to have 3 nights there.

You really can't go wrong with any of the choices you're contemplating. It will be a great trip!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 07:39 AM
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Wickedslick - We flew Nature Air from PJ to San Jose, then to Arenal. It worked out really well for us. My husband has a long daily commute in traffic, so spending time in the car on vacation is not enjoyable for him.

As hip mentioned, three nights in Arenal would be nice. We only stayed two, which was better than nothing, but three would have been perfect.

Have fun planning!
janenicole is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 11:06 AM
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Wickedslick - Just a few words on Dominical and Uvita, which we just returned from 10 days ago. You two sound like you are very active. The town of Dominical itself is a surfer hangout with cheap rooms although just a couple Km out of town there are some wonderful places to stay and some very nice restaurants along the coastal road.
You said you are looking for some "beach R&R." If you are into swimming, there are dangerous riptides and undertow at Playa Dominical, and that applies to most, but not all of the beaches southward past Ojochal. Playa Uvita and Playa Colonia were pretty much void of people for miles and had waves in the manageable 8' to 10' range when we were there. If you just want to hang out on a beach, these will satisfy your need. But if you want to do more, someone else may have some better advice than I do.
Although we stayed just south of Dominical, we took trips each day (hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling, whale watching, etc) and all but visiting Hacienda Baru had starting points in Uvita, Ojochal and Sierpe.
Only after we finished each day did we hit a beach for a brief swim in the large waves. I couldn't imagine spending an entire day sitting on any of the beaches - you would absolutely fry! Secondly, you sound too active to just sit around at a beach for a day. Frankly, it sounds boring. Mind you, it's just one person's opinion. I had a trip report which you may have read and steph270 had an extensive one, both within the last 10 days about things around Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal.
Lastly, (regrettably) we didn't go all the way down to BdC and therefore rented a cr in San Jose and made the drive to Dominical via the mountain route through St. Isidro.
Wherever you end up, have a blast!
brainc24 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 11:20 AM
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Wickedslick -
Firstly Happy Anniversary!
Second of all, you will have a great vacation with any of the options you have listed.
I think PJ would be fine but I also think Dominical area is still an option if you go from BdC to dominical either by a driver or rental?? I think since you are flying to most of your destinations, you would find the drive interesting, to say the least... You could also do the flying route but you would still have an hr drive from quepos so why not drive from PJ? I would totally understand if you had a long commute to work everyday why you would want to skip the driving...I would too. I sit behind a desk all day and have a 10 min.ride to work so the drives in CR, for myself, are part of the adventure and culture.
If you skip the driving, the order of your itinerary will work too. Is the rafting a major priority or something to save for your second trip to CR ?? Otherwise you could do 4 nites Bdc,, 3 nites Domin/Uvita (or PJ if you are leaning in that direction), and then 3 nites arenal and 1 nite alajuela and fly out?? This might slow the pace down a bit...Just a thought....have a blast whatever you decide!!
steph270 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 11:36 AM
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Hi all! I've been lurking around for a week or so researching Costa Rica for a Feb or March 2010 trip -- really enjoying and learning so much from all the recent posts and trip reports!

You've all totally sold me on BdC, and like wickedslick I'm thinking about where else to go to round out the trip. I'm curious about the reco's in this thread about going to Iguana Lodge for beach R&R after BdC. If I understand correctly, there is a beach you can walk to from BdC? Can you BdC fans elaborate on the BdC beach and why it wouldn't satisfy a beach R&R need? Iguana Lodge looks fabulous, but since it's close to BdC it seems like the same sort of activities (kayaking, boat tours, etc) would be available at BdC. So is Iguana Lodge just about the beach or are there other things to do that would be different?

When you get to BdC is it a pain to leave to do activities (or maybe you love hanging out there so much you don't want to leave?!?)
bniemand is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 12:10 PM
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bnie - glad you've come out from lurking

There are beautiful beaches right by BdC. Couple of differences from a place like Iguana Lodge though. At IL you will have beach right at the hotel, so it'd be easy to run back if you need a drink or forgot something. Plus it's very very long, so you can walk for miles if you want to. At BdC, the beaches (3 of them) are a good 1 hour walk down the Golfo Dolce trail, then you can arrange a pick-up. Or, I guess you could get a drop-off there as well, but not as much fun! Of the 3 beaches, the last is the nicest to lay out at and swim, it's never crowded. So one you have almost at your door aand the other takes a little effort. If you'd like to see the 3 beaches - they start at around pic #77 here -

Another difference is that IL is much closer to Puerto Jimenez so if you want to try out different restaurants or bars then you would be a few minutes away, at BdC it'd be really too far to bother. Plus the r/t transportation would be cheaper. It's very easy to do activities from Bosque, have done the horseback riding, the Animal Refuge twice but not a huge amount. It's like you said, it's not so much a pain to leave as you really don't want to leave - there is too much to do on site!
tully is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 12:37 PM
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Thanks Tully! Very helpful compare-and-contrast.

Another question for you wickedslick we're interested in whitewater rafting. After he mentioned the Pacuare I started clicking around and found this:
A 2-day rafting trip with an overnight at Pacuare Lodge which looks like an amazing place to stay. Has anyone done this rafting trip and stayed here?

Any other rafting recommendations?
bniemand is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 02:41 PM
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Actually bniemand, in addition to the beaches tully mentions (hi tully!) which are all on the gulf side, you can also hike down to the Pacific beach from BdC. The waves are very powerful so it's definitely not a place to swim, but it's beautiful there and you can find all sorts of cool tide pools.

The hike down is steep (but then again, stretches of the hike down to the Golfo Dulce beaches are a bit steep too...).

The BdC/IL combo is probably optimal if you want easy beach access that offers safe waves for swimming.

Back to wickedslick,

I agree with others that 3 nights at Arenal are better than 2 if you can swing it. Your overall itinerary sounds very fun! I'll be one of the group at BdC in June. See you there...
cmerrell is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 04:10 PM
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YES my husband and I did the Pacuare trip with the overnight. It was awesome! I would highly recommend (although it was more than 10 yrs. ago). We stayed at Casa Turire(sp) the night before and the night after (great place, by the way). The river trip offers great scenery, adequate cabin accomodations (you can hear the rapids all night long), good food and even entertainment (provided by the tour guides). You are given a lantern at the end of the evening for the hike back to your cabin. Very romantic, but also quite a ride - class IV!! Have fun!
Jillin is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 07:38 PM
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So much great info and insight! Wife and I are really leaning toward BdC and IL, just to cut down on the travel time and still have time for being beach bums. The wife wants to get some massages and do some yoga, etc. etc. Guess I'll have to plan for Dominical another time. Wish we could follow the advice and do Arenal for 3 nights, but the rafting is such a critical part that we're both excited about. Dammit! I knew I should have just taken two weeks off!

bniemand, if you can swing staying at the river I'd do it. We just won't have the time. Both times we've gone rafting (Vancouver and West Virginia) the night after rafting is one of the best -- meeting and bonding with new people and the guides, unwinding by a big-time river ... nothin' better.

No wonder so many people come back over and over to CR. You can plan so many different kinds of trips and see so many different kinds of places!
wickedslick is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 07:49 PM
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So just got word from Leonardo at BdC. Tucan, Congo, all taken. I asked him to check on Lapa. But he did say Mariposa is open. Isn't that the one with the tub? Which would folks go for if it came down to Lapa or Mariposa? If we can lock it down, looks like we'll be there from June 24th thru June 27th!!
wickedslick is offline  
Mar 31st, 2009, 08:09 PM
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Wow awesome, that was quick! You're going to love it I'm sure. And you're right, the BdC-IL combo would help squeeze in some time for other things. Yes indeed, that's why so many of us keep going back, so much still to see!

Hmmm....Lapa or Mariposa. Honestly either. Lapa is next to Congo and has an awesome view and deck, I liked it a lot. Mariposa is the last one, so it abuts the jungle. Meaning - you will often have monkeys watching you shower or bathe (yes, it has a tub). The patio is stone and doesn't jut out out like the Congo & Lapa ones but still has a nice view. To be hinest the only thing I didn't like about Mariposa was the walk back there at night, seemed like very long in the dark and I would freak myself out, but you obviously won't be alone so that's not a problem. So, again either but maybe an edge to Mariposa for the privacy & tub.

We'll get there the day after you, make sure they keep the Imperials on ice!
tully is offline  

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