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San Jose to Arenal to Miguel Antonio & Back to San Jose

San Jose to Arenal to Miguel Antonio & Back to San Jose

Old May 21st, 2009, 06:22 PM
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San Jose to Arenal to Miguel Antonio & Back to San Jose

We are planning a 4th of July adventure to Costa Rica. We have never been there before and this forum has been EXTREMELY helpful!!! Questions, though... must we go to Arenal or are there other, better volcanoes for viewing pleasure. We are avid hikers and don't mind trekking, but we've noticed that there aren't many accommodations at the other volcanoes. We're arriving in SJO in mid-afternoon and would have to drive up and spend the night, then do our hiking the next morning. Then, drive on to Miguel Antonio the next day. Is that enough time in the volcano region or should we spend 2 nights?

I saw a few posts regarding travel time from Arenal to MA but they were asking about the coastal route. If we take the most direct route, how long should it take? Also, I get pretty car sick just in the mountains of North Carolina here at home, so will I have issues there?

And finally, someone told me there is a "new" highway that just opened between SJO and Jaco, but others I've talked to know nothing about it. What would be our drive time back to the airport from MA?

We appreciate all suggestions and marvel at all of the experienced folks out there! Thank you in advance.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 06:46 PM
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I would spend at least 2 nights in Arenal, 3 if you can spare it. There is so much to do in the area and of course the Arenal itself to watch. I believe it's about 5.5-6 hours from there to Manuel Antonio. Most of the roads are very curvy, if you get carsick I would definitely take something beforehand. It should run you about 3 hours from MA back to SJO, though always good to pad that in case of traffic or delays.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 07:36 PM
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We are taking that route in June, so I will try to give you a heads up after we get back June 27. Happy travels!
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Old May 21st, 2009, 08:51 PM
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Agree that 3 nights is really a better amount of time for Arenal. Lots to see and do around there. Driving by for a day you MIGHT see the volcano, or it might be shrouded in clouds. Definitely take something for your car sickness as the drive is hilly and windy and about 5 1/2 hours from Arenal to MA. Or, you could fly.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 02:02 AM
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I've never gotten carsick until I went to CR - the hilly windy roads surprised me. Now I always take Dramamine and wear Sea Bands. We always spend at least 3 nights in Arenal; there's just so much to see and do there. Like hip said, the volcano is often shrouded in fog and mist; honestly there have been days when I wouldn't even know a volcano was there, so best to maximize your time if you really want to see it. Arenal is definitely the best volcano for viewing because it's active with red lava flow. It took us about 5 hours to go from Arenal to Manuel Antonio; be sure to stop at the Rio Tarcoles bridge to see the crocs. Don't leave any valuables in your car unattended though. Note that the name of the town is Manuel, not Miguel - will make your searching easier. Have fun!!
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 03:40 AM
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Thanks to all and sorry for the misspelling of Manuel Antonio! Any recommodations on accommodations at Arenal? I've looked at several but don't know which one is best for views/quality.

I also found an all day tour package for about $190 each that takes us on a boat ride through the rain forest there, a tour of the volano, hot springs and lunch and dinner. Is this something we should do or go it on our own? Thanks again.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 11:29 AM
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Hi, You definitely need to do Arenal. It's the best volcano, with the most active lava action, plus the best hotels with hot springs. I definitely recommend 2 nights!

The most direct way is inland and it's about 3-4 hours. The new highway, isn't due to open til 2010. Plus, I don't think it will affect the drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio.

Hope this helps!
Marina K. Villatoro
http://travelexperta.com
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 12:10 PM
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Thanks Marina:

We are currently looking at 3 hotels at Arenal: Los Lagos, Magic Mountain (due to someone else's recommendation on this site) and Volcano Lodge. All look pretty close to La Fortuna and seem quite nice for the price. It appears that only Los Lagos has their own hot springs, though.

Any thoughts?
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 01:40 PM
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I would skip magic mountain, just imho. It's a big boxy hotel and is on the 'green' side of the volcano. I'd look into Arenal Observatory, Lost Iguana, Arenal Lodge, Arenal Paraiso, Silencio del Campo etc or others with character. All depends on who is traveling with you & budget. Look into Sunset Tours for day trips, very good company.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 02:15 PM
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We liked Arenal Lodge when we visited Arenal, but I would trust any of tully's recs. They've all gotten plenty of good reviews. You can check out the map on www.arenal.net to see where the current lava flow is (it changes direction/location occasionally). I think Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Lodge and Lost Iguana are still within the viewing cone. You'll see the volcano from all over the area (provided it's not socked in by fog), but you won't be able to see the lava flow from everywhere.

I'll second the recommendation of Sunset Tours as a good outfit to do tours with in the area.

I did giggle just a tiny bit over Miguel Antonio. A perfectly honest mis-spelling; especially when you haven't been there yet! Maybe Miguel is Manuel's less famous brother? ;-)

Costa Rica is wonderful. I bet you'll love it!
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 02:54 PM
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We love the Lost Iguana; we have our third trip there in the works. It's on the lava side with great views. Hope it wasn't rude of me to point you towards the right name.

Agree with Sunset Tours; we loved them.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 03:10 PM
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I've only stayed at Los Lagos out of your original 3 and it's definitely a fun place to stay, especially if you're with family, because of all of the on-site things including pools, hot springs and slides.

However, it's true that if you want a place with more character AND hot springs El Silencio del Campo has all that and more. Wonderful little bungalows and beautiful grounds, smaller and owned by locals (stayed here in 2007 and Los Lagos in 2008).

Not sure which hot springs your tour includes, but highly recommend Eco-Thermales. Also, if you book ziplining with Sunset Tours they use a really great company that has 11 ziplines (one that is 780 meters). You start off by taking a tractor up to a platform overlooking the falls, hike up a ways from there and after the zipping all the lines you take a short horseback ride.

Desafio Adventures offers some great tours too like waterfall rappelling and we really enjoyed the cultural tour.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 05:52 PM
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Yikes, I hope my giggling comment didn't come across as rude! I definitely didn't mean for it to. You were very helpful in pointing out the correct name, VG.

Please pardon my goofy sense of humor, beachmountainhounds!
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:56 PM
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c, I didn't think you were rude. I thought I might have been - lol!
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 05:28 AM
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None have you have been rude, I thought my error was funny, too! Can you tell who's never been to Costa Rica???? My only fear is that once we're down there we're never going to want to leave!

Thank you so much for all of the advice on Arenal, now another question... I've looked at lots of places in MA (that would be Manuel, not his brother Miguel) and tons seem great, but now I'm considering Hotel Monterey del Mar in Playa Esterillos (again, maybe not the correct spelling). While the mountain top places in MA are beautiful, we'd really prefer to be beachfront. Any thoughts?

Thank you all again! You are all wonderful.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 06:05 AM
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Are you looking to solely hang out on the beach? If so, then that place may work for you (I'm not familiar with it). But you won't be super close to MA, about an hour I'm guessing and won't especially get the rainforest experience. Most of MA hotels are not directly on the beach true, but it's only a few minutes away from most and a highlight from many is the beautiful views overlooking the water and park.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 07:36 AM
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beach, your fears are well-founded. We've all gotten the CR bug and go back year after year! Like tully said, the beach in MA is easy to get to, and the hotels have gorgeous views of the water. Think hill, more than mountain. I wish I could help you with your other locale, but I'm not very familiar with it.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 08:17 AM
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I'm not familiar with your Esterillos location either, but would tend to recommend staying in MA (Miguel or Manuel; take your pick ;-) ) for your first visit to CR. You'll have plenty of activities nearby, and a good selection of places to eat as well as easy access to the park.

I think most people initially want to be right on the beach and are uncertain about staying up on the hill in MA. In truth, it's a small, compact area and as tully mentions, the views from up on the hillside are really beautiful; spectacular even... You just get a different perspective up there than you will right down at water level. It won't take very long to get to the beach from wherever you stay, and some of the prettiest beaches are inside the national park anyway (where there are no hotels).

It all comes down to personal preference, of course. I know there are a handful of hotels on the beach in MA so that may still be a viable solution for you.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 09:44 AM
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There are a few places on the beach. One that I've considered staying, but haven't, is Hotel Playa Espadillas (also Cabinas Espadillas). You can there's also Hotel Vela Bar (I think it's right on the beach too) and La Posada Bungalows which gets great reviews and is right next to the Nat'l park AND beach.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 12:28 PM
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Hi,
The lost Iguana is a truly beautiful hotel, however it is on the other side of the Volcano. If you can do both sides, then you get the best experience. Los Lagos does have hot springs, so does Tabacon, Arenal Pariaso and a few others. I highly recommend staying at a hotel with hot springs because then you get the whole fun experience of being there.

Manuel Antonio has some really great hotels with private pools and beaches. Playa Estrellos is far, it's nice, but not near anything at all. There are a few decent hotels, but none that I'd recommend over the Manuel Antonio area.

Plus, for hiking you've got the National Park right there, and a huge variety of restaurants to chose from. For a short visit, I'd recommend to stay here.

Bye,
Marina K. Villatoro
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