Second Trip to CR!

Old May 14th, 2007, 09:58 AM
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Second Trip to CR!

We liked it so much that we are going back. Well, to be perfectly honest, I liked it so much I wanted to take my parents who are still quite active before they are...not so active. And my DH was kind enough to be all right with going again.

Anyway, to my disappointment, Casa Blanca was booked at Bosque del Cabo for Nov 21-22-23, exactly the dates I wanted. And they must have been booked in the last week since I emailed Leonardo on Monday. Boo hoo! I guess it will be two cabinas for us (DH thinks this is a good thing for more privacy). Casa Miramar seems like too long a hike.

Oh well. We only have one week, Nov 17-24--we will leave on the 24th (one of those 'dangerous' leave PJ in the morning get to New York international flight in the afternoon), and am planning to try and get my parents a room at the Peace Lodge for their last night in CR. Haven't quite determined what we will do in the beginning of the week.

We LOVED the Central Valley and I wonder if it is worth it to travel out to La Fortuna/Arenal (we didn't go the first time)--will we be too exhausted? Will we have any time in the Central Valley?

Sorry for the stream of consciousness! But no one is excited for CR trips as this great board!
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Old May 14th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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Hi coolbluewater,

I am also planning my second trip to CR, so I understand your excitement! I also appreciate your wanting to share the experience with your parents. My mom was 67 years old on our trip last year. When we talked about where to go this year, she requested CR again, reasoning that in a few years she might not be able to be as active as she is now.

Whether or not to visit Arenal, of course depends on what type of activities you are interested in and whether or not you want to see a different part of the country than you saw on your first visit.

I really liked that area. The volcano is an impressive sight. It really dominates the surrounding countryside. I was not lucky enough to see the lava flow, and definitely want to get back there some time to take another crack at it. There are lots of activities to choose from in the area, so you could pretty much be as active or as laid back as you like.

We also visited MA on our first trip and thought Arenal was the perfect contrast to the coastal area. We had some good wildlife sightings (which you'll get at BdC, of course), and we enjoyed the Hanging Bridges, Sky Trek ziplines, the Cano Negro tour and Tabacon Hot Springs.

We had 3 nights, which seems to be the widely recommended minimum length of stay.

Do you have your flights squared away yet? If your travel times are amenable, you could easily fit Arenal in to your itinerary, although you probably wouldn't have much Central Valley time. Decisions, decisions! ;-)

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Old May 14th, 2007, 06:21 PM
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coolbluewater,
We combined 4 nights at Bosque del Cabo with 2 nights at Arenal in March. We also spent 2 nights at one of our favorite little hotels near the airport (primarily to shave some of the expense off and balance out BdC!) and used that one full day to tour the central valley--the big 3, I call them. Doka Coffee Estate, Poas Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall Garden. Ended with a meal at Colbert's, the French restaurant 5 km from La Paz. It was a good day and one your parents would enjoy.

I think you'll be able to figure out a way to "do" the central valley as well as Arenal. We may have had one night more than you, but we also stayed an extra night at BdC. Peace Lodge would be a wonderful way for you and your parents to finish up the trip--or start it off.

Could you stay there the first night, the 17th? Then Arenal the 18th, 19, back to somewhere like Vista del Valle or Las Orquideas near the airport on the 20th?

And don't worry about not getting Casa Blanca. I think you'll be much happier with 2 cabinas. Those deluxe ones are very near the bar and restaurant and at night it's nice not to have to walk so far. I think your parents would probably prefer that. It's just easier in a lot of ways. And the cabinas are wonderful. We had the 3 on the end--Mariposa, Congo, and Lapa. They were all great. You'll have a wonderful time! I'd like to go in November sometime.

Good luck with the planning!

And while at Arenal, take your mom and yourself to the spa at Tabacon. It's fabulous.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 10:13 AM
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We decided not to go to Arenal--maybe a long day trip (though I know that's not ideal)--but we didn't want to move around so much. Thank you so much for your advice!

We'll be staying 4 nights at the Orquideas Inn (sat, sun, mon, tue)--I booked the Geodesic dome for us. I figure we can get another room if it feels too cramped.

Then Nature Air flight to BdC--Mariposa + another cabina with a loft for thurs, fri, sat. Just waiting for Leonardo to send the forms (since I just booked Nature Air, I hope I get them soon!).

We leave Sat evening--I booked my parents into the Peace Lodge as a surprise for them. They will leave on Sunday.

Can't wait. The fastest planning ever.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 10:25 AM
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Oops--BdC for wed, thur, fri nights, leave Saturday. Nice typo!
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Old May 15th, 2007, 09:04 PM
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Just for future reference, Leonardo and Jose will book your air for you when you make reservations with Bosque del Cabo. Makes your planning a little simpler.

The only thing that sticks in my mind regardine your plans (and I know at this point you've made your decision and aren't asking for advice any longer, so bear with me!) is that staying at Orquideas will require a LOT of "moving around" if you are going to get out and about every day doing daytrips. Arenal is a short 2.5 hours away and once you are there, the driving is very minimal in the area.

Don't get me wrong, we've done it both ways (have actually stayed at Orquideas for 4 nights), but I wouldn't stay there that long again. Almost everything there is to do in the area you can do en route to Arenal, and then you have Arenal as well! Please feel free to ignore. . .just a thought from a been there, done that perspective.

Your parents are sure to have a wonderful time at Peace Lodge. What a nice gesture! They'll be totally wow-ed!
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Old May 16th, 2007, 05:49 AM
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Thanks so much for your feedback--I just wanted to make sure we have a place to sleep. I will look into Arenal; I didn't realize it was only 2.5 hours away.

Still waiting for reservation form from Leonardo!
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Old May 16th, 2007, 07:07 AM
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Arenal is not 2.5 hours from San Jose but more like 4 hours. If you want to see a big and impressive volcano, with only a slight chance of seeing the lava at night, it's an okay trip. But we found the city of Fortuna to be a big tourist trap with many rip-offs. We rented motor bikes and they charged us for the same scratches they probably charge everyone for. I have a GREAT recommendation for lodging in both San Jose and Manuel Antonio. Also a great dentist!
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Old May 16th, 2007, 08:24 PM
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I agree with Anavert. Arenal is not all that impressive and the area is far too touristy for me.
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Old May 16th, 2007, 08:33 PM
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Airport area to La Fortuna took us 2 hours and 45 minutes in March. With a short detour and a bathroom stop included. No speeding, regular driving, 2 cars traveling together. We've driven the route several times.
At the VERY most, 3 hours.

coolbluewater, you do what seems best to you. 9 out of 10 people on this board who have been to Arenal will tell you it's pretty much a "don't miss". While it is true that the volcano itself might "let you down" with some cloud cover, the chances are equally good that you'll have a great view at least part of the time and the lava flow at night is pretty darned exciting! We've seen it 3 out of 4 visits. That said, there are a LOT of things to do in the area that are very impressive. The Cano Negro tour is hands down one of the best in the country. Besides that, there's plenty more. . .

I think the point I wanted to make for you was that 4 nights is a bit long for Orquideas. 3 nights would give you 2 full days, which is all the time you'd need to pretty much see and do everything there is to see and do from Orquideas as a base.

It just seemed to me that you could also see nearly every bit of that EN ROUTE to Arenal in a full day. Then you'd be there and have that area to enjoy. I was thinking you might actually move around LESS by opting for Arenal--and see every bit as much. Anyone else?





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Old May 17th, 2007, 03:54 PM
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I'd have to agree with shillmac that the drive to Arenal is less than 3 hours. We just got back from CR last week. Our flight in San Jose landed around 11:30 or so, by the time we got through customs, immigration (including their computer system going down) and going to Tricolor to pick up our car we were probably on the road around 1:00 or so. We made a stop to pick up lunch, but we ate in the car and we arrived too early to check into our hotel, which was a 4:00 check in time. So there is no way the drive took more than 3 hours. I think it was around 2 1/2 hours. Not to mention that it is an amazingly beautiful drive! And if you're an adventurous person, it's a lot of fun! Not because it's scary per se - but the mountains and narrow roads make for a lot of laughs while driving! We loved it!

As for La Fortuna - I didn't find it overly touristy. Yes, it's a "tourist" town - but I didn't find it to be a "tourist trap" kind of place. Both my husband and I found it to be very nice and found that there was so much to do in the area. We were only there from Friday night until Monday afternoon and I could easily have spent another day or more there! The volcano is certainly awesome to see! Even had we not seen the lava flow, I would absolutely not have been disapointed. We were not there during peak tourist season, so maybe we have a different perspective than anavert on the actual town.

Enjoy your trip! Your parents are going to love Peace Lodge! We loved it and I kept telling my husband that my parents would love it there as well! I'd love to go back to CR with both my kids and my parents someday!

Can you tell, I'm hooked!
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Old May 17th, 2007, 04:55 PM
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Hi coolbluewater,

I'm with shillmac on the 'do what seems best to you' perspective. You won't go wrong with either the Central Valley or Arenal (or some combination of the two).

We visited CR at the beginning of December 2006. We certainly did not find Arenal to be a tourist trap. Maybe it is more so during peak season, but you are travelling in the green season so I doubt you would feel that it deserved the 'tourist trap' label.

Not the end of the world if you decide against Arenal on this trip, but most people really do like that area. You should definitely keep it on the list (if not for this trip, then for the next one; because it sounds like you've caught the CR bug ;-) ).

Good luck with your continued research and trip planning. That's part of the fun in my opinion!
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Old May 17th, 2007, 04:57 PM
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Thank you all for your helpful responses. I am investigating Arenal--perhaps Arenal Paraiso or Arenal Springs Resort. The Cano Negro tour sounds great as does the Chato Cerro hike (did I mention my parents are still very active?). I am leaning towards at least two nights in Arenal based on more research--but have to see when my parents will arrive in SJ to determine.

Thanks again--I so love and appreciate this board!!
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Old May 19th, 2007, 07:13 AM
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Hi, CBW - we loved Arenal also. It only took us 3 hours to get there from the airport, and the drive is beautiful. We stayed at the Lost Iguana - it's a bit removed from town, which we liked, and it has gorgeous views of the volcano and really pretty grounds. It's right next to the Hanging Bridges.

The Cano Negro tour with Sunset Tours was one of our best vacation memories ever. Also really enjoyed eating at El Novillo and La Choza de Laurel, which we found recommended on this board.

If you don't make it this trip, it will give you an excuse to go back for a third!
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Old May 19th, 2007, 11:08 AM
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cbw--we've been to Arenal at Christmas, Spring Break, and twice in July, the busiest month of our summer. It hasn't ever seemed touristy to us. Very quiet, in fact. Nothing ever over the top or pretentious about it. Just a fantastic area.
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Old May 19th, 2007, 05:47 PM
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Thank you--I assume then, that La Fortuna is not as built up and touristy as Manuel Antonio or Quepos? We didn't like those towns very much at all.
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Old May 19th, 2007, 08:03 PM
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Well, it's different. Sure, there are things not to like about it. There are now a lot of souvenir shops where there used to not be. . .but it isn't crowded and, if you don't care to, there isn't much reason to spend time in La Fortuna anyway. We usually go in and browse around a bit, use the internet cafe. My husband found a very good masseuse that he really likes who charges something like $25 per hour. He's much rather do that than pay $100 at Tabacon, but I've been to that lady he uses, and her place lacks the atmosphere! She is very good, though. . .

La Fortuna Falls are fun. Some people do horseback combined with that. They are very steep, so be forewarned!
I think with limited time, Cano Negro would be at the top of my list, followed by dinner at El Novillo steakhouse and perhaps an evening soak at Tabacon, Eco Thermales, or just on the grounds at Arenal Paraiso. . .

If you get lucky enough to see the volcano (maybe the lava will shift back around), there wouldn't be much more you could ask for in a perfect day!

Right now, the flow is over toward Arenal Observatory Lodge. It's a very nice property, but a bit tough to get to. 9km off the highway, sort of a rough road. We stayed there last year and enjoyed it very much. If you've got a car, it isn't a big deal. Without one, not the best choice of hotels.
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Old May 19th, 2007, 09:05 PM
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Shillmac's right (as usual ;-) ). You really don't have to spend much time at all in the town of La Fortuna if that's not your type of scene. Most of the hotels that your read about on the boards are outside of town, as are the popular activities in the area. We only went into town a couple of times; once to eat and once to pick up some snacks at a grocery store.

We stayed at the Arenal Lodge which is near the popular Lost Iguana hotel and the Hanging Bridges. It was a more remote location than most of the hotels (although not as off-the-beaten-track as the Observatory Lodge. It was very peaceful there and we enjoyed the serenity.

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Old May 20th, 2007, 07:50 AM
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We really only went into town to eat dinner and to buy snacks and bottled water at the Super Christian grocery store. Lost Iguana left us a huge bottle of water to drink, but we thought we'd be charged an exorbitant amount (minibar prices), so we bought water there; the huge bottle was only 80 cents at the store. We found out later that the Lost Iguana water was free!
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Old May 21st, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Thank you all for your help with this trip. I think that we will go to Arenal--I know that my parents will really like it and we will probably want to do something different.

So far I have:

Sat: Arrive, stay Orquideas

Sun: Travel to Arenal, doing things along the way, or arrive in time to do Volcano Park & Hanging Bridges. Stay at Arenal Paraiso

Monday: Cano Negro or Chato Cherro, or La Fortuna Waterfall. Stay at Arenal Paraiso

Tuesday: Make our way back to SJ--one night at Orquideas

Wednesday: travel to Puerto Jimenez and BDC

Thursday: BDC

Friday: BDC

Saturday: We depart BDC and SJ. Parents stay at Peace Lodge

Sunday: Parents leave

Have to cancel two nights from Orquideas--kind of feel bad about it, but I think it will be worth it.

Thanks again!
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