SJO-Arenal-MA Planning Suggestions?

Sep 8th, 2007, 01:22 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,265

The drive between Arenal and MA really wasn't bad at all. The roads were in good condition last December when we were there. The only hitch of any kind we had was getting lost in Atenas. The roads are not particularly well marked, and we took a wrong turn somewhere. We stopped for directions and were quickly back on the right track (some basic spanish did come in very handy in this instance).

I agree with Tully and Vgirl that Monteverde is not a good day trip to attempt from Arenal.

The Sky Trek thing can be a bit confusing because there are ziplines by that name in both locations (also hanging bridges, I believe). Stay in La Fortuna and do the lines and bridges there (both very nice!).

I know it can be a bit overwhelming trying to pick the right hotels and the right activities, but it's really nothing to stress over! If you stick with the recommendations you are getting here, you'll have a great trip! Many of the posters here are seasoned CR travelers and very nice, helpful people to boot!

The question of whether or not to drive comes up a lot. It's really a matter of personal preference. We opted to rent a car and really liked the added flexibility it provided. The key to driving in any unfamiliar territory is to be alert and cautious. We liked driving, but as you can see from the posts here, other viable options are available as well.

I have finally posted my travel photos online from my CR trip last December. Our itinerary was the one you are currently considering: Arenal and MA (with a night thrown in at the Peace Lodge for good measure). Here's a link to my pictures, if you would like to take a look:

Be warned, there are quite a few of them.
cmerrell is offline  
Sep 9th, 2007, 04:43 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 127

The pictures of Costa Rica were gorgeous!! What type/model digital camera did you use??

Also, how do I get in touch with Pat who is helping folks with their first time trip to Costa Rica??

Thanks a bunch,
Seaturtlelady is offline  
Sep 9th, 2007, 06:18 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,265

Thanks for the nice compliments on my photos!

My camera is nothing fancy. Its a Canon Powershot A510 that cost around 200$ when I purchased it a few years ago. I think a place like Costa Rica lends itself to capturing nice pics, and with a digital camera you can take a bunch so that you'll be assured of some 'keepers'!

Pat Hewitt can be contacted via this website:

He can offer all sorts of advice and information. I had him make most of the arrangements for my upcoming trip in December. I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, but my job is frequently quite hectic, and it was nice to hand the actual task of booking hotels, rental car, etc off to someone else. One less thing for me to worry about!
cmerrell is offline  
Sep 10th, 2007, 11:04 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 3,221
ktny - sorry for the delay in responding. We really liked Si Como No. Since we went in low season, we splurged for the deluxe suites - gorgeous views, separate LR and BD areas (with a sleeper sofa if needed), large balcony with 2 full reclining loungers, huge bathroom [shower area big enough for 4 (!) with live plants].

2 restaurants - one informal where breakfast served (great buffet that's included with room; some fruit is picked on the property), also open for lunch and dinner. It's next to family pool which has swim up bar, & water slide. [We had a resident 3 ft long iguana which made a regular appearance at breakfast - kids loved it]. Food was quite good. The more formal restaurant (table cloths, great live guitar music, less crowded) is next to the adult pool [18 yrs & older; also has swim up bar]. We had 2 very good meals there (emphasis on seafood), but I know there have been some people who didn't have a good experience there. Open only for dinner.

The adult pool and family pool are far enough apart that we never heard noise from the other.

Didn't need an alarm clock - the wonderful sounds from dozens of beautiful birds would wake us up.

Rooms had AC, but since rains would cool things off in the afternoon, we only used it about 2-3 hrs a day.

Hotel has free hourly shuttle to/from MA Nat. Park

Hotel staff was great. Very attentive, friendly. Really helpful in arranging tours and excursions. [Especially liked the Iguana Tours' mangrove swamp trip. Barbara was our guide. Originally from Switzerland, she was incredibly informative].

Beautiful nature preserve across the street with butterfly center.

Gift shop next to hotel had extensive crafts, including wood carvings, bowls, etc.

Everything on the property is very accessible and walkable. We later discovered that that isn't the case with some other hotels in the area where things are very spread out. Of course, there can be some advantages to that.

Overall, we had an extremely nice visit and would certainly recommend.

Hope this helps.

BTW - One of the best places to eat is El Avion, just down the street. Excellent food.
dfr4848 is offline  
Sep 10th, 2007, 11:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 124
I read about Sky Walk's Hanging Bridge hike in Monteverde Cloud Forest from Fodor's book. If it's not doable in 1 day, then I can do that in Arenal area.

I'd like to add 1 night at Peace Lodge after seeing how beautiful it is (hint hint from cmerrell's link . What do you think about my plan?

Day 1 - 4: Arrive at 12 noon - 3 nights at Arenal (Cano Negro, Hike volcano, hot springs, hanging bridge)
Day 4 - 5: 1 night at Peace Lodge (hopefully enough time to go to Paos Volcano, La Paz watterfalls)
Day 5 - 8: 3 nights at MA (visit the park, spend a day at beach). Depart at 3 pm on day 8.

How're the beaches in MA? Are they accessible from outside the park? I'm now also looking at Tamarindo/Guarnacaste area as I heard beaches are nicer. I'd like to hear your inputs.
ktny333 is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 04:07 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 23,740
kt, I like your plan - we really loved the Peace Lodge, so I think that's a good addition. The nicest/prettiest beach in MA is inside the park. There are numerous beaches, but we thought that one was by far the best.
volcanogirl is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 04:46 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
Agree, the one beach that most people hit inside the park (the 2nd or the 3rd, I always forget) is in a cove as well so very calm waters. Just be careful of thieves - I saw people lose stuff to little capuchin & coati bandits!
tully is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 06:04 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 3,221
Would agree that the nicest beaches at MA are inside the park. The one just outside the park requires no entry fee, but is understandably crowded and the road is lined with an outdoor market (some have some pretty nice stuff).

Inside the park, there is a beach on the right and is quite nice, but can get a little rough since it faces directly on the ocean. The 2d one is the nicest because, as mentioned, it's in a cove, is very calm, and is a beautiful setting.

tully's comment is right on the mark. We saw a white-faced monkey scamper down a tree, grab a bag of potato chips from a picknicker, run back up the tree and proceed to open it and eat the chips. Got a great picture of the "thief". They warn you not to feed the monkeys - they don't tell you they feed themselves!!
dfr4848 is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 05:04 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,265
Looks like the plans are coming together, ktny.

The Arenal/MA split with a slight detour to the Peace Lodge is such a great first time visit itinerary! If you do decide to substitute a Guanacaste/Nicoya location for MA, you'd probably want to stay at the Peace lodge on your first night, as putting it in the middle doesn't make much sense geographically.

Early December is not peak tourist season, but I wouldn't wait very long to book the Peace Lodge. It's not a large hotel, and it is very popular.

I'll be in CR the first week of December as well, although in different locations than you are considering. Only 3 months out! Can't wait!!
cmerrell is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 09:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 124
I really appreciate all your help. It seems to me that most of the itineraries I read up on start in Alajuela(Peace lodge or others) to Arenal and end in MA before returning to SJO. I start to have a second thought (yes again!).

I have a hard time finding websites with driving directions or location map. Do you know of any sites?
ktny333 is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 09:56 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 541
ktny333 - not sure if this is what you're looking for, but check out the individual province maps on the left hand side of this web site:
MRand is offline  
Sep 12th, 2007, 05:07 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 23,740
The Lost Iguana website has excellent directions on how to get from SJO to Arenal if you decide to go that route. Their entire site is really helpful - full of good tips.
volcanogirl is offline  
Sep 12th, 2007, 09:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 124
Thank you! You guys are da best.
ktny333 is offline  

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