To CR in January with Mom

Old Jan 5th, 2007, 12:31 AM
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To CR in January with Mom

I'm heading to CR in January with my mom and would appreciate advice on our itinerary. I'm 43 and she is 65. She's healthy but less athletic/adventurous than I in terms of activities and lodging.

I'm attending a conference (immigration law) at the SJ Marriott at the end of our stay. We have our first night in Alajuela and then 2 nights in Arenal and 2 nights in Monteverde. Looking at what there is to do, I’m wondering if we should stay 3 nights in Arenal and 1 night in Monteverde?

We'd love to see beautiful scenery, plants, animals, etc. with easy hiking, and we also love crafts/shopping. We plan to rent a 4x4 from Tricolores for the week (unless not needed at the end of the trip?)

Here's the plan:
Jan. 13 – arrive in San Jose, stay 1 night at Orquideas Inn
Jan. 14 – have rental car delivered to hotel and drive to Arenal area (via Sarchi/Grecia?), stay at Lost Iguana Hotel. What activities to do that afternoon? See Arenal volcano, La Caterata waterfall, Hanging Bridgers, what else?
Jan. 15 – 2nd night at Arenal. Visit Tabacon in AM (do we need a reservation?), have lunch there at the swim up pool bar , maybe enjoy the spa? Is there also time to also visit Cano Negro Reserve, and if we want a guide for CN any suggestions?
Jan. 16 – drive to Monteverde. Stay at Monteverde Lodge? (not yet confirmed – should we consider Fonda Vela or Heliconia, since we’ll have a car?)
Jan. 17 – 2nd night in Monteverde. Visit Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, visit Selvatura Park suspension bridges (www., butterfly garden.
Jan. 18 – Drive back to San Jose area in evening, possible to stop at Sarchi/Grecia? Check in to CR Marriott San Jose. Turn in car?
Jan. 19 – Attend immigration conference 9-5. Need idea for scenic dinner spot near hotel. 2nd night at Marriott.
Jan. 20 – Day trip near San Jose (Ecoscape Highlights Tour to see Poas, La Paz waterfalls, etc. ?) OR La Ruta de los Santos OR Irazu volcano?) 3rd night at Marriott.
Jan. 21 – Fly out of San Jose in AM.

I appreciate all advice, as it's my first time to CR!
oaklander is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 01:19 AM
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I'd say skip Tabacon and go to Cano Negro.
batson57 is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 04:58 AM
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Oh boy, you asked; now you're going to get all kinds of suggestions!

I'd skip Monteverde (no way would I 2 do it 1 night--takes too long to get there) and spend all 4 nights at Arenal. OR stay one night at Peace Lodge (La Paz Waterfall Garden) on the way to Arenal--she's love that and so would you. Beautiful place. Enjoy the grounds in the afternoon, morning, then head to Arenal. 3 nights at Arenal is perfect.

Yes, do the Cano Negro Tour--great way to spend a day. And I LOVE Tabacon (yes, one of those; think it is a gorgeous place)! You could also go to Eco Thermales instead (gets good reviews), but DO visit one of the two. Your mom would enjoy the Hanging Bridges, possibly the La Fortuna waterfalls, MAYBE the ziplines (SkyTrek or Arenal Paraiso)--tons of stuff to do there. Cano Negro tour is all day. . .but definitely try to book Peace Lodge (availability might be a problem at this late date). Other nice hotels in the area that you would also enjoy for a night: Vista del Valle, Xandari, Finca Rosa Blanca. . .all "en route" to Arenal. But either way, you should make a stop at La Paz Waterfall Garden on the way! I enjoy you having this time with your mother---wish I could do the same. Enjoy!
shillmac is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 05:00 AM
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Pretend that "2" in the previous post isn't there!

By the way, La Paz has several waterfalls, but also hummingbirds galore and a butterfly garden. Lots to enjoy. It cost about $25 per person to get in (if you're not staying there) but it is worth both the time and the money.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 08:09 AM
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I really like Shillmac's idea. You don't have enough time to enjoy Monteverde considering the drive. Last Jan. it cost $34 to get into La Paz for the day trip, which included lunch. Everyone balked at the cash register, but once they were in no one complained. It's a nice way to spend the day.

sandyc is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 09:18 AM
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skip monteverde, go to cano negro, stop at la paz>
guanacaste is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 09:34 AM
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I would rethink the waterfall in Fortuna. I loved it it, but I know my 65 yr old mother who is healthy and plays tennis 4-5 days a week would have trouble with the climb back up. You could go and enjoy the overlook.

You both might enjoy the safari float. (We went with Jacamar tours in Arenal.) It is in a river raft that gently floats down the river. We saw many birds, monkeys and sloths. The naturalist guide also discussed the plants and trees as well as habitats of various animals.

kencolian is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 07:38 PM
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Hi oaklander,

I visited Costa Rica with my 67 year old mother last month (it was our first visit).

We spent a night at the Peace Lodge and really enjoyed both the hotel and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. A truly beautiful place and well worth the visit. I will caution that some of the trails (including the popular 'Trail of Falls') have steep-ish sections and lots of stairs. My mom had to pause for several rest stops along the way, but she really loved the waterfalls.

We didn't go to Monteverde, but did spend 3 nights in Arenal and had a great time there. We did the Cano Negro trip with Sunset Tours and saw lots of wildlife (sloths, caimen, 2 species of monkeys, and lots of cool birds and bats). Sunset Tours did an excellent job in my opinion.

We visited the Hanging Bridges which is right by the Lost Iguana hotel. It was another beautiful, lush tropical paradise in there. Once again, some of the trails have steep-ish sections, but mom managed.

We ponied up the money for Tabacon Hot Springs, and were not sorry that we did. Gorgeous grounds and a very relaxing way to wind down for the day. When I was doing my initial research on where to go, someone (I think it was Sandyc) recommended we pick up some cheap water shoes to wear at Tabacon. This was sage advice because the pools have gravelly bottoms and at night, you can't really see where you're stepping when you're in the water.

We also managed to cram a visit to Sky Tram/Sky Trek into our itinerary. My mom actually did the ziplines! It had been her idea that we go, which suprised me because she's scared of heights. She was terrified when we first arrived, but we had a really terrific guide who went in tandem with her on all the lines, and she was so proud of herself afterwards!

We stayed at the Arenal Lodge which is very near the Lost Iguana, and really liked that area although it is a bit further from town than some of the other hotels.

cmerrell is offline  
Old Jan 6th, 2007, 04:57 PM
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I don't know of any scenic restaurant at San Jose but i can recommend on Tin-Jo in down town san jose. delicious chibeese restaurant - the best in San Jose.

Tabacon is a good choice though i went to baldi and it was excellent.
google baldi to get more info

i would skip Monteverde too. a nice option that i can suggest is hotel Lands in love it's close to arenal and close to the airport. beautiful cloud forest, Excellent accommodations, superb food and a super staff.
there is a great canopy over there too my mom is 60 years old and enjoyed it a lot.

google Lands in love Hotel & Resort to get more info.

you can take a tour to cano negro through jacamar i did with them a tour and the guide was excellent!

hope i helped, say hi to mom...

Old Jan 7th, 2007, 07:20 AM
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For some absolutely beautiful views of the city lights while in San Jose I would highly recommend Tiquicia restaurant at least one night. They serve delicious Costa Rican food. It is in the hills of Escazu where there are some beautiful homes. The American Embassy is there. I like to get there just before dark so I can watch the street lights come on all over the central valley.

Read some not so good reviews on Tin Jo recently on another board. It has always been a popular place but I could never understand why. Going to CR to eat Chinese food just seems strange.

I guess I am one of those odd people that likes to just quietly enjoy the cloud forest. I happen to like the Monteverde area very much. The Santa Elena reserve up there is actually prettier and less crowded. Some great artisan shops up there including CASEM which is the local womens coop for selling their arts and crafts. A few men have recently joined in with their handmade items as well but it is still mostly women. The Quakers, who originally settled Monteverde, still have a presense growing coffee, making cheese, and wonderful ice cream. It is a rough ride up and 2 nights is recommended. Certainly a place to visit but with such a short time you might want to skip it. Monteverde Lodge is okay. It was a little too sterile for us. Heliconia was nice-I stayed there twice. Fonda Vela gets great reviews. Just visited there but thought it looked like a good place. I don't usually have a car up there. The roads are terrible even once you get up there although they have done some work on them. If you go to the Hanging Bridges and La Paz Waterfall garden you will see plenty of clouds and plants.

I love the little town of Grecia. The Oasis restaurant right on the corner of the main park in town is a good place to stop for typical Costa Rican food. The metal church is very pretty.

Sarchi...the shops make me feel like I am in a big grocery store. They are big, with long aisles, and shelves full of "stuff". If you don't care about the feel of the place it is a good place to pick up souveniers. They have just about everything.

Tour from San Jose....Ecoscapes does a good tour but you don't really go into the waterfall garden area. You just drive by the La Paz waterfall and stop on the road to look at it. It would be a shame to miss the butterfly observatory and everything else in the gardens. There are tours that do go in as well as go to Poas, Doka coffee plantation, and slow boat down the Sarapiqui. They are often called the 4 in 1. I went out with Ecoscapes when I was traveling alone. It was a full day and I was disappointed that we didn't go into the waterfall garden but we still had fun after the broken down bus was repaired. I have since stayed at Peace lodge for a couple of nights and was thrilled to be able to wander around and enjoy it as much as possible.

Another possibility from San Jose would be the Lankester gardens and the Basilica in Cartago. You could also go out to the Orosi valley for a look at a beautiful place.

The waterfall in Arenal is a tough climb back up. The La Paz Waterfall gardens has a van that brings you back up to the main building when you get to the bottom so it is mostly downhill. It is steep and narrow in places but the metal stairs are sturdy and there are solid handrails.

Sky Trek....if mom doesn't want to do the zip line there is also a tram that she can ride on. Same beautiful views just less excitement. There is a guide to point out plants and animals and to just answer questions. See following for more info.

Cano Negro...a great place to see some amazing birds and animals. If you do this you could skip the 4 in 1 because the Sarapiqui is a slow boat tour as well. With a car, you could easily do the Waterfall Gardens on your own.

Tabacon...awfully crowded when we were there but we did find a quiet area at the end of the trail. It is pretty at night but don't know that I would want to go back because of the crowds.

Suzie2 is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2007, 10:22 AM
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I, too, would recommend you skip Monteverde unless you can arrange to spend at least three nights there. Instead, how about spending those nights at Vista del Valle? A wonderful place, plenty to do there, and nearby is Sarchi and Grecia. You could visit those places on an easy day trip with a car.

In Sarchi, visit the Else Kientzler Botanical Gardens, new and spectacular:

I also recommend the Mercado de Artesania in Sarchi, for your crafts shopping. This is a coop operated by a group of women. The prices are as good as you can find in all of Costa Rica. It is on the main road through Sarchi Norte just as you leave town heading north toward Naranjo. (Do not confuse it with the overpriced tourist mall in Sarchi Sur with a fairly similar name, where many of the same items are sold at double the price and more. A true manifestation of "tourist trap"!)

I highly recommend the "Best of Costa Rica" tour offered by Expediciones Tropicales over the similar one offered by Ecoscape and other companies. The difference is that Expediciones Tropicales actually takes you INSIDE at La Paz Waterfall; the others only stop outside the gardens so you can gaze at the big waterfall from the road. Price is the same for all of them. Whichever one you choose, this is the best tour value in Costa Rica, in my opinion. The Marriott can arrange this tour, but make sure they book you with the company that you want, not the one that pays them the highest commission.

A restaurant near the Marriott - one with a view? Well, my recomendation is a bit expensive but quite worth it, for the ambience, the food AND the magnificent view.

Le Monastére.

Here are the directions to print out and give to the taxi driver:

En San Rafaél de Escazú: del Multicentro Paco en Escazú, doblar a la izquierda y seguir los rotulos de cruces verdes.
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