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lm1025 Nov 28th, 2004 04:02 PM

Trip To Costa Rica
Planning self drive trip in April with my 15yr old. I speak spanish but am a little concerned about the roads. Can anyone tell me road conditons? Will be driving from San Jose to Arenal then to Monteverde and on to Manuel Antonio. Planning to stay at Tilajari,Hotel Montana & Parador. Anyone stay at these places? I am also interested in the Canopy tour but don't know where the best place would be to do this. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

shillmac Nov 29th, 2004 04:35 AM

You'll be fine with the roads. They're not that bad. 2 lanes, a few potholes (sometimes hardly any, sometimes a lot), people, animals, bicycles on the road, etc. Drive slowly, enjoy the drive, and the scenery! Tilajari a great resort--doesn't get much mention here, but it is truly beautiful. The location, the rooms, the grounds, the staff all very nice!

KNJ Nov 29th, 2004 06:23 AM

I'm not trying to put you off from driving but, just give you a heads up. The road from Arenal to Monteverde is pretty bad. The portion around the lake is paved but, there are so many huge potholes that it would probably be better if it wasn't. Go slow and watch for damage. After Tiliran its 35 km on packed rock and dirt road which took us 2 hours. The road is not technically difficult as far as off roading goes its just slow going to save the suspension and your kidneys. Also, I know that people say you don't need a 4WD except in the rainy season but, I think you will be much happier with a 4WD in Monteverde. The road down from Monteverde is pretty good (in comparison) and paved about half way down.

One more thing - sorry if this is too much info. In a couple of places there were no road signs telling you which way to go to Sant Elena. The first time we picked what appeared to be the main road and a couple of hundred meters down we just stopped and a man walked up to the car and offered us a map for a $1 donation (for the school he said). On the way back to the correct road the sign post was still standing. This happened at another place as well and we ended up stopping at a business - that had signs at the intersection with the missing road sign - to ask for directions. So my advice is to pick one road, drive down a bit and look back at the sign in the other direction if in doubt.

We had a Daihatsu Terios and while it's small and lacking in power, I have to say that it is a tough car.

As the other poster said, just go slow and enjoy the scenery. Don't be afraid to stop and ask directions everyone seemed more than willing to help.

We did the SkyTrek Canopy Tour in Monteverde. It was really a lot of fun and they have one of the most extensive cable trails in CR.

dfarmer Nov 29th, 2004 07:35 AM

We have enjoyed driving ourselves. But as KNJ says, always look back at the signs.

I am the navigator and my husband is the driver.

One of my jobs is to keep track of the distance between junctions by watching for signs, so that he can keep track on the odometer.

The other is to always turn backwards to look at the signs, many times you will find that the sign facing you is missing, but the sign facing the opposing traffic is there.

And we typically ask at the hotel, how long it will take us to get to our next destination and then we double it to allow for stopping, eating, shopping and being lost! Just remember to always allow yourself plenty of daylight driving time.

And we always consider any time lost is just part of the adventure.

TripleSecDelay Nov 29th, 2004 02:44 PM

Maybe this also helps...we like to take digital pictures of the signs so that we can refer to them in review mode of the camera...

lm1025 Nov 29th, 2004 06:08 PM

Thank you all for all your valuable information on driving tips. Thanks for Tilajari info too. It looks lovely but does not get very much mention. Don't know why since it is used by the more expensive tour groups like Abercrombie & Brendan. I have to decide between Sapo Dorado, Fonda Vela, Monteverde Lodge,or The establo. Any suggestions?
Thank you again.lm1025

shillmac Nov 30th, 2004 04:26 AM

The reason Tilajari doesn't get much mention on Fodors is because it is located in an "out of the way" area. Most people who visit the Arenal/La Fortuna area stay much closer to the volcano.

For this reason, Tilajari Resort is one of those "gems" that most travelers don't know about. It is for those who want something a little different. There are several small hotels in Costa Rica that fill that need. Case Turire comes to mind (and has had enormous success) as well as La Finca Que Ama. The fact that they are out of the tourist loop is their most important asset for many travelers. You'll enjoy Tilajari!

RufusTFirefly Nov 30th, 2004 10:49 AM

We stayed at the Fonda Vela in Monteverde in January. It is excellent with a wonderful restaurant and bar.

Stayed at the Arenal Paraiso and had perfect views of the lava flows--we liked the accomodations and the staff were very helpful.

Driving in and around Monteverde can be very, very difficult. When we were there, there were big rocks sticking out of the roadbed, parts of the road would have one side completely impassable, etc. Our taxi drivers and guides all commented on having to have shock absorbers changed every 2-4 months. Saw several cars disabled from rocks hitting the underside machinery.

Apparently, they regrade the roads when they get around to it--if you happen to be there just after the roads have been regraded and graveled, then it's not too bad. Otherwise....

If you are going to drive in and around Monteverde do get a good SUV with lots of ground clearance, not something like a RAV4. On the way to Monteverde from San Jose, we encoutered a damaged bridge, with vehicles having to ford the stream to get through.

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