Type of vehicle needed for Arenal

Old Mar 31st, 2008, 12:30 PM
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Type of vehicle needed for Arenal

Is is necessary to have 4 x 4 in Arenal area? We will most likely also drive it back to SJO (we are going to fly from Puerto Jimenez to La Fortuna). It will just be my husband and myself - not much luggage. Going next year in March. Is it a really hilly drive back?

What are the bus or shuttle options?
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 03:01 PM
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It is a hilly, winding drive. I never get carsick, but I got very queasy, and our driver had to give me something for it. The drive was really pretty though, and the roads were in good shape. We just hired a driver through our hotel to make things easy on ourselves, but plenty of people drive it with no problems. You might check into Interbus as well, but most people like to have a car in Arenal.
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 03:59 PM
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It's been several years since I've been to Arenal, so perhaps all the potholes have been filled in. The primary reason I felt that a 4x4 was a better choice over a conventional car was more to do w/ road clearance & being able to see & avoid the potholes. When I was last there (2002), it was most helpful driving a small SUV, so you'd be sitting up higher and like I said, see the road & be able to dodge the potholes.
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 04:51 PM
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We just returned on Saturday and I would tell you a 4 x 4 is unnecessary in the Arenal area. We had a Toyota Corolla and had no problems at all. The roads were fine - so much so that it surprized me. To be honest, I don't recall more than one or two potholes in Arenal and we were staying out at the Lost Iguana. I would agree that the roads are fairly winding - but you don't need a 4 x 4.
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 05:00 PM
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Good to know - thanks! Are the roads well marked on the drive back to SJO or is it a little hard to know exactly where to go? My husband will stress if he thinks we are lost.
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 05:42 PM
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I think I would look into getting a GPS if I were driving it. A lot of the directions I've seen will say things like turn at the big church, etc. Most places don't have addresses and such. Some of the car rental places will rent you a GPS unit if you're interested.
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 09:12 PM
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It has been years since I was there, so perhaps it has changed, but it was a pothole-filled road to Arenal las time I went. However, with that said, we had a "regular" car and it did just fine, just a bit bouncy.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 05:28 PM
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Regarding well marked roads... to be honest, I didn't think any roads were well marked in our entire trip (SJO, Manuel Antonio, Arenal, Peace Lodge and back to SJO). We had a good map of the country that helped us get around, however, we really expected to see signs to the airport when we got to the Alejuela area - but there were none. We had to ask for directions three times - and only found Spanish speaking helpers... but we made it anyway. We tried to rent a GPS but they were out of them when we arrived. I would really recommend a good map.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 07:38 PM
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We have rented a regular sedan a few times and gotten along just fine as well. But it is nice to have a 4X4 just in case you decide to "take a road less traveled". For example, if you head out to Arenal Observatory Lodge for lava viewing, a 4X4 would be nice. We like the extra clearance also.

Amazing how good the road is to Arenal isn't it?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 07:35 AM
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We might want to take Interbus back to SJO and just have the car in the Arenal area. Does anyone have experience doing that? I don't know if we want to spend the money on a private driver, but hate to see my husband get stressed out on the last day of his "de-stressing" vacation!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 04:29 PM
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Sure, you can do it however you want to. Lots of options. Interbus is a good option.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 11:45 PM
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Interbus can be a good option but you will need to be aggressive and grab the first row of seats. If you get stuck in the back of the van, you will be car sick in one hour and be miserably hot.

You certainly dont need to rent a 4x4 but the freedom of knowing you go anywhere is conforting. Now, there is a little vehicle called TERIOS, every car rental company has it, and they are not 4x4 but simply taller, clearance is key here.

NOW, the drive from Puerto Jimenez is simply too much, probably 10 hours or more. This drive will probably take you thru 4 or 5 microclimates, including the Cerro de la Muerte, one of the highest points in Costa Rica. The landspace thru the Cerro is breathtaking but you will be exhausted when you get to Arenal. Here is an overview of the drive:

From Pto Jimenez to Palmar-to Buenos Aires to San Isidro is flat, as flat as TX. Then you start climbing the Cerro de la Muerte which will give you an OD in winding roads and slow driving behind 18-wheelers. Once you are on the other side of the Cerro de la Muerte you will be in the South East of San Jose and you would have to go across the Central Valley to Arenal.

An option is to take the Braulio Carrillo highway to Rio Frio-then to Sarapiqui and the the Caribbean lowlands and from there you will be two hours away from arenal. But, anyway you look at it, it is simply a grueling drive.

My best advise is to fly to and from Puerto Jimenez to SJO and then take the car to go to Arenal. Or, split the trip by staying in San Isidro del General at least one night: not really developed in tourist infrastructure but you can find a decent room at Hotel del Sur. Then, you can spend a night or two in Sarapiqui or even at Peace Lodge.

good luck!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 05:31 AM
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pirulo - we are definitely flying from SJO to PJ, and from PJ to La Fortuna (I believe Nature Air offers that route). So, just getting from Arenal back to SJO is what I am trying to work out. Husband doesn't like to spend too much time in a vehicle, no matter how pretty the scenery is. Good to know about the back of the bus problem - hubby is prone to getting carsick (I make him sound like a pain in the a__, he really isn't)!

I haven't looked into the option of flying back. You are right, tully, so many options!
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Old Apr 4th, 2008, 12:11 PM
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I agree that the roads weren't that well marked. But although I got lost once, it only added 15 minutes to the drive.

Keith
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