What would you do if you had 6 days in Arenal?

Jul 10th, 2008, 04:14 PM
  #1  
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What would you do if you had 6 days in Arenal?

Hi everyone!

My family (2 mid-30's couples and 1 in their 60's) has the great privilege of spending 6 days near Arenal. We are renting a home near Nuevo Arenal in just a couple of weeks!

We are extremely excited to have 6 full days to explore the area, and we are having interesting debates about which activities should be higher on the priority list!

So where would you rate La Paz, for instance, in relation to Rio Celeste & Tenorio? Would hiking trails at the Hanging Bridges rank higher or lower on your priority list, and why? Where would you rank a visit to the Los Angeles cloud forest in relation to La Paz, Hanging Bridges, Rio Celeste, or Cano Negro? Obviously the volcano national park is on our list for sure. We were also considering the botanical gardens.

One of us might be particularly interested in some horseback riding, but I'm not sure if all of us are.

So if you were magically transported to Arenal for six days, what would you be sure to see/do?

I know that there's no right answer, and folks have different preferences--I'm actually most interested in what those differences are and why some folks like particular places more than others... it'll help us think things through.

Any input is greatly appreciated!!!
beloit96 is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 05:55 PM
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wow, six days around arenal is a lot unless you want absolute relaxation. 2 days is plenty in areanl . you can go to tamarindo or maybe san José for a day or two.
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wmvhomes is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 06:07 PM
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I have not been to Costa Rica yet, so I cannot make the type of comparisons you are interested in. However, the Cano Negro Tour gets quite a few rave reviews on this forum (but I suspect you already know that). Sorry I can't be of more assistance.
Dana_M is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 08:03 PM
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I can't offer you first-hand experience like some of the others on this forum, but I've done a ton of research for our upcoming trip, so I can at least give you some ideas on the things we're doing (we're spending 3 days there):

-SkyTram & SkyTrek zipline (comes very highly recommended by almost everyone...and really, where else can you do ziplines??)

-Aventuras Arenal Volcano Hike (seems to take you closer to the Volcano than other tour guides)

-Sunset Tours Cano Negro Tour (was the only tour group I saw explicitly recommended more than once)

-La Fortuna waterfall hike/horseback ride (I could only find bookings for this on Arenal.net but it sounds wonderful)

-Ecothermales evening + dinner (I hear the dinner is really good and the springs seem less touristy than the others in the area, plus they limit the number of people admitted per day)

And if we had the extra time I would do:
-Hanging Bridges (iffy on whether you would see wildlife or not, chances are increased by hiring a guide)

-Rio Celeste (an absolutely beautiful waterfall, but the hike is a little tough for the out of shape traveler...plus it can take awhile to get there from Arenal, but shouldn't be a problem given the extra time you have)

Also, there's 2 things we're excited to do through the Peace Lodge, which isn't far at all from Arenal:
-Pozo Azul horseback ride and rapids on the sarapiquí river
-Poas Volcano hike and Doka Coffee Plantation (and I'm planning on doing this my last day to buy tons of coffee as souiveners for my friends!).

Hope that helps somewhat...I tried to pick my tours based on actual traveler reviews rather than site reviews
immelbatoast is offline  
Jul 10th, 2008, 08:17 PM
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One nice day trip we had was to go to the Arenal Observatory and hike to the lookout, then drive further on to El Castillo where we had a nice lunch at the restaurant next to the serpentarium and then went to the serpentarium itself. We also did the Cano Negro tour and that was good as well. You could spend a couple of days exploring the different hot springs offerings. Personally I wouldn't drive as far as San Jose for the Doka tour or La Paz, it would be quite a haul.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 03:47 AM
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Thanks everyone for the replies so far!

I could tell from other posts that most people spend less time around Arenal, but we do want to combine activity with relaxation... we don't want to run ourselves ragged. Seeing as how it's also rainy season, we figured we might have a few afternoon washouts.

For past vacations we've rented a home and used it as a kind of home base... we don't mind driving a couple of hours to a site and a couple of hours back, depending on whether it means driving after dark or not.

How far of a haul would La Paz be? All the descriptions just made it sound worth the trip!
beloit96 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 04:32 AM
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Are you flying into or out of SJO? Depending upon your flight times, you could stop at LaPaz on your way to or from Arenal. I personally don't know how long the drive is from Arenal. I am sure someone who has done the drive will chime in. It is about 45 - 1 hour from the airport. LaPaz is absolutely beautiful.

janenicole is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 06:54 AM
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Hi beloit96,

It took us about 3 hours to get to Arenal from La Paz; probably not do-able as a day trip. The recommendation to possibly include it on your way to Arenal from SJO might work if your flight arrives early enough in the day. Just be sure that you won't be on road after dark if you plan to drive yourselves (sunset comes early to CR; about 5:30-6:00 p.m.)... I'm also not sure if Rio Celeste is a viable day trip, although I haven't been personally.

Most people don't spend 6 days in Arenal, but I think I could do it and be happy! I absolutely loved that area.

You've already gotten some good suggestions. In addition to the usual suspects (Cano Negro, Hanging Bridges, hiking in the nat'l park, La Fortuna Waterfall, zipline, hot springs...), I know that the Venado Caverns are nearby and have heard they are fun. I've also heard the Serpentarium is worth a visit, and we had very little time to wander around town or try many of the restaurants in La Fortuna (and there seem to be several that are recommended!). I think you'll be able to fill your time.

I hope you'll have a car, because that area is quite spread out. With a car, you can do quite a bit of exploration of the surrounding area. Sounds like a lot of fun!

cmerrell is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 02:56 PM
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Yep, we've got a car, but 3 hours does sound like it might be too far for a day trip. I might try to beg my DH to drive me though, I have just fallen in love with the descriptions.

We're actually flying into Liberia (was recommended by the folks who are renting us the house)--I think we all get in around noontime.

I'd love to know how far of a drive Rio Celeste would be too, from folks who have done that trip.

I'm getting so excited!!! I'd like to be there NOW!

Thanks again!

Phyllis

beloit96 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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littlehouse is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 05:15 PM
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We were there in June for 3 nts (only had 2 full days for activities) and recommend the following (no particular order):
1. Eco Thermales for dinner
2. Hanging bridges (get a guide)
3. Eat lunch at the cafe at the Hanging Bridges entrance
4. La Fortuna Waterfall (we did the horse back ride/ tour and while we enjoyed it we felt rushed at the waterfall)
5. Sky Trek Zip Lines..very fun

We did not have time for the following but heard good things about:
1. Volcano Trail Hike
2. White Water Rafting
3. Cano Negro Tour
4. ATV Tour
SiteC_er is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 07:48 PM
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Rio Celeste is offered as a tour through arenal.net so I would imagine it's at least doable from there. It was one of the things my husband and I hated to cut from our list, it looks beautiful! Here's a site with some more info on how to get there from La Fortuna (I don't know anything about the tour company though): http://www.northerncostarica.com/rio-celeste.html
immelbatoast is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 02:53 AM
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I am leaving in 2 weeks for CR and have been on this site for several months - booking ideas from them. I have hired a driver from SJO to LaFortuna and he says it is 1 1/2 hours of a drive. Hope that helps
Laurieshell is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 08:46 AM
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Not that 30-60 minute probably matters, but SJO to La Fortuna is easily a 2 hr drive. It tooks our driver a little over 3 hrs to drive from SJO to Lost Iguana (15-20 minutes further than town). FYI- that was with little or no traffic and a 15 bathroom stop.
SiteC_er is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:35 PM
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I've heard the horseback ride to the waterfall is wonderful.

If you are looking for a shorter, less expensive ride, there is a stable at Arenal Springs resort. Very nice horses, sweetheart of a guide and the view (you ride into the foothills) down into the valley is really beautiful. There is a tour desk in the lobby where you can reserve a spot. Times are fairly flexible and the groups are small. We were the only ones in our group. Try to bring a camera. We saw our first sloth while on the ride. There are lots of howlers and birds too.
Linda137 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 02:30 PM
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Linda, thanks so much for this info! That's really helpful. We've heard some conflicting reports on the La Fortuna ride... some folks felt like they didn't have enough time, stuff like that.

This has all been really helpful & validated a lot of our choices! I'm still kinda bummed that La Paz is so far away, but I'm sure we'll enjoy everything we do.

Now I just gotta get that rain jacket...

Phyllis
beloit96 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 07:03 AM
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La Paz is definitely worth a visit, but you are faced with the age-old dilemma of not being able to fit everything in! It happens to us all. ;-)

I think you have a great trip planned and will really enjoy it. If you are anything like most of the posters here, you'll go down to CR thinking this will be your one shot to experience the country, and then you'll be so taken with it that trip #2 will be in the works before you know it!

Let us know what you end up doing around Arenal. Since you'll have more time there than most of us spend, you may be able to fit in some lesser-known activities that we may be interested in...
cmerrell is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 02:23 PM
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We just got back and I'll be posting a report, but to answer your question - we had 3 nights and could have easily enjoyed a couple more. It rained every afternoon and into the evening, and we didn't do as many activities because they didn't seem as fun in the rain. Saved for next trip are the falls and hot springs. We did do Hanging Bridges and for several of us it was a hightlight of our trip. Not using a guide worked for us since our group of 8 had people that went through in an hour and some that took over 2 hours, depending on interest and attention spans. However, a guide may have helped us spot more wildlife. It was beautiful to me just from the plant life standpoint. The cafe at the entrance/exit has a memorable view and excellent reasonably priced food, so do plan on having lunch there.
We stayed one night in the Los Angeles Cloudforest and enjoyed it, but I don't know that I'd drive over from Arenal just to see it, there are so many fanastic nature areas where you are.
You may enjoy a drive along the north side of the lake - beautiful with lots of good places to stop. The German Bakery is great and has a very nice souvenir shop attached.
When in town (La Fortuna) you can stop in at the offices of Sunset Tours and/or Desafio and they'll give you a brochure and price lists in case you want to do any of what they have. We did a river float with Sunset that we liked. Felt our particular kids might not care for Cano Negro so we opted not to do that one. They are not high-pressure at all, they just give you the info and you tell them you'll decide later. We were able to book for the next day, the nice part about being there in slow season.
Your 6 days will give you some relax time and also some time to decide on any spur-of-the moment activity that may interest you. Don't forget to take advantage of any clear weather to do volcano viewing, either day or night - if you put it off you may not get another chance!
Have fun, I wish I was going back with you!
lfm75 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 02:37 PM
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Yep, I'm a big believer in trip reports, so you'll get the scoop on our adventure. My folks will love the German bakery (they lived in Germany for several years), so I'm really looking forward to that! We are good at just going for a drive to see what we can see, too.

We're working on getting our vehicle squared away now. Hoped to rent from Mapache but apparently they don't have any bigger SUV's available--bummer! They've provided the best customer service so far, too.

The planning continues!
beloit96 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 08:44 AM
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Beloit, for your car rental, you might want to check with Toyota, or with Orbitcostarica.com, which is a middleman who we dealt with for our car for Punta Leona. We wanted an automatic transmission vehicle that could seat 8, which in CR pretty much narrows it down to an 8 passenger Prado. Mapache had none available, and an internet search led me to inquire with Orbit. It turned out the car he booked for us was from Toyota rentals, but did not cost us any more than if we had booked it ourselves. I had not thought of them because they did not have an office in Jaco, but they actually will deliver the car to you where you are, for a fee. Harold at Orbit actually negotiated the fee down from $75 to $40 for us, and Toyota sends their guy out with the car, it is kind if you then take the guy to the nearest bus stop since that is how he returns. They were extremely professional. If you are renting out of San Jose, of course you will not have to worry about delivery charges. The Prado is not cheap, but we really wanted to fit into one vehicle vs renting two. It is easy to drive,and although the back seat row was a little short on legroom it was still quite comfortable.
lfm75 is offline  

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