Whitewater -- Pacuare, or Out of Manuel Antonio?

Old Apr 1st, 2008, 08:19 AM
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Whitewater -- Pacuare, or Out of Manuel Antonio?

Hi all,

I'm posting this question on behalf of my sister, who's lucky enough to take a quick trip down to CR the first week of May. They'll be in Manuel Antonio.

She and her boyfriend want to do some whitewater rafting, which I've never done in CR. Here is my question:

They fly into San Jose, arriving around 4:00 pm. I'm thinking this is too late to start driving down to MA (by the time they get through immigration, get the rental car,etc.) Agree? So they're planning to stay one night in/near San Jose. Should they arrange to do their rafting on the Pacuare River (I've heard it's the best) out of SJ? Or just drive down to MA early the next morning, and arrange a rafting trip from there?

If anyone recommends doing the Pacuare, what would be a good hotel for them to stay at (in order to be picked-up for the rafting tour)? They don't want to do an overnight, just a half-day or day tour rafting.

Alternatively, has anyone done a rafting trip out of Manuel Antonio? If so, tour operator recommendations?

They will have 3 full days for activities on this trip, so either they'd raft out of the SJ area then drive down to MA on day 1 (leaving 2 full days for activities in MA), or they'll have the 3 full days in MA. Suggestions?

Thanks!
Carol
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 09:44 AM
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The Pacuare is great, I think your sister will love it! We did a one-day trip (from San Jose) a year ago and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

I was at CPI for Spanish school when we went rafting, but I know the rafting company van picked folks up from a host of hotels around the area (we were outside the city in San Joaquin). She should check with the operator she choses, but could probably stay at any hotel near SJ and the airport and go from there.

Depending on what she wants to spend, there are a lot of options. My husband joined me for a week after Spanish school, and we spent our first night at the serviceable and not-too-expensive Hotel Buena Vista just 15 mins or so from the airport in Alajuela. There are a lot of hotel recommendations on the forum, depending on her price range.

Melissa
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 10:48 AM
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We have done the Pacuare several times and love it, love it, love it. The problem I see is that they are still going to be arriving in the San Jose area late and driving down to Manuel Antonio would be in the dark for a good bit of the way. We usually arrived back at the hotel around 4-5 pm.

We usually stay at Hotel Don Carlos when we are going rafting although we have also stayed in a couple of other places.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 05:49 PM
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Is the Pacuare near MA? I was under the impression the Naranjo & Savegre rivers are closest to MA / Quepos.

We're headed to MA in June and are wanting to do some rafting from there as well. Would love to hear from others that have rafted out of MA.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:32 PM
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No the Pacuare is not near MA and you leave from San Jose and return to San Jose most of the time. I was referring to them wanting to go to MA after rafting. They would still have the same dilema in terms of having to leave for MA late in the afternoon. A few companies will bring you to or from places like Arenal or even to the Caribbean side but not Manuel Antonio.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 07:01 PM
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Thanks Suzie, that makes sense... I get you... they'd still have the same problem of driving late. I didn't realize the rafting trip would get you back so late.

I'm inclined to tell them to raft out of MA -- Savegro or Naranjo... anybody prefer any particular tour operators?

For that quick one-night in San Jose, I've stayed at Hotel Grano de Oro and really liked it. I can't remember (it was years ago), but does it make sense geographically to fly in, rent a car, stay at the Grano de Oro one night, then drive down to MA the next morning? I forget the proximity of the hotel to the airport -- anyone?

Thanks!
Carol
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 08:18 PM
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I don't think they want to hassle with a rental car at Grano de Oro. Not the best area and very limited parking. I think we paid $15-$20 each way for a cab, not a problem. Might be easier to stay closer to SJO since it is just one night. Melia Cariari is up-scale and only about 8-10 minutes from SJO. It has a big restaurant/lounge, great free breakfast and beautiful, fenced grounds. If they want an average place, there are many to choose from that don't involve driving into San Jose.

It is going to be difficult to find a rafting spot that comes close to the Pacuare. Great ride when the water levels are up. If they change their mind and stay over to go rafting, then it is important to stay close to town for the morning pick up. Grano de Oro will make all the arrangements, but have them call ahead so the hotel has a day or two to find openings. There are three primary companies, all are good and they do things very much the same.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 03:40 AM
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Linda is right. It makes sense to go into town and stay there only if you are doing something out of San Jose the next day or touring the town. We did this 3-4 times during our first years before we finally realized it made more sense to stay near the airport and avoid that $15 each way transfer fee! Especially if heading north or west to Arenal or the Pacific side.

There are some excellent hotels that are actually on the WEST side of the airport (toward MA and Arenal). If you want a more deluxe property, try Vista del Valle. If you just want overnight, check out Orquideas Inn--has a good restaurant and bar.

Our pick (these days) is the more basic ($50 per night) Hotel Villa Bonita because it is SO close to the airport, run by a great Tico couple who have become our friends, serves a very nice breakfast, and the owner, Humberto, is great for offering advice, directions, and arranging things! There are a couple of excellent restaurants within walking distance, couple of blocks.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 03:41 AM
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By the way, Humberto will gladly arrange your rental for you and they will deliver to the hotel.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 03:59 AM
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Another option to throw in the mix.

Since it is a very short trip, I would consider hiring a driver to take them to MA on their day of arrival. And then take a domestic flight back to SJO for International departure.

Unless they are just really wanting to drive, there really is no need for a vehicle in MA. We took local buses and cabs everywhere in MA.

The year we visited MA we were arriving in CR around 3. I had hired a driver to carry us onto MA. Had our car delivered on our final day so that we could travel to Arenal. Then we headed to Vista del Valle for our final 2 nights.

If they decided to stay overnight, I agree Orchideas in Alejuela would be a good option, as I am sure the Villa Bonito also.

Rule of thumb if you are heading west toward the Pacific there is no reason to go east into SJ. Lots of folks do not realize that SJO is west of SJ.

As for rafting, the Pacuare is awesome, but with such a short trip and wanting to go to MA, it just makes more sense of time to miss the Pacuare this trip. I have no personal experience with rafting out of MA.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 08:35 AM
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Hey everyone,

thanks so much for the suggestions... i'm leaning towards Orquideas Inn... wait, what do i mean "I'M" leaning -- it's my sister who's going! (boo!!!!!)


but good to know, 'cause i may be due for a quickie myself, now that American has increased their flights from south florida

anyway, thanks for the great info!
carol
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 11:13 PM
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Dfarmer is right. the airport (SJO) is actually not in San jose but in the Alajuela province which literally stretches out to the nicaraguan border. SO, if you want to spend little money and get out to MA quickly, simply stay by the airport: your choices range from the Hampton Inn to small B&B. Hotel Aeropuerto is the local option to the Hampton and it is on the road to MA. Orquideas is Ok but it takes you into the city of Alajuela. Your other choice within two miles of the airport is MANGO hotel, a friend always stays there.

Pacuare does not make sense if you going to MA after that. Pacuare is in the caribbean side, hours towards the east and MA is west and south.

Rafting is good at rio naranjo or Savegre, only that the Savegre has more luscious forests around it and more water, naranjo can be dangerously low in may where the rains have just started.

The suggestion of hiring a cab to MA is a good one, it can be only a bit more than the price of the overnight and meals around the airport. You definitely dont need a car in MA and the rafting company will pick you up in your hotel. rafting company options: rancho los tucanes, iguana, rios tropicales (a franchise of the legendary company).

Good luck.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 01:49 PM
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thank you pirulo I'm thinking the Savegre will be perfect.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 09:20 AM
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I used a wonderful cab driver a few weeks ago who, due to a big boo boo on my part because I was making so many flight arrangements to CR and around the states that I messed up my arrival day, ended up driving me all the way to San Isidro de El General after waiting an hour for me to see if my transfer company could find someone that day. He let me use his phone the whole time.

He works out of the airport and is youngish but married with a little baby. Enough english to get by but not great. We had a great 3 hr ride. Much more cautious than most drivers I see on the Cerro de la Muerte. He wanted $140 to San Isidro but when I showed him the quote from Anywherecostarica which was less, he just said okay and filled in his taxi book with the fare agreed upon. There was no problem at the end. You can contact him at....

Pablo Aragon Garcia
[email protected]
Cell: 8827-6738
Home: 2438-2407
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Old Apr 7th, 2008, 05:49 AM
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thanks for the info on the driver, suzie. my sister and her boyfriend are intent on driving and have rented a car... but i'm keeping this on file for my future trips to CR! i DON'T like to drive
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