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Planning two week Costa Rica trip with 17 and 18 yo boys

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We have traveled quite a bit the last 8 years. My son is a senior in high school so he is picking our destination for spring break this year. He is looking for something islandy but also with a lot of adventure, I've done a fair amount of research and have decided that Costa Rica should fit the bill (He also mentioned Bali and Dominican Republic but it appears they may not have as much in the adventure dept).

He will be bringing a friend with him (my son is 18 but friend will still be 17 when trip happens). We will have a full 2 weeks the last week in March and first week in April. The boys are interested in rapelling/canyoneering, ziplining, ATVing, kayaking, surfing and maybe white water rafting . We'd like to give the boys a little independence on the adventure stuff (definitely want them with a tour/guide but we don't necessarily have to do everything with them), though probably interested in ziplining and whitewater rafting. For hubby and I also looking at hiking, hanging bridges and more cultural things.

It looks like we will most likely arrive in SJO early in the morning after a red eye flight so I'm thinking we choose to just relax a bit in San Jose and spend the first night there.

From there I would like to spend a few nights in Arenal/Fortuna area and a few nights in Monteverde. I think we will have 5 nights for this (6 if don't spend first night in SJ) how would you divide up those 5-6 nights? Right now considering Hotel BelMar in Monteverde and Nayara or Springs Resort& Spa or Tabacon Grand Spa Resor in Arenal/LaFortuna area. Also, should we stay in both places (Monteverde and Arenal/Fortuna) or can they both be done by staying in the same location?

Then I want to spend a week on the beach somewhere. This is where I'm really stumped. Have been looking at all the beach locations but how do we decide between Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, Samara?? Our 21 yo daughter will most likely be joining us for this portion of the trip. Definitely looking for a luxury 5* location for this. Want to be on or VERY near the beach (ie resort has a 3-5 min. shuttle that will take you there). With 5 of us would also consider a villa - but want one attached to a resort with access to resort amenities (pool/spa/restaurants). Also want to be close to a town for variety of restaurants - walking distance would be ideal but 5-15 min. drive would be ok. We wouldn't have a problem renting a car if need be. Friends of ours have stayed at Punta Islita in Samara and love it. It looks fabulous just don't want to pick the first recommendation I get.

Also want to know what are best places to do each of the adventure things, i.e. where is the best zip lining?

Interested in ANY comments/suggestions you might have about the trip!
Thanks to everyone!!

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    Four nights in Arenal/La Fortuna and two nights in Monteverde is about right. We've stayed at both Nayara and at the Springs Resort and Spa. Both are really nice properties. Nayara has a very honeymoon feeling to it though. The kids would love the Springs Resort and Spa, so that would be my pick. They have a great Club Rio activity center where you can tube or kayak on their beautiful river, also loads of natural hot springs all over the property, a water slide, and five restaurants. Plus a spa for mom if you want it. We loved it. I got a half price deal on Groupon, not sure if they are still running it. La Fortuna has fantastic adventure activities. I'd zipline at Sky Trek; they have some of the longest, highest lines in the country with great views of the volcano and the lake. We did rafting with Rio Tropicales and really enjoyed it. We did canyoneering/waterfall rappelling with La Roca through Susnet Tour and loved it. I know you can ATV in the area too; check with Desafio and Sunset Tours for more info. Both have very good, comprehensive websites. Lots of nice hiking in the area too including the volcano, the waterfall, at the lake, and the Hanging Bridges. For most, I'd hire a guide to up your chances of seeing wildlife. You can definitely do the waterfall hike on your own though. We stayed at Fonda Vela in Monteverde and liked it. We chose it because of the extensive grounds and the fact that it's one of the hotels closest to the reserve. We did a nice night hike at Hidden Valley - saw a fox and a porcupine and some other cool wildlife. If you're interested in seeing Monteverde, you definitely want to stay there, not worth doing a day trip since the road is long and bumpy. Two nights is about right. You can zipline in the area too.

    For the beach, I'd go with Manuel Antonio. We just did a trip to Tulemar Bungalows and loved it. Upper Mot Mot villa is very popular if you want to check that one out. Tons of restaurants you can walk too, plus the villas have kitchens if you want to keep drinks cold or bring back leftovers. They'll even stock the fridge and have groceries delivered if you want them too. They have their own beach and a free shuttle that runs around the property. Also free kayaking and boogie boarding at the beach. Lots of adventure activities in this area as well.

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    Costa Rica is certainly a very good choice: beautiful, safe and amazing about wildlife and nature.

    I found this website about 14 best luxury hotels in Costa Rica:

    I only know one in that list: Villa Caletas. And I can say it is a wonderful place.

    I personnaly really really like Manuel Antonio.
    A lot of tours, beaches, the National Park, great restaurant (don't miss El Avion at sunset...beautiufl view).

    If you want to compare prices for Manuel Antonio hotels:

    Hope this help!

    Enjoy your trip!


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    I always think it's better to travel to your first destination upon arrival (unless you're arriving in the evening), there are private shuttles that can transfer you from the Airport straight to your hotel.

    I'd go to Monteverde first (3 nights) and then to La Fortuna for the next 3 nights. You can do day tours from La Fortuna to Monteverde but it's not the same as staying in Monteverde, you wouldn't be able to appreciate its real value and it's a long transfer each way.

    This is an itinerary I'd like to suggest for the first week:

    Day 1
    - Transfer from SJO Airport to Monteverde.
    - Overnight in Monteverde.

    DAY 2
    - Canyoneering tour for the boys.
    - Hiking one of the cloud forest reserves (Santa Elena or Monteverde) for you.
    - Overnight in Monteverde.

    DAY 3
    - In the morning, El Trapiche Tour for everyone, even though this is not an adventure tour but more of a cultural tour, it’s a really nice experience. It’s a coffee and sugar mill tour, it might sound boring but it’s not.
    - In the evening, a night-walk tour to get a feel of the nocturnal wildlife.
    - Overnight in Monteverde.

    DAY 4
    - Morning transfer from Monteverde to La Fortuna via van-boat-van. You get to travel by boat on Lake Arenal.
    - Optional afternoon tour: the boys might enjoy exploring the Venado Caves underground.
    - Overnight in La Fortuna.

    DAY 5
    - Zip-lining tour with Sky Adventures (which includes a gondola ride and breathtaking views) and Sky Walk tour (hanging bridges).
    - Overnight in La Fortuna.

    DAY 6
    - White water rafting tour to the Balsa River (class 2 and 3 rapids).
    - Overnight in La Fortuna.

    DAY 7
    - Transfer to beach location.

    As far as hotels, The Springs Resort is a real Gem, but if you want to be as close as possible to the Volcano I think nothing could beat the Arenal Observatory Lodge. In Monteverde, Hotel Belmar is a good choice but you may also want to consider "El Establo".

    FOR THE BEACH PORTION: Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo.


    If you choose Manuel Antonio for luxurious hotels consider "Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort", "The Preserve at Los Altos", "Gaia Hotel & Reserve" or "Parador Resort & Spa".

    Activities here: hiking Manuel Antonio National Park, parasailing, kayaking, sailing on a catamaran (with snorkeling included), segway tours (good option to get to know the area), jet skis, surfing, zip-lining, horseback riding, ATVs, Ultra Light Flights, Carara National Park, Vacation Buggy, etc.


    Hotel: Cala Luna (it has Villas).

    Activities: Surfing, horseback riding, ATV's, catamaran sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, Palo Verde National Park, stand-up paddling, zip-lining, gyrocopter tours, jeep adventures, etc.

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