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Costa Rica Itinerary help pleae(17 Posts)
So based on recommendations from another thread I've booked flights to San Jose for next summer. Quite happy with myself as by going before the English holidays they aren't too pricey. Now all I've got to do is get up at 5am on Thursday to get Easyjet Gatwick flights .
We'll be there for 2 weeks and I'm getting a little stumped on the itinerary. What I thought we would do is: 2 nights central valley ( we don't want to go into San Jose at all)
3 nights Tortuguero- ideally would only stay two nights but turtle tours don't start until 1st July
4 nights Arenal - not sure how we'd get there from Tortuguero- looks like long drive should we break it up ?
5 nights Manuel Antonio
DS will be 14 - he and DH are up for anything adventurous and particularly enjoy white water rafting and beaches with big waves. I don't do anything adventurous but am more than happy to relax or go on nature walks whilst they are gone. We'd all be pretty excited to see some exotic species and rainforests.
We want a balance of relaxation and adventure. We don't like cities but don't mind built up tourist destinations.
We don't particularly enjoy long drives - although DH is fine driving abroad - so want to cut that to a minimum. I'm wondering if it's worth actually going to Tortuguero- although it does look fantastic- or if we should sacrifice that in order to see somewhere else.
Any thoughts most welcome.
I didn't get to go to tortuguero when I was in Costa Rica a few months ago as we decided against the really long drive. It would also require you to leave your car and get the boat the rest of the way. We were advised against much car use due to the roads/driving conditions plus the high instances of theft of/from vehicles.
We were there in June and were advised that it was too early for turtles anyway but if you'll be going later than this then it may still be worth the journey.
If you want to see the wildlife properly I'd advise having a guide or booking onto a trip. We saw wild sloths and toucans that we would never have spotted in a million years on our own. They also have excellent viewing equipment with them that they will be able to use your phones and cameras through.
Other excellent animal experiences are night walks through the forest and hummingbird gardens where you can get them to land on your hands if you're close enough to a feeder.
One of the best things we did was cross into Nicaragua and visit an open volcanic crater where you can see the lava. There's also some nice little towns to call in at and climb church bell towers etc.
Tamarindo is apparently excellent for surfing. I only passed through to do a boat trip though and it didn't seem my sort of place to stay. For those who like beach activities it tends to be rated highly. Water rafting is very popular so you'll likely be able to find many places that do this. I surprised myself by doing a fair bit of zip lining and enjoying it - I thought I'd hate it. There's plenty of places that do it if your family fancy it but be careful about the safety of the places as there have been a lot of accidents in the last few years.
Yes I'm wondering if we should skip Tortuguero as it also means we're committed to a couple of nights in the Central Valley as the shuttles to get there leave so early.
We’re thinking of going to Costa Rica too. Could you tell me which guide/company you used for the sloth/toucan trip?
And also how the crossing to Nicaragua worked. Was that with a tour company?
We did San Jose, Arenal and Manuel Antonio. As you drive through Arenal, there are quite a few places advertising the likes of zip lining, horse riding etc. It's attractive but if I'm honest it didn't quite live up to my expectations - the volcano is no longer smoking and the natural bit springs we swam in were built of concrete. We did see quite a bit of wildlife walking around and it's a popular area for hiking. I'm not sure I'd want 4 nights there.
Manuel Antonio is beautiful. It does attract more tourists than some of the national parks but in effect, this adds up to bars, restaurants and hotels in the road approaching the park with rainforest behind them. You can get to the park by bus and walk around yourselves. There are also quite a few guides looking to hire themselves out at the entrance. We went on a guided tour organised by our hotel - we did see far more than we would have seen otherwise! The Beach in the national park is spectacular and has some opportunist monkeys! There are changing rooms at the beach. There are lots of mozzies in the rainforest so either cover up or apply the deet!
Where we stayed (Tulemar) in Manuel Antonio as saw as much wildlife as in the park and it has it's own sloth institute. It also had a private beach with kayaks and boogis boards. There are quite a lot of activities available in the area (more zip lining and riding as well as boat tours Dec etc). Be slightly wary of activities involving animals as there has been a real growth in exploiting animals for the tourist dollar - sloths for example shouldn't be cuddled for selfies! There are are a good number of places to eat on the road to the park - not exactly fine dining but absolutely fine! We did find that places here tended to add onto the bill a 20% tip so check your bills. Change is always given in local currency so if you have dollars shops and restaurants will not always give you a great rate of exchange.
We (or rather I) planned this trip and it was a DIY job and I used a local firm for transporting us between places who I found on TripAdvisor who were good. Wish we had done Monteverde Cloud Forest and a couple of other places!
Thanks sjane that's very helpful to know about Arenal- back to the drawing board again.
You'd kindly recommended Tulemar before - it does look amazing but my concern with the lodging is ot looks like unless we went for one of the expensive but lovely looking villas, we'd be sharing a sleeping area with DS and at 14 we all prefer a bit of privacy!
They also seem to own the Buena Vista beach villas so I'm thinking they could be an option
We’ve booked to go next May for 9 nights. We’re doing one night near the airport as we land in the late afternoon, then 3 nights near Arenal, 2 nights in Monteverde and 3 nights Manuel Antonio. I’ve DIYd it as it was so much cheaper that way, I think we’re going to pay for private transfers between the different destinations as my husband really doesn’t want to drive (and the cost is about the same). I’m really excited about the trip!
I hadn't really considered Monteverde but that might be a good Tortuguero replacement.
I got a quote from a travel agent as well - it was absolutely ridiculous and I do wonder how they stay in business.
Because there are still people unsure about how to do it themselves or feel they’d be better off going that way if something goes wrong. It also takes time and not everyone knows where to start looking when it comes to flights etc. For me - that’s all the fun part, I love it! I’ve even itineraries in my head for trips we may never take - but that’s probably quite sad!
The people I’ve met who’ve done Monteverde by and large have loved it OP. Geographically it would fit as well with your plans?
2catsand2kids who have used used for transfers?
Thinking of going in December myself, so would prefer not to drive. Am trying to plan but it’s all a bit scary at the moment t
Not @2catsand2kids but you could ask firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote. I got a couple of firms on Tripadvisor to quote me and this lot came out the most competitive. They had new people carriers, air con & turned up on time. No complaints.
I visited Costa Rica a really long time ago so things will have changed but Monteverde really sticks out in my memory so I'd highly recommend it.
I agree with PP about Arenal (there's not much to do so maybe cut your visit there shorter). For me the volcano was impressive and I enjoyed the hot springs.
We went to Limon - don't bother (I did see a wild sloth there though).
We visited an amazing national park with a beach...I'll try and remember the name of it.
We also went scuba diving if that's your thing.
We’ve had four quotes for shuttles and haven’t yet decided which company we’re going to use. The quotes are almost identical for each company and they all have five star ratings on tripadvisor so not quite sure how we’re going to choose between them! The companies we’ve got quotes from are Odyssey Tours, Costa Rica Drivers, ILT and Tuscan Limos.
Ok so looking at it could stay at La Fortuna rather than Arenal and then there is a bus/boat transfer to Monteverde which looks like fun.
I would strongly recommend Monteverde as the cloud forest was amazing. We stayed in the nearest hotel to it Trapp Family Lodge where we watched a pair of resplendent quetzals in the tree outside the breakfast room for ages
Yes it looks like I will factor in a couple of nights at Monteverde now, great idea.
Am feeling chuffed as have found company that will do one day white water rafting picking us up from near the airport and then dropping us off in La Fortuna.
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