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Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

Edison, New Jersey
posts: 27
Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

My son loves wild animals - he loves watching national geographic wild since he's three years old. I would like to go to costa rica and see the turtle nesting, sloth, monkeys in their natural habitat, he's also fascinated with volcanoes. My question is should I go this year that he's 7 year old or wait a year and being 8 year old he may remember much more and appreciate it more. my other question would be should we go for a group tour or rent a car and navigate things with my husband, would it be harder to do things, drive and find these areas ourselves?

Thanks for the advise.

35 replies to this topic
Costa Rica
posts: 19,435
reviews: 23
11. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

Emmy - just so you know -- Arenal Volcano is not putting out any lava right now and hasn't for quite some time with no prediction as to whether it will again or when. So if you are counting on seeing any "nighttime show," it probably is not going to happen.

There are turtles nesting in various areas of Costa Rica at various times. You can just Google "turtle nesting Costa Rica" for some good information.

Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos
posts: 4,063
reviews: 95
12. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

Tortuguero is nice for turtle nesting. You have a good shot at seeing them if you go July-October. No lava at Arenal for about two years now. it's amazing and impressive to see the big conical volcano but no nighttime show unless it starts up again like H. mentioned. Sometimes it's very foggy, and you can't even see the cone.

Edison, New Jersey
posts: 27
13. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

Just wondering that if we are to rent car, how's the navigation and roads, are the signs easy to follow and where can I get a good map? Would it be hoove us to bring Tom tom gps?

Edison, New Jersey
posts: 27
14. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

We decided to go this spring break (we couldn't wait for next year :-) ). I'm trying to put together a 10 or 11 day itenirary, haven't had much time to do my research, i kind of know attractions but may get the wrong town. Will most likely rent a car. Tentatively flying to San Jose, stay there for a night, then to arenal for 3 nights ( do the 'hike for old lava flow hike the same day we get there, then proyecto asis the next day, and cano negro the next day). Fifth and sixth day to Monteverde (not sure yet, haven't read much of the attractions other than cloud forest, and canopy- hanging bridge tour). Should i skip Monteverde and rather check out Rincon de la viejo volcano, or would this be not feasible. Seventh day on to MA (this will be probably take the whole day for driving, no?). Eight day - MA park guided tour, Ninth day, spend at the beach. Tenth day- open to some activity before we drive back to San Jose to spend the night. Eleventh- leave for HOME. Any suggestions on iteniraries, attractions, hotels, rental car - company to use and do we need 4x4? Also for car renting, do we need to spend all that money for all the insurance,or any suggestion on what type of insurance that is necessary? Gassing up the car, can we pay in $$ or does it have to be colones? For attractions, should we book them now in advanced or wait until we get to the hotel and inquire the hotel about these tours? Sorry, too many questions, kind of last minute decision, hope we can still make it given the time left.

Costa Rica
posts: 19,435
reviews: 23
15. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

Wow... LOTS of questions!

1. The airport is not actually in San Jose but in Alajuela, the next town to San Jose. If you are going to Arenal first, there is no need to stay in San Jose because you will be backtracking the next morning. There is lodging of all sorts and all prices in the Alajuela area. One place that I like is Orquideas Inn - a beautiful location in the nearby "hills" with great views and a good introduction to Costa Rica. There are quite a few others. You can also arrange to have your rental car delivered to your hotel the next morning and just take a taxi from the airport to the hotel.

2. Your itinerary Arenal-Monteverde-Manuel Antonio sounds fine. It is a very popular itinerary. I wouldn't consider going to Rincon de la Vieja this time - it's just too far.

3. For more information about these areas: www.arenal.net www.monteverdeinfo.com and www.manuelantoniopark.com

4. You don't need a 4x4 unless you plan to do lots of exploring. The last 12 km or so going to Monteverde is kind of rocky and rough - like cobblestones - but if you just slow down, you will be fine. Lots of people make that trip in a non-4x4.

5. Some recommended rental companies include: Adobe, Alamo, Wild Rider, Vamos, Budget, Solid, Service. It's best to make your booking direct to the Costa Rica office of the agency. Keep in mind that there is a mandatory additional liability insurance that you must pay and some agencies include this in their quote and some don't. There are several threads here about car rentals and insurance that you should consult.

6. You can pay almost everywhere in dollars. But it's a good idea to have some dollars and some colones. If the price is in dollars, pay in dollars. If the price is in colones, pay in colones. You can get some colones from an ATM at the airport before you exit. Start with about 50,000 colones with is about $100. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted.

7. For tours, it's best to wait until you arrive in that area. In La Fortuna, you can walk around and see quite a few kiosks and offices of tour companies that usually have discounts.

Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 5,450
reviews: 52
16. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

San Jose SJO airport is actually in Alajuela, about 15 min from it. San Jose is 30-45 min away so look for your first night accommodation in or near Alajuela.

For comfort and because you are planning to drive up to Monteverde, look for 4x4 vehicle; a Toyota RAV4 or similar is big enough for three persons. There are several rental car companies worth looking at, my preferred is Wild Rider.

If your c/c covers your CDW (damage to rental car) then you should not take one. There is a mandatory third party insurance, most of rental car agencies does not show this in their daily fee. How much money you would like to spent on insurance basically depends on your comfort zone. Be aware that the roads are not smooth, and that Tico are generally not very careful drivers, so minor damages to rental car are common.

Rincon is more out of the way then Monteverde if next stop is Manuel Antonio.

Basic rule is to pay whatever is priced in US$ with US$ (mostly tours) and what is priced in colones pay with colones (gas, groceries, small restaurants). Get an ATM debit card and you will be able to withdraw needed amounts of cash on daily basis. The costs of using ATM are minor to the safe comfort of not walking around with a lot of cash.

I would book the tours while on location. Weather can be different then anticipated, tours can be delayed or cancelled. There are more tour operators then you imagine, so it is very unlikely that you will not be able to have your fun day. Be aware that MA NP is closed Mondays, and that it limits the number of visitors, so plan accordingly. You would benefit from having a private guide at least in Monteverde. Thus your son would have a lecture of nature that he will not forget soon. Booking a reputable guide is to be done ASAP.

There are almost endless choices of lodgings, from basic and un expensive to luxury and over the top expensive. I would suggest you to search for a small lodge type with cabinas on site. These are usually run and owned by local, mostly a family business. Breakfast is included and it is always very tasty, cooked and delivered. Last report from La Fortuna (Arenal) told us about Cabinas Faro Arenal - http://www.cabinasfaroarenal.com/ . That kind of lodging I am sure would give your family enough of comfort and nature for affordable price. In Manuel Antonio look at La Posada Jungle Bungalows - http://www.laposadajungle.com/ . In Monteverde Casa Batsu and Rainbow Valley Lodge are on top of their specific category on TA hotels reviews section.

Sorry, too much answers but you really need to hurry up. One side note: it is better to wait one more year and get to all those lodges and tours you want, then pushed it now. Just MPO. Have fun planning.

Edison, New Jersey
posts: 27
17. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

I'm guessing the week of 3/30 to 4/9 travel a very busy time? I'm thinking booking tours may be an issue? You're right I'm kind of rushing this now, hope to get it final within a day or two, sound crazy but hope to be able to do it. Kind of worried on lodges, hotel reservation, I may not be able to get them.

Costa Rica
posts: 19,435
reviews: 23
18. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

The beginning of that week will be very busy. The week before Easter is one of the busiest weeks of the year since this is a traditional vacation time for Costa Ricans. I would focus on your first couple of days - maybe spend them in Alajuela and do some stuff there - visit Poas Volcano, do a coffee tour, maybe some rafting or horseback. Then head for Arenal on Monday. That's one possibility. After that Monday, things will be back to "normal."

posts: 508
reviews: 40
19. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

You are going during Semana Santa--Easter week. That is THE busiest time in Costa Rica! If you still want to come, I'd check lodging availability first & airline cost (it's been my experience that it can be much higher at that time & Christmas week)

Chicago, IL
posts: 360
reviews: 15
20. Re: Wildlife experience with 7 or 8 yr old son

Instead of the week of Easter, when everything is expensive and crowded, I vote for the last week in June. It is off season, rate-wise, and it is the rainy season, where you might see showers, but things are green and beautiful, and you will see a lot of sunshine too. La Posada in Manuel Antonio, if you can get in, is comfortable and right next to the park. Arenal Observatory Lodge is in a very natural area of Arenal, where there is a pool, and lots of chances of seeing some wildlife. It is also one of the closest hotels to the volcano. Everywhere you go in Costa Rica, you will encounter creatures, whether you like it or not, so your 7 year old will have a ball. Don't spend too much time on the roads, especially with kids along, and you will be glad you didn't.

Edited: 5:49 pm, February 17, 2013
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