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First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
36 posts
2 reviews
First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Hello all!

After nearly booking with a travel company, I decided to plan my own itinerary (yeah!!). Planning to travel between 12/21-1/8/19, for 7-8 days ( I know it’s peak season ☹). I have not booked my airline flight, (still looking for a great deal via Spirit, SW…).

Here’s my travel plans/tours (arriving/departing SJO).

La Fortuna-3 nights (1/2-1/5)-already booked at Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa, Figured, I'm close to lots of free/paid activities (hiking,waterfalls)

Monteverde -2 nights – visit Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve...more activities

Manuel Antonio- 2 nights – visit National Park and Beach

San Jose-1 nights- (optional)-local sight seeing before departure date

Please let me know if this is doable or am I insane☺. Any feedback/suggestions/info on scheduling shuttle transportation, tours/activities from Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa. Also, not sure if I should visit Monteverde first?...Thanks in advance and happy travelling!

16 replies to this topic
Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,877 posts
51 reviews
1. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

This itinerary is OK but only if you have good flight times. It's worth spending more to arrive early in the day and depart late. Otherwise you have to stay near the airport your first and/ or last night. Also look into Copa and Jet Blue.

Secure your flights first before continuing with other arrangements. You don't even know which airport you're flying into yet. A difference of a day can save you hundreds of dollars.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
7,562 posts
149 reviews
2. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

for 7-8 days in my opinion should choose between Manuel Antonio and Monteverde. Especially if you are spending 1st and/or last nights near airport.

There's nothing in San Jose that's worth your time on your first visit. Minimize the amount of time there.

Also, unlikely to get a very good flight deal that time of year. If you get good flight times for a reasonable price on a reputable airline (I.e. not Spirit) I'd grab it.

We don't fly US airlines to CR unless it's a direct flight--making a flight connection in the US can cause you to miss your outbound flight in the event of bad weather, and connecting in the US on the return flight is almost always a miserable, time-consuming process that forces you to go through baggage claim and security twice.

If you can't get a direct flight, we recommend Avianca (connecting through San Salvador) or Copa (via Panama City). Very easy to connect through those airports, with no requirement for immigration/customs. That can shave 2 hours off your return flight.

Ontario, Canada
Level Contributor
9,822 posts
70 reviews
3. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Re booking AOL before you bought your air tickets: check their current Terms, but I seem to remember from the time we made own booking there, that you will lose 50% of your total cost of staying there if you cancel due to change of plans. (We booked directly with them, not via Booking.com or any other 3rd party.)

Entrance to SkyAdventure is close to AOL. When you book SkyAdventure, you can add transportation, for a fee, and they pick you up about 15 min before your tour time. We found SkyAdventure very prompt with responding to our e-mail inquiries.

AOL has a local shuttle for US$8 pp one way to get to La Fortuna- see schedule and details here: https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/share… . Lots of tours originate there.

To get to/from AOL from another area of CR, we used prebooked shared shuttle van from Interbus, which we used in other areas, too, and found them a good option for up to 3+ adults travelling together. See https://www.interbusonline.com/rates.php . Unlike some other transfer companies we had contacted, Interbus did not want extra fees for the drop off specifically at AOL, due to its sort of remote location.

AOL has a long list of tours, but you need to add transportation costs. They can e-mail you the list of tours with prices (of just the tours) prior to your visit, if you ask them by e-mail, like we did. Taxis were about US$30 one way, per car, between AOL and La Fortuna. Some attractions in that area offer own transportations, as an add-on to the tours, which will be on their site. Some divide hotels in "zones", and depending on which zone you r staying at, the prices of transportation vary.

AOL offers a "free" guided hike - included with your rate, for the guests. Departs daily at 8:30 am from the reception. See https:/…free-activities for more info about it and other free activities. We had reserved the hike when we had booked our accommodations, which was much closer to our stay Dates than your dates are, but you are going in the peak holiday season. When we checked in mid afternoon, we reconfirmed the guided hike participation for the morning of our first full day. It is more of a walk than a hike, for 2.5 hrs, with frequent stops to listen to the guide talking about Arenal volcano, the area, fauna, etc. It was ok, certainly do it while you are there.

Edited: 3:04 pm, May 13, 2018
Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
36 posts
2 reviews
4. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Thanks for the feedback!...good idea to make addtional plans after purchasing plane ticket. Decided to skip staying at San Jose and try to fit in Manuel Antonio. I live in Florida, so hopefully I can fly the red eye flight (arrival) and leave late (departure).

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,877 posts
51 reviews
5. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

It's only a three hour flight, maybe less from Miami. You don't need a red eye. Nonstop would be ideal and that would make it easy to arrive before noon. Check Copa, as well as Jet Blue and Southwest. Try to avoid Spirit.

Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
36 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Thanks for the tour info...very helpful. Luckly, my hotel reservation comes with free cancellation. Perfect location to see the sites. One more question..is it possible to visit Manuel Antonio park and beach the same day?..are they in close proximity?...thanks

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,877 posts
51 reviews
7. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

The beach is within the park. This is all in a very small area, including the trails. That's why you'll see comments about MA park feeling crowded. It's an accessible location, though, and packed with wildlife so it's popular for understandable reasons.

Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
36 posts
2 reviews
8. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Ok thanks...Will do both. Not much of a beach person so I won't need to stay at the beach all day.

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,877 posts
51 reviews
9. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

These are not the types of beaches where people hang out all day. You can get into the surf to play around in the water a bit but you won't need to sit on the sand for extended time afterward. The draw to MA is the wildlife on the trails and the scenery.

Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
36 posts
2 reviews
10. Re: First time visit to CR! Need assistance with itinerary/tours

Okay..perfect!

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