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Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

Chicago, Illinois
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Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

Since our planning was made SO much easier by reading lots of Trip Advisor ideas, I wanted to write in to help others planning their Costa Rica trips.

First of all, whatever you do, you probably can't go wrong. It is such a beautiful country I think anyone would be thrilled just to be there.

I've included information about our hotels, transfers, and a few of the highlights of activities in each place we stayed. Be warned, this is a little long....

Our trip:

1. Transfer from San Jose Airport to Arenal. Got a ride from one of Willy's colleagues (Rodolfo). Other than the rocky roads, it was a comfortable trip and we were greeted with a friendly smile ($130 for the trip). You can reach Willy at: w_opciones@yahoo.com, and Rodolfo at: transportes-rodriguez@hotmail.com. In our case, Willy booked us but then had a conflict so he hooked us up with Rodolfo. It worked out great.

2. Arenal - Stayed at the Erupciones Inn Bed and Breakfast ($70/night). Absolutely terrific. Not only is the view of the volcano great (though the lava flow was to the other direction, we still saw lots of puffs of ash), but the hosts really made the stay special. Jessenia and William were very friendly, helped us organize all of our activities, and even drove us to the Hot Springs one night, just because they could. The rooms were clean and comfortable (with A/C). I can't say enough good things. The place is a little far from town (about a 15-20 minute drive?), but taxis only cost about $8 each way, which wasn't too horrible.

-- The Raft Safari with Canoa Tours was our favorite activity. So quiet drifting along the river, seeing lots of wildlife.

-- Hot Springs. I would definitely recommend Tabacon over Baldi. On our first night, our volcano tour included a stop at Baldi, but we were pretty disappointed. They were playing very loud music, and we were very hungry and the food options weren't very good. If you like the "spring break" feeling, this is the place for you. If not, try Tabacon or even one of the other smaller Hot Springs places in the area. Tabacon was much classier, had a great swim-up bar where you could also order snacks and sandwiches (we got burgers that were truly some of the best we've ever had... but maybe that's because we were sitting in a hot springs while eating them!). It's more expensive but it's worth it.

3. To Monteverede... Jeep/Boat/Jeep transfer, hotel arranged it and it was fine, but nothing to write home about. In Monteverde, stayed at Arco Iris ($65/night), which was nice. It's so humid in Monteverde that we found it a bit hard to sleep (sheets felt moist all the time), but that was no fault of the hotel. I think it's the price to pay for visiting a beautiful Cloud Forest. If you really want to be comfortable, it might be worth staying somewhere with A/C instead, because that may cut down on the in-room humidity. Also, Arco Iris is located in town (which we liked because we could just walk to various restaurants for our meals instead of taking taxis), but it also looked appealing staying at one of the hotels closer to the Cloud Forest itself.

-- Do a morning guided tour of the Cloud Forest. The guides bring telescopes and really do look out for wildlife.

-- If you do a hanging bridge tour (we did Selvatura), I recommend hiring a guide. We did it without a guide and though it was beautiful walking up in the canopy, we were so clueless about looking for wildlife. Though you're never guaranteed to see any animals, I still think the chances are MUCH greater with a guide.

-- The Frog Pond is really a unique experience. I would go during the day for your tour to learn about the frogs, and then go again at night (you can go on the same or a different night on the same ticket), when the frogs are out... then you really get to see them in all their glory. If you can't go twice, I'd recommend just going at night (they are nocturnal animals).

-- Night Tour of Cloud Forest - there are a lot of different reserves to choose from, but I think doing one of these is a treat. Though we didn't see a ton of wildlife (and we were in a large group so it was hard to hear our guide), just being in the jungle when it was dark was an amazing experience.

4. Took Interbus to Montezuma. The trip was kind of long, but the ferry ride was beautiful (saw millions of pelicans). We stayed at Ylang-Ylang ($215/night which INCLUDES breakfast AND dinner for 2)... but there are cheaper and more expensive options), and absolutely loved it. I can't say enough nice things. This was our splurge, and we had planned to just relax here. It was perfect. It is a 5-10 minute walk down the beach, so it's a little isolated (they take you and your luggage in a jeep when you get there and when you leave). We stayed in an Oceanview Bungalow, which was the cutest thing. You constantly heard the loud ocean waves no matter where you were, and we loved that. Great to just sit on our little terrace and watch the waves. White-faced monkeys were everywhere. The pool was very pleasant... spent almost a whole day there and had our lunch brought to us poolside! The people were very hospitable and helpful. And the food was GREAT! We are still dreaming about that food, weeks later. For what you get, this place is a steal. If you don't stay there, it might be worth it just to have one dinner there.

We loved this place so much that we ended up canceling our one night in San Jose to stay an extra night at Ylang Ylang.

-- We mainly just relaxed (took walks on the beach, walked around town, went swimming), but we did go snorkeling at Tortuga Island. As far as snorkeling goes, the water wasn't very clear, but it was still a fun experience. Just be aware that if you book this through the hotel, you go an an excursion that includes 45 minutes of snorkeling, and the rest of the time you stay on Tortuga Island.... eat lunch and swim for several hours. If you don't want to be stranded on an island for hours, this isn't for you.

5. Our last day. Took a Sansa Air trip from Montezuma to the San Jose airport.... then off to the USA. Worked out fine (though make sure you have some cash available (colognes or dollars) because there is a luggage weight limit and an airport tax).

I know this is rather long, but I hope this is helpful for people. If you have ANY questions, feel free to ask.

Los Angeles
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1. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

Nice report, sounds like you had an awesome trip! I can't believe Ylang Ylang is charging $215/nt for the bungalows now. We stayed there exactly four years ago and they were $85/nt with just breakfast, no dinner. They called it El Sano Banano back then, but exact same bungalows. They must be real popular now!

Western North...
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2. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

Great Post!

Sounds like you had a fabulous trip!!!! I cannot agree more with you on Ylang Ylang. What a treasure that little resort is!!!! The food was the best food we encountered in all of Costa Rica! Our mistake was going there first, as is was hard not to compare everywhere else to Ylang Ylang....which made the other places seem to fall short.

(I am adding this in case someone finds this thread while searching for information about Isla Tortuga. I hope it is not considered rude to add more thoughts to this post.)

We also did the Isla Tortuga trip while in Montezuma. I am not sure if it was different for us since our traveling group of 20 friends filled the entire boat.... but some of us enjoyed lounging on the island after snorkeling (drinking cocktails! LOL) ... and some of our group did not want to hang out on the island and asked if they could go back out; so they took a group back out to snorkel. I am not sure if they do this for everyone, but it wouldn't hurt to ask. Everyone enjoyed the snorkeling but I agree, the water was not clear like in the Caribbean - you could still see, it was just not vibrant.

Our six year old is not a strong swimmer by any stretch of the imagination and it was hard to relax while swimming with him as the water was choppy and life jacket was way too big for him so it kept riding up above his head - read as: I was exhausted. We both still had fun, but welcomed the return to the boat. Also, for those planning to take the Isla Tortuga excursion with children, make sure you bring your own masks for them. We found that the ones that were supplied for the kids leaked....fast.

I think our high point of the Tortuga trip was watching the dolphins swim alongside the boat and the spotting of the whale and the glimpse of the shark (thank goodness that was AFTER snorkeling LOL.) The highpoint for the kids was also the beach. The BBQ fish was AWESOME as well!

Brooklyn, New York
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3. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

That sounds a lot like the trip we did in February--we did those three places in that order after doing three nights in the Central Valley.

Ylang Ylang is indeed a gem. I was really tempted to have us go back to Montezuma next year just for Ylang Ylang, but we opted for Manuel Antonio instead.

For a half day trip out of Montezuma, I'd recommend Curu. We saw 40 monkeys there and one other person on the trails--we also saw a basilisk, turquoise-browed motmots, a coati (who got his tail pulled by a capuchin), thousands of crabs, bats, a blackheaded trogon, and an incredibly beautiful and unpopulated beach (except for the pelicans and frigate birds, that is).

Cancun Riviera Maya,
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4. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

Thanks a lot for this review!, awesome with your descriptions and tips. My husband and I are going for a honeymoon in a couple of weeks and we are doing a similar touring.

I was wondering if you see any places in Monteverde that you would think are better than Arcoiris (AC closer & closer to the reserve)??...

:)

San Jose, Costa Rica
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5. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

Sunsetblues...You are the kind of people we LOVE in our country...thank for visiting us...and GRACIAS for sharing such a nice trip report...

God Bless You...and hopefully we will see you soon...we already miss you!!

GRACIAS and Pura Vida!!

Luis Road Advisor

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!

Brooklyn, New York
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6. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

SolTomargo:

Arco Iris actually may have the best location of any of the places. It's very convenient to be able to walk to the Ranario and all of the Santa Elena restaurants and stores. The Monteverde reserve is very, very close to Santa Elena anyways.

The honeymoon cabin there is fabulous and you can't beat it. Other places may have better birding on the grounds, though. Depends what you're looking for.

Chicago, Illinois
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7. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

I'm glad my review has been helpful and enjoyable to read. I feel like I'll take any chance I can get to talk about Costa Rica.... the trip left me with such good feelings.

Anyway, I just wanted to clarify a couple things. First of all, I don't want anyone to think that I am giving Arco Iris a bad review. It was actually a very cute, clean, and well-run (and located) hotel. We saw monkeys daily, and the breakfast (thought they charge extra) was delicious. They were also great with arranging tours. I agree that being close to town is really nice. We had no major qualms with Arco Iris. I simply wanted to warn people that IF the humidity would be difficult for anyone, they may want to try elsewhere. For us, it was just part of the character of the country. It's such a humid country, I'm not even sure if the A/C would help anyway!

We did meet some people staying at the Trapp Family Lodge... I don't know if they have A/C, but they are practically in the Cloud Forest, and I think that could be a really great experience, too.

Regarding Tortuga Island... I know may people have really enjoyed that day trip... I think we just had bad luck that day. We weren't lucky enough to see any dolphins, whales, or sharks, and once we made it to the island, it rained most of the time we were there. That in and of itself wasn't terrible... we never expected everything to be perfect, and we actually really enjoyed the rain in general. I think we just wished at that point that we were sitting on our terrace at Ylang Ylang. And though cloudy, we did still see some amazing fish while snorkeling (it was my first time snorkeling, so I was just trying to get used the whole idea, which may have decreased my enjoyment a bit).

And finally.... I also feel like I'd like to go back JUST to stay at Ylang Ylang, but both of us also like to try new things all the time, so it's going to be a tough decision!

8. Re: Our Perfect Trip - Arenal, Monteverde, Montezuma, 10 days

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