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First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

Lima, Peru
Level Contributor
5 posts
27 reviews
First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

We have traveled all over, but never to Central America. My husband & I are looking forward to spending some time in CR (3/17-3/27); I am fluent in Spanish and my husband can speak about 20 words :) We enjoy the beach, some hiking (want to zip line), relaxing, love driving thru different/challenging terrain, and definitely enjoy mixing with the locals and hanging out at laid-back places, including bars (at the end of the day). Appreciate culture - good food & music.

Here is our itinerary. I'm asking for some suggestions based on personal experience & tell me why, please. Wondering if we should cover some other kinds of areas in CR... Do you feel like it's too much beach & not enough parks/nature? Are there other places in CR that we shouldn't miss on a first-time visit? Muchas gracias.

Day 1: Arrive noon SJO. Afternoon bus to Miramar (overnite @ Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo)

Day 2: Zip-lining (5 hrs). Bus to Jaco. Overnite.

Day 3: Ferry to Tambor. Rent car & drive to Montezuma. Overnite.

Day 4: Montezuma

Day 5: Drive to Samara. Overnite.

Day 6: Samara

Day 7: Drive to Tamarindo. Overnite.

Day 8: Tamarindo

Day 9: Flight from Tamarindo to Arenales. Overnite.

Day 10: Flight from Arenales to San Jose. Overnite.

Day 11: Early flight to Panama.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
7,910 posts
150 reviews
1. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

Ugh, way too much driving and too many destinations. Pick 2-3 and dump the rest.

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
52,928 posts
119 reviews
2. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

Totally agree wityh my amigo Ray...way to much moving around and even in public services...way to much...you will need a vacation to rest from your vacation!

roadadvisor

guanacaste
Level Contributor
3,115 posts
54 reviews
3. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

less places , narrow down to 3 , to much driving

Lima, Peru
Level Contributor
5 posts
27 reviews
4. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

Thanks for the input! Awesome - everyone agrees too much driving and limit to 3 places. No prob. We have 9 full days (excluding in/out). Now to narrow down... Montezuma, Samara, Tamarindo, or Arenales? Only reason we are going close to Miramar is b/c apparently (based on TA - Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo have "best" zip-lining). Any thoughts? And only reason stopping in Jaco is b/c of time of day - won't be done with zip lining until 3-4 pm, after lunch. (Don't want to drive at night).

Worth going as far as Tamarindo? Spend more time in one of the places mentioned vs. other? Scratch a place altogether and go somewhere else? Which place, including somewhere I haven't even mentioned?

Thanks, cheers.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
7,910 posts
150 reviews
5. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

I would just do Arenal and Montezuma--you can zipline at either destination--at Montezuma if you go in the afternoon the zipline tour involves a break to swim at the top of the local waterfall.

Definitely skip both Jaco and Tamarindo.

Lima, Peru
Level Contributor
5 posts
27 reviews
6. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

Cool. Evidently you have a lot of experience re: CR :) If we skip Miramar, Jaco, Tambor, Samara... with 9 available days, what's your suggestion on how to distribute the time b/t Montezuma & Arenal?

Oh - we're flying in/out of SJ. What's the best way to get from SJ to Montezuma & Arenales? And from Arenales to SJ?

Any time in SJ other than in/out or forget it?

Would YOU consider the Caribbean side as a first-timer?

Thanks again. Y no mas :)

Grecia, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Province of Alajuela
Level Contributor
8,260 posts
44 reviews
7. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

I would do 3 nights in Arenal and the rest at the beach. Take a run up the coast for a day to Mal Pais, check out some of the islands in the area of Montezuma. It's a fun trip IMO

You can check shuttles with Interbus - https://www.interbusonline.com/home/home.asp or fly with Nature Air or Sansa

Edited: 11:36 pm, March 04, 2011
Montezuma, Costa...
Level Contributor
538 posts
8 reviews
8. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

Some other ideas

If you decide to go to Jaco you can take the speedboat taxi straight to Montezuma which saves you a lot of time Check Zuma Tours website for info.

If you decide to drop Jaco - then, depending on your budget take the direct bus to Montezuma or a shuttle. Either one includes the ferry, which BTW goes to Paquera, not Tambor (the boat is named Tambor which often causes confusion)

Samara is sweet, but there is enough beach in Montezuma to keep you going for a while and skipping it will save you a days drive. Tamarindo is too far, I'd drop it

There is also ziplining in Montezuma, which if you did that, may save you more travelling, and it incorporates a stop at the Montezuma waterfalls, which is kind of a standard 'must see' in Montezuma - so you kill 2 birds with 1 stone. It is easily possible to split 1 day between the zipline and another activity - Cabo Blanco nature reserve, horseback riding on the beach (El Pinto is the company to go with) or just lounging on the beach or in the hammock.

For food in Montezuma -

I recently ate a meal at Cocolores and I was mightily impressed both with the food and the service.

Sano Banano has amazing nachos & is perfect for people watching - people tend to go there a lot for brekfast

For pizza/pasta - Allegro on the corner or Tirania (sp?) by the creek are my favourites

For a more expensive treat, there is Ylang Ylang on the beach - very lovely. If it is in your budget, maybe even consider staying there.

PS - I agree with all the others - the original plan involved way too much driving - the distances look small on the map, but they really aren't once you see the roads, and the beaches are all much the same unless you are a dedicated surfer.

As someone else mentioned, from Monte, you can easily make a day or overnight trip to Malpais/Santa Teresa too

Happy Planning!

Playa Flamingo...
Level Contributor
143 posts
1 review
9. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

I agree with the other posters. You will enjoy your vacation more by spending more time at your destination. Arenal is awesome. One of my favorite places in the country. Zip lining, sky walks, waterfall rapelling, so many fun things to do.

Safe travels, you will love Costa Rica. There is no other place like it.

www.happierthanabillionaire.com

La Fortuna de San...
Level Contributor
2,002 posts
190 reviews
10. Re: First time to Costa Rica - Itinerary but NO IDEA... Help!

You two will definitely get enough "challenging terrain" without having to look for it. :-) Most people, and for good reason, go to La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano area for your adventure part of the trip and then some beach time. Everybody claims to have "the best ziplining"...I wouldn't go to Miramar if that's the only thing that's drawing you there. Since you arrive into SJO around noon, I'd suggest this itinerary:

*SJO to La Fortuna ,spend 2 to 3 nights here

*La Fortuna to Tamarindo, spend 2 nights there

*If you want to do one more spot I'd do Manuel Antonio for a couple of nights

Everything in CR moves at a slower pace so definitely cut down on all the travel days and give yourselves time to enjoy the three places you choose. :-) Have a great time!

Wendy, La Fortuna, CR