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How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

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Boston, MA
Level Contributor
57 posts
28 reviews
How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

Greetings experts! I keep going back and forth on how to split our time for our first ever trip to Costa Rica. We are two adults in 40s, no kids looking for nature, wildlife, hiking, and then beach time. Not as much into "adventure" activities like zipling or rafting. Basically we want to soak up as much of the flora and fauna this amazing country can offer. Looking to travel jan/feb 2014 for 12 nights. Planning on using shared/private shuttles for transportation.

Here are my initial thoughts:

Fly into SJO and spend 4 nights in Arenal at AOL. Enjoy hiking trails on the property, trip to a hot spring, Proyecto Asis, and day trip to Rio Celeste.

3 nights in Monteverde area hiking the reserves, maybe the Sky Tram, night hikes etc. Looking at Arco Iris Lodge.

Then 4-5 nights in Manuel Antonio. Looking at Tulemar if we can swing it financially, or La Posada, La Parador or San Bada. We specifically want relatively easy access to the beach, (walking or by shuttle), nature trails on site or nearby. Will plan on Rainmaker Reserve, Mangrove Tour and maybe a guided night or early morning bird tour for activities.

So my question: Should we just skip Arenal since we are not as into the adventure activities. We really want to see Rio Celeste. Is it possible to do this from Monteverde as an all day tour? Or just stay one night near Rio Celeste? Looking at all there is to do in MA, not sure if we want to spend more time there?

Any thoughts most welcome!

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
45,082 posts
30 reviews
1. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

If you are not much into soft adventure tours...maybe add more time at Manuel Antonio....San Bada offfer a great close location to public beach and National Park entrance...remember National Park close on mondays!

Stay one night around Rio Celeste...


Level Contributor
351 posts
17 reviews
2. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

You sound exactly like my husband and I. We weren't interested in ziplining etc. but we love to hike, spend time on the beach and see wildlife. Honestly, Arenal was the least favorite part of our trip! The volcano was inactive and I believe still is. Our lodging in Arenal was beautiful (El Silencio) and we really like Eco Termales hot springs but otherwise, we could have skipped it. We really loved Monteverde however, lots of hiking and wild life, we did a coffee tour and spent a lot of time in the reserve.

We did not go to Rio Celeste, but I really wish we had done that instead of Arenal.

Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
11,697 posts
59 reviews
3. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

No day tours from Monteverde. Yet Rio Celeste is worth staying even 2 nights in that area. You might shorten you stayt in Arenal and Manuel Antonio to give time to Tenorio.

Manuel Antonio
Destination Expert
for Manuel Antonio National Park
Level Contributor
2,171 posts
4. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

I agree, you could skip Arenal and spend a night or two near Rio Celeste, or in exchange for going that far North consider those extra nigths on the Osa Penninsula South of Manuel Antonio. What a gem that is for nature lovers and hikers. When in the MA area, Tulemar has great hiking trails and beach on it, or if there is space a La Posada that is a good choice, though I personally prefer to not be directly at the entrace of the park as it can get busy there and unless going in the park there aren't much in the way of hiking trails. Parador is a nice hotel, but not close to other restaurants. Enjoy!

San Francisco...
2 posts
5. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

We happen to be doing this exact itinerary now! Just finishing up the trip. We visited Arenal (La Fortuna), Monteverde and are now in Manuel Antonio. We will have stayed 3 nights in each. We're in our mid-30s and I happen to be pregnant so we haven't been able to do too much of the adventurous stuff Costa Rica has to offer and our trip sounds very similar to yours.

ARENAL: I wouldn't skip Arenal. It's true the volcano can be hit or miss (can't see the very top of it this time of year) but the area is beautiful and the hot springs are great. We stayed at the Volcano Lodge and it was very nice - felt very resort like but I got a great price (about $80/night). This price included breakfast and the breakfast was really good... coffee, juices, great selection of fruit, sausage, cooked to order eggs, pancakes etc. The rooms are all single story (no one above you) and ours had a little porch with rocking chairs and a view of the volcano. At night you could hear a symphony of forest sounds. The weather was warm with a little rain and some humidity but not too much.

As for hot springs - I'm sure Tabacon is a very nice hot springs place (at $85/person per day) but we LOVED The Springs Resort which currently has a deal for $50 for a 2 day pass. It's a little tough to get to (bumpy road to get there) but so worth it. I think there were about 18 mineral hot spring pools in the most lush tropical environment. We actually spent a whole day just at this resort. Amazing place to relax. Here's the website http://www.thespringscostarica.com/. We did a volcano hike but I'd honestly skip the tour guide and just do one on your own. He told us history of the volcano but it wasn't the greatest hike and wasn't cheap for what we got.

MONTEVERDE: We stayed at Arco Iris! It was great. smaller rooms but very intimate feel and the nice thing is you're walking distance to restaurants, shops, bank, grocery store but once you're in the grounds it feels very lush and private. It's in Santa Elena, which I'm sure you know, and I definitely recommend staying there if you're not getting a vehicle as the other places don't have much in walking distance. We did a guided tour Curicancha which was pretty nice but I would recommend the other 2 parks. If you're really into birds this hike is for you since that's pretty much all we saw (no quetzal on this trip unfortunately). Curicancha didn't have the moist feel of the other ones (like you'd expect in a rainforest) Most of the tour was in a low dry forest that kind of felt like one we'd hike through at home in California... we did the Selvatura hanging bridges tour and it was right next to the Santa Elena park entrance and definitely more of a rainforest feel. I recommend doing a night hike in Monteverde. We did the Silvestra one and we ended up seeing 2 sloths and a green viper, a kinkajou among various insects and sleeping birds. Weather was sunny, warm during the day and cooled down at night. You definitely need some layers here. The wind picks up at night and there was not much humidity.

MANUEL ANTONIO: As for Manuel Antonio, we just got here today. Definitely the beachy tropical vibe here. Weather is warm and humid and has a very laid back feel. We plan to check out the national park & beaches tomorrow. So far we've seen a sloth, an iguana and a couple different breeds of monkeys and we haven't been into the national park yet.

As for the vehicle situation, we rented a 4 wheel drive and have loved having our own ride. Depending on rides and buses can be annoying and having to stick to a schedule etc. We have really liked being able to stop off where we want (for example we stopped and had lunch in Jaco on the way here today)... People freak you out about renting a vehicle here but we've had no problems. The roads into and out of Monteverde are dirt and rocky but if you have a decent 4wd you'll be fine. Just my 2 cents.

I think each place has different things to offer and you should see all 3.

Good luck planning!

7 posts
6. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

your program is perfect you dont need to plit anything.Arenal volcano is a very green place too.

7 posts
7. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

if you have time go to rincon de la vieja volcano national park too.This place is out of the main tourism stream and have great opportunities to offer: kilometers of trails up to the crater and its acid lake or down into the forest rich of animals like monkeys or tapirs and beautiful birds.Volcanic phenomenons like hot springs,fumarole and mud pot in the natural contest.Beautiful waterfalls like rio celeste and a very characteristic,cozy and cheap hot springs in the natural scenery of the forest,where you can bath almost in solitude.The entrance of this park is 30-40 min. from the town of liberia,but I guess there are Daily tours from many towns or hotels.I enjoyed this trip of one day from Tamarindo because we have seen so many things in only few hours.Wen in Arenal you go to cherro chato and observatory lodge ( very great hikes! ) I missed monteverde so i can only be envious! Have a nice time... Travelthenature

Boston, MA
Level Contributor
57 posts
28 reviews
8. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

Thank you all so much for all your responses! Such great feedback, and I am really grateful! REally looking forward to our trip next year (we were originally aiming to go this year but had to postpone). I sure I will have more questions as we get closer to our travel dates. Thanks again!

9. Re: How to split our time? Arenal/Monteverde/MA

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