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Driving Costa Rica

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Driving Costa Rica

I'm traveling to CR the beginning of June and am rapidly putting an itenary together. My trip will be Alajuela to Arenal, Arenal to Monte Verde, Monte Verde to some beach destination (Tamarindo, Montezuma or Manuel Antonio?) and then to Orosi. I have a couple of questions for the experienced driviers...

I've pretty much read all the discussions on driving in Costa Rica and am considering doing so. The one concern I have is not being able to leave luggage/valuables in the car when stopping en route to your destination for sightseeing or dining. The general guideline is someone stays with the car at all times. Traveling to Arenal, I wanted to stop at POAS and possibly La Paz. Are there any secure areas to park where you could leave a car/SUV with luggage?

I realize I am probably dreaming here, but I'm wondering if those that did drive CR always had someone stay with the car or took their chances.

What is along the route from Arenal to Monte Verde? Any great places to stop, tour, eat, etc.?

Any suggestions on a good beach destination? I had wanted to see the turtles at Tamarindo, but it appears it is off season. If this is true, I'm wide open for suggestions. Montezuma has been suggested along with Manuel Antonio. A hotel called Punta Leona has also been suggested. Any thoughts/praise?

Thanks

Thanks

San Jose, Costa Rica
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1. Re: Driving Costa Rica

When you stop anywhere...just try to park your car in a place that you can see from your table or the store you are going...try not to have the luggage tags of your luggage to visible...crocks are very smart they see tags ... they know you are a good old tourist!!

Like I said...is not that you have to stay with your car all the time...just keep and eye in your car!!

Some time is not taking a chance is old comun sense!!

From Arenal to Monteverde...I love that part of the country ...in a clear day form the hills once you pass Tilaran...the Guanacaste Pampa...loks so impresive...is just to seat down and enjoy the view for hours...not to many place to eat or anything else!! Just the mother nature as its best!!

Montezuma is a good beach...if you like to drive...is a excellent area to dirve around...Manuel Antonio...is one of our smallest parks...but is the best...and the area in general has a lot to offer.

Punta Leona..is mostly TICOS , even than now days , more foreigners enjoy and mix with us...anyway...Punta Leona is nice...the little beach of Limoncito is somenthing else to see!!

Hopefully we see you soon!! we costaricans love all kinds of people !!

At Poas Volcano...the parking areas are very safe...the park rangers are there...but who knows...!! I go there often and to be sincere I have not hear about any problems with bad guys...the same at Peace Lodge...the guard is there all the time...just be sure to mention to him that your luggage is there!!

R.A Luis

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!

Tampa, FL
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for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Driving Costa Rica

RA, as usual, gave some very good advice.

Try to keep an eye on your car wherever you can, but recognize that it isn't always practical absolutely 100% of the time. When you read about warnings a lot of the time they're referring to specific places that are particularly notorious (e.g. the Tarcoles croc bridge, the parking lot outside of MA Nat'l Park, etc.).

Not to state the obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people slip up on this - always lock your car. I'll admit I've sometimes slipped up on this myself, though never suffered for it. Also roll up all the windows. None of that will keep out a determined thief but it might cause him to break into the next car down the line instead because it is easier.

In some of these places the best thing to do is not stop there AND leave you're car unattended at all IF you have anything of value in it (ie on non travel-days when you're luggage is back at your hotel). The parking lot at MA is good example of where there is really no need to leave valuables in the car, because you'd be visiting it from your hotel.

Of course sometimes you also have to stop on a "travel-day" when you DO have your luggage with you. In that case, RA advise about keeping it out of sight is the best thing you can do. I'd also add never to open your trunk to get something out of your luggage after you pull in somewhere. That would defeat the whole point of hiding your luggage if anywone is around observing. If you have to get something out of your bags, plan ahead and do it before you take off from whereever you stopped so you'll have it when you need it for wherever you stop next.

Also be aware aware of which places are particularly prone to problems. The Tarcoles bridge is one of these and tourists regularly stop there while carrying their luggage since it is on the way from SJ to Jaco or MA and the thieves know it. That is a place where I'd say, "Yes, you do need someone keeping one eye on the car nearly constantly". OTOH, many if not most of the people visiting Poas and La Paz are day visitors not on their way from one place to another, by which I mean returning to the place they started and not carrying any luggage. Add to that the fact that neither is an unofficial roadside attraction like Tarcoles and has either rangers (in the case of Poas) or private security (in the case of La Paz). As such it is not nearly as big a target for theives.

Caveat: This doesn't mean that things can't happen at such places too, but merely that is not as huge a concern.

Re: your itinerary - You failed to indicate how tight your time frame might be but for whatever its worth, of the beach destinations you mentioned, Tamarindo is the most out of the way (not that that should be your only criteria). If you go there you might actually want to go there from Arenal and hit Monteverde on the way back. Montezuma is really nice, but not all that super easy to get to either since you'll need to catch a ferry (again, its other benefits may outweigh that factor). OTOH, it is much further south than Tamarindo and, since the ferry goes out of Puntarenas, much closer to the route you'd be traveling between Monteverde and SJ. Manuel Antonio is a very nice beach area and is only 1.5-2 hours off of the PAH (from the Esparza exit) on the way from Monteverde to SJ and 3-3.5 hours all the way back to SJ. Punta Leona is even less off of your route and would represent the least additional driving of the 4 places you listed.

Just to confuse you further, here are some other alternatives:

Instead of making the long and difficult drive around the lake to Monteverde (which I'll again agree with RA is extremely scenic), head from there to either Punta Leona or MA and get your cloud forest experience along the way by stopping at the Los Angeles CF at Villablanca. It doesn't have as many tourist options as the Monteverde Crowd Forest, but it also gets fewer people and gets you more off the usual tourist circuit and because it is so close to Arenal and on your way to all of your possible beach destinations (except Tamarindo) could free up more time for spending at one of your other scheduled stops.

OR you could skip Villablanca as well, go directly to MA and then return to SJ by way of Dominical, San Isidro, Cerro del Muerte, Orosi and Cartago. That way you could also stop or stay over at an additional beach area (Dominical) and/or stop or stay over someplace between San Isidro and Orosi for your cloud forest experience at that end. The reason this might make more sense is because the last place on your tour is Orosi, which is south of SJ and so it would probably make some sense for you to head further south from Arenal or Monteverde, certainly than Tamarindo or even possibly Montezuma. Sure, its a longer way back to SAN JOSE from MA via Dominical, but since OROSI is 1-1.5 hrs SOUTH of SJ its probably much shorter going in that direction and takes you through far more interesting driving than having to go through downtown SJ traffic.

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3. Re: Driving Costa Rica

Thankyou Roadadvisor and Projillo! The clarification on staying with the car is greatly appreciated. I appreciate the tips on hiding luggage tags, not opening the trunk at a stop etc. We plan to rent a SUV. We'll try to get one with privacy glass and hopefully a luggage cover for the back compartment or we'll throw a dark blanket on top of the luggage.

Is the road from Tilaran to MV ever impassable (mud slides, high water) in the Rainy Season?

Projillo, we only have 9 days( excluding air travel to and from CR) to hit Poas, Arenal, MV and a beach destination before we get to Orosi. I like the suggestion of traveling through Dominical and will be looking into it.

We'll have two days in Orosi to hang out and sight see while a family member visits with someone in Paraiso. Any suggestions for day trips?

Thanks again!

Annapolis Md
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4. Re: Driving Costa Rica

trvldremr hi, Let me know if you go to Punta Leona. I will be going there in August. First night Hotel Martino, Punta Leona 3 nights, LosLagos 2 nights, Peace Lodge 1 night, and back to hotel Martino. We will also be driving. Would like to know about the roads when you go.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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5. Re: Driving Costa Rica

The road to Tilaran from Monteverde!!

In my case when I leave my house in my daily driving routine, around Costa Rica...I do not let the weather report...move my life...I do respect it...but very rare I will change my driving plans...Costa Rica roads in many many ways are impredictable!! A mud slide will happen in a place that you never thought that was going to happend!

I hope I answer your question...but I do not like to be giving negative advice...when is not necessary...some people will tell you...not to drive there because... my cousin from Juno Alaska...visited Costa Rica 20 years ago...and was a mud slide there...listen to locals once you are here the day you are driving!! They really know!

R.A Luis

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!

6. Re: Driving Costa Rica

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