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Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

Chicago, IL
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6 posts
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Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

Hi -

We're planning our first trip to Costa Rica and only have a week to stay. We've narrowed things to down to three possible itineraries. We're planning on renting a car and driving between destinations. Would love any suggestions, advice, estimated travel times, favorite spots to stop along the way, etc. Also worth noting - we're staying over New Years, so any local festivities that you know of would be appreciated.

Here's our options:

3 nights in Playa Brasilito/Conchal and 3 nights in Playa Coyote (near Mal Pais)

OR

3 nights in Playa Brasilito/Conchal and 3 nights in Arenal volcano region

OR

3 nights in Arenal and 3 nights in Manuel Antonio nat'l park

Thanks in advance!

Denver, Colorado
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363 posts
13 reviews
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1. Re: Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

I vote for 3 in Conchal area and 3 in Arenal. You would get a quick but marvelous overview of the country!

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

I agree with hoodoos on this one. Unless you're a real beach person, why spend ALL your time at the beach? There is so much more to CR than that. I'd mix it up a little and include some highland destination in your itinerary and the Arenal volcano area is a good place to do it. Between Playa Brasilito/Conchal and Manuel Antonio its more of a toss-up. Arenal-Manuel Antonio is the classic itinerary but who says you have to do everything exactly like everyone else?

BTW, just to confuse you further, here are some other possibilities. How about 2 days at the beach, 2 days at the volcano and 2 days at a cloud forest (such as Monteverde) for the most complete review of CR environments? Or, if you're going to go to a Guanacaste beach, you could check out Rincon de la Vieja instead of Arenal and fly in and out through Liberia. You'd only be seeing the NW corner of CR but that would keep your driving time to the minimum.

With the exception of that last suggestion, the differences in driving times shouldn't be so great as to trump going to see a particular place that you want to see. I mean you're talking several hours drive between each destination anyway, so IMHO what is an extra hour or 2 one way or the other. I'll hold off on more specific recommendations as to distances and places to stop along the way until you're more settled on exactly what you want to see and do.

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2,234 posts
1 review
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3. Re: Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

Oh yeah, I was also going to say that you MIGHT want to rethink renting a car depending on how many of your there are, where you want to go and how many days you are planning to spend at each place. If you're only going to 2 places than you only really need to get to and from the airport and that ONE day driving between those 2 places. The rest of your time you could probably easily make do without the car and it would sit idle (while still racking up rental charges). If there are just 2 of you, it could wind up cheaper to rely just on shuttles, local taxis and the tours that will pick you up at your hotels. OTOH, if you go the 2-2-2 itinerary I just threw out to you or you just like the convenience and added freedom of having wheels at your disposal, it might not come out that much more expensive if at all and might be worth it to you. Again, I could help you with the math once you get down to a more specific plan.

Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

I would definitely include Arenal in your itinerary. Lots to do there. Not sure if you want lazy beach time or things like MA Nat'l park, Canopy Safari, kayak sunset mangrove tour, Finca Valmy horseback ride...all things you will find in MA. Either way though it looks like you'll have a great time!

5. Re: Survey: choose our first time itinerary!

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