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Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

Minneapolis
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Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

Wondering if the driving portions of the following 14 day itinerary sound reasonable, or overly ambitious:

Arrive in SJO @ 1:10 PM on a Saturday in February, get rental car from Alamo, and drive to La Fortuna for 3 nights. Conventional wisdom seems to indicate it would be 3:00 by the time we leave customs/rental counter. Yourtravelmap.com says this drive is 2.5 hrs, so we're worried that it will be dark or close to it by the time we get there. Only other option is to stay first night in airport vicinity first night and drop Arenal stay from 3 nights to 2. (Any flight delay would throw a wrench into this)

Tuesday we would drive from La Fortuna to Tamarindo for a 7 night stay. Yourtravelmap.com shows about 4.5 hrs driving. Not so worried here, as we can leave early from La Fortuna.

The following Tuesday, drive from Tamarindo to Manuel Antonio. Believe this to be about 6.5 hrs drive. This would be our longest drive of the trip, but again we plan to leave Tamarindo early.

End of trip the following Saturday, we would drive Manuel Antonio to SJO airport for. 2:25PM departure. This looks to be a 3 hr drive, so leaving at 9:00AM or earlier would be required to get to airport by noon. Is this too much for day of departure? Again, only other option is to head for airport region the day before, but really don't like the prospect of having to spend two nights in airport area (one night on arrival and departure)

This will be our second trip to CR. I have driven there before, and have enjoyed the driving as a way to see the country. Biggest concerns are driving unfamiliar areas after dark, and getting back to airport without missing departing flight.

Any insight greatly appreciated.

Costa Rica
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1. Re: Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

I don't think you will have a problem getting to the Arenal area on your first day. It gets dark around 6 pm so you should be OK. Sunset will be between 5:30 and 6 so you will still have some light after sunset.

Why Tamarindo if you are going to Manuel Antonio? It just adds a whole lot of driving to your trip.... for what?

As for getting to the airport -- it's usually recommended to arrive at the airport 3 hours before your flight time - no less than 2.5 hours. You will need to pay your departure tax, fill out a form and then stand in line to check in with everyone else on your flight. Most airlines will not let you board if you have not checked in at least one hour prior to flight time. Plus you will need to leave time to return your car (30-45 minutes) and a "cushion" in case of accident or traffic, etc. So really, better to leave at 7 am to be sure.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is stay somewhere near the airport your last night. This way, you can have a leisurely breakfast, explore the area a bit, get a nice early lunch and head for the airport. Many rental car agencies will pick up your car at your hotel so you can just taxi to the airport.

Slovenia
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2. Re: Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

Nothing much to add to Hattie's excellent advices. Maybe you should stay your first night near airport, to relax after the flight, and to start your drive toward Arenal in the morning, when the weather is usually much better. But you might have already done that drive on your first visit, so you should know best.

Houston, Texas
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3. Re: Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

We came the night before from MA and returned the car the day before and stayed close to the airport and in the morning took the hotel shuttle to the airport. We had a somewhat early flight and it worked out fine. Since you have till 2:00p you can keep the car the extra day but staying close to the airport is better. I would chance the first night and go to the destination.

Another thing, the rental car people will take their time checking the car out for dents and scratches.

Minneapolis
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4. Re: Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

Thanks to all for the input.

Hattie- regarding "why Tamarindo?", I guess it's because we wanted a week on the beach in the middle of our trip, with good access to a variety of restaurants and nightlife. That area is familiar to us, we loved the beaches from Avellanas to playa cocos. But the extra driving you point out makes me wonder... We have not seen Arenal or Manuel Antonio areas, so those are a must, but I'm starting to wonder if we would do better to substitute something in the Jaco area in between, instead of Tamarindo. Any suggestions?

Costa Rica
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5. Re: Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

Southern Nicoya Peninsula.... Santa Teresa et al. Or maybe Punta Leona or Playa Herradura.

One option that cuts down on travel time is to spend the night in Jaco and take the water taxi to Montezuma. (No cars.......)

6. Re: Does this driving itinerary sound reasonable?

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