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Best region for first visit?

Everett...
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Best region for first visit?

Planning on late June early July. 50s couple. Interested mostly in wildlife, fishing, snorkeling, beach combing, visiting at least one waterfall. At this point planning on 10-12 days. I would prefer not to have to do a lot of driving in this first visit, but would enjoy leisurely driving to see off the beaten path sites. Should we stay in one place and travel to our destinations or plan on staying at two different locations? No preference of airport. If it were your first trip, where would you go?

The amount of information to plan this has been overwhelming. Thank you for your welcome advice.

Everett...
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1. Re: Best region for first visit?

Hoping someone can help. I was thinking the Dominical area? Thoughts?

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Dominical
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Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Punta Uva, Costa...
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2. Re: Best region for first visit?

Stay at two locations, Arenal/La Fortuna and a beach destination. I love the Caribbean side of the country, around Puerto Viejo, everything you want is there. Dominical is very nice too, though it might get a little rainy.

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3. Re: Best region for first visit?

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Slovenia
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4. Re: Best region for first visit?

Honestly, there is no best place to stay. Each microclimate system has its own attractions, much depends on what you are looking for. High end, small and boutique style accommodations are spread all over the country. There are not many really off the beaten path locations left in Costa Rica; however there are some that have fewer, smaller and more spread around lodges, and others that are more congested with hotels, tour agencies and tourists.

As a beach destination, less frequented and more tranquil are Puerto Viejo on Caribbean side and Uvita on Pacific side. Both has enough to offer for a week or so, between beach and nature. Osa Peninsula is a destination in itself, very remote and pristine but comes with a higher price tag. In the central mountain range is the haven for birders - Cerro de la Muerte area.

You should stay at 2 locations, and your arrival and departure airport should be San Jose / SJO.

Saying all above, also north of San Jose there are beautiful off the beaten path places, like Rincon de la Vieja, Cano Negro and Tenorio. But that part will be covered by an expert for that area.

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Everett...
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5. Re: Best region for first visit?

Thanks for the feedback. If we would stay in either Dominical or Uvita, can you give specifics for places to go other than Corocavado and Cano (?) island? Are there interior volcanoes, thermal springs, cloud forests that would be an enjoyable day trip from there? My original thought was to save the northern area for another trip. Thoughts?

I def want a small boutique style place to stay. Have even considered the "fancy" tents offered by some. We're used and enjoy roughing it, and really want something to experience the "experience." Hope that makes sense!

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6. Re: Best region for first visit?

Within a couple of hours by car, you can reach: Manuel Antonio NP (closed on Mondays), Hacienda Baru Wildlife Reserve (excellent early morning guided birding), Sierpe River, and in the mountains, San Gerardo de Dota (cloud forest and birding). Closer to Uvita/Dominical yet still in the mountains you can do a horseback riding tour to El Diamante waterfall with Rancho Tranquillo. Even a full day driving to Puerto Jimenez and back is feasible, with the newly paved road. Those volcanos known to me are too far away (Turrialba, Irazu, ...). No thermal springs either, as far as I know. There is Cerro Chirripo, tallest mountain in Costa Rica, with a 2-day hike to its summit. A very long day would drive you to Wilson Botanical Gardens near San Vito (yet having an overnight is much better).

An example of a small boutique style of place in that area is Tkivillas Rainforest Lodge. There are many others, similarly small and nice ones. "Fancy" tents is more Africa safari style of accommodation, not so often found in Costa Rica. Wooden structures are much more popular, and nicer, IMHO.

Whenever you will stay out of bigger hotels/resorts, and you will have an "open mind and open heart" attitude, experiencing the "experience" is almost guaranteed. Hope that makes sense!

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Everett...
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7. Re: Best region for first visit?

Thanks, xelas! It does make sense. Am I right in thinking that the northern areas are more developed/touristy than southern? Or not necessarily? From what I've read, I'm even somewhat apprehensive about going to MA bc I've read of the crowds and tame critters. I guess that's why I was leaning towards the southern end.

What is in the Puerto Jimenez region?

Also, is there any benefit to staying in a hotel vs renting a home out for a week?

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Puerto Jimenez
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8. Re: Best region for first visit?

Tamarindo surely is, yet only the narrow stretch along the coast. Rest of Guanacaste province, Nicoya peninsuia, and everything inland between Nicaraguan border and San Jose is pretty much devoid of larger tourist centres (excluding Monteverde and La Fortuna/Arenal, of course).

Manuel Antonio, in my book, is the most touristy place in Costa Rica (have not been to Tamarindo). It has plenty of hotels and restaurants and nightlife and a (tame) NP and is OK for whoever wanted to take Costa Rica in 3-day package, yet south of it things are much much better.

Puerto Jimenez is the largest town (village) on Osa Peninsula, and Osa Peninsula is home to Corcovado NP, and as such excellent base for whoever wants to enter Corcovado on foot. And nearby Cabo Matapalo is teeming with same wildlife as Corcovado (less tapirs). Most accommodations in Cabo Matapalo are in high-end lodges (full board) or in houses to rent.

Personally I enjoy mingling with similar minded travellers so I always opt for a (small) lodge. YMMV.

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9. Re: Best region for first visit?

Again, I think you'll love Puerto Viejo area, especially if you stay around Punta Uva. Not quite as far as Osa, and much more affordable.

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10. Re: Best region for first visit?

I stayed in the Mono Congo room at Rio Magnolia Ecolodge about 1 hour from Dominical up in the mountains. It's a terrific place, the owners are very friendly and have a small coffee operation on their extensive property. You definitely need a good 4x4, our Terios was a little underpowered. That, combined with whatever hotel/resort/bnb appeals in the Dominical/Uvita area would be a nice trip. There would be a lot of diversity between the 2 without the long drives between Arenal and the central pacific area that would eat up days. Manuel Antonio is an easy day trip if you wanted to check it out. I seem to be in the minority, but I really like it there. It's set up for tourists, but it's not tacky, and there is a lot of opportunity to see wildlife, especially squirrel monkeys, which aren't everywhere.

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