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Help with bus travel

Fort Worth
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Help with bus travel

Hello! I've never been to Costa Rica before, so I'm hoping someone can tell me if my planned itinerary is possible! We're flying into Liberia and arrive around noon. We're hoping not to rent a car. We'd like to go from Liberia to the Monteverde cloud forest and then to Arenal, or vice versa. We'd spend about four nights at these destinations total. Then we'd like to head to Nicoya for another four nights. Is it possible to take buses between these destinations? And if so, how long will the trips take? It is worth doing Monteverde and Arenal? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Tampa, FL
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for San Jose, Costa Rica
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1. Re: Help with bus travel

You didn't say exactly where in Nicoya you plan to go. I'll assume you didn't just mean the city in the middle of the Peninsula. You also didn't specify how many were in your group or why you were hoping not to rent a car. Was it because of your budget or was it for other reasons as well? For purposes of this discussion, unless you clarify otherwise, I'll assume you are a couple on a budget planning to go to Tamarindo after your tour of the highlands

Is it possible to take buses between these destinations? Yes. Is it practical? Probably not.

There are no direct public buses. Going to Monteverde from Liberia, you'd probably have to chage buses in Canas and I'm not so sure how the schedules sink up. From Monteverde to Arenal (Fortuna) you have to change buses in Tilaran. And from Fortuna back to say Tamarindo, you'd have to change buses in at least one or more of Tilaran, Canas and Liberia. In some cases, the wait between buses is fairly short. For example, if you take the 7:00 bus from Fortuna to Tilaran (the only other bus leaves in the afternoon and puts you in too late to continue on to Nicoya), the 11:00 bus for Canas leaves just 30 minutes after you get to Tilaran. And buses pass by Canas on their way between SJ and Liberia every hour. If you were going on to Tamarindo, you might be able to catch the 12:45 bus but more likely the 2:15, which would put you into Tamarindo around 3:45 or nearly 9 hours after you left. I won't do all the math but doing the loop in the other direction probably wouldn't be much better. It all sounds like a bit of a hassle to me.

Does this mean it not worth doing Monteverde and Arenal? Absolutely not. Only you can decide whether the cost savings of taking buses are worth the trade-offs but there are other ways to get around besides renting a car or taking busess.

If you don't mind cooling your jets in Liberia for a few hours, there is a 3:15 Interbus Tourist Shuttle that heads directly to Monteverde and will even drop you at your hotel (cost $39/pp duration 3.5 hours). And from Fortuna to Tamarindo, Interbus has your choice of 2 daily departures, again with door to door service (cost $29/pp duration 4:45 hours). It still a long drive but possibly nearly half that of the public bus trip. It costs a lot more but at least leaves you half a day more of your valuable vacation time plus it should be kept in mind that the last 4 hours on the bus are always going to be much worse than the first 4. Again, I understand you didn't specify Tamarindo but I used that as an example. The calculations would probably come out similarly for other common Nicoya destinations.

This reasoning works out pretty well for a couple. Since you didn't mention how many of you there were or why you didn't want to rent a car, I'll make a couple of brief comments about that. If it is merely economics and there are a bunch of you, paying $29-$39 a piece can add up. Renting a car probably still won't come out to be less than paying for shuttles (unless your group is really large) but the difference might become small enough that the other advantages of self-driving may start to make it seem more worth it to you. It will still take you several hours between destinations and won't save you much time over the shuttle route, but you'll be able to come and go when you want, stop whereever you want along the way and have use of your car while at your destinations (something that is particularly handy around Fortuna)

Before I conclude, you may have noticed I didn't say anything about the shuttle between Monteverde and Arenal. The reason for that is because for the same price ($25/pp) and time (3.5 hours) you can do the much more enjoyable van-boat-van ride across the lake or even the horse-boat-van tour($70/pp and 5 hours). They make getting from one place to another an activity in of itself. The other reason I saved that for last is because it bears on which order you should go. I think these are probably a little better done from Monteverde to Arenal than the other way around. Its nice to see Arenal looming up larger and larger ahead of you as you cross the lake and if you go the horse route it is much easier on the animals going loaded down hill.

Bottom line: is it worth doing Monteverde and Arenal, whichever way you do it? I think so. Going to CR and only going to the beach to me is like going to the US and only seeing Fort Worth or Texas. If all you want are beaches there are plenty of islands in the Caribbean that you can go to for that (or better yet come here to Florida). CR is geographically very diverse, but unlike the US or even Texas is relatively compact. You have the opportunity to experience its lovely beaches and just a few hours away experience some of its highest peaks. If you're going to fly all the way to CR don't let a few extra bucks stop you from appreciating all that diversity.

Fort Worth
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2. Re: Help with bus travel

Thanks for all the information. That helps a lot.

It will just be my husband and I traveling, and we don't want the hassle of renting a car and having to drive ourselves around. But we don't mind paying for the shuttles, so that's what we'll do for sure.

I've read some about the van-boat-van trip between Monteverde and Arenal. Is there any need to book this in advance? How about the shuttles from Liberia to Monteverde? Do they book up?

And for my husband who's afraid of heights... is the horse ride between the volcano and Monteverde especially steep?

We haven't decided on a destination on Nicoya yet, but just know we want to spend a few days on the beach. Are there any places you'd recommend in particular? It seems Tamarindo is mentioned often.

Thanks again for the help.

Tampa, FL
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for San Jose, Costa Rica
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3. Re: Help with bus travel

Since you're going to be in the Monteverde area for a couple of nights, there probably isn't any real need to book it until you get there but if you know when you'll be leaving for Arenal anyway, there's probably no harm in reserving before you go either, just to be safe.

The descent can be steep in places, but I have no idea what level of steepness would set your husband off. It has never been height or steepness that has concerned me when I've been riding. It has been the idea of the horse possibly slipping on the muddy slopes and the condition of my own backside after a couple of hours in the saddle. BTW, those horses know those trails like you or I know the backs of our own hands, so there really should be little concern over their being able to negotiate the course. At least, I never heard of any rider being thrown off a cliff or anything like that.

What you should really concern yourself with more than your own safety is the safety of the animals themselves. Are they well cared for? Overworked? Does the operator take them out when trail conditions are too bad for safe riding? For more info on this topic and which operators you should book with you can visit http://www.monteverdeinfo.com. That's also a great site for info on the Monteverde area in general. And while you're at it take a look at its sister site http://www.arenal.net since you'll be heading there as well.

As for booking the shuttles ahead of time, I'd definitely book the one for the first day, the one between Liberia and Monteverde, ahead of time. The return from Arenal to whatever beach destination you're heading to could be booked later but again if you know when you'll need to travel and don't think that will change why not reserve ahead just to be safe. Of course for that latter trip you may know the date but have the choice of morning or afternoon so if you're unsure of that until you get there and see how much you like the area you might want to hold off.

I don't know much about the northern and central Nicoya/Guanacaste beaches that are closer to Liberia, so you'd be better off getting advice from others on that. Montezuma and Mal Pais are more my speed but they wouldn't be as well located for a Liberia departure as Tamarindo, Flamingo, Coco and others in that area. One good general website on the entire area that I like to recommend is http://www.nicoyapeninsula.com

San Isidro de El...
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4. Re: Help with bus travel

monteverdeinfo.com is located in the treehouse in Santa Elena. You could just walk in and arrange for the Monteverde-Arenal trip there.

Monteverdeinfo.com also does shuttles to many of the same places as Interbus for about the same price.

5. Re: Help with bus travel

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