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First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

New Haven, Vermont
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First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

We are a family of 5(2 adults, 3 children 6, 10,12) and were wondering how long to spend in this area? We are in Costa Rica for 8 nights (arriving late on first night SJO) and would like to split our time between only 2 areas (MA?) We are thinking of a vacation home rental for 4-5 nights (pick-up at airport) and then heading to the pacific coast for a couple of days and back to Alajuela (to the vacation rental) for a couple of nights before we leave EARLY (private delivery to airport from home). Is there enough to see and do for this period, or should we stay longer in MA? Any suggestions would be must helpful!!

Winnipeg, Canada
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1. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

Hi,

Please refer to my reply to your question re Quepos.

Is the rental location already decided on? Is it is the city of Alajuela or somewhere in Alajuela Province - which happens to include the Arenal Volcano area - a very popular tourist attraction - as well as many other places.

How you split yur time depends on where in Alajuela you actiually are staying as well as your personal preferences.

pura vida

raquel

New Haven, Vermont
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2. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

No we haven't commited to a rental yet (have one in mind near Vista del Valle). We weren't sure if we wanted to do the Arenal Volcano because some of the post here said it was very touristy and there were better choices (Irazu?). Are there better family beaches than MA? We will have a rental car delivered our first morning in CR and picked up our last night in CR. Thank you for your suggestions.

Punta Uva, Costa...
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3. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

Although a very popular destination for visitors to CR, Arenal/La Fortuna area is not to be missed. There lots to see and do in the area, and one of the most beautiful in Costa Rica,

San Jose, Costa Rica
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4. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

NOt much going on around Alajuela...a lot better to spend more time around MA.

roadadvisor

Alajuela
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5. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

It seems you have a vacation rental in the area and maybe a car so here's a few things you can do in the area or as day trips from Alajuela as a base:

Zoo Ave in nearby La Garita: not just a Zoo, but a place where animals go for rehab - the bird rehab area is not accessible as they need peace and quiet but the zoo is excellent - very natural settings and the kids will love it

Butterflies - at the butterfly farm in near by La Guacima or at Doka coffee up the hill from Alajuela or at La Paz - all have butterfly gardens

Poas Volcano (45 minutes from Alajuela): leave early by 8am for best viewing - very accesible active Volcano - check out youtube for some recent eruption footage (very infrequent but you never know) and a nice little hike via Botos lake.

Downtown Alajuela: the old museum, the cathedral, the new Juan Santamaria square, the Mercado Central (a typical “experience” in most of Latin America) and on Fridays and Saturdays, the farmers market AKA Plaza Ferias - a real treat if you are interested in Costa Rican fruits, veggies and "culture"

InBioParque in Heredia (35 minutes from Alajuela by car or taxi): this repository of Costa Rica’s biodiversity is also an educational visit contrasting the structure and preservation of the tropical dry forests, the rain forests, etc.

Grecia, Sarchi & Zarcero (30 minutes to 1 hour from Alajuela): wood crafts, souvenirs shopping and photos. Sarchi is home of the painted ox cart; also try the little visited and very nice Elsie Kintzler gardens behind Sarchi (a rare find) and the oxcart factory of the Alfaro brothers - the water wheel that drives all the machinery was rebuilt in 1923. You might even meet the local “Edward Scissorhands” working on the topiaries at the church plaza in Zarcero.

San Jose: city tour of museums, city walk, etc. We like the Gold Museum (world class), also visit the best indigenous art at the NAMU gallery and the newly worked on National Museum, the old Bella Vista Fort.

Doka Coffee: just up the hill from Alajuela (20 minutes). This is the tour of vintage coffee processing using the water separation method for the coffee aficionados. Just show up, they will have space within an hour.

Ark Herb Farm (Heredia area and 30 mins from Alajuela by car). It offers acres of medicinal plants and interesting herbs, unique trees and produce.

Irazu Volcano, Cartago ruins and Cathedral, Orosi valley and/or Lankaster Gardens: you seem to have a car so this is an excellent day trip. There is so much to do in this Southeast side of San Jose that you may end up doing 2 day trips to include the delightful Cachi Lake restaurant, the sugar fields of Juan Vinas, the pre-Colombian ruins at Guayabo, and Turialba Volcano (which you can see from a visit to Irazu Volcano).

Berni

Alajuela

Costa Rica
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6. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

Berni - thanks so much for posting this! When this question comes up, I sometimes answer with a few things, but your list is great! A keeper for sure.

Playa Flamingo...
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7. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

If you can find the time, Arenal is exceptional. I really don't think it is touristy at all, of course you have gift shops and the like, but it definately isn't as touristy as Manuel Antonio. You will love it there, the volcano is spectacular, when you see the rocks shoot out it takes your breath away. Plus, so much to do there, zip lines, sky bridges, sky tram....lots of stuff for the kids.

I quit my job and moved here permanently three years ago. This country is so beautiful and your family will have an amazing adventure to tell friends about. I have some pics of the volcano at my blog:

www.happierthanabillionaire.com

wethersfield, ct
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8. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

Did you go on your trip yet? My kids were 11 and 14 when I took them six years ago, and Arenal was their favorite! We did the hanging bridges and a zip line, and a few other things. Touristy in CR is not the same as in the US--it was not very crowded at all. I recommend it as a can't miss place for families.

Kalispell, Montana
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9. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

we are going to Costa rica in Oct. and want to stay in Alajuela for the first couple of days. Has anyone stayed at Arilapa B & B?

Costa Rica
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10. Re: First time to Costa Rica, how long to spend in Alajuela?

Haven't heard of that one yet. My favorite place in Alajuela is Alegria B&B www.alegricbandb.com