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Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Swansea, MA
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337 posts
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Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

I am planning a trip to costa rica in April 2007. My preliminary ittinerary is as follows: Fly into Liberia. Two nights Rincon de la vieja area. Drive to Arenal 3 nights( one of these days will be a one day white water rafting trip). Two nights Monteverde area. Drive to Montezuma for three nights. Take ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas for overnight San jose area for next day departure. My main interests are day hikes, swimming/waterfalls, geothermal features/volcanos, rain/cloud forest. My main concern is the time it will take to drive from 1) Rincon de la vieja to Arenal 2) Monteverde to Montezuma. Any thoughts/advice would be appreciated!!

Thank you!

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1. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Just got back from my third trip to Costa Rica. Rincon sounds great, Arenal for sure. See the hot springs. It is expensive now $49 to enter. If you have others, you may want to stay at Tabacon. It's expensive but the hot springs is included for the day of arrival and the next day. If not Arenal Paraiso is a more budget, safe place with a volcano lava view. Always stay at a place with a safe in the room. Do the rafting and do the Arenal Sky Tram Canopy Tour. The mack dady of all tours. We did an amazing hike. The Rio Celeste Hike. Also try to take a day tour to La Fortuna waterfall. The Hanging Bridges are nice also but you can do this yourself and don't have to pay for a tour. I've done the hike around Arenal twice and this you can also do yourself and not have to pay the price of a tour. Monteverde is nice but hard and long to get to. Also look into La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Loved this place and you can also see Poas Volcano. Didn't like Montezuma at all. It was overrated. Dirty and not alot to do. Loved Mal Pais instead. It's only 30 minutes from Montezuma. You can stay there and take day trips to Montezuma. The drive from Rincon to Arenal will probably take you anywhere from 3 1/2 to five hours. You best route would be to go from Rincon to Mal Pais or Montezuma and then take the ferry over to Arenal and Monteverde that should save you time. It took us about five to six hours from Tamarindo to Mal Pais. Reply if you would like more info.

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Swansea, MA
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2. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Thank you for the information Maui girl! I am thinking of possibly traveling to costa rica the first two weeks of May instead of April. I figured that if I wait two more weeks I will get the reduced rates that start May 1. I know this is the start of the rainy season but I am wondering if road conditions will be much different from April? The less rain the better. If this is not advised I may just travel in March. Thank you for telling me about Montezuma. Mal Pais seems much nicer. The most important things to me are beautiful scenery and an upscale secluded accomodation. I was advised by others not to drive from Rincon to Montezuma...too long of a drive, that I should drive from Monteverde to the ferry and drive down to Montezuma. Does that sound correct? Where and how long is the Rio Celeste hike? I plan on 2 full days exploring arenal. Is that enough? The rafting trip I am planning will be from San Jose on the Reventazon (one day). I thought about the Pacuare but I don't want to go above a class III rapids for safety reasons. Also, have you ever been to Rincon? Do you recommend it?

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3. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Your best route would be to drive from Rincon to Monteverde, then to Arenal and then to the ferry acrross to the Nicoya Pennisula. If you go to Arenal first you will be back tracking. Take a look at a map and see what you think. The time it will take you to get from Arenal or Monteverde to Montezuma or Mal Pais is the same if you were to just go straight there from Rincon. If you take the ferry allow extra time for getting lost, we did in the port town. We barely made it on and that was after having to pay off a man. The ferry is an adventure within it'self. Must have open mind for sure for this ride. You can email me at nokaoitours@earthlink.net for more info.

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Whitby, ON Canada
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4. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Can't say about April...we were there the first two weeks in May. Yes, rates are lower, less crowds, no line-ups, hardly any traffic on many roads, etc. Our guide at Monteverde Cloud Forest anticipated only 100 visitors that day vs. over 2,000 people during peak season...therefore a much better chance of your seeing wildlife, etc.

Just because it's May doesn't mean you're all of a sudden into all-day monsoon rains...every day for two weeks we had what is apparently a 'typical day'...bright sunny mornings to do our main activities, gradual clouding over during the early afternoon and then off/on scattered late afternoon or into the evening. For us it was all just part of the experience!! Obviously drive with normal caution to suit the wet conditions, but be alert...the rains can get quite heavy and the sudden, rapid run-off can be incredible We were caught in one storm in San Jose at rush hour, the 3-5 ft. deep ditches were so overloaded with torrents of water it frequently ended up running across the road axle-deep. What a traffic snarl!!! I suspect the same can happen, perhaps worse, on some of the country roads.

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5. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Hi- We also just returned last week on a similar trip, I do have a lenghty trip report posted that talks about our experiences and lodging in

La Carolina (not a lot of information, but a true gem of Tico immersion) from there included in the fee is a guided hike to Rio Celeste, truly special hike. This is about an 1.5 hours from Liberia on way to Arenala.

You might want to consider Rincon area - highlight was horseback ride into mud baths at Buena Vista Lodge, over to La Carolina for one night.

Arenal- we rafted Rio Toro with Destafio, it was fun and well run. Also if you are so inclined when in Arenal check out the Pure Trek rapelling trip, it's a rush but great staff and quite an experience.

We did not do Monteverde, but did drive from Arenal to the Puntenarus Ferry. to find either Montezuma or Mal Pais off the ferry just follow the traffic to the right and bear left in town... eventually there will be signs.

It took us 3.5 hrs from Arenal to the ferry and about 1 hour on the other side to Montezuma.

Reading the trip report I posted will give you more detail.

Regarding going in May and rain, when we were there in Mid June we had occasional rain, it was a non issue, the volcano was clear all three days we were there.

Write if you have any questions

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Swansea, MA
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337 posts
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6. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

It sounds like a great trip! Do you think it is possible to drive from Rincon in the morning, do the Rio Celeste waterfall hike, and drive to Arenal before dark?

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Boston
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7. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Yeah, I do the only issue would be a guide for the hike, other than staying at La Carolina I;m not sure about getting a guide. If you have the time if you leaving Rincon area by 2:00 in the afternoon you would get to La Carolina by 3:30-4:00 with 2 hours of daylight stay at La Carolina that night enjoy there hot pool, food and hospitality. Go on a 9:00 am hike, come back for lunch and leave at 2:00 for La Fortuna. The drive on Rte 4 is on very good roads except at the end toward La Fortuna there are odd random sections of unpaved roads. That would give you an unforgetable and unique experience. The views of Arenel Volcano approaching from this direction are amazing, also notice the pineapple fields all along Rte 4. Staying at La Carolina was a key cultural experience for us.

Driving from Rio Celeste we went all the way north on rte 6 to Upala and then went south on Rte 4. I know there is, but could not find a cutover right from the Rio Celeste area east (on a dirt road) that intersects with Rte 4. I obviously don't know the condition of that road because I didn't find it, but is would be worth trying to get info on.

If you really don't want to stay over I think you could dothe hike in a day, but figure out how to get a guide or do the hike on your own.

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Swansea, MA
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8. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

Zippidydo, How long of a drive was it from La Carolina to Arenal? How long was the Rio Celeste hike? Also, what kind of 4x4 were you driving and were you happy with it?

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9. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

The drive was about 2.5 hours, but I believe there is a cut through from somewhere near La Carolina to Rte 4 that might save you 45 min- 1 hr.

Rte 4 is a very well paved road and an easy drive for most of it.

The hike was from about 9 - 1:30

We had a Nissan Pathfinder it worked out very well for us with 4 of us travelling. Definately recommend a 4x4. We rented from dollar rent a car they had a very good price.

Good luck in your planning.

Al

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10. Re: Please help with self drive itinerary!!!

there are nice waterfalls at rincon, you should also visit the waterfall at Bagaces:

…typepad.com/photos/…bagaceswaterfalls.htm

skip monteverde- it´s too crowded and go to santa elena:

…typepad.com/santa_elena/home/index.html

i like montezuma and the waterfall is beautiful, but it´s almost a days drive from monteverde and most of it bumpy!

you should consider doing 2 days in santa elena and get the jeep-boat-taxi from la fortuna, arenal, the best springs there are Eco Thermales

…typepad.com/la_fortuna_arenal/…index.html

the waterfall in la fortuna- la catarata- is one of the best in costa rica:

…typepad.com/photos/costa_rica_photos/lacata…