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what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

Vancouver, Canada
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what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

Hi,

My boyfriend and I will be in costa rica for 3 weeks at the end of June - beginning of July. The 5th night of our trip we have to be back in San Jose, to head to do some volunteering, but we would like to see some of the country before that. Can anyone suggest what to do? We fly into San Jose on a monday and arrive around 8pm, so I don't think we can go far that night, but then we have to be back to spend the saturday night in San Jose, that leaves four full days in the middle.

We'd like to do things like a canopy tour (zip-line), jungle walks, hike a volcano, see wildlife, and see the cloud forests. I'm not sure if there is somewhere that would be good base to stay to do those things. We'll be spending 2 weeks on a Caribbean beach volunteering at a turtle hatchery, so if it's not on a beach that's ok.

I found a couple hotels near Monteverde Reserve. Would that be a good location?

thanks in advance!

Oklahoma City...
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1. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

To not try to squeeze too much in this time period, I would recommend spending the first night in San Jose - have the hotel you stay at arrange for your transfer to the hotel. In San Jose I would recommend Central Mercado in downtown and then if you have not been to a coffee plantation, there is a nice tour at Cafe Brit.

Then travel to Arenal area to see the volcano and in this area you can do nature walks, see animals, swim in hot springs.

Hotel suggestions include www.costaricalarivierahotel.com/index.html

La Riviera is close to the San Jose airport, it has been 4 years since we stayed here

http://www.doncarloshotel.com/ This hotel is closer to downtown San Jose

www.hotelsanboscocr.com/Ingles/index.html This hotel is in LaFortuna in the Arenal area.

I think trying to get to and from Monteverde may be too much, I haven't been there yet, we are going this year.

Antigua, Guatemala
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2. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

Hi,

I would go the next morning directly to Arenal. Here you can do all the tours you want. And with four full days, you won't feel rushed and feel that you are getting everything out of it:)

Have fun, where are you volunteering? Tortuguero or Manzanillo?

Bye,

Marina K. Villatoro

http://travelexperta.com

Tampa, FL
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3. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

Re: Monteverde, that 1st poster was probably thinking in terms of the time and effort to get out there for a SHORT stay if you were ALSO going someplace else. However, if that is the only place that you'll be going during those 5 days and you're going to use it as your base, then I don't think it would be "squeezing too much in" at all. You could do the zipline, see wildlife and certainly cloud forest as well as some other interesting things from there but the bigger problem might be in filling 5 whole days there with enough variety. Two or 3 nights would be enough to cover the highlights and you could return to SJ early for the remaining couple of nights and do some highly worthwhile activities from the SJ area.

However, I think someplace else like the Arenal/Fortuna area that the last 2 posters suggested would be easier to get to then Monteverde and have a wider variety of things you could do once you're there. Easily enough to fill 5 days. In fact, you could do everything on your list and then some including visit some waterfalls and especially a number of wonderful hot springs that you can soak in after your adventure activities of ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, w/w rafting, etc. Plus you could make getting to and from there on Tuesday and Saturday an adventure in of itself.

There are day tours to Arenal from SJ, which normally I don't recommend because 1 day (with lots of travel time to get there and back) is way too short for that area. However, you can bring your luggage and you DON'T have to return back to SJ with the other tour participants at the end of the day. The prices aren't TOO bad because they include the admission to the hot springs, which can be pretty pricey by itself ($30-50/pp w/meal), another meal AND the transportation there, which would also be pretty pricey if you go by standard tourist shuttle ($35-39/pp each way). Of course, going by public bus would cost you less than $5 each and if thats your style then this may not be for you but taking buses also involves somewhat greater inconvenience (e.g. no direct hotel pickup and drop-off). And whether you go by bus or shuttle you won't get to stop and visit interesting villages like Sarchi and Zarcero on the way like you'd probably be able to do on the tour.

Returning to SJ, also presents an interesting possibility. You could just cash in on that return trip that the tour company owes you and return to SJ with a different group. The potential problem is that the Arenal Day Tour returns to SJ pretty late at night so I don't know whether that would work for you or not or whether you really meant you need to be in SJ first thing on Sunday morning in order to start your volunteering. However, a more interesting possibility would be to go on a rafting trip with Exploradores. They can pick you up in Arenal/Fortuna, take you rafting and drop you off in SJ at the end of the day and at no greater cost than they'd normally charge for whitewater rafting with them anyway ($99/pp for their Pacuare trip which may seem pretty pricey but is what those go for and IMHO still worth it). You could also use that tour in the other direction to GET TO Arenal, but I think the Arenal Day Trip would be better because it allows you to do that sightseeing between SJ and Arenal that I mentioned earlier.

One more possibility, if returning to SJ by way of rafting doesn't interest you and/or you don't want to throw away that "return ticket" you have is to return to SJ a day or so earlier like on Friday. That would still leave you 3.5 days in Arenal (counting Tuesday as a half day) and would allow you to visit one of the many attractions in the Central Valley on Saturday, such as Cafe Britt that was mentioned by the first poster. In fact, a popular SJ area tour is a visit to Poas Volcano followed by a visit to a coffee farm. Although the farm that is combined with Poas is usually Doka Estates, either Doka and Britt are very good. Or, if you took a pass on using the Arenal Day Tour to get out to Arenal (and perhaps used the rafting tour or even simply the public bus or shuttle instead) you could combine a visit to Poas on Saturday with a stop at the crafts markets in Sarchi on the way back down. Or one last suggestion for a SJ area combo tour is to go way over on the other side of SJ and visit Irazu Volcano combined with a visit to the religious shrine at Cartago and either Lankester Gardens or the scenic Orosi Valley.

BTW, one thing I will say is that, having been to some of the markets in Asia myself that you probably visited last summer, I don't think you'll be AT ALL impressed with the Central Mercado, but I'm sure the first poster didn't realize that when he offered that suggestion.

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Wow, there I go on one of my tirades again ;). I'll let that percolate a bit before I come back with my hotel commentary

Tampa, FL
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4. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

As for hotels, not knowing for certain what your budget and tastes are, it is very hard to make any informed suggestions. Based on your travels last summer in Cambodia and Vietnam, I'm assuming you're on a backpacker budget (btw, wasn't Angkor Wat simply amazing?). Anyway, I don't know much about all the recommendations of the first poster. But I can offer a few things.

If you don't have a car staying in the village of Fortuna at a hotel such as the San Bosco is not a bad suggestion. If you take the bus you can easily walk there from the bus stop (if you take the shuttle that won't matter). Most of the day tours in the area will pick you up at your hotel wherever you stay but not all and things outside of town can be a bit spread out so taking cabs can still add up to a bit more. For example, unless you want to eat at your hotel EVERY night, the choice of places to eat that you can walk to will be much greater if you stay in town. And at that time of year, you probably won't get to see the lava at night anywhere you'd stay because of rain and clouds.

You might find cheaper GuestHouse type places but places in the Arenal area are not cheap. Guesthouses will usually have much fewer perks such as a/c, cable tv, swimming pool etc. I believe, even the Arenal Backpacker Hostel costs just as much for a private double room. OTOH, at that time of year you could probably just show up w/o a rsvp and find a room at most of the budget priced placses long as you don't arrive too late in the day and that would allow you to check them out first.

----

I'll get back to you with my suggestions for SJ hotels tomorrow.

Pensacola, Florida
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5. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

www.puravidahotel.com for your flight night

maybe visit Poas www.dokaestate.com next AM closeby

then head for www.arenal.net www.monteverdeinfo.com

spend the rest there www.desafiocostarica.com

for your adventures www.skyytrek.com best zip

www.hotelsilenciodelcampo.com

www.hotelvistadelcerro.com

make nice choices at Arenal based on budget...

Have fun,

guanacaste
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6. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

have you visited rincon de la vieja, there are many things to do there, hikes in the park, zip lines, white water tubing, horseback rides, hot springs are included with the stay at hacienda guachipelin, so are the visits to different waterfalls more info at www.guachipelin.com

California
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7. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

You might start with Casa Bella Rita for your first night. The owners are very helpful in scheduling tours and other activities. They will pick you up at the airport and drop you off.

Great B&B with great hosts. Only about 15 mins. from the airport and much nicer than the closer ones.

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

okay, wow, that's a lot of information. Thanks everyone! We've never been to costa rica (or anywhere else in central america) before, so this is helpful.

first, the budget: we would like to spend somewhere between $30 and $50 USD per night for a double occupancy room. While we are on a budget, a private room, included breakfast, internet, security, central location, helpful staff, and maybe a pool are things we'd like our hotel to have. Saving on spending on taxis, food and internet access elsewhere, plus the comfort (this is a vacation after all) makes it worthwhile to spend around 50, and of course different areas are more expensive or cheeper.

Can someone give me an indication if those expectations are reasonable?? The couple hotels I looked at suggested so.

Second: we'd like to try to not have to switch hotels during that 5 days. Already the first night we will be by the airport, then we want to go somewhere else to stay the next few days. We leave first thing on the saturday morning to volunteer, so we need a hotel in san jose the night before and the volunteer place recommends one which I think we'll stick with (but don't need to necessarily spend time in San Jose, we have 2 full days after volunteering before going home that we can use to see IN San Jose.

Marina, we are volunteering at La Tortuga Feliz. Part of the reason I'm willing to spend more the rest of the time, is most of the holiday will be there, and when I'm there, there's nothing to spend money on.

Prolijo, when I was in SE asia I spent 15-25/night on hotels. I was in school in Singapore for one semester, so I took a few longs weekends to see other things, and the most time I had anywhere was 5 days in Cambodia. when it's only a couple days and you already paid for a flight, and you're by yourself in a part of the world you've never been to before, I found it worthwhile to spend a little more to feel more comfortable and safer. And yes, Angkor Wat was amazing. Going to Cambodia was the best choice I've made (I have been to rome and seen the colusseum, Angkor wat was better).

If we can organize it, I think I might take your advice and get a ride to Arenal with a tour, but what do I do with the luggage all day? (not that we'll have tons, we're using backpacks, not "luggage")

I haven't had time to check out all the links everyone posted, thanks for your feedback!! I'll get to it tonight or tomorrow.

Tampa, FL
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9. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

As I suspected, your hotel budget is much less than most people around here, but there's nothing wrong with that. ALL of the hotel suggestions above (plus the ones suggested by roadadvisor in the other thread) are actually way over your budget except for just one - the Vista del Cerro in Arenal. The first poster actually came the closest with La Riviera and San Bosco, but even those are more than your budget (particularly if you add the 13% tax to La Riviera). The Don Carlos is way over your price point, but is out any way because it's in downtown SJ.

1) Is your budget practical for that area? Some people here might say no, but I don't think it is so far off. You probably won't find any with a pool at that price and you might go a little over budget with tax included but you should be able to get most if not all of the other things you just mentioned. Here are some of the better rated and less expensive hotels in Alajuela:

Villa Pacande B&B http://www.villapacande.com $50/nt dbl (doesn't specify whether that includes tax or not)

Villa Bonita B&B http://www.hotelvillabonita.com $57/nt dbl INCLUDING 16.39% tax (the 3.39% ICT portion of the tax was eliminated last month but they haven't updated their website, so I'm not sure of the price there either)

Jardin Tropical B&B http://www.jardintropicalbandb.com $40/nt dbl also including "tax" ($10 less if you don't mind using a common bathroom) slightly further outside of Alajuela

These others don't get quite as high marks on TA and may not have absolutely everything you're looking for, but are also cheap and well located in Alajuela:

Maleku Hostel http://www.malekuhostel.com $30/nt dbl including tax

Coconut House http://www.coconuthouse.info/en/en_index.htm $37/nt dbl including tax

Vida Tropical B&B http://www.vidatropical.com $45/nt dbl including tax

Hotel Green Day Inn http://hotelgreendayinn.com $45/nt dbl + tax ($10 less w/shared bath)

There are definitely even less expensive places in Alajuela, but those types of places usually don't have any presence on the web so getting information on them is not as easy and they may not even be as nice as these places (we're usually talking hostel and pensione type places when you get down to that level). For example, one place in Alajuela (2 blks north of the town park) that is reportedly popular with gringos and which you might want to check out is Charley's Place (tel. 506-2440-6853), but I have no real idea how good it is or what its current prices are.

If I'm traveling on the cheap, I don't normally stay in Alajuela because at those times I'm usually looking to get an early bus out of SJ. If you change your mind about that I can recommend a guite pleasant little place in SJ on the pedestrian mall not far from the bus stations with good security, wifi internet, cable tv, pvt bath (w/hot water), nice mountain views and everything else (no pool though) for just $30/nt tax included (breakfast is $2 more). I've also stayed at a passable place downtown for just $10/nt, but I'll admit that place is comparatively bleak.

2) One place to stay in Fortuna and "not have to switch hotels" after you get there? You've already got 2 good suggestions - the San Bosco by mj_vacation and the Vista del Cerro by qwovadis. I've probably already confused you enough on Alajuela so I won't add any more here.

3) Re: tours, As usual qwovadis provided some good links. you should especially check out www.arenal.net if you're going there. I'm not sure what they do with luggage during the SJ>Arenal tours, but on the Exploradores Rafting trip they keep it locked up in the van (which is guarded by the driver) while you do your rafting. By all accounts I've heard it is very safe. The larger possible problem there is, as I said before, that I'm not sure they'd pick you up out in Alajuela. For that reason, unless you changed your mind and were willing to stay in SJ on night 1, I don't really recommend it for your trip out. But it still could be great for the ride back. The Arenal Tour only really works going out and I imagine their baggage security works a similar way. I didn't provide a link before for the Arenal trip but here is one you might want to check out:

www.paradisetours.com/2_volcanoes_tour.htm

My last tip for the budget minded is, if the Arenal Tour replaces using the tourist shuttles to get out to Arenal (and possibly back) then it makes some economic sense. However, if you're prepared to use the public bus, it will be much cheaper to buy a bus ticket and pay for a hot springs entry after you get there. You won't get any little sightseeing stops on the way there, but are those really worth the extra $40-50 you'd probably pay?

Its also "possible" to make a few stops when going to Fortuna by bus, but not particularly simple, plus you'd have your backpacks with you. For example, there are buses from Alajuela to Sarchi every half hour which take about an hour. After you're done in Sarchi, you'd have to catch one of the regular buses to Naranjo which take another 20 minutes and change to another bus for San Carlos (unless you wanted to do more bus-hopping in Zarcero). And finally change in San Carlos for Fortuna. Theoretically, you could leave Alajuela at 7:30, spend a little over an hour at Sarchi, 20 minutes in Zarcero where the bus lets out right in front of the park, and be in Fortuna by 12:30 in time for lunch and an afternoon at the hot springs or any other activity you'd like to do. Mind you, I haven't done it myself, but it is possible. If you try it, let me know how it works out.

Vancouver, Canada
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10. Re: what to do for 5 days in or near San Jose

So we ended up heading to Arenal. We arranged a shuttle through the hotel we were staying in there (Arenal backpacker's resort) to pick us up after 1 night in Alleyella. We stayed in Arenal 3 nights, then took public transit back. Arenal was great, thanks for the advice everyone.