Costa Rica - 16 Day Itinerary Help
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Nov 6, 2012 3:58 PM Last Post By: wiremu
Oct 31, 2012 6:24 AM
Costa Rica - 16 Day Itinerary HelpMy girlfriend and I (28 and 29) plan on taking a trip 16 day trip to Costa Rica from December 8-23. I've been to Costa Rica once when I was 16 and have fond memories, she has never been. We would like to combine nature, adventure and relaxation. That is, we like to do fairly serious hiking and love nature but vegging out for a bit is an additional must for this trip. Also, we don't mind crowds to a certain extent but probably prefer more secluded areas (although my understanding is that nowhere in Costa Rica is insanely touristy). I have rented a Suzuki Jimny 4x4 (got it for peanuts). This should be able to get us most places but I'm still curious how the roads will be in mid December?
We have decided that 4 stops would be ideal and would love any opinions/suggestions on our current itinerary. So far it looks as such:
5 nights - Playa Santa Teresa
- chill out, wander the beaches, take some surf lessons (were newbies!)
- snorkle/dive trip to Isla Tortuga
- ATV over to Montezuma and waterfalls OR head down to Cabo Blanco National Park and go for a hike
3 nights - Arenal region (was also considering Tenorio/Rincon instead)
- tabacon hot springs
- rappeling and rafting tour
- nature hike (any recommendations - How are the hanging bridges?)
2 nights - Monteverde
- canopy tour (bridges and ziplines etc.... while fun I have a feeling you don't see to much wildlife on this kind of tour)
- guided nature hike
- night walk
5 nights - Uvita (was also considering Manuel Antonio but thought it might be uber busy)
- day trip to Corcovado
- diving/snorkeling trip to Isla Cano
- stop at Manuel Antonio on way down from Monteverde (will it be very crowded this time of year?)
If there are any can't miss activities or nature sights in these spots, please let us know. Or if you think that something we have picked isn't worth doing, let us know too.
Has anyone done horseback riding in any of these places? We would like to go at least once.
Finally, I know that Costa Rica isn't a real dive destination but I enjoy diving just about anywhere and my lady loves to snorkel so, as you can see, we would like to incorporate it into our trip anyway. Any divers have thoughts on what visibility on the Pacific side will be at this time of year? Any decent snorkel spots near wear we are going that I should know about (even tide pools, near beach reefs, etc.)?
Edited by: prankmunky
Edited by: prankmunky
Oct 31, 2012 6:57 AM
1If you are serious hikers, and want remote areas, then with so much time, the focus should be the Osa-Corcovado region, and hiking the park and staying at the ranger station a night. Its a serious hike in rugged jungle terrain for 23KM the first day, and next day requires timing the tides to cross the rivers to the southern ranger station, about 18KM and a lot easier and mostly flat along the coast, then collectivo back to the base in Pt Jimenez. Corcovado is the most bio diverse park on the planet. Allow 4 nights for this activity/venue.
The other option is to go to Drake Bay, and take a boat to the ranger station and hike around there, then boat back. One advantage is the access to Isla Cano which offers scuba diving/snorkeling, though not cheap, about $120 to dive due to the remote nature of the lodges and logistics in the Corcovado area.
As for great hiking, I would skip Monteverde, and focus on Rincon, and also Tenerio/Celeste Waterfalls. Not only is Monteverde very touristy, and is zip lines and sky walks, its also a pain to get to and from. Its 4 hours from Arenal and 7 hours from Mal Pais.
I would also put the adventure first and the beaches last.
5 nights in Uvita? Why, you can not access Corcovado as a day trip from there, you might be able to get to Isla Cano, but thats about it. You need to go to Pt Jimenez, or Playa Carate, you have a car, so just go, you wont regret it, stay in Carate if you just want to day hike from La La Leona.
Diving overall on the in CR is so so, nothing special from near the mainland, the other area to go diving is off the coast near Playa Coco/Flamingo north of Tamarindo, nothing great, but something to see and do and get out on the water, There are no reefs on the Pacific side, and sand is darker in general, so the reflection is more green waters, not blue. Conditions depends on the recent rains and winds, ask people that just went when you get there.
Caribe side will be maybe a tad better in Dec but you dont have time for two coast and Corrcvado. Its also not anything special, though more sheltered for snorkeling, the the reefs are minimal and bleached out and dead. I would not make this a priority for CR.
If you do go to the caribe, forget Mal Pais, and just focus on Corocovado, then central area like Arenal/Rincon/Tenerio and then to caribe, the Tortuguero canals on the caribe side are well worth 2 nights as far as nature and eco systems and wildlife/nature, but no car needed, all boats in and out.
Tenerio/Arenal area trip report.
16 days, focus on the areas most people dont have to for, and also less touristy. Arenal, Monteverde and Manual Antonio are the 3 most visited places in the country, hardly off the beaten path.
You can wing it the entire trip except for Corcovado/Drake bay you want to call ahead, lodging is limited and much of it not cheap.. besides Pt Jimenez, you aslo need permits/reservations for entering Corcoovado for a overnight, and a guide for the hiking is a must IMO, not just for safety but for learning about the intense nature there.
Horseback riding can be done in a lot places and beaches, if you want to do a cool trip and spend a night at a all mahogany lodge perched above Playa Dominical overlooking the Osa and horseback ride to waterfalls, Bella Vista Ranch is great.
Get the MOON or LP Guidebook and use this as your go to, for lodging and venue options.
Caribe and Corcovado/Carate trip report.
Oct 31, 2012 8:25 AM
2waalll.... you actually can do a day trip to corcovado from uvita. check here for more information: http://www.tikivillas.com/tours.html this is just one option - there are other lodging options or tour agencies that offer a day trip to corcovado.
for 16 days, i would recommend 4 locations -- and plan on doing them in a loop -- some way that makes sense without crisscrossing all over the country back and forth.
you want a mixture of beach and volcano/mountain/forest time so i would recommend something like this:
2. santa teresa
4. turrialba for non-touristy volcano activities and great rafting
no need to go to rincon de la vieja if you are going to arenal. kind of a duplication.
and no need to stay in the tenorio area when you can do a day trip from arenal.
for distances and travel times, http://www.yourtravelmap.com
Oct 31, 2012 8:50 AM
Oct 31, 2012 8:53 AM
4Solohobo thanks for the detailed reply!!!
That hike through Corcovado sounds like a thrilling experience but I don't think we will be doing any overnight hiking on this vacation. I said fairly serious not extreme serious. The max we are probably up for are some 15-20 km day hikes (with a guide of course). Boating into the park sounds like a good option too.
Anyway, we were basically thinking that for the last 5 days we could split Corcovado and Isla Cano up with some relaxing beach time. My initial thought was that Uvita would be a great area to explore and relax at since I've read some great things about the beaches in the area. We were also thinking we would be doing more swimming and relaxing than surfing at that point in the trip (leave the surfing for Santa Teresa!). So this begs the question, how are the beaches at Drake bay, Carate and Pt Jimenez for swimming and relaxing? However, if we do end up staying down in the Osa we will probably end up doing two different trips into Corcovado, plus the one dive trip to Isla Cano.
Finally, you sound like you have travelled Costa Rica extensively many times. Unfortunately, we haven't. I mean that while we want to do some off the beaten path things (since we do have a lot of time), we don't want to miss some of Costa Rica's unique locales just because they are touristy. I mean Manuel Antonio, Arenal and Monteverde must be highly visited spots for a reason: natural beauty, unique flora and fauna, activities, etc. So I must ask. Do you think you are giving an honest objective opinion on these places or have you become a bit jaded thanks to all the other awesome places you have been in Costa Rica? Can everyone weigh in on that?
However, I am inclined to cut out Monteverde now thanks to your post.... although we did want to make it out to a cloud forest. Can you see quetzals at any of these other locals? I remember seeing them on my first trip and thought they were spectacular. Anyway, if we extend our Arenal/Tenorio time maybe we could do the JeepBoatJeep thing to get over to Monteverde for a day? Has anyone had a good experience with that? Is it worth it or would you arrive to late to see anything of interest? Most animals are active at dusk and dawn.....
Oct 31, 2012 9:09 AM
5wiremu great suggestions too!
Haven't even considered Turrialba but I'll look into it now.
Your trip loop looks like it centres around San Jose, I forgot to mention that we are flying in and out of Liberia, it was by far the best flight price I could secure.
Is the access to Tenorio really that close to Arenal/La fortuna. I thought it was on the complete opposite side of the park near Bijagua. In Is there a more direct (secret) entrance to Tenorio off of highway 142?
Oct 31, 2012 9:45 AM
6ok - if you are flying into liberia, then i would recommend a few days in one of the northern pacific beaches. from there, you can visit any one of four national parks and the miravalles protected area. santa rosa, rincon de la vieja, palo verde and tenorio. all of these are 2 hours or less from beaches such as playa hermosa or playas del coco. there are also some very quiet, unspoiled areas north of liberia such as cuajiniquil http://www.cuajiniquil.com
a few options:
1. northern pacific beach, arenal, santa teresa, turrialba
2. northern pacific beach, tenorio national park area, arenal, santa teresa
3. rincon de la vieja, santa teresa, monteverde, arenal
the tenorio national park is about 2+ hours from the arenal area, depending on where you are staying in the area. someone once wrote about an entrance off rt 142, but i wouldn't recommend trying to pursue that -- there are no trails or anything there. rough going. a lot better to head north from arenal on rt 4 and enter from that side of the park. there are lots of signs indicating where to turn -- there's basically 4 roads leading into the park.
you can get into the park either from the bijagua side or the arenal side. staying near bijagua might be interesting also. it's a pleasant little town in a valley between tenorio volcano and miravalles volcano. a couple of places i like in that area are casitas tenorio http://www.casitastenorio.com and hotel cacao. http://www.hotelcacaocr.com/english.htm you can also arrange a horseback trip from bijagua into the national park.
santa rosa is definitely interesting. the "la casona" area is the main entrance and la casona is an old farmstead that figures prominently in costa rican history. there are a number of trails in that area and one longish one leads to a deserted beach. there are also small cottages for rent in the park. http://www.costarica-nationalparks.com/santarosanationalpark.html and http://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/1997/ecodesarrollo/ecoturismo/santa_rosa_turing.html
santa rosa is part of the huge guanacaste conservation area which has a number of interesting locations http://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/1997/principaling.html
Oct 31, 2012 11:18 AM
7Try to check out Cano Negro as well, this is a very rich eco system and great nature and wildlife, all via boat, great fishing too...since you are using Liberia as the base.
Great suggestions from Wiremu. Might want to do all the various parks and places, then put beach at end and turn in the car in Liberia or Tambor before you get to Mal Pais...as you really dont need it there.
Oct 31, 2012 11:28 AM
8So I'm getting the sense that you guys think that trip from Corcovado to Liberia is just too much... Google maps says 6h20min but yourtravelmap.com says 9h20min from Liberia Airport to Puerto Jimenez. I love driving in new locales (its part of the fun) but those 3 extra hours make a huge difference! I'm guessing google maps is the one that isn't 100% accurate.
Too bad, we were hoping to get down to Osa because of the uniqueness of Corcovado and the proximity to Isla Cano.
Oct 31, 2012 11:37 AM
9There's no need to drive all the way to Puerto Jimenez if doing day trips from Uvita.
Regarding horseback riding, Nauyaca is a beautiful spot and there are tours about a 30 minute drive from Uvita going toward San Isidro.
The beaches in Corcovado are beautiful but not so great for swimming. The Uvita area has really good beaches for swimming.
Oct 31, 2012 11:50 AM
10Rancho Tranquilo for horseback riding gets great reviews and the Diamante valley is not a busy tourist area. It's one of my favorite spots and worth checking out.
Oct 31, 2012 12:00 PM
11The best bet for beaches in the Southern Zone, is between Playa Dominical and Playa Uvita area. The beaches at Drake Bay are really not great for swimming overall and the Pacific is extremely rough, as it is in and around the Playa Carate area, rip tides, rocks and strong currents. But Mal Pais is much nicer area, and nicer beaches, than the Uvita area, as far as a beach hangout.
Drake Bay you can swim in the bay, but its dark sand and semi small rocks. The beaches varies in size as the tides go in and out. You can walk there from a few of the lodges, like Jinetes de Osa.
As for driving from Liberia to Pt Jimenez, which is normally about 9 hours from SJ and is best broken up somewhere like Uvita area.
From Liberia would be just as bad, its 3.5 hours from Liberia to Quepos is traffic is not bad, or construction, then its another 2 hours about to Palmar Sur, and another 2 hours to Pt Jimenez, once south of Quepos the road opens up and a lovely drive and not very much traffic.
Isla Cano as a day trip has a nice beach at the ranger station to relax and picnic, swimming/snorkeling is possible conditions permitting. You can also try around Playa Bellena too. I would not drive all the way to Pt Jimenez unless you are going to hike the loop, and for Carate unless you plane to hike to at least as day excursions into the park towards Sirena, spending 2 nights down in Carate, which is 2 hours south of Pt Jimenez and 7 rivers to cross, a gravel road that is 2nd gear most the way, and everything is off the grid.
Oct 31, 2012 12:05 PM
Oct 31, 2012 12:23 PM
Oct 31, 2012 12:47 PM
14Wow you guys are full of awesome info. So glad I posted on TT.
Scoot, you reaffirmed my idea that Uvita would be a good place to go for what we want to do. That horseback riding outfit looks perfect too. Any recommendations for places to stay in/near Uvita?
Solohobo, thanks to your input we have decided that we will just have to do a separate trip one year to really experience Osa and do the full hike in Corcovado. However, I think we still will try a day trip (boat from Uvita) to get a taste of the park. Has anyone actually ever done any of the day trips to Corcovado?
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