on the road (in costa rica)
March 23, 2011 11:08 AM   Subscribe

What do we do in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica, and then on the way to Tamarindo?

My boyfriend and I are spending five days in Costa Rica starting next Thursday. So far the plan is to rent a vehicle (an SUV, thanks to prior posts!) in San Jose and drive to friends in Sarapiqui. What can we expect from Sarapiqui and what should we do while we're there?

Then we'll drive from Sarapiqui to other friends in Tamarindo. What must we see on the way? Once in Tamarindo, I know I'll be seeing lots of beach, but any other suggestions? Thanks!
posted by motsque to Travel & Transportation around Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I spent a week in Sarapiqui doing Habatat for Humanity back when I was studying abroad in CR. I'd recommend doing a canopy tour. Ziplining through the forest is loads of fun, if not a little scary at times. But oh so fun! There are also river rafting and boat tours along the Rio Sarapiqui. We didn't do any of these, except stupidly go swimming in the river after a hard days work. Thankfully we didn't run into any crocs! Sarapiqui is otherwise a pretty sleepy little town. Canopy tour, river rafting, and boat tours are really your three options for things to "do."
posted by raztaj at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2011

Clarification: did go ziplining through the forest in Sarapiqui and would definitely recommend it, but did not do the river stuff, except swim with the crocs (would not recommend)
posted by raztaj at 11:36 AM on March 23, 2011

Hi again. Had to look on a map, but if it's on your route, do check out Volcan Arenal. It's an active volcano (but not very threatening), and a picture perfect one at that. At night, you can see sparks of the red lava - it erupts something like every 45 minutes or once an hour. Great to watch as you sip a delicious beverage in the natural hot springs.

The Guanacaste region near Tamarindo is also pretty cool - it's Costa Rica's dry "cowboy country" and is an interesting contrast to the wetter tropical parts. A bit off the beaten track, but there's an interesting sugar mill there that you can tour (contact in advance to make sure). It was totally fascinating to see how much processing goes into the kind of sugar that's in so much of our everyday foods. They'll let you sample the sugar from the 8 or 9 stages of processing - from chewing on a piece of cane, to the white granulated stuff. Odd and random, but if you're into that kind of thing, a really fun and fascinating little field trip.

There's a lot of interesting things to see between Sarapiqui and the western coast, but it really depends on your driving route. Do keep in mind that it'll take you at least a few hours to travel a hundred (or less) miles, so stopping between destinations is something you should carefully plan out.
posted by raztaj at 11:58 AM on March 23, 2011

I'm not sure where you're destination is exactly or what your route is. If you're driving out of San Jose on 32 through Braulio Carrilo en route to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, I would highly recommend you stop at La Selva biological research station and do a half or full day walk through the rain forest with a guide. It's a functioning research station on the edge of an incredible primary and secondary rain forest. You can also stay there overnight in facilities shared by researchers, and eat with them, etc. When I stayed, I was the only non-researcher on site, so it was not remotely touristy.

Information about tours and visits, including lodging.
Information on the research station.

Honestly, even the drive on 32 through Braulio Carrilo makes it worth it to go that way even if you don't stop at La Selva. And if you're hikers or feeling adventurous, you can stop and hike into the National Park, there are ranger stations where you can check in and get maps, etc. You can also hike up to Barva Volcano in the park
posted by jardinier at 1:04 PM on March 23, 2011

I'd just add, as you are driving by yourself (good for you!) - if you haven't gleaned it from other posts in the past, distances can be very deceiving to a first-timer here. What looks close on a map can be the better part of a day driving here.
Also - street signs, or lack thereof. It's better than it used to be, but when a route goes through a town, often there is a sign missing. You'll see a sign saying this way, another saying that way, and then the last one will be gone. Do what looks like it makes sense, or stop and ask for directions- but just be ready for it and don't panic.
If the rental place offers GPS, go for it - I live here and I'd do it.

So my advice would be - don't be in a hurry, and plan for your travel time well.

Things that look like they should be an easy 1 or 2 hour drive based on US standards can easily be a 4 or 6 hour scenic journey, with some confusing and missing street signs thrown in.

The drive from Sarapiqui to Tamarindo is probably easily a solid 6 hour drive, barring complications. The same goes for Arenal.
(and there are often complications) - so plan your travel days and your fun days, and don't try to cram too much stuff in at once. Once youu get over to tamarindo, there are lots of neat beaches up and down the peninsula you can drive around and see... don't just stick to the touristy ones.
posted by TravellingDen at 5:08 PM on March 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all -- duly noted!!
posted by motsque at 1:16 PM on March 24, 2011

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