Need a vacation from vacation planning.
February 12, 2012 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Does my Costa Rica trip itinerary make sense?

I'm traveling to Costa Rica at the end of the month and I'm having trouble putting together a plan. I want to see different parts of the country but I am not sure what is manageable in a day, based on estimated bus times and distances...

My plans are as follows:

Day 1: Fly into San Jose, stay in San Jose overnight
Day 2-5: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (this is booked)
Day 5: travel day - to Manuel Antonio via San Jose
Day 6: Manuel Antonio/Quepos
Day 7: back to San Jose - meet up with my brother and his girlfriend
Day 8-10: Monteverde
Day 10-12: La Fortuna
Day 13: back to San Jose for 6 PM flight to Mexico City

My questions:

1. Is getting from Puerto Viejo (Caribbean coast) to Manuel Antonio (Pacific Coast) too much for one day? Is that possible?
2. Is it worth going to Manuel Antonio/Quepos for one full day?
3. If my flight out of San Jose is at 6 PM, can I expect to make it to the airport on time if I leave La Fortuna that morning?

It's easier to book hostels and plan things when I have a loose idea of where I will be when! Thanks for your help.
posted by gursky to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: hey, I'll be in costa rica (and nicaragua) at the end of the month, too!
1. yeah, it's a lot for one day, but totally possible, and about par for the course for how I travel. just make sure to grab the earliest bus you can from PV so you have some leeway.
2. worth it? absolutely. MA is stunning & Quepos is lively in a local way. loved them both.
3. yep. again, grab the earliest possible bus to give yourself wiggle room. however -- 3 nights in La Fortuna is kind of a lot, IMHO, unless you have a specific reason for being there. If you haven't had the chance to explore San Jose a bit (I know you'll be in & out a ton), maybe it's worth it to stay there the night of day 12.
have fun! I know I will.
posted by changeling at 11:05 PM on February 12, 2012

I can't answer all your questions but I can say 1 is possible (just won't be very fun) and 2 is definitely worth it - Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular tourist parks in the country and there is good reason for that, although of course that also means there are typically a lot of other people there.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:08 PM on February 12, 2012

p.s. since you're headed back to SJ after going to Manuel Antonio it makes particular sense to stay the night there one night, because you're certainly not going to feel like getting back into the car to go someplace else after your marathon journey the day before. You could book a place that is en route back towards SJ if you want but I think it would be less relaxing.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:10 PM on February 12, 2012

Best answer: I went from San Jose to La Fortuna (so, opposite direction) and the sole morning bus didn't show up (and bus schedules for my entire trip seemed to be estimated times, not actual times -- they run late). I wound up taking a taxi to La Fortuna. So, check the bus schedules very carefully making sure there's more than one, and maybe find a taxi driver's number while at the airport when you arrive, in case you need it for getting back to your flight home. I seem to remember it taking about 3 hours to cover that distance. The cost wasn't as hysterically-bad as it would've been in the US. The phone number would be good insurance against missing your flight.

You'll be seeing some gorgeous sights!
posted by Houstonian at 1:41 AM on February 13, 2012

Just got back from CR, and regarding the parks, if you'd like to see the wildlife, you need to be there in the morning. Later, it's too hot and the birds and monkeys hide. The parks DO stay pretty though.
posted by Yavsy at 5:50 AM on February 13, 2012

If you have extra cash, it could be worth it for you to shorten your travel times by flying Nature Air to some of those locations. Arenal to Tamarindo in less than two hours total was a game-changer for us, YMMV.
posted by juniperesque at 6:21 AM on February 13, 2012

I've never been to the Caribbean side, so can't help with PV -> SJ, but just wanted to let you know that very reasonably-priced flights are available from San Jose to the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area.

Also (and again bear in mind that I don't know the east coast), if I were you I would consider allotting more time in Manuel Antonio -- it's fabulous.
posted by trip and a half at 10:38 AM on February 13, 2012

Oh, also: when you get the bus to PV, bear in mind that there are two Puerto Viejos (the other one is Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí), and the signs on the bus just say "Puerto Viejo", so make sure you get the right bus. (This is from a friend who got on the wrong bus.)
posted by trip and a half at 10:47 AM on February 13, 2012

i was in Costa Rica with a rental car about six years ago. I didn't drive to the east coast, but generally driving takes much longer than it looks. I drove from Manuel Antonia to Arenal, a ~70 mile trip. It took about 4.5 hours. Lots of truck traffic on two lane highways and the roads are quite twisty. The roads were in good shape, but the traffic was very slow. i assume buses will have the same issues.

I loved Manuel Antonio.Placid water on the bay side; huge waves on the ocean. Dense jungle (rain forest?) everywhere and more wildlife than I have ever seen in a single place.

PS -- if you're looking for other places in the country to check out, the Arenal Volcano and the hot springs in Tabacon are pretty spectacular.
posted by rtimmel at 11:41 AM on February 13, 2012

Response by poster: thanks, everyone.
posted by gursky at 2:48 PM on February 18, 2012

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