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Joe

Costa Rica

Two weeks in Costa Rica: Go North or South?

Hi everyone,

My girlfriend and I will be in Costa Rica for two weeks in late May (flying into/out of San Jose). We want a trip that combines wildlife viewing, jungle adventure sports (canyoning, rafting, etc) and beach time (preferably with good snorkeling).

We're deciding between going Southeast or Northwest from San Jose. I would love your advice about these places or any others you think we should visit:

The Southeast option would include rafting the Rio Pacuare, Beaches along the Pacific Coast, perhaps a stop in Chirripo, and snorkeling/scuba at Isla de Cano, and then lots of jungle adventure around Corcovado, which seems like an amazing place for wildlife as well as adventure tours like canyoning. This sounds like a great tour to me but I'm concerned that it will be rainy in late May.

The Northwest option might give us a better chance for Sunshine (I read that Guanacaste is much drier). We would probably start in the Arenal area because our guidebook said these are great places for canyoning, zipline, bathing in hotsprings, and seeing lots of wildlife. Lake Arenal also looks very nice. We would continue to Ricon de la Vieja, and then probably go down through Monteverde (or maybe a cloud forest near Monteverde that is less touristy) and then head to the beach - either in Guanacaste or maybe down to Montezuma area which seems like a cool town and better for snorkeling.

Thanks again for your advice!
-Joe


3 Answers

answered by
Don from Austin (Texas)

Hi Joe! I've visited Costa Rica 13 times since 1986 and only visited the same area a couple of times (Jaco for bachelor parties). Every area of the country delivers a differing and rewarding experience. 

Given a two week trip, I suggest that you have time for two areas of the country. As you noted, Guanacaste is the driest area of the country and note that anywhere on the eastern coast will be more humid than the western coast. 

Don't attempt driving long distances however. The max speed limit on most major roads is 45-60 KPH and can be slow and exhausting. Instead, seek out short in-country flight through a local carrier such as Nature Air. They can speed you cross country for little money quickly via prop plane. Upon landing, rent a four wheel drive and hit the road!

FYI- My favorite area in the country is the southwestern coast. You can fly into Quepos (a small city) and then drive down the coast. I highly recommend the area from Dominical south to Uvita and then further south to Ojochal. That would allow visitation of some great surfing, hiking, and adventure areas as well as visits to Manuel Antonio National Park, Marino Ballena National Park and the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge. Don't discount making the trek up into the mountains inland as well as there are some great sights and hikes there. 

Check out Home Away, VRBO and AirBnB for rentals. Most are inexpensive by USA standards and many are breathtaking. 

Whatever you choose, play safe and enjoy. Pure Vida!


Don


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Quepos (city)
  2. Dominical (city)
  3. Uvita (city)
  4. Ojochal (attraction)
  5. Manuel Antonio National Park (attraction)
  6. Marino Ballena National Park (attraction)
  7. Golfito National Wildlife Refuge (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Michael from San Diego

May is actually a pretty dry period in Costa Rica -- but it can get hot.  So you either want to be by the Pacific Ocean or in the higher elevations of the Central Valley.  We LOVE the Osa -- lots of great ecoresorts (Bosque del CaboPlaya Nicuesa, just to name a few) and some amazing opportunities to see a thriving and ecologically balanced wildlife refuge (Corcovado National Park).  We think its the best of what CR has to offer for unique experiences.   However, if you are into snorkeling -- you might prefer Belize.  And if you are into canyoning and ziplining, then Panama might offer more options. To us, CR is all about access to wildlife and beautiful national parks -- they've done a great job of preserving that which other countries have exploited and overdeveloped.  


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Costa Rica (attraction)
  2. Osa (city)
  3. Bosque del Cabo (attraction)
  4. Playa Nicuesa (hotel)
  5. Corcovado National Park (attraction)
  6. Belize (country)
  7. Panama (attraction)


answered first by
RosalieAnn

 The two places I saw the most wildlife were Tortugero (which is on the Caribbean coast) and Manuel Antonio National Park  There are also lots of activities in that area including waterfall rappelling, zip lines, kayaking etc.   I went in August which is the middle of the green season, but we had beautiful weather the whole time.  And if it rained when you were rappelling a waterfall it wouldn't really matter would it?  If you go in May there will be less tourists than there would be in February.

Corcovado National Park is nice too and has fishing.  I know people dive there, but when I snorkeled I wasn't impressed but it was a long time ago and could have changed.

I have not been to the NW coast, although I have been to Arenal Volcano National Park and Monteverde  I saw wind surfing and canoeing on Lake Arenal.  And of course hot springs.


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Manuel Antonio National Park (attraction)
  2. Corcovado National Park (attraction)
  3. Arenal Volcano National Park (attraction)
  4. Monteverde (attraction)




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