Costa Rica Mission/Details
With Whom: Solo
How long?: 5 full days (Fly in late on night on a Wednesday; leave late on Monday)
Style: Adventure and Off the Beaten Track
Budget: Willing to spend money to get off the beaten track, but I am trying to keep the budget low as possible. I would rather spend money on getting to a remote location than spend it on a fancy resort.
Costa Rica – Must Sees
The first question is what are the “Must Sees”
From reviewing multiple websites, I felt the must sees in Costa Rica were the following given my situation:
- Arenal (Volcano / Adventure Sports)
- Monteverde (Cloud Forest)
- Corcovado National Park (Most Biodeverse place in the World) – this is only a muse-see if you are a big fan of wildlife
While I labeled these as the must see locations for me, I would add several other locations depending on the season, length of trip, and whom I was traveling with on my trip.
- Tortuguero (Turtles Laying Eggs: Leatherback – April to May; Green Turtles: July to August)
- Jaco/Puerto Viejo: Partying and Surfing in Costa Rica
If I was spending more time in Costa Rica besides spending more time in the above locations, I would also have seen the following locations:
- Manuel Antonio – I would throw this on the must-see location if you want to be on the beach
- Poas Volcano
How much time to spend in Monteverde, Arenal, and Corcovado National Park?
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park is the most biodeverse place in the World and is a “Must See.” (in my opinion) From reviews, most people raved about this location. While I have yet to visit Corcovardo National Park, I would skip this park if you are tight on budget and/or limited on time.
When visiting Corcovardo National Park, you have a couple of options:
- Day Trip to Park (Most hotels in Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez offer day tours for less than $100)
- Multi-Day Trek to Park
3 DAY /2 NIGHT TOUR IN CORCOVARDO NATIONAL PARK WITH TOUR COMPANY
Since I really wanted to experience Corcovardo National Park, I really wanted to do a multi-day trip. In most reviews, travelers indicated that spending multiple days in the park is a must. In particular, they mentioned spending a night at Sirena.
One can find a link to a map here: http://www.corcovadoguide.com/rangerstations.htm
Most multi-day trips in Corcovardo National Park are three days. It is one day to Sirena, day at Sirena, and a day back from Sirena.
Jungle Man (firstname.lastname@example.org) – he is mentioned by several people as offering private tours
These 3 day /2 night tours cost roughly $500. The expense is largely driven by the cost of meals at Sirena that are $20+ a meal.
2 DAY/ 1 NIGHT TOUR IN CORCOVARDO NATIONAL PARK WITH TOUR COMPANY
This tour is less common than the 3 day / 2 night tour. I did find this tour being offered at some of the above locations, but they all start at 5 or 6 am in the morning. They will not wait for you.
These tours skip the second day (night) in Sirena.
The best trip that I found is one that goes through Los Patos to Sirena and then back to Puerto Jimenz.
Corcovado Info Center – boat in and out of Sirena via Drake Bay
Osa Aventura (email@example.com) – boat in and out of Sirena via Puerto Jimenez
OSA Corcovardo Tour and Travel (http://www.soldeosa.com/) – Hike through Los Patos to Sirena and then back to Puerto Jimenez
These trips tend to be cheaper at a cost of $300 – $350 dollars
There is also option to charter flight into Sirena on Alfa Romeo Air ($395 one-way or more):http://www.alfaromeoair.com/
2 DAY/ 1 NIGHT TOUR IN CORCOVARDO NATIONAL PARK WITH PRIVATE GUIDE
Most people are scared with the thought of hiring a private guide, but they are actually pretty reasonable
Private guide costs $150 per day.
Meals, included in the group tours, add substantially to the cost of the actual cost.
For example, these are the prices for meals:
Lunch/Dinner: $25 each
In short if you are willing to bring food with you, it can actually be cheaper to hire private guide than go with a tour company.
This company, OSA Corcovardo Tour and Travel (http://www.soldeosa.com/), can hire the guide for you.
IN THE END, I DECIDED TO HIRE PRIVATE GUIDE FOR CONVENIENCE. I DID NOT HAVE TIME TO DO THREE DAYS AND DIDN’T THINK 3 DAYS WAS NECESSARY. BY HIRING PRIVATE GUIDE, I HAD THE OPTION TO GO THROUGH LOS PATOS TO SIRENA AS OPPOSED TO JUST ON THE BEACH. IN ADDITION, THEY WOULD PICK ME UP FROM AIRPORT SAVING ME A DAY.
Most people recommend spending several days in Arenal.
The main activities in Arenal are the following:
- Hike the Base of Volcano at Night
- Hot Springs (Baldi and/or Tabacon)
- Adventure Sports (Rafting, Canyoneering)
- ATV Riding
- Horseback Riding
I personally feel that I can do adventure sports in a number of cities around the world. I want to do only what I can do in Costa Rica. To me the only thing that I can do in Costa Rica is to see the Arenal Volcano. With a little luck, I will see lava. Anything on top of the volcano would be considered a bonus.
As a result, I am only looking to spend 1 DAY in Arenal.
Monteverde is also another location that individuals indicate travelers could spend multiple days at the park.
There are a number of trails at the park, but they could easily be hiked in a day for someone fit. The other big activity is Ziplining, which takes an hour or so.
As a result, I am only looking to spend 1 DAY in Monteverde.
How to fit Arenal, Monteverde, and Corcovardo National Park in 4 days?
What mode of transportation to get to Corcovardo National Park?
Rent a Car
While it is possible to rent a car in Costa Rica, I ruled against this option as I was traveling solo and do to expense.
The favorite travel option for many “Extreme Travelers” is buses.
There are several websites that indicate the bus schedules for a number of tour companies:
While these buses offer cheap transportation, there were no night buses that I saw between any of these locations. This is probably from the fact that the road conditions are poor or there simply is little time between locations. (e.g., San Jose to Arenal is only 4 hours)
Grayline and Interbus offer a higher quality level of service, but they are a more expensive mode of transportation.
There are no night options as well via airline.
With all ground transportation not being an option, I then needed to look at flights to Corcovardo National Park.
There are two primary locations to fly into to reach Corcovardo National Park: Puerto Jimenez or Drake Bay
Since I wanted to do a multi-day trek and wanted to hire a private guide, I felt it was best to fly into Puerto Jimenez.
These were the flight options as of December 2012:
Nature Air (San Jose to Puerto Jimenez): 5:40 – 6:50 am
Sansa (San Jose to Puerto Jimenez)” 8:23 – 9:13 am; 15:00 – 15:50 pm
Nature Air (San Jose to Drake Bay): 8:20 – 9:00 am
Sansa (San Jose to Drake Bay): 9:20 am – 10:07; 11:35 – 12:20 am
With my desire to minimize time traveling, I decided it would be best to take the 5:40 – 6: 50 am flight. Since I flied in from the U.S. the night before, I also did not have option of taking a late flight the previous night. The result was that I needed to hire a private guide to ensure a day wasn’t wasted in transport and staying in hotel.
Flights back were the following:
Nature Air (Puerto Jimenez to San Jose): 7:00 – 7:50; 11:50 -12:40; 16:50-17:40
Sansa (Puerto Jimenez to San Jose): 7:20-8:16; 9:23 – 10:19; 13:24-14:27; 16:00-16:56
Nature Air (Drake Bay to San Jose): 9:10 – 10:20; 12:00 – 12:40
Sansa (Drake Bay to San Jose): 10:17 – 11:10; 12:30 – 13:20
If I wanted to get a flight back on the second day of the tour, I would have needed to hire a boat back to Puerto Jimenez that would have cost several hundred dollars.
Instead, I have decided to fly back early in the morning to San Jose.
What mode of transportation to get to Arenal from San Jose?
Many companies offer bus service up to Arenal. The trip takes four hours. The earliest buses leave around 6: 00 – 8:00 a.m. The result is that these modes of transportation arrive between 10:00 and 12:00
Nature Air offers a 20 minute flight for around $80 from San Jose to Arenal that leaves at 11:40.
Given my flight from Corcovardo, I decided to choose this flight
What mode of transportation to get to Monteverde from Arenal?
You can take a long bus ride (8 hours) around a lake to save a couple of dollars or you can take the Taxi-Boat-Taxi transportation for $25 dollars and to the journey in 3 hours.
This transportation leaves at 8:00/8:30 or 11:00/11:30.
My desire was to take the Taxi-Boat-Taxi that leaves early in the morning.
What mode of transportation to get to San Jose from Monteverde?
There are no options to fly from Monteverde back to San Jose.
There are a variety of bus options that take 4.5 hours. Once again, there are no night bus options.
If you are traveling to a number of locations in Costa Rica, you should think about getting a week pass from Nature Air. In the high season, it costs $309 dollars. You can buy it via calling them at -800-235-9272.
Day 1 (Wednesday): Leave New York City and arrive in San Jose late at night
Day 2 (Thursday): Fly to Puerto Jimenez and arrive at 7:00 am where I will begin two day tour of Corcovardo with Private Guide
Day 3 (Friday): Corcovardo National Park
Day 4 (Saturday): Fly to Arenal (via San Jose); Volcano and Hot Springs
Day 5 (Sunday): Travel to Monteverde (on Taxi-Boat-Taxi at 8:00 am); Hike in Monteverde and Zipline
Day 6 (Monday): Travel back to San Jose and fly home
If traveler is staying longer in Costa Rica, I would recommend heading out to Jaco or Tortuguero.
Can you do it any faster? Any other “Extreme Travel” itineraries in Costa Rica?