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'Coast to Coast'

What makes this trip special?

Jungle at the beach

Jungle at the beach

Puerto Viejo and the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife reserve

Caribbean beaches backed by forest reserves in Costa Rica's peaceful southeastern tip, near the Panama border. Aside from relaxing on the beach or surfing, hire bicycles, snorkel on coral reefs or visit fascinating local indigenous communities

Lots of easy-to-see wildlife

Lots of easy-to-see wildlife

Tortuguero

Tortuguero's inland waterways are one of the very best places in Costa Rica to see wildlife. Turtles nest on its ocean beaches.

Lush rainforest and soft adventure

Lush rainforest and soft adventure

Sarapiquí

At the foot of the mountains, where the rainforest is at its lushest, Sarapiqui is home to a myriad of flora and fauna. There are some excellent guided natural history walks both during the day and night and gentle adventure activities ideal for all ages.

Costa Rica's most active volcano

Costa Rica's most active volcano

Arenal

Arenal's perfect cone rises above lowlands, spewing smoke and steam, lava and boulders in its active phases. Make sure you visit the hot springs and explore the 'hanging bridges' through the forest. The area has good options for walkers and there's lots to do for adventurous families.

Forest in the clouds

Forest in the clouds

Monteverde

The cool, misty mountain village of Monteverde is the most famous and commercial cloud forest in Costa Rica. Plenty of places to stay and things to see and do from nature walks to high-adrenalin zip-lines

Sun, sand and surfing

Sun, sand and surfing

Tamarindo

Once a fishing village, Tamarindo has grown into a lively beach destination with a good choice of hotels, restaurants and amenities. The sea here is rather wild in parts so not the best for swimming but a great choice for those looking to surf

Itinerary map for Costa Rica 'Coast to Coast' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 San José
  • 2 Puerto Viejo
  • 3 Puerto Viejo
  • 4 Tortuguero
  • 5 Tortuguero
  • 6 Sarapiqui
  • 7 Sarapiqui
  • 8 Arenal
  • 9 Arenal
  • 10 Monteverde
  • 11 Monteverde
  • 12 Tamarindo
  • 13 Tamarindo
  • 14 Tamarindo
  • 15 San José
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Designer's notes

There is something about crossing between the Caribbean and the Pacific that really fires the imagination. We wanted to create a trip that combines this with some of the most iconic destinations within Costa Rica, but without spending too much time travelling. Even so, this is quite a busy holiday, with something new almost every day.

The design we came up with works really well in practice and is a popular choice. Feedback from customers has been very positive, and thanks to your suggestions and our own frequent trips to Costa Rica, we keep improving it and making it better and better.

Our design gives lots of scope for flexibility. Because the itinerary visits popular places there are several choices of hotels at each location, and we have taken advantage of that to suggest two different selections of hotels to suit different budgets.

Also, it is very practicable to travel this itinerary in any of three ways: using the economical tourist shuttle-bus service, by driving yourself in a rental car, or by 'private transfer' which means that you have a car and driver to yourself between each location (the most expensive option)

.Finally, it is easy to extend this trip if you have more time. Adding extra days at the beach works well, as does travelling down to the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica (a short flight from San José), or to Nicaragua.

What a great trip!

Tenille Moore

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Coast to Coast'

DAY 1

San José

You are met on arrival at the airport and driven to your hotel in the San José area, which we helped you choose in the price category you preferred.

DAY 2
B

Southern Caribbean coast

In the morning you are driven eastwards to the south Caribbean coast (4hr), passing through the lowland rainforest of the Braulio Carrillo NP, where you stay for 2 nights at a lodge near the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

DAY 3
B

Today you are free to relax on a pristine local beach or take up one the many optional activities available locally. There are walking trails through the rainforest, you can hire bicycles, go snorkelling on the coral reefs or try an aerial zip-line through the jungle. Visits to local indigenous community projects are possible if booked in advance.

DAY 4
BLD

Tortuguero National Park

Early this morning you are driven north along the Caribbean shore to a dock where you board a motorboat for the journey to your lodge in the flooded forests of Tortuguero. After lunch you are taken to visit Tortuguero village and the local beach, where your guide will introduce you to the history of the area and habitats of the national park.

DAY 5
BLD

A full day based at Tortuguero, including an excursion by boat through the narrow channels of the flooded forest for wildlife viewing, shared with others from the lodge. An English-speaking local naturalist guide provided by the lodge will help point out the creatures.

DAY 6
BL

Sarapiquí lowland rainforest

After breakfast at the lodge you are transferred by boat back to the dock, then onwards by road to a local restaurant for lunch. If you have chosen to have a hire car it will have been brought here for you to collect. Travel to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí (1hr) where you stay for 2 nights.

DAY 7
B

Today is free to take advantage of one of the local activities. You could take a nature walk at La Selva Biological Station, whitewater raft down the Sarapiquí River or take a more leisurely ‘river float’ to enjoy the forest scenery at the water’s edge. You could choose to end the day with a night hike at La Tirimbina in search of nocturnal species.

DAY 8
B

Arenal volcano

Get a reasonable start this morning to travel to the Arenal area, where you stay for 2 nights.

DAY 9
B

A free day for your pick of the many local attractions. You could do the Hanging Bridges Canopy tour for excellent views across the treetops to the outstretched valley, or visit your choice of hot springs where you can relax in thermal waters.

DAY 10
B

Monteverde cloud forest

Travel along the north shore of Lake Arenal then up the winding country roads to Monteverde cloud forest, your base for the next 2 nights. In the afternoon you could visit the hummingbird gallery or the local cheese farm.

DAY 11
B

You are free today for your own choice of activities in the Monteverde area. There are guided nature walks through the Santa Elena and Monteverde cloud forests, canopy walks, a zip-wire and horse-riding.

DAY 12
B

Pacific coast

Travel westwards this morning to the Pacific coast, where you spend 3 nights relaxing at the beach at Tamarindo (or your choice of beach destination).

DAY 13
B

Free to relax on the beach.

DAY 14
B

Free to relax on the beach.

DAY 15
B

San José

A final free morning at the beach before you travel back to San José for a final night.

DAY 16
B

San José / departure

If you are using a hire car drop it off at the international airport before checking in for your chosen flight home. Alternatively you will have a private transfer from your hotel to the airport to co-ordinate with your departure time.

Guide prices for 'Coast to Coast'

Choose to travel by private transfers, by shuttle bus, or by selfdrive. Choose to stay in mid-range or upper range accommodation.

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Mid-range hotels, shuttle bus transfers 2 people sharing £1,490 £1,545
Mid-range hotels, selfdrive (Terios) 2 people sharing £1,620 £1,705
Upper range hotels, selfdrive (Tucson) 2 people sharing £2,810 £3,205
Upper range hotels, private transfers 2 people sharing £3,195 £3,535
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Costa Rica
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
  • shared services of resident English-speaking naturalist guide in Tortuguero
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes

Customer reviews for 'Coast to Coast'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average customer rating 98%

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Arenal and Montezuma.

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Turtle watching, the canopy walk in Arenal, racoons at Manuel Antonio, the Hummingbird gallery, the hot springs and WIFI at all the hotels was popular with our teenagers!

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We loved the whole holiday and we had a thoroughly good time.

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Tortuguero, Monteverde. Enjoyed all locations, time spent was ideal given overall length of trip, but if we had longer would take an extra day or two in Monteverde.

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We would happily have spent more time everywhere, except San Jose

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La selva, San Gerardo de Dota, Carara, Tortuguero was extremely wet for all 2.5 days.

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Turtles at tortuguero, eduardo at monteverde, freddy at carara and xandari pacific

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It was all good!! The wildlife was a highlight but equally with the children the activities were great fun. The variety provided by the itinerary was spot on.

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Pacuare Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Puerto Viejo.

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Tortuguero was amazing for the wildlife , a real experience. Arenal was such a magical place for me I felt very lucky to be there with such an amazing view of the volcano and I wish I'd had an extra night there. Tamarindo was a lovely place, a real cont

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Hiking the volcano in Arenal and hiking in Rincon de la Vieja

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Difficult to say because each place was so different. But we would go back to Tortuguero for the experience and to Arenal for the setting and to Bosque de Paz + Savegre Mountain Hotel because they are project places to stay. And we would like the Bougai

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Tabacon hot springs, horse riding at Monteverde, boat trips at Tortuguero and the beach near Hotel Cariblue

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Tortuguero and the Pacific coast

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Impossible to select the best part as we enjoyed everything.

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Boat tours although road there was horrendous! Night walk and forest walks were great.

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It was all wonderful.

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Sarapiqui and Tamarindo superb

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Tortuguero and Osa Peninsula.

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Tortuguero, Monteverde & the Pacific Coast.

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For the kids - rafting, Tambor for sunbathing & for the adults nature in Tortuguero & Arenal

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Tortuguero.

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Monteverde & Arenal. Playa Hermosa seemed a little 'souless' in comparison with the rest of the country.

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Tortuguero and Monteverde.

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Sarapiqui, Maquenque and Monteverde.

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All of it!

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Arenal and Manuel Antonio

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Seeing the animals, birds and wildlife and the diverse geography.

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Tortuguero and the excellent travelling arrangements.

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Wildlife in Tortuguero, Ylang Ylang hotel, white water rafting trip (which we organised) out there from Arenal Manoa.

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All of it was amazing! We loved the variety, every day was different and there was plenty to do, plus time for relaxation. A great balance.

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Tango Mar and the Nicoya Peninsula were laid back and restful. The white water rafting and zip lines were fantastic. Could have done with a little more wildlife but that is just your Donald Duck.

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All was good - we just felt Monteverde Cloudforest was a zip-wire too far for us and we needed some downtime at the beach.

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I loved all of it, but particularly my time in Sarapiqui for the wildlife and the rafting.

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Selva Verde Lodge and the visit to La Selva OTS. There were lots of birds and animals throughout the whole trip. We had good transfers throughout Costa Rica.

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Tortuguero and Monteverde

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we really enjoyed the tours at Tortuguero and Sarapiqui. We loved the beach and hotel at Tamarindo.

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Sarapiqui, South Pacific (Esquinas Lodge) and Montezuma (Ylang Ylang Hotel)

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So hard to say! Cloud forest/ Tortuguero and Pacific

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We enjoyed all our adventure all places very different, Arenal, Tortuguero y Playa Portero best

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Mawamba Lodge and Lapa Rios

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Sarapiqui, Punta Islita and Xandari Hotel

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We particularly liked Saraoiqui as we didn't find many others who went there. OTS for the wildlife. Sunsets on Playa Potrero.

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Pacuare - we were really sad to leave.

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All round natural beauty and landscapes - perfectly enhanced by knowledgeable guides with a passion for conservation.

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All of it! Each place had something to offer. Good mix of nature, wildlife, adventure and beach.

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Turtle nesting at Tortuguero was a amazing. Sunsets at Playa Hermosa.

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We were charmed by the Costa Ricans, and were given a great welcome at each hotel we stayed at – particularly the smaller ones, like Aroma del Campo, Chayote Lodge and Danta Lodge

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Selva Verde OTS. Tortuguero.

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Everything about Playo Cativo (apart from the mosquitos). Poas Volcano

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5 days in Guanacaste

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Tortuguero and Guacalillo Estuary.

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Wildlife. Walking scenery. High point was being mugged for a packet of biscuits by a Coati.

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Manuel Antonio

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Maquenque and Montezuma were for us the most magical of places and experience. We loved them.

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Arenal, Monteverde and Palmar Sur

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Pacuare river rafting, cloudforest zipline; wildlife spotting, often ad hoc thanks to guides rather than on scheduled walks.

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Tortuguero, Arenal and Manuel Antonio

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Wildlife, birds, Tulemar Resort and the friendly Costa Ricans.

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Tortuguero and Arenal. Carla Luna hotel.

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Overall watching the birds wherever we were and seeing the turtles at Tortuguero.

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Sugar beach and Osa Peninsula. Beaches and wildlife.

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Tortuguero. We would have liked more time there and also in the Playa Hermosa area, but not necessarily at the same hotel.

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Tortuguero and the stay in Tamarindo (great hotel staff).

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Tortuguero, Sarapiqui, Puerto Viejo. We would have liked more time in San Jose and at Arenal, less time in Tamarindo - too hot for us - not your fault!

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A wonderful holiday overall, could not pick a favourite, but would definitely return if we could to Osa Peninsula and San Gerardo de Dota.

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Tortuguero was amazing and we got engaged in Dominical so that will always be a special place for us!

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We enjoyed all of the experiences and would not change anything.

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Yorkin, Night tour and hanging bridges.

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Can't really pick one thing, it was all great!

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Tortuguero, Pacuare Lodge and Tamarindo.

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La Tirimbina night tour, OTS La Selva, the white-faced capuchin monkeys at Tortuguero, and the knowledge of our guide in Nicaragua.

Seasonal information for 'Coast to Coast'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
2 Puerto Viejo 30°C rainfall 213mm
3 Puerto Viejo 30°C rainfall 213mm
4 Tortuguero 30°C rainfall 383mm
5 Tortuguero 30°C rainfall 383mm
6 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
7 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
8 Arenal 30°C rainfall 194mm
9 Arenal 30°C rainfall 194mm
10 Monteverde 24°C rainfall 141mm
11 Monteverde 24°C rainfall 141mm
12 Tamarindo 33°C rainfall 4mm
13 Tamarindo 33°C rainfall 4mm
14 Tamarindo 33°C rainfall 4mm
15 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Coast to Coast'

Day 1

Presidente

San Jose
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Average rating 4.3 (76 ratings)

Hotel Presidente is located in the heart of downtown San José, on the corner of Central Avenue Boulevard and 7th Street, just 20 minutes from the San Jose international airport. Each of the 80 guest rooms split between standard and superior rooms and suites have either two queen-sized beds or a king-sized bed, A/C, wireless internet, hair-dryers, mini-fridge, 32" cable LCD T.V, safe. Hotel amenities include a restaurant, honesty bar in reception, spa services, 24/7 gym, casino, concierge service, computer for guest use, rooftop bar and terrace with panoramic city views.

Presidente
Exterior
Days 2 - 3

Shawandha Lodge

Puerto Viejo
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Average rating 4.7 (12 ratings)

Shawandha Lodge is located at Playa Chiquita, around 6km from Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica's South Caribbean coast. The lodge sits on 5 acres of secondary forest and is 200m walk back from the beach. There are 14 spacious bungalows individually decorated in neo-primitive style with an artistic blend of wood, bamboo, ceramics and palm roofs. Each room has a private bathroom and ceiling fan (there are no TV's or A/C in rooms). Facilities include a swimming pool, restaurant serving French/Costa Rican cuisine. They can also help guests book excursions in the surrounding region.

 

Shawandha Lodge
Interior bungalow
Days 4 - 5

Mawamba Lodge

Tortuguero
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Average rating 4.5 (206 ratings)

Mawamba Lodge is set amongst 15 acres of lush tropical gardens and within easy walking distance of Tortuguero village. The hotel's 54 rooms blend perfectly with the surrounding exuberant jungle vegetation. From the basic wooden bungalows you can hear a cacophony of sounds as you lie in bed. Ranchos with hammocks tucked away in the gardens are perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure. Private nature trails and an open sky butterfly farm provide the opportunity to discover different species of trees, palms trees, heliconias and many other plant species that abound in the tropical rainforest. There is also a red-eyed tree frog project by the swimming pool, bar and a buffet style restaurant. The package here includes all meals, morning and afternoon boat trips through the canals to observe the abundant wildlife. Although rustic, we like this lodge for its size and position in Tortuguero.

Mawamba Lodge
Days 6 - 7

La Quinta de Sarapiqui Lodge

Sarapiqui
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Average rating 4.3 (125 ratings)

This is a pleasant, small, mid-priced hotel, with good sustainable tourism credentials. It is run by a Costa Rican family who do everything they can to make their guests' stays enjoyable. Accommodation is in 25 rather uninspired concrete bungalows, each with private bathroom, tiled floors, ceiling fans and a/c, a small private terrace with rocking chairs and views of the garden. Built on a former working farm the owners have planted an attractive garden on this deforested, riverside site. There is a swimming pool, children's' play area, butterfly garden, a poison dart frog garden and an interesting exhibition room about tropical insects. This is a good sensible choice particularly for families, people with mobility problems and those non-birding spouses who would like an open, sunny base while in the Sarapiqui area. Great home cooking - the best we've tasted in Costa Rica.

La Quinta de Sarapiqui Lodge
Days 8 - 9

Arenal Volcano Inn

Arenal
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Average rating 4.8 (36 ratings)

Arenal Volcano Inn is a very good value mid-range hotel. Well located between the village of La Fortuna, the hot springs and Arenal Lake it has a very impressive view of the volcano. The 25 rooms are scattered over the small property in self-contained bungalows with pretty planting dotted in between. All rooms have views of the Volcano, two queen size beds, a/c, a private terrace, hair-dryer, safe, mini fridge, microwave oven and coffee maker. The hotel has two swimming pools, one for adults and one for children, and a jacuzzi. A small on-site spa offers several types of massages and mud treatments at affordable prices. Their restaurant on site serves Italian food fot those happy to eat at the hotel.

Arenal Volcano Inn
Days 10 - 11

Monteverde Country Lodge

Monteverde

Monteverde Country Lodge is a small rustic-style lodge located around a 10 minute walk from the centre of Santa Elena village. Each of the 16 rooms have cable T.V, private bathrooms with hot water, coffee makers, safety box and free wireless internet. Amenities also available at the lodge include a restaurant, bar, tours desk, laptop rental, laundry and gated parking lot. Guests also have access to the heated indoor pool and spa at the lodge's sister property, Poco a Poco.

Monteverde Country Lodge
Lodge building
Days 12 - 14

Pasatiempo

Tamarindo

Hotel Pasatiempo is a small characterful hotel set in tropical gardens filled with hardwood, palm and mango trees a 5 minute walk back from Tamarindo beach. Each standard or deluxe room has A/C, private bathrooms with hot water, private terraces, wifi, safe, flatscreen cable T.V, orthopedic matresses. Deluxe rooms are larger with higher ceilings. Facilities include a snack bar 'Monkey La-La' serving bar food and drinks, swimming pool, live music nights on certain nights of the week. The hotel can also organise excursions for guests.

Pasatiempo
Day 15

El Rodeo Country Inn

Alajuela

El Rodeo Country Inn is a good, mid-range hotel set back from a main road in a quiet suburban area, located just 10 minutes from San Jose airport and 15 minutes from downtown San Jose. The 29 well appointed rooms have hardwood floors and wood furnishings and are fully-equipped with cable TV, A/C, direct dial telephone, safe private bathrooms with hot water and bathtub, coffee maker and hair-dryer. Some rooms have a balcony and all have a garden view. Facilities include a swimming pool and jacuzzi, tennis court, wireless internet. The hotel is connected to a steak house, which is very popular with the locals (please note there are very limited vegetarian options at the steak house). The steakhouse closes at 4pm on Sundays but the hotel bar can prepare snacks or help you call out for a pizza.

El Rodeo Country Inn