How to Plan the Most Amazing Trip to Costa Rica

Here are my top tips for planning a trip to the Arenal Volcano Region in Costa Rica

Costa Rica should be on everyone’s bucket list! When I first went to Costa Rica, I went with my mom and daughter and hired professional adventure travel consultants who specialized in Costa Rica to plan my trip: The Escape Artists – Costa Rica Travel Planners.  By the second and third trip, I knew what I wanted and felt so confident from what I learned from the Escape Artists, that I planned my own trips.

1. Don’t believe – How to Pack for Rain and Weather in Arenal.

Do not believe, we saw that there was miraculously no rain predicted for our week, so we left our raincoats behind (big mistake)!  Of course, it rained!!!! It is the rainforest.  Once we got there, we saw rain predicted for every day and panicked!  Do not panic if rain is forecasted for every day, that is normal and most likely it will only rain sporadically and often when you wake up in the morning and here and there – leaving you with mostly sunny days.

Still worried… read what to do in Arenal in Costa Rica if it Rains

Bring more clothes than you think necessary unless you want to do laundry

In the rainforest, everything gets wet, damp and doesn’t dry.  We thought we packed enough but I would recommend packing a few extra shirts and an extra pair of hiking sneakers.  As one day with rain on your sneakers and they won’t easily dry out.

Why you should never wear sandals when hiking or on hiking tours

In the rainforest, there are ants – little leafcutter ants and bullet ants and their bite is extremely painful.  Wearing open-toed sandals and sandals while hiking is just plain stupid. There is nothing to be afraid of, but just be smart, where hiking shoes or sneakers and socks.

Where should I stay?

Seriously there are tons of options from the high-end Tabacon, Kioro and The Springs Resort to moderate hotels like Hotel Manoa Arenal.  We stayed at Hotel Manoa Arenal which was moderately priced for a family of five, we took two adjoining suites as we were there for five nights and the savings was significant.

If I only were there 1-2 nights, I would highly recommend splurging on Tabacon.  I would probably stay at Hotel Manoa Arenal again as the suites and resort is gorgeous but spent one night at Tabacon to experience the natural hot springs and gardens which are spectacular.  For our trip, we paid for a day pass which was almost as expensive as staying overnight.

I would not go to Tabacon with children under 8, the hot springs are too hot for them, they prefer something more like Baldi and are just as happy at a moderate resort.

How to save money on tours on your trip to Arenal

We used a local taxi to get around and saved significantly.  

We highly recommend going to the Arenal La Fortuna Waterfall without a tour on a sunny day.  

Here is the cost difference for a family of five:

With the tour:  $57 x 5 + $20 tip for the guide = $305

We went direct with Costa Rica Vacations Tax (506) 7248-8946 Our driver was Maria.  An extra bonus is that my daughter left her GoPro in the car and Maria drove it back to the hotel at no charge.  :  $30 round trip plus park entry of $15 x 5 = $90

If you travel down from the Waterfall to the bridge there is a jumping spot with a vine you can jump from.  Do not bring any valuables.

Another way to save money is to book the Hanging Bridges direct.  It will cost about the same to use their travel service as a taxi.  I liked the taxi as the cost was $80 round trip but we were able to take side trips to the town and pick up a few souvenirs.  

Cost with a tour $69 per person with transportation.  For a total cost of $345 plus tips (guide and transportation).  We went direct with a taxi $80 rt plus $38 per adult and $26 per teenager with a guide for a total of $160 + $80 for the transportation =  $240.  I would not try to save money and not use a guide. The best part is looking through their scope and seeing all the animals and learning about the wildlife.  When you book your trip, put in the comments that you would like Victor to be your guide, he was super!  Plus plan an early outing as that is when the most animals are undisturbed.  But don’t sweat it if you go later.  We saw tarantulas, hummingbirds spider and howler monkeys, sloths, viper and coral snakes and all sorts of ants with a very cool ant demonstration and a toucan all after lunch.  Our guide talked a lot about the history and animal life, it was fascinating.    

Save money and Do not do the sky while biking tour that is just a road ride down a very dusty dirty road with lots of cars they do have a Chase vehicle following you so you don’t get run over by the crazy drivers but it is not pleasant to have dirt kicked up in your face I will drop one drive up and down the road.

AND OF COURSE – THE HOT SPRINGS!  Read about our hot springs recommendations to learn more about the best resorts and places to enjoy the hot springs from the splurge to the budget friendly!

Do you need to buy bottled water?  

The Costa Ricans say you do not, we drank the water non-stop for five days and never had a problem.  We even filled our water bottles from the hotel room spicket right before leaving for any tours.