Tortuguero â€“ San Jose
San Jose is the central location for buses. There was a shuttle bus for $35 (one way including the $10 boat ride) that took a group of people from Tortuguero to :La Fortuna. If you are short on time, it is probably a good option. We returned to San Jose, spent the night at a different hostel this time before we headed out to La Fortuna/Arenal.
Price - $26 for a double (actually triple. All rooms have 3 beds) and shared shower. $28 for a double with a private shower. They have dorms too. Light breakfast is served.
Cleanliness â€“ Everything is very clean and tidy
Comfort â€“ The slats on the bed made the mattress a little wonky. It was fine, but could be problematic if you have bad back problems. It is MUCH more quiet than the other hostel we were at. I actually slept through the whole night.
Character â€“ The feeling of the place is very comfortable and relaxed. The place isn’t hopping with people and it is more of an older crowd (25+). One family even.
Amenities â€“ breakfast, hot water, shared kitchen, living room with cable and a dvd player, and games room with a pool table. 2 computers to share and wireless access. 1 block away from the grocery store and a 5 minute walk from the big mall San Pedro.
Recommended? â€“ Yes, this may not be the place to hook up with others for unplanned adventures, but if you know what your plans are and want a quiet chilled out stay, then, this is a great place.
San Jose â€“ La Fortuna
Taxi to bus station ($3 for 15 minutes)
Bus to La Fortuna at 8:40 ($3 each for 4 Â½ hours)
The government really subsidizes the buses.
I don’t know if there was a direct bus to take to La Fortuna, but having to stop and let people on and off frequently added at least an hour to the trip. If you have a choice, take the direct bus or as you can read about why later. I recommend renting a car for the Arenal area.
La fortuna was nice, but very touristy. The main business was tour companies. It was our anniversary. We had saved up some money to have a wild splurge here. Believe me, it was really easy to do. Our main goal was to go to Tabacon Hot Springs. We looked into hotels that were more in the $80 - $100 range, but then we found out that the entrance fee to the springs was $45 per person. Then we decided to just go for it and stay at the Tabacon hotel because it included the entrance fee to the springs for 2 days.
Everything was just outrageously overpriced about the whole thing, but I tried to ignore it and enjoy myself. I was doing a pretty good job until I tried to find out about going to see the Volcano or go to the park itself. This town is arranged for high class tourism not budget folk. There are only 3 ways to get around. 1) in your own car 2) in a taxi (17 miles between La Fortuna and Arenal equals about a $40 cab ride both ways) 3) on an arranged tour (min $35 per person). It was very rainy and cloudy when we were there, so we were told that it was unlikely we would be able to see anything anyways, so we gave it a miss, but I would recommend renting a car for this portion of your trip because you get kind of stuck at your hotel otherwise.
Tabacon Hotel and Restort
Price - $175 per night for a king standard room includes a vast breakfast and 2 days entrance to the hot springs
Cleanliness â€“ Spotless. They were even repainting walls that looked fine already while we were there.
Comfort â€“ It had better be for that price.
Character â€“ It was a very nice room. Beautiful wood and tile, but it still had that fancy American hotel feeling. When you were in your room, you could just as well have been in California.
Amenities â€“ Delicious breakfast, welcome drink, shuttle to hot springs, and all sorts of other odds and ends. You had to pay extra for internet use.
Recommended? â€“ Of course it is a amazing place to stay. Especially if you are on a honeymoon or some other special occasion. I just don’t usually have that kind of money to throw around, so I felt a little bit of a fraud. Like when the lady is telling me about the tour options. I almost said, â€œSorry, I can’t afford all those things.â€ But, then I thought, who is going to believe me when I am staying at a place like this.
I met other people later who went to Baldi hot springs. They had a great time for $18. I didn’t go, so I can’t compare.
Arenal â€“ Canopy Tour
There are brochures everywhere for Canopy tours. Originally, we were looking into going on a day trip to one from San Jose. It was aprox $75 per person regular and $62 with a student discount. I saw a poster on the wall at our language school for a hotel that offered the canopy tour, a double room and 3 meals for $67 (student discount). I asked the travel service people at school about it and they told me it is on the way to or from Arenal. You just have to go a different route.
Local bus to San Ramon from La Fortuna ($2.50)
ask the driver to drop you off at San Lorenzo Canopy tour. It is hard to miss. There are lots of bright signs about what they offer.
Lands in Love Hotel
Price - $67 per person (student rate) for double room, 3 meals and a canopy tour
Cleanliness â€“ Everything is very clean and tidy
Comfort â€“ The best nights sleep we had on our whole trip. Good mattress and pillow, comfy couches in the lobby. You are in the middle of a forest, so the only noises come from nature.
Character â€“ The natural surroundings of the cloud forest provide a breath taking backdrop to the hotel. The hotel itself is a little eclectic with nice touches such as murals and little daisies painted on the toilet seat. The people who run the hotel were very interesting and friendly. They are a group of Israeli friends who joined together to make their dream of living and working together come true. The sense of community that they have spills over into the way they treat their guests.
Amenities â€“ 3 delicious meals (vegetarian of all sorts e.g. Pasta, Chinese, Israeli, sandwiches etc.), swimming pool, will pick you up and return you to the highway, arrange tours, laptop to borrow, wireless access.
Recommended? â€“ Yes! This was probably our favorite place we stayed on the whole trip. The scenery was gorgeous, the hotel was nice and the people were so helpful and welcoming.
San Lorenzo Canopy Tour - ($35 I think) There are 2 choices, the adventure tour and the canopy tour. I preferred the canopy tour because you were in the trees, so you got to see what it looked like from the top, there were more zip lines and the Tarzan swing was the most scary. Also, there was more opportunity to talk to the guides. They were very helpful in teaching us the Spanish words for things.
The adventure tour has the world’s longest cable and it goes a little faster, so that is the advantage for that one.
We had a great time. It was beautiful and a little scary, but not terrifying.
Some other guests at the hotel went repelling in the waterfalls. The girl said she preferred that to the canopy tour. I guess you just have to take your pick.
Return to San Jose
stand on the highway for the bus to pick you up (2:15 or 5:15pm) and take you to San Ramon (75 cents)
San Ramon â€“ San Jose there are both direct and stopping buses. ( $1.50)
The buses that drive around San Jose are easy to figure out if you are just going up and down around the Avenida Central area. You can pretty much get on anything. If you are doing anything more complex than that, you probably want some good, clear instructions.
We stayed at Bekuo again and now we are at the airport waiting for our flight to Ecuador.