Beyond San Jose
A 4WD is absolutely essential for an adventurous
off-the-beaten-path itinerary. You can rent one in San Jose,
and in fact have it delivered to the Costa Verdi Inn (saving you the trouble of
getting into San Jose and then navigating your way out.)
Traveling through Costa Rica is slow. Don't
rush to see all of Costa Rica in one visit. You'll enjoy it more by concentrating
your visit on one
quarter of the country (NW, NE, SW, or SE).
In the NW sector we
highly recommend an overnight stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge [***]
[$$$]. Try to reserve a room in the older section, with a window
facing the volcano. The alternative is a balcony seat for front row view
of the fireworks. There is an eruption every 20 minutes. Don't go here for a restful night sleep.
There is a trail leading up the volcano side from the lodge. (Yes: yes its
safe to hike, despite the fact that the volcano erupts every 20 minutes.
You'll see lava rocks tumble down on either side of the trail!) Also
recommended: a hike from Arenal to Cerror Chato Lake (an extinct volcano).
Also nearby: a huge hot springs resort good for a nice hot soak after a
day of hiking.
If you are an Equestrian you have come to the right place.
Costa Rica is big on horses and horseback riding. Nosara-Nicoya, on
the Pacific side, is one nice area for beach bumming and horseback riding.
Good place to stay here, adjacent to the Guiones beach:
Hotel Villa Taype [*,$]. Very
reasonably priced, spacious rooms, and a very nice breakfast cooked to
order in the veranda restaurant. Up the "street" from the Villa
Taype is our favorite open-air jungle pizzeria.
Rent a 4WD vehicle to explore off the few main
roads. Here we are approaching Arenal Volcano [***] from an
unpaved back road
Above: we are at what was our favorite beach
bar in Costa Rica, The Bar & Restaurant Playa Guiones. The 2nd story was a
good place to sip a bear and watch sunsets. The kind of place we'd love to share with you but it
went out of business since this picture was taken in 1996.