I'm looking for some insight in where to stay in and around the San Jose, Arenal, Quepos area in Costa Rica. We are planning to go sometime next summer likely July and would like to rent a car to see the volcano then to Manuel Antonio to visit my parents. I'll have 2 kiddos my husband and myself for about 10 days.
Is it safe to rent a car and drive around the country? Any advise or words of wisdom or things we should be aware of?
What hotels (Marriotts pref.) do you suggest?
In Quepos, we'll likely stay with my parents but a backup would be nice in case they try to micro manage our time.
What are the top 3 - 5 must do's?
My husband and I visited Quepos years ago but we didnt have a car and had to rely on my parents to take us everywhere. This time we want to be a little independent and really enjoy the country.
I appreciate any info you guys can offer!
Quepos is a cute little town. Manuel Antonio National Park is close. Fun too. A catamaran if you want a water experience.
La Fortuna has soo much to do: Ziplining over the jungle, Canyoneering, Hot Springs, learn to cook like a Tico or windsurfing on Lake Arenal. The picture above is from the plaza in La Fortuna with a beautiful catholic church and Volcano Arenal behind it.
Food: Restaurant Nenes is good (La Fortuna) Gingerbread is an experience 5 stars (30 min. drive north of La Fortuna)
If you want a guide I know a great Tico in La Fortuna that can make the trip even better.
We loved the area so much we bought property there to retire to.
Stop at a local "Soda" (diner) food is great and cheap, water is safe too.
I drive in a lot of countries in North and South America as well as Europe. I don't drive in Costa Rica, though. most roads are bad and cars get very expensive with all kinds of extra taxes and insurances. A lot of roads are dirt and not very well marked. You'd be best served with an SUV if you do go and drive outside the city. I travel there every other year and I just hire a car and driver to get around. To be clear, I don't do this in any other country except Costa Rica. But the cost for a driver to my different destinations is the same as a rental car and I don't have to deal with any of the headaches.
Being anywhere outside of San Jose is best. Marriott Courtyards near the airport are really nice. Great place to start or end a trip. The Marriott by the airport is also nice.
I haven't been to the resorts because in general they seem out of the way to me and somewhat isolated. If that's what you like, you'd probably love them. I like Tamarindo because you can have your hotel, condo or resort and still wander through the town.
In the Arenal area there are some amazing resorts. We stayed at Resort Lagos I think it was called. It was like the poor man's resort. There are some there that are much better, but you pay for what you get. We did a day pass at The Springs Resort. It looked amazing and we loved our time there for sure. Tabacon looks cool too, but I've never been there.
Arenal is a bit gritty, but feels safe. I'm fine taking my family there, to give you an idea. It's a great place to stay to check out all the stuff going on in the area. I've stayed in town and out at some of the resorts. Again, if you stay at a resort there, you are isolated and need to drive into town. In town, there's a lot of noise and traffic that seems to go on all night.
We like Santa Elena as well in the Monteverde cloud forest. Taco Taco has the most amazing tacos I've eaten anywhere. I'd go there just for the food. It's also a home base to go zip lining and things like that.
Never been to Quepos, but my family loves Tamarindo.
Have fun and pura vida.