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Exploring on my own?

New York City, New...
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Exploring on my own?
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I will be staying near in La Fortuna for about three days in December. I've seen lots of tours I can book, but I'd love to be able to enjoy the park/do SOME hikes on my own. Is it possible to things like the waterfall or hiking around the park without a guide (just pay the entrance fee)? I won't have a car, but I will be staying right near Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.

I was thinking of the following and would appreciate any suggestions on my itinerary:

- Half Day/arrive in La Fortuna late afternoon: Hot Springs (not sure which one)

- Day One: La Fortuna Waterfall & Hanging Bridges (also maybe a chocolate tour? I've heard there's one that goes over the bridges?)

- Day Two: Volcano Hike (Arenal 1968 Trail?) & Spa/different hot spring

- Day Three (must leave at 5pm): Sloth tour? Another hike? I'm not sure! I'd love to see wildlife!

17 replies to this topic
Tampa, Florida
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62 reviews
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1. Re: Exploring on my own?
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Yes, you can do the trails on your own. If you're really observant you may see some wildlife but many visitors like to have a guide with a spotting scope to potentially see a lot more.

You can definitely do MIstico alone, the national park, there are also nice trails at Arenal Observatory Lodge, which you can visit as a day visitor.

A lot of the things we like are a bit of a distance away, which is no big deal if you have your own vehicle. How were you going to get around, taxis?

I'd highly recommend a tour at Proyecto ASIS wildlife refuge if you find a way to get there. You can also arrange day tours to Cano Negro for a boat tour or Rio Celeste, which I would only do in clear weather.

Our favorite hot springs is Ecotermales.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Exploring on my own?
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Thank you! I was thinking of going mostly by taxi - I am not sure if they are readily available near the parks or if Uber is better?

Thank you for noting Proyecto ASIS - that sounds perfect for me!

Tampa, Florida
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9,012 posts
62 reviews
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3. Re: Exploring on my own?
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There is no Uber in that area. Everything is really spread out; it may be exhausting to continuously be arranging taxis. Maybe someone can recommend a local driver near Arenal?

There is a way to take a public bus to ASIS; if you contact the people there they can help direct you.

It is possible to rent a car to use locally. Without a passenger to help you navigate I don't know how comfortable you'd be with that. Waze works really well, but.... I rented from Adobe in La Fortuna last year and it was a good experience. I don't think I'd be brave enough to find everything on my own though, not because it's Costa Rica. I wouldn't want to drive around alone in an unfamiliar area in the US, either.

New York City, New...
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63 posts
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4. Re: Exploring on my own?
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Ah, interesting. I will be traveling with one other person, although neither of us drive much at home (we live in NYC). I will ask my airbnb host about local drivers! Thank you again!

San Antonio, Texas
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1,653 posts
5. Re: Exploring on my own?
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Myself would inquire about Airbnb security, helps if the owner lives close by or there's someone to watch things. Good idea on pre-arranged or dedicated taxis / drivers, spontaneous rides may not work well if drivers come from a distance off location, if they have busy hours, or if there is bad weather. Good binoculars and a telephoto lens camera would be helpful for pictures, animal views especially may only last for seconds and be partially camouflaged or far away. Sometimes tours are the best thing to use. But you may already know about some of these things, from your previous travels.

Edited: 10 November 2020, 03:25
Ontario, Canada
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6. Re: Exploring on my own?
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@2, If you decide to go the AOL mentioned in one of the earlier replies here (the lodge near the volcano, with its own trails), there is a scheduled local shuttle from La Fortuna - https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/en/getting-here/shared-shuttle-from-arenal-observatory-lodge-to-la-fortuna-town/ . It should cost you less than a taxi. You pay the driver, cash (paying in colones and not in US dollars might save you money). I would contact the lodge in advance to make sure it is available now. We saw monkeys (2 kinds), coatis, lots of various birds, incl. a toucan and hummingbirds, insects... You can climb an observation tower called The Nest there. Here is a list of the bird species there - https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/en/bird-sanctuary/ . The reception used to have a printed check list with the birds found on the property, but you needed to request it. They also had a 2-page map of the property and trails (https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/en/property-map/ ) available at the reception, if needed. Don't miss the waterfall trail. The restaurant has glass walls and offers great views, especially if the day is clear. There is an observation deck that goes around two sides of the restaurant. Their Lunch hrs ended quite late when we were there and you can see their lunch menu/procès on their site (https://28x7sr34p6x13tfywmt6a8o1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/LunchMenu.pdf).

If you are thinking of going to SkyAdventure Arenal Park, it is located close there.

Have a good trip!

Winnipeg, Canada
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for Costa Rica
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7. Re: Exploring on my own?
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I guess it depends a bit on where you are actually staying and what you want to do.

when I was last in La Fortuna, with a friend we stayed in the centre of town. we got a taxi to take us to the waterfall. You definately do not need a tour to the waterfall. It was not too expensive and not a hassle to get a cab in town. The driver we had gave us his phone number and we called when we were finished and he came to pick us up.

When we went to Ecothermales we also took a cab. Then when we were finished we had someone at the desk call a cab. It really was no big deal.

for some of the other places you might want, you can either takes tours or check out the logistics.

So while it may be more convenient with a car, it definitely can be done without one and there are various things you can do without having to take a tour.

Ontario, Canada
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17,647 posts
70 reviews
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SnappleSpice, some of the things you mentioned you were interested in doing in Arenal/La Fortuna area, included. a chocolate tour, are offered from https://www.lachozainnhostel.com/arenal-volcano-tours/ in La Fortuna. I don't know where you are staying, but maybe you can join those (?).

San Jose, Costa Rica
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9. Re: Exploring on my own?
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Do not make the mistake or try to stay at AOL...is about 40 taxi ride each way and a lieast $ 30.00 USD each way...besides they offer the most horrible food miles around..and expensive... minutes

Try to get a small set of wheels you will save tons of money and time...once againAOL in your cae is very much a NO NO

roadadvsiro

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
63 posts
279 reviews
139 helpful votes
10. Re: Exploring on my own?
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Thank you for all of these responses! I have done some more research and arranged some things through my Airbnb.

On one of the days, I plan to do the Hanging Bridges (which appear to be within walking distance of my Airbnb) and the 1968 Trail, both without guides. Does anyone know how much a taxi might be between these two locations?

I am also planning on going to Proyecto Asis and will need to arrange a taxi there from near the Hanging Bridges. I'm assuming the best way to do this would be through my Airbnb?

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