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Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

New York
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Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

I will be arriving to San Jose, Costa Rica on the morning of January 2nd and departing the morning of January 12th out of Panama City. My plans were 5 nights each in Costa Rica and Panama. I had my ideas fairly well planned out but a small wrinkle in the plans just appeared which I need to work out. My friend found a great deal on a round trip flight arriving in to Liberia on the afternoon of January 4th and departing the evening of January 11th.

My initial idea based on my friend joining is to spend 2 nights Arenal area and then meet her in or around Liberia on the 4th. Then we would spend 3 or 4 nights around Tamarindo before making our way to Bocas del Toro for 3 nights. My questions would be as follows:

1. How long does it take to drive from Tamarindo to San Jose and when would you suggest leaving there in order to have enough time to make a 1:00 PM flight?

2. How long to drive from San Jose to Bocas del Toro? I am also considering a Nature Air flight between the two.

3. What are the bus options between San Jose and Bocas del Toro?

4. Is it possible to get from Bocas del Toro to San Jose the same day driving or by bus and make it in time for a 3:20 PM flight to Liberia?

If you have any better suggestions how best to spend my time based on the scenario mentioned above would be also be much appreciated. Thanks!

Chicago, Illinois
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for Costa Rica
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1. Re: Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

I think this is a seriously screwed up plan. Your original plan was fine but if you're headed for Liberia to meet up with your friend, I would strongly suggest you drop any hope of visiting Bocas or you will spend most of your trip in transit.

If you want to spend your trip with your friend, your plan to spend 2 nights in Arenal before meeting up with your friend in Liberia is good. Then spend the week making a loop tour down the Nicoya peninsula from Tamarindo to Montezuma or MalPais (www.nicoyapeninsula.com) and back up so that you spend the last night, the 10th within striking distance on the Liberia airport. You should drop the rental car in Liberia on the 11th and fly back to San Jose for an evening flight to PC, if you can find one. You'll likely have to leave earlier from Liberia than your friend to make your connection into PC before your flight out on the 12th. I would seriously consider trying to change your flight out of PC, even thought there may be steep penalties, as it may save you a fortune on the Liberia/San Jose/PC flights.

In answer to your questions:

1. It's a 5-5.5 hour drive Tamarindo to San Jose airport. See www.yourtravelmap.com for driving times. You need to be at the airport at least 2 hours before international flights and at least 1 hour before local flights (including Bocas). Nature Air however does not fly out of the international airport but out of Pavas, about 20-30 minutes from SJO.

2. You can't drive from San Jose to Bocas because you can't take rental ars across the border. It's a long drive to the border in any case so given your tight time frame you should plan on flying Nature Air.

3. Bus options include a public bus or interbus transfer from San Jose to Puerto Viejo and the next day a transfer from PV to Bocas by bus and boat. Don't think you can do this in one day.

4. No chance of making your flight at 3:20 PM out of San Jose unless you fly back on Nature Air or head back toward San Jose the day before.

Last two cents: I spent 5 nights in Bocas last summer and in my opinion the beaches in Costa Rica, particularly around MalPais and on the Caribbean coast are much better for beachcombing and water sports than Bocas.

Edited: 11 December 2010, 00:28
Grecia, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

CRfan gave some good advice, I would also reconsider Bocas in this case, maybe save it for the next trip. It would be a little different if you were flying into SJO as opposed to Liberia but given the airports and time frame IMO skip Panama.



Costa Rica
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3. Re: Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

For distances and driving times, check here: www.yourtravelmap.com

1. From Tamarindo to San Jose, about 5 hours, more or less.

2. You cannot take a rental car out of the country. So you can drive to Puerto Viejo and take the shuttle from there to Bocas del Toro. Check www.puertoviejosatellite.com for more information

3. Take the bus to Puerto Viejo and then the shuttle to Bocas del Toro.

4. No.

Bethesda MD
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4. Re: Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

Or, maybe: a) OP spends 2 nights in Arenal b) Friend continues on from Liberia upon arrival and meets OP in Arenal, Alajuela, San Jose, or the like, c) they spend a week together at point (s) between there and Bocas (including PV), ending in PV or Bocas, d) Friend flies back to Liberia, OP flies from Bocas to PC. Sounds crazy to use Liberia as the entry point to get to PV/Bocas, and any car rental would have to be one-way to PV, but if you count the change fees as a sunk cost, maybe avoiding them makes this worth considering.

La Fortuna de San...
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5. Re: Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

I agree with the person who said skip Panama this trip! Your itinerary will have you spending all of your vacation time traveling to a place and not being able to have time to enjoy! I was in Bocas del Toro a few months ago and it's nice but save it for your next trip...this itinerary you're trying to do will just not be that enjoyable. Enjoy Costa Rica...there's so much here to do and see and you can go do a tour of Panama the next time!

Wendy at The Villa Hermosa, La Fortuna, CR

6. Re: Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary Help!

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