You can plan to do a day trip, but you should know a few things first. The daytime in Costa Rica lasts from about 5:45 AM to 5:45 PM year-round. The distance between Arenal and Monteverde takes about 3 - 3 1/2 hours to drive if you go around Lake Arenal, and about 2 1/2 - 3 hours via a boat across Lake Arenal. Thus, a day trip requires between 5-7 hours of transit, which leaves only a few hours to enjoy your time in Arenal or Monteverde before you must return. Try and stay at least one night at a hotel in either Monteverde or Arenal if possible.
However, even worse than a day trip from Monteverde to Arenal or vice versa is a day trip from the beaches of Guanacaste to Arenal or Monteverde for the day. From the Guanacaste coastline, it requires 8 hours of driving time to reach these destinations in a single day.
No doubt you can find companies that sell day trips to Arenal or to Monteverde from the coast, but rarely do the visitors realize the logistics involved because "it looks so close on the map." In general, we are able to provide round trip service for people if they insist on a day trip but only as a last resort if it is impossible to re-organize the itinerary to include an overnight stay at a hotel. Logistic trip planning is an important service we provide for our customers who want to see different places around the country. We can recommend the best order of travel to maximize vacation time and minimize travel time.
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