My family (hubby, 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter) are planning a 10 day trip for the first week in Aug this year and I had a couple questions. We will be flying from MIA in to SJO and was planning to drive directly to Arenal Area, question #1- Is that too much for one day? We are scheduled to stay in that area for 4 days and then down to Manual Antonio for the following 5 days, question #2 is there any really good snokeling or even better snuba-ing in that area? Question #3 would it be better to Cano Island and would it be worth it for the long trek to get there as we live in Florida and have access to snorkling here? I hate to waste precious time we have there and our main objective is to get away from the hustle and relax to enjoy nature and each other.
The drive from SJO to La Fortuna is about 2.5 to 3 hours. It is definitely possible and worth getting to your first destination on that day. But we would also say that if you get in later in the day, we don’t recommend driving in the dark (5:45 pm). It can be really rainy, the roads are poorly marked with lines/reflectors, etc. You could either shuttle that leg and rent a car in La Fortuna the next morning or stay in a hotel near SJO and get an early start the next day.
For snorkeling, the Manuel Antonio area doesn’t have great conditions (especially in August) so Cano Island would be the best option. It is a long way though, you’d start the tour from Uvita (about 1 hour and 15 min south of Manuel Antonio) in the morning and be gone for the full day. It is great snorkeling but this might not be worth it since you have good snorkeling in FL too. One plus would be that it will also be Humpback Whale season and often times you can see whales (and usually dolphins) on the way to and from the island. So if that was of interest too, it could be nice. If you need help arranging, just let us know.