Single trip during Christmas | Duration – 13 days
As the winter in north America started setting in, our escape route this year took us down south to the rain forests of Costa Rica. In the tiny Central American country, where lush green canopy of rainforest hides the land formed by fiery lava flows from numerous volcanoes, sandwiched between oceans and seas, with an active plate boundary lurking under the surface, thrives an amazing culture that displays an ever welcoming charm and says ‘Pura Vida’!
Before moving on, check out the essential tips for a fulfilling trip to Costa Rica
|San Jose||Day 1 – Poas, Doka Coffee and Sarchi|
|La Paz Waterfall Gardens||Day 2 – Peace Lodge in the La Paz Waterfall Gardens|
|Arenal||Day 3 – Tabacon (Hotel/Hot Springs)|
|Arenal||Day 4 – Volcano Hike, La Fortuna|
|Arenal||Day 5 – Zipline adventures|
|Monteverde||Day 6 – Monteverde Night-walk in the Cloud forest, Santa Elena Park|
|Monteverde||Day 7 – Monteverde Cloud Forest, Curi Cancha Reserve|
|Manuel Antonio||Day 8 – Beach day|
|Manuel Antonio||Day 9 – Savegre River whitewater rafting|
|Manuel Antonio||Day 10 – Manuel Antonio National Park|
|Manuel Antonio||Day 11 – Beach, Back to San Jose|
|Tortuguero||Day 12 – Tortuguero National Park (Canoe, Walk, Night walk)|
|San Jose||Day 13 – San Jose Downtown|
Getting to know the facts
Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it is also located on top of a subduction zone (Pacific and American Plate boundary). Through the middle of the country runs a string of Volcanoes (part of the famous Ring of Fire) that looks like a backbone if looking at a topographical map. Susceptible to earthquakes, this land is peppered with multiple active and dormant volcanoes. There are numerous rain forests and cloud forests that formed above the cloud layers. Coast to coast, it has a number of UNESCO world heritage sites and national parks that are home to exquisite species of wildlife.
Coffee, banana and tourism are the primary drivers of economic growth but poverty reins everywhere. The wide separation of the rich and poor is evident in most non-touristy places. Gambling and prostitution are legal in Costa Rica. Drugs etc are a problem here as well, but nightlife is safe enough here albeit with common sense precautions.
Two main international airports receive flights from the US and Europe – SJO (Juan Santamaria) near San Jose, and LIR (Daniel Oduber) in the northern end of the country near Nicaragua border. There is a $26 airport departure fee charged by the airport that is not included in your ticket prices.
We stayed in the Courtyard Marriott Alajuela near the airport offering shuttle services.
Around Costa Rica
Poas, Doka Coffee plantation, Sarchi – Tour company (Anywhere Costa Rica) picked us up from the hotel in the morning for the three POIs for an all day tour.
Poas Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes located just outside the valley of San Jose, about an hours drive from downtown. The volcano is located above the cloud level and is covered in thick rain clouds often. In case it is covered in thick mist, options are either to wait or come back another day for the glorious sight. Read more details about the geology and the volcano here.
Doka coffee plantation estate is one of the many coffee plantations around the country. Volcanic soil and the perfect mix of rain and warm climate makes growing coffee a major agricultural item here. During the tour, we stopped at a local village named Sarchi famous for its woodwork. Find out more on the Doka coffee estate and Sarchi village here.
We headed towards the La Paz waterfall gardens and the Peace Lodge in the morning in the Peace Lodge shuttle. Fascinating in the first sight, the room and the property kept us mesmerized the entire day. Part of the Luxury travel posts, check out our review of the Peace Lodge and the Waterfall Gardens here.
After early morning adventures to the waterfalls and a lavish breakfast in the Peace Lodge restaurant, we headed up to the Arenal Volcano area in our private shuttle (Anywhere Costa Rica, Cost $80 p.p., ~3 hours). We passed through tiny, curvy, mountainous roads while sharing the passages with fruit filled little trucks, bicycles, cattle and pedestrians. From some of the lookouts, we saw recent landslides, gorgeous valleys and numerous waterfalls before we reached the plains near the towering volcano. We stayed right inside the Tabacon Hotsprings Hotel (Read more on this travelogue in Luxury Travel) and enjoyed the hotsprings while peeking through the hotel room at the gigantic Arenal Volcano.
The Arenal volcano, an active volcano, was displaying smoke and ash flow until as recently as 2012, although the last major eruption was in 1968. The hike in the park, with unobstructed (although cloud cover makes it impossible to have a clear view of the summit for more than 10 minutes) views of the stratovolcano and a land created by disruptive lava flows, gave us an interesting historical perspective on creation of the surrounding area. Read more on the geology and biosphere of the Arenal Volcano here.
Dense rainforest below and clear sky up above, zipline through the steep valleys formed by mountains while colorful birds chirp their way in your line of sight. If this is an adventure you can dare, read more about our zipline adventures in the heart of the rainforest.
Our adventures took us from the days in the rainforest to the cloud forest in Monteverde. Sipping local hot cappuccinos while soaking in the spurious sunshine while misty breeze and small town charm captivate your senses seemed to be the only thing possible. Instead we laced our hiking boots, coated the bare skin with ample bugspray, and went exploring the cloud forest in Santa Elena Reserve followed by some adventurous time in the forest after dark. Read more about the cloud forest after dark montage here.
After spending all day in Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest and Curi Cancha Reserve), we explored the little quaint town of Santa Elena shopping, exploring local sodas, and cafes. We had a fantastic time in the night after dinner at the local bar (Bar Amigos) practicing some salsa dancing with the local while tapping with the beats of the popular local band.
We left for Manuel Antonio in the prearranged transportation from Anywhere Costa Rica in the morning. On our way, we stopped at the Tarcoles river bridge to spot huge crocodiles sunbathing in the river banks. We topped off our street food and tropical fruit craving at the nearby shops. In Manuel Antonio, we spent our day at the beach and soaking in the tropical sun while sipping on the local drinks. Relaxing day ended with a nice dinner.
Another day of fun filled adrenaline rush with whitewater rafting in the Rio de Savegre. We booked a tour with Amigos Del Rio for a half a day tour. Read more about our experience here. Our tired souls were craving for some fancy dinner, so we chose the popular Ronny’s Place for a charming sunset while sipping on exquisite cocktails.
Half a day excursion in the Manuel Antonio National Park with a guide was the best way to see the other side of the biodiversity Costa Rica had to offer. Read more on the memoirs on Manuel Antonio National Park here. We headed back to San Jose in the evening for a good night’s sleep in Sheraton Escazu.
Continuing our journey from coast to coast, we hopped on to a tiny shuttle jet to go to Tortuguero, the village surrounded by water and mangrove forest in the Caribbean coast. An entire day spent in the rain forest on foot, boat and canoe, while hanging out with the locals in sodas and pubs underwrote the summary of our entire trip. Read more on the adventures in Tortuguero here.
It’s Christmas eve and we started to smell the end nearing. After navigating through the perils of public transport in a 5 hour journey from the water bodies of Tortuguero to the central valley of the capital city, we soaked in the city life, local culture and the history. Read more about a day in San Jose here. Check out our experience of spending NYE in Costa Rica in Luxury Travel.
All good things come to an end, and so did our adventures in Costa Rica. I hope you like our travelogue and if so, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. PURA VIDA.