Have you even heard of this tropical destination just a few hours by plane from us named Costa Rica? Have you ever been there? If not, drop what you’re doing and go! It is an absolute paradise for anyone but especially us adrenaline junkies (no need to hide, you’ve come to the right place).
A couple of summers ago I poured myself into planning the ultimate adventure trip for myself and a few buds. We had the best time exploring this amazing country. The summer is considered the rainy season and while it rained here and there, it in no way stopped us from doing everything we hoped. Plus if you go in the off season you’ll find less crowds and better rates.
Below I share our trip but be forewarned, we gleamed every drop out of the country during our time there. This isn’t the itinerary if you want to just lay on a beach at some luxury resort with room service or want to stay in one location for the duration of your trip. If you too have the thrill seeking spirit within you, read on. You’re just my type.
Day 1: Fly in early to San Jose. We got tickets for less than $400 RT on Spirit. I know some aren’t crazy about flying this airline but it was just what I needed from an airline on this trip to move me safely from one location to another at a very low price.
But I digress. After picking up our rental car we were off for the Arenal area. The green, rolling hills around windy mountain roads left us breathless. We took our time getting to La Fortuna which was our base for the next day. We spent the rest of the day soaking our cares away at the Baldi Hot Springs. Located in the heart of the rain forest, this large resort boasts 25 pure water pools and three large water slides, ranging from 104 to 325 feet long. Those water slides are no joke. Be prepared to lose your swimsuit or at least your dignity on the way down…So worth it though! Slides like these are definitely not up to US safety regulations. We entered in the evening time which was perfect to take advantage of their delicious Central American buffet for dinner and then spent the rest of the time in the calming waters. Because we were there until closing time I believe we also avoided some of the crowds but I could have definitely used a couple of more hours there.
Day 2: This was our day to hike around the base of the iconic Arenal Volcano, kayak on Lake Arenal and explore the small town of La Fortuna. First things first, the hiking! The national park offers easy and lovely hiking trails around the base of the volcano. There aren’t any easily accessed trails up to the crater for safety reasons. From where we were we saw beautiful plants and flowers not native to the United States and strange creatures such as Great Curassows and Coatis.
We found a guy renting kayaks alongside the road beside Lake Arenal. Getting out on the water was the perfect way to continue our adventurous activities while also seeing the volcano from a different angle.
Lastly after a busy day we treated ourselves in town at La Fortuna to a big dinner.
Day 3: More driving in the morning but it was worth it to experience the spender of the Cloud Forest. Sure they offer zip lining off just about every hill in Costa Rica but for us, we wanted to do it right by zip lining in Monteverde. As with all areas of the Costa Rican countryside, the drive is gorgeous and we wanted to pull over for pictures often. If I had been driving it would have been even more frequent…. And heads up, the SUV we rented was very handy to traverse some of the steep, dirt roads leading to Monteverde.
Before heading off on zip lines, we did a self-guided hanging bridges tour through the jungle. This was a great way to check out the beauty of the area before our adrenaline rush. After that easy hike, it’s time for zip lining!! Selvatura was a great host providing several zip lines from platform to platform as we raced through the clouds and thick jungle. The highlight was definitely the last zip line, spanning almost a full mile in length way up high in the clouds. An added bonus was that we were able to go in pairs.
After a glorious day of zip lining it was back in the car again onto the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. This is a very different place than what you’ll find in the other parts of Costa Rica. Here it feels that you’ve traveled all the way to Jamaica given the accents, Bob Marley merchandise on display and the general love of the beach. We choose Manzanillo for its remoteness, Caribbean island lifestyle and black sand beaches. Though quite a long drive from Monteverde, it was worth the drive almost to Panama it for us.
Day 4: We woke up in fantasy it seemed though in actuality it was really just one of the Congo Bongo an open air lodges. This was definitely the coolest place we stayed at while in Costa Rica. Being all open, it was one beautiful harmony from the jungle to your bed. You can hear monkeys in the trees and we spotted a sloth slowly making its way from tree top to tree top right by our lodgings. Plus the beach is just a short walk.
Manzillo is a short drive which is where we found restaurants, a market, were able to scope out the locals enjoying what closely resembled the island lifestyle and the biggest drawthe black sand beaches. I stumbled upon Hershel’s surf shop after lunch and was so glad I did! This Puerto Viejo native was a surfing master and offered great surfing instructions for our entire group. We enjoyed a few hours making our best attempts at surfing in the Caribbean, some better than others, and then relaxed on the black sand beaches. This was such a fun experience for everyone in our group. Later that evening it was relaxing in the lodge and making an authentic Central American meal.
Day 5: Oh man, the trip just kept getting better and better if that was even possible. We headed out early for the Exploration Center in Siquirres for our final adventurewhite water rafting on the River Pacuare. I feel that there is white water rafting and then there is white water rafting…The vastly superior experience is found in Costa River on the Pacuare River. This river offers 18 miles of rapids through the jungle and gorges flanked by steep green walls. It was seriously so beautiful and also challenging in a good way. Both John and I fell out at one point when we went over a particularly bumpy rapid. And then there was one point where we were encouraged to jump out and float as we traveled through the gorge. There are few vistas as gorgeous as this one! We were definitely sad to see it end but it was a beautiful cap to our thrill packed trip.
That afternoon we drove back to San Jose and had the most delightful dinner at Mirador Ram Luna Restaurant overlooking the city of San Jose. You’d be hard pressed to find a better view of the city than what you’ll find here. And the food was also delicious! After dinner we caught our red eyed flight back to the states.
What a fantastic and jam packed trip it was. The national slogan of Costa Rica is Pura Vida and it’s for a good reason. Here everything is just more pure and beautiful. It’s the perfect destination for anyone looking for an adventure unspoiled by modernity. Have you been to Costa Rica? I’d love to hear about it!