13 – 22 Dec 2018
10-day trip in Costa Rica
I had heard so much about Costa Rica’s “pura vida” lifestyle, but I didn’t quite understand what it meant until I was there. It is the appreciation of life’s simple treasures, but for Ticos (Costa Ricans), it is more than just a saying—it is a way of life.
When we first bought the Lonely Planet guide, we found it so hard to plan the trip because of the many options and itineraries the guide offers. Of course we couldn’t do it all since we had only 10 days to explore Costa Rica, but I think we managed to see most of Costa Rica’s highlights.
On day one, we landed in San Jose very late at night and the car rental agency Avis’s bus came to pick us up at the airport. We picked up the car, then we drove to Colours Oasis Resort. We were so excited to start the trip. It’s always exciting when it comes to visiting a new country. The curiosity, excitement and happiness fulfills your heart.
The next day, we woke up early, packed and once we were ready to leave the room, we realized that we got stuck inside. We couldn’t call the reception by phone so we just kept knocking the door very hard and shouting until someone came to open the door. What a way to start the day, right? We checked out and then we hit the road to La fortuna, San Carlos, a five hours drive from San Jose.
On the way, we stopped by a supermarket to buy some snacks because we hadn’t eaten anything since the flight. We bought a lot of water bottles and Roger got some snacks. On our way to la fortuna we paid 1$ in the ‘highway’ if you can call it that. The road is terrible, you really have to watch out while driving. We arrived to La Fortuna at 11:30am, we drove to Miradas Arenal Hotel & Hotsprings where we stayed. The hotel was so cute, we had our little cute private room with a balcony facing the volcano. We couldn’t do the check in because we arrived before 12pm, so we left the bags at the reception and went to visit: Arenal Volcano National Park.
Day 1: Arenal volcano national park
The park opens from 8am to 4pm, last entrance 2:30pm. The entrance fee is $15.50. Make sure to have cash, you can pay in US dollars.
Once we got into the park, we started by the Arenal volcano view point, we thought we would be able to hike up the volcano, but we didn’t realize that Arenal is still active and that isn’t possible. Instead we hiked around it through the Arenal Volcano National Park taking time to learn all about the plants and animals that live in it. Then we continued walking to reach the Lava trail. Afterwards we took the car and drove to the peninsula. The highlight of this hike was the giant tree that we found while hiking. As you can see below in the photo I do look like an insect next to it.
The views were spectacular, we heard many birds singing, and saw many eagles that were flying very close to us. The volcano is huge and the views are beautiful, we could see the smoke going out of the crater and forming ash clouds. Later we went to a restaurant called Fusion Grill to get dinner, the place had a great view. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, had a shower and then went to the hotel’s bar where we had a welcome free cocktail. We drunk it by the hot springs, and that was the best way to end our first day.
During the night, I literally thought that we were going to sink due to the heavy rain we had. The heaviest I’ve ever seen.
Day 2: Mistico Hanging Bridges & Tabacon Hot springs
The second day we woke up, with a very beautiful volcano view, we had breakfast then we tried to start the car to begin our adventure, but due to the heavy rain the car didn’t start. It affected the battery. We had to ask people to help us, thank god one guy had the jumper cables, so we could charge the battery and then begin our visit.
Stop 1 – Mistico Hanging Bridges, the entrance fee is 26$ per person.
These bridges are in a privately owned National Park completely surrounded by rainforest. The place is up on a hill. It has a very nice volcano view. We entered the park, then all our focus was on finding animals and we were hoping to see sloths. But as the guide explained it was very difficult to spot them during daytime, but we managed to see many other animals. During the walk we listened to guides talking about the wildlife and ecosystem found here.
The park had many trails, it was very fun to cross the hanging bridges. Even though I felt a little bit dizzy and scared, I enjoyed the experience, specially while crossing because I could hear the sounds of different animals, specially birds and watch wonderful natural views of the forest. It really looked like a painting.
On the way back we got caught in a little rain but I guess that’s to be expected in the rainforest!
Around 1pm we had lunch at Mistico restaurant, food was good and the view was spectacular. I totally recommend it. After lunch we drove to the second stop.
Stop 2- Tabacon Hot springs, the entrance fee is 60$ per person.
These are natural hot springs (the water is thermal, naturally heated from the volcano). Our hotel had its own hot springs however Tabacon Hot Springs were nicer, the only downfall is that they were quite busy but if you’re patient enough it clears up and you can get some cool pics! We decided to spend the afternoon there enjoying the hot springs. Later on we had a drink at the pool’s bar, we chatted and enjoyed the sunset while swimming.
Stop 4 – Selina hostel la Fortuna, we stopped by Selina hostel to have dinner and get some photos, since it is a cool hostel. If you ever visit La Fortuna you definitely should stay there.
After dinner we headed back to our hotel to get some rest and sleep. What I liked the most about the hotel where we stayed Miradas Arenal Hotel & Hotsprings is the tranquility and the absolute privacy we had. I definitely recommend it.
Day 3: Bosque Nuboso Monteverde
The third day, we woke up, had breakfast, we checked out then we drove 120 km to Monteverde. On the way to monteverde google maps guided us to a river which was the closest way to get to Monteverde, but the river was deep and the car couldn’t pass.We had to drive around the lake and that was 3 hours farther than the recommended road.
On the road we found a big group of Coatis trying to get food. It was sad to see people feeding them, I honestly don’t understand why people still do that even if there were many big signs saying “ Please don’t feed animals”.
We arrived around 1pm. We checked in at Mar Inn hotel then we went to grab lunch, there were many restaurants, which means many options. We had lunch at Treehouse restaurant and cafe, we were hungry and we ordered so much food and finished it all!.
After that we went to visit Bosque nuboso monteverde. We paid 22$ each at the entrance. There were many trails, it is recommended to do it with a guide because first, they know where the animals are and second, you won’t get lost.
We decided to do it alone and unfortunately we couldn’t see any sloth or tarantula spiders but only some birds. Views were very nice though. We did 2 hours hiking, the wind was very very strong so I recommend you to get a light jacket with you. I actually got sick that night… so be sure you bring a jacket to Monteverde.
Unfortunately we couldn’t see any sloths or any other interesting animals but coatis and a bunch of birds. We did heard many animal sounds though. Overall I think the hike was worth it.
After the hike we were so tired, cold and hungry that we went back to the hotel to get more layers and then went to have dinner at Neco Sushi. It was not bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it. After dinner we hanged out a little bit around, then we went back to sleep.
Day 4: Santa Teresa
On the fourth day, we woke up, had breakfast and when we were ready to start our day, the car didn’t let us start the day with the right foot: battery problems, again. We had to call someone to help us. Lucky the guy at the reception had the jumper cables and helped us out. Once the car was ready, we drove to Santa Teresa. The road to Santa Teresa is very very bad, I´m not exaggerating. It is extremely bad, you better be prepared for it.
The drive was long and the roads were extremely bumpy (to the point of nausea) but once we had our toes in the sand it was all worth it. We Arrived around 15pm, we check in at the hotel Zona Azul de Santa Teresa, a very beautiful house, from the outside and the inside. Our room was pretty, very clean and beautiful view. The host was so nice, gentle and welcoming.
We changed, then we went for lunch at Taco Corner in Playa Carmen. I had a bowl it was so yummy. After that we went to Playa Carmen beach to watch the sunset and just chill there. There were many surfers and dogs. While I was walking at the beach I stepped on an iguana, I didn’t see it because it had the same color as the sand haha!
A while later, we went to Banana Beach bar to have a cocktail. They had a live band, good atmosphere. After enjoying our cocktails watching the beautiful sunset, it was time for us to have dinner. I ordered fish of the day and it was very yummy. Then we went back to the room to get some sleep.
Day 5: Montezuma Waterfalls, Montezuma Beach & Playa Carmen
The next day, was very exciting. Wanna know why? Keep reading!
We woke up at 7:30am, we had a great breakfast at the bakery and then we started our journey.
Stop 1: Montezuma waterfall and Playa Montezuma, We parked our car, then we started the 40 min hike. At the parking lot we met this tour guide called Crazy Carlos as he introduced himself. We did not ask him to guide us, he imposed him self, but he was very funny and weird at the same time.
He explained us many personal stories and showed us photos, conversations with him were funny..
Once we reached the highest waterfall, Roger wanted to jump (of course) and I was scared. I didn’t like the fact that he wanted to jump from there, especially after hearing from Crazy Carlos that many guys have died jumping from that cliff.
Anyway, Roger jumped (of course), and I was there waiting for him to climb up alive. Hopefully he made it safe. After spending some time appreciating nature, we hiked back to the parking to get the car.
We had lunch at a restaurant by Montezuma beach called Chicos. The place has a nice beach view, but the food was normal, nothing special. Honestly that’s how I felt during my stay in Costa Rica, only few restaurants had great food.
Afterwards, we went to Montezuma beach, to swim. Later on, we went to see baby turtles trying to swim for the first time. There were many baby turtles, but unfortunately only one out of 1,000 makes it to adulthood.
It was a great experience! Later we swam again and went to playa Carmen to watch the sunset at Banana beach and this time the sunset was incredibly beautiful. It seemed that sky blew or something. It was spectacular. Everyone at the bar left their drinks and run to take photos of the sky. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel, had a shower and went out to have dinner at Kojis, a Japanese restaurant. It was a very good restaurant, I would say the best restaurant I’ve been in Costa Rica so far. The quality of the food was so good. Since we had a long day, we went straight to the bed to sleep.
Day 6: Drive To Manuel Antonio
The sixth day, we had breakfast again at the Bakery, we loved it. It’s such a cozy cool place.When we got back to the house and tried to start the car. The battery of the car stopped working again, so we called the owner of the house he helped us, then we drove to Manuel Antonio Park.
We took a different road instead of taking the ferry, very awful, scary road but it got better once we arrived to Jaco. It was a long 7 hours drive. We Arrived to Jaco had lunch. Then continued the road to Manuel Antonio.
The moment we arrived to Coco Beach hotel, we were like wait? Is this where we are staying???
The place looked completely different from what we saw on Booking, horrible dirty room, very bad staff, disrespectful. I had a terrible experience at this hotel. Trust me you don’t want to know more details..
Anyway we checked in at that terrible hotel since we did not have another option. The only good thing about this hotel is the location. It’s 10 min walk from the park.
I was feeling very sick, angry and tired so I just wanted to sleep.
Day 7: Manuel Antonio Park
The next day we woke up at 6:30, and at 7am we were already at Manuel Antonio Park entrance.
The park closes on Mondays. It opens 7am-4pm Tuesday to Sunday. Admission fee is $16. Tickets may be purchased at the park entrance at Coopealianza by cash or Visa. For those visiting the park during Christmas, New Year’s and Easter, make sure to arrive as early as possible (7-7.30 am) in order to get in. Note: Road to Manuel Antonio is very narrow, leave car at the hotel, take early morning bus to the park entrance then walk.
Manuel Antonio contains a charming combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. These beaches are the most beautiful in the country, lined with lush forest, and the snorkeling is excellent, too. The forest is home for sloths, iguanas, white tailed deer, the rare and adorable squirrel monkeys, white face monkeys and millions of colorful little crabs. The trail that winds around Punta Catedral features some spectacular views.
When I walked around the Manuel Antonio area the first word that sprang to my mind was “lush”. Enormous bright blue butterflies, mangos on the trees, green plants and trees everywhere … and then there were the birds, bats, monkeys, sloths, reptiles, raccoons and all the other animals we got to see in the jungle. It was great to learn a lot about the animals during the tour around the park. Also, the beaches within the park are incredibly beautiful with the most pristine sand and water. You can only reach them when you pay entrance to the park and you are not allowed to take any packaged food, drinks, etc., which helps to keep them clean.
I would say Manuel Antonio Park was one of the highlights of the trip. I will never forget how scared I got when I heard the howler monkey which was pretty close to us. I froze haha!! Also one of the memorable moments is when I saw the white tailed deer and Roger said no that’s a dog lol. The deer was so cute.
After doing so many trails, we went to playa manuel Antonio, swam a little bit and enjoyed the warm caribbean clear water, then we stayed until we watched the sun set and we got back to that horrible hotel to shower change and went for dinner at Baldi restaurant, which was a fine place.
Day 8: Jaco Beach & Playa Hermosa
The next day I woke up so happy, because I wanted to leave that hotel as soon as possible. So we woke up, packed and went to ask for help because of course the car’s battery didn’t work again. The guy at the reception didn’t want to help us and he asked for payment in a rude way, so we had to walk and see if we could find someone who’d help us. Finally, the guy from Baldi’s restaurant drove with us and helped us start the car.
We drove to Playa Hermosa rent surf boards then went to Jaco beach to surf. We had good waves, actually Roger enjoyed surfing more than I did. I was struggling haha! After some hours of surfing we went to grab lunch at Amancios pizza which was yummy, then drove to San Jose.
We arrived to San Jose, we checked in at Autentico Hotel (huge difference between this hotel and Coco Beach at Manuel Antonio) so I was happy to be there at least. We took a long nap then we ended our night in a Lebanese restaurant called Lubnan, dishes were big, perfect for two hungry people, and the place was cozy and cute. We enjoyed our dinner. Afterwards we got back to the room, watched a movie and fell asleep.
That was our trip to costa Rica! Filled with adventure and excitement.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post! Please let me know if you have any question regarding hotels, visa or anything.
- 13 Dec / San jose
- 14-15 Dec / La fortuna: Arenal volcano national park, Fortuna waterfall, Titoku hot springs, Mistico Hanging Bridges, Chato volcano
- 16 Dec / Monteverde: Bosque nuboso Monteverde.
- 17-18 Dec / Santa teresa: Montezuma waterfall, Surf Santa Teresa.
- 19-20 Dec:
- Day 1 Park Nacional Manuel Antonio: Go very early 7.30 am.
- Day 2 Surf in Jaco.
- 21 Dec / San jose: Teatro Nacional, Parque Morazan, Don Carlos hotel, al mercado, barrio Amon.
- 22 Dec Fly to Boston.