School is already out for winter break here in Colorado, and my brain is slowly winding down for the year! So, at the request of a few readers, I thought I’d post some pictures of my recent trip to Costa Rica. As with my post about llama trekking and sugar skulls, the only larger point here is to have more fun in life!
So, this trip was inspired by an American Airlines fare sale that was just too good to pass up. I’m not usually sucked in by such things but at $1,100 for three round-trip tickets from Denver to San Jose, it was just such a tempting deal! We had visited Costa Rica in 2009 (Manuel Antonio and Monteverde) and loved it, so it was time for a return visit.
After a night at the highly-recommended Hotel Buena Vista (spring for a villa!), we flew on Nature Air (circa $150 each, round trip) to the tiny airstrip in Drake Bay, the closest point of entry to Corcovado National Park. I’m not great with small planes, but this outfit seems very professional, and as my husband said “at least you can see that the propellers are still turning.”
So we land, hop out, and the only person in sight is a guy with a pickup truck. Calling my Spanish horrific is giving it a compliment that it doesn’t deserve, but I manage to confirm that he’s somehow associated with the lodge we’re staying at, so we get in. As he’s chatting away in Spanish, the only words I understand are “rio” (river) and “caballo” (horse). Hmmm. Then the pickup truck pulls up by the aforementioned river, and I get it. River very high (lots of rain). Hence the horse. Good thing we brought backpacks!!
We split our first week between Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp and the Sirena ranger station in Corcovado National Park. Both were incredible (if you really want the details, I reviewed all of our accommodations on Tripadvisor); totally wild and amazing. Here’s just a sampling of the wildlife and scenery!
That’s a scarlet macaw, a coatimundi (a little hard to see in the shadows; it’s like a tropical raccoon), a Baird’s tapir (totally incredible!!), a boa constrictor, a tree frog and the beach in front of the tent camp. We also did some nice snorkeling at an offshore island.
Then we were off to the Arenal volcano area, thanks to the excellent services of Coach Costa Rica and their shuttle vans. We rented this cute little house right in La Fortuna:
You can rent it too on VRBO! It was pretty rainy in Arenal; as the locals said, “We have two gorgeous seasons, rainy and extremely rainy!” but we did get to see the top of the volcano. Our favorite experiences were whitewater rafting with Costa Rica Descents, paddleboarding on Lake Arenal with Desafio and zip-lining with EcoGlide. I had never been zip-lining before and I have to say it was very cool; my husband and my daughter also did the infamous Tarzan swing there and loved it. Our two favorite “hidden attractions” were the El Silencio nature preserve (on the left side of the main road immediately before you get to the turnoff for the national park) and the Termales Los Laureles hot springs (on the right side of the main road, past Baldi hot springs). Both of these require a car or taxi to get to and it helps to speak a little Spanish. However we thought that the trails at El Silencio were more impressive than in the national park, and the Los Laureles hot springs were a real deal at $8 for adults and $4 for kids, as opposed to $30-$60 per person at the bigger, tourist-oriented hot springs. Just be warned that it is rainy and cloudy a lot of the time in Arenal. You do a lot of cloud-watching, saying “is there really a volcano in there???”
As you can tell, we love Costa Rica and we’re mulling over ideas for at least three or four more trips. We’ve never been to the Caribbean side (Tortuguero national park and similar) or to the arid Guanacaste region in the West, and now Nature Air also flies to the Bocas del Toro archipelago which is just over the Panama border. So hopefully I’ll have some future off-topic posts about those destinations too!