COSTA RICA… EVERY TRAVELLER’S DREAM. TROPICAL CLIMATES, PRISTINE BEACHES, MOUTH-WATERING FRUITS, FANTASTIC SCENERY AND AN ABUNDANCE OF FLORA AND FAUNA. IT’S EASY TO SEE WHY THIS IS THE ADVENTURER’S PARADISE.
We were lucky enough to spend a whole 10 days on this heaven-on-Earth and super excited to share with you what we got up to!
Although Costa Rica is a relatively small country in comparison to its neighbours, 10 days were still nowhere near enough to explore it all. Nevertheless, we did manage to see a huge variety of different places and experienced 3 surprisingly distinct climates; the cool high mountain climate in La Fortuna area, the hot and dry desert-like climate of Guanacaste and the humid jungle climate of Corcovado.
If you’re planning a visit to Costa Rica or simply interested to find out more about the country, read below to discover the break down of our 10 days on this beautiful part of the world.
We arrived at San Jose airport at 5pm just in time to catch our first Costa Rican sunset. The airport was quite small so getting out and finding our rental car didn’t take much time. By the time we were out however, we were so tired from the long flight and had no energy to explore San Jose. So instead, we headed directly to our hotel and went straight to sleep
We woke up at 4 am on our first morning in Costa Rica (early I know, but we were heavily jet-lagged!) After the long journey to get here, we felt refreshed and ready to start our adventure. Hotel breakfast wasn’t until 7am so we had plenty of time to pack our bags ready for a long drive up north into the mountains.
7am on the dot we were downstairs waiting for breakfast. We are so used to the usual buffet breakfast that most hotels do so we were very surprised to see that breakfast was served as a set-meal in our hotel. Set-meals are extremely popular all over Costa Rica simply because they are such great value! This is just how Ticos have their meals.. they don’t eat particular foods, they eat particular combinations of foods.
The breakfast set meal consisted of first a small bowl of fresh fruits and orange juice. Followed by a rather large portion of gallo pinto (an absolutely delicious combo of beans, rice and several secret ingredients), scrambled eggs, fried plantain and some cheese with a cup of local filter coffee, which as you would have guessed was absolutely incredible. Just as we though we were done with breakfast, the waitress brought over some toast with homemade marmalade for the final part of the set-meal. But unfortunately by that time we were delightfully stuffed and could not take any more food. I kind of regret that now… that homemade marmalade did look enticing!
Once we were done with breakfast, we checked-out and commenced on our 4 hour long journey up north to La Fortuna.
It took us slightly longer to get there however as we made one too many stops!
We arrived in La Fortuna just in time for a quick afternoon coffee and headed down to Ecocentro Danaus – a private wildlife reserve.
Ecocentro Danaus was essentially a mini rainforest with a winding path going through it. When we arrived we were told that in order to see wildlife we needed to be very quiet, walk very slowly and be extremely observant.
After about 2 or so hours of step, stop, look around and make another step through the tiny forest we headed up to El Castillo. El Castillo is about half an hour drive up from La Fortuna and this is where we booked our accommodation to stay for the next two days.
We arrived at the property just before dark and fell in love with it instantly. It was big, spacious yet had a lovely homey feel to it. There were huge ceiling to floor windows in the bedrooms and living room which we loved as it allowed the light to do its magic on the interior of the house.
The property was situated up on a hill within the rainforest just above Lake Arenal. We loved the remoteness of it. The perfect place to go to disconnect with the hustle and bustle of daily life.
On the third day we woke up nice and early, I believe it was around 4:30-5 AM (not intentionally but due to jet lag) but we didn’t mind as we got to see the beautiful sunrise each day.
We prepared our gear and headed out for our daily adventure. First stop was Lake Arenal – where we booked a 6 hour private fishing trip.
We hopped onto Alberto, our guide’s, fishing boat and headed out into the lake. At this point its worth mentioning that this is the largest lake in Costa Rica with a length of 30km. And so we had plenty of water to cover in search of some fishes.
The sense of freedom in Costa Rica is palpable. This was my facial expression for 90% of our trip here. Utter joy!
Fishing is excellent for deep, stimulating conversations, who would of known?! Sitting on the boat, rods in the water, we used the opportunity to ask Alberto all the questions we had about Costa Rica, the people and the local culture. He told us many great stories which we will treasure with us forever.
He also told us about an area further north from Lake Arenal called Guanacaste which is a Blue Zone. This means that there is an abnormally high number of people over the age of 100 living there. I was craving to know their secret. Of course there are too many aspects to consider and include but what Alberto thought was the most important was the sense of freedom the people felt and the joy of simple life (i.e. no stress). He told us that people either grow 90% of their food or buy it from their neighbour. They eat plenty of local fresh fruit and are in sync with nature. They’re also super friendly and trusting people, living for the day.
After our fishing excursion we visited the Mistico Hanging Bridges.
The whole place was like a fairy tale. Simply magical!
On the forth day we woke up early, enjoyed one last breakfast on our porch, packed our bags and left for our next destination.
The drive from El Castillo to Quepos took 5 hours. The scenery changed drastically as we drove south. El Castillo sits on elevated ground and that’s why it was much cooler up there. However that changed drastically as we reached sea level. It was boiling hot and very humid. Just the way you’d imagine Costa Rica.
We reached Quepos just in time for sunset cocktail and dinner.
The AirBnb we stayed at in Quepos was a small traditional house huddled into the jungle, not far from the sea.
After a breakfast of fresh pineapple we prepared ourselves for a full day of extreme sport fishing! We booked a private excursion at the world famous Marina Pez Vela where tournaments take place year round.
Best way to recover was a nice chill session on our hammock! Ahhhh….. relax!
Today we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park – the most famous National Park in Costa Rica. We booked ourselves a group tour in the morning and stayed at the beautiful beaches in the afternoon. The beaches in the National Park are some of the most beautiful in the whole country and in order to visit them you need to pay entrance fee into the Park every time. This is probably the reason why they are so well kept and pristine.
In the evening we watched the most beautiful sunset from a cute little restaurant called El Avion and enjoyed a delicious dinner of Tacos accompanied by a cocktail or two.
The following day we packed our bags once again and braced ourselves for another very long drive from Quepos to Sierpe River, our final destination in Costa Rica.
We had the leave the car at the main docks and travel to a distant remote part of the lake, the only way it can be reached is by boat.
Went off-grid into the rainforest close to the border of Panama. We stayed there for 3 nights completely off grid. All electricity was solar powered and there was no aircon. It was just us in the rainforest experiencing the raw authentic Costa Rica Pura Vida!
The next morning I woke up feeling so humbled. Humbled because the previous night I experienced what many people would call their worst nightmare. In the jungle, at night, surrounded by tarantulas, scorpions, poisonous frogs, snakes, pumas and jaguars… and inappropriately dressed anddd totally unprepared. We booked a night wildlife observing tour which stated that we’ll be going on a boat and looking at animals at night so I put on my trainers, a comfy skirt and a sports vest and headed down to the docks. The first half an hour we were indeed on a boat and we watched the sunset from the river which was amazing. Then our guides said “right let’s go for the hike in the jungle now” and I’m just thinking okayyyy well at least I’m wearing trainers haha (optimistic Ani right there ). We jumped off the boat into a mangrove (keep in mind that For the last half hour I’ve been listening to our guide telling us how there are crocodiles in the mangroves) and headed deep into the jungle. It was pitch black, we only had a small flashlight each. We saw at least 10 different spiders, all kinds of bugs and frogs, turtles and what not but what really freaked me out is that we were benign followed by a puma and didn’t even know it. On the way in all was well, scary but well. On the way out I felt like I was on a crime scene. There was a trail of blood on exactly the same pathway were were going on the way in. We stopped to check the blood and our guide told us that it’s either a monkey or a sloth that’s been killed by a puma just now, the blood was fresh. We did not hear a single thing. Imagine… these animals are such good hunters. And then we heard some rustling in the bushes and sounds I couldn’t even hear from my own panic when we saw our guide her scared himself when he told us not to move. Honestly I thought I was gonna die my mind racing 100000miles an hour. Turned out it was some other animal that made similar sounds but still we were shaken. I felt traumatized the whole way back but then we discussed the whole incident and I realized that actually these animals are not vicious, they’re merely being themselves wild and free and in search of food for survival
One of the local Ticos that we met told us that he can take us to this private beach on the next day and we decided to go for it. Oh my god. I am so glad we listened to him. I thought I saw my dream beach in Manuel Antonio but this is something else it was absolute paradise and the best thing was that we were completely alone. It was definitely a dream come true and there were dogs ahhh pinch me someone
We spent the entire day on this beach. Drinking fresh coconut water from the fallen coconuts and quite literally living our best lives.
On the final day of our stay in Sierpe River we booked a tour of the Corcovado National Park. The most biodiverse National Park in the world.
We stopped for a quick lunch break at the Sirena Research Base where top scientists and researchers come to study wildlife and continued on with our exploration of the untamed jungle.
With a heart full of wonderful memories and experiences we said our goodbyes to the locals we met in Sierpe. Especially to Guillermo who was the kindest person we’ve ever met! He was there to help us with anything we needed during our stay and educated us on the local culture and wildlife. We are eternally grateful for his kindness, hospitality and generosity!
This trip was everything we could have possibly dreamed of! Adventure, thrill, beautiful scenery, local culture and relaxation. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be returning back to this extraordinary country again very soon!
Author: Anna Popova