Pura Vida! We managed to get a week vacation just the two of us to Costa Rica. Huge thank you to our families and friends who provided many days of activities, pillow slides, hot tub dips and countless ice cream cones for our two girls back at home. We appreciate you all so much!
We flew into San Jose, Costa Rica…not San Jose, California. Three weeks before the trip, I was confirming our rental car with the agency and I received a “can you check your confirmation code again? I see that flight arriving in San Jose, California.” Crap! I booked our departing flight to San Jose, California, not San Jose, Costa Rica! Thank you car rental man for your attention to detail!
I should also note that 16 hours before we were supposed to leave, Sarah did not have a passport. Apparently, the passport agency has been overwhelmed and our expedited renewal was not going to happen within the 7 weeks we were quoted. After a stressful week of trying to land an in-person appointment and/or miraculously getting the passport overnighted, we decided to send Sarah to Detroit the day before the trip to get her passport renewed. A full day in Detroit later, 6:00pm, 12 hours before our flight, Sarah had a passport! Whew!
OK, back to Costa Rica…now that we were officially on our way. We landed in San Jose, the largest airport, after an easy 7 hour journey, and picked up our rental car and headed out on a 3 hour ride to our first stop – La Fortuna, the land of Volcano Arenal.
We stayed at a nice, laid back hotel roughly 5 minutes drive from the downtown touristy hub of La Fortuna.
La Fortuna is definitely a mainstay on every Costa Rican itinerary. It’s home to the Arenal Volcano, which is now dormant. The area is famous for adventure, with opportunity around every corner. We came for the hiking.
After devouring a less than average plate of Nachos in downtown La Fortuna, we found ourselves speaking with a local hiking guide over a Volcano IPA and he suggested skipping the usual route, Arenal 1968, but rather hike the El Silencio trail around the volcano. Local advice always trumps the guide books.
The El Silencio route was amazing. We showed up in the morning with two other cars in the parking and the trail to ourselves. A perfect half day hike.
In the afternoon we drove 5 minutes past downtown La Fortuna to a famous local swimming hole called El Salta. Turns out it’s a popular spot to grab a beer, swim in the waterfalls, cliff jump and take a turn on the rope swing.
Next stop on the itinerary was Monteverde, home to the cloud forest hanging bridges, the infamous ziplining and exotic flora and fauna. The drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde is near 3 hours so we decided to split that up with a side trip to Rio Celeste. Rio Celeste is a large waterfall located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park and is famous for its turquoise colored water. Other than getting soaked in a rainstorm, it was a perfect pit stop.
For the Monteverde portion of the trip, we booked an AirBnB in Las Juntas, which on a map, appears pretty close to Monteverde. Turns out I was wrong….mileage wise, yes it’s not bad, but I didn’t consider the condition of the roads in the equation. Once off the main highway, the roads become almost undriveable. The roads were steep and the potholes (more like craters) were destroying our tires. I thought for sure we were going to be stuck changing flat tires. By the grace of God, we made to the AirBnB and were welcomed by our host with an ice cold Imperial beer and some grilled steak. The view off the back porch was worth the bumpy ride in.
When you Google Costa Rica, ziplining is the probably the first thing that pops up. At first, we weren’t huge on ziplining. Seemed a little cheesy for $60/person. Totally wrong! The ziplining was a blast! 13 different zip lines with the longest being 1 kilometer long and 300 feet above the jungle. Definitely worth it and the sweeping views of the rainforest were incredible.
The Monteverde Jungle is also famous for the hanging bridges, which are long suspension bridges ranging from 60-300 feet above the trees.
On our way back to Las Juntas, we had to stop at Monteverde Brewing Company for a flight of beer.
La Fortuna and Monteverde are tourist hotspots and the towns cater to the tourists with many restaurants and bars to choose from. Las Juntas, the little town of our AirBnB was super local. Accessed mostly by dirt roads, with only a couple local restaurants, we had to get a glimpse of local life. Based on a recommendation from our AirBnB host, we decided to grab a beer at the local watering hole. Along with our Imperial beers, we were served a tasty salsa concoction of hot dogs, rice and chili sauce. Although I thought the place as fun, Sarah was feeling a tad uncomfortable being the only girl around. Understandable, but glad we did it.
Last stop on the itinerary was the coastal town of Tamarindo. Before heading out, our AirBnB host suggested we take a hike on the property to the river and check out their own waterfall and swimming hole. Good times chilling in our own waterfall.
Las Juntas to Tamarindo was roughly three hours along a (thankfully) paved highway. Not able to check-in until later afternoon, we had a beer at Volcano Brewing Company and walked along the famous surfing beach. The last two days consisted of rest and relaxation at the pool, cocktails at the Mercadito, pour over coffee at Tamarindo Coffee Roasters and watching the surfers with the sunset backdrop at Playa Avellana.
Pura Vida – Pure life or simple life, is a phrase heard everywhere in Costa Rica. So blessed to experience the Pura Vida lifestyle this past week!