, , , ,

I have been away from the blog, but for good reasons. I recently came back from a relaxing getaway to Costa Rica. We found a great deal on Travel Zoo which included two different locations: one inland near the Arenal Volcano, and one on the Central Pacific coast on Herradura Beach.

We were extremely fortunate enough to plan a trip during Hurricane Sandy and not have our home or any of our flights affected by the hurricane.

Even though it is rain season in Costa Rica, we were lucky to have beautiful weather the whole week, with only major rain on our last day.

We stayed at Hotel Royal Corin in La Fortuna which had gorgeous views of the volcano from every room. In addition to hiking around the volcano, one of the my favorite things to do in this area was visit the hot springs, which are pools of mineral water heated by the volcano’s lava. Our hotel had some, but Baldi and Tabacon had hot springs on a much larger level. We went to Baldi, which had 27 different pools, each ones varying in water temperatures, with caves, waterfalls and greenery. It was really fun and relaxing to explore them all.

As much as we enjoyed our hotel, in retrospect I would have preferred to stay at two different hotels on the Pacific coast and only visited Arenal on a bus trip for a day. Most tours include the hike and the hot springs. Besides that there wasn’t as much to see there.

But there are tons of unique beaches and jungles all along the coast. We wished we could have seen more of.

We stayed at Los Suenos Resort, which was absolutely stunning. And had the best breakfast buffet with tons of fresh fruit and fresh squeezed juices. While staying here we took a day trip to Manual Antonio National Park where we hiked the trails taking in the wild life. We were ridiculously excited seeing monkeys and sloths in their natural habitats. The trail ended with a quiet white sand beach. And drinking coconut water straight out of a coconut. I highly recommend Manual Antonio, beautiful park, cute beach town. It was one of my favorite spots.

Driving in Costa Rica was quite an experience. Narrow roads, extremely winding roads, people and stray dogs all over the place, and a rental car that we were worried would break down at any moment. Despite it all, it was worth having the car because we could see so much more of the gorgeous country and experience its culture.

Here are my tips for anyone going to Costa Rica:

  • I would recommend driving along the coast where they have “highways” and avoid driving near Arenal and take a tour there instead.
  • If you have a rental car and don’t need transportation, don’t waste your money on tours of parks. This was the best advice we received. We went to Arenal National Park and Manual Antonio National Park and explored them on our own. We saw people walking with tour guides and didn’t think we missed anything. Both parks are small so don’t let them trick you into thinking you won’t seen wildlife unless you pay $100 for a tour guide! Save your money for other excursions like sky trams or ziplining.
  • For $30 you can buy an add on to your GPS with maps of Cost Rica on Amazon. This saved us $12/day in renting a GPS and got us the most up to date maps. Just stay on paved roads…
  • Their fast food diners are called SODAs, which have typical Costa Rican food at lower prices than the other more touristy restaurants. The Casados were our favorite which was a plate of your choice of meat and a bunch of different sides (rice, beans, plantains, potatoes).

Overall it was a fantastic vacation, extremely relaxing, where most of our time was spent submerged in some kind of water (hot springs, pools, hot tubs, or the Pacific Ocean). But as with all foreign vacations, its so fun to experience but it also feels good to be home!