Over the past year, our main travel focus has been on our upcoming trip to Kenya for Scott’s big birthday. However, we can’t justify being plagued with wanderlust if we didn’t jump on opportunities to explore more.
In April, we joined some friends on our third adventure to Cuba! A memorable trip, valuing the opportunity to share our experience with good friends! This time, we took advantage of travel vouchers, and planned a trip to Costa Rica on a whim! A quick five-day trip squeezed between the end of the school year for Scott, and a busy real estate season for Katie.
We arrived in San Jose not feeling prepared, packed like we are rookies on our first adventure. As we land in the capitol, we did not start with the best experience in San Jose: over an hour wait through customs, and a shuttle to a car rental place in a hectic part of San Jose (add on a confusing rental agreement). Tip: even though we booked through Hertz, and have our own insurance, they snagged our credit cards for a $1,200 hold. We know we will get it back, but that tied up a bunch of money to start our journey.
Off to La Fortuna! Feels great to drive out of the bustling commotion of San Jose, and into the rural areas of Costa Rica. Windy, hilly roads led us to our first stop, The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa and Resort. The drive was a bit treacherous, especially the last portion swerving through towns and around mountains in the dark. Sunset is early here, about 6 pm each evening (even in summer)!
First stop, a jump in the natural thermal pools at our hotel, accompanied with our first of many, Imperials at the swim up bar! Long days of travel seem to always be worth the hassle when you arrive at destinations like this!
Arriving in the dark, we were eager to see the morning light. Well, the palm tree outside our room must’ve known about our eagerness. About 50 parrots apparently call this tree home, and, well, to say the least, our natural 6 am wakeup call got our day started.
We immediately discover the stunning view from our balcony!
Without any set plans, we decide to drive up to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park to explore a bit of the rainforest. On our first section of the trail, we quickly find out that not everything the Costa Rican mountains has to offer is inviting… a viper! Small, yet mighty, Scott grabs a few pictures, and walks quickly to catch up with Katie, who wisely bolted!
Our trek around the rest of the Hanging Bridges was much less dangerous, and quite enjoyable.
And we even were lucky to spot a Howler Monkey way up in the trees!
As we headed back down some more windy roads, we decided to stop at Tabecon. Of course we could’ve spent $60 each to enter their overpriced thermal spa. Or, we could pull over to the side of the road, hope our belongings are safe, and jump in the thermal springs right outside the property.
We trudged through a somewhat challenging stroll up the river in the hottest natural water we ever experienced (hotter than Icelands geothermal lagoons!). We passed a few locals, stopped for a swim, and were back on our way, with our $120 still in our pockets.
Our last adventure for the day, was to hike down to the La Fortuna waterfall. Of course the hike down was a breeze, but coming up the nearly 600 step journey was a bit more taxing. A perfect way to end our first day exploring the Arenal Volcano area!
A quick drive back to our hotel, to enjoy a few more Imperials at the swim up bar, and relax in one of the five natural thermal hot tubs!
The next day begins, with what we know will be the biggest challenge of our trip, a looooooong drive to Manuel Antonio. About an hour in, we are informed by a local that our route is no passable. What?!? Sadly, our long drive just got LOOOOOOOOOONGER. A u-turn led us back to La Fortuna, and through a more rural, yet scenic area of Costa Rica.
Traveling isn’t always luxurious, but part of the struggle becomes part of the story, and certainly makes trips more memorable (even when it’s a little painful when you experience it).
At least on this journey, we were able to make a few (not enough) quick stops to enjoy a portion of our drive. This stop and go, up and down, continually winding adventure finally led us to our second destination, Manuel Antonio.
Getting out of the car after extensive drive time always feels great, but it feels even better when it leads you to these views.
We wake up thrilled to not have to drive, and to look for a variety of animals the national park has to offer. It’s easy to wake up early here, because their sunrise is at 5:15 am. Don’t worry, if the sun doesn’t wake you, the variety of birds inhabiting part of those majestic views will be sure you are up and not wasting away a day!
Our short drive to the national park quickly becomes an interesting scenario… where are you supposed to park? A dozen or so locals tried to lure us into ‘their’ spot. The national park doesn’t have a parking lot, so we are pretty sure we paid a local for a public parking spot, mainly so they would not break into it.
Anyway, the $16 entrance fee was well worth it. The main trek led us down a path and we immediately noticed a group staring up. We knew this meant one thing, sloth!! So obviously it’s a sloth, so it’s not really moving, but these hairy phenomenon are hard to spot.
Sloths reside way up in trees almost all week, coming down once to go to the bathroom. What a life!
Maybe we should also mention the heat. So living in Florida helps you mainly ignore humidity and temperature. Well, I thought our summers were hot and humid, but I think Costa Rica wins this sweat competition. Feels like 120°!
The hot path led us to a troop of monkeys, then another, and a few more random animals/birds as we enjoyed the walk toward the beach.
The rest of our hike we explored a variety of habitats, encountering several more sloths, and of course, loads of monkeys! The one elusive sighting that we sadly didn’t encounter, was a toucan. We kept our eyes wide from morning to night, but didn’t capture one in the wild. Next time…
The rest of our Saturday in Manuel Antonio was spent exploring the town area right outside the national park, and driving a bit through Quepos and finding a place to enjoy sunset.
A stop for dinner at El Avion, and a relaxing night enjoying the sounds of the rainforest on our hotel’s terrace.
We wake to a long drive back to San Jose, with a quick stop in Playa Hermosa for Scott to reminisce about his first trip to Costa Rica 17 year ago (his first use of a passport!). A quick trip to Costa Rica, long enough to enjoy, but too short to immerse in the culture. Guess we will have to go back!
Coming up our adventurous trek through Nairobi, Kenya…..