Revisiting: Costa Rica

map credit: Lonely Planet

Where: Costa Rica (Arenal, La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Quepos,  San José)

When: late August – early September 2009

How: direct flight from Newark to / from San José * see Thanks to for note on in-country transport. + There is a $26USD outgoing tax at the Pavas airport in San José.

Duration: 11 glorious days

breakfast companion

Accommodations**:
Gran Hotel / San José
Montaña de Fuego / Arenal
Costa Verde / Manuel Antonio
** Planning your visit to Costa Rica? For a price break, try the rainy season, also known as the “green season” in tourism lingo. Over 11 days we experienced brief sun showers and some clouds, but otherwise: clear skies. Worth it!

Language: Spanish

Currency: – Costa Rican colón

photo credit: Thao Dang

Tourist facts: In the front cover of my journal I wrote the following: Hemos encontrado el paraiso, se llama Costa Rica. Pura vida! Translation? We’ve found paradise, and it’s name is Costa Rica. The term pura vidais widely used throughout the country to mean everything from hello, great weather, have a nice day, and most literally – This is the pure life. And it is! Costa Rica has its priorities straight – recycling, sustainable living and protecting what’s theirs. As ecotourism continues to gain popularity, Costa Rica’s rainforests and beaches truly fit the bill.

If you’re into:

  • SURFING — check out this post from Marco at 25dollartravel on catching waves in CR here.
  • WATER SPORTS — if you like rock climbing and white water rafting, why not try canyoning? We took our trip with PureTrek, and it was absolutely unforgettable.
  • NATURE — this country protects over 10% of its land, rainforests included. Take a horseback ride, a hike or a tour across the Hanging Bridges. But for the love of travel, please pack some heavy duty bug spray!

Frommers.com Links I recommend during trip planning — I used Fodor‘s Costa Rica 2009 edition, hard copy. That’s right: hard copy! Take a look at Frommer’s “When to Go” to better understand the seasons and what to expect.

My absolutes — rainforest, volcano, spa, something sporty (not zip-lining) and, you guessed it: eat!

Arenal: CR's most active volcano

What I saw — After a post-flight siesta, Thao pulled open the blinds at our cabin and what was previously covered by clouds was revealed: Costa Rica’s most active volcano, just outside our hotel in Arenal. We hiked in the rainforest nearby and later rode horses through the farmland at it’s base. My jaw dropped the first time I heard it rumble, and it is still one of the most awesome things I have ever experienced. We saw glass wing butterflies, hummingbirds, marching ants heralding oncoming rain, a toucan (!). And let’s not forget: monkeys. Part of the early morning sunrise in Manuel Antonio meant birdsong, waves crashing on the shore .. and the myriad hooting and hollering of our simian friends.

Canyoning with PureTrek

What I did – Once you read about a few of my trips with Thao, you’ll understand that we like a packed itinerary. Costa Rica being no different, we maxed out. Canyoning, horseback riding, hiking in the rainforest. Make no mistake, we know how to take breaks, too! Time for the spa, the hot springs and the beach were also in the mix. It should be noted we chose EcoTermales hot springs – there are three major contenders in northern CR.

What I ate – traditional Costa Rican breakfast that is To Die For: gallo pinto (rice/beans), fried plantains, eggs, magic. And pizza! I’m not kidding. Pizzeria Vagabundo, keep up the good work. Other delicious dishes include spicy chocolate cake from Agua Azul, crêpes del bosque and high test coffee from Cafe Milagro.

If (when) I return I will – visit some other regions in the country like the Osa Peninsula; tour a coffee plantation.

Sorry I missed – a chance to see the Arenal volcano at night. Late night lava flow is rumored to occur with great frequency, and I’m going back to see it!

Thanks to*: NatureAir for their wonderful air transportation while we were making our way around the country. NatureAir is a carbon-neutral airline that provides 74 daily flights to 17 destinations within Costa Rica. We had three flights between our destinations, and found the prices fair and the experience memorable. Rather than renting a car or riding a bus, we chose this airline – the views alone are worth the ticket! Read more about their efforts for sustainable tourism here.

Now, you: Are you a surfer? A honeymoon planner? A photographer? What brings you to Costa Rica? What keeps you coming back for more?

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