¡Hola todo mundo! I’m back (and more tan) after 10 days traveling around the beautiful Central American country of Costa Rica. My sister and I were part of a 20-person EF College Break tour group, composed of college students, young professionals, and those going through a quarter-life crisis (i.e. me) ranging from 18-27. But there was not a lot of time to think about that as every day was filled with adventure activities. I’m so excited to share my photos and experiences, so without further ado here’s my Costa Rican Adventure!
Equipped with my sunscreen stick, a GoPro camera, and four pairs of bathing suits, I arrived to Costa Rica around 6:30PM on Good Friday with 12 hours of travel under my belt. I was traveling with my sister, along with a group of 5 friends, from San Diego. After receiving our official stamp of entry into our passports and going through customs, we were greeted by the humidity of San José and our tour director who would take us all to our first hotel for the night.
It was super important to get plenty of rest during our first night in San José, because we would be leaving to our second destination at 7AM the next morning.
In order to beat the Easter weekend crowds, our first stop of the day was to the Volcano Poás which included an uphill hike through a cloud forest to the jewel-like Botos Lake. It was breathtaking in the sense of its beauty, but also due to the fact that we were at a higher elevation. A lot of us work out regularly, but we were all humbled as we tried to catch our breath at the top.
Next on the itinerary was a Coffee Plantation tour at Doka Estate. I am not a big coffee drinker, but I do appreciate a good iced coffee especially when it’s hot and humid. Here we learned the coffee process and ate chocolate-covered coffee beans.
We got back on the bus after a $6 buffet lunch at the plantation, and headed to our next hotel in Arenal. Once there, we threw on our bathing suits and headed out again to the Kalambu Hot Springs Water Park where we would enjoy our Welcome Mixer and dinner. Definitely check this place out in the later hours of the day to enjoy the pools which are filled with the water of nearby hot springs. My favorite part was the water slides, go down the center slide if you’re an adrenaline junkie. Trust me.
The next day was Easter Sunday, which we began in town to stop at a supermarket for snacks. We were headed to Arenal Lake for kayaking, followed by a hike and swim in La Fortuna Waterfall. Along the way, we came across these racoon-like creatures on the side of the road called coatimundis, or pizotes in Spanish. Our tour guide made it his mission to teach us that wildlife are not ours to exploit. Don’t feed the wildlife or attempt to pet/hold them!
If you make it down to the waterfall base, it is a MUST to get in the water. It’s freezing, but well worth it.
Monteverde was our next destination, and it is such a must for adventure-seekers and nature-enthusiasts.
It was here where my sister and three others elected to skip out on horseback riding, and instead ventured into town with a local named Teddy. The town was about a mile away from our hotel; a mile of dirt road. We later learned that our tour guide dog has never been so far away from home, but he could have fooled us. The dogs in Costa Rica are so smart, and they aren’t leashed meaning they are free to roam every day.
This evening, we rejoined the horseback riders for dinner at the lovely Treehouse Cafe and Restaurant. It is on the more pricey side, but you have to go for the experience. I mean, it’s a restaurant IN A TREE! I also recommend checking out Taco Taco for some of the best burritos and fish tacos (this coming from a girl from San Diego!)
In the Monteverde region, we also had the opportunity to walk through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest and zip-line through the Monteverde canopy!
From the cool, refreshing air of the mountains, it was a extreme contrast entering the Puntarenas Region on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. We went from wearing yoga pants and windbreakers to shorts and bikinis, and I was still sweating! The combination of heat and humidity almost made the experience miserable, but then we were treated to a full day of rest and relaxation here.
Playa Blanca, which is found on the Punta Leona resort grounds, is what I attribute my tanner skin to. Spending hours in the water and under the sun gave me darker skin, whereas the poor, unfortunate lighter skinned Americans turned bright red. Either way, it means we all got some sun.
Our last evening here, we made it out to the surf town of Jacó to enjoy the best pizza at Pizza Pata. They only accept cash here, and it is probably the best meal that I had that week. However, I did partake in some delicious gallo pinto – the dish of Costa Rica consisting of rice, beans, peppers and scallions.
And in a blink of an eye, we all returned to San José for our last couple of days in Costa Rica.
We were fortunate enough to have a free night in San José, which we just spent walking around the shops. I actually love city life, but San José is such a different world and experience. Funnily enough, I preferred the smaller Costa Rican towns. However, you have to explore the city when you’re there. No Costa Rican adventure would be complete without it.
On our final day, the group braved the Sarapiqui River for several hours of white river rafting. This was my favorite group activity, and even though the water levels were on the lower side (it is currently the final weeks of dry season), we only managed to get stuck on a rock twice.
My Costa Rican Adventure
I really enjoyed my time in Costa Rica, and I’d recommend it to any North American interested in traveling to Central America. It is evident that the country is experiencing a huge growth in tourism, and with good reason! It is a gorgeous place and oh so eco-friendly!
When you travel here, be aware that Costa Rica is much more expensive in comparison to other Latin American countries. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case, but if you want to save money on food eat at sodas and don’t be afraid to shop around for souvenirs. Also, expect an endless amount of gallo pinto and jugos naturales. The locals are all super friendly (human and dogs, alike), the wildlife plenty, and you’re never without lots of green! Their healthcare is free and a good percentage of their rainforests are protected. And as of December 1, 1948, the army was abolished.
Oh, and before you go, know that they don’t flush toilet paper down the toilets. It was probably the most foreign concept, but makes quite a lot of sense for an eco-friendly place. There are many things Costa Ricans should be happy and proud about.
In Costa Rica, there’s a saying that you never get tired of hearing and that’s ¡PURA VIDA!, or “pure life.” And after some time here, you’ll forget what life before Costa Rica was like, and do so happily.