New Year in Costa Rica

We were able to Welcome the New Year in Costa Rica! And we wish and hope for a healthier and happier 2021.

Recent travel to Costa Rica does not require a Covid test but does require the purchase of additional health insurance and signing a health questionnaire. We overall felt very safe especially as most activities were outside and social distancing was easy.


Costa Rica is a rugged, rainforested Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. Though its capital, San Jose, is home to cultural institutions like the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife including spider monkeys, sloths, jaguars and an amazing variety of birds.

This was not an all inclusive, kick back by the pool with an umbrella in your Pina Colada type of trip. Costa Rica really is not that type of destination, at least not if you want to see it all.

Our trip included 3 areas and even though it was not all inclusive we did not rough it either.

Costa Rica is a haven for the eco tourist. I am not an eco tourist but put me in a rainforest by a volcano even if a little rugged I will adapt and soak it up. How can one not? There is no where else you can see so much varied wildlife, beautiful, unique flowers and plants. Some that move right in front of your eyes when you touch them! More on that later. Did I mention Hot Springs and thermal baths! YES!! They really do have it all!

Our first stop was Arenal. This is considered the Adventure Capital of Costa Rica. The drive there is an adventure as well. If you are prone to motion sickness prepare yourself and I do recommend Bonine or Dramamine for the ride. You are driving mountainside on winding, cliffside and in some areas one way roads, and if it rains…even scarier!

 

People assume that it’s the volcano that puts Arenal on the list of the best places in Costa Rica but it has always just been a backdrop for the amazing array of things to do. While here we took a slower pace and instead of zip lines we did a walking rainforest canopy tour. This is where you cross suspension bridges in the treetops and enjoy the wildlife, spot birds that rarely come to the ground and get a different perspective on one of the most unique habitats of Costa Rica. This was truly exhilarating and makes you a bit weak in the knees I admit.

Now before I go on let’s talk…Sloths

One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is going to look for sloths. They have tours just for this! Sloths can be very hard to see for the untrained eye. You might get lucky and spot one, but chances are you won’t. Looking for monkeys and sloths in Costa Rica is a bit like searching for a needle in a needle stack – they are everywhere but so hard to find.

Our next adventure was White Water Rafting, There are half a dozen different raft trips available from La Fortuna and the Arenal region. They range from class I/II float trips on the Peñas Blancas and Sarapiquí rivers to class III/IV on the Balsa, Toro, Tenorio and other sections of the Sarapiquí. We rafted the Balsa and it was wildly thrilling. Talk about an adrenaline rush! I wanted to cry when we started but five minutes later I did not want it to end!

 

Our next destination was south, a bit off the beaten path to Parrita. It itself is a small, peaceful village centrally located between Manuel Antonio and Jaco. Our accommodations were on Playa Palo Seco, which is a stunningly beautiful and quiet beach. Here we visited the town of Quepos and took a tour through Manuel Antonio Park. Manuel Antonio Park is the smallest of the national parks in Costa Rica and the most concentrated in wildlife. It has the most varied and beautiful landscapes, surrounded by a lush tropical forest and in your path you can be observed by capuchin monkeys, sloths, coatis, raccoons, iguanas and many species of birds, as well as the squirrel monkey that is endemic to Manuel Antonio, i.e. that is only in that part of the world, it is increasingly threatened,1,500 left according to the most recent census. We were able to see all the above mentioned animals on a 2 hour hike!

Our last destination was to head back north to San Jose. In most cases your trip may begin and end here. Overnights can be necessary depending on flight times and most locations you will visit may be 3-4 hours away and driving at night is not encouraged or recommended. I second that!

 

So lets go back to why do travelers even bother with all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica? Because they simply do not know how to travel otherwise. Most are uninformed of their options and unfamiliar with ways to experience Costa Rica beyond doing so via an all-inclusive resort. Hands down, one of the greatest misconceptions that first-time visitors have about travel to Costa Rica is that they must limit themselves to the confines of one accommodation (occasionally taking day trips to and from the accommodation and places of interest) I do not recommend that and here is  why… To put it in perspective, the area with all inclusive resorts is Guanacaste. It is on the northwest side bordering the Pacific. If you want to visit the Arenal Volcano it is a 3 hour drive, Manuel Antonio you are looking at 4 hours each way. Monteverde (another national park not discussed here as we did not visit on this trip) is 2.5 hours.

In a different perspective, Costa Rica’s popularity on this front pales deeply in comparison to the offers of its greatest competitors: The ALL INCLUSIVE Mega resorts, In fact, it is impractical to compare Costa Rica to these popular vacation hot spots as they have little in common. It just cannot compare to Mexico or the Caribbean. It is not known for its dining, modern resort properties, or luxurious amenities. In most cases you are going on tours or exploring so most of the eco lodges, B&B’s and smaller hotels will include breakfast. There is a good chance that lunch will be included on your tour.

Costa Rica has so much diversity and so many great destinations you need to get out of your comfort zone. Do everything that makes you nervous. Say “yes” every time that you want to say “no.” Do things that you have never done before.

Learn something new – whether it is a new word or a new recipe or a new species. Get wet – from rafting, diving, snorkeling or even just exploring the rain forest.

By now you can understand that there are many ways to explore Costa Rica. It all depends on what is most important to you and how you like to travel. Maybe you want it all planned out with an itinerary set and a guide to lead the way. Maybe you are wanting a self drive with a customized step by step itinerary. Maybe a split stay part all inclusive/part volcano lodge is more on your list. There is so much to see and so many different destinations to explore, just go!

We can customize what works best for your time frame encompassing what you want to see.
***Remember I mentioned those plants that move when you touch them right in front of our eyes? Check out the video below!