One of the many reason people travel, is usually to celebrate a new marriage with their significant other. There are some very popular destinations around the world such as Tahiti, Bali or anywhere in the Caribbean. The attractiveness of a resort catering to your every need with having to put in very little work is, after all, the idea of a relaxing and romantic getaway. Perhaps, you are looking for more of an adventure. if so, set your sights on Costa Rica for a special celebration. You will have the opportunity to enjoy the rich cultural and historical identity of one of the jewels of Central America ; as well as its amazing eco-lodging, the pride of the nation. This week long vacation allows for a brief visit of the capital, San Jose, as well as a road trip to enjoy the beauty of the rain forest with its volcanoes and wildlife.
Today is all about getting to your destination. Coming from Europe, Iberia is a good option, as they fly directly from Madrid. From North America and Asia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston and Toronto are your best bets for connections as they offer usually two flights a day. From South and central America, you will easily find options by going through Colombia, Panama or Mexico. Weather can be a challenge, especially during the rainy season ( May to November ) so the earlier an arrival, the better. Once you have made it to San Jose, past immigration, and you have taken care of your rented SUV, it is finally time to start your adventure. For the first two nights, I highly recommend the boutique hotel “Grano de Oro”, in downtown San Jose. The hotel is considered one of the best in the region. With the Colonial, almost Victorian, style architecture you will find the inside to be very warm and welcoming with turn of the century decor. Most of the rooms have the local Costa Rican charm but with a modern feel. Some have a private outdoor space. If you want to splurge, You can book the more traditional suite, making you feel like royalty. The place also has a courtyard and a highly rated restaurant. If you get here mid afternoon, consider spending the evening walking around the park “la Sabana” for a relaxing walk and get a taste of the local cuisine at one of the surrounding restaurants.
After a refreshing breakfast in the courtyard, you will get to visit downtown San Jose, along the two mile stretch of Avenida central. With its long established Spanish influence to its independence, you will learn about Costa Rican’s journey to building their own identity. First jump in a cab and head for the Plaza de la Democracia, the starting point of your walk. There, you will first visit the national museum of Costa Rica. A great way to learn about the country, from its mixed origins from Mesoamerican and Andean cultures, to the Spanish conquest, the Mexican empire alliance and eventually to the civil war leading to its independence. Once outside, feel free to meander around this popular square for a coffee or lunch. Afterward you can also start walking toward La plaza de la Cultura, and learn about its secret, the museum of gold, located right underneath your feet. Right around the corner, you will find your next visit. The Teatro Nacional. It is an absolute work of art in itself. Interestingly enough, it seems to have more of a French or Italian influence with the marble, glass and gold features. La Fenice in Venice Italy comes to mind when visiting. Later in the afternoon, walk down to the popular San Jose market and enjoy tasting local delicacies as you stroll along the alleyways. As your day comes to an end, head back to the hotel and enjoy the restaurant on the property.
It is now time to leave San Jose and make your way to the rain forest. The best way to travel around Costa Rica is to use a GPS application on your phone with maps and navigational available off line so you are not dependent on cellular coverage and high fees. I use CoPilot GPS and Sygic. You can simply use coordinates which is ideal when traveling in areas that lack street names. First, make your way to the Poas volcano. it is about an hour drive from the hotel. From the parking area to the viewing site, it is about a 15 minute walk. it will give you a great vantage point into the crater it self. Reservations can be made on the national park website with instructions here. It is one of the most active volcano and as such has frequent eruptions. the last one to date was in September 2019. At the center of the crater, you will see a hot lagoon. Be aware though, that because of the altitude, it can be cold and visibility might be limited because of clouds. After your visit, it is time to drive the two and a half hour to La Fortuna, at the heart of the rain forest and the Arenal Volcano National Park. I highly recommend staying the next three nights at what can only be considered one of the most romantic eco-resorts in the world. Nayara Springs offers packages that include a private villa with a plunge pool, breakfast, and dinner at different restaurants. All of this at the heart of a heavenly location. Incredible service, delicious food and attention to detail will make your experience one of the highlights of your trip with your significant other. Spend the evening walking along the various paths on the property trying to spot the monkeys, sloths and other wildlife. A midnight dip in the warm volcanic water of the pool is a must.
After enjoying a delicious Costa Rican breakfast, you will be picked up from the resort for your horseback riding excursion. Ideally, book it thru the hotel when making the reservation for the villa. Morning excursions are better as you are more likely to avoid rain. With a local guide, you and your horse will travel off the beaten path for some incredible sightseeing. From the volcano itself, to spotting families of white faced monkeys jumping from tree to tree in the lush forest, the experience will be a memorable one. Guides tend to be very friendly, willing to share a lot of their knowledge about the area and to go out of their way to help you see as much of the wildlife as possible. excursions usually last for about 2 hours. Once you made it back to the resort, you can head into the little town of La Fortuna and grab lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, you can spend some time at the different souvenir stores along the main road. Some of the pricier items you can find include local traditional furniture such as outdoor rocking chairs. For the rest of the day, you can enjoy the luxury of the resort and all its amenities. Between the yoga studio, the pools, the walking trails and more, the choice is yours.
For your second full day in the Arenal region, you can further your exploration of the area. This excursion is a little bit more high paced as you will be off roading through the forest and fields riding ATVs. During the rainy season, this can really be a fun activity. With the rivers flowing higher and more intensely, wearing older clothes would be prudent. When I went, our guide also took us to a house where a local lady had set up a Costa Rican snack for us to enjoy. It was a great opportunity to talk with our guide about how living in the countryside can be compared to the capital. Once again, the friendliness of the locals, will leave you feeling welcomed. In the afternoon, drive to the local waterfall. It is really an experience worth the time and effort. You will have to walk down more than 500 steps on a beautiful path that rests along a cliff. Between the lush trees, the wood railings, the steel bridges, and finally the waterfall, your jungle experience will be complete. While the price of admission is a little high, it should still be on your to do list.
Sadly, it is time to checkout of Nayara Springs and slowly make your way back to San Jose. Fortunately, we have one more surprise for you. Why not visit the wildlife rescue center "Proyecto Asis". Located less than an hour south of Arenal, the center is a well known sanctuary for animals that need attention for various reasons. At any given time you might see monkeys, sloths, toucans but also species that were illegally imported like macaws. The center work mainly thru donations and offers tours to learn about their work at the sanctuary as well as wildlife protection and conservation. They also offer the opportunity to work with them for a couple of hours as a volunteer. You will get to prepare the meals for the animals as well as clean their enclosures and interact while feeding them. The staff has extensive training and knowledge so feel free to ask any questions you may have. once your tour is completed, you are just about two and a half hour drive away from San Jose airport. It is an easy drive down the mountains. As a hotel, I recommend something close to the airport. It will be easier if you have an early departure the following day. The hotel Trapp Family Country Inn is a good option. It is well priced, clean, safe and offers a restaurant on site.
Well, this is it. You have explored a little bit of Costa Rica. Hopefully you have made some incredible memories on this road trip. If you have a late flight home, you can use this time for a final visit of San Jose. The museum of gold, or the museum of Costa Rican art are good options.
Just like the sloths, monkeys and locals, remember the Costa Rican slogan and live la "pura vida"
Expert tourist, I love visiting new places, discovering new cultures and meeting new people. With this blog, and my business "Itinerary of a passport", I want to share my passion, ideas and experience.