The last time I visited Costa Rica, I worked hard. That’s right…worked HARD. My friend and I went to Surf & Spanish school and, although we learned how to ride waves and habla a little Espanol, it was NOT relaxing.
This time I wanted a different trip. I’m an adrenaline junkie so I knew I’d have to find some adventurous activities, but I was also looking to relax since work has been quite stressful lately.
I don’t like Twitter, but I do have an account to monitor flight deals. I got a roundtrip ticket on Delta for $256 so it was a spontaneous, yet easy decision to make the purchase. I found it by following @TheFlightDeal
What Cities to Visit (and why)
I’d always heard about the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna and I knew this was my chance to finally go. I decided to spend 2 days there for adventurous activities and 3 days on the beach to relax. Initially, I booked a hotel in the Jaco Beach area for the second part of the trip since it was close to San Jose, but then I realized that the Caribbean side would be much better during the rainy season. I ended switching to Puerto Viejo at the last minute. Although the weather channel called for torrential downpours all over the country, there was really just a shower each day that lasted for about an hour.
I loved La Fortuna. There is so much to do and the only thing that would have made the trip better was a longer stay. The city is not as touristy as one might imagine. You are definitely among the locals everywhere you go.
I was pleasantly surprised by Puerto Viejo and its Caribbean roots. Learning a bit of history along the way, this city provided a chance for us enjoy the trip and not stand out so much as travelers of color. Another bonus was the opportunity to learn a lot about Limon and Puerto Viejo’s Afro-Latino culture. The food in this area was amazing and almost every dish had a hint of island spice to it. It was more touristy than La Fortuna, but I guess you can expect that from a beach town.
|Seaside in Puerto Viejo|
We (by we I mean I sat in the passenger’s seat) drove! A few people made me nervous, but after looking up a ton of blogs and Tripadvisor, I realized it would be the most affordable and possibly the most fun option. Keep in mind that driving in NYC was great preparation for this drive and it’s not for the timid folks out there. It was definitely scary a couple of times because there are often people, no make that entire families, just chillin' in the middle of the road or walking with along the side with no flashlights or reflectors. It was really nice to be on our own schedule and if we had it to do over, we’d probably drive again. I would highly recommend driving only during the day because the roads can get a little windy, especially from San Jose to the La Fortuna area. I rented from Budget at the San Jose airport.
Set the GPS when you have wifi before you hit the road and it will continue, even without wifi, for the duration of your trip. Just make sure you pay attention because it won't reroute.
|We stopped a few times for fresh Lychee fruit on the way to Puerto Viejo|
I always choose the pay later option on Booking.com because life happens. I’m glad I did this because we didn’t lose money with the last minute change we made. Both of the hotels were incredible. My favorite was Rancho Cerro Azul in La Fortuna. They have gorgeous little villas with modern bathrooms, beds and way more than I expected for a stay in the jungle. I also really liked that it was family-owned and operated…even breakfast is cooked by the wife across the street at the family’s home!
|Private Villa at Rancho Cerro Azul|
In Puerto Viejo I stayed at Hotel Banana Azul (I guess there was a blue theme for the trip) and that was really nice as well. The room was spacious, but make sure you book one with an A/C unit. It was one of the only hotels in the area with beach access so the time spent by the water felt very private and relaxing. The food was delicious and the staff was very helpful. We stayed in the Red Frog suite.
|Perfection just a few steps away from the hotel at Banana Azul|
Both hotels were pretty cheap thanks to the rainy season prices!
What to Do
I’ve been ziplining plenty of times, but I was not prepared for the experience at Skyzone. There is a tram that takes you up, ABOVE the jungle for about 15 minutes where you have a view of all of the scenery in the area. Then, you arrive on this huge platform…and everybody freaks out! They allow you to do a practice zip first and then you take on the big lines. The first one was so exhilarating and we had an awesome view of the jungle and the volcano. Each time was fast, scary and so much fun!
We ventured to Baldi Hot Springs after hearing so much about it. I’d say it was ok. I’m not sure if there’s a better one in the area and it was massive. There’s a water slide which was pretty fun as well. We went at night which I enjoyed because it wasn’t too busy. Also, stop by the Red Frog Coffee Roaster for the best little coffee shop in town. He grinds the beans fresh and uses a cloth coffee filter!
|Benefit of driving: Stopping for pics!|
|View from the top of the tram|
|Roy, owner of Red Frog Coffee|
Eat at Bread and Chocolate. It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays so go every other day for breakfast because it is DELICIOUS! The Jerk Potatoes were amazing as well as the pancakes and they even had almond lattes which are my favorite. I’d also highly recommend Mopri for some of the best dinner we had on the trip.
Other than an ATV ride gone wrong (long story, but the guy is so nice so I won’t even go into and instead I’ll just pray for him and his business) we straight chilled. The hotel had beachside service so we just drank a lot of mojitos (so yummy) and relaxed. Our hotel also had bikes so we rented them and did a bit of sightseeing around the city.
|Bread and Chocolate Breakfast|
Well…that’s my trip! If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to comment below.