I’ve been a bit absent from posting over the last two weeks, but it was for a great reason. My entire immediate family (my husband, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, and my uncle) and I headed to Costa Rica for a fortnight to celebrate my parents’ ruby wedding anniversary. (Side note: 40 years is a long time – and they are still fabulous together!)
My parents had organised the entire trip, with input from everyone else, and the plan was to visit several different places within the country. We arrived into San Jose, where we had the late afternoon/early evening free, so we just wandered into the centre, had a bit of a walk and stopped for a drink, after dinner at the hotel, we just all pretty much crashed as it was already the early hours of the morning UK time, and we’d all been awake since the crack of dawn to get our flight.
The next day we travelled to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. We stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel, Le Chameleon, where everything was clean, white and minimalist. We had a lovely pool just outside our rooms, and across the road was a beach bar with access to a gorgeous beach.
We visited the Jaguar Rescue Foundation, which is a rescue centre for all kinds of animals (although they don’t have any jaguars – the name came about from the animals that were originally rescued there). The cutest were definitely the sloths and the baby capuchin monkeys. They were all just adorable!
The centre was amazing and well worth the visit. Our guide, Rachel, was actually from the UK but had been volunteering at the centre for two years. She was incredibly knowledgeable and the tour was superb, we took way too many photos!
My brother joined me for a very warm run on the beach at 6am one morning. We only did a little over two miles, but we were super hot and sweaty after. Running on sand is hard work, but at least you can then go paddling to cool down (we ran barefoot). We also walked 3km into Puerto Viejo and back that day (I may have got a little sunburnt on my shoulders… mad dogs and Englishmen and all that). I did have the best chocolate milkshake I’ve ever had though at a place called Bread and Chocolate. I’m almost tempted to go back just to go there to try one of their sundaes or something.
After a couple of days in Puerto Viejo, we travelled to La Fortuna, where we were staying in the Montana del Fuego hotel with views of Arenal volcano. Our hotel also had hot spring pools (so no paying $85 or anything crazy to visit them elsewhere) and a wet bar in the swimming pool – I was a bit too excited about that!
The main attraction was the Arenal Observatory Lodge, from which you can do plenty of walks all around the volcano area. The volcano is technically dormant, but you can see bits of gas escaping from the crater still. You can’t actually walk up it, so we were hoping to walk up Cerro Chato (another volcano with a lake at the top), but it was closed off due to a walker passing away there recently. We still managed a lot of walking around the area, which was beautiful.
There was also plenty of wildlife, including loads of pretty birds at a feeding station, and lots of coatis.
The cute little frog was at the end of a ‘river trail’, which was basically a completely downhill walk (meaning it was obviously all uphill, and therefore a bit tiring in the heat on the way back). Needless to say, we were a bit exhausted afterwards and a cold Diet Coke has probably never been quite so appreciated! The hotel pool was also enjoyed a lot following all of the walking.
After a couple of days in this area, we travelled over to Monteverde, which was definitely my favourite place. We were staying just outside Santa Elena, and it was here that we planned to visit the cloud forest. We stayed at the Heliconias hotel, where we were upgraded to huge junior suites. The only thing was, the hotel consisted of several buildings and ours was up a very steep hill! The hotel did have a little shuttle, but I walked it pretty much every time, feeling that since I wasn’t getting much running in it would be a good substitute (at the very least, a good leg workout – and at altitude!).
When we arrived, we went on a tour round a coffee, sugar cane and cocoa plantation which was really interesting. The best bit was definitely the chocolate samples :).
The next day, we headed to the Santa Elena reserve to visit the cloud forest. There, we did a guided walk which took us over plenty of hanging bridges, then caught a cable car up to about 5500 feet. A few of the group stopped here for a bit then took the cable car back down, whilst the rest of us zip lined our way back down via six zip lines. The longest was 770m – zip lining three quarters of a kilometre! It was so much fun. There were a group of mostly slightly older Americans with us, and they were fantastic, all so friendly and such good senses of humour. One commented that I looked like I’d been zip lining all my life – I had never actually done it before, but I LOVED it.
A lot of the time we couldn’t actually see where we were going (due to being in the cloud), but sometimes the clouds dissipated and the sun shone through, and suddenly we had fabulous views. At the end we either had to rappel down about 20 metres, or do a free fall jump (attached, obviously!) which after about ten metres automatically slowed you down. I did the free fall, a bit scared but knew I’d regret it otherwise. The guy counted me down, I jumped, then he shouted ‘No, wait!’ after I’d gone (just to scare me). Meanie. It was awesome though – and I even managed to land gracefully on my feet.
Two other awesome things about this day: it was my uncle’s birthday, so we celebrated that, and it was the opening day of the baseball season. My husband and I watched some baseball that afternoon whilst we were all chilling after our adventures – finally, a long baseball-less winter was over!
The next day we visited another national park, Curi Cancha, where we did a few more walks and saw more wildlife. The best bit of this was definitely the hummingbirds – feeders had been put out to attract them, and they were certainly working!
We also had amazing food that day. We walked from the park to Cafe Cabure (which was on the way back to the hotel), which specialised in chocolate. I had a roasted veg wrap, which came with loads of salad and was huge (the most veg I’d had on the trip so far!), then shared a death by chocolate brownie with my husband. It was soon delicious. No pictures, as I was too hungry! For dinner we went to D’Sofia, only a hundred metres or so from the hotel, where I had an amazing steak. Yum. Super happy me.
From Monteverde, we travelled to Papagayo Gulf, where we were staying in an all inclusive hotel for a few days to end our trip. We stayed at the Occidental there, which was beautiful (and had a massive, comfy bed!). It had a pool, but in all honesty the pool area was too hot for me! The beach was a bit cooler, but I spent a lot of time in the air conditioned lobby bar. There’s not so much to report from here – I went to the gym, played plenty of pool with my husband, went to zumba, went on a morning hike, snorkelled, and read a lot. It was super relaxing, which after a very leg intensive holiday (walking uphill a lot at altitude!) was very much appreciated.
And now we’re home and back to reality. Sad face. Oh well, at least I have all the beautiful pictures to remind me of a fabulous trip.
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? Where would you most like to visit?