I’ve learned very quickly during our first month of a year-long trip around the world that my husband, daughter and I are completely different beings. The activities we like to do, foods we enjoy and environments that make us happy are totally unique from one another.
For example, I absolutely love all things nature and would be entirely satisfied with staying in a small, screened in, fresh air cabina in the middle of the jungle surrounded by the sounds of wildlife and brilliant tropical colors. On the other hand, my daughter, Kayla, finds that experience utterly horrifying.
Little did I know she’s more of a city girl and her happy place is in a well-air conditioned, modern city loft in the center of downtown with access to tons of shopping and restaurants.
And of course, my husband, Scott, brings a third element into the picture. He feels his best when he can hear the ocean waves and have the sand beneath his toes, but still have access to all the amenities. So, a fully furnished home with a beautiful view of the sea, private pool, complete kitchen and a cool escape from the heat is more his style.
Needless to say, its been a little challenging satiating everyone’s desires when searching for things to do and places to stay. Although we have all made some sacrifices throughout the trip, I feel like we have been able to find a good balance between City, Nature and Beach.
Costa Rica has so much to offer and therefore, it can be overwhelming when planning the perfect vacation there. So, after driving 837 miles of Costa Rican terrain and staying at 11 different places, I thought I would run through a brief lowdown of all that we experienced in Costa Rica during our one month stay. Hopefully, it will help you decide where to visit on your trip to this magnificent country.
CITY – Kayla’s Picks
Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose is a beautiful place to start your journey. We explored several different areas this trip and enjoyed them all. We like to stay at the DoubleTree Cariari Hotel
when we first arrive. It’s close to the airport, has nice spacious rooms, a great pool and a delicious buffet breakfast that is included if you are a Hilton Honors member. It’s in a safe, upper class neighborhood with plenty of security.
Once you get your barrings, you may want to venture into town a little. Feel free to use Uber. The drivers are extremely friendly and reliable. Just know that San Jose has not officially approved Uber service in the city and the taxis are fighting against it. But, for us it was the best mode of transportation in town.
My city-loving daughter enjoyed walking up and down Avenida Central
with its plethora of shops, restaurants and vendors. It’s one of the few areas that are closed off to vehicles, making it safe for pedestrians. There is always a lot of activity with plenty of people watching opportunities.
Kayla also liked the comforts of home at Multiplaza Escazu
, which is a large traditional mall located in a very nice part of town. It has every store you can think of including a food court and a movie theater with some movies shown with sub-titles.
In addition to shopping, San Jose has tons of very nice museums. Our favorite was Museo de los Ninos
. This original children’s museum is housed in the old military prison, where torture and horrific acts once occurred. They have transformed this unique building into a beautiful, interactive experience for children of all ages. I think my 11-year-old was at the max age for enjoying the offered attractions.
You can spend your time haggling at the local markets, restaurant hopping to taste the different twists each chef puts in their Casado, a local typical dish of beans, rice, plantains and meat or just relax in their many parks. Any way you choose, San Jose is a fun town to explore. For more recommendations check out The 10 Best Things to Do in San Jose.
NATURE – Kim’s Picks
If you are looking for the ultimate in adventure and connection with nature, look no further than Tortuguero
. This island town in Limon Province is nestled between a river and the Carribbean Ocean. It was an adventure just getting there and not for the faint of heart. From San Jose, we drove three hours over a one lane mountain pass, dodging chickens, dogs and some cows that were blocking the road. Then we hopped on a very small “ferry” that took us an hour up a murky river to Tortuguero.
We stayed in a screened in, open air, basic room with cold showers and minimal lights plopped in the middle of the jungle. I loved going to bed to the sounds of the pouring rain and the humming of all walks of life. You can take a river tour to Tortuguero National Park and surround yourself with every creature imaginable. My dream come true!
Or you can experience nature a little easier by staying a few nights at Blue River Resort & Hot Springs
in Alajuela Province which is just an 1.5 hour drive from Liberia Airport. We have stayed here several times and loved every minute of it. You get a beautiful private cabin nestled in the middle of the jungle. Follow their meandering paths past a hummingbird garden, butterfly garden, three hot spring pools, bubbling hot mud and natural sauna fed from the thermals of Rincon de Viejo, an active volcano located in Rincon de Viejo National Park.
Be aware that the last leg of the drive is pretty rough and may require 4-wheel drive during certain seasons. Blue River is located in the middle of nowhere, therefore their on-site restaurant is the only place to eat for miles. Luckily its very tasty and provides good variety. They also have tons of adventure tours to tube their crystal blue river, horseback ride up the volcano or zip line through the canopy. Yahoo!
And last but absolutely not least is my favorite bohemian little town of Montezuma
. This quaint beach town is nestled where the jungle meets the ocean. So, there is a wide variety of things to do in nature. We have been coming here for 10-years and always enjoy walking along their many beaches through a jungle path to engage in some of the best surfing in Costa Rica at Playa Grande. Hiking to their 80-foot waterfall or ziplining the colorful canopy is always a thrill. I highly suggest checking out Marioposario Hotel’s
expansive butterfly garden to view Blue Morphas and just about every other kind of butterfly in Costa Rica.
While in Montezuma, don’t miss your opportunity to stay at the world-renowned, Anamaya Resort
and take some time to nourish yourself during one of their week-long retreats. There, you can do yoga on a deck tucked on top of a mountain with a 270 degree view of the ocean. The staff are like family and the mindfully prepared meals are truly farm to table delicious. Surrounded by nature, this resort is the perfect environment for deeper connection with yourself and the universe.
BEACH – Scott’s Picks
Scott’s vacation dream came true when he found an incredible beach house with a pool, AC and full kitchen overlooking the ocean in Santa Teresa, a cozy surf town located on the Nicoya Peninsula. Restaurants and shops line the one road that runs through the village parallel to the beach. They are known for their long, sand shores and beautiful sunsets. Join the locals for a picnic on the beach and watch the pink sun melt into the horizon.
Over the years, we heard such great things about Jaco and Manuel Antonio. So, we decided to head to the Puntarenas region of Costa Rica. But, we were disappointed by how touristy both towns appeared. Fortunately, we continued south to discover Dominical, a beach front town with a hippie vibe. Known for consistently big waves year round, we found this charming town to be more authentically Costa Rican than it’s larger sister cities more North. We stopped at a beach front restaurant to have a delicious typical meal and watch the surfers. And don’t forget to swing by the thermal hot springs as you head back up to Quepos.
Whether you enjoy long walks on the beach, hanging out with monkeys in the jungle or bargaining with vendors in the city, Costa Rica has it all. All you need to do is book a ticket and be open to the adventure that awaits you!
Looking to immerse all your senses and experience an exotic paradise???
Come join us in Guatemala!!! I am so excited to partner with Rod Hairston on this mindfully crafted Journey to the Heart Retreat located on the shores of mystical Lago Atitlan in Guatemala November 3rd-10th.
This is going to be a full mind-body-spirit immersion into the local Mayan culture through transformative workshops, yoga, ceremony, meditation, chanting and dance. Three powerful volcanoes and the beautiful lago will be our backdrop as we embark on a Journey to the Heart. Visit www.growth-u.com/events for details and to register TODAY!
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