As you can see in our route, we came across a large variety of nature and national parks, including swamps, sea, volcanoes, rainforest, cloud forest and so on.
The first night after arriving in San José we spent in Villa Tournon. It was just an overnighter, so we did not see much of San José. In the early next morning we got picked up by a transfer bus which brought us to Tortuguero. In the middle of the bus ride we had a lovely local breakfast including Gallo Pinto, fresh fruits and juice. After one another hour of bus riding through different kind of plantations (banana, papaya) we arrived at the canal where we switched over to a boat -destination: Mawamba Lodge.
This lodge is located in the tropical rainforest with canals to one and the Caribbean Sea to the other side. When you are lucky you might see turtles nesting on the beach. While staying in Mawamba Lodge, we did a canal tour in the morning, attended a night walk in the jungle and visited the village of Tortuguero. After returning from the night walk, I was owner of at least 20 mosquito bites more. Although I wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and used mosquito repellent. When pointing out to the canal with a flashlight at returning, we saw many eyes or sometimes heads of crocodiles. We also had a tour in Mawamba Lodge itself where we saw frogs, a butterfly farm, turtles and could taste pepper and star fruit. Usually the days start early in the morning (sunrise was about 05:15) and the sun sets at around 18:00. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset at the beach of Tortuguero. Bathing there is not allowed due to sharks, jellyfish and rip currents.
Then we transferred from Tortuguero to Guápiles to pick up our rental car. From Guápiles we drove around 150 km to La Fortuna to be close to our next destination: the Arenal volcano. Since it get dark soon after sunset and the lights on the road are not really good, try to be at the hotel on 18:00. We spent two nights in the Arenal Rabfer hotel. When we arrived, the weather was bad; raining and cloudy. Locals said that the Arenal volcano is often covered with clouds so you have to be lucky to see it. In La Fortuna we had dinner at Pollo Fortuneño. As the name includes, we ate awesome chicken. The next day we made a two-hour-coffee tour at North Field Café (cost $30 per person). In this tour we learned a lot about coffee and the preparation of coffee in Costa Rica. Allan, the coffee farmer who was our guide, was passionate and we enjoyed every minute with him. As a nice giveaway, we received a certificate for taking part in the coffee tour 🙂 A bit later we went to a Rainforest Chocolate Tour to learn about cacao. Cost was $25. It was not as good as the coffee tour before, but still interesting to see behind the curtains. The “cacahuatl” drink like the Aztecs drank it was a great experience. While returning to the hotel, we saw that the Arenal volcano was visible so we took pictures before going further to Eco Termales for a great relaxing evening together. Since they limit the number of guests that can go in, I recommend making a reservation first. This hot spring consists of several pools with different temperatures. There you can relax, chill, listen to the nature, have a great time (they have a bar in there :-)), enjoy the stay with your significant other and gain energy. Dinner we had at Don Rufino. It was delicious! Last day in La Fortuna we went to Catarata Rio Fortuna to see the Fortuna waterfall. Entrance fee was $15 per person that is kind of overpriced only to see a waterfall. To see it you have to master 500 steps down and then up (the harder part). Besides those explorations, another question hit us: “Where the heck is our camera?” We could not find our digital camera in our stuff. Lost? Stolen? We bet we forgot it somewhere. Fortunately they found it (more to come).
After La Fortuna we drove around Lake Arenal with one goal: the cloud forest in Monteverde! Since it rained heavily before we had to master several obstacles like potholes, lot of dirt on the road or even fallen trees that blocked part of the road. Albeit the real adventure on the road began after Tilaran… From Tilaran you have to drive around 40 kilometers on gravel / dirt, hoping your tires will not burst. In addition, you sometimes came across trees blocking the road. The last part of the road is steep and we thought our car could barely make it. Relieved to have arrived safely in Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge, we ordered a plate of nachos and some drinks called Cloud Forest Mist. Later on we explored de Abogado Trail which is one of the three trails belonging to this lodge. Since it was rainy season it was usually dry in the morning but showers came in the afternoon. In the lodge, we saw different animals like a nose bear, agoutis, hummingbirds… One day we decided to do the Extremo Canopy Tour with several Zip Lines, hanging bridges, a tarzan swing and a superman ride. It costed $53 per person and took about 2.5 hours. That was an awesome experience! When coming back to the start, we saw two parrots. Now you think that we did a lot in the first days? We definitely did.
Therefore, it was high time going to the beach – off to Tamarindo.
First we wanted to stay 2 nights, but because we loved it so much we expanded to 4 nights and got an upgrade to an Ocean View room for free in hotel BW Tamarindo Vista Villas! We also got free beach equipment – great to begin! Therefore, we put these equipment into the car and drove to Playa Conchal, a great beach with white sand. However, the sand are thousands of tiny shells. Beautiful! Later on, we took a boogie board and went body surfing in Tamarindo. Next day we took a surf lesson. Great waves, easy groove, good life… Due to an accident (surfboard hit face) I had to check how good health care is. It is… At least we could see the sunset from our room. After some unplanned easy days in the hotel room we went off for Rincón de la Vieja.
Arriving in Rincón de la Vieja, it was due to a mountain bike race that we had to look for another hotel than we actually planned. We went to Rincón de la Vieja Lodge, a lodge really close to the park, where we were the only guests. This was funny, but also a bit scary. It even got scarier when there was a blackout. Well, at least we had a flashlight with us ;-). Of course we checked the National park around the corner. The park is great for hiking. Opening hours are until 15:00 so you have to arrive early. The crater trail is closed due to high activity of the volcano. There was even a small eruption in the early morning (10.06.2017). We hiked the trail “Las Pailas”. On this trail, we came across toucans and spider monkeys, which was a great plus. We also wanted to bath in volcanic mud or in hot springs, but because of the open cuts in my face and inside my mouth, it was not a good idea so we skipped that part.
That is why we headed off to Quepos or more precisely to Manuel Antonio. We stayed in a hotel very close to the national park: the El Faro Beach Hotel. It looks hipster-like with the furnished containers, but the location and the view was massive! Service was also good and all the meals were delicious! Here we spent one day at the beach “Playa Espadilla”, enjoying some Pipa fría and getting a tan. While talking with a local, we recognized that they are very proud of their origin. The last day we spent in the Manuel Antonio national park where we saw (baby) sloths, many monkeys and other animals. The beach of Manuel Antonio is great to see.
Finally, on the way back to the airport, we received a call that our camera was found and we can pick it up in San José. We did. Driving in the capital is an adventure for itself. We got our camera and then it was time. Two weeks were over. We had great fun. Maybe sometimes we see us again Costa Rica. Pura Vida!
Do you have any questions? Have you already explored Costa Rica by yourself? Which places did you see and why? Any recommendations? Let me know.