This is a guest post from my husband. He loves to travel as much as I do.
Knowing little about Central America – aside from foggy memories of the “Contra” scandal during the Reagan years – Costa Rica’s tropical, jungle mystique has made it a destination we’ve always wanted to visit. When we were contacted about a #GiftofHappiness week-long tour of the country, we literally jumped at the chance.
Costa Rica was incredible. While we’re not used to being driven from place to place, the driver of our van navigated unmarked roads and knew of interesting places along the way, for us to stop. By driving, we were able to experience the countryside, geography, and climate en route to our destinations, in a much more immersive way, than if we had flown (or even driven ourselves). Because our trip was an arranged tour, we were able to see a good deal of the Northwest half of the country and we made mental notes about areas we’d love to visit – on our next trip to this amazing place.
Costa Rica Travel: Tamarindo
We began our tour by flying into Daniel Oduber International Airport – Liberia, in Guanacaste Province and were driven the approximately 1.5 hours to our first stop, the surfing centric town of Tamarindo on the Northwest Pacific Coast.
In Tamarindo, we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Capitan Suizo, which is located directly on the beach. The food was simply prepared, yet was fresh and delicious. The resort was tucked away at the end of a cove and was picturesque as well as accessible. Town is a short walk away but with great surfing, warm water, and good food, what else do you need?
Our next stop was a 3.5-hour drive from Tamarindo Beach. We left behind the relatively dry Guanacaste interior to enter the cloud forest/rain forest area of the Arenal Volcano.
Costa Rica Travel: Arenal Volcano
Heading to Arenal Volcano area was a pleasant and scenic drive from the northwest through the relatively dry Guanacaste interior to the cloud forest/rain forest area of the Arenal Volcano. We were driven through dairy farms and villages that gave us the flavor of local life. School children in uniforms, with watchful mothers nearby, walked to and from at every village we passed through.
When we arrived at Arenal Kioro Suites and Spa resort, which was perched as close to a live volcano as prudence would allow, we immediately jumped into the pool with our next stop a dip in the hot water springs. The resort had beautiful grounds and the food was very high quality.
The next day, we toured the town of La Fortuna, which is located at the base of Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna is a typical Costa Rica town that offers access to its region’s plentiful adventures: zip lining, biking, hot springs, rafting – all within a short driving distance.
Costa Rica Travel: Quepos/Manuel Antonio
Our final destination was an approximately 3.5-hour drive from Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna, southeast along the coast – and past crocodiles in Tarcoles – to Punta Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio National Park.
Hotel Arenas del Mar, located on the beach, in a rain forest, was incredible. With its secretive beach (if you aren’t lucky enough to stay here, sneak over the rocks from the Northwest end of Espadilla Beach) with great waves and golf carts that whisked you from point to point, it was virtually Disney-esque. The resort, built on a cliff, had beautiful beaches, views and animals that we had only read about – sloths, monkeys, and lizards. It was like a zoo without cages.
After a 3-hour hike around wildlife filled (bring a camera; hold onto any food!) Manuel Antonio National Park, we were ready for lunch and dined right on the beach. The fresh food hit the spot and after lounging (and Sara napping!), we body-surfed in the warm water.
Our adventure to Costa Rica ended with us flying out of San Jose Airport. Our guide was nice enough to remind us about the departure tax. It’s $29 per person and is payable with cash. They will take credit card but it will be assessed as a cash advance.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country and this trip exceeded our expectations. By driving we were able to see a large part of virtually half the country. Four and five star resorts are not our typical accommodations and we were fortunate to have had the experience. Our driver gave us the insider tour of the country – and tolerated our teenagers. We can’t wait to visit more of this amazing country (specifically the Caribbean Coast) on our next trip.
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What’s your favorite spot?
Go Gingham related links:
Would you like to travel to Costa Rica? How we found out about our trip.
Do you know your blood type? The tour company wants to know!
Save money on your next trip: before and during
Vacation rules from this trip – yes, my teens gave me rules!
Disclosure: The Costa Rica Tourism Board provided our family with an amazing trip to Costa Rica.