I am a serious slacker. I’ve been meaning to write this post forever, and just have not gotten around to it. I also just took down my Christmas tree yesterday, if that gives you any clue to the pace I’m currently moving at. I’m always so unmotivated in the winter. It was -10F again this morning, and all I wanted to do was stay bundles in all my bed covers and maybe drink some coffee. But I’m an adult. Which means getting up, drinking a shot of ACV even though it’s gross, and finishing this damn blog post before going in to work. Hooray for adulting!!
My boyfriend and I traveled to Costa Rica this winter for about 2 1/2 weeks. We are cursed travelers, though, and anytime we travel together we inevitably get rained on 90% of our trip. I don’t know what’s wrong with us. When we travel separately we both get beautiful weather, but together we bring the rain. We went on a month long road trip last year through the Badlands, Yellowstone, Utah’s 5 parks, and ended in Denver. We started the trip digging our car out of the stickiest mud I have ever encountered in the Badlands (due to tons of rain earlier), had okay weather in Yellowstone, and then got rained on nearly every day in Utah. We spent 9 days on Zion NP and got rained on 8 of them. They doubled their annual average rainfall for the area in that week alone. We also got 1 clear day in Moab, but only after a week of rain. Which meant we hauled a ton of climbing gear around the country and never used it, because wet sandstone is obviously a no-go.
So naturally, our trip to Costa Rica was similar – we arrived right after a hurricane had totally effed up the Carribean coast and northern end of the country, and there were non-stop tropical storms on the southern pacific end. Which meant it rained almost every day. We had originally planned to spent the majority of our trip in Corcovado National Park – one of the most biodiverse places on the planet – but we literally would not have been able to get there since the rivers were so swollen and impassible. So we kind of just winged the entire trip. My boyfriend lived in CR for 3 years and would love to move back, so he was hoping convince me to move down there during the trip, so he was pretty disappointed that our weather was such crap and our plans were a mess. It wasn’t very inspiring. But we still saw some beautiful things and have a (mostly) great time. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out my post on Eating Gluten Free in Costa Rica, where I go in depth on how to avoid gluten in CR, and list some of the safe places we ate. I’m not going to talk about that in this post.
We started our trip in Alajuela, where the airport is and where some of Adam’s friends live. Adam’s friend’s place was kind of our home-base, where we stooped between little min-trips. We were super fortunate he had friends who let us stay with them, because this saved us SO much money on lodging. We hung out in the city for a few days, and then decided to head to the province of Guanacaste, since this is typically a very dry, almost desert-like area in places, and we were trying to escape the rain. We had also gone up to see Poas Volcano, but it was too cloudy and we weren’t able to see anything 🙁
Our first stop was Hacienda Guachipelin, on the edge of Rincon De La Vieja national park. It was about $100 per night for a Superior room, or $70-80 for a standard. This was a ranch-style resort, complete with mooing cattle to wake you up in the morning, roaming farm dogs, and lots of horse sh*t. Lol. It honestly sounds terrible, but I promise it wasn’t. They cleaned up after the horses frequently, it made the experience very authentic, and the rest of the resort was beautiful. Our first day we decided to hike to Catarata Las Chorreras. It was about a 15 minute hike to this beautiful little waterfalls and swimming hole.
The water was pretty damn cold, but we swam anyway. And it helped that it was like 85F outside. You can jump from the falls, too, and there is heated volcanic spring water that is rising from beneath the falls.
The next day we purchased their 1 Day “adventure pass”, which they kindly let us split into 2 days. My boyfriend has chronic Lyme Disease, so he has a very limited supply of energy each day, and trying to do 4 activities in one day was not going to end well. So the first day we went tubing and did the zipline course. This was no ordinary river tubing, more like extreme tubing that probably wouldn’t be legal in the US. You’re in a little tube with no paddle, navigating through class III rapids. It was pretty intense, and Adam ended up flipping in one rapids and smashing his face into a rock. Poor guy. Good thing they made us sign a waiver!
Our next adventure was the canopy tour. Adam used to run a zipline in CR, so he wasn’t super impressed with the length of this one, but I thought it was great. They had a “rapelling and rock climbing” portion which was cracking us up, since you had zero control over your own rappel, and the rock climb was one a real canyon wall, but they drilled plastic holds on the wall. It was so weird. It would have been like a 5.5 climb if my belayer wasn’t literally pulling me up the wall before I could place my hands and feet, haha. There were a total of 7 ziplines in the tour, over tree-tops and above a canyon. It really was beautiful and I managed to not drop my camera, so I had a great time. You can watch a video of one the the ziplines HERE.
We finished off the day with volcanic mud baths and a soak in the Rio Negro hot springs. This is included with your stay at Hacienda Guachipelin.
The next day was the last 2 activities of the adventure pass, which included horseback riding and a tour through a reptile exhibit. I hate horseback riding. I do not like driving something that has its own brain. When I tel a car to turn left, it turns left. When I tell a horse to turn left, he may or may NOT do so. And I ALWAYS get the naughtiest horses that never listen to me. I think they can sense my discomfort and inadequacy, and so they just do whatever the hell they please because they know I’m powerless to stop them. This time my horse’s name was Centanario, and he was an asshole. He kept running down different paths than we were supposed to go, whenever we would stop he would stare back at my legs like he wanted to bite them, and he never stopped galloping or eating random plants the entire time. He eventually got his mouth tied shut so he would stop running off to eat stuff, and eventually our guide had to take his reins and lead me everywhere because he just would not follow the group. It was the worst, and my ass was SO bruised for the next week after all his running It hurt to sit for days. Never again. Here’s a picture of me hating my life on this stupid horse:
Once we left Hacienda Guachepelin, we decided to head to the beach. We ended up at Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste, near Playas Del Coco. Playas Del Coco was a really fun beach town, but a little too busy for our taste, which is why we chose Playa Hermosa. It was much quieter, and still close to Playas Del Coco if we wanted to go into a busier area. We stayed in a little cabina for about $40 per night. They left the doors open when they cleaned the rooms so our room was FULL of mosquitos when we arrived, and it was pouring outside so we were forced to be in the room. It was so bad, I’m like 80% sure I got Zika. I had bought a mosquito net for about $20 on amazon to bring with, and seriously thank god we had that. If you’re going to CR – bring a mosquito net!! If you’re staying in a nice resort the entire time, you probably won’t need it, but if you stay in cheaper cabinas or hostels you will be so happy you have it. Especially with all the crap mosquitos are carrying these days. Gross. It stopped raining the next morning though, and it was GORGEOUS the whole day – despite our weather apps all predicting 90% chance of t-stroms. Which will be my next piece of advice – do not trust your weather app. With the mountainous terrain all over the country, the weather will almost always say it’s going to rain, when it often was beautiful along the coast and wouldn’t rain until late afternoon. We spent the day on the beach and then saw an unexpected Christmas parade in Playasd Del Coco that evening. There were a lot of cool little tide pools along the beach to explore, too.
The next day we went on a sunset sailing and snorkeling tour with Seabird Sailing. We let around 3pm, sailed out to a little reef area, snorkeled, and then sailed back while watching the sunset. The snorkeling wasn’t the best, just because I don’t think there are they great of reefs on the area, but the sailing was fun and we had a really beautiful sunset. They even included snacks (chips+salsa, fruit) and any drinks you’d like (sangria, punch, champage, beer, water, juice)! It was a really good time overall.
Next we decided to head down to Manuel Antonio, which was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. On the way down, we stopped in Tarcoles to see the crocs!
We ended up staying in a place called Hotel Coco Beach on the main road in Manuel Antonio. It was $50 per night, had a pool, air conditioning, heated water, and was right across from the beach. It was perfect. We were also about a 10 minute walk from the park entrance which was perfect since we didn’t have to deal with parking outside the park. AND there was a little restaurante across the street which has yummy, gluten-free food and espresso for in the morning! I was a happy girl. We arrive the first evening just in time to catch this gorgeous sunset:
I also opened our bag of food that night to discover the ants had found my open bag of raisins. It was raining, again, so I didn’t want to run down to the outdoor trash, so I set the bag outside the room to deal with in the morning. The next morning we awoke to the sound of 2 naughty little monkeys that had found my bag of raisins, and were running around the balcony holding the bag and snacking. They did not mind the ants. We got ready for the day and headed in to the park to see some wildlife and hangout on the beach. It was so much fun and we saw plenty of wildlife. Adam is big into wildlife photography, though, and he was not satisfied, so we hired a park guide the next day to help us spot some animals we couldn’t see on our own. I would highly recommend doing this – we paid $20 for a private tour and saw a lot of wildlife you’d never find on your own. These guides are highly trained to spot wildlife, and they all communicate with radios to let each other know where things are. Totally worth it. Over the 2 days we saw a poison dart frog, all 3 types of monkeys, bats, crabs, sloths, lots of birds, a few kinds of lizards, pisotes, raccoons, + more.
And make sure you check out all 3 beaches here, not just the main one! The main beach is great for swimming, but Playa Escondido was particularly beautiful.
After Manuel Antonio, we headed back to Alajuela and spent a little more time in the city, visiting friends and trying out new restaurants. For one last hurah, we go a room at Punta Leona Resort for a night before our trip ended. It’s a pretty awesome resort with a lot to do and 2 beautiful ‘private’ beaches, but it was also very family-oriented and full of tons of kids. The rooms were nice, though, and it was fun to spend a day just chilling out in the pool/hot tub with a drink. Before heading out the next day, we wne to Playa Blanca, which was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. There were lots of monkeys around, and we saw a few great red macaws (parrots) hanging out in the trees, eating almonds.
We did a ton of little things in between everything, but it would be a ridiculously long post so I just wanted to highlight the main events. I hope this helps anyone planning a trip to CR, and persuades anyone not planning one to do so! For my gluten-free and dairy-free friends, be sure to check out my post about Eating Gluten Free in Costa Rica as well! <3