Costa Rica is a bio-diverse country rich with natural beauty, history, culture, rainforests, plant and animal life, and beaches. It has devoted about 26% of its land to wildlife reserves, national parks, and protected lands. Costa Rica has over 34,000 species of insects! Over 20,000 species of spiders! Eeeek! Over 200 species of mammals and reptiles! Over 850 species of birds! Over 9,000 species of plants! And OMG! Monkeys! Monkeys everywhere!
Originally, I thought I could spend some time in the inland areas and then head towards the beaches along each coast, but after doing a lot of research, I learned road conditions are curvy and bumpy (or as local drivers called it, “massage roads”) and traveling from one area to another would be very time consuming. There were so many things to do and see, so I decided to stay in La Fortuna/ Arenal area and Monteverde due to my restricted vacation time of 5 days.
Adrenaline Seekers Must Visit Arenal
Arenal is the entire area encompassing the volcano and lake; La Fortuna is the name of the town nearby. It was about a three hour drive from San Jose Airport. This place is filled with activities, and I easily could have stayed a few more days. To my adrenaline and nature seekers, you must visit! You can go on a safari float tour, white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, ziplining with monkey drops and tarzan swings, walking through hanging bridges, visit the volcano, and swimming in waterfalls and hot springs.
Arenal is home to one of the world’s most active volcano. Although you can’t get THAT close to the volcano for obvious reasons, hiking through Arenal National Park with our tour guide, Hansel, was such an awe moment. He was very knowledgeable and passionate about his country, which I found to be very inspirational. He explained everything with great detail: Arenal’s historical eruptions, as well as all the indigenous flora and fauna we came across along the hike. It was an eye opener for me simply because I have never really been aware of how much diversity exists amongst plants and their specific role affecting the rainforest.
I climbed down a 480-step staircase through the jungle and came across the beautiful cascading La Fortuna waterfall -standing at approximately 230 feet tall. The water is cold, but that did not stop me from going for a swim.
There are many lava-heated natural hot springs in this area. Tabacon Hot Springs was my favorite. After a long day of fun-filled adventure, unwinding in beautiful flowing thermal water felt amazing.
Cloud Forests are rare ecosystems that can only be found in a few places in the world. They occur in subtropical and tropical mountainous areas, creating a habitat for very unique plants and wildlife. (Travel Tip: It does get chilly here so bring a jacket.)
Glamping Kind of Girl
Glamping is a term for glamorous camping. I love the outdoors, but maybe I’m not down to sleep in a sleeping bag inside a tent out in the middle of the jungle. *Thoughts of Tarzan and Planet of the Apes comes to mind*. Yeah, nope! So, I chose to stay in Chira Glamping Monteverde, the perfect combination of outdoor wilderness and luxury.
Our tent pod was THE CUTEST!! It had a super comfy heatable bed, TV with Netflix, yoga mats, board games, jetted bathtub out in the deck, shower, and a fully equipped kitchen that was refilled with snacks and drinks every morning. We went down to the local market and purchased food to grill. I am still obsessing with this entire experience; it felt very homey and I’d go glamping any day. (Travel Tip: Bring earplugs, the winds make a lot of noise at night).
Coffee is Costa Rica’s most well-known export. I visited a coffee plantation where I also learned about chocolate, cocoa, and sugar cane plants.
Additionally, I rode horses through the cloud forest and it almost didn’t feel real. I was literally riding up through the forest in the clouds. And let me tell you, these horses can RUNNN!!!! My horse went from the normal walk, to a faster jog, to a full speed gallop that I was not expecting. It was a lot of fun; however, I’m still strikingly sore as I sit here writing this blog post. My upper body and inner thighs are killing me, and I even have blisters on my hand. I’m not being a baby, I was just hanging on for my dear life lol. (If you don’t know already, I grew up with horses, but this was a different situation guys!)
What’s the weather like?
Climate is always a huge factor to consider when traveling. Costa Rica has such a diverse geography that climate can get a little confusing. After doing my research, I created this little table that I thought would be beneficial.
I was very impressed by how Costa Rica utilizes its ecotourism responsibly to raise awareness and conserve the environment, yet still positively adding financial benefits to the local communities, such as public schools and hospitals. I also noted how environmentally friendly Costa Rica is, for example: everywhere I went had separated recycling bins with different labels- organics, glass, paper, and metallics; and also all the restrooms I went in were very clean.
I loved Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida” (translation: Pure Life) philosophy. To look at the world through optimistic lenses, and not to be so worried for the future that you forget to enjoy living in what’s present. They use the term “Pura Vida” for everything, hello, goodbye, thank you, etc. Costa Rica prides on having no army since 1948, and the “idea that it has gained through evolution what other countries have tried to attain through revolution.”
Five days to explore this lush country was not enough time. I recommend planning a longer trip so you could explore the different coasts and towns. It’s such a small country, yet there is so much to do and see. (Fun Fact: Costa Rica is only a little smaller than West Virginia.) I hope you visit Costa Rica and make this trip as memorable as I did.
Happy birthday to me! Click below to watch this short video.