Check out more photos from my trip here!
Tabacon Resort & Spa - Arenal
The three plus hour drive from the San Jose Airport to the resort in Arenal wasn’t bad at all. The driver stopped at a local restaurant on the way for lunch (a platos tipicos with chicken, rice, beans and plantain - delicious!) and even though the place was a bit touristy, the valley view across from it was beautiful. Tabacon Resort was equally incredible and a great way to start off the trip. Our room was in the new Orchid building and it had an amazing view of the volcano out the window (would highly recommend building #3, second floor). Every morning I would wake up and whip open the curtains just to see if the volcano was “out.” The restaurant and pool at the main part of the resort was being renovated and inaccessible but it wasn’t a big deal. We made the short 5 minute walk down to the hot springs facilities and enjoyed the amenities there. The entire springs “complex” was outstanding…the winding paths and individual pools were inviting and so relaxing. The main pool with the swim up bar was fun, too. One thing to note is that onsite food and beverages are rather expensive, but they probably had the best breakfast out of every place we stayed. We did make a couple of trips into La Fortuna ($15 cab ride, each way) and ate there. Costa Ricans sure do love their Italian food; it was EVERYWHERE.
We really enjoyed the Mistico Hanging Bridges experience and would recommend. Our guide was knowledgeable and funny. We saw a sloth, a jumping pit viper, dozens of different birds (including a turkey!) a tarantula, lizards, leafcutter ants and more. The weather was perfect that day and we got to see the volcano without its cloud cover…so so so fantastic. The visit to Poject Assis was worthwhile, too. I’m glad we went with the option to feed the animals because that was my favorite part. I shook hands with a howler monkey, too! My least favorite part? Getting bit by these tiny devil ants. Those bites lasted for weeks! When in Rome, right? I’m not even upset…they are mementos in a way!
Rio Perdido - Guanacaste
Holy moly, I was not prepared for the road to Rio Perdido. The last 30 minutes of the two hour ride was on a dirt road into what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I did enjoy seeing the change in landscape from the tropical area of Arenal to the dryer climate of Guanacaste. The view from the main building at the “hotel” had elevated views of the surrounding forest and I was immediately drawn to how the woods and streams around the property reminded me of the East Coast, very Appalachian Mountain-esque. I also enjoyed how isolated it was (my sister, the city girl, didn’t!). The little bungalow/cabin we stayed in was really neat. I was swinging in one of the hammock chairs on the porch one day and spotted a small troupe of White Faced Monkeys scamper past in the trees nearby. It was surreal! The food and cocktails at the hotel was great…given that it was really your only choice for dining for miles. The thermal pools were fantastic, too. We didn’t do any organized activities but did take the hike to the nearby look out and down to the thermal river to explore the canyons. Rio Perdido certainly will not appeal to everyone but it is was a unique experience.
The Westin Playa Conchal - Guanacaste
The Westin Playa Conchal was a sight for sore eyes, especially coming from such an isolated area. Here we enjoyed the all-inclusive environment with its many restaurants and bars. We decided to splurge and upgrade to the Royal Beach level so we were treated to our own adults only pool, bar and restaurant in a separate area of the resort. The staff here were among the friendliest that I have ever encountered throughout my years of traveling. They really did their best to ensure we had everything we needed. We spent our brief two day stay by the pool bar and even rented a jet ski at the beach. Speaking of the beach, it was completely made of shells and coral. A bit rough to walk on barefoot but really neat. There were plenty of howler monkeys beachside to keep us entertained, as well! In fact, there was wildlife everywhere! We saw giant iguanas, howler monkeys, resort cats and dozens of different birds.
El Mangroove – Guanacaste
After enjoying the easy life for a couple of days we headed to the last stop on our itinerary, El Mangroove, which is located about an hour north on the coast. First impression of was that it was very modern and contemporary in design. It was also a very small resort, nothing like the Westin Playa Conchal. It was a more intimate environment with two restaurants/bars, a pool, gym and spa. The best part about our room was the screened “porch!” As you enter the guest room, there is a living room with large screen windows, creating a porch-like setting. The bedroom and bathroom were closed off from the porch by large sliding glass doors. It was really nice to sit out there in the evening and listen to the bugs, birds and sounds of the night…not to mention an NBA star’s wedding reception adjacent to our building.
Since there really wasn’t much to keep us busy at the resort, other than sitting by the pool all day, we decided to rent a car from the onsite Avis office and explore a bit before leaving for the U.S. We hopped on down to the popular beach and resort area of Tamarindo, also known as a surfer haven. The town had a very bohemian feel and was not super touristy. I would definitely go back and stay there. The beach was gorgeous, too, and very active with tons of people enjoying the sun and surf. After picking up some dinner and supplies for a last night in Costa Rica pizza party, we headed back to our hotel, enjoying the views of the setting sun over the mountains on the way. We were pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to get around by car on our own.
My first thought upon returning to the U.S. after the trip was “I’m never going to Mexico again.” Costa Rica has the all-inclusive resorts I’ve come to know Mexico for and I feel like the locals are just so much nicer and less pushy. The landscape is unbelievable and I was captivated by how it changed as we traveled from region to region. It is a relatively easy destination, too. You can get by with only knowing a little bit of Spanish and in some places you can even use USD but most places accept credit cards. It is comfortably exotic and is best explored at an easy pace, giving you time to take everything in. I cannot wait to return to check out all the areas that I missed. That is the nice thing about Costa Rica, every part of the country so different and unique that it deserves a second or even third or fourth visit!