As I sit on my couch sipping hot cocoa on this frigid January day in the Midwest, my thoughts keep drifting back to my trip to Costa Rica last May. I was asked to speak at a conference, and you can imagine how quickly I accepted the invitation. My husband came along as well. I thought I would write about our trip for anyone who may be considering a vacation to Costa Rica.
A common motto or phrase in Costa Rica is “pura vida,” meaning pure or full life of peace and satisfaction. This is definitely the vibe you get while in Cosa Rica. Not just because you hear it spoken often as a greeting or an answer to a question (i.e. “How’s it going?” “Pura vida!”), but you feel it in the culture itself and the people. My husband and I found Costa Ricans to be overwhelmingly warm, friendly, and laid back. They even have been without a military since 1948, which is proudly displayed on many souvenirs.
We went as the wet season was about to begin, and it lasts through November. This is a fantastic time to go as the tourism rates drop dramatically after April. During our trip we experienced very little rain, so the discount in my opinion is definitely worth it. Also the beaches and resorts are much less crowded this time of year, and the rainforest is especially verdant. Although if you are wanting to do some traveling around the country, which is easy to do in such a small nation (less than 20,000 square miles, roughly the size of West Virginia), you should be advised that many of their roads get washed out and treacherous during the wet season. So if you want to safely cover a lot of ground there, you may want to opt for the dry season.
We mostly stayed at The Hilton Doubletree, an all-inclusive resort on the Pacific side of the country in Puntarenas. Our experience there was excellent. Room rates range from $178 up to $500 per night, depending on what amenities you are looking for. The food was amazing. From authentic Central American cuisine, excellent sea food, rich desserts, to pizza and burgers, there was something for everyone. The main dining area is buffet style with many different stations. For anyone who does not enjoy buffets they also have other restaurants at the hotel that are by reservation only (these are not included in the all-inclusive package so this would be an additional cost). Plus they have many snack bars, wet bars, and a fruit bar. Basically a guest there can eat almost continually as the only time of day there is not food available is from 1am-7am. We tried the food at all but one of the restaurants and found everything satisfactory. Luckily the resort has a gym, plenty of pools, and of course the ocean to help you work off all of that consumption. The resort also provides several great entertainment options.
Activities for young children and teenagers occurred daily, as well as group games, dance lessons, exercise classes, and beach parties. A variety of shows were performed each night, including musicians, fire eaters, and dancers. The resort provides a schedule of such events; however, the events did not always take place. If you are someone who likes to stick to an agenda, keep this in mind and try to go with the flow. The events that always followed schedule were the evening shows. While all of this is enough to keep you busy during your stay, there are myriad attractions in the area for you to enjoy.
My husband and I spent a day zip lining over small and large waterfalls, and this was certainly one of the highlights of our trip as we were able to see the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We also went hiking, horseback riding, visited Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. There are also many other brilliant attractions and things to do, such as a visit to the Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Hot Springs, Manuel Antonio National Park, Jaco Beach, Tortuga Island, white water rafting, surfing, and plenty of relaxing beach time. We did not visit the Caribbean side of the country which has white, sandy beaches (as opposed to the black sand of the Pacific beaches).
Overall I would unquestionably recommend Costa Rica as a travel destination. It’s an excellent place for couples looking for a romantic getaway, groups, or families looking for fun. There are attractions for both those who want to experience adventure or just unwind by the water sipping a Miami vice. The charm of the country will stay with you long after you’ve returned home.
Have you been to Costa Rica or are hoping to go? Leave a comment below! Please note that I am not affiliated in anyway with any of the businesses I mentioned, just wanted to share our experience with you! The above photo was taken by me in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.