Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Costa Rica is one of those places we've always dream about going to but haven't been able to cross it off our list quite yet. Guest blogger Danae Danta recently vacationed there with her two besties from college Laurie and Tracy. (Shown above, Laurie, Tracy and Danae) Danae gives us the scoop on everything we need to know about traveling to Costa Rica.
Why did you pick Costa Rica for your trip?
My girlfriend Laurie went to Costa Rica 10 years ago and raved about it ever since. When it was time to choose a destination for our girls' getaway, we wanted to go somewhere tropical (and affordable) where we could experience both adventure and relaxation. Costa Rica fit all our criteria.
How did you plan your trip to Costa Rica? Did you stay in the same area the entire trip?
Luckily, Laurie had a lot of time on her hands so she was able to do research online and read trip reviews to plan our trip. She organized a great itinerary where we got to explore several parts of the country (with a personal driver taking us to each location). We flew into San Jose, then went to Arenal/La Fortuna , Monteverde, Tamarindo and finally Montezuma.
How did you pick your hotel? Was it word of mouth? Internet research? A travel agent?
We have several friends who had been to Costa Rica so we asked for recommendations, as well as researching reviews online. We also enlisted the help of a great FREE service called Anywhere Costa Rica. This was an amazing resource for organizing our transportation and activities, in addition to giving hotel advice.
Would you recommend the hotel to fellow travelers? Why or why not?
We visited several hotels during our trip and all were unique in their own way! While in Arenal we stayed at Los Lagos Resort & Spa. Located at the base of Arenal Volcano, we had breathtaking views of both the countryside and the volcano from our spacious, clean room. There were hot springs, pools and waterslides; not to mention an amazing buffet breakfast which was included.
In Monteverde we stayed at the Tree House Hotel. We actually ended up here because of a reservation mix-up, so it wasn’t what we expected. Let’s just say the room was so creepy that only one of us was willing to brave taking a shower; the other two decided not to risk catching an illness! On the bright side, the included breakfast made up for our sleepless night. The food was fresh and flavorful, and our pleasant waiter even made animal faces in our cappuccino foam.
Our hotel in Tamarindo, Tamarindo Diria, was by far the most touristy (and luxurious) of all the places we stayed. It was a beautiful resort right on the beach, that again boasted an amazing buffet breakfast & helpful staff.
Our last hotel in Montezuma was the Ylang Ylang Beach Resort , a hidden paradise only accessible by a 20 minute walk or 10 minute drive on the beach (literally). Surrounded by lush greenery, monkeys and birds, we felt totally secluded and completely relaxed in our seaside bungalow. Both breakfast and dinner were included - and these were 4-star meals we’d pay a fortune for in NYC! On top of everything, the hotel staff was incredibly accommodating and went above and beyond to make our trip special.
What activities did you do in Costa Rica?
While in Arenal we hiked to La Fortuna Waterfall (picture attached). As the only people swimming in the lagoon of this powerful, natural wonder, it was an experience that literally made our hearts jump out of our chests. In downtown La Fortuna the spa treatments were plentiful, so we indulged in a one - hour massage with a mud mask facial for only $30 US dollars. Possibly the best part of our stay in Arenal was the white water rafting. A half-day excursion, our rafting adventure included a break for fresh fruit and a hearty lunch. Our instructors were very friendly and eager to teach us about their country.
In Montverde we zip lined through the rainforest and even tried the “Tarzan Swing”. This was essentially a large bungee cord tied to a tree high above the rainforest canopy - it was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. In Monteverde we also went on a 3.5 hour horseback riding tour with Sabinas Smiling Horses. A rugged trek through the beautiful countryside, this tour was physically and mentally challenging for even the brave at heart, but it was definitely worth it.
In the beach town of Tamarindo we all surfed for our first time (a 2 hour lesson from local surfers was $25). As a reward for actually getting up on our boards, we enjoyed frozen cocktails while taking in a breathtaking Pacific sunset.
Finally in the tiny, hippie, surfer town of Montezuma, we ended our trip with more low-key activities. We enjoyed morning yoga overlooking the beach and some self- guided hiking where we stumbled upon everything from an impressive waterfall to monkeys throwing branches at us from the trees above…it was perfect.
What was the nightlife like in Costa Rica? Did you meet cute boys?
We didn’t go out very much at night, with the exception of the beach towns. In Tamarindo, we went to a bar recommended by locals where we were shocked to witness some real Dancing with Stars moves on the dance floor. In Montezuma, we mingled with the locals at the main bar on the beach. And everyone we met treated us like their best friend, even the cute boys….
What are some must-pack items (clothing and toiletries)?
Sunscreen, bug spray - because you WILL get attacked - and motion sickness pills for the long, bumpy car rides. Also, a small calculator for figuring out the exchange rate (we didn’t have this, but it would have been nice). Definitely bring sneakers for hiking and a light jacket because it can get cool in the rainforest and at night.
Every moment of our trip in Costa Rica was an adventure. We still can’t decide what we liked best because everything so wonderful. From the welcoming locals, picturesque scenery, exhilarating activities to the fresh cuisine- Costa Rica was the trip of a lifetime.