Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Today's guest post on a great girls' trip to Costa Rica comes from our friend Bex that we met on twitter. Like what you see? Follow her twitterfeed at www.twitter.com/bextastic.
Who did you go to Costa Rica with?
The trip to Costa Rica was my annual “Girls’ Trip” with three of my closest girlfriends, Corinne, Deanna and Melissa. Last year was our inaugural “Girls’ Trip” (to Vegas!) and we decided that we need to do at least one girls only trip a year. With all of our lives getting so crazy, it is so nice to make time like this for each other and really reconnect.
Why did you choose Costa Rica?
Well, we were originally thinking Spain for Girls’ Trip 2009, but at the time we were booking we couldn’t find any good deals. I have had a few friends travel to Costa Rica and heard raving reviews of the beaches, the volcano, and just the overall awesomeness of the country. My friends pretty much put their trust in me when it comes to trip planning, and are up for travelling to just about anywhere, so when I saw a good deal on flights, they said “book it!”
How did you get there?
We got a great deal on Spirit Airlines. But always remember, you get what you pay for…(JSG Note: Ah, yes. We’ve flown Spirit ourselves!)
What were your expectations of Costa Rica before going?
We were really just expecting a fun, adventurous trip to a very beautiful country. And honestly, we were not disappointed in the least.
What surprised you the most?
For as much planning as we did, several things surprised us, but most of them in a great way.
First, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy everything was. From driving around (mind you, we had a Garmin GPS, BEST! DECISION! EVER!), to planning activities, to paying for things. Everything was just very easy.
Also, the locals were always very willing to speak English (or try to) and never became frustrated with us when our Spanish wasn’t up to par – a nice change from visiting certain European countries. We found more people spoke English near the major touristy spots (Tamarindo and Arenal) and not as much in the more rural areas.
The only bad surprise? Well that would be the killer mosquitoes we encountered ON THE BEACH. Who knew you could get eaten alive on the beach, we thought that would only be a problem in the rainforests.
Where did you stay?
In Tamarindo we stayed at a wonderful little hotel, called Hotel Arco Iris. The owner, Richard, is a fellow American who moved down to Costa Rica from California about two years ago. We had hot coffee and breakfast every day, clean (and spacious!) rooms and a great pool/deck area that was great for late afternoon and evening relaxing with a few beers purchased down the street. We all agreed we would highly recommend Hotel Arco Iris, and definitely stay there again when we go back.
In Arenal we stayed at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, which is actually the only hotel on the volcano. The day we arrived the volcano had one of the largest eruptions for quite some time, so each night we stayed there we could lay in bed and watch the hot lava flow down the volcano (from a safe distance, obviously). This hotel is really perfect for all types of travelers, as I could see it being a great romantic getaway, and also really fun to do with kids. Everyone at the main lodge was very friendly and they had several activities that you could book through the lodge, at a discounted price. My only caveat would be don’t attempt to stay here unless you have rented a car for your trip, it is about a 20 minute drive to La Fortuna, and on a very bumpy road – plus, cab rides to La Fortuna are $20 (one way) so it could add quite a bit to the cost of your trip.
What did you do on your trip?
What didn’t we do on this trip? In Tamarindo we took surfing lessons, relaxed on the beach, and attempted snorkeling. In Arenal we had more action-packed adventure, which included horse-back riding, zip-lining through the rainforest, white-water rafting, and we even visited a serpentarium where we each held a tarantula and snake! At the end of our time in Arenal we did take an evening to relax at the Baldi Hot Springs in neighboring town La Fortuna, which while it was a bit touristy, it was also a welcome break from all the adventure.
How was the nightlife? The men?
With all of the exciting daytime activities, we actually only went out on the town once, in Tamarindo. Tamarindo was definitely a fun time, though. There are lots of local bars with music every night. It is a great vacation spot as it is very casual, no need to get dressed up at all, which is a great change if you are visiting from any major city! Plus, the drinks were pretty cheap, and my friends loved the local beers, Pilsen and Imperial.
The men…well, three of us on the trip are in relationships, but…it is a Latin American country. The men were very friendly, but not aggressive at all. Drinks were purchased for us and there was plenty of dancing, so let’s just say a good time was had by all. One of my friends commented that “Yo tengo un novio” seem to be respected when thrown out there.
Where were most of the people you met from?
It really was an eclectic group most of the places we stayed, as we met fellow travelers from Canada, France and all parts of the U.S. The general consensus we got is that the secret about Costa Rica is out, so get there while you can, before it gets overrun with adventure-seeking tourists.
Would you recommend it for a girls' trip?
I would absolutely, hands down recommend Costa Rica for a Girls’ Trip. We did a lot of adventurous activities, but that is what we were looking for (and, really, that is a lot of what Costa Rica is about). The great aspect of this country, for me, is that it is a destination where you can make any type of trip out of it that you want. We chose the adventurous route, but you could very easily enjoy a relaxing time exploring the many, many, many beautiful beaches in the country. We didn’t stay at the resort hotels, because we wanted to get more of a real flavor of the country, but there were plenty of those to choose from as well.
My theory on what makes a great Girls’ Trip is the company, not the locale, though!
Anything you wish you knew before you went?
The only two pieces of advice we would give to those heading to Costa Rica that we wish we had before our trip are simple: (1) always keep toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you on the long car trips (and EVERYWHERE is a long car trip in Costa Rica!) and (2) the bugs are everywhere, invest in some good bug spray. Other than that? We had a blast and no complaints!
Want to know more? Read another take on Costa Rica.