If you’d told me before my trip to Costa Rica that I’d make lifelong friends with a seventy-year-old couple, get excited by the sight of a giant millipede and be able to rattle off the physical traits of the country’s most poisonous snakes, I would have thought you were insane. But just mere days into my two week Costa Rica adventure, I had embraced my inner Bear Grylls (or, let’s face it, Bill Oddie) and become fully immersed in everything the rainforest had to offer.
The trip got off to a shaky start when, jetlagged and bleary-eyed, our taxi wove its way from the airport towards the concrete jungle of San Jose. To say it was an assault on the senses was an understatement – honking car horns, blaring music and bellowing market traders had us thinking we might as well have been on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon. But, that didn’t deter us #britsabroad, and after a decent night’s sleep at the epic Hotel Presidente, we were ready for our adventure to begin.
Our first day involved us accidentally joining a free walking tour and learning some pretty cool stuff, like the city built a brewery because everyone kept going blind from their own home-brewed moonshine and the girls school set fire to the newspaper in an act of feminism in the early 20th century. Talk about girl power! After this impromptu history lesson, it was time to get to grips with nature so we packed up and ventured forth towards our next stop – Sarapiqui.
We stayed at the beautiful Sarapiqui Rainforest Lodge which felt like a tranquil oasis after a couple of days in hectic San Jose. It even had its own hiking trails which were accessed exclusively via a pretty terrifying hanging bridge.
Having navigated said bridge with only a tiny bit of swearing, we found ourselves in the middle of the most amazing rainforest. Somewhere between looking up to try and spot sloths and monkeys and looking at my feet to avoid stepping on any lurking serpents, we caught our first glimpse of a toucan. I’m not a bird fanatic by any means but the first sight of that colourful, majestic beast blew my mind! It wasn’t just the abundance of nature that made for a pretty special experience, as the next day we had our fill of adventure thanks to a hairy white water rafting experience.
Our amazing guide from Sarapiqui River Rafting; Mariano a.k.a Rasta, took us on a wet and wild adventure through class 2 and 3 rapids.
When we weren’t grappling with a face full of water and trying not to fall out of the raft (imagine a tamer version of Without A Paddle), Mariano was pointing out monkeys, iguanas and all kinds of birds along the way.
We were treated to a picnic of the most amazing fruit platter, complete with pineapples, coconuts and fresh cacao fruit, prepared right in front of us. The highlight was when my husband asked ‘what is this?’ (it was an orange). The language barrier also meant we didn’t understand it wasn’t a good idea to bite into a cacao fruit, as it’s horribly bitter and can cause tummy troubles. Which we found out later.
The last stop in our whirlwind first week was Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa. Nestled between the Arenal volcano and the bustling town of La Fortuna, it’s a sprawling mecca of hot springs, surrounded by lush plants and perfectly manicured gardens. In other words, a little slice of paradise.
The staff were amazing, the cocktails were delicious, and I had the best deep tissue massage of my life at the spa, located in the heart of the rainforest. There was yet more wildlife here too – raccoons, iguanas and butterflies were just some of the critters we spotted lurking around our room.
Our first full day here called for more adventure, with a zip lining experience called Sky Trek at Arenal national park. This adrenalin-inducing rainforest assault course consisted of 12 activities including ziplines, a tarzan swing, hanging bridges and rappelling. Our guides were brilliant and made us feel in very safe hands – well, as safe as you can feel when you’re dangling hundreds of feet in the air at speeds of up to 60mph.
We finished the day with yet more cocktails by the pool, ready for the long drive West to Liberia.
To be continued…