After a short stay in La Fortuna, we swapped the rainforest for the dry forest and took the straightforward drive three hours west to Liberia. After a pretty smooth journey, we arrived at our next stop – Hacienda la Guachipelin in Rincon de la Vieja.
This working ranch, situated in over 3,000 acres of farmland and with a nearby national park to boot, was unlike anything we’d experienced so far in Costa Rica.
Instead of lush green plants, this unique eco-tourism destination encompassed a dry, tropical forest and was surrounded by inviting natural hot springs, and bubbling volcanic mudpits.
After checking in, we headed to the hotel’s activity centre where we signed up for an afternoon of tubing in the nearby Rio Negro river. What we hadn’t bargained for, however, was that the tubing was a 45 minute journey away– and the only way to get there was on horseback! After exchanging a look of mild panic with my husband, we were shown to our horses – two huge colts called Paramerico and Jorquito.
Neither of us had ever ridden a horse before, so we were apprehensive to say the least. I’d like to say that our fears were unfounded and we discovered we were born to be on horseback, but what really happened is that, 5 minutes in to our journey, our horses had a fight and started baring teeth, biting each other, whinnying (is that a word) and running manically away from our guide. Our immediate response was to shout ‘wooooah!! WOOAHH’ as we gripped on for dear life in horror. Thankfully, our guide bolted over and separated the scrapping pair but the next 40 minutes were spent with us swearing blind we would never get on a horse again.
The tubing, by comparison, was a breeze! We were swept along the river aided by our guides, navigating steep drops and spotting wildlife along the way – heaven. After a good night’s sleep, and eventually seeing the funny side of our equine misadventure, we got up early for our 4 hour guided hike to La Gangreja waterfall.
Our guide was keen to set off before everyone else to get the best experience, so we hiked at pace through the dry forest until we reached the most spectacular waterfall, stopping off for a picnic en route.
The hidden waterfall was so beautiful and due to our early start, we pretty much had it all to ourselves. We even manged to have a quick dip which was much needed after a tough hike! After a day of hiking, we soothed our aching muscles in the hot springs and the next day, we were up bright and early for the long drive to Monteverde.
Monteverde was probably my favourite place of the whole trip. Not only did we stay in a fantastic hotel (Monteverde Lodge and Gardens) with a beautiful restaurant, relaxing pool area and gorgeous grounds (complete with a yoga area and hammocks), the staff were amazing and the experiences we had there were truly once-in-a-lifetime.
We went on a tour of the Don Juan coffee plantation and took an early morning nature hike in the Monteverde reserve, where our guide Donald talked us through some of the species of bird, including the resplendent quetzal, giant millipedes and insanely beautiful hummingbirds.
We also went in for round 2 of zip-ling, this time in the cloud forest, and discovered snakes, spiders and beetles on a late night hike. We LOVED the town of Monteverde and had some of our favourite meals from the trip there. It was a quirky little place, perfect for people watching and making friends with the locals.
After saying goodbye to Monteverde, we headed to our last stop – Si Como No resort in Manuel Antonio.
The view from the hotel lobby was breathtaking and we loved having a relaxing pool area to cool off in – two for one sangria, yes please!
We continued our action-packed theme with a morning of surfing in some pretty crazy waves. The hotel staff were so helpful and the concierge booked our surfing lessons with a local company. We had an absolute blast! On our final day, we packed in another hike at the Manuel Antonio National Park.
We definitely saved the best till last when it comes to experiences as the hike on our final day was out of this world. Our guide was phenomenally knowledgeable and so welcoming, and we had great company in the form of a retired couple from San Diego. It was our favourite morning of the trip as we saw monkeys, birds, snakes, frogs, lizards, bats and after almost two weeks of waiting, we finally saw sloths! We ended the trip with huge smiles on our faces and I was so upset to leave on our final day. What an adventure. Costa Rica, we will be back!