Costa Rica is known for its lush flora, abundant species of animals, lovely people, and adventurous activities–pura vida! All of those are right up my alley. I’ve wanted to go to Costa Rica for a very long time, and I found a great deal to San Jose. But I was hesitant to book a trip to Costa Rica because it seemed that all the activities I wanted to do would be more enjoyable with another person. I worried how I would do zip lining or canyoning solo. In addition, everywhere I wanted to go was three to five hours away and with only five days in the country, it seemed impossible. Thankfully, my coworker/friend suggested I stay in La Fortuna, since she had been there before. She said they had a mix of everything. Since I didn’t have a better idea of where to stay, I took her advice and am so glad that I did! All of my worries were unfounded.
Room & Board
As an introvert who travels solo, finding lodging is easy, but can be more costly. I try to find the balance between comfort and expense-sometimes that’s AirBnb and sometimes that’s a hotel. The hotel won out this time. Hotel Secreto, as it is aptly named, was only a month old and very affordable. It was clean, spacious and most of all, had air conditioning. Comfort is all I ask for when it comes to my accommodations. The staff was excellent and even had a welcome libation for me. Yes, please and thank you, because after that three hour trek (well, cab ride) from San Jose to La Fortuna, I was more than happy to see that welcome drink.
The staff totally took the legwork out of planning my excursions as they were able to call and get the best rates. The hardest part was actually deciding what and how much to do in one day. Once I decided, I just walked to the reception desk, told them my plans, and they made it happen. Sometimes I wouldn’t decide until after breakfast what I wanted to do and only had an hour or two before the tour company picked me up. I enjoyed the staff so much that I still keep in contact with them on social media. I highly recommend that hotel for anyone staying in La Fortuna.
Victuals & Beverages
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so what better way to start the day than with a traditional Costa Rican dish of gallo pinto. Pinto (as it’s called by locals) is a combo of rice and beans, and was paired with eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast. I had this complimentary breakfast every day at the hotel, which was another reason why I chose this hotel.
Costa Rica is known for coffee, chocolate and for me, ceviche. Typically, I eat at least one great (read: expensive) meal on my trips. Restaurant Nene’s was a brilliant recommendation for that exemplary meal. I ordered the special: churrasco steak with mixed vegetables and plantains. I chose ceviche for my appetizer and while everything else was delicious, the ceviche is what I want to brag on. I had never really had ceviche in the States, although I knew what it was. Because I’m more adventurous outside of the States, I decided to give it a try. Although I don’t have a true point of reference, it was the best ceviche I’ve ever had! I can say that because the fish was extremely fresh, the flavors of the herbs and spices complimented each other really well, and it was delicious. It was served with tortilla chips and a dip, that was equally delicious. Some of my IG “friends” have countered that Cusco, Peru and Ecuador have the best ceviche, but that remains to be seen because this ceviche seems to be a tough act to follow. Of course, now that I’ve tasted wonderful ceviche in Costa Rica, it’s ruined it for me wanting to eat it in the States. That just means I’ll have to make another trip to Central or South America.
Because I try to see and do as much as possible on vacations due to time constraints, I tend to eat less frequently. At other times, I’m so enthralled by a place, that I forget to eat. That was the case here in Costa Rica, so I have limited food pics because I honestly don’t remember eating that much. But I did tear up a whole fish for dinner one night. So, there’s that.
Discovery & Exploration
There are numerous excursions and adventures to embark on in Costa Rica. I mean truly, you can be busy every day with something different, such as zip lining, canyoning, whitewater rafting, etc. As you may know, I love different adventures and I’m willing to try something out of the norm in each place that I visit.
Canopy Los Cañones is an excellent place for ziplining and I highly recommend it. The staff was incredible. They were knowledgeable and were concerned about safety first, which, when you’re dangling by a couple ropes hundreds of feet in the air, should definitely be a priority. They made me feel safe, even on the carbon steel ropes that enable you feel like you’re truly “zipping” through the trees. After being on about 15 cables, it was time for some rest and relaxation at Los Lagos Resort, whose amenities are also included in the zip lining excursion. This resort has thermal swimming pools, regular swimming pools, water slides and animal habitats. The fun of the water slides made me feel like I was 10 again, but the speed of them reminded me that I was not. After all that adrenaline from the zip lining and water slides, the animal habitats were a nice, relaxing break. There was a butterfly house, a reptile habitat and beautiful flora to explore. I’d even consider staying at the resort next time for these amenities. The price for the zip lining and the extras at the resort made this adventure company a standout to me.
Since I had done ziplining in Costa Rica, it was time to to do something I’d been wanting to do for a few years- canyoning (canyoneering). Canyoning is rappelling down waterfalls and caves. The funny thing about me wanting to do this is I’m afraid of heights. Go figure! But I was determined to do it since Costa Rica is known for canyoning. I booked my excursion with Pure Trek Canyoning and set out for the adventure I was determined to experience.
Canyoning is not for the faint of heart; yet, it was so exhilarating that I wanted to keep going. When conquering any fear, the first time is either the best or the worst. This was a little of both because he first rappel was the longest. From there it was the monkey drop, which consisted of me holding on to a rope and being dropped a few hundred feet to the ground. Yeah, no big deal being dropped by a rope. After several more rappels, we hiked back to the base. If I go back to Costa Rica, I’ll definitely do this again. So if you’re afraid of heights, don’t let that fear keep you from doing this because it was certainly worth it to me.
While we’re on the subject of discovery and exploration, let’s talk about river tubing on the Arenal River. In my mind, river tubing is sitting in a tube, possibly with a drink, letting the mild river current gently take me hither and thither. Um, yeah, no. Arenal River tubing solo- yes I was the only one who signed up for it, so I got a private trip-is not for the lazy, lol. This is no amusement park lazy river. I was tethered to the guide and it was closer to whitewater rafting without the paddle than I’d like. Where we went tubing was quite shallow and the river has plenty of rocks. Besides seeing them, I was able to feel them bruising my buttocks as I went over them. I’m not sure if the river was too shallow, my body too long, my butt too big or the tube was too small, but it was not as enjoyable as I had hoped. The water was cool and refreshing and there was time to get out of the tube to enjoy it, but it was not what I was expecting and I’m not sure I’d try it again with that company or that river. Banged up and bruised is not how I like to leave, but all adventures aren’t promised to be great. It was an experience, though, and I still have that.
Unusual & Interesting
The chocolate tour goes here because, well, it’s both unusual and interesting. As I mentioned before, Costa Rica is known for its chocolate, so how could I leave without doing something chocolate-related? Rainforest Chocolate Tour is just a short taxi ride away from the city center of La Fortuna. It was quite overcast but nice and the guide was very knowledgeable about the plantation. This plantation is not a working plantation, but in Limón they have actual working chocolate plantations. I have a newfound appreciation for chocolate because if I actually had to make it, I’d never eat it. Also, I will not complain about the price of good chocolate. From the pod to fermenting to pounding to sifting to the final product–making chocolate is no joke. The hands-on demonstration coupled with tasting made this tour just as engaging as the more adventurous ones. Plus, after the demonstration we got to eat as much chocolate as we wanted and even “dress it up” with toppings. That was the best part of the chocolate tour, of course. Thumbs up!
Costa Rica has so many more things that could go under this category, but I simply didn’t have the time to explore them all. If I had known what I know now, I would’ve waited until I had more time. But, that’s ok, that just means I’ll have to go back to see what else this wonderful country has to offer.
Tips & Tricks
- No need to rush to make reservations for excursions before arriving in Costa Rica because it’s very easy to do the day before or the day of the excursion. This will allow you to change your itinerary if need be.
- Arrange for transportation ahead of time if arriving in San Jose after 1pm. After that, it’s the choice between an inexpensive, but adventurous local bus or a taxi. If you choose the latter, be sure to negotiate the price from the taxi drivers. I was able to get them to shave off about $30.
- Costa Rica is not a cheap destination. That’s not to say it’s expensive, but the country is completely aware of it’s tourist destination status. Most prices are in USD, if that tells you anything. Research and plan what you think you’d like to do so you’re not in for “sticker shock”. This isn’t El Salvador or Nicaragua.
- Be sure to bring closed toe shoes for zip lining. Most of the companies have that as a requirement.
- Be sure to bring lots of insect repellent.
- I didn’t mention the name of the company for the river tubing because I had a frightening experience with them for ziplining. The name of the company is Go Adventure Park. They got rave reviews on TripAdvisor but I personally had a bad experience with them. I felt the staff was unprofessional, there were too many people for it to be safe and it was just no comparison to the wonderful experience I had with Canopy Los Cañones.
Pura Vida is a term you will hear Costa Ricans say a lot. It’s literally translated as pure life, but it’s more of a mindset and way of life for the residents of this country. If you visit, you will see that most of the people are happy and they absolutely love Costa Rica from the purest parts of them. Although I wasn’t there for long, I certainly got to experience pura vida! Have you been to Costa Rica? What activities did you do or did you want to do?