As most of our travel usually goes, we pick a location, quickly book plane tickets and hotels and then head out three weeks later. It doesn’t leave too much time for getting ourselves prepared, and that we left just after New Years, it didn’t even leave much time for getting excited because the thought of our trip was eclipsed by the excitement of the holidays!
I had my very first pregnancy/hormone/hysterical breakdown when I was searching for hotels. Like, hyperventilating and hysterical crying. Because I couldn’t find a hotel that was perfect. In retrospect, it’s hilarious but at the time, it wasn’t pretty. Costa Rica is small, but it’s big. There are so many different areas and each one seems so different! Even though they are fairly close together, getting from one to another is expensive and time consuming. So I wanted to make sure we did it correctly. We flew in and out of San Jose, spent three days on the Central Pacific Coast and then three days in the Cloud Forest. It was all pretty spectacular and I’d highly recommend it! For getting around the country, Chris was wary of renting a car, as we’d heard some pretty terrible stories and heard it was difficult. You’ll definitely need a GPS (they don’t really have addresses in Costa Rica. I don’t know how you’d do it without a GPS!), and it’s slow going because you’ll very likely to get stuck behind a large truck traveling very slowly on a one lane road, but definitely worth it. It’s about the same price (if you go with the full insurance package) as paying for individual private transfers, but then we had the flexibility to explore as we pleased.
I know we wanted to go down into the Manuel Antonio Park, but I didn’t love any of the hotels in the area. There are only two that have access to the beach, and I didn’t love either. So we ended up at Hotel Clandestino. You’ll definitely need a car (or spring for taxis), as it’s about 30 km from Manuel Antonio and 10 km down a long dirt road. But it’s worth it. The pool overlooks a gorgeous stretch of private beach. The food is good beach food, but I was a little bored of the restaurant after three days. On the days we went into town, breakfast at Hotel Mariposa (the buffet breakfast is decent, but the view is ridiculous!) and lunch at Cafe Milagro were delicious!
We were just sitting on the beach when the concierge came out to tell us that a baby turtle release had just started down the beach! It was so amazing to watch them make their way to the ocean!
Manuel Antonio National Park is lovely! We saw monkeys, sloths, birds, butterflies and so much green! We didn’t hire a guide, and I’m sure we might have seen more if we had, but if you pay attention, you can see where people are looking and spot them on your own.
My cankles are out of control.
I just realized I didn’t take a single real picture of the beach, although there are a few on Instagram. It was empty, there were hammocks, and the sunsets were spectacular. You should go to see it for yourself!
After three days of sitting and a little bit of exploring, we packed up the car and drove the three hours into the Cloud Forest. If at all possible, make sure you get there before it gets dark. We didn’t quite make it and the last 20 minutes of our drive was terrifying. The roads are TINY, on the side of a mountain, and the clouds are so thick you can’t see through them. Plus, when you get to the amazing El Silencio Lodge & Spa, and it’s so dark you can’t see it, you’re missing out.
The Lodge is comprised of 16 small cottages, each with an amazing porch and hot tub. You don’t have to leave the property after you arrive… there’s hiking, waterfalls, zip lines, horses, fishing, a working farm and an amazing spa. They’ll also schedule trips to the market, the volcanoes, coffee tours… whatever you might want! The food is incredible (I could still be eating there) and everyone was so accommodating. At turn down, they put hot water bottles under the covers so it’s toasty when you slide into bed. I want one for home now. Chris had caught a few fish the day we left the beach, so the chef cooked them for our dinner one night. We looked like crazy hobos, rolling in after dark with a trash bag full of fish (true story), but it was worth it! You’re literally in the middle of nowhere, but can be back to the San Jose airport in around 90 minutes. It was perfect, and I would definitely go back!
At 3:00, they’ll deliver hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies to those rocking chairs on your porch. It’s heaven.
We hiked, we ate and we napped. It was all pretty spectacular and I would definitely go back to see the peninsula beaches and the Arenal volcano on another trip!