Tundra to Tropics...
Late February is the perfect time to visit Costa Rica! My husband, Justin, and I traded the brutal winter weather of Pittsburgh for blue skies and balmy temps! Since it was our first time in this part of the world, we weren't sure what to expect; however any expectations we may have had were far exceeded. We experienced every element that makes a trip pass by much too quickly, leaving you with the longing to return before you've even gone. The people of Costa Rica delighted us with their hospitality, the natural beauty got better with every turn and each dish was fresh and deliciously seasoned. While it is impossible to say which part we liked best, it is the sentiment that Costa Ricans call, Pura Vida that will keep us longing to return!
We spent 5 days on the Nicoya Peninsula and 3 days in the region around the Arenal Volcano. If you’re considering a trip to Costa Rica, here are our top recommendations (click the name for more info):
Best Accommodations (EVER!): Punta Islita Hotel: An eco-friendly resort that gives over 40% of its annual revenue back to the local community! Superb service, stunning views, delicious food, private bungalows, and flocks of scarlet macaws…this is not your ordinary hotel!
Best Beach: Playa Carrillo: A crescent-shaped, white sand beach with bathtub temperature water…need I say more? Oh yeah, it’s lined with beautiful palm trees perfect for hanging your hammock and drinking warm Imperial!
Best Pit Stop: Nuevo Arenal: A cozy village situated on a hillside overlooking Lake Arenal. It has some nice shops and an authentic German bakery that’s definitely worth a visit!
Best Lunch Spot: Tinajas Arenal: Getting there is a little bumpy but definitely worth the drive. It offers an outstanding panoramic view of Lake Arenal along with delicious, tico style food. If you ask for a fruit plate, be prepared for a fruit platter!
Best Breakfast Spot: Chocolate Fusion Café in La Fortuna: Sitting in the shadow of Arenal Volcano, we enjoyed our best cup of coffee at this café! The breakfast selection and baked good left us wanting for nothing!
Best Hot Springs: Tabacon Hot Springs: If you dig the idea of soaking in a hot spring river, in the middle of the jungle under a starry sky, this place can’t be missed! The resort has over 20 pools that cascade down a hillside.
Best Hike: Arenal Volcano National Park: This jungle hike led us led us on a path through dense tropical vegetation where we found a group of white faced, Capuchin monkeys climbing through the trees!
Wildlife scavenger hunt list: SLOTHS!, Capuchin monkeys, snakes, coatis, scarlet macaws, toucans and caimans, oh my!
View of Punta Islita Hotel from the beach
Entrance to Hotel Punta Islita
Welcome drinks and a birthday shot
Open air restaurant
Our view from breakfast, the infinity pool & swim up bar
French toast with Caribbean cream and star fruit
Tico style breakfast
Scarlet macaws, our daily breakfast visitors!
View from our porch
Beach front cabana...not too shabby
Fish tacos so good I took a bit before I took a picture!
Quintessential vacation drink, the pina colada!
Hermit crabs roamed freely on the beach- so neat!
Iguanas could be seen daily on our walk to the beach!
Pathway to the beach
Infinity pool at Punta Islita Hotel
Sunset cocktails were a nightly ritual! Red Snappers and margaritas with star fruit.
Our bar tender, Johan. Proof that you can always find a Steelers fan no matter where you are in the world!
Beach front restaurant
Sushi- Costa Rican style
Meep-Meep went our mini-SUV
Nothing like a good ol' fashioned river crossing on our way to Samara
Justin reliving his days in Africa where the eggs were never refrigerated
Bike shop in Samara
Y.U.M. guacamole with homemade plantain chips
Outdoor market in Samara
Black & Gold Pride! This bar in Samara had a Terrible Towel on display. :)
Justin hanging our hammock at Playa Carrillo
When in Costa Rica...it suddenly becomes totally acceptable to drink warm, cheap beer!
Punta Islita Village
Oh you know...just riding home from school with two kids on a moto, sans helmets
Om...What was this picture about? Oh yeah, this cow had the cutest floppy ears and a pretty sweet tat!
Village of Nuevo Arenal
Obviously...you'd find me at a German bakery in Costa Rica. ;)
The coatis satisfied my wildlife hunger while I continued searching for monkeys and sloth!
Chocolate Fusion Cafe in La Fortuna
Best cup of coffee on the entire trip!
Talk about angry eyes...this bird was staring us down! Gave me the creeps!!
The MOMENT I had been waiting for the entire trip! We found a baby sloth on our hike in La Fortuna!
This little one's agile movements captivated us!
La Fortuna's town center
The second most sought after item on my wildlife scavenger hunt list, Capuchin monkeys!
Tabacon Hot Springs
View from our hotel room at Tabacon Hot Springs - yes, that's a volcano!
Tinajas Arenal: Best Lunch Spot!
Come back now, ya hear?!