When you are amongst Ticos & Ticas you are in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of those places you can just keep going back to. If you’re the kind of person who loves a laid back, casual atmosphere with tons of interesting outdoor activity, then this is the place for you. Although, Costa Rica has been a very popular destination for people living in the US for some time now, the place has somehow managed to evade the in-your-face consumerism that plagues many other popular Central American tourist spots. Costa Rica is such a fun place and has so much to offer that you can’t have a single dull moment there. From trekking in the rain forest to zip lining in the clouds to exploring its volcanoes to white water rafting, the list can go on and on.
We flew in to San Jose and spent a night there. Though, honestly, there’s not much to do here so to make the most of your trip, I’d suggest you get going to your next destination as soon as you arrive. Our first stop after San Jose was Monte Verde. It’s a peaceful little mountain town about 6 hours drive from the capital. We stayed at the aptly named El Bosque lodge where we had a private cabin in the middle of the cloud forest, with mountains and plush greenery as far as the eyes could see- Monte Verde in Spanish translates to green hill.
We started our day with a trek in the rain forest with our guide giving us loads of trivia on local flora and fauna. As expected, the forests were full of interesting little creatures that are endemic to Central America. I would totally recommend joining at least one guided trek at least once to get a feel of the diversity of the area.
Then we went on to the most exciting part of the whole trip– zip lining. It’s a truly magical experience. As the cable car seems to endlessly rise above the green canopy below, you tend to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. The weather actually changes quite dramatically by the time you get to the top, with winds getting nippier and thick clouds restricting visibility considerably. The actual zip lining setup involves 7 different lines that transport you from one hill to another, as you eventually make your way back down to original hill where you started the cable car ride. While coming down, I realized how high we really were as you would literally be flying through the clouds with breathtaking views on all sides. Just thinking about that feeling gives me such a high that I would want to go back to Costa Rica just for this experience again!
One of my favorite restaurants in Monte Verde has to be Café Cabure that is primarily Argentinean but they also have some international cuisine on the menu. It is a family owned place about a 2 km trek from the center of town serving home- cooked style flavorful food and mouthwatering desserts. The best part about this place is the sunset views from the tables on the balcony. Great food, good wine and a beautiful sunset view makes for a perfect recipe for a memorable, relaxing evening after a day of adventure.
Our next stop was Arenal, famous for the Arenal volcano that we had a clear view of from our hotel. Bonus! In Arenal, I tried white water rafting for the first time in my life, which turned out to be an exhilarating experience.
I was initially petrified of the water because I can’t swim but it was a rather thrilling adventure that has opened me up to a range of water sports now! We chose the level 3 rapids on the Rio Balsa, but there are a host of tour companies offering rafting trips of varying lengths and intensity around the area. Like everyone in Costa Rica, the guides are always high on life and really keen to show you a good time. Our tour company threw in a couple of fun extras like a fresh fruit buffet at the end of the rafting, followed by a trek to a local sugar cane toddy bar. Arenal is a compact town with a convivial atmosphere with innumerable little dive bars and cafes to chill in.
Our last stop was Manuel Antonio– the beach! While doing the research for the trip, I read about two popular beaches in Costa Rica– Guanacaste and Manuel Antonio. However, the reviews for Guanacaste said the place is very touristy and that Manuel Antonio is a better option. It is a very pretty beach but turned out to be just as touristy. There is also a National Park known for its monkey population that attracted a lot of attention from the mostly western tourists. But because I’ve practically lived with monkeys all around me in India, I preferred to spend my days just chilling at the beach. Our last day in Costa Rica was all about relaxation and food. Spending an entire day at the beach from sunrise to sunset, soaking in the sun and having some delicious cocktails was definitely the best way to end our trip and the year 2014!
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