As for the other half of our honeymoon, we spent 12 days in Costa Rica and wanted to share our travels with you if you have any interest to go (which we hope you do because it’s fabulous!). Here is a map of our Costa Rican journey where we rented a car for most of the adventure! Since we ended up going with the rental option, we decided to download a Google map of everywhere we were going so we could easily upload a route to get to our destination without using data. DO THIS!!! It saves you so much time and money and then you don’t have to make stops ALLLL the time to get wifi and find out where to go next.
Cute but super inconvenient cows on our drive through the Costa Rican countryside.
Day 1-2: Liberia (Travel hub)
We made our way in to Liberia from the Nicaraguan boarder and stayed here over night (in a hotel not worth mentioning) to break up our travel days. While roaming the streets, it was quickly noted that there is not much to do in this city. There are a few things to do outside of the city but they were hard to get too. We recommend not spending a lot of time here in Libera but using it just as a travel hub and flying in to the airport and transporting your way to your next destination.
Day 2-5: Tamarindo (Check.It.Out.)
We took a local bus from Liberia to Tamarindo. The drive was stunning and definitely worth it. Our options were public bus or rent a car, but because we were staying at an all-inclusive resort in Tamarindo there was no point in renting a car and having it sit at the resort for 3 days not being used.
Shelby wishing she was as good as these guys…
While in Tamarindo, we made sure to learn how to surf, swim in the ocean, and relax on the beach. Since this is a surfer/beach town, we wanted to take advantage. We took surf lessons from Arenas Adventures and they were fantastic! They picked us up from our hotel on ATV’s, drove us to the shop where we picked up our boards, then walked us down to a more private area on Tamarindo Beach. Surfing was AMAZING, especially because we both were successful and we had the chance to swim beside stingrays (they are so magical)! It was Brian’s #1 thing we HAD to do this trip and we are sooo thankful we did! YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO SURF, it is a must if you have not done it before! Tamarindo is a MUST! The beaches are stunning, the people in the town are so friendly, the food is excellent, the sunsets are breath taking and there is SO much to do!
We stayed at the Occidental Tamarindo All-inclusive resort. This was a lovely spot for us! we wanted to have 3 days of just relaxing and eating… A LOT! If you are used to going to the large Caribbean all-inclusive resorts, this is not like them but it is great for the lower budget traveller who wants a getaway. The room was phenomenal, the staff was extremely accommodating, the ocean was perfection, the food was okay, the drinks were not anything special and the power went out daily. We were treated like royalty and enjoyed all of the ‘honeymooner’ perks; chocolate dipped strawberries, bottle of wine, turn down service, breakfast in bed, lovely personal notes, and an A la carte dinner.
Hotel view of the main lobby
Day 5-6: Samara (quiet beach town)
After check out at our amazing hotel, we met with our car rental company outside.We chose to work through Adobe car rentals. Their prices were reasonable and they were extremely accommodating. Once we received our vehicle, we were off to explore the unknown… at least to us. After countless hits and misses of Iguanas, we made it to Samara. We wanted to enjoy one more beach day before we did the adventurous part of the trip and since we are both obsessed with the ocean, we just had to (there is something about the salty air and water).
Day 6-8: Monteverde – The cloud forest
Monteverde is not that far from Samara but because of it’s difficult road conditions, it takes quite a long time (especially if you’ve never drove these roads before). All we were told by locals and bloggers was to hope it doesn’t rain. It did not but that did not stop Shelby from stressing out while driving up the windy roads with huge ditches on either side. As we continued to go up the windy road, the temperature continuously dropped. We went from 25 to 15 degrees celsius in the matter of 1.5 hours! Once we made it in to Monteverde, we realized we had no idea where our Airbnb was so we stopped at Stella’s Bakery to eat and figure out where to go. We made it to our very secluded and private Airbnb just before sunset, which gave us time to settle in and go for a walk around our ‘neighbourhood’.
Arenal Volcano behind Lake Arenal. Clouds typically cover the top.
Picture this: you are high up on a hill, overlooking the lakes and towns below, WHILE IN THE CLOUDS! A place to be seen! Monteverde is worth every moment because of its obvious amazing climate but also for the adventurous activities to be done and wonderful restaurant choices! As for adventurous activities, we had a hard time picking a company AND activities but decided on the Sky Trek, Tram and Walk tour which included swinging bridges, a tram ride and zip-lining with Sky Adventures! There are plenty of adventure companies to chose from but Sky Adventures had the best reviews and was recommended to us from our Airbnb host! The cost was $90USD each but this was our Christmas gift to each other as we did it on Christmas eve! We booked our activities online because we heard the times book up fast.
Brian’s attempt at the longest zip line – 2,460 ft in length and 328 ft in height. Speeds that go up to 70 km/h
One activity we did not do but we wish we did, was the night walk through the forests. On these guided tours, you can see nocturnal animals of all sorts; jaguars, tarantulas, snakes, sloths, etc. All adventure companies host a night walk, you just have decided what tour works with your schedule and budget. They are educational and exciting and we are sad we missed out!
We spent a lot of time roaming the streets in town to pass the time. We found a few cute restaurants and cafes to hang out in but two to be noted were Stella’s Bakery and Orchid Coffee. Both were spectacular meals at great prices. Stella’s Bakery had a beautiful garden out back, where we suggest you eat, and you can watch all types of colourful birds at the feeders. Orchid Coffee has excellent coffee, desserts and lemonades (the hibiscus lemonade was AMAZING!).
Bird watching outside of Stella’s Bakery.
Day 8-11: La Fortuna
After a rainy, stormy night in Monteverde, we said goodbye to Mocha (our host’s dog) and headed on the windy roads to La Fortuna. Thankfully, we heard this drive was not as bad as the drive up, it was so much more exciting! We still had the same windy roads as before but this time we got to see monkeys in the treetops right beside the cliff’s edge. This drive ended up being beautiful but a wee bit confusing because of the lack of signage. At the beginning of the drive, the roads are all small back roads with barely any signage, cows wandering wherever they please, and no places to stop to pee (but also no places to pee on the side of the road because everything is open, so it was a long drive…). Once you hit the lake, it becomes much easier. We made our way around Lake Arenal (Central America’s largest man-made lake) and we were able to see the beautiful Arenal Volcano!
Once we made it to our Airbnb, The Hummingbird, we were able to get settled and figure out what we wanted to do as we did no pre-planning for La Fortuna. Our stay was around $45USD per night and definitely worth it! Our room was spacious and our host was extremely helpful. He assisted us in deciding what to do for the next few days; he even helped us book our canyoning adventure at a discounted price! We decided to adventure around La Fortuna and ended up going to the This is a beautiful place where you can swim beneath the waterfall and hike around the grounds. Keep in mind, there are stairs… A LOT OF STAIRS!
The next few days were packed with so many activities but here they are:
- Hiking Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava TrailsAmazing views of the lava trails and the volcano
- Be prepared to be in the middle of nature; spiders, snakes, lizards, bugs, etc. (Shelby loved the views at the top but hated the walk to it)
- Hot springs at Eco Termales (the fee is $40 USD and worth EVERY PENNY)
- These hot springs are completely natural, is a private place to relax and enjoy, and very limited amount of people are accepted in.
- Book ahead of time
- Canyoning at Mistico Park (repelling down waterfalls!)
- Such a fun adventure if you have not had a chance to do this before!
- Lots of things to do at this park: Hanging bridges, horses, bird watching, volcano expedition, etc.
- Hike down to La Fortuna WaterfallBeautiful park but lots of steps involved, come prepared!
Arenal Volcano Hiking the lava trails Eco Termales hot springs
With so many activities to chose from, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Have an idea of what you want to do or else you will become overwhelmed! Things you MUST do while in La Fortuna: hot springs, hike the volcano trails (can’t hike up the actual volcano), zip-lining, white water rafting (if you’re up for it, we did not have time), and the La Fortuna Waterfall.
Day 11-13: San Jose (Capital City)
This was the part of the trip that we were dreading the whole trip… city driving! Shelby was the lucky driver of the day (we split the driving equally) and started us off through the small towns of Costa Rica. The beginning of the drive was beautiful as we made our way up some more cliffs, through clouds, and past rivers everywhere. We finally made it in towards the city and had to switch drivers after Shelby was becoming quite stressed and was in shock after we both witnessed a motorcycle accident where a man flew in the air and landed on the ground. After we got through that, we found our hostel, parked the car and jumped for joy as we were done with the driving portion of the trip. Don’t get us wrong, we loved being about to manoeuvre easily from city to town to excursion and would recommend driving over public transit ANY DAY, but it became too stressful after the day’s events and we were just thankful to be walking again.
Once the car was picked up, we decided to roam around our district, which was outside of the city, and venture over to the University of Costa Rica campus. It was quaint and quiet. The property was beautifully designed; reminded us both of our hometown universities. Just off the campus were quite a few restaurants and bars that we made sure to visit in the evening.
Cultural street art found on our walking tour
The next day we decided to visit the main part of the city. San Jose is a busy city but we found it to be much less exciting as the other places we had visited this trip. We took part in a walking tour of the city, which is a great way to see the city, found a delicious Vietnamese restaurant, and roamed the streets afterwards. When we made it back to our hostel, they informed us that there was a big celebration in Zapote District and we should go check it out if we wanted something to do that night. We decided to check it out and it was a giant Costa Rican fair; food, rides, bullfights, and games. We decided to walk around and just soak it all in while trying to stay together… it was WAY too crowded!
One thing we both wish we did was booked a hostel closer to the airport. We were on the total opposite side of the city but thankfully our hostel helped us out as we had to arrive super early to the airport! It’s always a good idea to use the resources your hostel offers!!
As the locals always say: ‘Pura Vida’, meaning pure life!
Brian + Shelbs