Back in November 2015, I really wanted to go to Costa Rica. I reached out to a few girlfriends and they were all on board. I told them that I would plan everything and not to worry about anything. We planned to not do this on much of a budget and to just go and have as much fun as possible, and that we did!
We flew into San Jose but had chosen not to spend any time there. I don’t really enjoy cities so I opted out of this one. We had arranged a private taxi to meet us at the airport so we finally got to be those people who have someone waiting for them with a name on a piece of paper! I don’t know about the other girls, but I felt so important…even though we were paying this person haha!
The first place that we went to was to Arenal, La Fortuna. This is notorious for the Arenal Volcano and zip lining.
We stayed for two nights at Hotel Linda Vista del Norte. The restaurant and pool were fantastic and the rooms were simple. They had everything you needed but were not luxury by any means. It had a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the Volcano but what we didn’t know was that the clouds are often covering the Volcano. We did however get to see it one morning when we got up before the clouds rolled in!
It was only supposed to take us a couple of hours to get to La Fortuna from San Jose but there had just been a heavy rain and some of the roads had washed out, so it took us a lot longer to get there. We were exhausted from a full day of travel so we booked a couple of activities through the hotel and hit the hay pretty early.
We woke up early around 5:30 to have some breakfast which was provided by the hotel and then were picked up to head to our jungle walk. We had an amazing guide that explained the animals, insects, and plants in the jungle. We also got to see some little waterfalls on the 3 hour rainy hike.
Once we finished up with our walking tour, we had to hustle to register for our zip lining. It was all in the same complex so we didn’t need to drive anywhere. We went with Sky Adventures and paired the Sky Trek (zip lining) with the Sky Walk (hanging bridges). If you are scared of heights like me, then this is terrifying!!! I keep forgetting that I hate heights until I am up there and shitting my pants. I don’t know what speed you get to during the zip lining but it was insane! The highest one was 600ft in the air. One of the girls I went with was fearless when it came to the zip lining but then had the most hilarious nervous laughter on the hanging bridges!
The day was SO much fun!!! To finish the day off, we wanted to check out the hot springs. If you stay at a fancy hotel, you get access to them but we had heard that you can still get to them yourself for free without being a guest at the hotel. The locals who were running the zip line were so friendly and spoke such great English so we asked them about the hot springs. They offered to take us to the local hang out if we wanted. We thought, there are four of us girls and two of them… I think we can handle it. We went with a game plan and they were literally SO nice! They picked us up from our hotel which was quite out of the way and showed up with a few cans of beer and bags of chips for us. We stayed a few hours and then they drove us back to the hotel where we went to bed and rested up for a travel day.
We had arranged for a private taxi to drive us from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio where we would spend five nights at the amazing Tulemar Bungalows & Villas. We paid $245US/night but between four people, it really wasn’t too bad. All of the staff knew us by name and made sure we had an unforgettable stay. As soon as we arrived, there was a sloth in a tree right by our bungalow. The first morning we had breakfast at the resort which was neat because we were surrounded by monkeys however, terrifying at the same time. The food was quite over priced where we were staying so for the rest of the mornings we walked up the road to Cafe Milagro. It had the BEST breakfast and coffee!!
After having breakfast we would always go to our private beach where David, one of the employees, would have our beach chairs, boogie boards and cooler full of beer. What more could a person want on vacation?
The food in Costa Rica is SO good!! One of the restaurants that I would suggest is Ronny’s Place. It requires a reservation and a taxi to get to if you are staying right in the heart of Manuel Antonio. It has a fantastic view and the BEST sangria!! The other restaurant that I loved was Cafe Agua Azul. It also has gorgeous views overlooking the water and sunset. I liked it so much that I went here twice!
For the most part, when we were in Manuel Antonio we mostly relaxed, ate and drank. We did sign up for surf lessons but I chickened out because I am not a good swimmer and the waves were just a bit too rough for me.
We had organized another adrenaline filled activity…waterfall repelling through Xtreme Tours. It was a bit dicey on our drive there because the night before there were record breaking rain so some of the roads were washed out and trees were down. After helping a local man clear a path for our vehicle, we made our way to where we would hike and repel. The guide told us that typically they wouldn’t allow repelling after such a heavy rainfall because the waterfalls were running too fast BUT he said we looked like “fit” girls. I’m not sure who he was referring to, but it sure as hell was not me!!
Unfortunately, none of us took our cameras or phones because we would be in water so I don’t have any photos but I will try to explain the best I can.
The first section was tiny so that we could practice how to repel properly. There wasn’t any water coming down from above you at this one, so we were like okay this is great.
The second section, you zip lined out into the middle of the rapids and once there, the guide dropped the line and you plunged into the water. We did that one twice and the second time he told us to flip backwards and he would drop us in head first. Hmmm, let me think about that one! Hell no! I had no idea where the rocks were below me so I went feet first, however the others did go head first and they all survived!! Even the one who doesn’t swim really overcame her fears on that day!
We then did some hiking until we got to the mother of all waterfalls. We were starting halfway down the length of the waterfall and off to the side where the water wasn’t AS forceful. When I say that the amount of water coming over the falls were 100 times more than the worst downpour that I have ever witnessed, I am NOT exaggerating!! One of the guides were at the bottom of the waterfall with the rope/pully system and one was at the top encouraging us to go haha. We were secured into our harness and pull system (I’m sure there is a proper name for this), and basically you face backwards and have to jump out over the cliff far enough to get your feet in front of you to begin repelling.
The issue was that the rocks were so slippery, it was hard to keep your feet up in front of you to repel down the cliff. As you are trying to do that, your two hands are occupied with your rope. So of course, being the klutz that I am, my feet slipped and my body came crashing into the side of the cliff. I was trying to use one of my hands to push my body off of the side of the wall far enough to get my feet back up, but they kept slipping and the water was holding me against the wall. I wasn’t able to look around to see if there was a better route because of the sheer amount of water pummeling me from above. I finally got a good push off of the wall but the water coming down on me was so fierce that it knocked me sideways and into the middle of the waterfall. Moments prior, I thought that the water coming down on me was savage but in the middle of the waterfall was insane!!! I legit thought I was going to drown. The guide was yelling at me to get back over to the side but I just kept bashing myself off of the damn rock. I would try to look around and I would immediately be bombarded with water. I still don’t know how I got over to the side but I did. I was kicked over into the middle two more times and very slowly made my way down the falls basically just by releasing my rope and not doing a whole lot of repelling. By the time I got to the bottom, I had to sit down because my legs were shaking SO badly. Next, imagine how my friend who can’t swim felt….. 😐
I can tell you that the drinks were flowing that evening while we all talked about how insane our day was!! The rest of the trip consisted of eating more amazing food, relaxing at the beach and walking through the National Park.
I would definitely go back to Costa Rica and I think for all of the girls when I say we had a phenomenal trip together!! You can for sure do this trip budget friendly but we had no intentions of that which is why we stayed and ate at the places that we did.
I hope if you plan a trip to Costa Rica I have given you some insight on some fun things to do!