Costa Rica Day 1– We (this was a family vacation) Flew to San Jose from Houston. I got a pretty good deal in Southwest Airlines ($550 round trip). We arrived around 11:00 pm and we checked in to Hotel Brilla Sol. This hotel is located about 15 minutes from the airport. The hotel was adequate and simple. Our room was massive but it had no AC just fans. The property is beautiful; and it feels like an oasis in the residential neighborhood – more like a tropical feel. The breakfast was quite good.
Day 2– The next day we went on a 3 hour ride to Arenal which was extremely pleasant because of our awesome driver, Richard. On the way to Arenal we were fortunate enough to see a sloth and a massive orange colored Iguana.
Once we arrived in Arenal, we checked in to hotel Los Lagos Spa and Resort which stood at the base of a Arenal volcano. At the hotel there were numerous pools, natural springs, water slides and many other activities. The highlight of this beautiful property is the pool area and the observation point. There is a mix of hot springwater in the pool bar area and a number of other non-spring water pools. There are quite a few water slides that my kids really enjoyed. There are other really cool activities that one can do like hiking to the base of the Arenal volcano, just walk around the massive property and look for all kinds of birds or visit the Butterfly and leaf cutter ant exhibit, take a horse ride, zip lining, the list goes on. They have a huge restaurant and the food is quite acceptable. We took it easy after the long drive and decided to stay at the hotel and had a great time enjoying in the pool.
Day 3– The Weather in Costa Rica (Pacific Side) is extremely unpredictable. You never know when it is going to be sunny or when it is going to pour like crazy. Unfortunately on this day mother nature was not too kind on us. It started to drizzle from the morning but we were adequately prepared and had our raincoats with us. In the morning we took a trip to La Fortuna waterfall.
Remember to carry mosquito repellent with you! It comes in handy when you are in a tropical forest. From the parking lot one can walk up to the observation point from where you can see the entire vista including the waterfalls.The sight of the waterfall after a heavy shower is truly magical. In fact we saw a miniature water fall which only appears when it rains too much.
The trip to the base of the waterfall is quite easy and you have to negotiate a whole bunch of slippery stairs so ensure that you wear hiking shoes or a good pair of tennis shoes. The waterfall is pretty massive which generates huge current at the base of the falls. So we had to take a turn to where the water was much calmer and crystal clear. The water was ice cold but the experience was amazing. From La Fortuna Water Falls we went to Arenal National Park where we took a trip to the base of the Volcano. Unfortunately while hiking through the forest, it started to pour so hard that some of us had to abandon the trip and came back to the bus. That evening we went to visit the chocolate factory and then to the little town called La Fortuna. This charming little town has tons of nice restaurants, gift shops, massage centers and a typical church in the center of the town. You can stroll along the busy streets full of tourists and depending on what you like, you can pick and choose. The ice cream parlors are highly recommended.
Day 4- In the morning we left from Arenal and headed towards Monteverde. The journey to Monteverde was quite scenic. We boarded a boat in Arenal and after about 2 hours of boat ride we reached the shore where we boarded a bus and drove for another 2 hours.
Monteverde is famous for its cloud forests where as Arenal is famous for rain forests. Situated at an altitude of 4,662 feet (1,149m) the town of Santa Elena is full of coffee shops, gift shops and restaurants. We checked in to Hotel Cala lodge .
This hotel is truly special. Surrounded by cloud forest, the setting of this hotel is absolutely stunning. There is a huge verandah where you can enjoy a fantastic breakfast or else can sip your green tea while viewing the Mormots, Toucans, humming birds right in front of you. If you are looking for a relaxed stay in Monteverde, look no further, just stay in Hotel Cala Lodge. In the evening, we walked from the hotel to Monteverde Butterfly Gardens. In this 3 acres of property you can see all kinds of butterfly and insects. Highly recommended. My kids enjoyed zip lining in the rain forest at Selvatura canopy Tour. This is another activity not to be missed.
Day 5– Early morning we headed straight to Curi-Cancha Reserve. This is a 237 acre of forest reserve famous for viewing birds like different varieties of humming birds, resplendent quetzals, keel-billed toucans, orange-bellied trogons, and blue-crowned mormots. We even saw a viper apart from Sloth and capuchin monkeys. The tour lasted about 2.5 hours and the tour guide was excellent. Because he carried a powerful binocular, we could see the birds up close. We finished the tour by noon and relaxed at local coffee shops and enjoyed shopping at the local gift shops.
Day 6- The next day we drove to Manuel Antonio. It is a long 5 hours long drive (including rest stops) and we stayed there in Hotel Casitas Eclipse. The beauty of this hotel is that it has its on rainforest trail and you can see all kinds of birds, Iguanas and monkeys within the hotel premises. The rooms are quite comfortable although I didn’t like their restaurant. The pools are awesome and overall it is a very nice hotel to stay. There is an unique restaurant called El Avion located right opposite of this hotel. This is a must-see restaurant and bar in Manuel Antonio and has a rich history. There is a huge C-123 at the entrance of this hotel. This C-123 Fairchild cargo plane has been converted to a pub and a two level bar and restaurant has been built in, around and above the plane. The sunset view from this restaurant is just outstanding. We went there for dinner and their Margarita was just awesome. We even saw few Sloths right next to where we were sitting. What else can one ask for? In the evening we took the local bus to the beach. The bus ride is about 10 minutes and the access to the beach is very easy. At the beach you can rent lounge chairs and sip your favorite drink while lazily gazing at the sunset. Overall it is a fantastic beach and I am almost tempted to say it is flawless.
Day 7– At the penultimate day, we took a tour of Damas Estuary. This is a 2 hour boat Trip which takes you on a covered boat tour through the complex and beautiful estuaries and mangroves surrounding Damas Island. Interestingly the name Damas means women and it is said that the island resembles a women. The boat takes you through the meandering water which cuts though the mangrove forest and it takes you right to the ocean. The view of the ocean from the boat is amazing. Make sure you carry your camera and binoculars as you can see lots of monkeys, cranes, and snakes. We returned back to the hotel around 2:00 pm and went to the town o Manual Anonio.
Following are phots of some of the birds I saw in Costa Rica:
Day 8– Flew back to Houston from San Jose. Pura Vida !!