We spent just a short three action-packed days in Costa Rica - enough for us to add it to the short list of countries we want to revisit someday soon.
Day 1 - Arrive in San Jose and drive to La Fortuna
Day 2 - La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano
Day 3 - Rio Celeste Waterfalls
Day 4 - drive back to San Jose
Over the summer, we visited the continent to do a bit of country hopping. We covered three countries - Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica.
The draw to Costa Rica was two fold - one, the crazy gorgeous waterfalls and two, the eco-friendliness of this country. Did you know eco-tourism is actually incredibly popular in Costa Rica? A lot has changed since our last visit to the continent nearly 5 years ago. I wanted to revisit South America in an effort to continue traveling with more awareness.
Best time to visit
From June to September - when the temperatures are mild. The busiest period starts from July when the U.S. and Europe enjoy time off from school but the temperatures are slightly higher too. Avoid the rainy December season.
Flights and Visa
We chose to fly with Avianca within South America. The flights were spacious, with good in-flight entertainment and courteous service.
Visa on arrival for Indians and is valid for a maximum of 90 days. Just carry your return ticket with you for immigration purposes.
Spanish is the official language in all Central and South American countries. Mr. A and I are quick to learn languages. We enjoyed learning a few useful Spanish words. Buenos Dias (good morning), adios (bye), hola (hello or hi), Si (yes), cuanto (how much), salida (exit), entrada (entrance), caliente leche (hot milk) and numbers from 1 to 10.
Travel and Medical Insurance, Currency
Travel Insurance is always recommended.
Costa Rican Colon is the official currency. They also accepted dollars though.
Where we stayed
As I mentioned earlier, this trip was all about the nature. We decided to stay as close as possible to the lush green forests in the country. Instead of staying in the capital, we drove to La Fortuna area and stayed at the Chachagua Rainforest Rainforest and Eco-Lodge. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. It was a 15 minute drive to La Fortuna and the city center. It was like living in the amazon jungle with wild plants, animals but with great food.
The lodge had huge areas of empty land, small lakes and even a swimming pool.
Cost and getting around
Costa Rica seemed to be slightly more expensive than some of the other countries we visited during our trip.
Renting a Car in Costa Rica
This was the only country in which we chose to drive instead of taking public transport because I read it was tedious and time consuming to get around without a car.
We picked up a HERTZ car at San Jose. Standard procedure and pricing. The outlet was about 20 minutes from the airport. Showed our Dubai/US driver's license. Got insurance and we were on our way in about 45 minutes.
We had no particular issues with safety. Of course, it is always better to stay vigilant no matter where you travel. Mind your belongings, carry all important documents with you, avoid carrying too much cash in hand and remember to have a fantastic time.
There was plenty of local food for us to try at the lodge and outside. We tried vegan tacos... the local bean rice, boiled plantain, corn, cheese and lots more. Costa Rican cuisine is meat based but surprisingly, it was vegetarian friendly.
What to pack
We traveled in June so the days were rainy. Pack long pants and full sleeve shirts.
Bring a poncho or rain jacket and maybe, a wind jacket.
Pack solid trek shoes that are water resistant with firm grip.
Also, don't forget to pack bug repellents if you are staying or hiking in the jungle.
“Bienvenido a Costa Rica. Pura Vida!”
As soon as you enter the airport, you will hear “Pura Vida” a lot. It actually means “pure life”.. as you make your way through the lush green fields and endless mountains it’s easy to see why they say this.
This country epitomizes pure, unadulterated love for nature. Especially the waterfalls. I haven’t seen as many impressive waterfalls anywhere else (besides Iceland). Costa Rica reminded us how to be truly alive. On day one of our trip, it was already looking like a natural playground for hikers, animal lovers, snorkelers, and anyone who feels happiest in nature.
One hearty protein packed breakfast later, we took off to explore two amazing locations - Arenal Volcano and the La Fortuna Waterfall.
Our first stop was the La Fortuna waterfall. Park your car and go over to the entrance booth where you will pay the entrance fees $15 per adult to get inside.
In case you don't already know, I am a sucker for waterfalls. There is something so incredible about water gushing down from the rainforest into a pool at the base of a cliff. You will go through a path with steps to get to the waterfall. It's a very simple walk down.
The 75 meter tall Fortuna is easily one of the most photographed falls in the country... so naturally it was a little more crowded than I would have hoped but it was a beautiful place and well worth the hype. Since the path was slippery, we could not go up further to get an aerial shot of the fall but I would highly recommend you do that if you go when there are no rains.
We spent close to 2 hours exploring the area before heading to the Arenal Volcano Park.
The Arenal Volcano is a famous landmark in this part of the country. You can even see it from the city on a clear day. It was actually very active until recently - in fact it does puff out smoke and steam every so often... but don't worry, no hot spewing lava in a long time.
People cannot hike the park itself but can walk through the national park to experience first-hand the stunning landscape and exotic plant life of the amazon.
The weather was beginning to clear by the time we got to the top. As we walked through the dense forest, it felt like we were transported into scenes from one of the LOTR movies.
Pro tip: there is a little known hot spring called Rio Agua Caliente inside the park. The views are otherworldly - one of the best places to unwind. Pack a swim sit and jump in!
Fun fact: as we made our way through the park, we took a detour and right in the middle of the park is this stunning giant Ceida tree which has a fascinating history. It's the only tree here that has survived all of Arenal’s volcanic eruptions. How amazing is that?
Our last day in La Fortuna started off hilariously. We started our day at around 9.. when we typed in Rio celeste on the maps, it took us to a place in the middle of nowhere.. no complaints though. It was so off the path that the only person there was a person on a horse. Easily one of the most unforgettable drives we have done. What with getting lost and crossing a rickety old wooden bridge with our car.
We finally made it to the park at around 12 and it started to drizzle just as we started our trek. The Rio Celeste Waterfall sits inside the Tenorio National Park. We did this trip nearly 9 months back but I still remember every vivid detail just like it was yesterday. It was magnificent..
Since we visited when it was pouring we couldn’t see the turquoise blue water this place is famous for. Luckily, there was a lot more to the place. Before we made our way all the way down to the park, we were surrounded by a beautiful dense green forest.
The park is also at an elevation so it is known as a rainforest and is home to tons of wildlife.
The waterfall is famous for it’s vivid turquoise blue water and a walk through the swath of jungle will take you to the riverbed. Set in the mountains in rural northwestern Costa Rica, this waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder. Though not very tall, the rain and fog made the entire area look more spectacular. After about 45 minutes, you will come to a point that takes you to the falls through a narrow path with steps.
Rio Celeste literally means Blue water but because of the heavy rain, the flowing water dulled the turquoise effect. However, one of the highlights was definitely being the only people on the trail and at the fall. The path was extremely tricky though and we were knee deep in muddy slush on our way back up. Nevertheless, we spent so much time just admiring this place. Well worth the 2 hour drive up and the awkward walk in the dreary weather!
If you are looking for a tropical adventure - look no further than the Rio Celeste, it’s just the cream of the crop when it comes to waterfalls in Costa Rica.
Happiest smiles.. major missing!
We were ready to head to our next country. It was a clear day and the drive to airport took about 5 hours with a quick stop for lunch.