A Costa Rican Itinerary

Rainforest is reflected on the silent waters of one of Tortugeuro's many water channels.

I expected little but fell head over heels in love with the Costa Rica. So much so, that I had some ‘re-integration’ issues returning back to ‘normal life’ after immersion in such a naturally beautiful and bewildering country.

The guide books do a very good job of managing down your expectations about the wildlife you’ll encounter and the extreme beauty of the country. This serves only to ensure that you are totally blown away when you start exploring the paths  that few tourists travel in such a diverse and welcoming country.

We had less than two weeks in Costa Rica – we weren’t supposed to be there. We flew in from Florida after NASA rescheduled the launch of Atlantis, STS-135. It was a last minute decision, and one that meant we had very little time to plan and research the country as thoroughly as usual. We had one Saturday afternoon to cancel all Florida plans and then schedule and book our trip to Costa Rica. As usual, we turned to trip advisor for advice and inspiration, grabbed our atlas and decided on the following itinerary:

  • Three nights in Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Three nights at Arenal
  • Three nights in Tortuguero
  • Two nights in Santa Clara in the jungle
  • One night in a suburb of San Jose before our flight home.

Each part of our trip will be chronicled in subsequent blogs.

We booked it all independently and hired a 4×4 to travel around. Our aim was to explore the country independently, seeing a diverse range of ecosystems and wildlife in the cheapest way possible. Due to last minute planning, we ended up travelling in the rainy season which I was initially very concerned about, but needn’t have been (a separate blog on this will follow) . I wouldn’t change a thing about the itinerary, the accommodation we stayed in or the places we visited. I was extremely glad that we took enough time to enjoy each place we stayed in, opposed to feeling like we had to rush from place to place. This gave us the luxury to stop when we wanted, wander off the beaten track when the compulsion took us, and take time to explore the less obvious tourist spots and really ‘get under the skin’ of the country.

There were many, many highlights of the trip, here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Zip wiring at 40mph, 300feet above the Arenal rainforest with a tremendous view of Arenal Volcano.
  • Being brave enough to hike around, and stay around, the Arenal Volcano (I am PETRIFIED of volcanos and this one was very active until recently)
  • Watching a green sea turtle lay her eggs in the dead of night on Tortuguero’s beaches ( I cried like a baby!)
  • Kayaking the waterways of Tortuguero on our own, getting terrorised by a huge bee, finding birds, lizards and monkeys in the trees and revelling in both the sounds and silence of the rainforest
  • Exploring the Monteverde cloud forest seemingly on our own -there is nothing quite like having a forest almost to yourself
  • Staying in a treehouse in the jungle – we hiked to some waterpools and swam under the sheltered canopy of the forest, watched an exotic bird display to attract a mate, and spent a day picnicking in the treetops watching the sloths and birds with a cold beer in hand
  • Driving the 4×4 around the gravel tracks of Arenal volcano, drifting corners and winding round tight bends, swerving to avoid snakes
  • Watching the Milky Way emerge overhead of Arenal Volcano at midnight, celebrating 9 years of marriage with a whisky in hand and my fantastic hubby by my side.
It really is an awe inspiring country which is very accessible and very enjoyable to travel in. Go, explore! I defy you not to love it.

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