What an incredible place. From the jungle to the volcanoes, the wildlife to the people, it’s really like no-where we’ve ever been.
What was interesting to me, was how much you guys loved following our adventure. More than any other trip we’ve been on. I suppose that’s because it WAS a true adventure. We’re not the type of people who like to sit in an all inclusive resort for 2 weeks wondering whats going to be in tomorrows buffet. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course. I just always think that if you’re visiting a place as beautiful as Costa Rica, you should explore it. Luckily for me, Theo has an innate talent of planning routes. This ranges from finding our way around traffic on the M25, to planning excursions galore on the other side of the World. So whilst he tells me the spots to visit, I then plan the things to do.
So in this post I’ll tell you where we visited, where we stayed and what were the highlights of each spot.
Obvs CR is huge and we only had 12 nights so I’m sure there’s a thousand more incredible places, but this was our adventure. Please share your fave areas and hotels in the comments for others to enjoy.
Flights to Costa Rica
We flew BA as I had airmiles to use. It was an 11 hour direct flight from Heathrow to San Jose, so I was grateful we could fly Premium economy. This cost approx £1k each. I always book flights through my pal Ben at Dial a flight, have done for the past. 15 years. He always seems to get the best deals. Feel free to drop him an email when booking any holiday, just make sure you mention I sent ya ;)
Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org (Mention me for added discount!)
Another thing I would always recommend doing when flying is to book the No1 lounge. It’s approx £30pp and you get free food and drink. An ideal situation to get you in the holiday mood. Airports are prob the only place where time doesn’t matter. A glass of fizz is fully acceptable at 7am-ha!
Onboard tip-I always take a hot bottle with me no matter how short or long a flight. The Flight attendants always seem happy to fill it up and it’s such a good way to keep warm and to help with any aches or pains.
Hiring a car in Costa Rica
I’ve mentioned this on my Instagram a few times, but hiring a car in Costa Rica was near impossible. We did book pretty last minute so that was a factor. In the end, it was a lovely lady called Becky, who follows me on insta and who lived in Costa Rica, who helped us. She recommended a driver she knew so we opted for that. It was still bloody expensive, around $1000. But that was a crazy $600 cheaper than car hire. Theo also doesn’t drive and we had to travel approx 3-4 hours between each destination, along windy hillside roads. So in the end, it worked out well. Johnny was a great guy, his car was beaten up, but it got us from A-B and we were happy to be giving a local work as the Costa Rican economy has obviously been super effected by Covid.
Here’s his number incase you need it
Johnny +506 71769194
I’m sure there will be hire cars available for a more reasonable price the further we get away from the pandemic.
Communication with the locals in Costa Rica
Everyone communicates via Whatsapp. Like everyone. From the hotels to the restaurants to the spas. So make sure you have enough travel data. I’m with EE and it was £6 a day for unlimited use.
San Jose - Manuel Antonio - Atenas - Arenal - Tamarindo - Monteverde
Hotels in Costa Rica
2022 is very much our ‘Fuck it year’. It’s my 40th and our 10 year anniversary, so we treated ourselves to some amazing spots. You can obviously do everything so much cheaper depending on your budget. We met loads of people who were staying in hostels who said they were lovely, so do look around before you book.
Adults only. Visit their website.
This was our first spot. I have to say, everything about the hotel was stunning. It was right in the hill tops, surrounded by the most magnificent rainforest. We saw a sloth in the tree within the first few hours!! IMAGINE THE JOY!
We opted for the room with the private pool which was nice. Although the pool wasn’t heated and the surrounding jungle shaded it, so it was pretty cold.
Now there’s not a huge amount I can say about Makanda because we actually left after 18 hours. It was an unfortunate situation, and a slightly odd one. They were doing building works on site, like loud, on the roof above the pool kinda loud. And we had just completed a 5 month renovation so banging and drilling was absolutely the last thing we needed. Especially when we were paying approx $500 a night!!! A HUGE amount of dollar.
After complaining to the manager, who, btw was fantastic, he explained that this was their only opportunity to fix the essentials after Covid. Obviously we completely got that, but there was no way we could stay with the constant noise.
What I will say though, is that the food, drink and service we experienced in our short time there was just wonderful. And the hotel was just gorgeous. We would def visit again when the work is done.
They did refund the nights we didn’t stay and comp’d our food which was very kind of them.
Becky from Costa Rica to the rescue. She was like a little holiday Angel. She helped us find another hotel, and arranged for Johnny to come and collect us. So off we went to The Retreat.
The Retreat Costa Rica
Adults only. Visit their website.
We arrived here late at night and the team were extremely welcoming. Honestly, we didn’t meet a rude person the entire trip. Everyone was a joy.
On first impression, we were bit unsure of where we had arrived to. If anyone has watched ‘Nine perfect Strangers’, it was that kinda health resort vibe. I Mean I suppose the name ‘The Retreat’ explains it because that exactly was what it was. A place where people came to do multiple yoga classes a day and to switch off. Not gonna lie, we asked for a beer one of the days and we were looked at very strangely-ha!
However, I will say, this place was next level beautiful. The views were incredible and the food was delicious. They have their own farm so the chef decided what to cook daily depending on whats fresh. The meals were included in the price which was great value. It was an amazing place to relax and decompress after an unusual start to the holiday. And because everyone was off doing multiple classes, we tended to have the pool all to ourselves, which was a bonus.
I did a couple of yoga classes which were fab. And the deep tissue massage I had at their spa was one of the best I’ve ever had. So, even though this wasn’t an initial planned stop, I would def recommend it if you really want to switch off for a few days.
Oh, and how could I forget to mention, they had an onsite peacock family!!!! I mean if that doesn’t sell it…..
Families welcome. Special area’s for adults only. Visit their website.
Ok, ok this place was next level. It was a proper resort set in the middle of the rainforest. Although word on the street is that they have spent millions planting extra jungle which, I would say, has been well worth it. It was stunning!!!
A few bits of extra customer service that stood out for us.
We had a pool room and the pool was AMAZING. So secluded and warm, so you could go in at any time of day. I mean who doesn’t like a midnight swim?!
The mini bar was free and topped every day. Always a bonus.
The laundry service was free. If we had been more organised, we should have taken advantage of this but we forgot.
There were hot springs on site which was pretty awesome. One night we went in them at 3am with a bottle of fizz and it was just the coolest. The stars, the jungle, the sound of monkeys. It was like being in a film.
Talking of wildlife. It was EVERYWHERE! Monkeys, parrots, lizards you name it! They even have a Sloth trail! The sound of the howler monkeys waking us up at sunrise was just incredible. Slightly annoying at 6am-ha! But when do you ever get to experience that hey?!
There are a number of pools, some for families, some for adults only. They have swim up bars which was a treat. Also a great spot for chatting to people and making new friends, which we did.
There were a number of restaurants. Our fave was the Japanese. I wouldn’t say the food was incredible. It was good, but I think we’re a bit spoilt being Londoner’s surrounded daily by some of the best restaurants in the World.
The Nayara Spa is supposed to be the No1 Spa hotel in the World according to Conde Naste traveller. So we were excited to try it. We had the couples massage which was expensive. Approx $200 each, and I’ve got to say, it was mediocre. The spa was nice but the massage just wasn’t that good. I know I work in the industry and have been lucky enough to experience a lot of treatments, but the guest’s we made friends with agreed too. And after having the most amazing massage at The Retreat, I was even more disappointed. You can def find better treatments for cheaper in the local area. But apart from that, the hotel was pretty mega.
The other mega thing about the Arenal area Is the volcanoes and national park.
We decided to do a hike day and it was worth it. The volcano hike itself was pretty average. Mainly because you’re only allowed to go part of the way up. I was visualising a full on mountain hike. And actually, my Cousin did this exact trip a few years ago and at that point you were allowed to swim in the crater of the volcano (which is obvs filled with rainwater and not lava FYI-IMAGINE)!! It was still very cool to say that we climbed part of a volcano though. And the guide was amazing. It was great to hear more about the history of the area.
The afternoon part of the tour was much better. We got to explore the National park which is just stunning. I couldn’t believe the incredible flowers that adorned every inch of it. We also saw the most magnificent birds I’ve ever seen. They were literally neon in colour! There were even toucans and hummingbirds. It was like an episode of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth.
During the walk there was a huge ladder that you could climb up up to see the view over the canopy. Theo opted out, but I was straight up there! It really showed the vast beauty of the area.
The tour ended with a trip to the local hot springs. We were pretty spoilt with the springs in our hotel, but it was lovely to have a cocktail with the people we’d met on the trip.
Click here for a link to the Volcano Tour we did.
Air Bnb Tamarindo
Our next stop was to the beach town of Tamarindo. Costa Rica is famous for it’s surfing, and there are meant to be some incredible beaches down the coast. Is Tamarindo one of them? No.
After days of living in the remote rainforest, heading to a very touristy, pretty dirty beach town was not the one. If we’d started here, I think we would have enjoyed it a lot more. We did have a gorgeous little Airbnb with the best bath. (It took 2 hrs to fill up, no joke-but it was worth it)! And it was a 10 minute walk from town so was in the perfect location.
Now we do love a good party, but this area reminded of us an Magaluf or Ayia Napa vibe. It’s a great area if you’re backpacking, but 3 days there was more than enough for us. Luckily a friend recommended Pangas Tamarindo which was a gorgeous beach restaurant further up the strip. Book a table an hour before sunset and you won’t be disappointed. We then walked up the strip, grabbed a couple of take away Margarita’s and ended up in a bar where the guitarist was playing Oasis. We had fun, but it wasn’t what we were looking for on this holiday. If we had had a hire car, we 100% would of explored other beaches, and I would highly recommend doing that.
Click here for a link to the Air BnB we stayed in.
Our last stop was in Monteverde farrrr up in the jungle. You knew it immediately thanks to the temperature drop. We’d gone from 31 degree’s to 20 degree’s in a couple of hours. And it rained each evening like, like clockwork, from 5pm. Which honestly wasn’t a big deal for us as we were usually out for dinner at this time.
We spent these last few days staying in what can only be described as a giant round tent attached to the tree’s! Very cool and very cosy. We had our own kitchen, a seperate bathroom, a very comfy bed, a lovely terrace, a hot tub and the most epic see through outdoor shower! It was such a great experience. And surprisingly, you couldn’t see or hear the wind at all at night considering how high up we were.
The town was quite basic but had some cute restaurants and bars. The Mexican food in Taco Taco was fab. The service, not so much. But def worth a visit for their strawberry margarita’s. Sit up top.
On site there was a dining experience that Theo booked, although I’m going to let him describe this….’Interesting. We got a great photo print out us both so that’s good right…..but no the 7 course menu wasn’t worth the price really. We had bantz swaying in the Perspex box amongst the trees and when they filled said box with smoke as if a rave but if there for the food you would be disappointed sadly.’
We also spent a day on a zip line tour which was soooo good! The longest was a mile and then some over the jungle and INCREDIBLE!! Theo is super scared of heights but even he loved it. We’d highly recommend doing this. It was such a fun day out.
Additional things to know if you're going to Costa Rica
At the time we went everything in Costa Rica closed at 10pm due to Covid rules, so go out early!
Sunset at 5pm every day
The Temperature in Costa Rica ranges from 20-30 degrees. The higher you went the milder it was
The preferred currency in in Costa Rica is US dollars. They do deal in Costa Rican Colon, but it’s a crazy exchange rates maybe take like £50 worth of that incase you want to buy from any local street vendors. It’s also super cute as it has the local animals on it! And by that I obvs mean sloths!! I never wanted to spend it-ha!
Spanish is the first language but most people also speak English
Tipping is not expected, but we always tip good service.
You can’t put toilet roll down most loo’s as most systems are compost or septic. You have to remember that Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly countries in the World!!
More than 98% of the energy in Costa Rica is renewable, and the forest cover is now at 53% after decades of painstaking work to reverse the effects of deforestation. In fact a quarter of the country’s land has been turned into protected parks and reserves which is incredible!! If only every country did this. So do respect the country.
We didn’t get bitten at all until we got to the beach randomly. I know a lot of people do, we were lucky. Still, do take mozzie spray.And as for bugs and critters, we didn’t see any! Not one spider. We did see snakes but that was only on the guided tours.
All in all, Costa Rica was a magical destination that we would def visit again xx