Winter Getaways: Costa Rica
I know it is getting a little late to talk about winter getaways. The weather is slowly warming and there will be some spring blooms (flowers, really!) sprouting up soon. But there was a snowstorm just last week and March and April have their fair share of gross weather. Spring has never been my favorite season.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about Costa Rica as part of the winter getaways series. Costa Rica is very affordable, beautifully tropical, and the locals are very nice and friendly. The country’s high tourist season (also known as its dry season) runs from late November through late April, which makes it a great winter getaway destination. I’ve also heard that Costa Rica can be lovely during the low season – destinations are not as crowded, attractions and hotels are cheaper, and the rain is limited to a few hours each day. However, certain roads (our 2 hour journey up a dirt road to Monteverde, for example) become impossible to travel during the rainy season. I went in mid-April and had no problems with crowds or rates.
When doing a multi-destination vacation, I like to change it up a bit – maybe a few days hiking, followed by a few days of relaxing by the beach. Or the hustle of Paris followed by the laidback pace of Barcelona (you get the picture). I find that structuring the trip in this way makes the journey more satisfying – like I experienced a bit of everything on my vacation. For Costa Rica, we planned three main destinations while flying in and out of the capital city. Our itinerary looked something like this:
San José -> cloud forest -> volcano -> beach -> San José.
Here is a brief profile of the places we visited:
Home to Costa Rica’s main airport, San José serves as a good starting point to get to many popular tourist destinations – Manuel Antonio, Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, Caribbean and Pacific coasts, or the southern part of the country. Most tourists use the city as a launching point to get to other areas of the country. Safety is a concern in the city – the front desk of our hostel told us to avoid going out at night.
A cloud forest located to the north west of San José, Monteverde has lush forest, beautiful views, awesome wildlife and plant life, and great hiking trails.
Hanging bridges are suspended dozens of feet in the air above the forest and the clouds often settle beneath you.
We took a walking tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve and a night tour where we saw a variety of bird species and many creepy crawlers.
I just read an article about how sometimes the best travel experiences occur off the beaten path, in places you wouldn’t expect. That’s how I feel about the trip from Monteverde to Arenal. We had read that an easy way to get between these locations was to take a taxi-boat-taxi route. I wasn’t expecting much of this journey until we started around the hills around Monteverde. It was STUNNING.
We made the mistake of spending a little too long in Monteverde (we were there for three days – I think it could have been done in two) and therefore only had one day in Arenal. We found a tour that included a hike through the rainforest and around the volcano, a stop to see lava (Arenal is an active volcano), then on to a spa with hot springs and dinner. Done!
The last part of our trip took us to Costa Rica’s most popular destination – Manuel Antonio. A small national park located on the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio has great hiking and beautiful beaches. It also has a stunning variety of wildlife – monkeys are EVERYWHERE and sloths, lizards, and other animals and reptiles aren’t hard to spot. The park is located at the bottom of a large hill, and views around the hill are beautiful. Qupeos is the town nearby and is worth exploring for an afternoon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the winter getaway series! Now on to spring and warmth.