Pura Vida! Adventures in Costa Rica

So, I recently faced a problem that had never occurred to me. I had just graduated college, had a decent job with lots of vacation time, and I was ready to start traveling to my heart’s content. The only thing was, I couldn’t find anyone to travel with! Everyone was, like me, fresh out of school. They were all looking for that first job to get them started and had too many loans to even think about spending money on something like that. I rarely ever travel by myself, not super comfortable with it yet. So I did not know what to do about this situation. I just wanted to go! I didn’t care when or to where, I was down for whatever.

Randomly, I stumbled upon Meet Up. For those of you who don’t know, Meet Up is this awesome website/app where you can find other people interested in the same things as you. You join a bunch of groups where they post the meet ups and you just go! So that’s what I did. I joined a travel group, and their destination of choice was Costa Rica. So that’s where I went!

There are so many ways to meet new people through travel and I am so happy I chose to do it this way. I went with a super awesome group of all ages and backgrounds. We traveled together, but were able to customize our trip to what we personally wanted to do. It was such a great experience and so out of my comfort zone! I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I have enjoyed my travels to Costa Rica immensely! Having been there multiple times, I have gotten to do a lot and loved every minute of it! Below I have outlined some of the cities I have traveled to, great places to stay and eat and the amazing opportunities for adventure I have had along the way!

 

Where to Go

San Jose

Although this city can be a little intimidating at first, this is a perfect place to spend 1-2 days of your trip in Costa Rica. San Jose should not be overlooked. It is the largest in Costa Rica and good mix of Spanish and North American  architecture. We stayed at Hotel Brilla Sol, a super cute locally owned place near the airport.

Things I loved about it: breakfast was included, animals roamed the premises (chickens and peacocks haha), super chill boho ambiance, the fact I was supporting a local business as opposed to an American owned hotel.

There are plenty of historical and architecture landmarks to see in San Jose. If you’re into that, you could probably spend a whole doing just that.

Places I would see: Teatro Nacional, Iglesia de la Merced, Museo Nacional, Plaza Juan Mora Fernandez, Banco Central and Correos de Costa Rica.



If you’re not down with that or would not want to spend a whole day doing that ( yeah me neither haha), there is tons of shopping! Specifically, check out Mercado Nacional. You can find so much here, from souvenir type stuff to unique handmade jewelry. I like to get a piece of jewelry from every place I visit, so when I wear it, it reminds me of my trip! This is where I got a very cute stone pendant necklace. If you’re looking for something super unique and willing to spend a little money, I would stop at is Galeria Namu. It’s a gallery for indigenous crafts and art, but also has items for sale.

Another cool thing to do is visit Cementerio General de San Jose. If you’ve been to New Orleans and toured one of their cemeteries, it will be similar to that. I find the structures to be very interesting and beautiful so this is something I enjoyed visiting.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

View from our bungalow!

FAVE. This place was amazing, breathtaking, chill, hippie, just everything I would want in a beach side town. Exactly what I was hoping for in Costa Rica. We stayed at the Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort which was awesome. Monkeys could be seen in the trees outside our jungle bungalows. The nature surrounding us was just so beautiful. Our bungalows were complete with a hammock on our porch, perfect way to soak up those awesome jungle vibes!

Some places we ate at that I loved: Koki Beach Restaurant, Bikini Restaurant and Nema.

Shout out to Hot Rocks, who had the coolest reggae band and swings in their bar! I wasn’t able to eat there, but we did get drink there one night and it was such a fun time! Pretty much any bar you walk pass in Puerto Viejo will have some good vibes and great music. It was such an awesome place to visit.

Sunrise on Playa Cocles

Tortuguero

So cool. This place can only be accessed by boat, so get ready to see some awesome wildlife on your way! Nature lovers, this is definitely for you! Just on our way there we saw 3 different kinds of monkeys, tons of beautiful birds, and some Caimans! Our guide told us they had even seen some of Costa Rica’s big jungle cats on the banks of the jungle canals, but we were not able to see any that day.

We stayed at the Evergreen Lodge, which was so beautiful! We were surrounded by jungle. The smells and sounds of this place were so cool. The windows are only screened, so even while your’re going to sleep you feel you are completely in nature.

The village of Tortuguero was only a short boat ride away from the Evergreen Lodge. The beach in this area is beautiful and the village is very cute. Colorful buildings and vendors line the one street in town, selling all sorts of handmade and souvenir type things. This village is so popular to visit because June through September hundreds of sea turtles come onto the beach to lay their eggs. Tourists can take a tour to the beach at night to see the turtles during this process.

Arenal/La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano was the most active volcano in Costa Rica, erupting almost constantly with smoke and small amounts of lava. Since 2010 is has been considered to be in a resting phase, but is still an amazing site to see! To visit you can stay in Arenal National Park or the gateway town of La Fortuna. We stayed at Hotel Monte Real, which was in a perfect location of town. It was within walking distance of tons of shops and restaurants.

Some places we ate at that I loved: Soda Viquez, Restaurante Tierra Mia, Soda El Rio

Monteverde

Another great natural site to see is the Cloud Forest of Monteverde. The best way to view the forest is by walking through the hanging bridges or doing an awesome zip line tour! Here you’ll find a wide range of flora and fauna. Specifically, you might be able to see some of Costa Rica’s big jungle cats and a rare bird of paradise.

What to Do

Whitewater Rafting

This was an amazing experience! It made me want to find anywhere near me to go rafting again, it was so fun! We went down Rio Pacuare, which has up to class IV rapids. This was my first time ever whitewater rafting. The guides were so helpful. The whole time I felt completely safe and mostly secure (there’s always a risk of falling out). The scenery was amazing while we were rafting. We were also able to see a lot of wildlife too. It was definitely an adventure!

Chocolate Tour

I learned so much on this tour and was able to eat some amazing chocolate. We visited an indigenous people near Puerto Viejo called the BriBri. This was not your basic chocolate tour. The benefit of doing a tour with this BriBri family was learning about their traditions and way of life as well. They showed us many different plants they used in their daily life and all of their uses. Best of all they showed us how they make their chocolate and let us eat some! It was so delicious. I have never had chocolate that good in my life! The whole process cacao beans go through is very interesting to see and fun to participate in! I leaned that chocolate is best served on fresh pineapple (YUM). I didn’t expect it to be so good!

We made chocolate over a fire in the hut on the right!

Volio (BriBri) Waterfall

Visiting this waterfall was so fun! It is near the town of BriBri, so we did this directly after our chocolate tour. I would recommend having a guide take you there because the paths may be hard to find on your own. It is 50 ft. tall but seems to be a hidden gem still. We had the whole place to ourselves! We spent the afternoon swimming under the waterfall and jumping into it off a ledge directly behind it. A perfect way to spend the day!

Playa Punta Uva

This beach is forever calling my name. Rent a bike and make your way over there because it’s waiting to give you the best day ever. It was slightly hard to find, but the locals are so helpful! We eventually found our way haha. It is the most picturesque beach I have ever been on, you’ll swear you are dreaming. There are barely any people around, besides a clothing vendor and a guy selling coconuts you can drink with a straw. It is perfect! It was about a 20 min bike ride from our hotel in Puerto Viejo.

Hiking

Two spots you should check out if you want some good hiking. In Cahuita National Park we saw a ton of cool wildlife. We had a guide go with us and he was able to point out a lot of different things I would not have seen, which was super cool. Although getting up close and personal with the poisonous eyelash viper is not my idea of fun, it was still very awesome to see them out in their natural habitat. I had to draw the line when our guide found a GIANT (nonpoisonous) spider and was passing it around. Don’t feel like facing my worst fears today while on vacation haha. Hard pass on that.

Arenal would be another great place to hike and see some great wildlife. In both spots, you can hire a guide for a super informative tour. And to make sure you don’t miss any poisonous snakes or giant spiders haha.

Hot Springs

This is a must do while you are visiting Arenal Volcano. Volcanic springs are heated underground and pool on the surface to form these hot springs. They are rich in minerals and can be so relaxing. There are plenty of good spots to go to that offer day passes with and without lunch/dinner.

El Salto

Another thing to do while near Arenal is go to El Salto. This is a local swimming hole in the Fortuna River complete with a rope swing! It is a clearing in the river at the base of a waterfall, so a very beautiful place to swim. It is located in La Fortuna and is still off the beaten path for most tourists. If you go there, you will probably only encounter locals. This swimming hole is not for small children or weak swimmers and there are no life guards or safety precautions. If you go there, you do so at your own risk. That being said, it is a super great place to visit and I would definitely recommend stopping there on a hot day for a fun cool down.

Mistico Hanging Bridges

Hanging Bridges

This was one of my favorite things we did while visiting Arenal. We went to Mistico Park to experience the suspension bridges and it was super fun! Monteverde would also be an amazing place to experience them. Especially because of the cloud forest! These bridges offer a great hike, amazing views, and different perspectives from high above the trees. Definitely something to try if you’re in the area!

Volio Waterfall

Have you been to Costa Rica? I would love to know about some of the fun things you have gotten to experience there! Also please comment below if you have done any fun solo traveling or “meet up” group traveling as I explained above! I would love to hear about your experiences in either!

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