Discovering Costa Rica - A Pura Vida Journey

Discovering Costa Rica - A Pura Vida Journey

Imagine a place where pristine beaches stretch out before crystal-clear waters, and lush rainforests teeming with wildlife and hidden waterfalls await just a few miles away. From vibrant coastal towns to tranquil mountain retreats, Costa Rica is a paradise of endless exploration. Learn more in our article and video below.

Discovering Costa Rica - A Pura Vida Journey

Our adventure began the moment we touched down in Costa Rica. After a smooth airport experience, we hopped into our shuttle and headed to pick up our rental car. If you're renting a car in Costa Rica, here's a tip: opt for a four-wheel drive. The weather can be unpredictable, and the roads to places like La Fortuna or Monteverde can be pretty challenging. We chose Vamos, a trusted local company, for our rental. Often, people will go with one of the big US brands that they are familiar with, but it's usually best to find a reputable local company when traveling to another country. Places like Crystal in Belize and the former Dan Dooley in Ireland (RIP) tend to be much better than their big-name counterparts. And Vamos is known for excellent service and reliable vehicles, which made us feel right at home.

The Tree Houses Hotel

Tree Houses Hotel Costa Rica

Our first destination was the unique Tree Houses Hotel in San Carlos, just outside La Fortuna. We were welcomed by the friendly staff and some adorable rescue dogs, including a newcomer named Lila and a little guy named Bug. Deivid from Guest Services provided us with the essentials—Wi-Fi info, keys, and a map—before we set off to our treehouse.

Costa Rica Dogs

The experience of staying in a treehouse was both unique and memorable. The panoramic views from the trees were stunning, and unwinding in the rocking chair on the deck was pure relaxation. Fresh coffee was delivered in a canteen on our porch each morning, and the beds were incredibly comfortable. There are large rooms for families to make the stay enjoyable.

The food at their breakfast spot, the Rancho, was a highlight. We also enjoyed watching a local dance performance at the Rancho. After the performance, the staff invited us to help make a traditional sugarcane drink using a traditional sugar cane press. This involved feeding sugar cane stalks into a hand-cranked press to extract the juice. It was a fun and collaborative effort, and the resulting sugarcane juice was deliciously refreshing.

Our days were filled with adventure. We explored the on-site trails, enjoyed a few games of ping pong, and took a relaxing 30-minute walk down to the river, soaking in the sights and sounds of the rainforest. The waterfalls along the way were spectacular.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

La Fortuna was next on our list, a charming town with plenty to see and do. We had a delicious meal at the Rainforest Cafe and then headed out on a safari float down the Penas Blancas River with Canoa Aventura. Despite a day of rain, the float was serene, and we spotted various animals along the way. We even enjoyed fresh cacao fruit and learned about cocoa production, which was fascinating.

The following morning, we toured the North Fields Coffee and Cocoa Tour. This family-owned plantation in La Fortuna offers an authentic experience, from the farm to your cup. The tour covers every step of the process: nursery, plantation, harvest, drying, roasting, grinding, preparation, and tasting. We tasted different types of cocoa beans, learned about the fermentation and roasting processes, and enjoyed fresh-brewed coffee made with traditional Costa Rican methods. It was an eye-opening and delicious experience. The farm also features animals and small plantations of sugarcane, cocoa, and other crops, showcasing the rich Costa Rican culture.

Our explorations continued with a visit to Arenal Waterfall, where we marveled at the stunning views from both above and below. The trek to the waterfall's base was challenging but rewarding, with its 530 steps. The sound of the cascading water and the lush greenery made it a truly magical experience. We had a great dinner at Soda Diego Ulate, a small, locally-owned Costa Rican restaurant. This husband-and-wife spot served us a fantastic meal of ceviche, rice, beans, and a selection of flame-grilled meats. After dinner, we headed back to the Tree Houses Hotel and asked the staff where we could find guaba, a fruit known as the ‘ice cream bean’ that I’ve always wanted to try. To our surprise, they brought us a stack of guaba the next morning. Their kindness and effort made us feel genuinely welcomed.

Guaba - The Ice Cream Bean

Leaving the Tree Houses Hotel was bittersweet. The unique setting, the warm hospitality, and the memorable encounters with rescue dogs made it a truly special stay. The night walk, where we saw numerous animals on the property, was a highlight. Over 70 dogs have been adopted from Tree Houses Hotel, a testament to their dedication to animal rescue.

Pacific Coast - Lapazul and Playa Linda Beach

Lapazul, Pacific Coast, Costa Rica

Our journey then took us to the Pacific coast, where we arrived at the stunning Lapazul Boutique Hotel. Nestled in the mountains overlooking Playa Linda beach, Lapazul offered breathtaking views, an infinity pool, and a serene yoga studio. The intimate setting with only a few rooms ensured a peaceful and personalized experience. We loved the fresh fruits from the garden and the delicious meals, especially George and Geovanny's incredible drinks.

Lapazul provided everything we needed for a beach day at Playa Linda, a peaceful and uncrowded spot with stunning ocean views. Nearby, Dominical offered great pastries and coffee at Moromo and a delicious fish sandwich at El Pescado Loco, where we made friends with a local cat named Ceviche.

Ceviche the Cat

Manuel Antonio National Park was a wildlife wonderland. We spotted anteaters, crabs, deer, lizards, and a sloth moving in what seemed like slow motion (seriously, they are very slow). The park's beach was beautiful, and we learned some crucial parking tips. Near the park, people dressed as "tour guides" offer to park you in free on-street parking for a "fee" of $20-$30. Instead, skip by all of them and you'll find some spots near the park entrance for only $3-$4.

Overall, our trip to Lapazul was in one word: 'relaxing.' Rain or shine, it was a haven of tranquility. The exceptional staff, the stunning views, and the great food and drink made it unforgettable.

Wrap Up

Sadly, our trip ended as we returned our car to Vamos and headed to the airport. The process was smooth, and Vamos's staff ensured a perfect end to our journey.

Costa Rica left us in awe with its warm people, delicious food, rich nature, and breathtaking sights. The rescue dogs at the Tree Houses Hotel added a special touch to our experience. From the treetops of La Fortuna to the coastal breezes of Playa Linda, this journey was ‘pura vida’ in every sense.

A Video of Our Costa Rica Experience


About The Author
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Ray is the founder of Stray Monkey, and as a shameless plug he wants to remind you to check out the Research the News podcast.

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