Costa Rica: San José, Mal País & La Fortuna

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This is the the view I woke up to my first day in Costa Rica. Delta left my suitcase behind in Atlanta, but this sight immediately made up for it. After landing in San José at night, it was surprising to see the next morning that this hotel, in the outskirts of the city, was so spectacular. That was pretty much the theme of this trip. Expectations were surpassed at every turn.

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Getting there:

From the east coast of the U.S., Costa Rica is a bit farther than a lot of destinations in the Caribbean, but it’s so worth the trip! The flight from New York required a layover in Georgia, but total flight time was under 8 hours. In terms of when to go, it all depends on personal preference. If you prefer the weather dry, January to March is a good time. This trip was in early April and the weather was fantastic.

Getting around:

 A car rental is a must! There is so much to see, and a lot of territory to cover. Depending on where you’re headed, you’ll want to prepare for unfinished roads and livestock roaming around. My rental was a Suzuki Jimmy (photo below) and it got the job done. Prepare to drive more defensively and opt to add on the GPS.

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Where to stay: 

Florblanca Resort There’s a bit of a silly story here. I’ve wanted to stay at this resort for a while, and it all started with a reality show episode! Years ago when ‘The Hills’ (a spinoff of Laguna Beach) was on MTV, the cast from the show vacationed in Costa Rica and stayed at Florblanca.  In the show, the place looked amazing–but you know how TV often has a way of making everything look better than it actually is? 😉  Well thankfully, this was an exception!

Florblanca is a tropical oasis. It’s on the Nicoya Peninsula along the Pacific coast in Puntarenas. The resort offers the perfect mix of the beach, the jungle and modern luxury. There are ten villas on the property and they vary in size.  Each one, however, has an open-air living room with a private balcony overlooking the jungle and a hammock right in the middle. The bathroom also comes with an open-air shower and tub. I have to tell you–taking a shower and looking up to see a monkey hanging from a tree is pretty incredible. And after a long day in the sun, you can retreat to an air-conditioned, private bedroom in your villa for some rest. Florblanca has mastered a way to incorporate the wild elements of nature into a very well-appointed property.

El Silencio Lodge & Spa  From the actual location and setting, to the services offered, all you can do is unwind and decompress at El Silencio. It’s an eco-luxury hotel that’s located in a tropical cloud forest in Bajos del Toro, Alajuela. Doesn’t that sound magical?? There is no swimming pool, and you won’t any lounge chairs or umbrellas anywhere. A stay here provides a cleansing and soothing experience, both mentally and physically.

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What to do: 

Horseback riding on the beach at sunset is amazing! I, however, was not well-prepared.  So here are some tips so you can make the most out of this incredible experience.

  • Wear a ton of sunscreen. Apply the heavy-duty stuff and reapply when necessary.
  • Wear a hat or bring one along as an option.
  • Wear something that covers your back.
  • Bring a small backpack and pack water.
  • Wear comfortable, breathable clothing.
  • Wear sneakers, no flip flops.

Now of course, this would apply when it’s sunny and hot, but there is a good chance it will be. I underestimated the duration of the ride, which took around 3-4 hours. It was fascinating to see so much of the land and the shore, and the horses were wonderful. They do all the hard work for you, but the heat can be intense at times so just plan accordingly so you can fully enjoy it. Many beachside hotels and resorts offer horseback riding adventures, I booked mine through Florblanca.

Surfing– that is,  if you’re pretty good at it. Santa Teresa is a well-known surfing destination. Locals say it’s world-class. I am pretty pathetic in the water so this was a no-go for me, but if you’re looking for an opportunity to challenge yourself, take advantage!

La Fortuna Waterfall is not to be missed!  This should be a stop along the way if you plan to visit the Arenal Volcano. Get ready for a leg workout because you’ll be going down, and then up, some 500 stairs to see the waterfall up-close. It is a remarkable sight to see, and you can also hop in the water for a swim.

Back to that volcano– it has to be on your list! Just remember to hope for a clear day because occasional fog might kill the view (I speak from experience). Hopefully luck will be on your side!

Aside from the waterfall and volcano, the surroundings are so lush and there is so much to see and explore in this part of Costa Rica. From zip lining, to hiking, to the hot springs–it’s all right there!

 

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As I mentioned in a previous post, this trip to Costa Rica was my first time visiting Central America, and it’s the reason I love to go back. From what I’ve observed, there is so much natural beauty all around, the food is delicious and the people are genuine and kind.  What’s more, everything seems to flow at a slower pace, and there is a greater appreciation for just living in the moment. If your travels have yet to take you to this part of the world–don’t wait too long, otherwise you’re really missing out. PURA VIDA!!

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