An Insider Look at Costa Rica
Yampu’s HR Manager, Marianne, returned last month from an adventure in Costa Rica with delicious coffee and great travel tips in tow. Check out her pictures, experiences, and traveler insights below!
In San Jose my sister and I stayed at Grano De Oro- a comfortable hotel with the usual expected amenities. The hotel is an old-style house with rooms that felt more like a bedroom in a home than a hotel room and it featured several different garden areas, including a rooftop Jacuzzi surrounded by plants. They offer a boxed breakfast for those leaving before the restaurant opened for breakfast (7am) and consisted of a croissant with either jam or ham and cheese, an apple, a yogurt, bottle of water and a little carton of orange juice. It was nice to be able to have something to eat rather than wait the 3 hours before stopping for breakfast.
Along the way to Tortuguero we passed banana packing plants, pineapple farms, and people loading up harvested palm fruit! We also noticed wind-farms and intriguing irrigation systems. Many of the guides who accompanied us on bus tours were incredibly informative to sites we passed en route.
Laguna Lodge in Tortuguero has a beach popular for turtle sighting in August-October, a time when three different species of turtle nest on the beach. There are also increased jaguar sightings during these months.
Tortuguero is also home to a conservation park, which offer boat tours to look for wildlife as well as extensive trails. We visited a frog garden at Laguna Lodge, which featured a variety of tree frogs. The property’s forest walks give visitors more opportunities to see wildlife- in our group, we saw leaf bats, frogs, howler monkeys, armadillos, and more!
In the town of Tortuguero you can buy whole coconuts sliced open with a machete and drink the water from a straw. There are plenty of little shops to visit as well, and most of them accept USD.
In Arenal there is no shortage of activity. On the way you can stop in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui for a tour of the largest organic pineapple farm in Costa Rica. In Arenal see how chocolate is made, and even do a chocolate tasting- yum! Several nearby hotels offer horseback riding, white water rafting, or use of walking trails. On the way there you can stop in Fortuna, a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts. There is a café, Las Iguanas, where you can get refreshments or pet some of the iguanas around it.
Of course, Arenal volcano is the must-see here. The hike can be done in a longer, full loop or there-and-back on a linear trail. For time’s sake, we did the there-and-back route, which took about an hour. Arenal also features hanging bridges, which can be a great activity for spotting wildlife. You can see to the bottom through the grates on the bridges, so those with a fear of heights may struggle, especially when the bridges start to sway somewhat. I suggest going in early morning or late afternoon when wildlife is most active.
After a lot of walking in Arenal it was great to enjoy the thermal pools for a few hours before dinner. There is a bar on site where you can enjoy cocktails and relax in the pools, which are of varying temperatures ranging from 99F-106F.
In Monteverde we tried out the sky trek, or ziplining. They also have a sky tram, essentially a ski gondola, which brings you up to a lookout point where you can see the cloud forest from a whole new perspective. If you prefer walking, the sky walk/hanging bridges provides a great opportunity to look for wildlife. If you’re looking for other types of adventures, you can go on nighttime wildlife walks, visit the serpentarium, bungee jump, visit the art gallery, go horseback riding, climb trees, or take a tasty coffee, chocolate, and sugar can tour.
We enjoyed many Costa Rican staples for our meals throughout the trip. A simple yet delicious breakfast of Gallo Pinto, made up of rice, beans, eggs, and sausage, was enjoyed at the Laguna Lodge in Tortuguero. While there we were able to see the property’s beautify; butterfly house.
Finca Rosa Blanca is a hotel/resort/coffee farm. In addition to growing their own coffee, they also raise their own chickens and organic fruits and vegetables. One of the great food options here is to head to a nearby town with the chef to pick up fresh ingredients that he will later prepare for you.
- Bring a large water bottle. You can refill at any hotel each morning, but often there aren’t any opportunities to get water during a trip. If necessary, it can be left in the truck for between tours. I would recommend a water bottle that keeps cold things cold… My Nalgene was great for the volume of water it held but when I didn’t drink it fast enough it became warm very quickly.
- Bring a sarong or a very wide shawl. The boat ride in Tortuguero was mostly in the sun and it was hot! A sarong or shawl to place over head and shoulders proved to be very useful for those with sensitive skin. Even with Factor 50 on my sister burned that day. For anyone who doesn’t have one: several people took one of the bath towels from the hotel room and placed it over their head and shoulders. This is also a great option as it can be dipped in the canal and squeezed out to give a cooling effect on the skin.
- Take plenty of cash – many places don’t have card machines. Most places have prices in USD instead of colones so currency exchange isn’t necessary.
- Get a decent (comfortable) small back pack or bum bag (fanny pack to the yanks) – many times you will only need your camera, a little cash, your vouchers and your water.
- Make sure your camera has a strap – you will want to have your camera handy at all times as you never know when something will cross your path. I saw a number of people carrying their phones in their hand while trying to hang on to the bridge at the same time… if you are using your phone as your camera, get a case that has a lanyard or something so you can have it within reaching distance but hands free. Although I would recommend getting a real camera with a good optical zoom as many of the wildlife we saw was high up in the trees.
- A travel pillow would make the bus rides a lot more comfortable – providing a good time to get a little shut eye.
- Extra underwear –when you are out and about in the heat and humidity it is nice to have the option to freshen up after sweating so much!
- Dry shampoo and shower wipes (such as shower pills), when you sweat so much from the humidity you sometimes need to wipe down during the day to make it easier to reapply your sunscreen.
- Bring an extra plastic bag for your wet stuff – sometimes your bikini won’t dry in time for your transfer out the next morning and to save from getting other clothes wet, it is handy to have a plastic bag to separate them.