Costa Rica has a special place in my heart: it’s where I first discovered my passion for scuba diving. I’ve visited the country several times and have had quite an adventure with each visit. If you have been saving up some money for a vacation and are an adventure-seeker, Costa Rica might be a good option for you. First of all, it is relatively cheap to fly to and to travel within Central America, especially Costa Rica. The country is tourist-friendly (as are the locals, or “ticos”). If your Spanish isn’t great (or is completely non-existent), most locals and employees in customer service speak English, though I would highly recommend learning some Spanish or practicing your skills before you leave; the locals seemed to enjoy when I would practice my Spanish with them and were very helpful and patient with me when I attempted to speak solely in Spanish. It’d also be fun to begin to learn a new language if you were interested.
My first trip to Costa Rica was a vacation with my parents when I was in 9th grade. I had been doing a report on the country for my Spanish class and immediately fell in love with it. As a wildlife enthusiast, beach-lover, and adventure-seeker, it seemed to have everything that I wanted in a vacation. I convinced my parents to take me there for our next trip and we ended up having an excellent stay in Flamingo Beach on the western coast. While there, we mostly spent our time at the beach and trying out local restaurants. I noticed that our hotel had a dive shop, however, and decided to venture out for my first scuba dive (a bucket list item and something that I had always wanted to do ever since watching the Little Mermaid as a child). I still remember the instructor bringing me down to see a nurse shark — after seeing my first shark and seeing how docile it was, I had a new respect for the creatures and am now practically obsessed with them. I loved the activity so much that my family and I returned the following year so that I could obtain my PADI Open Water certification there.
My third trip there was with a friend last summer. We flew into San José, rented a car, and spent a few nights at Punta Leona at an amazing resort teeming with local wildlife (monkeys and coatimundis would even join us for breakfast).
The beaches there were remarkably pristine, as you can see from the picture below.
Our stay at the hotel included a free ziplining tour, which we obviously took advantage of. If you ever visit Costa Rica, ziplining is one of the most popular tourist activities and a definite must. I had gone ziplining in a cloud forest the first time that I visited the country and it was a nice adrenaline rush. The hotel also offered free wildlife tours. I joined for a night walk and was lucky enough to see a fer-de-lance (one of the deadliest snakes in the country – seeing it was actually ridiculously exciting for me because I’m a huge fan of reptiles).
My friend and I also did the free bird-watching tour and explored the hotel’s butterfly garden. We also visited the Carara National Park and the Manuel Antonio National Park (picture below), where we spotted monkeys, a sloth, and several species of lizards.
After our stay in Punta Leona, we headed to a hostel in the Arenal Volcano region, where we hiked up a region of the volcano and explored local hot springs that evening.
We also made some friends and joined them for a ride to a place called Rio Celeste. The waterfall that we saw was probably the most beautiful one that I’ve ever seen. Here is a picture of it, which doesn’t even do the magnificent sight justice:
Finally, it was time to head back to San José for a night and return back to the states. Exploring the country on our own by car was quite the adventure in itself. We stopped to chat with locals along the way for directions, explored food stands, and got to experience a lot of the country within a short time (we were there for a week). Most of the activities were free, with the exception of some small park fees. We had purchased the Punta Leona deal on Groupon and the hostel that we stayed in was extremely affordable, so the vacation ended up not being very expensive.
I hope to include some vacation spotlights throughout the blog in order to share some of the places that I’ve traveled to with you in case you are considering a new trip. Perhaps the posts will inspire you to save up some money to do some of the things that you’ve always wanted to do!