Costa Rica is like being in a dream where you are surrounded by lush jungles, stunning waterfalls, scenic views and find new animals around every corner. The locals are friendly, relaxed, and excited to share their country and culture. The motto in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida” meaning “Pure Life” or “Simple Life” which truly encompasses the way of life. Costa Ricans live pure and strive to be stress-free, adopt a slow-pace and practice gratitude for what they have, rather than to focus on what they do not. Costa Rica is one of the happiest countries I have visited and I am excited to share it with you!
Costa Rica consists of seven provinces, which makes it difficult to cover in one trip. I visited two provinces, Guanacaste Province and Puntarenas Province, and provided my favorite lodging, activities, restaurants, and addition landmarks to hit.
- Andaz Papagayo is in the Guanacaste Province on Papagayo Peninsula. The Guanacaste Province is known for its beaches, some of the best surfing in the world, and the unique dry tropical forest. Papagayo Peninsula specializes in luxury resorts and is home to one of the best in the world, Andaz Papagayo. The resort has won Travel + Leisure’s award for one of the 20 best getaways for adults, TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award and Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Resorts in Central and South America. Our room was spacious and clean with incredible perks including fresh fruit, a large outdoor deck, and take-home fedora hats and flip-flops. The resort was large and offered 2 pools, 2 beaches, and 3 restaurants. It also offers beautiful massage rooms overlooking the ocean and an amazing fitness center with a multiple saunas. The staff was spectacular, helpful and gracious and would drive you around via golfcart anytime you would like to get somewhere.
- Oxygen Jungle Villas is in the Puntarenas Province which covers most of Costa Rica’s Pacific Ocean coast and the western part of the country. Puntarenas Province is home to 14 national parks, dense moist tropical rain forests, and incredible “party” beaches for surfers and visitors. I stayed at Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita and could have cried tears of joy the entire time. Their glass villas exceeded any lodging expectation I could have dreamed of and allowed me to knock off a top item on my bucket list. It is no surprise this resort landed as on Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, Yahoo! Travel Top 20 World’s Best Boutique Hotels, and made it on Conde Nast Traveler: Hot List Hotel. This environmentally friendly and luxurious resort is made up of 12 Balinese inspired private villas each with gorgeous four poster beds, rain showers, and access to animals outside the glass walls. (I saw my first white-nosed coati—they are so adorable!) The property has a fantastic restaurant, on-site spa, ocean-view infinity swimming pool, a private jungle reserve trail with a waterfall and some of the best cocktails we drank the entire trip.
- Rio Celeste — This waterfall and river is one of the most turquoise in the world! I highly suggest going on this hike and taking pictures; the contrast of dark green jungle and turquoise water is unmatched! This river is located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park and several hot springs are nearby. Also, within a few hours you have other well-known landmarks, included the Arenal Volcano.
- Any and all waterfalls. This country is covered with them, some well-known and some hidden.
- Horseback riding to the Nauyaca Waterfalls — This was one of my favorite activities of the trip! The adventure takes about 6 hours total with a few hours on the horse and an incredible day of swimming, jumping, climbing and taking pictures at two different waterfalls. One waterfall drops into a pool that you can swim in. Locals love this area and often hike to it with a picnic to enjoy after swimming. It is possible to either hike or horseback ride to this destination.
- Manuel Antonio National Park — The smallest of Costa Rica’s protected green spaces that boosts more than any other! Walk around and spot iguanas, sloths, monkeys, rare birds and more. This National Park is full of untamed beaches, secluded coves, thick rainforest, and hiking trails. You can also go on a catamaran or yacht from the Manuel Antonio marina.
- Relax at the many beaches or pools. It is easy to get excited and book a lot of activities, but remember, you are on vacation so it’s important to just CHILL once in a while. (Something I have to constantly remind myself).
- Hike Corcovado National Park – National Geographic described this place as the most biologically intense place on Earth!
- Snorkeling Cano Island — This is one of the best places to snorkel in Costa Rica due to the vibrant coral reef, crystal clear water and plentiful of fish. Seeing whales and dolphins is common.
- Other activities available throughout Costa Rica– Waterfall Rappelling, White Water Rafting, Zip lining, Cliff jumping, Scuba Diving, Hiking, Surfing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
- Ostra (Located on Papagayo Peninsula at Andaz) – Upscale Seafood in a beautiful outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean. The restaurant welcomes you with a delicious cocktail as you enter. I highly recommend the ceviche and the local Costa Rican food. The flavor is incredible.
- Rio Bhongo (Located on Papagayo Peninsula at Andaz) – This restaurant is the most casual and largest restaurant on the Andaz property. The breakfast buffet was incredible and we were able to watch monkeys swing from the trees while enjoying made-to-order omelets, fresh local fruits and cheeses, as well as a variety of pastries and Costa Rican coffee! I also ordered a baked sweet plantain with palmetto cheese and cinnamon and it was incredible. You can opt for the buffet or al carte.
- Chao Pescao (Located on Papagayo Peninsula at Andaz) – Chao Pescao is a tapas and cocktail bar with live music. I was very impressed with the cocktails. My favorite was a spicy egg white margarita. Next time I definitely want to take the mixology class and try some tapas!
- Father Rooster’s (Guancaste Provience on Ocotal Beach near Coco Beach) – Great outdoor restaurant on the beach filled with locals. Sit at tables on the sand under mango trees (maybe not right under a mango!), drink house-made margaritas, and enjoy coconut shrimp, plantains, and local dishes.
- TacoBar (Puntarenas Province on Jaco Beach) – If you find yourself in Jaco, one of the best surfing and party cities, then TacoBar is a must. Sit in swings while sipping out of mason jars and enjoying some of the best food we ate all trip. Stand in line to order your “core” dish then fill your plate with the fixings from the constantly fresh small buffet.
- The O2 Restaurant (Puntarenas Province at Oxygen Jungle Villas) – Simple, elegant and fresh dishes with an incredible serving staff. We sampled several of the drink items from the menu and loved every single one. Highly suggest the jungle colada and fresh fish!
Other Landmarks to See
- Arenal Volcano
- San Jose (the capital)
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
- Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Tabacon Hot Springs
- Tortuguero National Park
Thanks for adventuring along! I hope you enjoy the Pura Vida life as much I do. On to the next….