Great Places to Visit in Costa Rica
After completing a study abroad program in Costa Rica, and vacationing there twice, I have traveled most of the country. I have learned how to arrange the travel, in addition to knowing how to travel a little more safely. Throughout these experiences, I have had the pleasure of visiting several fantastic places:
1. Drake Bay Resort:
This is a secluded resort in southwestern Costa Rica, located where a jungle river meets the ocean (and, yes, there are crocodiles in the jungle river…we saw them!). It is difficult to get to, but the resort helps you arrange the travel, and the resort itself, along with the tours, are well worth the effort. Once you have flown into the San Jose Airport (which is in Alajuela, Costa Rica, not in San Jose), you will then need to travel to the regional airport; this is easy because cab fare is very cheap for Americans in Costa Rica. Then, you will have to fly to another regional "airport." I put the word "airport" in quotations because you should not expect to see a building at this next airport. It more equivalent to a "stop" on a dirt road. From there, you will be picked up by a van, which will drive you through two rivers; then, you will board a boat on the ocean, which will take you to the resort. I suggest you bring your own life vest, especially if you do not know how to swim, as they are not always readily available. Once you reach the destination, you will not be disappointed. For lodging, you will be in a decent cabin, but do not expect a television! Therefore, we recommend only staying for a few days, as opposed to purchasing one of the lengthier packages.
When you first book your package with the Drake Bay Resort, you will have your choice of several different types of packages, which include all of your food, lodging, and tours from which you can choose. In some of the tours, you will be able to hike through the rainforest, and view many different animals (depending on whether or not they are hiding that day). It is an amazing experience! They also have a kayaking tour for those more interested in the ocean itself. In addition to the tours included in your package, you may also pay extra for additional tours. My husband and I paid for the tour that takes you out on a boat in the pitch-black darkness, because there is so much phosphorous where the jungle river meets the ocean, that everything glows. It was breathtaking…but also a little scary, especially when we returned to the dock on the jungle river, and all we could see were several sets of crocodile eyes glowing on the surface of the water!
2. Café Britt: This coffee plantation is in central Costa Rica, in the province of Heredia. It provides wonderful tours, and when I did the tour several years ago, I was given a free sample of coffee liquor.
3. Poas Volcano (Vocan Poas): This volcano is very close to Heredia, so it should be easy to combine this visit with the visit to Café Britt. This will provide you with the beautiful site of the Poas Volcano.
4. Arenal Volcano (Volcan Arenal): This volcano is in the northern part of Costa Rica, in a town called "La Fortuna." It is about a three-hour trip, by car, from central Costa Rica (Alajuela). There, you can find wonderful resorts, hot springs, and great views of the Arenal Volcano! My favorite two resorts in this area are the following:
· The Lost Iguana Resort & Spa: I strongly recommend this resort. It very much has a rainforest atmosphere, and is located very close to many optional tours, including zip lines (the ones in this location are supposedly the safest ones in Costa Rica because the platforms are not in trees; therefore, it results in less broken bones from people trying to stop themselves at the trees, however, these zip lines are also several hundred meters high), repelling down waterfalls, and hanging bridges. It is also only about five minutes from the nearby Tabacon Hot Springs Resort The Lost Iguana Resort & Spa also has various types of rooms available to suit your needs; some rooms include a private Jacuzzi on the balcony. At this resort, you will also find a pool alongside the bar (the seats are literally in the pool). In addition, the restaurant had four-star quality food, with great service, and we were even greeted by the chef! In the morning, the restaurant had amazing carved fruit set out for decoration.
· Tabacon Resort: Only five-minutes from The Lost Iguana Resort & Spa, I do not recommend staying overnight at this resort, as the service was horrible when I tried to make the reservation, but the resort is worth visiting; there is an alternative to lodging there overnight. Instead, you can purchase a "day pass" to visit the resort. Just remember that you need to reserve your "day pass" ahead of time; you can do this via the Internet. It is a little pricey, but definitely worth the money! This resort is set in the middle of the beautiful rainforest, and consists of multiple natural hot springs! Furthermore, it has a chorine pool with a bar at the end (again, the bar seats are in the water), and a restaurant.
The places I have listed above are all great places, and aside from getting to Drake Bay, travel is rather cheap, and easy in Costa Rica. You can usually pay a cab driver a certain amount to drive you for hours (i.e. three hours from Alajuela to La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano). Tips for cab safety in Costa Rica: Make sure the cab has a light on top, a triangle on the side, and that the cab driver runs the meter. These are things that a "legal" cab must have. There will be many other illegal cab drivers that will try to get your business. I experienced this myself, when returning from Drake Bay to the regional airport. A cab driver accepted our business, and when we started exiting the airport, I asked him where his cab was, and he pointed to a large, blue, van. Knowing better, I told him in Spanish, that we were not going with him, and that I wanted a cab that looked like a legal one (and I pointed to one). To my surprise, it did not seem to faze him one bit; he actually just immediately found us one. Should you choose to rent a car, you will have to make a $1200 deposit, most of which you will get back, unless you return the car damaged, in which case they will keep the amount of money of their choice; also remember that the road signs are in Spanish, and that the traffic in Costa Rica is crazy!
Overall, Costa Rica is a great vacation! The places above are only places to which I have already been, but there are many other fantastic locations to visit also! If you are planning a vacation, be prepared to fax a lot of reservation forms. It may also be a good idea to bring someone along who speaks Spanish, because although many of the resorts have English-speaking staff, most of the cab drivers do not speak English, and this is important to make the most out of your trip.