Costa Rica | Travel Diary

I would do anything to go back here right now! The minute we landed it felt like we were in the jungle. We were surrounded by wild life, tons of greenery and so many nice people. We took a red eye into Costa Rica so we didn't waste an entire day of traveling.  I highly recommend doing this, because the drive from the airport to our first hotel was 4 hours, and trust me when I say you do not want to be doing that drive in the dark.  Street names aren't a thing there, one way bridges are, and there are no street lights. We 100% would've gotten lost! In this post I'm going to go over the 3 hotels we stayed at, the excursions we did, and also some things to take note of if you're traveling here.  Almost every night we ate at the hotel we were staying at, just because our resorts were so nice there was no reason to leave. Plenty of options were available at all three so when looking at the resorts, take note of the restaurants they have on site too! Plus, since it is another country, no one really wanted to venture out in the dark in somewhere we weren't familiar with.  Especially me!

The Springs Resort

Hotel #1

What a dream come true.  This resort looks like it is straight from a magazine.  I was in serious heaven when we arrived here, and I couldn't believe this place was home for 3 days! The resort overlooked Arenal Volcano, and also (practically) the jungle.  While staying there we saw monkeys, sloths, and parrots! The most unreal thing was sitting in a hot spring with Tim and just seeing monkeys climb trees above us, eating bananas. What a surreal experience! Besides the jaw dropping view and all the animals that surrounded us, the amenities it had to offer sealed the deal.  While staying at the Springs, you have access to the Club Rio Outdoor Center. Its located below the resort, hosting activities such as tubing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and so much more. We did tubing and it was SO fun! It was my first time, so I was a little nervous as I always am for doing something for the first time. Our guides were amazing and did a great job at making sure we knew what to do and also making sure we enjoyed ourselves. The hotel offers shuttles every 30 minutes down to Club Rio for you to enjoy the activities which is a huge plus! When we weren't doing activities, you could find us at the pool. They had a swim up bar along with multiple pools and also hot spring jacuzzis.  We split our time half and half, and then tried the slide that was at the bottom of the Springs. With such a pretty view I really just planted myself in a hot spring or the pool the whole time and enjoyed it. 

Our actual room was amazing, considering outside our window we saw a volcano. We got a 3 bedroom, 3 bath layout with a balcony that had a jacuzzi, and a bar that connected to our mini kitchen inside. Almost every time I go to a hotel, the water pressure is awful and I feel like I'm never clean. Not here! We had a walk in shower with a seat, a mirror, and so much room.  I mean really, I could've had a party in there. If you look on the website you will see how stunning all of the rooms are, it really doesn't matter which one you get.  Nothing is not nice at this hotel and we enjoyed every minute of this paradise!

Los Suenos Marriot Ocean & Golf Resort 

Hotel #2

After spending some time in the jungle, we hopped back in the car for another 4 hour drive and made our way down to the beach.  Our resort was right on the ocean and we had a great view of it from our room. This hotel had pools and swim up bars and…what else could you ask for? Ha. Compared to the Springs Resort, this was definitely more of your normal hotel. Still unbelievably amazing, but definitely a different vibe then the Springs. This was beach front like I said, so the views were way different then the jungle! They had an eco tour that the hotel offered that was basically a golf cart tour, showing us the animals that are all around the resort plus how big it really is. Tim and I took advantage of using the tennis court for free for 2 hours, and we were the only ones out there because well… who wants to work out when you can lay out? We personally didn’t lay out on the beach, just because none of us are really beach people. The pools were so pretty that we honestly didn’t want to leave them! When we weren’t at the pool, we were doing excursions. Another plus about this hotel is the excursions were pretty much across the street. We went off the resort, drove directly across, and then down the street to our location that offered multiple activities! So many great things about this hotel that I can literally go on and on. Not to mention that when you walk down the beach, you’ll hit a mini outdoor mall with nice restaurants and some dessert places.

Costa Rica Marriot Hotel San Jose

Hotel #3

Mini pit stop! This hotel was also so nice, but we only stayed here for one night. Like you read before, everything was pretty fat apart driving wise. Our flight back left at about 8 am, so if you do the math… we would’ve had to get up at around 2 in the morning. Nope! This hotel was no more then 10 minutes away from the airport, and also they had a service where they returned our rental cars so we didn’t have to. Such a perk! Though this hotel was really nice (and really updated), I liked our other ones better because we were either at the beach or in the jungle. But, when you are looking for a place to stay so you don’t have to drive in the middle of the night, stay here! Again— lots of choices on site and the rooms are stunning.

WHAT WE DID

White Water Rafting

Not going to lie you guys… I was crapping my pants about this leading up to it. I had heard so many horror stories, stories of people falling out and honestly the '“what ifs” were eating me alive. We took our bus ride (30 minutes) to here from the Springs and when we got there I was holding on to Tim for dear life, crying. I was so scared. What did it for me was seeing the river and what we were going to be rafting through- because it was so rough and it looked fast. I sucked it up and did it, and made sure I followed every direction because I sure as hell wasn’t going to fall out, get lost, drown, you know…the list goes on. At the end of the day I’m happy I did it, and now I can say I’ve done white water rafting. The level we did was 3/4 I believe, and I personally couldn’t do anything harder or scarier. That was good enough for me! You 100% will get soaked and the water is absolutely freezing! I didn’t fall out (that was life goal for the day) and nobody in our boat did except one. Our guide actually ended up seeing me cry, so since he knew I was really nervous I sat in the back next to to him and he didn’t purposely do anything to make up tip over. The Bachelor party that was also on our tour, on the other hand? Every time I turned around at least one person, if not the whole boat, was under water. They definitely test out what the vibe is and if you want to be rowdy they will definitely let you get rowdy. If you just want to have fun and experience it like us, you’ll be good. Of course people fall out sometimes regardless, and thats just because of how bumpy it is. If we did rafting again in CR I would definitely go here again, and I highly recommend it to all of you!

Tubing

Yay for Club Rio! We took our shuttle down the hill from our resort and saw a whole new location! We ended up being 30 minutes early for tubing so the staff said we could use the pools while we waited. “Just take this path!”, they said. Well us folks were looking for like real pools, but ended up getting something so much better. More hot springs! We hiked a little path and came across multiple pools that we could get into, and waterfalls. That kept us busy the entire time and before we knew it, it was tubing time. Helmets, life jackets, tubes, and a quick direction lesson and we were floating down the river! No one in our group fell out, and overall I felt like it was mellow. I was no where close to feeling like I was drowning, but it gave me an adrenaline rush thats for sure! Not to mention the cold water you’re flowing in. One of my favorite activities!

Ziplining

Anyone else afraid of heights? Yeah, me too. I’ve zip lined before but that was when I was 13 and fearless. This trip I was 21 years old and had anxiety. Oh how life changes as you get older ;) Like I said, once we got to our second hotel all of our excursions were across the street. After doing multiple long drives at that point, it being across the street was exactly what we needed. On our tour was a lot of people, which also meant a lot of tour guides. We hopped in a bus, drove up a quick hill and started our journey! It made me feel better that we were doing the trees directly above us and not going somewhere that nobody would be able to find us. These are the things I think about when I’m freaking out, ha! Once I did the first line over I was totally fine, I just had to get into the hang of thing again since it had been awhile. My only advice to people who haven’t done it is follow all directions and try to say you’ll thank yourself afterwards. Because it really is a cool experience!

FIshing

Tim, his dad, and cousin did a day fishing trip and loved it! Tim & Glen caught mahi mahi and Tumani caught a sail fish. The sail fish had to be released back into the ocean, but we were able to keep the mahi mahi and go to a special restaurant that cooked the fish for us! We were able to keep the leftovers of the fish and bring it back to the hotel, which also cooked the caught fish for us. It was my first time experiencing caught fish straight from the ocean, and I do NOT like fish. It was so good I even had seconds, if that tells you anything!

Horse Back Riding

I did this one with the other family we went with (Tim’s sisters friend) and had a blast! This was the same day Tim went fishing and I knew for a fact I couldn’t handle that for all day long. I get motion sick so easily it wasn't going to happen! We took our shuttle across the street and met up with our pretty horses! We got all saddled up and rode back to waterfalls that were fake. So beautiful they looked fake. Straight out of a picture you guys! We were only allowed to take the horses so far, so we did hike back about 10 minutes to the waterfalls that we got to swim in and do the natural slide! Practically a water slide that was naturally made by the rocks. Very bumpy but so cool! After playing in the water we rode back and total I’d say the experience lasted around 2 hours including driving, getting set up, the riding, the waterfalls, and everything on the way back. One thing I will say is holy crap- I was sore for DAYS after. We got home and I was still walking funny. Either I’m really out of shape (very likely) or horse back riding causes you to use muscles you don’t normally use. #ouch You could tell the horses are treated well and were so so sweet.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BRING

Bug Spray

Long Sleeve Shirts or Rash Guards for water activities

Water Shoes (I used THESE. Worked great & cute!)

Tennis Shoes

A lot of athleisure clothes

A lot of bathing suits

Back Pack

Garmin (If you don’t plan on using the rental cars one. Note: your phone will not work, even if you pay for out of country use!)

Snacks (for the long car drives)

Colones or Costa Rican Money (I used American money multiple times, but not always could I get the correct amount of change back)

Car Charger & Portable Charger

Some side notes on why these are important. You will get bug bites, and possibly a lot of them if you don’t have spray. I didn’t bring any long sleeves for our water activities, and I didn’t get any rashes, but I wish I had had them for keeping my arms out of the sun. Bring a pair of tennis shoes you don’t care about, because Costa Rica is just flat out wet. I forgot my water shoes for horseback riding and I ended up having to throw my Nikes away (barely a year old insert tears here) so that wasn’t fun! Even though I had planned my outfits and thought I had enough, I didn’t realize how many times I would be changing throughout the day, and honestly I just didn’t have enough. You will want comfy workout clothes for excursions, not nice sandals with a blouse. I also ended up having to throw my backpack away because it rained on our way back from the waterfalls horse back riding. So, my bag smelled awful and just didn’t dry. It was like I jumped in the water with it on. Luckily it was old so this wasn’t a biggy! We picked up a GPS from where we got our rental car, but you without a doubt need one. I paid for phone service (extra money) and it just didn’t work in some areas. You do not want to get lost! I’m a picky eater and I need to eat while being in the car for a long time, so I wished that I had bought more from the airport because there was no food stops along the way. And last but not least chargers. I didn’t bring a portable one and with how many pictures you are going to be taking, you are going to want one.

One thing I want you all to keep in mind is we went during off season for Costa Rica. The hotels we stayed at were practically empty.  We definitely had people there with us, but never once did we have to deal with a huge crowd or wait in a big line for something. That was a HUGE plus, along with the fact that we took a red eye to get there. It sounds crappy, but in the end that's what you need to do.  Costa Rica is a foreign country, and there was no way we were doing a 4 hour drive landing at 6 o'clock at night. They have no street signs, the sun sets at 6 PM, you have no service, and the list goes on.  Just take my advice and DON'T get trapped in the jungle! 

This was the trip of a lifetime and something that I'll never forget.  I pictured it to be a one time place, but because of our experience, we are seriously hoping to come back! From all the activities that we did and the service the hotels offered, we left very happy. I hope this post helps some of you debating whether or not to come here, and if you do as always let me know what recommendations you did of mine. Pura Vida!

XO,

Danielle Alana