Pura Vida; the two words to take away from this beautiful destination. In Spanish it directly translates to “pure life” however this short sang has vast meanings to each individual.
This tranquil country makes for the perfect long weekend away from the United States. The nearest beach so happens to also be next to one of the largest national reserves in Costa Rica, so it is easy to see why Manuel Antonio is a great first stop. It is a simple 2.5 hour uber ride down south, and if you have the time, make sure to ask your driver to pull over at the Croc Bridge! Here we watched a group of at least 30 monster salt-water alligators devour raw chicken breasts thrown over the bridge.
Tourism is relatively new here, so naturally the real estate and housing market is pretty affordable. Depending on your style of travel you can find 8 bedroom mansions for as little as $1000 a night or a low-key guesthouse where you can share an 8 bed room for $10 a night. Being on our last week of the South American adventure, our budget directed us toward a low-key bunk house just meters away from the National Park. This unique park has many biospheres; forests, swamp, lagoons and white sand beaches. Here you can easily spot a wild sloth, howler monkey, alligators, eyelash viper, and depending on the time of year, even migrating whales.
The beaches are just as great as the forest! Having just returned from Hawaii, I was very impressed by the size of the powerful waves. Rented a surf board and hit the waves until my eyes burned of salt. Was surprised by how easy it was to get up on the board the first time too. There are plenty of beach activities to entertain yourself including boat rides to Isla Nublar, jet skiing, boogy boarding and straight up pina coloda beach drinking.
Spent a couple days relaxing in the forest, beach and plenty of local coffee shops; my personal favorite was Emilios for their steamed cappuccinos, and Cafe Milagro for their muesli breakfast. Shortly after we decided to head north toward Volcano Arenal. Easily booked a direct shuttle bus for $50 each and were on our way.
In the small town outside Fortuna we spent a glorious night at the Tabacon Thermal Pools.This spa is truly the best natural thermal pool I’ve encountered, with lush green plants, waterfalls and so many private pools that you feel you have the entire park to yourself. The next day we paid $10 each to walk the 2 hour trail toward the Volcano. It was so secluded a howler monkey threw a stick at us because we invaded his territory.
On day four we took a quick shuttle bus to the airport where we said goodbye this secret gem and promised to return. Of all the places, Costa Rica felt the least “touristy” and it was easy to see the locals were not trying to turn an easy dollar.