Table of Contents

Itinerary - 3 Weeks in Costa Rica

We spent 3 weeks exploring Costa Rica which was a good amount of time to explore all the best of what this wonderful country has to offer.

  • Alajuela
  • Tortuguero
  • Volcan Tenorio National Park
  • Arenal Volcano
  • Bajos del Toro
  • Osa Peninsula
  • Uvita
Local girl on a swing Tortugeuro National Park Costa Rica

Best time to visit Costa Rica

The dry season – “Summer” is from mid-November to April and is considered the best time to visit. It can, be very wet even in the dry season though and humidity is extremely high. In the rainy season, days often start sunny, with rain falling in the afternoon and evening. In the rain/cloud forest, the weather is very iunpredictable and humid at any time of year. The Pacific coast is sunnier than the Caribbean coast.

Top Ten "Must-Dos" for a luxury trip to Costa Rica

  1. Drink Piña Calada and Pipa Fria
  2. Tortuguero National Park – canal boat tour (stay at Manatus)
  3. A nocturnal walk (location unimportant – just do it!)
  4. Arenal Volcano – Hanging Bridges (stay at Nayara)
  5. A sunrise birdwatching tour (location unimportant – just do it!)
  6. Sarapiqui River – White Water Rafting
  7. Visit Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  8. Lapa Rios Eco Lodge – watch the sunrise – from your own bed!
  9. Lapas Rios Eco Lodge – enjoy a massage on your private outdoor terrace
  10. Swim in an infinity pool – overlooking the Whale Tail – Uvita

Best Hotel Award

Lapas Rio Eco Lodge was easily the best hotel we stayed in, taking into account both the room, the facilities and the overall experience. Interestingly, it wasn’t the most expensive either. Taking all costs into account (so hotels where full board and all excursions were included can be compared on a like for like basis with breakfast only hotels) our two favourites – Manatus and Lapas Rios – were also the cheapest overall. Nayara was wonderful, but twice the price and Kura was almost three times the price. With travel, you don’t always get what you expect or pay for. Hopefully, this is helpful info. for future travellers.

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge Costa Rica Room with a View
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge Costa Rica Room with a View

My Reading List

Find my recommended reading list here.  If you have time, I also recommend reading “How United Fruit Company Shaped the World” by Peter Chapman.

 

My Packing List

Brolly, binoculars, bug spray, hiking boots, good flashlight, waterproof pouch.

For white water rafting: Reefies, rashie

Find more practical packing tips here.

Costa Rica What I'm Packing Waterproof pouch

Flora and Fauna

This is just a checklist of what I actually saw – to inspire you to go – but there is potentially so much more to see here!  Search for “Flora and Fauna” to find the relevant posts.

Spider monkies
Mariola bees
Bats
Tarantula Spider
Eyelash Tree Viper
Hermit Crabs
Bullet Ants
Red eyed Tree Frog
Pygmy Frog
Black Tarantula Spider
Black River Turtles
Howler Monkies
Spider Monkies
Golden Spiders
Jesus Christ Lizard
Cayman Crocodile
Iguanas
Three Toed Sloth
Red Poison Frog
Dragonfly
Owl Butterfly
Blue Morpho Butterfly
Leaf Eater Ants

Salut Manatus! Three toed sloth (and baby!) America
Three toed sloth (and baby!)
Birds

Crested Owl
Rufous Motmot
Hummingbirds
Macaws
Spectacled Owl
Snake Bird
Green Tailed Heron
Spotted Sandpiper
Keel Billed Toucan
Green Macaws
Turkey Vultures

Flora

Heliconia Flower
Walking Palm

Wish I had seen

  • A resplendent quetzal, complete with its 3 foot long red tail
  • A tapir
  • An armadillo
  • A glass frog – a tiny, translucent green tree frog which – if you put it on glass – you can actually see its internal organs and observe its heartbeat.
  • A hot lips plant – ah well – maybe on the next trip … ?!
Vaya Con Dios Costa Rica!

Foodie Firsts

Search for “Foodie Firsts” to discover more about Costa Rica’s Foodie scene.

  • Quesadillas
  • Gallo Pinto
  • Pineapple & Banana Smoothie – Totally Tropical
  • Fresh fish ceviche
  • Guanabana
  • Casado Tipico
  • Gallos Ventano
  • Pipa Fria
  • Red Snapper
  • Fajitas
  • Banana Bread
  • Costa Rica Coffee
Nayara Resort Costa Rica Last Breakfast - Guanabana
Last breakfast at Nayara Gardens - Guanabana
Casado Tipico El Silencio Lodge Costa Rica
Casado Tipico El Silencio Lodge

Useful Websites

Our trip was booked through Round the World Experts who co-ordinated the itinerary I had constructed myself very well – all the ground arrangements and transfers worked seamlessly. Local tour operators in this area are Swiss Travel (who most of our excursions and transfers were booked with) and Costa Rica Vacations (highly recommended by other travellers we talked to). These agents may well be able to offer you more expert local advice than a UK based agent would and possibly a small saving, but wouldn’t be able to book international flights.

Learning the Lingo

Desayuno | Breakfast
Café con leche | Coffee with Milk
Cómo estás | How are you?
Estoy bien gracias | I’m fine, thank you
Con gusto | With pleasure/pride

Fascinating Facts

If you are into your facts and figures, search for “Fascinating Facts” to learn more about Costa Rica.

Tips for Future Travellers

Local Currency

The Costa Rica currency is Colon(es), but US dollars are widely accepted everywhere.  We didn’t use any colones on our whole trip, except for spending the change that was given to us when we paid in US dollars.

Final Reflections

This has been such an enjoyable and relaxing trip to a very beautiful and peaceful country. I think Costa Rica would make an excellent choice for a honeymoon destination. Pura vida is a rather over used expression here and you do get a bit tired of hearing to by the end of three weeks, but it really does sum up my overall impression of the country very well. The direct translation is “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, pure vida is used as a greeting, a thank you, you are welcome or simply to express that something is awesome. It’s a quick way of summing up an expression of peace between one another and an attitude to life in this – one of the happiest nations in the world. The country has its problems, like all others, but the Ticos like to focus on all the positives instead of their fears or worries. Pura vida sums up their general outlook on life and symbolises Costa Rica’s ethos of moving forward and simply enjoying life.

The Ticos I have met all seem to have a sunny disposition and there is good reason for that – Costa Rica is an oasis of calm in an otherwise troubled part of the world:

  • Their country is crammed with ecological riches
  • Educational, sanitation and health standards are very good,
  • The standard of living (for the most part) and life expectancy are high
  • There is political stability backed by democracy.

My parting thought:

“If history continues, power will reside in societies that have considered their resources, not those that have spent them.” The Quetzal and the Macaw – David Rains Wallace. From what I have seen, Costa Rica seems to be doing a pretty good job of making the most of its natural resources, protecting biodiversity and benefitting from tourism in a sustainable way – long may it last…

Read my full trip to Costa Rica:​

Local girl on a swing Tortugeuro National Park Costa Rica

Alajuela to Tortuguero

The transfer from Alajuela to Tortugero took all morning – but what a lovely way to spend it.  We drove past banana plantations, fields of papaya, coconuts and plantains learning a little about the beautiful country that is Costa Rica (Rich Coast) as we travelled.

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Costa Rica
Salut Manatus! Three toed sloth (and baby!) America

Salut Manatus!

Our base in the Tortugero National Park is the Manatus Lodge.  Access is via boat transfer only – and let’s hope they keep it that way!  

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Costa Rica
Cortez Amarillo Tree Costa Rica

Tortuguero to Volcan Tenorio National Park

Guess what – it rains in a rainforest!   Last night, it rained pretty well all night.  It hammered on the tin roof of the lodge for all it was worth, building up to a crescendo drum beat for a few deafening minutes before petering out to a bit of a tap dance and a finale of sprinkles and tinkles in the gutters.  Then silence, filled only by the constant hum of the air con which intermittently halted as the electricity cut out.

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Costa Rica
Volcan Tenorio National Park Costa Rica

Rio Celeste – Un Mundo Differente, Un Mundo Fascinante

Established as a National Park in 1995, Rio Celeste is in the cloud forest region.  A massive 3.7 metres of rain falls here a year – around six times more than the UK – and that sometimes feels very wet!  A legend tells that after God was done painting the sky, he washed his brushes in the river that now bears the name of Rio Celeste  – Light Blue River.  It was worth a 4 hour hike to see how beautiful this looks in real life.

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Costa Rica
Red eyed tree frog Costa Rica

Walk with the Eyes of …

This afternoon, I am visiting the Celeste River National Park aiming to walk with the eyes of a tour guide and see if that helps me to spot wildlife I would otherwise have missed. Come and walk with me and see what I discovered …

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Costa Rica