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.

Pura Vide Costa Rica Itinerary

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. Lapa 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

Lapa Rios 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 Lapa 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 to Pack 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
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
Three Toed Sloth
Red Poison Frog
Owl Butterfly
Blue Morpho Butterfly
Leaf Eater Ants

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

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


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! Hot Lips Plant

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

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
White Capuchin Faced Monkey Nayara Resort Costa Rica

Hola Arenal – Mucho Gusto Amigos!

A warm welcome at Nayara Springs and the return of the sun enticed us into sampling a Caribbean fashion cocktail (7 year old Centenario rum, coconut water infused with rice, cinnamon and orang peel, orange syrup and angostura bitters) and spending the rest of the day doing little more than exploring everything this very beautiful resort has to offer – see the accommodation review for all the details.

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Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano National Park Costa Rica Hanging Bridges Trail

Arenal Volcano National Park – En Armonía con la Madre Naturaleza

When you have had a shower outside in the rain and an open air bath on your balcony (safely concealed by the jungle!), it seems fairly pointless to wear an uncomfortable rain coat to go on a hike.  Skin is waterproof after all?  So today, I carried nothing except my camera and didn’t let the rain bother me at all.  I was feeling rather  in harmony with Mother Nature (en Armenia con la Madre Naturaleza) and excited to explore Arenal Volcano National Park.

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Costa Rica
Sarchi Oxcart

The Oxcart Path to Sarchi

It’s not many trips that offer you a bare knuckle ride two days in a row.  Yesterday, we were expecting adventure.  Today, we were expecting a quiet drive to the colourful little town of Sarchi about an hour or so from El Silencio.

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Costa Rica
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge Costa Rica - Welcome Drinks - Pipa Fria with bamboo straws

Bajos del Toro to Osa Peninsula

We set off at 10.30 from Bajos del Toro on a cool, wet morning and arrived at San José Domestic Departures terminal a couple of hours later, all set for a short flight to Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula.

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Costa Rica
Costa Rica Fauna - Hermit Crab

The Idle Traveller …

Dan Kieran’s book “The Idle Traveller” invites you to re-assess what you are searching for when you travel.  He urges you to bin the travel brochure, glide rather than fly, embrace disaster, be epic in your travel pursuits and immerse yourself in the life-changing experience of true journeying.  It is an entire philosophy of life rather than just a book about travelling.  His philosophy is to slow d

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Costa Rica
Pacific Ocean Sunrise Costa Rica

Buen Provecho – Sunrise on the Osa Peninsula

The day started early at 5am with a beautiful sunrise – doubled by its reflection in the Pacific Ocean.  The first few minutes just before I wake up are usually like intermediate steps from light to shadow – my vision is dim and my mind not yet fully focussed.  This morning, I was woken by the loud shrieks of howler monkies and the din of a million cicadas, then soothed by the sound of the ocean as the sun rose over it.  It was the quickest move to sharp focus I can remember – the sunrise was absolutely spectacular – the outstanding highlight of this trip.

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

Accommodation Review – Lapa Rios Eco Lodge – Lapa Rios

Lapa is the Costa Rican name for the scarlet macaw.  When the American couple who founded Lapa Rios first visited the area, they spotted a number of macaws flying across the jungle in tandem, creating a river of red.  Inspired by this beautiful image, they named the lodge Lapa Rios – River of Scarlet Macaws.  It took them 8 years of searching to find the perfect place to realise their vision of creating an eco lodge in Costa Rica.  They poured everything into it – savings, pension pots, heart and soul.  It was well worth it – this is such a stunning place.

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Costa Rica