Interested in traveling to Costa Rica? I just got back and It was a trip of a lifetime. I highly recommend it.
In this blog, I'll share details about my 9-day trip including information about my day-to-day itinerary, favorite restaurants and beautiful cultural discoveries!
VPS to SJO - I wasn't so eager for the 3am wake up call but I was very eager to begin our adventures!
We arrived in San Jose, passed through customs and headed straight to Hertz for a rental car. I definitely recommend getting car insurance because driving in San Jose should be an Olympic sport.
Travel tip 2: If you get in an accident, you're responsible for up to $1,200 so bang it up really well or you'll be charged an arm and a leg to replace a measly tail light cover.... first hand experience.
Travel tip 3: Almost all of Costa Rica requires 4-wheel drive.
Okay, back to the fun... Day 1 took us to the South Pacific coast toward the town of Uvita. We stayed the first night at a boutique hotel named Tiki Villas, which is about 3 hours south of the SJO airport.
We made a pit stop to see river side crocodiles and grab some local snacks. Plantain chips prepared all different ways and Aloe water were my favorite.
We made a second stop in Jaco, where I caught my first Costa Rican sunset and feel the ocean between my toes.
While watching the sunset from the rocky shore, the tide came up fast, soaking us for the rest of the drive. Still so worth it!
A couple of hours later, we finally arrived at the Tiki Villas, a gorgeous hotel near Uvita.
We had the place to ourselves and enjoyed dinner and cocktails followed by a moonlit swim.
The next morning, we enjoyed a traditional breakfast and coffee by the infinity pool that overlooked the mountains and the Pacific ocean in the distance.
On Day 2, we made our way to Ojochal to our friends new home.
The initial purpose of our trip was to celebrate the closing of a new house that my friends purchased earlier this year.
This incredible oasis is nestled in the mountain-side high in the clouds. We call it "Cloud 9."
The property boasts two waterfalls and more wildlife than I've ever seen in one place. We spotted toucans, humming birds, butterflies, parakeets and Howler monkeys daily!
Travel tip 4: Pack binoculars when you visit - you will definitely want them.
The sunsets from the rooftop were magical. Mid-day rain showers were peaceful and waking up to the sunrises through the clear glass walls was like heaven on earth.
In the nearby town, there are eclectic French-Canadian boutique restaurants and local markets called “sodas." Some of the restaurants were surprising. A few didn't look like much from the outside, but inside they were designed well with fresh food that knocked my socks off!
One particular restaurant, Citrus, in Ojochal was my absolute favorite. It was so good, we went twice!
On day 3, we traveled to Parque National Marino Bellena, commonly called “the whale's tail.”
This park is massive and absolutely incredible. It has a panoramic view of the mountains and ocean expanding for miles. It’s called the whale's tail because at low tide, the land takes the shape of a whale with a shore line that crashes on either side of you.
For dinner that evening, we visited La Parcela, or as I like to call it, “the monkey bar!” It’s a waterfront restaurant that’s popular for daily visits by the local White Face monkeys.
I enjoyed the ahi tuna dinner and mojitos but the monkeys came for bananas, giving us a dinner and a show!
We ended the day with yoga under the stars, listening to cicadas sing and Howler monkeys howl from the rooftop of my friend's new home. It was such a perfect day!
Day 4 was our last in Ojochal.
I spent that morning leading a live class overlooking the mountain top! It's called Jungle HIIT, a mini band class available on Aly On Demand! Get your sweat on with an incredible view.
Later on that afternoon, I pushed way out of my comfort zone when we hiked through the jungle toward one of the waterfalls on property. To our surprise, it was pouring down rain (and creepy crawlers) but there wasn't much of a waterfall since dry season in Costa Rica is from mid November - April.
The wildlife was breathtaking but if you fear spiders, snakes, and frogs, wear close-toed shoes, a lesson I'll remember next time! 🥴
Day 5 began at the ungodly hour of 1:30AM with a 4 hour drive back to San Jose to return our friends to the airport. After the drop off, the second half of our week-long adventures began.
The rest of that morning was spent exploring the city of San Jose, a sprawling metroplex packed with culture. There were thousands of cars, bikes, and people weaving in and out of lanes so if you visit Costa Rica, expect some anxiety on the roads.
The streets are a blend of homes and businesses that are built within one another. My first impression was that the city was chaos and a little bit dirty to be honest... so I wasn't a fan at first.
The city quickly grew on me as I saw more of the culture, close family ties and contagious pura vida lifestyle that made it beautiful.
It was like no city I’ve ever seen.
One of the highlights of this day was driving to the tallest volcano in Costa Rica called Volcán Irazú.
It was way up in the clouds and looked like what I imagine Mars looks like. The air was misty and the ground was covered in black ash with a little bit of yellow grass beginning to grow in the crater.
Along the curves of this volcano there were small but busy towns of families growing crops and selling food along the road. Can you imagine living alongside a volcano!?
After touring, we ate an amazing Costa Rican meal at a local restaurant, Suenos del Irazu. There was live music and a view of the mountains that never ended.
We wanted to start day 6 as early as possible toward our next adventure at Volcan Arenal in La Fortuna. It's located about 4 hours north of San Jose... but we had a hiccup.
Travel tip 5: you need a negative COVID-19 test within 3 days or 72 hours of your return flight back to the US.
While we couldn't take off to La Fortuna yet, we spent the day exploring the museums of Costa Rica, the intricate murals that covered the walls of downtown San Jose and shopped 'til we dropped in Alajuela until our afternoon appointment.
Once tested, we were on our way. The drive was long and curvy up and around the mountainside.
We made the most of our drive by stopping at a butterfly and hummingbird garden. Yes, you read right!
This pit stop became an adventure in and of itself being surrounded by hundreds of Blue Morpho butterflies and colorful humming birds.
A great impromptu surprise!
The last two days of our Costa Rican adventure were my favorite!
The city of La Fortuna is small but lively and our hotel view was the incredible, imposing site of Volcán Arenal.
It was night by the time we arrived so we explored the town shops and ate dinner at Restaurante Nanku.
Day 7 was without a doubt my favorite of the entire trip. It began with breakfast on the terrace overlooking Volcán Arenal. Following breakfast we took a short drive over to La Fortuna waterfall.... it was a sight to behold!
We hiked 500 steps down to the falls and took in it's breathtaking beauty. The water is chilly but crystal clear and the waterfall is powerful but jumping in made me feel so alive!
I promise pictures and videos don’t do it justice, so you will just have to see it for yourself.
After the waterfall, we headed to Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa. We spent the rest of our day there relaxing in the natural volcanic hot springs.
The water is a consistent 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and too beautiful for words!
The swim up bar and all-you-can-eat buffet was fantastic but everything tastes better with that view.
We wrapped up our last night by going to dinner at Pollo Fortuneño followed by live music at Spectacolar Cantina, a tiny but extremely lively outdoor bar that was packed with locals and tourists alike.
On Day 8, we packed up for the drive back to San Jose.
There are many excursions available in Costa Rica. I was tempted to go zip lining, bungee jumping and four wheeling throughout this trip. I can’t wait to visit again and try it all!
Our final day, was a low-key evening in San Jose. We stayed with local friends and enjoyed homemade soup, wine and great company. It was the perfect last night to a perfect vacation.
Now, I'm back to Florida, and already missing beautiful Costa Rica.
This trip gave me a new perspective on life and I hope to keep the Pure Vida vibes close to heart.
If you have the urge to travel this is one place I highly recommend.