Has Costa Rica been a dream destination for you too these last years? If yes, we are exactly the same! I’ve been dreaming to visit this country since 5 years I think. I always felt super attracted to the fauna and flora there and also the jungle and the deserted beaches. All the landscapes that Costa Rica could offer were awakening a strong desire in me to see it. And the dream finally came true this year! During my first 15 days roadtrip there, I travelled on the Northwest coast of Costa Rica. And this is what I’m going to talk about in this article! I hope my testimony will help you design your own trip too in you ever plan to go there or will remind you great memories if you have already been!
Day 1: Arrival at night in San Jose
Just had the time to pick up our Europcar rental close to the Airport (free shuttle) after our arrival before going to our hotel to have a good night sleep!
We choose for this night: Hotel Brillasol which was quite nice.
Day 2: Heading towards Monteverde
We went early in the morning to Santa Elena/Monteverde. It was 3 ½ hours to go there by car. And as we were there earlier than planned (jetlag), we decided to go for a walk into an Orchids garden. It can be confusing if you go there too because you arrive directly into someone else’s house but the woman living there then greets you and offers to guide you through her own garden. Then, you’re like: ‘Yeah, I found it!’ The walk in there is super nice. The owner is passionate and you can feel it.
Then, we went in the little centre of Monteverde where there are some restaurants to eat. Our favorite during our few days there was this one: The Open Kitchen. So many good foods! If you go there, try their Patacones. It was the best ones I had during my trip in Costa Rica.
In the afternoon, we did a guided tour in Curi-Cancha Reserve and we made our first walk into the jungle. The reserve was…amazing! Even if it was in the afternoon, we saw plenty of birds and the famous quetzal, national animal of Guatemala who comes in Costa Rica to nest. Ask George as a guide, he is the best.
After that, we went to our hotel, really close to the reserve called Chira Glamping Monteverde. We had a luxury tent with a beautiful view over the valley. One of the best Booking experience I’ve ever had!
At night, it can get particularly cold, even in the dry season, so I would recommend bringing some sweatshirts!
Day 3: Wandering in the Cloud Forest
We put our alarm early (best time to see the animals) to go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. With a guide and later by ourselves, we visited this incredible place. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a 1840 m high, incredibly rich and diverse wet forest. The atmosphere can quickly become very mystical, with the mist swallowing everything in its path. We then enjoyed our afternoon at our glamping room to rest and enjoy the view.
Day 4: Let’s see a volcano!
We started the day with 3 hours drive. Next stop: Mistico Park for a nice stroll. There are 3 hours walk but it is really gentle. You get to see multiple hanging bridges and beautiful views over Arenal Volcano.
At night, we came back to our hotel: Tifakara Boutique Hotel & Birding Oasis. Nice hotel with a pool.
Day 5: Mangrove visit and hot springs
In the morning, we took our rain suit because it can get rainy in the mangrove and we went for a 3h kayak tour. First time in the mangrove, you get to see what Mother Nature has to offer you: monkeys, crocodiles, birds or…nothing. The atmosphere there is really calm. You are completely immersed in the jungle and its strange sounds.
In the afternoon, we went to Paradise Hot Springs and rested in the multiple pools.
You can go from really cold to really hot. I would really recommend it as it is a nice stop to relax your muscles from the multiple walks and THE thing to do in the city.
At night, it can get quite tricky to find a nice stop to eat. Arenal city is really touristic and there are not much typical restaurants. Personally, I am not really into eating sushis and pizzas abroad but…we didn’t have any choice.
Day 6: Heading towards Nicoya Peninsula
It took us all day to go to Nicoya Peninsula: 6 hours drive on a bad road. Fortunately for you, the roads might be better in the future as people working there were preparing the ground to make it concreted.
Our hotel there was Tango Mar Beachfront Boutique Hotel & Villas
It was truly a beautiful spot. Our room had an ocean view and a terrace where I could practice my morning yoga routine right in front of the sea: perfect!
Day 7: Isla Tortuga tour
We woke up and prepared ourselves for the SuperTour organized by the hotel. And it was amazing! We wandered by boat into the mangrove, visited the private reserve of Curu and had the chance to see monkeys, deers, birds, lizards and a baby crocodile. Then, we went snorkelling and headed towards Tortuga Island (or Isla Tortuga in Spanish) to eat and rest.
End of the tour in the afternoon, we enjoyed our time left in the hotel pools.
Day 8: Montezuma
We headed towards Montezuma (30 minutes drive), a little hippie city where everything revolves around wellness and yoga and eat into this restaurant
We ate at Clandestino Restaurant as it was particularly recommended by Lonely Planet Costa Rica guide. And we were not disappointed! After a delicious meal and a visit into their butterfly garden, we went to Malpais where we had our next hotel: Cielo del Mar. Big surprise, we were alone in the hotel! Apparently this is not a time of the year where they are too many tourists for them and that was perfect for us!
Day 9/10/11/12/13: Relax time at Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa describes a big area involving multiple beaches (Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Cocal, Playa Hermosa…). There are lots of hotels and restaurants but there are not too close from each other so it doesn’t really look like a super touristy place. Basically, you come to this area of Costa Rica to surf or do yoga or relax or all of that at once!
Everyday there, we went to the beach: playa Carmen was our favourite one because we found our perfect spot with chairs, a guy selling coconut not far away and an awesome restaurant right behind called: Restaurante Playa Carmen.
Other restaurants that we loved:
Fish: nice restaurant with fresh fishes (have vegetarian options too)
Tostometro: typical restaurant where you can eat casados, patacones, burritos, quesadillas, tortillas…(they also have no-gluten meals)
Banana Beach Restaurant: you literally eat with your feet in the sand and isn’t that the dream? Food is also delicious
Day 14: Time to go back to San Jose
We switched from car to ferry to car until we arrived in our hotel: Xandari Resort and Spa at Alajuela, city of the airport close to San Jose. Despite the name, it is not a resort like we imagine it. There are 20 villas spread in the beautiful jungle. We don’t feel on top of each other at all. Most of the time I was there, I was completely alone in the most famous pool of the hotel called Infinity Pool because of its amazing view over the mountains. This was one of my favourite hotels in Costa Rica. Without leaving the place, you can do a 1h trail in the jungle (all part of the hotel) and see a beautiful bamboo forest and 5 waterfalls, they are growing their own food and herbs, they got a mandala and an orchid garden and a spa overlooking the valley, where you can see all the city and the mountains.
What we wished we had more time to do:
- Stay in a surf and yoga hotel where we could have practiced both of these activities (although I was giving mum a private yoga class every day)
- Visit Cabo Blanco, a beautiful reserve located between Montezuma and Malpais
- Stay few nights in Montezuma to appreciate the little city more
- Go up on the Nicoya Peninsula and see the other cities and beaches as well as the Guanacaste National Park
Favorite place of the trip: Santa Teresa. There is a special atmosphere there that just makes everyone fall in love with it. From all the people I met along the way, they also all told me that Santa Teresa was one of their favorite places so I’m not completely subjective here.
If you are more interested by the Southwest Coast, head here!
Thanks for reading!
And you? Have you been to Costa Rica or plan to go there soon? Tell me in the comments! If you have especially been to Santa Teresa and discovered things that you liked, as I really want to go back there, I would be super happy to know more about new places, restaurants or other things to visit or experience in and around!