We went on a week-long break to Costa Rica in February for the school break. It was mainly a resort holiday with two beautiful day trips along the way. Here are some notes from the trip, written while we are still here towards the end of our holidays….
Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a relatively small country of 5 million people. It is also tiny in size just a few hours drive north to south and less across. It has two coasts, the Pacific Coast and the Caribbean Coast with significantly different weather and overall scenery. The country is famous for its wonderful beaches, many scenic volcanoes and amazing biodiversity.
The resort. We decided to set ourselves up at the Marriott Los Suenos Resort on the pacific coast, just 90 minutes away from San Jose and its airport. The resort is very beautiful, it has an Hacienda style and an amazing pool with many canals to explore. The place is more expensive than one would expect but we have realised this is not a cheap country in general for tourism! There is a very well-known golf course in the hotel as well.
The hotel is on a bay with a very large beach in front. Unfortunately, the beach has a type of sand which tends to become quite muddy so we preferred to stay in the pool at most times You can rent beautiful cabanas and even rent floating beds to use in the pool. No complaints at all there!
Food in the resort is American-style, quite pricey but well-made and beautifully-presented. Breakfast is what you would expect from a luxury resort with many fresh options and very attentive service.
Near the resort, you have a marina with many yachts and a few nice restaurant, namely an Italian, an Asian and a Steak/Lobster place. We mainly used the Asian as we felt it was the nicest place to be. The stroll there is very pleasant so we went there pretty much daily.
One afternoon we went for a golf course tour in a golf cart and that was a lot of fun. During the ride you can see many iguanas, some monkeys and many beautiful colourful birds including some magnificent macaws.
Finally, just a few miles from the hotel there is a bridge under which you can see a large group of alligators. Very impressive indeed!
Manuel Antonio National Park. We went on a one day trip to Mauel Antonio, the most visited national park in Costa Rica. We got there in about 90 minutes drive after our guide Glenda picked us up at the hotel. The trip was arranged by the Marriott travel desk and was very well put together. Inside the park we followed a trail uphill and were given a chance to see much wildlife. If you have been to Africa this is totally different in species and setting. You are surrounded by very lush vegetation and animals are small ad hard to see if you are not truly skilled. Luckily Glenda was and she also had a very powerful scope on a tripod which she used to show us the amazing creatures which inhabit the forest. We saw a family of bats hanging from a bright green leaf, many helmet iguanas, two sloths, capuchin monkeys, golden orb spiders (which are very poisonous). We also saw an amazing parrot snake, very bright green moving so softly on the branches.
After a long walk up you finally descend downhill and end up in one of the most beautiful beaches we ever saw, the Manuel Antonio beach. It was obviously quite crowded there with so many people visiting the park but we still got to swim in the clear waters and the beach is so large that you do not feel too constrained. On the beach they have a large monkey population so watch your food! They also have some very welcome showers and changing rooms for you to refresh after the swim.
Tortuga Island. This was a day-long excursion arranged by the hotel with Calypso Cruises Organization was excellent with many attentive staff members taking care of us all day. The tour departs from Puntarenas off the pacific coast, about an hour away from the hotel.
Tortuga Island lies off the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It took about 90 minutes to reach on a very slow and enjoyable catamaran ride. You pass many other islands on the way, including the Costa Rican version of Alcatraz Island, home of one of the oldest prisons in the country. The boat was quite large and in spite of travelling with around 50 other people it did not feel crowded and to the contrary it was nice to meet some fellow travellers from America, Argentina, Chile to name a few.
The island itself is truly a paradise of beach life. Tall swaying coconut palms, sugary white sand beaches and emerald waters invites absolute tranquillity and love of nature. They have a beach chairs under the trees you can rent for a small fee and the tour operator had an open bar.
Shortly after arriving we went snorkelling near some rocks we reached with a smaller boat. Diving in the clear waters was amazing. We could see thousands of colourful fish of many different kinds. Some large some small all wonderful to watch. I was impressed in particular with what they call a clown fish, it is a very large black and purple fish which seemed to enjoy being admired over and over. It truly felt like swimming in a giant aquarium.
After swimming the tour operator organized a very impressive lunch on the beach with benches, shades and live music. Menu was fresh but the atmosphere made it even better.
After lunch we relaxed on the beach for a while and admired the magnificent pelicans flying on our heads. Occasionally one of them would dive at high speed in the water, just a few feet from us.
This day truly was the highlight of our trip!