Friday, December 27, 2013

Costa Rica Tops Our Adventure Travel List

This past month, I left the road trip crew at home and headed down south to Costa Rica with the boyfriend. We generally travel somewhere warm before Christmas for some down time, and this year it was to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has long been a popular tourist destination among surfers, adventure travellers, and eco-tourists, but the popularity of it's breathtaking pacific beaches have attracted more and more tourists the past few years. With all the hype in the travel industry recently about Costa Rica, we figured we had to check it out for ourselves. We booked our package and off we went. 3 flights, 3 layovers and 18 hours of travel time later, we finally made it to San Jose, Costa Rica.

Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

After spending a full day sleeping off our 18 hour journey to Costa Rica, we ventured out of our hotel room down to the beach in Jaco. We eventually stumbled into the Adventure Tours office and booked our first excursion: a crocodile boat tour.

We generally don't do excursions while on vacation, but what sold us on this excursion was a picture of a local Tico/boat operator feeding a piece of chicken to a crocodile ... by hand. This we had to see.

Read how I nearly fell into the river and ended up covered in dirty septic/brackish poo water here. Aside from that, I would highly recommend doing the crocodile boat tour in Tarcoles. 

We spent quite a bit of time exploring the local tourist areas in Jaco, but also did several other excursion while in Costa Rica. The first one was so much fun, we got hooked.

We used the same company to book our zip lining tour, and ended up at the lines just north of Playa Hermosa. This was probably one of the funnest things we've ever done! While in Costa Rica, go zip lining!

Previous to our travels, we purchased one of those Lonely Planet books about Costa Rica. In the book it mentioned the two brothers that operate the crocodile boat tour. We met these brothers while doing the boat tour, and had a lot of fun with them (Franklin and Luis). Franklin actually works as a tour guide, and is certified in  a ton of different things. He offered to take us around town as a personal guide for a day for a small fee. This was a great offer that we couldn't turn down. It was relatively cheap, and we had a rental car for exploring the rain forest. Franklin took us through the backside of Manuel Antonio National Park to a private resort where we could see more monkeys and other animals in their natural environment. He also took us on his taste and smell tour of a local farm, where we got to meet some locals, and had an opportunity to taste some fruits and vegetables on the farm. Oddly enough, their oranges are green on the outside, and limes are orange on the inside.

After the farm tour, we spend quite a bit of time off-roading our rented Toyota Yaris through Cartago and Carara National Park looking for monkeys and toucans. It was VERY beneficial having a local guide with us who was able to show us things, introduce us to some of the locals, and guide us through the Costa Rican rainforest. We were also amazed with how well our Toyota Yaris held up.

Our biggest travel mistake
We booked our accommodations at Hotel Mar De Luz in Jaco, Costa Rica for the entire 8 days we were in Costa Rica. While the hotel was nice (and safe), this didn't give us much freedom to move around the country. The Arenal Volcano (that tops everyone's travel lists in Costa Rica) is about 4 hours from where we were staying, making for a very long trek home after exploring the volcano and surrounding town.

About the food
Lets just say, people don't travel to Costa Rica for the food. Tipico is a popular breakfast item that you can find at pretty much every restaurant. It's essentially rice and beans.

Los Amigos was our favourite lunch and dinner spot to eat/drink.

Other travel tidbits
We travelled to Costa Rica during the first week of December, which seemed to be right before their busy season began. This is also right before their humid season. The temperature was about 35 degrees every day, with about 60% humidity. During their humid season, temperatures can get up to about 45 degrees with 100% humidity. Hot stuff! Jaco's not safe at night, so keep that in mind if booking in this area.

Have you travelled to Costa Rica before? Leave your comment below and let us know where you stayed, and what the highlight of your trip was!

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