Adventure In Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a top vacation destination year-round for a multitude of reasons.

ARTICLE AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY: LEXI DESIMONE

Adventure in Costa Rica | Coastal Drive Magazine | Waterfall | Costa Rica

The Republic of Costa Rica, located in Central America, is a top vacation destination year-round for a multitude of reasons. Mostly known for its rain forests and beaches, there’s natural beauty that spans across the entire country from mountains to the sea. From family friendly offerings to all-inclusive luxurious resorts, Costa Rica offers top tier accommodations, where service is truly a pleasure. The diversity of this land is what appealed to my husband and I around the late spring, early summer months. We were drawn in by the diverse landscape including forests, beaches, rivers, wildlife, and excursions for an action-packed outlet from the monotony back at home. Thrill seekers can scratch their itch with activities including white water rafting, ziplining, cave tubing, surfing, bungie jumping, back road ATV’ing, and horseback riding. Nature seekers can enjoy wildlife tours and encounters with sloths, howler monkeys, whales, turtles, reptiles, and exotic birds, such as macaws. 

Around 30% of Costa Rica is protected land so there is no shortage of animals and wildlife. This part of the world protects its nature through national parks and reserves. We were most surprised by the exquisite lodging and food. There’s an endless supply of eco-chic, luxurious lodging options in the jungle and beach towns. This country is also becoming well known for its food scene. Foodies travel to the country to follow innovative chefs opening vibey restaurants, cafes, and bars in the more populated towns. Rice, beans, plantains, and potatoes are the staple of every Costa Rican meal. The diverse flavors of the local Tico cuisine will have you drooling for your next meal. Fresh foods sourced locally was an added plus for our culinary experience. Vegan and vegetarian options were also readily available at most restaurants. Craft coffee, artisanal chocolate, and sugarcane are important staples in the local culture. There is no shortage of tours and tastings to taste these local delicacies. We really enjoyed the hot springs. You can find your own spa in the middle of the jungle while gazing up at the Arenal volcano or monkeys swinging in the trees above you. Arenal specifically is known for its geothermal pools to relax in after a long day of exploring. 

Adventure in Costa Rica | Coastal Drive Magazine | sloth | Costa Rica

We started our trip to Costa Rica via a three-hour direct flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Jose, Costa Rica. Upon landing, we rented a car and drove an additional three hours to the Arenal area. Shuttles are available if you don’t feel comfortable driving on the mountainous roads. The roads are littered with outdoor dogs, often napping on the streets, so you need to stay aware on this drive. Many major airlines offer nonstop flights to San Jose and Liberia making it easy to get in and out of the country. 

The Arenal area is famous for the Arenal Volcano, tall and imposing, towering over the town. Costa Rica has more than 60 volcanoes, but this is the most popular to visit. It provides views from almost everywhere in town and offers great hikes, ziplining, and hot springs around its base. There were many lodging options that offered geothermal pools to relax in. Arenal is a good start to check off all your adventure bucket list items. 

Adventure in Costa Rica | Coastal Drive Magazine | meditation | Costa Rica

My husband and I booked the romantic five-star rainforest lodge, Amor Arenal, where nature meets luxury. The property is made up of separate villas that each have their own heated spring water plunge pools. The bathrooms are floor to ceiling windows that open to the jungle with spectacular views of the Arenal volcano. The property is tucked in the jungle with lush trails to the restaurant, bar, spa, pool, meditation/yoga deck and gym. They have fresh and healthy food options which we enjoyed each day at our complimentary breakfasts. This was an adult only property allowing for you and your loved one to unwind in tranquility. We fell head over heels for our room. It was an open layout with A-frame vaulted ceilings and windows that made you feel engulfed in the lively jungle. We drifted off to sleep each night with the sounds of nature surrounding us. Each villa is spaced from your neighbors for a truly private experience. The deck connects the heated pool to the massive bathroom shower allowing for easy in and out access. We enjoyed lounging on the two Adirondack chairs gazing out at the volcano in the near distance. The property offered fitness and mediation classes to start or end your days in a relaxed headspace. Amor Arenal was pure luxury with spectacular amenities. We were lucky enough to witness multiple wildlife spotting’s including howler monkeys on the trees just outside our casita, along with a mother and baby sloth hanging on the trees by the reception area. 

The towns around the Arenal volcano offer a variety of excursions. We started at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna. This was a great way to explore the diverse ecosystem by walking on a series of suspension hanging bridges in the treetop canopies. The park consists of a two-mile loop that winds through the jungle over six hanging bridges. On the trail you’ll get impressive views of tropical plants, trees, waterfalls, and exotic wildlife. 

The Arenal area is also famous for its white-water rafting tours. The Balsa River offers lower class rafting while the Upper Balsa or Sarapiqui offers more challenging class options. Tours are typically 5 hours with included breaks for lunch and snacks. If water sports aren’t your speed, this area is littered with zipline and bungee tours for stunning views of the volcano, waterfalls, and surrounding jungle. Most tours are 2-3 hours and include transfers to and from hotels. On our tour we experienced the thrilling Tarzan swing, a freefall on a bungee cord that turns into a giant swinging motion over a canyon. Swinging back and forth over the jungle was the highlight of this tour once I got over my initial fear of free falling. As you are exploring the town be sure to keep your eyes peeled for groups of cars parked on the side of the roads. These are usually swimming areas with rope swings or natural hot springs that the locals go to. 

Now that we fully immersed in the jungle experience, it was time to head to the beautiful beaches of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Santa Teresa located on the Nicoya Peninsula is one of the five Blue Zones in the world. This town offers health inspired activities to naturally enhance physical and mental health through clean food and fulfilling encounters. We were drawn to the lifestyle of this town and wanted to experience the secret to a long, happy, stress free quality of life that the locals have here. The town is also famous for local vacationing celebrities including Mel Gibson, Mark Zuckerberg, Tom Brady, and Gisele Bundchen.

Adventure in Costa Rica | Coastal Drive Magazine | Santa Teresa Beach | Costa Rica

There are many routes for this trip including public and private shuttles. We drove back to San Jose to take the 30-minute flight to Tambor on Costa Rica Green Airways. The fleet consists of small aircrafts that hold around 10 passengers. We sat directly behind the pilots with a clear view of the cockpit and out the front windows. During the flight the passengers were offered a cooler of local ‘Imperial’ beers to pass around to ease nerves. Landing was one of the most thrilling experiences. You can see a thin airstrip stretching out from the mountains to the sea. 

You can’t help but grab your neighbor’s hand as you quickly descend. Once we landed, we joked that we didn’t need to book anymore excursions after the flight because it was such an experience in itself. From here we had a 40-minute shuttle to Santa Teresa for the last leg of our trip. 

Our jaws hit the ground as we pulled up to the boutique hotel, Nantipa. The property is made up of luxurious beachfront bungalows allowing a sense of serene escapism. Our villa was Scandinavian and modern, decorated with local art and culture. The property has an open-air beachfront restaurant, Manzu, with fresh, local ingredients, which we enjoyed each evening for the breathtaking Pacific coast sunsets. We were able to relax and unwind at the Numu wellness center which provides spa services and wellness classes for guests. 

Santa Teresa has an international reputation for its surfing, so it was fitting that we gave it a go. We booked a half day beginner lesson through a local surf shop to catch some waves. Group and private lessons were available for all skill levels. This town is compiled of beach lovers who live to surf. The most popular form of transportation is by ATV which most often had a surfboard attached to the back. You’ll find world-class, year-round surfing and yoga here. No shirt, no shoes is a common way of life in this beach town. Mal Pais was listed as a top ten breathtaking beach by Forbes, and even though it’s a popular surfing area, it was one of the less crowded beaches in the area. Playa Carmen and Playa Hermosa are two other surf and beach destinations in this area with great breaks. 

Our favorite excursion of the trip was our ATV trip. We rented ATVs and took a private 4×4 vehicle-only road from Santa Teresa to Montezuma through the jungle. We crossed the southwestern edge of the Nicoya Peninsula through the dense jungle surrounded by howling monkeys and tropical birds. If you are wondering how these monkeys get their name, rev your engine to hear them roar! 

Once we arrived in Montezuma, we explored the local town filled with craft artisans. We hiked the famous Montezuma waterfall and went for a dip to cool off. We ended our day at a beachfront, family-owned restaurant for sunset before heading back to Santa Teresa. If ATV’ing isn’t for you, I highly recommend horseback riding in this part of the country. Most tours take you from jungle to beach offering a diverse experience while learning all about your surroundings from a local guide. We had a private tour which allowed us to run our horses on the beach and even through the water! 

Costa Rica has so much to offer, from the jungle, wildlife, plants, food, culture, and people. This was a unique trip for us as we left with a sense of humbleness. The locals we met respected the land they lived on. As we boarded our puddle jumper plane to return to the mainland, I looked out my window at the beauty we were leaving behind. Not only the landscape, but the lifestyle. We felt lucky to experience such purity and respect for our surroundings. It allowed us a chance to disconnect and feel at one with nature. This is a place where you can eat and live clean, comfortably, and happily. Locals find passion in what they do and support the surrounding community. There was no hustle or bustle but a passion for life that drives their economy. Lunch breaks are surf breaks, sunrise yoga starts your day off right, and the famous sunsets put you at ease in the evenings. We returned home wanting to incorporate a new practice of appreciation for our surroundings. Life passes too fast, we work to live, and take the small things for granted. Costa Rica is truly one of the worlds happiest countries in the world with a motto that we were happy to take home, “pura vida”, pure life!  

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