Similar to Puerto Rico, this destination has been on my list for years and is simply one of the easiest to visit while offering plenty to explore. The famous surfing on the west coast, the natural hot springs and San José in the middle, and sloth sanctuaries on the east have always intrigued me. Finally, during my South America backpacking tour I was able to schedule a few days to swing through and hit a few of these activities. While the quick three days were only enough to give me a taste, it was definitely a positive experience and I look forward to dropping back down the next time I live in the U.S.!
After long delays in Paraguay and a miserable mix up of buses at the airport, I finally arrived extremely late at night to my hostel in Jacó. As I checked in, everyone was getting ready to go out for a birthday celebration for one of the staff employees and invited me to join so I dropped my bag and quickly rallied with a red bull. After a long fun night out on the town we all made it back to the hostel and headed up to the roof to sleep in hammocks. The next morning, we were greeted by a particularly hot sunrise which started the groups morning shuffle out to the water. The consistent waves were easy to catch and it quickly became apparent why it is such a popular surfing spot. After some running up the mountain, exploring the town, and a bit more surfing, I was out the door and headed back to San José.
The following day I caught a boat out to Tortuga Island (and yes I did select this destination simply because it sounds like a place where pirates would hide treasure). The beautiful small island with its remote beach offered plenty to do from beach volleyball to drinking coconuts filled with rum. After snorkeling and doing some SUP around the coastline to some of the smaller adjacent islands I grabbed one of the rum coconuts, loaded up a plate of seafood, and settled into one of the bean bags to enjoy the beautiful view on the beach. That evening the return boat ride back to main land was much more interesting after everyone spent the afternoon boozing. The live band on board did not disappoint with their catchy tunes as the staff pulled up all the passengers to the dance floor and spun us around.
Next up was a day trip up north to visit the lovely Arenal Volcano. On the way we stopped to tour several small shops and eat a large buffet of the local cuisine. By the time we arrived, rain clouds had moved in obscuring the peak of the volcano. We hiked up to the best viewpoint anyways with hopes of glimpsing the top but instead were greeted with a massive downpour. While I am sure the view would be lovely on a clear day, the very rainy one we had certainly made me appreciate the other sunny days that much more.
After getting drenched at Arenal Volcano, we continued on to Tabacón Hot Springs which are natural hot springs that have been converted into an awesome series of mini waterfalls within a spa area. Due to the rain that afternoon there was hardly anyone at the springs and walking around I had most of the pools to myself which was quite incredible. The gardens spilled over the maze of springs making it feel like I was lost somewhere out in the jungle. The tour group gave us some extra time to soak in the baths while the dinner buffet was being prepared. After my skin was fully wrinkled, it was time to dry off and head up to the open air dining room that overlooked all of the springs. Despite the disappointing view of the volcano, the day trip was well worth it.
Another key stop was to explore the coffee plantations which are some of the best in the world. Known for their high quality beans Costa Rica consistently produces some of the best coffee- making this a top priority on my list. A highly caffeinated afternoon was spent shopping for good Christmas gifts- aka I spent it drinking every piping cup of fresh ground coffee that was handed to me. After sampling MANY types, I settled on an assortment of bags from different local growers and excitedly chattered my way back on the drive to town about how delicious each type was (to everyone that had been on the same tour and sampled the same coffee but thankfully were just as exuberant as I was).
While this trip was an extremely short visit, I greatly look forward to returning for more surfing and hopefully to visit the sloth sanctuary on the east coast.