PURA VIDA. Simply translated it means “the simple life,” but in Costa Rica they use this saying as a way of life and a greeting to say hello and goodbye. Meaning that everything is great, everything is cool. Upon arriving to the beautiful county of Costa Rica I quickly learned how common this saying was and how beautiful it is, that the people of Costa Rica use it so frequently. Such a wonderful way to live your life and something I would love to adopt in my own life!
For starters this trip was something I have been planning for what feels like EVER. When my one year of blogging full time approached, I wanted to do something to celebrate. I went through a few options. A Chanel bag, a Gucci bag, then landed on none of those things and instead booked a trip to Costa Rica for Kyle and I. Looking back I made the best decision!
I began doing research on the country, which started with Pinterest then lead me to different travel blogs, when I came across this Costa Rica post by the travel bloggers Barbie and Panda! I quickly knew this was the trip we needed to book! (If you would like more Costa Rica photo inspiration definitely check out their blog post linked above.)
Upon deciding that Costa Rica was the trip we wanted to take, I of course looked into the safety of the country as well as the safety of driving there. A few of you also asked about this! In terms of the country itself Wikipedia notes, “It has enjoyed a long period of peace since the 1948 civil war. Because of its natural beauty and political stability, it is nicknamed the Switzerland of Latin America. Costa Rica has no army since December 1st, 1948. Instead of spending money on the military, the government spends money on education and health.” Which is amazing!!
Also in terms of sustainability it ranks one of the highest in the world – “Costa Rica also has progressive environmental policies. It is the only country to meet all five UNDP criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. It was ranked 42nd in the world, and third in the Americas, in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, and was twice ranked the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation‘s (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures environmental sustainability, and was identified by the NEF as the greenest country in the world in 2009. Costa Rica plans to become a carbon-neutral country by 2021. By 2016, 98.1% of its electricity was generated from green sources particularly hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass.”
However there are still some levels of crime within Costa Rica, as many other countries, majority being petty theft. Like traveling anywhere else you must be aware and vigilant. According to the US State Department you must exercise normal precautions in Costa Rica, some areas have increased risk. You can read more about that HERE.
In terms of safety with driving/renting a car a lot of what we read said the same. Do not leave anything valuable in your car, always park your car with the trunk facing a wall or fence, if you get a flat tire drive to a service station as much of the theft happens when locals spot American’s on the side of the road looking for help, and try to drive during the day as the roads can be tricky in Costa Rica!
After doing our research we would have 100% rented a car but because of our flight times in and out of Costa Rica a lot of our driving would have taken place at night. We didn’t feel 100% comfortable with that so we opted to take a private transfer to and from the airport that our hotel offered instead! However, I do recommend renting a car if you want to do a lot of exploring!! Kyle and I were really using this trip to relax, so we didn’t have much on the agenda. However the times we did venture out of the resort we had to use a transfer provided by the resort and it got expensive. $25 one way, so $50 round trip (total and not per person.) The roads can be tricky when driving to La Fortuna (because you are driving towards a mountain range) however during the day they are very do-able if you are a good driver!
In terms of our flight situation we chose to fly in and out of San Jose (SJO), it was the cheapest option and we were able to get direct flights in and out of New York’s JFK airport. The other option Liberia (LIR) was about the same distance to La Fortuna but did not offer direct. We landed Tuesday night around 11pm and once we got to our private transfer provided by the hotel, it took us exactly two hours to get to the resort we were staying at, The Springs. Our driver made great time, which is another small plus to not renting a car! On the way back however we ran into a good amount of traffic and it ended up taking the full 3 hours which was what was predicted via many travel sites. However because we weren’t driving we used that time to sleep!
In terms of where we stayed, we stayed at The Springs Resort and Spa in La Fortuna! It was truly one of the most amazing resort experiences we have ever had and we couldn’t recommend it enough! We felt like we were actually in the rain forest and the views of the Arenal Volcano could not be beat. Truly, truly so beautiful and the staff was 5 stars. We do not have enough nice things to say about it! In terms of pricing as a lot of you asked about budget, this definitely varies depending on what time of year you want to go. I did overhear another hotel guest saying she got a huge discount booking on Expedia rather than directly through the hotel so I would check that option out as well!
Note that no matter which hotel room option you go with, each offers a view of the volcano! So do not worry about that when booking! We personally stayed in their Vista Grande Guest Room (balcony pictured above!)
If the resort is by chance out of budget they do offer day passes!! This is a great way to enjoy the hot springs and the amenities of the resort without booking a full stay. My main recommendation for the day pass would be booking it later on when you know the weather or have a forecast. We met a couple during our stay that were there on the day passes to see the volcano, however it rained that day and the volcano was not visible!! So you have to take in to account weather with the Arenal Volcano views as it is not always 100% visible as the resort is in the rain forest.
My last recommendation for the resort would be that it is very honeymoon/family friendly! Majority of the people staying were there on a family trip with their young children (the resort is VERY family/child friendly!!!) or were a couple there on their honeymoon! We did run into one bachelor party (lol) which was interesting, because it wouldn’t be the place I would expect that, however they were having A LOT of fun! If you are looking for hot springs that are less couple-y, I would recommend Baldi Hot Springs! They have a great day pass deal and this was recommended frequently for those traveling with friends or in a group.
However in my personal opinion The Springs offers the best hot springs and the best views in La Fortuna! If you are planning on a trip note that the resort has 3 different areas with hot springs and pools. The first will be the main one when you walk into the resort with the views of the volcano – pictured below!
Secondly there is another set of mineral pools/hot springs walkable from the rooms, that are more situated in the jungle! This is where you will find their monkey slide and feel a bit more secluded. Pictured below!
Lastly the resort owns Club Rio! Club Rio is an adventure center that is a quick bus ride from the resort. Due to how steep it is to get down there, I HIGHLY suggest you take the bus and not walk. This is where you will find their hot springs waterfall and more pools situated in the rain forest (pictured below) and also where you will do excursions!
The Springs offers MANY excursions that you can book through the resort itself (which was SO easy and seamless). We did the horseback riding, which was an absolute blast! We were also the only ones to sign up for it, so we got a private tour through the jungle. The horses were also so sweet and you can tell really love Costa Rica. Every time we got to a hill they would try to race each other! I have never been on a horse that went so fast!
We also did a wildlife tour, where you tour their animal conservatories. Through that experience we got to see toucan’s, sloths and monkeys! However if you keep your eyes peeled in Costa Rica you are bound to see these animals in the wild. During breakfast one morning we saw a howler monkey and toucan! Club Rio also offers kayaking, river tubing, bird watching, rock climbing and a separate bar and restaurant if you would like to enjoy that scenery for the day!
Outside of the resort excursions we went and saw the La Fortuna waterfall, which was beautiful! Unfortunately it was rainy that day and had super strong currents so we weren’t able to get in the water with the fall, which was a bummer. So we opted for pictures and a MAJOR exercise on the 500 steps back up to the top! I would definitely recommend wearing tennis shoes if visiting as the hike back up can be tough. If you are looking for a fun lunch after the waterfall we recommend Organico, it was super cute and the food was delicious! This was recommend to us by a friend of ours and we are so happy they did.
We did have the Arenal Hanging Bridges tour on our list but we were dealt a little bit of rain each day and visibility was spotty so we were worried about spending the money for a tour, and not getting to see much. We also were really enjoying our resort, so we spent most of our days exploring that and enjoying all it had to offer! However I would recommend it if you are wanting to see the volcano and staying somewhere that doesn’t give you a view!
Lastly if you are looking to explore multiple hot springs while on your trip I would recommend checking out Tabacon Resort. Their springs are beautiful and you can also get a day pass! We didn’t make it there this trip because of budgeting but hope to on another!
A FEW OTHER QUESTIONS YOU ALL ASKED ANSWERED BELOW?
Q: Is the water safe to drink?
A: YES! We drank the tap water our entire trip and it was actually very good. We were just in Vegas for Thanksgiving and truthfully I think their tap water is the worst, Costa Rica was a blessing. 🙂
Q: Did you get vaccines before going? Any safety tips!
A: No, we did not. Currently the CDC does not recommend a malaria vaccine before you travel to Costa Rica. No immunizations, shots or vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica from North America or Europe. Most tourist destinations do not come with a high risk of dengue or malaria. In terms of other safety tips, please read above for what the US State Department recommends. In terms of our personal experience, we at no time felt unsafe. We actually felt incredibly safe. However we did not walk around anywhere at night and we were not driving ourselves.
Q: How was it cost wise??? // Can you do Costa Rica on a budget? Or is it a splurge trip?
A: These questions can be tough to answer at times because I am not sure each individual reader’s financial situation. However I do feel that Costa Rica is affordable! In terms of our resort, yes it was on the more expensive side but I did find the restaurants to be affordable if you chose the right thing. Drink prices at our resort were pretty in line with what they are here in NYC but can definitely be expensive to those not living in the city. Cocktails ranged around $12-$14 and beers were $6-$8. You could get a bottle of champagne or wine for around $44-60 but they priced as high as $300. However outside of the resorts food/drinks are super affordable! Cocktails were more around $7 and beers $3. Note that the excursions can be on the expensive side I was a little shocked that the price to see the waterfall was $18, however if we would have been able to go on a day where you could actually get in the water it would have been more worth it! I would not say this is a splurge trip like how places in the Caribbean would be, but I would say to be cautious on where you are spending and definitely stop at the duty free in the airport to save $$ on alcohol!
Q: How many sloths did you see?
I saw 5 sloths while in Costa Rica! For those that don’t know they are SUPER common in Costa Rica!!
I hope I was able to answer the majority of your questions! Please let me know if you need help on anything else and PURA VIDA. 🙂