3 Days in Costa Rica

Hmmm...where to go next. I needed a quick weekend getaway for March. Costa Rica was on my list, so I thought I'd try that. I started my research, but it was kind of overwhelming. I needed to complete my trip in 3 days and there were so many places to choose from. The top destinations included Monteverde, Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Santa Teresa, Tamarindo, Jaco, Puerto Viejo, Drake Bay, Tortuguero and Ricon de la Vieja. How was I supposed to choose??

By Peter Fitzgerald - Own work based on the map of Costa Rica and map of cantons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22744775

After hours and hours of research, I decided on the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna region. I wanted a destination with outdoor adventure activities and that region seemed to be the best fit. 


I took a late night flight from Fort Lauderdale and landed at the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. Flight time was 2 hours and 45 minutes; not bad. For the first night, I booked Hotel Aeropuerto. I chose them because I needed somewhere close to the airport after a late night arrival. They also had good reviews on TripAdvisor, many from people just like me who needed somewhere comfortable to sleep for a night. They also offered free airport pick up which was very convenient and easy. They instructed me to take an orange taxi right outside the airport and they would pay the driver upon arrival. It sounded kind of odd to me and I thought there was a chance I would end up having to pay that bill, but it went exactly as they said. There was no wait time and we didn't have to wait for other passengers. Best part was that the drive was only 7 minutes, which I was glad for after landing at midnight. Upon arrival, I was checked in within minutes and shown to my room, which was a good size, clean and comfortable. I settled in and got a good night's rest. 


I woke up early and went to the dining room to enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast. I must say I really enjoyed the food in Costa Rica throughout my entire trip. Rice and Beans with scrambled eggs for breakfast? I decided to try it and I liked it!

I made a reservation for a car rental through Service Car Rental for 9:00 AM. So there I was, waiting in the lobby, excited to start my road trip to La Fortuna. 9:30 AM came and no sign of my car. I called them and they said they were running late, but on their way. After multiple calls and waiting two hours, I couldn't wait any longer and used the WiFi to book another car rental with Alamo through Expedia. The hotel dropped me back to the airport, where Alamo picked me up and took me to get my vehicle. I rented a Suzuki Jimny and was on my way to La Fortuna! After this experience, I suggest sticking to the known international brands for car rentals. **Tip** It's recommended to rent a 4WD vehicle because some of the roads are quite bumpy.

The drive time was just over two hours, mainly with views of hills, valleys and rivers. I was able to connect to the GPS on my phone because T-Mobile gives me free international data. See my previous post on how to stay connected while traveling


I arrived in La Fortuna that afternoon, just in time for lunch, and stopped at Lava Lounge Bar 'n' Grill. I started with a soursop margarita - WOW! - and then had a delicious lunch with chicken fajitas and burritos.

It was time to check in to my bed and breakfast, Tifakara Lodge, which I booked on Airbnb. I was very happy with my reservation. The grounds were clean, well-kept and beautiful. My room was modern and spacious. The staff was helpful and attentive. I definitely recommend them. I would describe Tifakara as modern comfort in the middle of the rain forest. It's exactly what you need after a full day of adventure.

Photo (c) http://www.tifakara.com/en/gallery.html#&gid=1&pid=2

I saw this little guy outside my room one morning.

After I settled in, I only had time for one activity that day, so I chose to check out the hot springs. Because of the Arenal Volcano, there are many natural hot springs in the area. After researching, prior to my trip, I chose Baldi Hot Springs Resort & Spa.

The entrance fee was $34 per person and I paid an extra $7 to rent a locker. The property was huge! It was like a theme park of thermal pools. They have 25 pools on property, which are all filled by crystalline waterfalls and heated by the Arenal volcano. There's even an onsite water park with water slides for the kids. The temperature of the different pools vary, with the coolest pools at the bottom and the hottest pools at the top; up to 152 degrees Fahrenheit!

Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmenard48/   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

After leaving Baldi, I stopped at a local Soda, called Soda La Cuchara Tica, for dinner and a local beer. Sodas are small restaurants in Costa Rica that serve "typico" - typical Costa Rican cuisine. This usually consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat.



This is where the real adventure began! I booked a combo tour with Sky Adventures, who was highly rated on TripAdvisor.  The only thing I would change is that I should've selected the option for them to pick me up at the hotel, instead of driving there myself. The road was very bad...no, extremely bad! I've never seen so many potholes in my life. I'm surprised my Suzuki Jimny made it there and back. It's better to pay the extra for the transportation.

After finally arriving at the park, I redeemed my tickets and got ready for my first activity. First up was the Sky Tram. 

Photo (c) http://www.arenal.net/tour/skytram-skytrek/

This was basically a means of transportation to get to the next tour, Sky Trek. The gondolas ascend to the top of the rain forest, allowing for panoramic views of Lake Arenal. I didn't expect to go that high up. The altitude was 2460 ft. above sea level. 

Next up was Sky Trek (zip lining). There were 7 zip lines, the longest being 2493 ft. I'd done zip lining before, but this was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Once I zipped past the trees in the rain forest and out into the open, I was shocked at how high up I was and amazed at view. 

Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainor/   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainor/   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

That was so much fun, but they definitely saved the best for last! Next up was Sky River Drift. This has to be one of the funnest excursions I've ever done. It includes 3 zip lines and a short hike, as a means of getting to the river location. At the end of the third zip line, you end on a tree platform. From here they rappelled us down over 130 ft. to the river bank below. I was nervous at first, but they let you down slowly, so it's not bad.

Photo (c) https://www.arenalvolcanobooking.com/sky-river-drift/

After everyone rappelled down to the bank, the tour guides assigned us each a raft and gave us safety instructions. Then it was time to get into the water! It was so cold! I quickly jumped into my raft and started heading downstream. I remember thinking, "wow this is so nice!" I was in the middle of the rain forest, in a raft, floating down a natural river. It was very picturesque, calm and soothing. That didn't last too long. Before I knew it, the speed started to increase as I went downstream. I started spinning from one direction to another, my raft was bouncing off cliff walls and boulders, and the cold water was splashing in every time I descended some more. But guess what? I was having too much fun to even care about the cold water anymore! I had such a good time and could've gone on for much longer when it ended.

Photo (c) http://travelarenal.com/product/sky-river-drift-tubing/

At the end of the tour, they took us back to a place where we could change into dry clothes. Then before taking us back to the main area, they gave us warm sugar cane juice. I was still cold from the river, so this was exactly what I needed and it was delicious.

All that activity definitely worked up an appetite. Did you read my post "In Pursuit of Pizza"? If you did, you know I look for a highly rated pizzeria in all my destinations and you saw my review of Cafe Mediterraneo.

Pizza in the rain forest? Sure, why not? Nothing like a good wood-fire oven pizza, with a view of the Arenal Volcano, after a long day of zip lining and river tubing. Immediately upon walking in I noticed the warm and relaxing atmosphere, which was exactly what I needed. I asked for a recommendation on a locally brewed beer and was given Pilsen. I really enjoyed it and it went well with the pizza, which was cooked to perfection. The service was very good. The owner even came out to greet each table one by one. I definitely recommend making this one of your stops. 


I didn't really plan anything for today. My flight was scheduled for 1:11 am that night out of San Jose, so I decided to play it by air and give enough time to return the car and check in at the airport. I took my time to check out of the hotel that morning and drove into town. I tried to get a good shot of the volcano, but the clouds were covering the top.

I saw a cafe called My Coffee Lounge and stopped to try it out. The drinks were good and they were pretty!

After coffee, I decided to head back towards San Jose. I stopped at a small roadside soda on the way and had lunch. A little over two hours and I was back in San Jose. By this time it was late afternoon, but still too early to go to the airport. I decided to check out a popular shopping mall, Multiplaza Escazu. It resembled an American-style indoor mall. There were multiple levels with a large variety of stores and restaurants. This made it easy to pass the time.

After walking most of the mall, I chose Inka Grill for dinner. This was my first time to a Peruvian restaurant and it did not disappoint. The food was extremely good! I also liked the outdoor setting which resembled a sidewalk cafe. For dessert, I had Gelato at Da Noi Gelateria inside the mall. 

By this time it was around 7 PM, so I left the mall and headed back to Alamo. They dropped me back to the airport, I checked in and headed to the gate. It was time to say goodbye to Costa Rica and my adventure packed weekend. **Tip** Check your airfare breakdown before you leave home. If it does not list a departure tax charge for Costa Rica, you will be required to pay this at the airport when leaving. I had no idea about this until I got there that night and had to pay $29. Luckily I had cash on me, as a credit card was not an option unless ran as a cash advance. Most airlines are now including it in the airfare, but check just in case.

AdiĆ³s costa rica!