So, flew to San Jose in early June, family of 4, two kids, one in kindergarten, one in middle school. Arrived late in evening, people with signs everywhere offering rides, daughter was a bit freaked out, but Hampton Inn Alajuela was waiting for us. Super convenient airport hotel, shuttle available 24 hours, 1 km from hotel. We arrived, checked in and were in bed less than an hour later. Nice to wake up first morning to a hot buffet breakfast, although we were looking forward to a more Costa Rican experience.
Rented car from Vamos – super nice guys, easy to talk with, understood English, great deal, took time with us, provided us with pre-programmed cell phone with Waze for directions and off we drove. About 45 minute drive through Alajuela (crazy driving, but Waze was easy and got us through) and we landed at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. PERFECT introduction to Costa Rica. Gorgeous gardens, hummingbirds, animals, butterflies, kids had a super time. Enjoyed the Tica house, sipped sugar can tea, enjoyed lunch at the restaurant overlooking the cloud forest, one of the best meals I had in Costa Rica (ordered lunch, we’re not a big fan of buffets). Back to the hotel for one more night, swam, end of day.
Next morning, checked out, ready for adventure! First, I’ll say that driving in Costa Rica takes a bit of getting used to, but it was totally manageable and became fun. I drove the whole way (my husband only took the wheel for a short while) and never ran into any problems. Lots of potholes, speed bumps in every town, and the occasional dog hanging out on the road, so can’t zone out, but if you pay attention, it’s really not very difficult. Roads are very windy through most of the country, so if you get carsick (we don’t), might want to prepare. Other than that, highly, highly recommend driving. We saw amazing towns, lots of sodas, met incredible people everywhere. We used common sense, but never felt unsafe at all. Of course, didn’t have jewels all over us, so if you’re that kind of person, well…….Oh, and don’t drive in the dark. Too easy to get swallowed up by a pothole and never heard from again.
Anyway, 2.5 hour drive to Guapiles, then kept going, drove through banana plantations, farms, beautiful country. Road ended and onto dirt and rocks road. Felt like a few hours (that’s when my husband took over), but really probably only 30 minutes. Parked at La Pavona dock, made sure security was 24 hours (it was), and boarded reserved boat to La Manatus Hotel in Tortuguero. ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TRIP. Hour-long boat ride was fun for kids, informative for adults, staff was so nice, food was all included and amazing. Staff would grab my kindergarten son from meals to show him bats, hummingbird nests, things they had found. My kids relaxed, never asked for screen time (ok, that made the whole trip worth it), and explored, explored, explored. Took the boat to the tiny little village and walked along the Caribbean shore. Went on a creepy yet fascinating night hike through the rainforest (with a guide) and saw and heard lots of animals. Then back to our air-conditioned bungalow for a good nights’ sleep – well, until the howler monkeys woke us up the next morning. An experience we’ll never forget! Stayed 2 nights.
More updates to come tomorrow!