Hello friends! Matt and I are making our way home from our 2 week honeymoon in Costa Rica today and are currently in Miami waiting for our flight back to DC! We had an absolutely wonderful time on the trip and were so sad to leave this morning. Costa Rica is a really beautiful and ecologically diverse country with very friendly people. I hope we’ll go back again someday!
I’ll be sharing all sorts of honeymoon posts in the coming weeks recapping our adventures in detail, but I got a lot of questions while we were gone about where we stayed and went, so I figured for those of you that were interested in traveling to Costa Rica as well, it would be helpful to put together an overview post with all our hotel/activity info in one place. So – enjoy! More details will come, this is just the general overview.
Costa Rica Fun Facts
Before I get into our hotels and activities, some fun facts on the country itself!
- Native Costa Ricans are known as “Ticos” (men) or “Ticas” (women)
- Costa Rica covers only 0.03% of the planet’s surface, but is home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity, including more than 800 species of wild birds
- Costa Rica is home to many volcanoes – the highest is Irazu (11,260 feet above sea level), the most active is Arenal, and the widest is Poas.
- Common phrases: “Con mucho gusto” (with much pleasure), “Pura Vida” (pure life – kind of like their “hakuna matata” – no worries, life is good)
- Costa Rica has 5 different climatic regions (you can literally drive an hour and the weather will go from cool and rainy to hot and sunny) – “El Bosque Seco” or dry forest, “El Bosque Lluvioso” or rain forest, “El Bosque Frio” or cold forest, and “El Paramo” or barren plateau.
- Costa Ricans are very friendly!
- The local currency is the Colon, but everywhere accepts US Dollars.
- The electrical outlets are the same as the US so all your plugs will work.
- Time zone: same as US Central but without daylight savings time.
- Costa Rica is VERY expensive – Matt and I were really surprised. It was on par with prices in New York City – so be prepared to spend a LOT of money on food and drinks.
Hotel #1: El Silencio Lodge & Spa
Nights stayed: 3
Dates: Friday, December 7 – Monday, December 10
Weather: Cooler and rainy (mid 70s during the day, into the 60s at night) – bring a jacket, a rain coat, and shoes you don’t mind getting muddy!
Review: We absolutely loved this hotel – definitely my favorite of the whole trip. There are only 16 cabins on the 500 acre property and the staff were amazingly warm and attentive – the type of place where you arrive and they say “Matt and Anne, you are here!” as if they’d been waiting for us their whole lives. Our cabin also included our own private outdoor hot tub, which was awesome.
Surroundings: The lodge is about an hour and a half from the San Jose airport on a private reserve with flowing creeks and waterfalls, hiking trails, and beautiful views of the rainforest. The hotel in the Cloud Forest area of Costa Rica, so it’s cooler and often rainy – you’re literally in the clouds and apparently the altitude is on par with that of Denver – about a mile up.
Food: We paid for an all-inclusive stay at El Silencio, so three meals were included in our rate each day. The food at El Silencio was amazing – they have their own organic garden, chicken coop, and trout farm on the property so the food is really fresh and and delicious. I really loved their open and bright dining room, too.
Another thing that was awesome about El Silencio? They are very supportive of their local community and have a big focus on recycling and remaining earth friendly. Yay!
- Hiking, hiking, and more hiking! El Silencio is a hiker’s paradise – just bring shoes you don’t mind getting muddy (although they have a complimentary boot cleaning service when you leave, which was great) and a rain coat! There were a ton of trails on the property and gorgeous waterfalls, too.
- Spa-ing! The El Silencio spa was gorgeous – set right in the rain forest – and we got great massages.
- A “cultural tour” which included eating lunch (and learning how to make corn tortillas!) at our guide’s aunt’s house, and drinking homemade moonshine out of a shack. More on that later. 😉
Hotel #2: Arenal Nayara
Nights stayed: 5
Dates: Monday, December 10 – Saturday, December 15
Weather: Warm and rainy/cloudy, very humid (mid 80s during the day, into the high 70s at night) – bring a rain coat! And your swimsuit.
Review: This hotel was beautiful – there are 50 bungalows on the property where guests stay and it offers views of Arenal Volcano (when it’s not cloudy, which unfortunately was only very briefly while we were there as it was still the wet season!). There was also a beautiful pool on the property and numerous outdoor hot tubs.
The hotel owns a parrot named Carlotta who hangs out in the pool area, too. She was gorgeous!
Surroundings: The nearest town is La Fortuna, which is a touristy area filled with hostels and outfitters offering adventure activities. Between adrenaline sports, hiking, hot springs, and the volcano, there was a lot to do in this area! 5 nights was the perfect amount of time. It took us about 2.5 hours to get here from El Silencio.
Food: Breakfast was included in our room rate. Otherwise, we either ate at the hotel or in town. I really like Costa Rican food – the typical dish is “casado”, which is a big plate of rice, black beans, a meat or fish, a salad, and fried plantains. So good! “Casado” actually also means marriage in Spanish, and a local told us that’s because rice and beans are the perfect marriage and always together! How cute.
I was also loving on the ceviche – our hotel had a fabulous one at the pool bar that came with plantain chips. Mmm!
Lots of adventure sports!
- Waterfall Rappelling (we went with a company called Pure Trek Canyoning, which I’d highly recommend). This was SO cool. They fed us a delicious casado lunch after, too!
- Whitewater Rafting (we went with a company called Wave Expeditions – again, highly recommended, the staff were awesome and lunch after was amazing). TOTAL blast. Pretty intense rapids, too!
- A full day private tour (we went with a guy named Walter Davis of Indigo Blue Tours, who was our driver from our El Silencio Lodge to Arenal Nayara. He was awesome and when he dropped us off, he explained that he also led tours, so we signed up for one with him!) The day included a hanging bridges hike through the rainforest, an Arenal volcano hike, lunch at a local restaurant, a hike and swim at a waterfall, and a visit to a hot springs place at the end of the day where we also had dinner. Awesome day – we were so tired when we got back to our hotel but it was perfect to cram in a ton of stuff in one day!
- The hotel spa – we did a couples massage package and it was wonderful.
- Hanging out at the hotel pool and in the hot tubs!
Hotel #3: JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa
Nights stayed: 6 (we were able to use Matt’s Marriott points from work travel to book this hotel, so it was totally free – win)
Dates: Saturday, December 15 – Friday, December 21
Weather: Hot and sunny, but not very humid (mid 90s during the day, into the low 80s at night) – bring your swim suit and a LOT of sunscreen. The sun was super intense! It was the dry season in this part of Costa Rica, so every day was sunny and clear.
Review: Gorgeous hotel. Stunning pools, right on the beach, and beautiful sunsets. It’s a large hotel so it’s definitely less personal and you stay in normal rooms instead of your own cabin like at the other hotels, but the property was stunning. After a week of clouds and rain, this seriously felt like a totally different vacation!
Surroundings: It took us about 4 hours to get here from Arenal area as it’s on the north west coast of Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean. The nearest town is Tamarindo, which was about a 20 minute drive by car. The hotel had shuttles to town ($7 each way) but we had made friends with another honeymooning couple that had rented a car, so we went in a couple times for dinner with them. They live in Phoenix which is sad because they were awesome – we’ll miss our vacation buddies!
Food: No meals were included and the restaurants at the hotel were pricey, but the food was good. We went into town a few times for lunch/dinner which was fun to get a little more of the local culture! There was also a really good place that was a 40 minute walk down the beach called Lola’s – we went there for lunch one of the days.
- The pool and beach! As I said, after a week of rain this seriously felt like a totally different vacation. It was fun to just relax in our tropical paradise!
- Zip Lining! Because we couldn’t come to Costa Rica and not go zip lining! We went through a company called Ecotrans on the Congo Trail Canopy Tour and had a blast – there were 11 different zip lines and they let us go upside down, too!
- Scuba Diving! We went through the Pacific Coast Dive Center. I’m actually scuba dive certified (I got my certification on the Great Barrier Reef when I was studying abroad in Australia in college), but I hadn’t been scuba diving since 2003! It was awesome to go again. Matt’s not certified but has been before, so we just did a brief refresher (20 minutes in a pool) before we headed out with the group. We did a 2 tank dive – so we dove in one spot, came back on the boat, and then went down again in another spot.
Whew – and there you have it! I’ll start sharing more detailed recaps of all the activities we got into soon. What a truly amazing 2 weeks we had. Most of our trip was funded through a Honeyfund we set up as one of our wedding registries, so a big thank you to any of our wedding guests that are reading that helped make this trip possible!