MY TOP 5

by Fernanda Costa

Costa Rica is an amazing country! It is incredible how many different things they have in such small territory. Costa Rica has so much diversity and so many fabulous places that would guarantee a perfect holiday. There are many more than five incredible places in Costa Rica, but here is my top 5 from my recent trip.

01 – Tortuguero

I arrived in San Jose on a Tuesday in May and had my first night there. The transfer to Tortuguero departures very early and, due to the flight schedule, a first night in San Jose is always required when visiting Tortuguero. I was really happy with that first night.

The pick up at the hotel was around 7 am on the next day and even though it took me 6 hours to get there (between transfers, a breakfast stop and the boat to get to the lodge) it was totally worth it! Tortuguero is gorgeous! Imagine a dense vegetation (such unique trees, by the way!) with water canals dividing it. I will never forget my experience there.

When we arrived, we were served a cold drink and then given general information about the programmed activities, the restaurant and rooms assignments as well. After that, the adventure begun! I left everything in the room and went for a walk. Immediately I started to hear noises – I could hear the howler monkeys, frogs, the wind blowing the trees near me, the boats passing by…so many different things going on. I started to look up, on the trees and, suddenly, I saw about 6 or 7 white capuchin monkeys and, hiding a bit higher, was a howler monkey. When I looked to the ground, I saw a lot of blue crabs and they were huge! The funny thing was that most people didn’t even notice them.

It rained that night, a lot! The biggest thunderstorm I have ever heard in my life! Woke up around 3 am with all the lightnings and thunders and, right after that, the howler monkeys started to react to it. They are incredibly noisy! But I guess that’s a true jungle experience! I tried to sleep that night, but it was a little bit difficult with all the noise, so I was up around 5am and it was still raining, so I just took some time to sit outside and enjoy the rain. I learned that day that we need to find the beauty in everything because even the rain is amazing!

I thought it was very hot and humid, so having a hat, sunscreen, a bottle of water and a decent bug spray is mandatory.

Here, a village tour, a guided walk and a canal tour are included. My favourite part was the canal tour – I saw so many birds, iguanas, sloths, caimans, monkeys and even an otter! Juan was my guide there and he was incredible! I have no idea how he could spot so many things because some of them were very distant.

Tortuguero is definitely my number 1!

02 – Ziplining in Monteverde

Well, my last (and only) ziplining experience was in Brazil and I was probably 8 years old or something. So, was I scared? Heck yes!!! I was SO nervous, but I was also working so I thought “well, just let’s get over with this!”. I was in a group with two couples. We had two guides and a photographer.

The first wire was the worst part…I remember thinking that I just didn’t want to get stuck in the middle, but the guides were amazing and explained everything we had to do, even if we get stuck. They made us feel very safe and were talking to us and asking questions all the time.

It was a bit windy, but it is also part of the experience! Feeling that freedom was perfect – 7 cables in total, very high, very fast…and I would do it all over again!

03 – Manuel Antonio

Well, this is an interesting one…I heard a lot of people say that Manuel Antonio is very touristy. My opinion? I don’t think that, at all! Perhaps being Brazilian makes me look at some things differently… I do believe is more developed, but I think it is for the locals who live there, not exactly for tourists. Obviously, if tourists are visiting the place, they will also use the facilities, but we can’t forget that people live in those places, even the remote ones. Don’t they deserve that as well?

On the way to Manuel Antonio, we stopped at Tarcoles to see the crocodiles under the bridge. I really enjoyed that, especially because they are my favourite animal (yes, I know I’m weird – everyone in Costa Rica said the same!).

Manuel Antonio is a mix of town, beach and forest…although I am not a beach person, I can’t deny how gorgeous they are. However, it can be busy as well. Many locals come down from San Jose to Manuel Antonio because it is the closest beach for them.

Why am I excited about Manuel Antonio? Well, it was the place where I could spot a toucan while sitting on my balcony and I did it all by myself. If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you will understand what I’m saying…having guides is great but it also means they will spot things a lot faster than you. On that day, I was sitting outside, and I was staring at the trees in front when I saw an iguana laying on the top of the tree. Then I started to look around and I’ve found two other iguanas on another tree. After that, I saw (and heard) a lot of monkeys and different birds. Suddenly, at another tree on my right, I saw the silhouette of a toucan – that’s very unique. I just thought “oh my gosh! I can’t believe I’m seeing a toucan!”. How exciting is that? And I’m not a birder…

04 – Food and culture

Trying different food is usually one of the best parts of travelling to a different country, isn’t it? I was amazed with the food there. It is incredibly healthy and even on remote places, like Tortuguero, there were always two options, at least, and tasty fruit and salad.

I read this article before I travel saying that Costa Rica was the happiest country in the world…and honestly everyone I spoke with they were very helpful, and they were happy with their lives. They recognize how blessed they are with their country, nature, landscapes and wildlife. I noticed how careful they are with animals, in general. They take care of them and they help them.

05 – Monteverde

I know I already wrote about ziplining in Monteverde, but I love Monteverde! It is a cloud forest, so it is much cooler and wetter and it is also located on a higher altitude, but it’s an incredible place. First, being inside of a cloud is a very curious experience. I remember having lunch outside and two minutes later I couldn’t see anything. It is a very different environment; the flora is amazing, and it is very good for birds as well.

The roads to get there are very rough and there are some road works going on at the moment, but it is totally worth it!

I stayed at Monteverde Lodge and Gardens on a room with balcony. Everyday, in the morning and in the evening, I sat outside to enjoy the wildlife and the landscape. I saw (and heard) a lot of howler monkeys there and so many birds!

I also did a night tour there at Bosque Eterno de los Ninos (Children’s Eternal Rainforest) that it is a very interesting project and has an incredible history:

In the late 80’s some children in Sweden decided to collect money to help saving the forest and they managed to collect enough money to buy six hectares. It was such a success that other people and governments also donated money to increase the area bought initially. Today, they have almost 23.000 hectares, including 217 properties between Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Alajuela. They keep planting trees and maintaining the area. They also work closely with local schools to teach them how important it is to protect the environment.

My night tour was something I’ve never done before (at least not like this). There’s no light apart from the flashlight they provide. A lot of insects flying around, and I was freaking out! The guide was great and even with a flashlight, we could see a lot of frogs, a huge tarantula, insects and some birds. We also did an experience without the flashlights where we couldn’t see anything, literally. So, we had our hands on each other’s shoulders and we were walking like this in the middle of the forest! I remember the guide saying “imagine how many animals can see us and we can’t see them!”. Even though I am not a bug person and this was not in my comfort zone, I did enjoy this! That’s why we travel after all, isn’t it?