9 months ago we went on our Costa Rica honeymoon/roadtrip.. I haven't found the time to really sit down for a blogpost (or posts), so these photos haven't seen daylight since February. Oops! But the day has come: I want to share our Costa Rica honeymoon with you guys!
We had the most amazing time in the country we have always dreamed of. It was the first country we talked about since we got together 9 years ago. And with a little financial help of our weddings guests it finally became reality: Our dream trip to Costa Rica, 4 weeks in paradise! I will share some basic info in this post, like finding places to stay and what it is like to drive in Costa Rica.
But most of all, I will share photos! A LOT of them, so get yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable and enjoy!! (sorry in advance for the giant amount of scrolling you'll have to do)
To decide on our route we relied on Pinterest and travel blogs. Plus a little bit of Lonely Planet and Google maps ;) We skipped the big tourist attractions in our plan, like Arenal, Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero. Instead, we opted for less traveled roads and hidden gems.
Airbnb was our go-to site for the stays. We spend hours looking for the prettiest places and came across major dilemmas like: 'do we want a private house in a botanical garden or a B&B with a butterfly garden?' First world problems.. (we ended up going to both adresses!) For us the most important thing was privacy, we didn't want to end up in a big hall with 20 bunk beds. Not very romantic.. So we searched for private rooms or entire homes and tried(!) to keep our budget in mind. I'm sad to say the treehouse in private jungle for 320 euro a night didn't make the cut (bummer).
We booked every stop at Airbnb and only had one place we weren't happy with. Not because of the B&B though, it just wasn't a place for us. Too 'backpacky'. Other than that, it was so much fun to stay at the most beautiful houses in even more beautiful gardens. Like the one in the photos above, our 'James Bond mountain house' in San José. An over the top bachelor pad with the most amazing plant collection! And the sweetest dog, Luna ♥
We decided we wanted to travel alone and not sit in a bus with 20 other tourists. Some reason as the bunk beds.. It's our honeymoon for crying out loud! ;) Luckily, it is very easy to rent a car in San Jose. We even booked it in advance at Europcar, so the car was ready when we arrived at the airport. (note: arriving at the airport is very chaotic, a lot of people are trying to get you in their cab and charge you for pretty much everything you ask. Keep an eye out for someone of your car rental company!) We loved exploring this incredibly green and diverse country on our own. The stays alone costed us over 1450 kilometers of driving. And that's without the sightseeing/excursions!
Driving yourself in Costa Rica is.. let's say.. somewhat challenging. The roads aren't what we are used to in the Netherlands. Roads to big tourist attractions like Vulcano Arenal and Manuel Antonio National Park are in good condition, but less traveled roads are simply dirt roads. BIG holes, rocks, giant puddles (you can't tell wether it's a hole or not, so be careful!) and a lot of turns are common when you're driving this country. Also, do not believe anything google maps says! They may be right in terms of distance, but definitely not about the driving time. Don't expect to go faster than 50km/hour on a dirt road! We even had roads where 25km/hour was the max because of all the rocks and holes.
In a country filled with rainforests, count on a lot of rain and fog. This will slow you down too, but nothing to worry about. *note: we visited Costa Rica in the dry (or less rainy) season, it might be different to drive in the wet season! Apparently some roads transform into rivers.. My husband would say 'it's a challenge!' ;)
Driving yourself is worth it though! Although there wasn't much room to stop for photos at most points, we came across the most beautiful views and enjoyed our time in the car a lot. And all those wrong turns.. ah well.. they make great travel horror stories (more about that later)!
Most of all Costa Rica is GREEN!! Luscious forests with shades of green that will make a Pantone color chart jealous. Even the sound was green. Insects, birds, monkeys, raindrops.. everything you think about when you say 'rainforest' is what Costa Rica is all about. Our first visit to a National Park - Braulio Carrillo - was so overwhelming, I couldn't even handle it. I squeaked of excitement during the entire 5 hour hike Stefan and I did together. We were alone in the forest for most of the time, so we had the full Indiana Jones experience. (Indi probably didn't squeak though..)
Obviously, I couldn't walk two meters without taking a picture (sorry dear). If you're not sick of all the green at the end of this post, stick around for the next part!!
Our second stop (after the arrival at night in the James Bond house) was Heliconia Island, a B&B located in a huge and beautiful botanical garden. We didn't even had to get off the porch to spot wildlife, the hummingbirds, butterflies and monkeys were everywhere! I suffered from a major jetlag the first days (I can't sleep in planes.. probably has something to do with my super long spidermonkey legs) so I had a sick day at 'home' here. I did nothing but draw tropical plants, take pictures, enjoy everything around me and run to the toilet ;)
The morning we left this pretty garden/B&B the fog was magical! I took a million pictures before breakfast. The garden looked even more gorgeous than on the sunny day before. We did another hike before we got in the car, but it was quite cold so we quickly decided it was time to move on.
Remember the travel horror story I was going to tell you about? Here it is. We booked our third B&B because of a 'blue river' (Rio Celeste) we wanted to visit. So after a good night sleep we asked our sweet Swedish host Johanna what the best route to that river was. It sounded quite easy so we hopped in the car and drove up the super steep hill that was the entrance of the B&B. (so happy with our 4x4!!) Following the described route, we ended up at a dirt road. Johanna said we would. But this dirt road was more dirt than road.. and there were plants growing on the road. The plants got higher, like knee-high at some point. Wrong turn, obviously. But Stefan was convinced it was still a road, while I protested loudly in the car. It started raining and the only person we have seen in a hour was one guy on a horse that looked at us like 'loco tourists!'. And of course: no signal, no GPS.
Stefan kept driving until we ended up in a field, on a hill, between giant boulders ('that is a nice boulder' ;)) and cows. "you still think this is a road?!" "sure, I can see a road over there" "this is NOT A ROAD, this is a field!" Long story short.. I stepped out of the car and refused to get inside until my stubborn husband would turn around. In the end, he did and I got in, all wet and cold from the rain (note to everyone: Costa Rica isn't just warm&sunny!). After our epic honeymoon-fight* we got into a slip and almost got stuck with our car in the middle of nowhere. Three times is a charm, we got out and continued the dirt road to find the right dirt road to bounce on for a few hours. (you can't go 80km/h on a dirt road) All that, only to arrive at the Rio Azul and hear "well, the river isn't really blue because of the rain. It's now more brown-greenish." Nót what you want to hear after that drive.
The trails to Rio Celeste were really muddy (knee-high was a theme that day) and filled with tourists and entire schools (field trips). The river was pretty but we didn't really see that until we got home and looked at the pictures. On the way back we took a different route. But again, a dirt road with lots of big holes and this time.. in the dark. The longest 55 km of my life! We also found out restaurants in Costa Rica close quite early. Good times.
*Don't worry, in the end we found a place to eat, we toasted to a sucky day and laughed about it!
If there is one thing I miss about Costa Rica it is the fresh fruit we had everyday! Like, from the tree fresh. Bananas, pineapple, papaya and watermelon will never taste the same!
Our host Johanna and her sweet American friend made us breakfast, with homemade passionfruit jam, fresh bread, fruit and all kinds of delicious things. I'm drooling just by the thought of it. On our last morning at her peaceful yoga retreat we met the other guests, a birdwatching couple. And with a little help of their binoculars we saws toucans during breakfast! Later we all visited a farmers market together. After a little lunch with fresh coconut we bought fruit and macadamia cake for our drive to Monte Verde ('green mountain'!) and hit the road.
Soon: part 2, with everything about hiking & ziplining the rainforest in Monte Verde!!
Read all my Costa Rica blogposts:
1. Costa Rica honeymoon: driving in a green world (that's this one!)2. Costa Rica honeymoon: rainforest wildlife3. Costa Rica honeymoon: pacific paradise 4. Costa Rica honeymoon: foggy volcanos 5. Costa Rica honeymoon: reggae bar cocktails