The plane door opened and a gust of hot air rushed across my face at the Liberia Airport. I took in a deep breath. I had been here a few times previously and I couldn’t help but feel like I was at home in Costa Rica. The humidity hugged my skin tightly and I was grateful. We had escaped freezing temperatures from a freak cold front in Austin and I could not have been more happy to be in the tropics.
We had been picked to participate in the Costa Rican Tourism Board’s #GiftOfHappiness and finally had the opportunity to experience parts of Costa Rica that we hadn’t gotten to see the last time around. While there are still a few things we want to do, I would say we’ve gotten quite a comprehensive Costa Rica tourism experience from local to luxury. So with that I bring you things to do in Costa Rica – the Eat, Drink, See, and Do round-up!
Ceviche: Listed as one of my favorite foods in the entire world, Costa Rica is full of fresh and sustainable seafood. Raw fish cooked in lime juice, this is a seafood experience you will not soon forget. Our favorites include pulpo (octopus), and dorado (mahi mahi). Get it from a local restaurant or food stall. Our favorite place ever is a small blue stand in Playas del Coco at the end of the strip. Ask around, people will know. The second best place we had it was at Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort. These guys know their stuff. Keep in mind that Costa Rican ceviche is often sweeter than your Peru counterparts and you’ll have to add your own heat.
Casados: This traditional meal consists of meat, rice, beans, salad, and occasionally a few plantains or pickled chiles. From your hole in the wall restaurant to 5 star hotel, this is a scrumptious way to fill your belly while getting the home cooked experience of Costa Rica.
Gallo Pinto: An essential part of a Costa Rican breakfast, this will be some of the best rice and beans combination you will have in your life. Savory and perfectly spiced beans compliment the white rice. If you are looking to have something that will keep you going for your hikes and activities, this is something you may want to look into.
Pilsen: Move over Imperial, Pilsen is the true winner for Costa Rican beer. I’m sorry but the watered down yellow stuff that comes in the Imperial bottle is no match for this glorious red. At 5.4% it will be the best bang for your buck – especially because Costa Rica is not known for their cheap beer prices.
Segua: I had no clue that Costa Rica had artisan beers and this one took us by surprise when we stumbled on it. This red ale is crisp, light, and great if you’re looking to steer clear of water beer and are looking for something with flavor.
Anything involving fruit juice, Cacique, and an umbrella in it: Did you know that Costa Rica is known for their watermelon and pineapple exports? This makes for incredible cocktails made with their local firewater, Cacique. Many hotels have happy hour so take advantage of it! Also make sure to check out Cas juice (sour guava)!
Arenas del Mar: This was by far my most favorite of our trip. This 5 star hotel not only has the luxury you expect but is the first hotel to also hold a 5 leaf rating for sustainability in Costa Rica. How freaking rad is that?! The views are outstanding, the bed super soft and comfortable, and come on, how can you compete with a jacuzzi tub overlooking a cliff into the sea? Again, if you get the chance, try their ceviche – their restaurant was some of the best food we had while out and about. Arenas Del Mar’s happy hour is one to not be missed. Shaun and I ordered 5 cocktails and it only set us back $16. One word: Outstanding.
Capitan Suizo: A bit off the main strip of the bustling party town Tamarindo, this cozy, 4 leaf rated, eco-friendly boutique hotel will allow access to the town while still being able to “get away from it all”. Highlights include a troop of howler monkeys that claim this hotel as part of their territory (you can see them in the trees from your balcony), beachfront property, and some of the best sunsets ever seen on this hemisphere.
Arenal Kioro Hotel: Located in the northern plains of Costa Rica, Arenal Kioro Hotel has stunning views of the Arenal Volcano from the comfort of your in-room jacuzzi! This 4 leaf hotel offers hot springs located throughout the property and some of the most breathtaking scenery a hotel can offer.
Finca Rosa Blanca: A quick and easy 20-30 minute drive from San Jose, this 5 leaf rated hotel is a great getaway if you’re looking to escape the city. Located on 40 acres of a coffee plantation, this is a great way to unplug and get away as there are no TVs in the rooms. Spend your evening in the great on site bar, looking out onto the San Jose valley, or ordering food from the restaurant that sources their own food – organically! Order the Coffee Connoisseur’s Meal package – it was by far the best meal we had during our entire trip.
Costa Rica is full of everything you can possibly imagine. Here are just a few things that are must-dos when in the country.
Take a Surf Lesson: Tamarindo has some of the best waves you could possibly ask to learn on. This was the second time I had taken lessons and was able to rock it. Post coming up soon but until then, check out Arenas Adventures and ask for Eli. He is patient, funny, and will get you up on the board guaranteed.
Go Ziplining: We were able to experience Sky Trek at the Arenal Volcano. If you’re an adrenaline junky, the experience is relatively anticlimactic, however, the views are STUNNING. Unless you’re in a helicopter, there is no way to experience it quite like this.
Head to Manuel Antonio National Park: Where else are you going to get White-Faced Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Raccoons, Sloths, and pristine beaches all in one, accessible location? Offering a days worth of hikes and a gorgeous beach to lay back and relax on, this is a must see during your Costa Rica stay.
Take a Coffee Tour: Whether it be an organic co-op in Monteverde or a shade-grown plantation near San Jose, if you are a coffee fanatic, this will be a great educational tour for you. Hell, take both of them. The coffee growing processes are so different!
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center: Learn about the biodiversity in Costa Rica at this animal reserve in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Many of the programs here breed and re-introduce into the wild and their cause is noble. Everything from pit vipers to howler monkeys matter in the delicate balance of the rainforest. Did I mention that you can hold BABY MONKEYS? Sold!
…and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the amazing experiences you can have in Costa Rica. At least this list will give you a bit of a starting point, right? What things would you add to the list? What were some of your favorite experiences?
Disclosure: We were guests of the Costa Rican tourism board, however all opinions are our own. We have been to Costa Rica before and had only good things to say. I couldn’t imagine it would have changed!