I recently traveled to Costa Rica for a weekend with my mom for our first #DaughterMotherTrip (check out 11 reasons to take your mom on a girls trip) and it was FUN!, a lot more fun than I thought. My mom had probably more energy than I did, so that made her the best travel buddy I’ve had so far !
Our flight was a late (or early) arrival, got to the airport at 12:00am! and because we were renting a car early and taking off to Arenal Volcano area ASAP, we decided to not go to the city that night and just wait at the airport, 6 hours (hah not sure how good of an idea that was). Fun fact: the restroom outside of the arrival area (technically by the garage) is a lot warmer than the one upstairs in departures, also less people go there, so we got to do the things we missed at home, like nails, pluck my eyebrows and even dyed my hair (not a joke).
So we waited until we could get our rental and we took off.
This 4 day itinerary is great for:
-Solo travelers – Small groups
Find the hour by hour itinerary at the end of this post.
1. Poas Volcano and Lake
This volcano is active! we got to see some of the fumes and it is beautiful, it’s also in high elevation (from 7874 to 8885 feet), so I hope you’re in good shape to go up the little trail and you also have a light hoodie because it can get chilly. Is about an hour from the airport driving and you probably don’t need much time here, 30 minutes is probably enough to go up, take your picture and be out .
After the volcano we start driving to Arenal and decided to hit our next 10 minute spot for pictures.
2. Waterfall La paz
This waterfall is right on the side of the road, there is no entrance fee, no actual parking either. So as you’re getting closer to it, you can get off the road and park on the shoulder, there was two people selling artisanal pieces and exotic fruits, so that gave me a little more trust to be able to leave my car for a few minutes. Go pass the metal bridge and go down to the waterfall, is worth it!
3. Drive to Arenal
we made a few stops along the drive, as it took us about 3 hours, we stopped for local food and a bakery, few overlook spots and overall are whole drive and the view was beautiful (aside from the crazy curves).
4. Check into hostel
We stayed at Arenal Backpackers hostel, and let me tell you, is one of the best hostels I’ve stayed at. Amazing view from the pool area, nice and clean, very chill. Also the girl that worked giving us tour info and activities was spot on about our choices. Make sure you try the “Fiesta fries” they’re so good!.
5. Zip line and hot springs pools
We decided to go with Canopy Los Canoñes because it was a good price and also after the zip lining we could hang in the installations of the “Los lagos hotel” (as it’s owned by the same company). I will strongly suggest to get the 3pm tour, as there was literally no one else but us 2, making it a lot more fun and personable, and the tour that got back before us was around 20 people, and unless you rather spend more time up in the trees (actually doesn’t sound too bad) but hearing people maybe not wanting to let go, nah I liked it just us. It has 13-15 platforms and the views are amazing!. Right after, we went into the hotel and between their amenities, they have a butterfly garden, frog house, ant farm, hot springs and a hot spring wet bar! Fun tip: the vegetarian nachos are the bomb!
1. River Rafting
We used the company Arenal Rafting, the start of the tour was really bad in the customer experience sense. Being Costa Rica you have both english and spanish speakers, so they explained everything in both languages, totally good!. Until they’re dividing the people and assigning to their tour guide, I don’t know what happened, but there was a mixup of who was gonna take what group and the 4 tour guides kept arguing, even after being on the boat already, when we stopped they would mention it again. Then, I have my action camera with my shoulder strap and my phone with the action case in my arm and I heard probably 10 times if not more, that it was going to be my responsibility if I loose it, yes ! yes ! I know, I know that is not your fault, you have told me 5 times before I got in the boat and then another 5 when I got in it, is like? ok are we going to row back to drop it off? I don’t think so, so shut up already. (BTW I did’t loose any of them).
I also learned a lesson, and I know I’m gonna sound mean, I will never never ever go on an “adventure tour” with an older person in my group. And I know that I was going with my mom, but she was all for it! but because of two ladies, our whole rafting experience wasn’t as extreme, as our guide was trying to be careful so one of the old ladies didn’t fall or something. Boohoo!
Overall, we still had a lot of fun and it was the first time my mom had done it. I would try to make it as fun and rough as I could, but my team sucked. Anyways, the tour included a fruit snack about halfway the river and a full meal at the end.
2. Natural Hot springs
We found this little gem! Is right across from the Tabacon Hotel, but these are 100% natural hot springs, is literally a river. Is not too difficult to get there, the parking is very limited on the side of the road. Once you go down the ramp there is no real stairs or anything, only rocks. the river flows below a bridge, don’t hang out in that area, go below the bridge and find an even better spot and a lot less crowded area. We stayed there a little close to 3 hours, I even gave myself a leg massage with the hot rocks!.
1. Mistico Park: Hanging Bridges
I am not sure if I should label this as a must do, but I really enjoyed it, these hanging bridges gives you beautiful views and a good walk through the trails and overall it was spectacular. They open early, one of the few places that do! so take advantage of it to maximize your time, which is also a huge plus as is not too hot and is not crowded. You also get the opportunity to have a tour guide if you’d like or different tours for bird watching, and others; we just did it ourselves.
2. La Fortuna Waterfall
Visiting this place was so nice! If you don’t have a car to take you to the entrance, you’re up for a good little “hike” in concrete, but you get a great reward after going down a very steep trail after the entrance that takes about 10 minutes, you can hang and watch the water hit the rocks and enjoy the sound (some people were even getting some sun/tanning laying in the rocks) we just went straight in to swim in the waterfall pool and man it is cold but totally worth it! The way up now, 15 minutes of very fast heart rate!
3. Drive to Manuel Antonio
It was not fun, I was nervous 75% of the time, I even cried. But once I got to the hostel, the guy at the front desk told me that I took the worst route possible ¬¬. I believe the name of this route is “aguacate” which is avocado in english. So if you hear it or something, don’t take it!
4. Check in hostel and hang by the pool/bar
We stayed at Manuel Antonio Backpackers, your regular hostel, nothing overly special. The guy at the front desk was really nice and helped us pick our best choice for next day activities. Because I should’ve done more research about Manuel Antonio and realized that is closed on mondays! Fun Fact: The pool has an amazing view of the coast during the day.
1. Catamaran to go whale/dolphin watching, snorkeling and slides on the boat
We got a great little package, portion of the boat tour with Sunset Sail Tours, they picked us up at 8:10am and departed at 9am. We had a nice hour and a half boat ride where we were able to watch whales (mommas and babies) and dolphins. After we got closer to a reef spot where we jumped off the boat and went snorkeling. This boat tour was the first one to get there from 4 others that I spotted, meaning we had a clear view of the reef and the fishes and a lot more time with less people swimming in the same area.
After snorkeling we got closer to the boat where you could jump off the second floor from the boat or from the slide and swim in the ocean.
On our way to the beach we stopped at a place called Avatar zip coaster, like it’s name states, is a zip line + roller coaster, and it’s fun! For what it is as a quick stop, is a different experience.
3. Hang at the beach
I don’t think I need to say much, we found where to park, and rented beach beds with cushions and a beach umbrella. Just enjoying the sun and our last day in Costa Rica.