Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

After a long but uneventful flight via Miami to San Jose and a night at the Grano de Oro, a luxury boutique hotel which was once a Victorian mansion, I was up early for the long drive east to Tortuguero National Park on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.

The road from San Jose winds its way through banana plantations until it can go no further and you board a small boat for the last leg of the journey through narrow canals to Manatus Lodge. This boat trip is an integral part of the Tortuguero experience and I was lucky enough to spot spider monkeys, sloths (2 and 3 toed), iguanas, caimans, herons, macaws and toucans. The lodge itself is small, friendly and also air-conditioned - one of very few in the park that is!

I then picked up a 4WD hire car and headed up into the cloud forest to Bajos del Toro and El Silencio Lodge & Spa. Bajos del Toro is not as built up as Monteverde and the lodge is a great place either to relax in one of Costa Rica’s finest spas or enjoy the thrills and spills of river rafting and zip lining. There are also some excellent hikes from the lodge and even a garden set aside for the local hummingbirds! Moving a little further north, my next port of call was Arenal Nayara Hotel. As views of Arenal Volcano’s near perfectly symmetrical cone from my villa’s private terrace and plunge pool were so stunning, I made the difficult decision not to venture too far!

I continued on north to Rincon de la Vieja for a ‘volcanic mud bath’ in this relatively new and adventurous destination at the top end of the country, before heading west through the province of Guanacaste to the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort on the Pacific Coast. This Hyatt hotel was only opened late last year and was designed by a famous local architect, Ronald Zurcher. Views from the terrace of my Bay View room were amazing and there are two small but delightful beaches accessible by a trail from the hotel.

Heading on south to Tamarindo, I stayed at both Capitan Suizo, right on the beach at the end of the bay from where you can walk into town, and Cala Luna - a wonderful boutique alternative if being close to town is not a pre-requisite. Thank goodness 4WD, as the last leg of the journey to Hotel Punta Islita on the Nicoya Peninsula was really quite an adventure, given the state of the roads. However, a secluded beach and Harry’s poolside bar were welcome antidotes before our flight back to San Jose and a final night at the Xandari Resort & Spa - a perfect place for it with beautiful gardens and excellent views over the valley. Pura Vida!

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