We fell in love with Costa Rica. It is not too big country but with lots things to see and very nice people. We found good deal for tickets and waited half year to visit. Our visit took 8 days. We recommend to rent car and drive around. Be ready that sometimes rent a car can take times. For us was around 2hrs in the evening. Don’t use Google Map, download Waze – is better. We didn’t spend time in San Jose and direct went to national parks and explore nature.
Los Quetzales National Park
Los Quetzales National Park is around 2-3 hrs from San Jose. We reached very late and really use Waze. Our Google Map showed lodge in the forest between nothing. It was still 1 mile more to our lodge. The park is famous with Quetzal birds. They are really beautiful, so don’t forget to take morning tour. We went to Miradore de Quetzales hotel and took tour next morning. Hotel is very nice and they gave us thermophore for bed. This national park is in mountains so take warm clothes it can be very cold in the evening and morning.
You have to wake up early for tour but is worth it. Tour is around 1-1,5 hr. Next you have breakfast – very tasty. You should try traditional food – Gallo Pinto (rice and beans). We took table on 1st floor and we could look at hummingbirds flying around feeders.
Next on our list was Tortuguero National Park. You can get there by boat from La Pavona. Before reach, check boats schedule. Last boat is around 4:30 and to island takes around 40min to 1 hr (depend of water level). Boat ticket is $3 (when is lot of water) and $10 (when is shallow). Don’t take big suitcases it will be difficult to put them to and from boat. Keep eyes open during ride because you can see crocodiles, caimans, monkeys, and birds.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is beautiful place and very humid. Our hotel Casa Marbella was about 10 min from port. You will like walking around cute small town. From Hotel we took night tour and saw some spiders, toads and frogs. We really recommend morning tour by kayak. We took whole day (total 3 tours) with Johnny (Johnny’s tours Tortugeuro). He is really good and we didn’t know how he can see all this animals. The guides are working together and helping if they see animals. They know each other very well.
Morning tour was amazing and we saw lot of birds (e.g. herons, anhinga, egret), caimans, and our favorite lizard – Jesus Christ lizard.
We did with him Jaguar trail in national park and saw sloths, yellow snake and toucans. During the season from June to October you can see turtles nesting on the beach and they have specials tours. This time many jaguars are coming to the beach. We were in February so no luck for turtles and jaguars.
And night tour was amazing and we walked 2hr and saw famous red-eye frogs and raccoon.
Arenal Volcano National Park
From Tortuguero we went to Arenal Volcano and on the way we saw advertisement Dave and Dave’s Nature Park. We just changed our road and went to check. They usually want reservation but we didn’t make and still could do it. Beautiful place with terrace when you can observe birds. They have feeders for hummingbirds.
After Park we went to our hotel Volcano Lodge Hotel and Thermal Experience. Very good hotel with view of Arenal Volcano and hot springs. Very popular are Tabacon thermal specially on instagram but we enjoyed ours with not too many people and close to room.
We didn’t do hike to Volcano but chose rappeling with Pure Trek near La Fortuna. It was very good adventures with rappel of waterfalls and zip line. Guides were awesome and very helpful. We took private tour and took around 2 hrs. You will get wet and lot of fun. One of our guide was singing… Despacito …
After canyoning we got delicious vegetarian lunch (included) and after we were so full 🙂 During eating we were watching our photos. One of guide is a photographer so after you have nice souvenir.
We recommend Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park on the way to Manuel Antonio National Park. We took self- guide and saw some birds. Really impressed to walk by bridges and there is nice view of volcano. You can book online but also on the spot no problem with tickets.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park was our last stop and we hoped to see lot of animals, specially slots from our hotels room. On the way we stopped in Jaco.
We took next day tour from hotel which included Karara National Park and Jungle Crocodile Safari. Tour was amazing, so many birds (e.g. Anhiga, white ibis, egret, heron, turkey vulture, hawk) and river crocodiles. We really recommend this.
If you like beach, in Manuel Antonio is good place to relax. But it is very popular place, so be ready for crowd.
We took 5-hour birds watching tour with Oscar Herrera and we saw around 50 different birds, including beautiful toucan feeding female. If you like birds this tour is for you.
After bird watching tour we had still lot of time and we went to Uvita, nice park with beach. From air shape of beach looks like whale tale. If you have time you can do scuba, snorkel and whale watching there. We just visited and walk around and next went again to Los Quetzales National Park to see hummingbirds. Our flight was at 5 am so we just drove around.