"When thinking about my plans for 2019, my friend Paige and I decided it was time for another girl’s trip! After narrowing down our options, we decided Costa Rica would be the perfect fit! We both love nature, adventure, beautiful sights, and coffee! The trip certainly exceeded our expectations! Take a look below to see our day by day itinerary and photos from our adventure.
Paige and I left St. Louis bright and early! After a short layover in Fort Lauderdale, we arrived in San José, Costa Rica and took a transfer to our hotel. We stayed at Xandari Resort and Spa, just north of the city. It was the perfect choice to start our trip! The resort was opened by a couple from California, an architect and artist, who fell in love with Costa Rica and built the resort. The staff was very welcoming and the grounds had so much to offer! The afternoon was very rainy, but we walked the botanical gardens and enjoyed a nice meal before retreating to bed.
Since we had such an early night, we got up bright and early to walk the footpath around the grounds. We saw five waterfalls! The footpath did have some steep inclines, but it was worth it to see the biggest waterfall. We had a wonderful buffet breakfast full of plantains, rice, beans, eggs, and fresh fruits.
Today was dedicated to experiencing one of Costa Rica’s finest exports: COFFEE! Our first tour was Britt Coffee Tour. Britt was actually the first company to offer coffee tours! Our guides were very entertaining and knowledgeable about the process of growing coffee beans, harvesting, roasting, packaging, as well as the best brewing methods. We tried six different coffees on the tour and enjoyed some of their chocolates along the tour. The Tarrazu Monteeielo was my favorite with hints of chocolate and grapefruit.
Next, we toured Doka Estate. Doka is the largest coffee plantation in Costa Rica. They grow coffee plants and harvest the beans for both exportation and their own coffee line, Tres Generaciones. On this tour we got to see some of the harvesting process firsthand. It is very early in the season for picking the beans, but there was a small amount that were ripe and had already been collected. We watched the machines sort, wash, peel, and separate the beans. After that process, the beans are all laid out to dry in the sun for a couple of days before they are ready to be packaged and exported.
We were picked up by our private transfer to Arenal. The private transfer was such a blessing! We could stop for photos or run by a pharmacy for motion sickness medicine (just in case) without having to worry about navigating the roads of Costa Rica. Our driver, Warner, was fantastic at pointing our plants and wildlife. He even pulled over when he noticed another van had stopped to see a sloth outside of La Fortuna!
In Arenal we stayed at Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa. I was very excited to stay here as this is a preferred hotel for Brentwood Travel! Since Brentwood Travel is a member of Ensemble, our clients get special perks while staying here! As soon as we arrived at the resort, I was blown away by the beautiful grounds and seamless check in!! Our room was one of the Orchid garden view rooms, perfect for us! It was newly renovated 2 years ago. For a special occasion I would highly recommend a Rainforest room with a soaking tub and balcony with a forest view. Another option would be a Tabacon Suite for an elevated experience! They will both be renovated by the end of 2019!!
Soaking in the hot springs and pool at Tabacon were some highlights of our stay! All throughout the springs there are beautiful gardens, hidden waterfalls, and spots to relax. The spa and adults only Shangri-La Gardens are also tucked away in the hot springs.
This afternoon we went to Sky Adventure Park to experience the Sky Limit Adventure Course. Only about 15 minutes from Tabacon, Sky Adventure Park is in the heart of the rain forest with fantastic views. The course combines a high ropes course, zip lines, canyoning, rappelling, Tarzan swing, Tibetan bridges, and ending with a superman zip line over the forest. It was an adrenaline rush and an experience I am sure to remember!
Today in Arenal was a back-to-back adventure day! In the morning we rode by horseback to La Fortuna waterfall. The 500 steps down (and back up) were so worth it. The view of the waterfall was incredible! There are spots to swim or just enjoy the view at the bottom.
In the afternoon we did a guided hike around the Arenal 1968 Lava Flow trail. I love guided hikes because I learn so much about the plants, wildlife, and culture. Our guide was so knowledgeable about Costa Rica and was great at spotting animals. She pointed out some howler monkeys, and we stopped to watch the group of monkeys interact with one another. So often people try to get close to monkeys to feed them and get a great photo, but our guide informed us how that is creating a problem in many areas as monkeys eat food they can’t properly digest and get too close to humans and sometimes steal their stuff! I loved watching the monkeys from a safe distance!
After the hike, we were scheduled to go to Ecotermales Hot Springs. This is another natural Hot Springs in the area. It felt amazing to soak in some springs after an active day! These springs are a bit smaller than Tabacon, but I really liked the atmosphere here as well.
Off to the Guanacaste Mountains! We headed to Rio Perdido in the Guanacaste Mountains. I heard about this 'off the beaten path' resort last year and had been dying to visit ever since. All of the rooms are cute little bungalows in the middle of the forest. What is really special about this property is that you really feel the Pura Vida way of life. Pura Vida is Costa Rican slang for ‘pure life’ or ‘simple life’. It’s all about relaxing, reconnecting, enjoying nature, and truly enjoying life. We enjoyed our afternoon relaxing and recouping from our busy last few days. We had a wonderful dinner on property with some dragon fruit gin drinks, as recommended by our fabulous bartender!
We woke up today and participated in the complimentary yoga class. A short walk through the forest led us to the yoga platforms. With the river rushing in the background and the birds chirping, it was the perfect setting for yoga. I’m definitely at the ‘beginner’ stage of yoga, but it didn’t matter! Everyone moved at the level they were comfortable with and it was a great experience. Later in the morning we took a dip in the thermal rivers and enjoyed some time at the pools! One of the neatest animals we saw was this beautiful green iguana. I’m normally more of a fan of a cute fuzzy mammal rather than reptiles, but this little guy was just so beautiful!
That afternoon we decided to go river tubing! There were also options to mountain bike or zip line on site as well. The river tubing was a nice little adrenaline rush and was quite refreshing. I’m so glad that we chose this activity!
After another morning of nature yoga, we had our wonderful buffet breakfast. The homemade bread and delicious fruit here made this my favorite breakfast of the trip! Then we decided to take one of the trails out to the Medicinal Spring. It was bit dried up this time of year, but it was nice to get a little more hiking in on this trip! Plus, we got to play on the hanging bridges a bit!
We packed up and got ready to head to our last destination at the beach! Our home for the next few days was El Mangroove, an Autograph Collection Marriott property. Autograph Collection hotels are special because they are unique in design and ‘thoughtful in spirit.' The moment we pulled up the to property I was really impressed! It was clear they really worked in local design and nature into the property. The long rectangle pool that overlooked the ocean was perfect for an afternoon dip! We also got to see an incredible sunset for our first night at the beach.
Today we ventured a few minutes down the road because we had a day pass at Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica. Our plan was to eat lots of great food, enjoy the beach, and have some fun. This is exactly what we did! I took a tour of the property so I could see some different room types and the venues. The rooms are all built up into the bluffs for some stunning ocean views. I really enjoyed the spa area with a quiet pool and healthy restaurant. Most of the action is on the other side of the beach cove with the main pool, pool bars, restaurants, water activities, and entertainment. There are many activities to participate in, but we decided to spend most of the day relaxing at a beach cabana. We ended our night with dinner at the Asian Restaurant, Himitsu.
This was our last day to enjoy Costa Rica! We spent the day hanging out at El Mangroove. First, we took out one of their complimentary kayaks into the cove. It was great to finally get out and enjoy the ocean. The water was a beautiful shade of blue and very calm.
That afternoon we decided to participate in the hotel's 'Leave Your Leaves' program. Together, Paige and I planted a tree that will transferred to a designated area for reforestation. Sustainability is something that is very important to the both of us. We saw how much the country of Costa Rica puts a focus on sustainability and we wanted to be a part of it! We had a little ritual on the beach and then put our tree with the others waiting to be transported. A certificate was printed that has the coordinates of where it will be planted so when we come back to Costa Rica we can actually go visit the tree. This was the perfect activity to end our trip!
We headed off to Liberia Airport. Although it is such a small airport, it was truly a nice experience. There have a Britt Coffee Shop and loads of shopping opportunities to bring back some goodies! If you are in the Guanacaste area or even Arenal area, it’s worth it to check airfare options that fly out of Liberia!"
- Stacey Hoehne, Supervisor of Leisure Travel
Interested in taking a trip to Costa Rica? Contact Stacey Hoehne today!
Call her 314-439-5700 ext. 128 or email her
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