Costa Rica

Friday 10 March After work we headed home to finish packing and then took the train to Gatwick where we spent the night in a 'pod' at the Yotel airport hotel. The room was tiny and the bed had to be folded down but it was all we needed to avoid having to get a taxi to Gatwick in the middle of the night.

Saturday 11 March An 08:05 flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. A relaxing flight with a couple of decent movies ('Arrival' and 'A street cat named Bob'). Even though it was a day flight we ended up sleeping most of the way.

We were greeted in San Jose airport by a huge immigration queue, but thankfully it was moving.

Our room at Xandari Resort & Spa

After a short transfer to Xandari Resort & Spa we checked in and tried to make ourselves comfortable next to the pool.

Waterfalls at Xandari Resort & Spa

It didn't take us long to decide that a short walk to one of the five waterfalls in the hotel grounds might be a little more interesting.

We had dinner on the restaurant's balcony, which overlooked the evening lights of San Jose, then it was off to bed!

Sunday 12 March Our transfer to Pacuare Lodge kicked off at 6am with a short drive to a hotel in Alajuela where we joined up with a number of other tourists. It was then a 2.5 hour drive to the Pacuare river. We stopped along the way for a buffet lunch.

After kitting up on the bank of the Rio Pacuare and listening to the customary safety briefing we headed out onto the white water. We shared our raft with with John, Katie, David & Sue who were also from the UK.

We were on the river for about an hour and a half. Along the way we stopped to jump from a rock on the bank and to swing out from a rope attached to a tree. We had recently bought a GoPro and I chose to mount it on my helmet in order to capture the whole journey.

Arriving at Pacuare Lodge

After arriving at Pacuare Lodge we had a few minutes for a shower before lunch on the balcony overlooking the river.

Our room at Pacuare Lodge

That afternoon we went on a guided walk through the rain forest (along with our 'raft mates'), stopping at a replica of a traditional (native) Indian home.

For some reason the view of the Pacuare river and the tree-lined bank on the opposite side reminded me of the view of the road and disused railway line from my parent's house.

By the time we'd had dinner we were ready for an early night!

All kitted up

Monday 13 March 8 insect bites so far... but I'm taking this as a win compared to the carnage of Thailand last December... although the one on my toe is a real doozy!

After a relaxing breakfast we had a morning of canyoning with our 2 guides.

Tarzan swinging

While on our way out of the lodge grounds we passed the honeymoon suite and were given a quick tour. It was a lovely room with a great view and even had a small pool. It also had a viewing deck strapped high up the trunk of a large tree and accessible via a suspended walkway. The walkway bounced noticeable as we walked out to the platform, which itself seemed to have minimal railings. As it turned out, this was about as uncomfortable as the morning's activities would get!

We spent a couple of hours Tarzan swinging, rappelling and 'sky boarding' through the rain forest.


Much of the activity took place within the gullies and waterfalls of a stream, but given we were visiting at the end of the dry season, we didn't get particularly wet. It was great having the guides to ourselves as it meant not having to wait around while other guests completed each activity.

During dinner that evening we had a few light rain showers that progressively moved people in from the restaurant's balcony. After finishing dinner we sat in the bar upstairs and listened as the light rain turned into a full-on downpour!


Tuesday 14 March We spent the morning zip-lining through the treetops with Andres & Gerardo. The zip-lines varied in length and height above the ground. Whilst travelling along the lines you used your right hand to lightly press against the sides of the wire to keep you pointing in a forward direction. It would have been very easy to overdo the minor corrections and end up in a spin but luckily we managed ok. You also had to remember to pull down hard on the wire to slow down and stop at the end of the line.

During the early afternoon we went on the free sustainability tour of the resort with Luis where we got to hear a little about the history of the resort and saw behind the scenes, including the electricity generators, recycling and food stores.

Wednesday 15 March Our last day at Pacuare Lodge. We decided to pay the extra $95 to whitewater raft out of the resort, stopping for lunch on the bank of the Pacuare river along the way.

After doing our best to dry off and change we set out on the 4 hour drive to Arenal. The duration was somewhat improved by our lovely driver and the little blue Toyota we seemed to follow for at least 2 hours (despite us first stopping to look for a sloth and then for a coffee)!

Our room at Nayara Resort & Spa

We checked into a really lovely room at Nayara Resort & Spa and settled down with a movie and room service. It had been a tiring day!

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Thursday 16 March Breakfast at Nayara was very good. The buffet may not have been as extensive as some of the other placed we had stayed but it had everything I wanted and it also had homemade and pre-packed granola bars that we could stock up on!

We had scheduled a full day 'combination' tour of the area. Our first stop was the 3km loop path around the Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.

Howler Monkey

Our guide had quite a conversation with one of the male Howler Monkeys.

Eyelash pit viper

We also saw an eyelash pit viper...


...toucans, humming birds and coatimundi.

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Also known as a Blue Jeans Frog.

Waterfall at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Tammay and I took a short walk down to this little picturesque waterfall.

We had a quick swim in the brisk waters at the La Fortuna waterfall and found a school of fish happily swimming around us in a pool just downstream. The long climb down to the waterfall had given us a good view of people shooting along the zip-line across the valley. It was so much faster and longer than the zip-lines we had used at Pacuare Lodge.

Panorama: Arenal Volcano

We also took a walk across the lava flows from the 1968 eruption of the Arenal Volcano.

Arenal Volcano

The whole time we were there the top of the Arenal Volcano was shrouded in cloud.

We finished the day at the Tabacon Grand Thermal Resort with an hour in the hot springs followed by a buffet dinner. We finally got back to our room at around 20:00.

Friday 17 March A much needed lazy day! Following breakfast we had a quick game of Rummikub next to the pool and a stint in the hot tub. We spent the rest of the afternoon next to the quiet 'adult' pool.

Saturday 18 March The even longer drive to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast (our guide from Thursday was our driver). During the 5 hour journey we stopped at the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles to see the crocodiles circling below. They were huge! We had to wonder why they congregated at the bridge... perhaps all the insects being hit by cars crossing the bridge overhead were attracting birds in the river below, but it may be more likely that people were throwing them food (although this is stupid, and also outlawed, there are a few YouTube videos of tourists climbing down to the river bank and nearly getting eaten whilst trying to feed the crocs). Our driver told us that a recent survey by National Geographic found 2500 crocodiles in this short stretch of river.

Upon reaching Arenas del Mar we made the short walk down to the water near our room. We then took a golf buggy to the other beach and walked into Manuel Antonio and back.

Manuel Antonio beach

As the sun set, we enjoyed a couple of happy hour cocktails while overlooking the ocean from the pool deck.

Morning beach run

Sunday 19 March I was up at the crack of dawn for a run on the beach - 4km return. I would have preferred a little longer but needed to be ready for breakfast and our 9am tour pickup. Although I'd taken a golf buggy to the beach, on my return, I decided to try some hill sprints back to the villa - a distance of only about 400m but an elevation gain of around 50m followed by an equivalent descent.

I got back to the room in ample time to freshen up ready for breakfast which, for today, was being held on the beach.


Our guide picked us up from the hotel at 9am and took us to the entrance to the Manuel Antonio National Park. There was a 3km loop trail through the forest to 2 beaches that were not otherwise accessible.

It was hot and humid but we were very happy to finally see our first sloth.


In fact we saw a few of them, both the two and three-toed variety (while the two-toed sloth is blonde, the three-toed variety is darker in colour).



We were also lucky to find an anteater asleep up a tree...


...a couple of long-nosed bats, a helmet iguana and a lesser nighthawk.

Howler Monkey

A baby Howler Monkey.


There were quite a few of these Capuchin Monkeys near the beach. I'm sure they did very well stealing food from the tourists.

Manuel Antonio beach

After our walk through the Manuel Antonio National Park Tammay and I made the short walk to the 2 beaches within the park. This beach was the same one as I had been running on that morning but a stream and trees made it inaccessible.

Panorama: Arenas del Mar

We spent the afternoon by the hotel pool with our books.


That evening we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. This was followed by cocktails and a few hands of cards.

Monday 20 March Another dawn run on the beach. With the pressing feeling that I have quite a few kms to make up this month I completed two laps of the beach for an 8km total. Although it did mean I didn't feel the need to run back over the hill!

The rest of the day was very relaxed, breakfast followed by the morning next to the main pool. I took the opportunity to have a look at the GoPro footage from the whitewater rafting from Rio Pacuare.

We had lunch and spent the afternoon next to the smaller pool by the beach.

Our small beach at Arenas del Mar

Tuesday 21 March Feeling a little lazy I decided not to go for an early run. Instead we had a truly lazy day. After breakfast we once again spent the morning by the main pool then had lunch and spent the afternoon next to the smaller pool.

This was the smaller beach near our room.

Arenas del Mar

That evening we had a few more cocktails next to the pool.

Air transfers - Leaving Quepos

Wednesday 22 March To make up for yesterday I went for a run. Little did I know that our transfer to the airport was leaving at 07:30 which meant getting up at 05:30 in order to fit in 5km. Thankfully I'd generally been waking at dawn anyway (it'll make the jet lag easier!).

After breakfast we transferred to Quepos airport for a flight back to San Jose. After an hour's wait and a Starbucks Frappuccino (we hadn't bothered to check the prices so when we realised they cost £6, we were glad we only ordered 1!) we flew on to Puerto Jiménez followed by a short hop to Drake Bay.

Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

From the airstrip it was a short drive to the beach for a rather bumpy speedboat ride to Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge, our home for the next three nights. The sea was really calm so I'd hate to see what it's like in rough weather!

Our room at Casa Corcovado

Our room was a little basic and didn't have air conditioning (it didn't even have glass in the windows, although that helped provide a breeze).

The pool at Casa Corcovado

We had lunch and spent the afternoon by the heated pool... it was more like a bath!

Thursday 23 March We spent the morning taking a nature walk in the Corcovado National Park. We started out on the beach before heading into the forest and making our way to a rangers station. From there we followed a river into the forest, spotting a large crocodile near the river mouth, and lots of birds. We also spotted a number of basilisk lizards which are able to run across the surface of the water. After about 45 minutes we reached a picturesque waterfall.

We spent about 20 minutes swimming in a deep pool slightly down stream from the waterfall. On the way back to the ranger station, about 50m from where we'd been swimming, our guide showed us the 5ft crocodile that he hadn't wanted to point out when we first walked passed. The refreshing feeling of the swim lasted most of the way back to the ranger station on the beach. From there we walked through the forest, tracing the line of the beach passed the drive up to the lodge, to a lovely beach where they had prepared our lunch.

Later that afternoon we took a dip in the 'spring fed' pool at the bottom of the steps behind the lodge. Unfortunately the water wasn't as cool as I had expected but it was refreshing all the same.

Friday 24 March A morning snorkelling trip to Isla del Caño, a 'bio reserve' located about 40 minutes boat ride from the mainland. Thankfully our boat was full and had seats meaning it was far more comfortable than our initial transfer.

I found the snorkelling quite tiring. My mask was particularly tight and kept fogging up but at least it didn't leak. We started out in deep water and I saw very little. As we moved into shallower water I started to see more, including a turtle, a manta ray, a huge school of fish, plus an assortment of other tropical fish. After about an hour our boat ferried us onto the island where we ate some snacks and rested on the beach for about 40 minutes. I now feel I'm done with snorkelling.

It was then back to the mainland where we once again had lunch on the beach. Unfortunately an evil German guy made off with my old dark blue baseball cap. At least we were at the end of our holiday.

Sunset from Casa Corcovado

That evening we watched the sun set with a cocktail.


Saturday 25 March Our last day. While we were having breakfast I saw this huge butterfly flitting around the dining room.

We had another boat transfer back to Drake Bay. We were joined by another British couple and I'm glad to say the boat ride was quite smooth. From Drake Bay we flew back to San Jose where we connected with our flight home.