As an unconventional couple, it was quite normal for us when we booked a “premoon” in the months leading up to our wedding. We chose Costa Rica. You could call it booking on impulse but it was well worth it, taking us away from the pressures of work at the time and most importantly the dreaded Canadian winter.
If you know us well, you will know we love a deal, so all we did was follow-up on a last minute tip sent through Travel Zoo Canada. I’m a subscriber to their Top 20 Deals and I look forward to their list sent every Wednesday!
To prepare, we went to our nearest travel clinic and were given anti-malaria and diarrhea medicine to take prior and during our travel. Next was some bug repellent (take lots) and of course some sunscreen.
We landed in San José just before the start of the rainy season which begins in mid-April. From there we traveled a 2.5 hour scenic car ride (by taxi) to San Carlos, a village in the northern part of Costa Rica in the province Alajuela. No need to worry about how you will hail a cab, especially if “no hablo espanol”. Upon exiting the arrival doors, dozens of cabbies will flock to you asking “which hotel, which hotel?” Don’t worry – they are gentle! For us, we knew exactly who we were looking for – Frank of ‘Frank Tours’, a local driver/tour guide who we prebooked when we arranged our stay with El Tucano Resort & Thermal Spa. Frank greeted us with our names on a sign and we were on our way!
San José is a bustling city and as you move farther away from the city centre and move upward into the mountains, the homes you see along the way are as you would expect in Central America, modest and colourfully painted. There are of course large, gaudy homes surrounding San Jose which are mainly inhabited by North Americans as their vacation homes.
Winding our way up toward San Carlos was a bit nerve racking at times. The roads are narrow, single lanes and Costa Rican drivers like to weave in and around each other to boot!
When you can take your mind off the steep, rocky drive, you begin to appreciate the beautiful scenery, aroma of sweet pineapples in the air and calming calls of exotic birds. Heading into the lush rainforest and mountain springs is a treat that you must experience at least once in your lifetime.
Our non beach resort vacation in the mountains of northern Costa Rica was an amazing adventure. There is something for everyone from city trekking to bird watching to museum hopping and of course National Geographic-esque wildlife tours.
- Hot Springs – we chose accommodations that were situated in 7 acres of private rain forest and had thermal mineral springs flowing right through the property! These healing waters flow and are heated from Arenal Volcano.
- Arenal Volcano – gather alongside other spectators at dusk to see lava flow and spurt from active volcano Arenal. This is the main attraction in Alajuela and one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world! We got to the popular area for viewing early so we could have a good seat and view! Lucky for us it was a clear night and we were able to see the lava.
- Visit Zarcera – for a cultural pit stop, take an afternoon drive to neighbouring city Zarcera’s city centre for a tour of San Rafael Church and creative gardens. You may have the pleasure of walking in on a wedding…like we did!
- San Jose – Costa Rica’s capital city is almost like any other capital – much history, many attractions, shopping, restaurants and a diverse population. Visit Mercado Central, an outdoor market, National Theatre, National Museum to name a few…
- Eco Tours – most likely staff at your accommodations will point you in the right direction for a credible eco tour guide. We were able to see sloths, monkeys, lizards, an array of tropical birds and more! Be sure to take binoculars with you on your trip. If you love adventure there are plenty canopy, aerial and ziplining tour options at your disposal.