While Costa Rica is well known for its picturesque beach towns, Pura Vida lifestyle, and surfing culture, I have personally been dying to visit the Costa Rican rainforest since a dear friend told me about it 9 years ago. This past holiday season, I decided to finally check Costa Rica off of my bucket list and planned an awesome weeklong trip with my cousin, Lynn. We decided to go the week between Christmas and New Years, which was definitely an expensive and crowded time to travel, but also convenient for work, since not much goes on during that week. And I typically enjoy being away for the New Years holiday as it feels like a fantastic way to celebrate! While researching Costa Rica, I came across Pacuare Lodge and was immediately awestruck by the uniqueness of the resort (in fact, Pacuare Lodge is one of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World”). The Pacuare team even has their own travel agency staff which will help you plan your entire trip to Costa Rica from start to finish, which is exactly what I did!
We set off on 12/27, flying JetBlue to Fort Lauderdale, and then on to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. (And I was very pleased to be flying JetBlue, not only because it’s my favorite airline, but because these 2 flights earned me Mosaic status for 2015!). Our flight from FLL was delayed, so we ended up getting into San Jose around dinner time. Pacuare had arranged for an airport transfer from San Jose Airport to our city hotel, The Park Inn by Radisson. The hotel was pretty standard, but very comfortable and the food in the restaurant was quite tasty!
The following morning, we were picked up bright and early by our Pacuare guide. One of the most unique and exciting things about Pacuare is that the only way to arrive at (and depart from) the lodge is via the Pacuare river, so naturally you take a whitewater raft! (Rafting to the lodge takes about 1.5 hours while rafting out on your last day takes about 3.5 hours).
At Pacuare Lodge
Pacuare Lodge is absolutely magical! It is completely remote, set on the banks of the Pacuare River deep in the rainforest in the Limon province of Costa Rica. Each guest stays in a private villa (there are a few to choose from) which has a King size bed, patio with hammock, and indoor and outdoor showers. The one thing the villas do not have is electricity, which actually only adds to the allure of the camp’s remoteness. The main meeting area however, does have electricity and Wifi, for guests that need to check in. There is a restaurant and bar area where meals are served. All meals are included (except for alcoholic beverages) and the food is absolutely delicious! I can’t believe how they manage it!
The staff at Pacuare is also phenomenal – they are so friendly, cheerful and helpful and definitely do everything they can to make your stay wonderful. There are also plenty of activities to do at the lodge. While the whitewater rafting trips and a short waterfall hike are both included, all other activities cost extra. My cousin and I did ziplining (a 10-line course around the hotel – fantastic!), the Ancient Trail & Hidden Waterfall hike (the “most difficult hike” the lodge offers was strenuous and muddy, but beautiful and well worth the effort), and Birdwatching (we saw tons of toucans, sloths, butterflies, poison dart frogs and a ton of other colorful birds!). Naturally, we also checked out the spa which was extremely relaxing.
Jaco, Costa Rica
After three nights at Pacuare Lodge, we decided to spend a few nights relaxing on the Pacific coast side of Costa Rica. Our travel agent, Priscilla, helped us find a hotel just outside the beach town of Jaco, which is the closest to San Jose and frequented by Costa Ricans. Villa Caletas is perched high above the ocean, and offers absolutely stunning views, especially during the sunset.
While we spent the majority of our time at Villa Caletas soaking up the sun by the pool and indulging in their fabulous frozen tropical cocktails, we also took a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park about 1.5 hours south of Jaco. Given the time of year we were visiting, the park was quite crowded, however its definitely worth a visit on a guided tour. The park was teeming with wildlife; we saw three-toed sloths, two-toed sloths, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and so much more! And at the end, we had several free hours to spend at this absolutely pristine beach.
Overall, Costa Rica was fantastic! The Pura Vida lifestyle that Costa Ricans embody is infectious and a week in this Central American country will definitely teach you to relax, appreciate nature and enjoy life. What a fantastic way to begin 2016!