Pura Vida. It’s a phrase I heard multiple times a day and is the only way to describe our amazing week-long Costa Rica adventure in the beautiful country. When you’re on vacation in Costa Rica, living your fullest life and feeling “real living” is easy in this adventure-rich, eco-diverse, and laid-back country.
Here are all the details about my trip to Tamarindo and Arenal.
Tamarindo is a small town on the Northern Pacific Coast in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. It’s about an hour and 20 mins away from Liberia (the nearest international airport). You can easily walk from one end of the main street to the other in 30 minutes. While it may not have the prettiest beach in Costa Rica, this beach is great for surfing, especially for beginners. I also loved the small-town vibe and their wide selection of restaurants. We spent four days here and while we were surprised they didn’t really have a late nightlife, it was perfect for beaching and relaxing.
The beach has great waves and is filled with surfers of every level. The beach is lined with restaurants, bars, and hotels. Board rentals are easily found and so are vendors selling souvenirs and coconuts. On the north end of the beach is the estuary and Playa Grande is on the other side. The estuary is a popular place for caiman and crocodiles, so pay a small boat to take you across.
Kayak Tour with Arenas Adventures
We did a 3-hr kayak tour in the Tamarindo estuary. Though we were bummed we didn’t see any monkeys or crocodiles, we did see lots of different birds and got a good workout! Our guide Eli was very informative, friendly, and funny. He even told us about a somewhat hidden restaurant where we had one of our favorite meals of the trip. More on that later!
Arenal / La Fortuna
The journey from Tamarindo to Arenal was long (4-5 hours) but it was cool to see the scenery change from dry desert and beach to the lush and green rainforest. We stayed near the Arenal Volcano, and La Fortuna is a small town 10 minutes away. While La Fortuna has many hotels and shops, the road in between is sprinkled with luxury hotels and resorts. La Fortuna is a good place to get the local feel and is within walking distance of many souvenir shops and restaurants.
When we arrived, we were told by many locals that we were lucky to see the top of the volcano but we kept seeing it throughout our trip! It wasn’t until the last day when we were driving out of Arenal did we see the volcano as it usually is, half-covered by clouds. You can see the volcano from most spots in the area and I believe most hotels have a view of the volcano from their rooms and/or their public areas.
Sky Adventures Arenal Park: Sky Tram & Trek, Sky River Drift
Costa Rica has one of the top zipline experiences in the world, so we were excited to try it at Sky Adventures’ Arenal Park. We did a combo tour that first took us by tram up into the canopy. Then we ziplined on seven cables with the highest being 656 feet and the longest being 2493 feet. Depending on size, we could get up to 45 miles per hour! It was awesome zipping through the rainforest, enjoying the views of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano. After a quick lunch, we enjoyed the Sky River Drift tour which included zipping on three carbon fiber lines (smaller and less intense than the previous steel lines), vertically descending into the river, and a tubing adventure powered by the rapids.
Pure Trek Canyoning
Recommended by another couple from our hotel, we decided to book this canyoning trip that had us rappelling into and down waterfalls. If you’ve ever rappelled before, you know how fun it is because we controlled how fast we went with one hand, though they did also control a safety rope in case we lost the rope. The three waterfalls ranged from 45 to 165 feet and the tour also included one free-fall drop and hiking through the rainforest. The guides were very knowledgeable about the wildlife and rainforest and we learned a lot about how plants help each other and fight to survive.
Hotel Los Lagos Farms
While we didn’t enjoy the actual hotel as much, the wildlife farms at Hotel Los Lagos were fun to explore. They had different areas of wildlife including Blue-jeans Frogs or Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs, crocodiles, leaf-cutter ants, and butterflies.
Hotel Arco Iris
We loved this boutique hotel in Tamarindo. The hotel has around 14 rooms and is about a 5-10-min walk from the beach. Our room was very comfortable and roomy. One of our favorite things was our hammock on the patio, which we enjoyed in the mornings. The staff here is awesome and friendly. Francisco at the front desk helped us book tours and transportation and had lots of helpful information about the town. The breakfast buffet was top-notch and Coco makes delicious omelets! I would highly recommend this hotel.
This hotel near the Arenal Volcano was a royal experience. It’s been voted the #1 resort in Central and South America and #5 hotel spa in the world, not to mention thousands of positive guest reviews. From the moment we stepped out of the car and onto the steps of the hotel, we could tell we would have a 5-star experience. The service was incredibly hospitable and helpful. The room, grounds, and restaurants were beautifully designed and maintained. The front desk helped us plan all our tours and transportation and they have a network of great drivers to take you into La Fortuna, to the airport, or wherever you need to go. It was a bit of a splurge to stay here but it was well worth it. For the location, it was very close to all our tours and a 10-minute ride to La Fortuna town. If you want a luxurious place to stay as you adventure in the Costa Rica rainforest, this is the place!
It was an incredible, adventure-filled trip and I haven’t even talked about the food yet! If you love outdoor activities and nature, you should definitely consider visiting Costa Rica.
Check out these posts for more information on Costa Rica:
- Costa Rica Travel Guide
- 10 Best Things to Do in Costa Rica
- Tamarindo, Costa Rica Travel Guide
- Eating and Drinking in Costa Rica
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