Now that Southwest Airlines flies to Costa Rica and the price is very reasonable, we had to give it a try- Phoenix-Houston-San Jose, Costa Rica.
I booked this trip with a tour operator that specializes in semi-independent tours. Everything is arranged for you to travel independently. We were met at the San Jose airport by our contact Ronny and he went over with us our itinerary for the week. He gave us phone numbers to call if needed and we were off on our own.
We arrived late into San Jose, so we were given an airport hotel for the first night.
The next morning, we were picked up in a shared shuttle for the 4-hour journey to the La Fortuna/Arenal area, the mountainous jungle of Costa Rica. We stayed at Arenal Manoa Hot Springs Resort…. oh my!
This was the highlight of the whole trip. We had a patio to die for with a large sliding glass door and a view of Arenal Volcano. This is the kind of resort that you want to hang around all day and not go anywhere else. We took a jungle hike and saw birds, a sloth in a tree, and had lunch in La Fortuna. That evening, included in our trip package, was a night-time pass to Tabacon Hot Springs and it was incredible. We had to show covid vax cards to enter. At night it is less crowded, minimal lighting, and very relaxing. Dinner was included after our hot springs soak.
The next morning was our shared van ride to Monteverde, a cloud forest over 4300 ft. It is much cooler there. We were picked up at our hotel in Arenal and driven to the bank of Arenal lake. From there we took a small flat bottom boat that holds about 10 people and a pile of luggage. We were then met on the other side by another van. From there it was a crazy, winding, dirt road drive, for almost 2 hours. It is nice to see that some things are still left rustic and primitive. Our van was struggling up those hills.
In Monteverde, the El Establo Mountain Lodge was nice, It was separate buildings placed along the steep hillside with magnificent views. The downside was, you had to call for a shuttle to go just about anywhere in the resort because the road was so steep. The inside of the lodge felt kind of like a Yellowstone lodge, lots of rock and wood.
The highlight here was the night-time jungle hike at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. I loved it when we turned off the flashlights and experienced the deep dark jungle with only crickets. It was just pure nature.
The next day we walked into town for lunch, and later that afternoon I did an afternoon/sunset horseback ride. It was a very reasonable price at $45 for 2 hours. I saw ant hills the size of a kitchen table.
This was a pretty quick trip. We again had a shared van ride back to San Jose, another winding, steep, and scenic drive. This time we took our Dramamine. We spent another night at the airport hotel. The next morning, we had to get to the airport 4 hours prior to flight time to get our covid test to re-enter the U.S. Our wonderful tour operator had this already set-up for us and included in our tour. This was great because the covid test had to be done 24 hours prior (very hard to do when you are traveling all day the day before) and from what I had researched the test cost anywhere from $65-$120 per person.
This trip was flawless, we were always picked up on time, and it was easy to call the company if we had any questions.