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  • Writer's pictureAngie

COSTA RICA IN MAY: LOW-SEASON, HIGH REWARD!

Updated: Oct 14, 2019


An early morning swim at La Fortuna Waterfall.

THE IDEA


We celebrate a lot of milestones in our lives: birthdays, graduations, promotions, wedding anniversaries. How often though do we take the time to celebrate our closest friendships, though? Well, that's exactly what my trip to Costa Rica was for: 10 years of friendship with my best friend Christine. What started out as a sorority recruitment sales pitch at Georgia Tech grew into a Big+Little sorority relationship, and is now a full-fledged "I guess you're never getting rid of me" situation. Christine and I both travel often and have always talked about visiting Costa Rica; yet, year-after-year it had escaped us. Finally, in May of 2018 we made it happen!


 

THE PLAN


I'll begin with a Summary FAQ Sheet of what we booked, where we stayed, and how much we spent. I'd recommend everything that is here with the only two modifications being:

  1. I would do the trip in the reverse order by going to La Fortuna first and ending the trip in Manuel Antonio. This is just a personal preference; I would have liked to end the trip relaxing on the private beach at the Tulemar Resort.

  2. I would pick a hot spring other than Bali Hot springs to visit. It was great, but felt like a water park; not exactly what I was looking for in terms of enjoying a natural hot spring.


Additional Notes about the above costs:

  • All prices listed in this post are in US Dollars ($). Airfare was not included, since it varied individually; we had different originating cities.

  • The cost includes (2) high priced items which accounted for more than 57% of the total cost : Stay at Tulemar Resort ($481.75 total, $240.88 per person) and a 2 hour Spa Package each ($260.00 total, $130.00 per person). You can see how you can easily have an even cheaper (high value) trip in the off-season if you opt for a different lodging option and skip the spa package. Personally, though, these were the two "gifts" to ourselves as a part of celebrating our friendship anniversary.


Now, check out the High-level Itinerary for our 5 day trip.



 

THE WEATHER


When it comes to planning, Christine and I might as well have the same brain. After some quick research on flights, lodging, and weather, we quickly decided that it was worth it to visit Costa Rica during its transition from the high (dry) season into its low (rainy) season. This put us in a tight window of May. The crowds of the busy season have cleared, prices for lodging drop, and it's ever so slightly cooler out (temperature wise); however, the rainy, green season has just begun so there's a great deal of variability in the weather. Besides, a little bit of rain didn't scare us. The week of our trip, though, looking at the weather forecast was daunting; it showed rain for Every. Single. Day.


Yes, it rained every day, but it was better than expected! May 23 - 28, 2018. via www.weather.com

The weather forecast was a little deceptive though. What "rain every single day" meant in actuality was: bright, sunny skies from 7am to 4pm and then evening showers. All we had to do was start our days early and there was plenty of time to enjoy all the outdoor activities we wanted! By 4pm, the clouds would roll in, and we would welcome the lower temperatures and take the time to wind down from our day of adventures. The rain, if anything, helped us relax, catch up, and enjoy the laid back local culture more.



Weather during the mornings. Pit stop along our hike through the Manuel Antonio National Park.

 

THE TRAVEL


We flew into Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). The SJO airport is located in a city called Alajuela, which is about 20 minutes northwest of the capital city of San Jose. Since Christine and I had a short 5 day trip, we decided to skip going into San Jose proper and instead did a visit of Alajuela before heading to Manuel Antonio for 2 days, then wrapping up the trip in La Fortuna and heading back to Alajuela to catch our flights back home.



In terms of getting around, there were several options: local buses, hiring private drivers, going along as a part of a tour, or renting a car and driving. We opted to rent a car, and it was a great decision. If you can drive in any major North American or European city and have some basic Spanish vocabulary, driving in Costa Rica is easy. The traffic signs were similar in appearance to what I see at home in the U.S., and the driving speeds of the locals followed the posted speed limits (important to mention because I have been places where that is definitely not the case!).


Do note: the police did seem rather strict in enforcing the speed limits, so even on the long, empty, open stretches of road between Alajela and Manuel Antonio, be mindful. On the way from Manuel Antonio to La Fortuna, a large part of the drive is through pretty mountainous roads, so you have no choice but to go slow, as the inclines are steep and the lanes are narrow.


 

THE LODGING


We stayed at the following accommodations during our time in Costa Rica:

While pricey, I would stay at Tulemar Resort again in a heartbeat. The location, private beach, bungalows, and outstanding staff were all well worth the price. The Arenal Observatory Lodge was a great value for the cost, and a bit more rustic than anticipated; perfect for the La Fortuna area.


View from our bungalow at Tulemar Resort in Manuel Antonio.

 

THE FUN



Manuel Antonio National Park - There are local tour guides who can take you through the park, giving you information on the various wildlife you'll encounter (and that they will expertly spot for you). Christine and I preferred the freedom of moving at our own pace, and had no problems seeing our fair share of animals along the way. We even spotted a sloth!



We almost didn't see this cool dude, hanging out being cool. Photo credit: Christine, IG: christine._.duo




Where to Eat? After a hike through the National Park - I highly recommend stopping by Restaurante & Sports Bar El Sol - Puntarenas Province, Quepos, Costa Rica. Not only was the food delicious (get the fish tacos and ask for the house special hot sauce), but the open air view of the beach was a nice touch as well.





Horseback Riding with Diego - This was perhaps my favorite part of the trip. We booked online for around $66.00 per person, and a couple of days before our reservation, Diego contacted me and asked if we could come to the ranch an hour early at 2:00pm instead of 3:00pm. This was due to the weather, and would allow us a little more time before the rains came in. We met at the ranch where Christine and I got fitted to our saddles, received some instruction on riding, and set off for a leisurely ride from the ranch over to the beach. The beach itself was completely empty (except for one lone fisherman), and the overcast sky made the whole experience look and feel like an absolute dream! Diego was so kind as to offer to use my phone to take some photos and videos for us. Check them out on my Instagram account @imtypeaokay and tell me what you think!





La Fortuna Waterfall - We woke up early for breakfast and arrived at the waterfall as soon as the park opened at 9:00am. Because of this early arrival and there being a slight drizzle of rain, we were able to enjoy swimming with only a handful of other people. Careful: The waterfall is powerful and rocks are slippery, so only swim by the falls if you have on footwear of some sort and if you are a confident swimmer. If not, don't worry! There is another, calmer swimming area just a few meters downstream.



View from a lookout point on the hike down to the waterfall. Photo credit: Christine, IG: @christine._.duo

To get to the waterfall, you have to walk down some 300+ stairs. The way down wasn't too difficult; my finicky knee was not happy with me on the way up though. I had to take frequent breaks, but had these motivational, sloth signs there to cheer me on!




 

THAT'S IT! NOW, WHAT'S UP NEXT?


Well, I'm sitting in a cafe in Port of Spain, Trinidad as I wrap up this post! So, A First-timer's Guide to Planning for Carnival Trinidad & Tabago is in the works right now! I'm really excited to share the Carnival experience with you :)


Don't forget to follow for more on Instagram:

  • For more photos from Christine and me: @christine._. & @imtypeaokay

Need help in planning your next vacation?

  • Send me an email, and let's see what I can do to help you! Email: angie@typeaokay.com


 

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