Courtney and I traveled to Costa Rica for our honeymoon in August. It wasn’t a typical sit by the pool and drink cocktails all day kinda trip; it was a get up at 6am and explore everything this beautiful country has to offer kinda trip. We prefer to explore and see everything a unique place has to offer instead of hanging by a pool bar or beach all day (although we did make a little time for that, too).
Day 1: El Silencio
We landed in San Jose around 1pm local time. We arranged a transfer from the airport to our first destination, El Silencio Lodge and Spa, in Bajos del Toro. El Silencio literally translates to “The Silence” so if you’re looking for a remote and quiet place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with nature, this place is for you.
They make every effort to be eco-friendly and provide a minimalist type atmosphere. Tucked away in the mountainous cloud forest region near the Poas Volcano National Park – you’ll find yourself in awe watching the mountains hide behind the mist and the clouds rolling through the valley. That’s after you catch your breath from a legit hike to your suite.
It was late afternoon so we decided to explore the nearby trails before it got dark. This was the moment we realized we packed all of the wrong things. Costa Rica in August – hot…right?
Right, but not when you’re a mile above sea level. This was something we failed to consider when packing for the trip. So we basically wore the one warmish outfit we each had for the next few days.
Without TV’s or Wi-Fi in our room it forced us to explore the reserve and take in the beauty of the forest. Between the Jurassic Park like feel in the photo above and hummingbirds zipping around the gardens – this place was other worldly.
Day 2: Catarata del Toro & El Silencio
Today, we woke up bright and early at 6am and traversed the trail to the main lodge for breakfast.
El Silencio’s restaurant, Las Ventanas, takes pride in providing food that’s fresh from local farmers and their own organic farm. They have a 5000 square foot organic greenhouse where they harvest all their vegetables, spices, and herbs. They also have free-range chickens that provide fresh eggs and a trout pond.
After breakfast we hopped in the van and took a 15-minute ride to the Catarata del Toro waterfall. It’s $14 to access the property and well worth every cent.
With a 300 foot drop, the water cascades into an extinct volcanic crater. It’s a difficult hike with 375 steep steps. Again, it was straight out of Jurassic Park – I was waiting for velociraptors to ambush us around each corner. Because of the high elevation, we didn’t see a ton of wildlife, but did come across an armadillo scampering away from the trail when they heard our footsteps.
After returning from Catarata del Toro we wanted to explore the reserve that the lodge was situated on. This place had trails all over the place.
We set off again and didn’t see another soul for 2.5 hours. We wandered, without a care in the world, with our heads on a swivel trying not to miss anything. We passed by 3 or 4 smaller waterfalls before reaching the end of the trail and the pinnacle of the hike – The La Promesa waterfall.
After soaking in our hut’s hot tub, eating an incredible organic dinner, and listening to an acoustic set by a super talented local while we sat by the fire, it was lights out by 9pm.
We had another long day waiting for us.
Day 3: Pozo Azul
After an hour and half ride through the winding and steep countryside, we arrived at the 2000-acre working ranch, Pozo Azul. We had never been zip-lining before so the initial height of the platforms was a bit unnerving, but the fun of soaring through the trees helped dissipate those fears.
When we returned from zip lining, we kept our gear on to immediately go back out to a rappelling site. Courtney and I hopped in the truck with the 3 guides and off we went. They gave us a quick rundown of how things worked, did a test rappel, and strapped us in.
About 3/4 of the way down, Courtney got a large chunk of her hair stuck in the descender (the piece that the rope feeds through to lower yourself down the face). Long story short, she had to be rescued, dangling 90 feet off the ground, and luckily avoided having to cut her hair out of the gear. It was a scary moment, but the moral of the story is tie your hair back when doing any activity with rope!
When we got back from the rappel, there was a lunch buffet waiting for us. We took about an hour to relax and refuel for the white water rafting that awaited us. We weren’t able to take any pictures while we were rafting, for obvious reasons, but it was the most fun we had that day. The rapids we maneuvered were only class III (out of VI), but it was still a rush.
Towards the end of our route on the river, it started to monsoon. Sideways pelting rain, lightening, gail force winds, and tornado looking skies capped off the last 1000m of the ride. Not gonna lie…it was kinda scary.
After quite the day of activities and a long ride back to the lodge, we were spent. The next morning we had our 4 hour transfer to the coast.
Day 4: Manuel Antonio
About half way to the coast we took a pit stop at the infamous crocodile bridge. If you google Costa Rica Crocodile bridge, it’ll show you all kinds of pictures. It’s pretty insane. It was definitely worth the stop!
After arriving to our hotel, we finally were in the climate we packed for! Because we had a lot of activities planned for the next couple of days in Manuel Antonio, it was a perfect day to relax on the private beach the property had to offer. In this climate, we saw a lot more wildlife than we did in the cloud forests. There were sloths in the trees and copious amounts of hermit crabs scurrying around the beach.
Day 5: Manuel Antonio National Park and surfing
We departed after another early morning to Manuel Antonio National Park. With the help of our guide, we saw 3 different species of monkeys, sloths, bats, venomous snakes, lizards and so much more. The only downside is the hoards of people on the path. Once your guide finds something to look at, get ready for 50 other people to swarm your position.
After our national park hike, we took a taxi to a little restaurant on the beach called Balu’s Beach Bar. The manager and son of the owner, Mavio, greeted us like we were old friends. We had an awesome lunch on the beach before gearing up to surf. We opted to get lessons, which Mavio facilitated, since neither one of us had been for a while.
Side note – wait until after you surf to drink the buy-one-get-one free banana piña coladas.
After almost 3 hours in the surf, we were tuckered out. The waves were enormous! It took everything we had to get past the surf – just to turn around and do it again a few minutes later. Not to mention the gnarly scrapes on my side from wiping out few times.
Day 6: Coastal hike, Kayaking, & Snorkeling
Sadly, this was our last day in Costa Rica. We had scheduled to go kayaking first thing in the morning. There was a miscommunication about the time the tides would be best, and long story short instead of leaving at 8 am like we thought we would be, we had to wait until 3 pm.
We knew we wanted to hike that day so we asked our guide, Mau, the best place to go. He mentioned a coastal trail that went for nearly 10 miles. He personally escorted us to the trail head, walked with us for about a mile while giving us tips, and introduced us to the locals on the beach. We would then meet back up with him later in the day to go kayaking.
After Courtney caught her breath from our hike, we ended in Playa Biesanz, near the trail head. We found a guy renting snorkel equipment for $10 a piece, and it was well worth it. He even washed the face masks with vodka before he gave them to us – gotta be sanitary! We took it easy, snorkeled, and had a fresh fish lunch on the beach for a total of $20.
We met back up with Mau and made our way about 20 minutes outside of Manuel Antonio to the second largest mangroves in Central America.
We spent about an hour an a half maneuvering through the mangroves. There were boa constrictors in the trees, monkeys tossing fruit husks into the water, and we tried not to think about the 18 foot crocodiles we had seen a few days before that could possibly be lurking in the waters.
After kayaking, Mau dropped us off in the town of Quepos. To cap off the day, we visited a local coffee shop (where we bought a few pounds of fresh local coffee), watched the sunset in the marina, and had dinner at a local restaurant. We caught a bus back to Manuel Antonio and prepared for the early morning ride to the airport.
We had an amazing time in Costa Rica and made so many memories. We were able to experience the vastly different climates of the mountains and the coast, and the animals that accompany each place. I totally underestimated what this country had to offer and it far exceeded all of our expectations.
If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, I’d love to hear about your experience. Or, if you’re considering a trip and have any questions leave me a comment or shoot me a message!