A soaked Sloth continues to eat.

Costa Rica, quick add it to your road trip bucket list

In Costa Rica, En-Route, Memories, Our Journeys, The Americas, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Take the opportunities where you can

A road trip around Costa Rica for us was a no brainer, Gary was in San Jose on business, so there was our opportunity to add 2 weeks on the end of his trip and go exploring.

Costa Rica has so much to offer from its lush rain and cloud forests to its sunkissed beaches.

As we love driving the open road, there was no other option for us than a self-drive road trip. We organised it within 2 weeks prior to us going, with the help of a local Costa Rican travel company Latitudes.

The destinations we chose to sandwich between San Jose, were Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Arenal and Tortuguero.

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To give you a taster of this lovely country Gary and I have chosen our outstanding memories and highlights of this unforgettable trip.


Tortuguero National Park was amazing, you are only able to access the park by boat & once you are there, you are immediately immersed in the lush vegetation and meandering waterways.

We lodged within the park and took up every opportunity to hop in a boat with a guide and explore the incredible scenery and weaving canals.

A view down one of the many tributaries that feed the lagoon at Tortuguero.

The wildlife in Costa Rica is remarkable, we were so lucky to witness so many species of reptiles, monkey, birds, bats to name just a few.

A wonderful Black Iguana warming up in the early morning on a beach at Manuel Antonio.

My favourite animal from Costa Rica has to be the sloth and I don’t even mind if it has two or three toes. This loveable looking creature was on my must see list, so I couldn’t believe it when we wondered through the grounds of our hotel in Manuel Antonio & spotted one high amongst the trees. I had only been in the country 2 days.

Our first sighting of a sloth in Costa Rica.

Another abiding memory was the secluded bay named Playa Biesanz at Manuel Antonio. The bay was just a short stroll from the hotel down through some woodland. It was a tranquil paradise. Most of all it was free from crowds. We saw a handful of others enjoying the bay but we were all rather outnumbered by the wildlife.

A very quiet Costa Rican beach, set in a bay in Manuel Antonio

The rainforests and cloud forests in Costa Rica are a must to visit. They are alive everywhere you look, not only up above amongst the bows of the trees, but around your feet below. We witnessed an army of ants marching along carrying pieces of leaf that were easy three times their size. It was just like something you would see in a David Attenborough documentary.

As expected, the clouds roll over the top of the Cloud Forest Reserve

Watching hummingbirds flocking to nourish themselves at a feeding station was a wonderful sight. These amazingly agile little creatures appear to disobey the laws of physics.

A hummingbird, captured mid-flight at a feeding station in the Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde.

Then there are the hanging bridges suspended amidst the forest canopy within Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. Strolling along these enables you to get even closer to the wildlife.

Cable bridges connect different parts of the Cloud Forest Reserve.


Whilst in Monteverde we took the opportunity to visit one of Costa Rica’s Arabica coffee plantations. We headed off with Don Juan coffee tours to visit their family run coffee farm. It was really enjoyable and surprising how much time and effort it takes to turn the fruit from the coffee trees into the roasted beans we grind for our daily coffee.

A coffee bush showing its bright red berries.

Although I keep mentioning the wildlife, the scenery in Costa Rica is equally stunning. Not only is it home to such rich vegetation, it has a stunning coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

A lone individual walking along the Playa Biesanz at Manuel Antonio

  • The driving conditions in Costa Rica are generally quite good, they can become a bit rustic in places, particularly driving over old wooden bridges and clearly seeing the rivers flowing below. Or if you try and take a short cut, but largely they are well maintained.

If you are in Tortuguero National Park try and take the opportunity to have a wander through Tortuguero town. The town is made up of some colourful single storey buildings and huts. Once again it is only accessible by boat and the mode of transport in the town is either on foot or by push bike.

A small sign declaring 'Hand Made in Tortuguero'. I guess it's a gift shop.

  • Now a guilty pleasure has to be an ice-cold Mojito, and where better to have one than sitting in the late evening sunshine watching the sun go down across the Pacific Ocean.


Now the ‘zip line’, who mentioned there was going to be a zip line. We intended to just take a trip on the Sky Tram through the rainforest, but it wasn’t completing the full tour. So, with a bit of gentle persuasion we pushed ourselves off of the platform and journeyed along 7 zip lines. We were even lucky enough to witness a flock of toucans fly in front of us.

The cable car line back to base at Sky Tram. You can see Lake Arenal in the distance.

The view of Arenal volcano from the balcony of our room at The Lost Iguana Resort will always stay with me.

A view of the active Arenal volcano with the peak shrouded in cloud.

Strolling along the beach at Tortuguero beside the Caribbean Sea, it wasn’t the warmest of days but was unforgettable.

Janis dipping her toes in the Caribbean Sea at Tortuguero.

What I would do differently

  • Not too much as it was a great adventure and experience from start to finish.

  • Due to our time constraints, we were unable to explore San Jose. Unfortunately, we used San Jose as more of a base for ‘before and after’ our flights.

  • Pack lighter, I always take too much.

A funny moment

  • I can laugh about it now, but on the way back from the Cloud forest at Monteverde, Gary decided to take a short cut. On this occasion, the road less travelled was not a good idea. The 30-degree narrow ascent with sinkholes, rocks and a 3-foot gully on my side of the road was a detour I could have done without.

A slight disappointment

  • As always, you wish you could stay longer.

Point of Note

  • Obviously, a camera but Binoculars are fantastic for wildlife watching.

  • I would definitely advise hiring a 4X4 vehicle, it will make some of those undulating roads more bearable.

  • Try and hire a Satnav/GPS for your car, it isn’t too tricky to navigate the roads but the extra technology helps.

  • Watch your speed and do listen to your vehicle hire company guidance. Ours gave us good advice on some methods the local force may try. See our Sloths & Mojitos road trip post, for a bit more information.

  • Tortuguero was very humid in comparison to other parts of the country. If you need to dry anything it may take a while.

Closing note

If you are in two minds whether to venture to Costa Rica, I urge to take the plunge. The wildlife hidden within the magnificent forests are truly amazing.

The Ticos are very fine people too.

Why not?

Start creating your own “Pura Vida” fly drive adventure like us, discovering the wildlife of the rainforests, to the golden sandy beaches, from the Caribbean to the Pacific.

You can now fly direct from London to San Jose with British Airways, and combine it into a road trip. Pick up your own hire car at SIXT and experience Central America for yourself.


Do you?

Have any resounding memories from Costa Rica let us know, we would love to hear about them.

About the Author


Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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