A sloth hanging from the branch of a tree as the rain falls in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

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 Janis2 Comments

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.

An upturned kayak on the shoreline of Tortuguero lagoon with another boat moored up in the water.  Across the bay is the dense vegetation of the national park.
Peaceful Tortuguero

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.

Quick Links

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

Our Highlights

Tortuguero National Park

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.

Travelling along the waters of one of the channels off the central lagoon of Tortuguero, surrounded by dense vegetation of Costa Rica

The channels around Tortuguero

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.

The wildlife

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 black iguana, up close, on a beach in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The Black Iguana ,up close

The Sloths

My favourite animal from Costa Rica has to be the sloth and I don’t even mind if it has two or three toes.

A 3 toed Sloth hiding in the canopy of the bush in the grounds of our hotel in Manuel Antonio , Costa Rica

Our first Sloth in Costa Rica

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.

Seculed bays

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.

A sandy beach, Playa Biesanz, in a bay in Manuel Antonio on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

The secret Beach, Playa Biesanz, Manuel Antonio

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.

The amazing environment

The rainforests and cloud forests in Costa Rica are a must to visit.

A mist engulfs the upper levels of the Cloud Forest Reserve of Monteverde in Costa Rica.

The Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde

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.

Humming birds

Watching hummingbirds flocking to nourish themselves at a feeding station was a wonderful sight.

A hummingbird with its wings a blur as they beat at pace while feeding at a station in the Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

A hummingbird in flight, Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde

These amazingly agile little creatures appear to disobey the laws of physics.

Hanging Bridges

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.

Looking across a long, steel, hanging bridge between two peaks in the Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Bridges at the Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde



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.

Densely packed green, red and brown coffee seeds on the bush, ready to be picked, at the Don Juan coffee plantation in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Coffee bean bush at the Don Juan coffee plantation

The Landscape

Although I keep mentioning the wildlife, the scenery in Costa Rica is equally stunning.
A lone figure strolling on the beach at Playa Biesanz, in a bay in Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

Strolling on the beach in a bay in Manuel Antonio

Although I keep mentioning the wildlife, the scenery in Costa Rica is equally stunning.

The Driving

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.

Tortuguero Town

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 rustic sign offering 'Hand Made in Tortuguero' souvenirs next to a shop in the backwaters of Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Gifts available, as the sign says, , Tortuguero


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.

Tempted To?

Embark on your own Costa Rican road trip you'll be amazed how easy it is to tour around by car with. Like us you can create your own road trip and visit Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Arenal and Tortuguero.

Take a peek at the offers at Rental Cars, they cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.


The zip-wire

Now the ‘zip line’, who mentioned there was going to be a zip line.
A cable car line trails through the lush, green, vegetation towards Lake Arenal in this stunning part of Costa Rica.

The cable line back to the Sky Tram base, Arenal

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.

Arenal Volcano

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 Arenal volcano, shrouded in cloud, across the lush landscape of Costa Rica.

Arenal volcano shrouded in cloud

Wadding in the Caribbean

Strolling along the beach at Tortuguero beside the Caribbean Sea, it wasn’t the warmest of days but was unforgettable.
Janis dipping her toes into the Caribbean at Tortuguero, Costa Rica

The Caribbean is meant to be warmer than this, Tortuguero

Don't just take our word for it!

If you're tempted by the enchanting rainforests full of incredible wildlife or the golden sandy beaches, take a look at the 'Visit Costa Rica' official website. The local Ticos know what they are talking about.

Our Things to 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.

Our 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.

Further Reading

If your heading off on your own Costa Rican adventure, than grab a copy of this DK Eyewitness book.

I love planning trips and these guides are so helpful.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

Our Slight Disappointment

- As always, you wish you could stay longer.

Points 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.

- For the Brits amongst us, since 2016 you are now able to fly directly to Costa Rica from the UK.

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.

Do You?

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

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  1. Another fabulous post, Janis. Costa Rica has been on our bucket list for a long time now. It seems like the perfect place for nature lovers and fans of sustainable tourism. Kudos to you for being able to laugh about Gary s shortcut ideas and kudos to Gary for his hummingbird picture. That should be in National Geographic!

    1. Author

      Thanks very much, Stefan. We were lucky enough to tag this visit on to the end of a business trip that Gary was on.

      It is a beautiful country to visit and the locals were so welcoming and friendly. I highly recommend hiring the 4×4 and touring yourselves it was an amazing experience. Not too sure Gary can vouch for the zip-lining, although it was memorable.

      Tortuguero is only accessible by boat, we organised this from San Jose, definitely worth it.

      I’ll pass on your Hummingbird comment to Gary.

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