ROAD TRIPPING IN THE LAND OF PURA VIDA

January 21, 2016  •  1 Comment

Here, I revisit one of my all-time favourite vacations: a Costa Rican road trip in the company of my good friend Tanya, who shares my name and need for adventure. We racked up the kilometres getting to know this amazing country from the traffic-ridden capital of San José to the volcanoes of Poás, Arenal and Tenorio, along the golden Pacific coastline and across the verdant valleys of Monteverde and particularly fell for Rio Celeste


KEY INGREDIENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ROAD TRIP IN COSTA RICA


  • An itinerary with room for last-minute changes
  • A fully insured SUV with GPS
  • A dose of pura vida

Spanish for “pure life”, the Costa Rican expression “pura vida” has several meanings, including: hello / farewell / thanks / life's good. It's also the philosophy of life for “Ticos”, a.k.a. Costa Ricans, whose joie de vivre is infectiousSpanish for “pure life”, the Costa Rican expression “pura vida” has several meanings, including: hello / farewell / thanks / life's good. It's also the philosophy of life for “Ticos”, a.k.a. Costa Ricans, whose joie de vivre is infectious Spanish for “pure life”, the Costa Rican expression “pura vida” has several meanings, including: hello / farewell / thanks / life's good. It's also the philosophy of life for “Ticos”, a.k.a. Costa Ricans, whose joie de vivre is infectious​.


TO RIO CELESTE!


After an evening well spent unwinding at Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort’s luxurious hot springs, we woke up reenergized and ready for the two-hour drive, eager to see Rio Celeste's enchanting waterfall before heading to Monteverde for our next adventure.

What we didn't know is that Rio Celeste is tucked away in 129 km² of dense forest at Tenorio Volcano National Park, so there's absolutely no sign of the falls when you get there – just a regular hiking trail. However, things do start to get more interesting upon reaching the blue lagoon.


LAGUNA AZUL: WAIT, IS THIS A DREAM?


It all begins on the other side of this sketchy-looking footbridgeIt all begins on the other side of this sketchy-looking footbridge It all begins on the other side of this sketchy-looking footbridge​


Behold, a pristine turquoise lagoon framed by lush greeneryBehold, a pristine turquoise lagoon framed by lush greenery Behold, a pristine turquoise lagoon framed by lush greenery


The bluest blues and greenest greens I’ve ever seen…The bluest blues and greenest greens I’ve ever seen… The bluest blues and greenest greens I’ve ever seen…


SPA ACCESS INCLUDED


Laguna Azul was followed by yet another incredible discovery: real hot springs!Laguna Azul was followed by yet another incredible discovery: real hot springs! Laguna Azul was followed by yet another incredible discovery: real hot springs!​


Just hours after each having paid US $45 for an evening pass to the Tabacón hot springs, it was nice to relive the moment of Zen in an all-natural setting, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Note: The only indication these springs were safe were the people in them, so if no one else is testing the water, you probably shouldn't either.


RENDEZ-VOUS WITH RIO CELESTE


With the sound of the falls in the near distance and our muscles nice and relaxed after a dip in the therapeutic waters, we were all the more pumped to reach Rio Celeste. A few more jumps, slips and climbs and there it was...

Rio Celeste in all its majestic splendour.Rio Celeste in all its majestic splendour. Rio Celeste in all its majestic splendour


People were jumping in, undaunted by the 'No Swimming’ signs. Maybe we should've joined them. Sigh...

There's definitely something about this misty and mystical oasis in the heart of the forest. Maybe it's the adventure of searching for it and the sense of accomplishment when you finally get there, or perhaps it's having all of your expectations surpassed by the sheer beauty of the place... Whatever it is, I enter a “pura vida” state of mind whenever I think back to this celestial blue pool and its luxuriant surroundings.


A PERFECT END TO A PERFECT DAY


With time flying by and our next destination being hours away, we bid the beauty farewell and carried on, treated to awe-inspiring mountain views for the rest of the way (and what a long way it was). Luckily, we made it back to the car in time to catch the sunset over Tenorio Volcano. 

Such a beautiful display of colour...Such a beautiful display of colour... Such a captivating display of colour...


A WORD (OR TWO) OF ADVICE


What was expected to be a quick stop for photos of the waterfall turned into an impromptu, full-day hike in Tenorio Volcano National Park. Although well worth the change of schedule, we could've done without the drive from hell. Just imagine being rocked by violent winds and having to yield to what looks like oncoming traffic on the narrowest, two-way roads up in the mountains – in pitch darkness, might I add. That pretty much summarizes our journey to Monteverde.

A visit to Rio Celeste and Tenorio Volcano National Park isn't one you'll want to cut short, so save yourself the stress of getting to the next place by spending the night nearby. That way, you can take in everything this magnificent park has to offer at your own pace.

Pura vida, y’all.


AND THAT'S JUST THE BEGINNING


Beyond this little slice of paradise are many others that are worth the detour. Read on for a little more inspiration to get you on your way.

  • Monteverde, for its thrilling activities in the cloud forest, such as zip lining high above the treetops, crossing suspension bridges and swinging like Tarzan
  • La Fortuna, for its gorgeous hot springs resorts, commanding views of Arenal Volcano and proximity to Arenal Volcano National Park
  • The Puntarenas area, for its succession of volcanic beaches, laid-back surfer towns, crocodile spotting and proximity to the white sands, wildlife and hiking trails of Manuel Antonio National Park

Tip: With a rental car, it's worth booking a hotel away from the tourist crowds of Jacó and Quepos. The off-the-beaten-path town of Portalón offers reasonably priced accommodation and is just a few minutes' drive from some unspoiled beaches that will blow your mind.

  • Poasito, for its breathtaking scenery and easy access to Poás Volcano National Park and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Being so close to the capital, this rural town is ideal for an overnight stay on the way to or from the San José airport (SJO).

The never-ending 1,590-metre zip line at Adventure Park. Check it out!The never-ending 1,590-metre zip line at Adventure Park. Check it out! The never-ending 1,590-metre zip line at Adventure Park. Check it out!​


Nothing beats Adventure Park's Tarzan Swing. Watch this for a taste of what it's like to fall from a 40-metre platform!Nothing beats Adventure Park's Tarzan Swing. Watch this for a taste of what it's like to fall from a 40-metre platform! Nothing beats Adventure Park's Tarzan Swing. Watch this for a taste of what it's like to fall from a 40-metre platform!​


Arenal Volcano, as seen on a clear dayArenal Volcano, as seen on a clear day Arenal Volcano, as seen on a clear day


Playa Matapalo: a breathtaking sandy beach all to ourselvesPlaya Matapalo: a breathtaking sandy beach all to ourselves Playa Matapalo: a breathtaking sandy beach all to ourselves!


Pause for refreshment at Playa HermosaPause for refreshment at Playa Hermosa Pause for refreshment at Playa Hermosa


Playa HermosaPlaya Hermosa No wonder they call it Playa Hermosa (Beautiful Beach)...


Playa Dominical: a haven for surfers from all overPlaya Dominical: a haven for surfers from all over Playa Dominical attracts surfers from all over


One of Manuel Antonio National Park’s resident capuchin monkeys. Keep your food close and your bag closer.One of Manuel Antonio National Park’s resident capuchin monkeys. Keep your food close and your bag closer. One of Manuel Antonio National Park’s resident capuchin monkeys. Keep your food close and your bag closer.


Crocodile spotting is safe and free from the bridge over Tárcoles River; just park on the side of the road and have a look at the croc colony below.Crocodile spotting is safe and free from the bridge over Tárcoles River; just park on the side of the road and have a look at the croc colony below. Crocodile spotting is safe and free from the bridge over Tárcoles River; just park on the side of the road and have a look at the croc colony below.



Free-flying butterflies at La Paz Waterfall Gardens that were literally stuck to meFree-flying butterflies at La Paz Waterfall Gardens that were literally stuck to me Free-flying butterflies at La Paz Waterfall Gardens that were literally stuck to me


Picturesque Poasito, about 2,000 metres up in the cloudsPicturesque Poasito, about 2,000 metres up in the clouds Picturesque Poasito, about 2,000 metres up in the clouds


Photos taken | written by TANYA SOLARI


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Comments

Diana(non-registered)
This is such a great post, Costa Rica is wonderful country
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