Back in 2007, I embarked on a trip to Costa Rica with a group friends on what would sadly be my only trip to Central America so far. I say sadly, because we had such a wonderful time and I think I'm long overdue to explore the other gems of Central America.
We flew into San Jose but didn't stick around. Our goal was to experience nature at its best, and for us that meant taking a bus to the little town of Santa Elena in order to visit Costa Rica's Monteverde National Park. Let me just mention here that Costa Rica has some incredibly beautiful and well maintained national parks. This was the case for Monteverde, which perched along the spine of the continental divide and was an exquisite "cloud forest" complete with hiking trails, canopy zip-line tours, and a lovely "sky walk" on suspension bridges through the tree tops. This was my first and only time on a zip-line and it was a pretty awesome experience. I had never been very interested in zip-lining because it always seemed like they were over less than thrilling terrain and were too short to be worth the money. But this was quite the opposite. Nine cables linked by platforms in the canopy stretched for two miles, with the longest cable reaching over 2,500 feet and the highest cable reaching a soaring 456 feet. It was definitely memorable, especially since I'm rather afraid of heights!
After Monteverde we headed to the Arenal Volcano area, which is replete with hot springs thanks to the areas geothermal activity. We decided to pay a visit to Baldi Hot Springs which has 25 individual pools ranging in temperature from 93-152 degrees Fahrenheit. And the $34 per person for a day pass wasn't bad either. The place was beautiful and became especially magical at night when everything was lit up (the springs are open until 10:00 pm).
The final leg of our journey involved making our way to Drake Bay, where we caught a boat two miles south to a place called Punta Marenco, which consists of wood and thatch bungalows perched on a knoll with a commanding view of the sea. Located in the Punta Rio Claro National Wildlife Refuge, the location was stunning, but we found the service to be a little lacking. The guy who checked us in stated that the restaurant only opened at certain times of the day for a certain length of time (no problem) and then continued to tell us over and over how tourists had poor time management skills and were always late to meals, and that if we were late they wouldn't feed us (just a little rude maybe?). Also, we had no issue with how basic the accommodations were, but if you're into nice amenities, this probably isn't your place. If you're thinking about going to Punta Marenco, I would recommend reading the latest reviews on Trip Advisor to see how they're faring these days. Our time there was especially lazy, with walks through the nearby forest (where we regularly saw monkeys and parrots) and hours spent watching surfers on the local beach. Who would ever want to leave that? We certainly didn't. Isn't it amazing how responsibility always seems to come knocking on the door so soon? And so after Punta Marenco we headed back to San Jose and then home.
If you're interested in a trip to Central America and aren't sure where to go, I'd definitely recommend Costa Rica for ease of travel and a variety of activities. In fact, I'm interested in visiting again so if you have any other suggestions of "must see must do" things, let us know!