pura vida yes, panama no // 10 days in costa rica

theromanticWhy, hello! As you may have noticed, I am officially back from ten days in Costa Rica. I survived an action packed week of adventure travel and lived to tell the tale.

First thing’s first: our itinerary, gasp!, changed. Originally, our plan was seven days in Costa Rica and three days in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Panama was just not in the cards for us. Things turned out more than ok–and more on that later–but I will tell you this, mainly as a warning: Nature Air is a cockamamie airline with cockamamie rules.

On the day of our flight, we woke up at 4 AM and dragged ourselves to the Tobias Bolaños International Airport to board this little matchbox of a plane:

For whatever reason, knock on wood, flying has never made me nervous. But when you’re 45 minutes into a 50 minute flight and the pilot comes on to say, through a thick curtain of static, “Bocas del Toro is closed and we will be heading back to San Jose,” anyone would wonder if there’s enough fuel in this deathtrap for such an escapade.

Never fear, we clearly made it back with fuel to spare (I’m just comforting myself with that last part because really, I’d rather be typing in all caps about how I don’t understand why the plane took off in the first place) and quickly switched our itinerary to three days in Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast. No Panama for us this trip, but trust me when I say that it was the best option. The other two options were: get a NatureAir voucher for a future flight (to where? WHEN?) OR charter a taxi with 10 strangers, drive across the Costa Rican border into Panama, and then take a ferry to Bocas from there.

In a possible tropical storm.

No joke, we were the only people from our flight who took the “change our flight to somewhere, ANYWHERE, with a beach on the Pacific Coast” options and all the others chartered a taxi??

So, yes, instead of glass bottomed bungalows and a view straight out over the water and a new stamp in our passports, we stayed in Costa Rica. Yes, we were bummed. Yes, there was a moment of “poor us, this BLOWS” (no tropical storm pun intended). Take note, travelers. When you find yourself in a similar situation: you’re allowed to wallow in it, but only after you’ve made a new plan. Official game rules. Then, after you’ve wallowed for as little time as you can bear, you have to quickly switch gears and be excited for plan B. Deal? Deal.

The good news? We came away with a pretty solid ten day itinerary for Costa Rica, if I do say so myself. And lucky for you, I am  here to share:

Day 1
NYC > San Jose

Upon landing in San Jose, we headed straight for Hertz to pick-up our rental car. From there, we drove to Fina Rosa Blanca to promptly fall in love with the staff and the hotel for our first night in Costa Rica.

Day 2
San Jose > Arenal

Started the morning with a tour of the on-site coffee plantation before departing for two nights at Tabacon Hot Springs, followed by an afternoon in the hot springs and at the spa.

Day 3

Met our tour guide in the lobby for a very rainy Arenal Hanging Bridge Tour with Costa Rica Wonderland, then back to a less rainy afternoon in the hot springs.

Day 4
Arenal > Quepos

Up bright & early once more for our (long!) drive to The Preserve at Los Altos in Quepos.

Day 5

Bright & early (this is the theme of the vacation), this time for ZIP LINING with MidWorld. Dun dun dunnnnn. Spent our late afternoon/early evening on a catamaran tour of the Pacific with Planet Dolphin.

Day 6
Quepos > San Jose

Morning hang session with the animals of Manuel Antonio, followed by our final drive of the trip to the Marriott in San Jose.

Day 7
San Jose > Somewhere Over Bocas del Toro > San Jose > Tamarindo

I will say this: it was a serious lifesaver that Tobias Bolaños had a free, stable wireless connection. After a lot of searching and a few urgent e-mails, we were booked at Villa Alegre. Our afternoon in Tamarindo was spent stress-free, winding down on the beach and witnessing the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. Fo’ realz.

Day 8

Oh, just took a surf lesson with Iguana Surf School in the AM, no big deal. This was followed by an afternoon poolside. No, not because we couldn’t move from all our hanging ten…

Day 9
Tamarindo > San Jose

We were seriously sad to depart Tamarindo, but we kicked off our morning with a kayak estuary tour, also through Iguana Surf. Then, it was back to the airport and back to San Jose for a night of room service and Olympics catch-up.

Day 10
San Jose > NYC

And alas, back at our apartment by 6 PM. As if none of it ever happened.

So, the big questions:

Did we see a sloth? Was driving in Costa Rica the absolute worst experience of our lives? Was zip lining the second absolute worst experience of our lives? What was our favorite place? Who was our favorite monkey?! (We saw a lot of monkeys so that one’s a real nail biter).

Stay tuned.


the romantic




  1. August 8, 2012 / 04:24

    Ohhhhhh do you know, things happen for a reason! You got to know Costa Rica a lot better than originally planned and your itinerary has such interesting activities. I want to see the surfing video – no cheesy photo stills as you could be totally cheating!!

    • August 8, 2012 / 07:44

      i WISH we had a video or photos of us surfing, but we couldn’t bring anything down to the beach with us! you’ll just have to trust me when i say that i was obviously a natural.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..pura vida yes, panama noMy Profile

    • August 9, 2012 / 13:14

      i wasn’t so nervous boarding the first time! it was our second flight to tamarindo and the return that head me sweating.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel requiredMy Profile

  2. August 9, 2012 / 10:08

    Costa Rica is where it’s at. I’ve flown Nature Air and I almost messed myself. That’s no lie either. I flew from San Jose to Quepos. There were no issues with the plane or the flight; I just was scared in that tiny plane. I’m happy you enjoyed CR. It’s so dear to my heart. I’ll have to tell you sometime what it looked like 15 years ago. Soooo different!

    • August 9, 2012 / 13:16

      this actually wasn’t even my most absurd nature air experience. we once missed our flight from san juan to vieques and chartered a plane with a group of travelers in the same situation… taking off from a mysterious airport with a private pilot in san juan is a little more than nerve-wrecking. we just live on the edge, me and the hubs.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel requiredMy Profile

  3. August 9, 2012 / 18:34

    Eek, I’d have freaked out on that return flight, too, after hearing that the airport was closed. No way my hubs would have even boarded that plane in the first place, though… But glad to hear that you had such a great time! You know I’m most interested in hearing about your driving experiences…
    Francesca recently posted..Chicago’s Festa Italiana 2012My Profile

    • August 9, 2012 / 20:09

      i have no idea how i’m going to even recap this entire trip! i tried to sort through all my photos and felt like my head was going to explode.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel requiredMy Profile

  4. August 10, 2012 / 20:06

    sorry that your plans changed but it sounds like you made the right call. love that you took surfing lessons. i’ve done that twice & i really like it. tamarindo, i’ve heard, is FAB!

    lola recently posted..my 3 favorite travel memories…My Profile

    • August 12, 2012 / 20:08

      tamarindo was amaaazing, and i’m already trying to figure out the next time i can take a surf lesson! it was kind of addicting. xoxo
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..no travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

  5. August 11, 2012 / 12:20

    Looks like you made the best of an unfortunate experience. I just clicked on your tweet thing and I found it just amazingly cool that up popped a box with @lazytravelers in it. Technology is amazing! 🙂
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Winston Churchill in Parliament Square in LondonMy Profile

  6. Pola (@jettingaround)
    August 13, 2012 / 01:47

    Not to be insensitive to your are-you-freaking-kidding-me flight experience, but… that plane looks so cute!!! OK now that that’s out of my system, I’m glad you’re ok and that you got to see that gorgeous sunset and enjoy CR. Not too bad after all… Perhaps Panama next time? 🙂
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..The Green Mill – Chicago’s landmark jazz clubMy Profile

    • August 13, 2012 / 08:01

      it looks so cheerful and inviting, right?! panama is definitely on our list for next time, though i think we’ll try and figure out an alternative to nature air…
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #22My Profile

  7. August 13, 2012 / 02:40

    If there’s one thing that you can count on when traveling it’s that things won’t always go as planned. In this case, you definitely made the best of your situation and had a quick recovery. We can’t wait to hear about all of your Costa Rican adventures!
    Captain and Clark recently posted..N Seoul Tower is Quite the Trip. [video]My Profile

    • August 13, 2012 / 08:04

      yes, all in all, it wasn’t anywhere near the worst that could have happened and luckily, tamarindo was absolutely stunning. panama will still be there next time!
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #22My Profile

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