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:
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.
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.
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.
Arenal > Quepos
Up bright & early once more for our (long!) drive to The Preserve at Los Altos in Quepos.
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.
Quepos > San Jose
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.
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…
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.
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).
Please refer below for Exhibit A: Packing Attempt 1.0:
…why do I own so many horizontal stripes?
I’d like to point out that upon taking this photo, I realized I had included less than half the undergarments required for a ten day vacation, the majority of which will be spent traipsing through the rainforest. I’m not sure exactly what a rainforest has to do with undergarments, but I feel it may affect things more than the city-focused trips I’m used to, no?
HOWEVER, despite my usual turmoil, one thing is for sure: I was asked to be a part of a Blogger Competition hosted by Tees by Tina and I’m pretty sure I inadvertently found the best day-to-night beach item that exists.
Behold, the Textured Pencil Skirt.
Let it be known that I am shaped like a carnie (as in “carnival employee,” not Wilson). My legs are too short and my torso is too long and it’s just very hard to dress myself on a day to day basis, and please tell me how bad you feel for me. So me and pencil skirts: not usually besties. BUT, this thing is versatile. I played around with it while, you know, pretending to be a fashion blogger, and though I failed at all the standard cute poses (why do you all position your feet inward and how do you do it without falling over?), I did discover that this can just be worn in all kinds of ways:
(I may be at a fashion blogger disadvantage due to my self-imposed headlessness)
So, why is this the ultimate beach vacation attire? Oh, let me just lay it all out for you:
- Textured fabric = zero wrinklability. Seriously, this thing was in a heap of “must takes” for about a week and there’s nary a wrinkle once it’s pulled on.
- Stretchiness means that while the length looks good on, well, pretty much everyone else, I can roll it up without looking like a 7th grader in hand-me-downs. WIN. I’m also pretty sure I could slip this on over a damp bathing suit and skip the awkward water marks. I shall test this theory and report back.
- When I figured out that I could hike this baby up 5 inches and have a cute top, I was pretty much sold.
Day to night and like 6 days of outfits in this baby. ALSO, that third picture: not a Coco Rocha ”Arm up and I am so adorable and FUN” posing attempt or anything. In reality, I was doing my best to hold the camera far above my head and stop casting weird shadows all over myself.
Ok so, the real point here: I have one versatile item to wear PRETTY MUCH everyday, and then a pile of clothes that don’t match. Help? Packing tips? Packing travesties to make me feel better? SOSOSOSOSOS.
HEY! GUESS WHAT? I just realized that today marks the official one month countdown to when the hubs and I depart for sunny (rainy?) Costa Rica & Panama. Pour yourself a glass of wine (or a cup of coffee, depending on where you are in this world) and let’s discuss what I’m most excited for, shall we? We shall.
Full disclosure: I’m not a coffee drinker. When I have the teensiest bit of caffeine, my insides feel like they’re trying to get out of my body and I get a crazed look in my eye and I can’t sit still for more than 15 seconds. The hubs really likes it! So naturally, we’re staying on a coffee plantation.
I just was not passing this up, caffeine high and all:
Screaming my face off while zip-lining
Oh, believe you me, I am HORRIFIED. I actually have never had any desire whatsoever to go zip-lining, but there seems to be a very serious crew of people who think you can’t go to Costa Rica without zip-lining and this crew is called everyone and their mothers.
That will be me. Tube socks, too, maybe. Who knows. Could get crazy.
I don’t see over-water bungalows in Tahiti in our (very) near future, so when the hubs and I found this option for our short stay in Bocas del Toro, we both screamed “SIGN US UP!” and started frantically trying to figure out how to make a reservation (the website is seriously confusing). Oh and P.S.? The bungalows have glass windows in the floor.
I mean, I’m no Kristen Bell, but I’m saying here and now: I am banking on seeing one sloth. Apparently it’s not that common to see them, blah blah blah. I just want, out of this entire trip, to see one goofy little sloth hanging from a tree. Is that so much to ask?
Though SERIOUS bonus points if anything this awesome happens:
In true LT form, the hubs and I haven’t done much more than secure our flights and book our hotels (five in total! Who do we even think we are?), and even with no idea of what to expect, I’m barely functioning from the excitement. We’re used to spending our annual week-long vacation hopping around a European city (or four), and I’m positive this getaway will take us completely out of our element.
So, any Costa Rica/Panama/general Central American tips? Fire away, travelers!
Happy Monday, travelers! Now that we’re (almost) out of the moving haze we’ve been living in for the past month, it’s time to focus on the important things in life. Who needs to be concerned about whether or not we have enough space to keep all of the hubs’s shoes when there’s a trip to plan!? (Just jooookes, hubs, your shoes can stay. THE GOLF CLUBS, on the other hand…)
As you may recall, the hubs and I booked ten days in Panama and Costa Rica, and already things have changed. We did some research AFTER booking our airfare (hint: that’s not how you’re supposed to do things) and ultimately decided that it made more sense to fly round trip from San Jose because, while Panama City is all the rage lately, we’re craving a less cityified trip. (Yes, I just made cityified a word). Our original itinerary involved 4 days in Panama and 6 days in Costa Rica, with the Panamanian time divvied up between Panama City and Bocas del Toro.
Bocas del Toro
All was right with the world until we started researching how to go from Panama City > Bocas del Toro > Costa Rica (either via Limon or San Jose) and none of the options sounded great. A 10 hour bus ride was immediately vetoed by this girl, and though we’re pro-car rental, it didn’t seem like a great idea to plan for a 10 hour drive in a country we know virtually nothing about. We also looked into flying, but all of the flights went through San Jose for some unknown reason?
To be fair: we’re really not this dumb. We just got so overwhelmed and excited by all the Panama City hoopla we’ve been seeing that we originally really thought that’s what we wanted. We tend to enjoy splitting up our time between cities and non-cities… but city vs. world class beaches and rainforests? It’s no contest, and we’re craving a nature-focused, super active getaway.
SO, revised itinerary: fly into San Jose and then hop on a flight directly to Bocas del Toro; spend three days beach hopping and exploring the islands; head back to Costa Rica and spend the rest of our time in central Costa Rica exploring the rainforests and volcano/hot springs area. I’m also seriously on the fence about zip lining. Yay or nay? I would say definite yay, but the hubs and I went parasailing this past summer and I almost died from fear.
Any advice or insight? Recommendations? We’re clearly in need of some assistance, here.
Want to know a secret? Hubs and I already have almost every weekend of our summer completely planned out. We’re those people. The biggest plan of all? Moving our annual 10-day trip from October up to July/August.
Everyone agrees that traveling in the off-season will save you money and you’ll hit less crowds. Unfortunately–and maybe this is a sign of growing up?–a summer trip made more sense for our work schedules. The fall is an insanely busy time for us, and we thought a mid-summer getaway would make the dreaded segue back into work a little less daunting upon return.
As you may recall, we had our hearts set on one thing: a first-time trip to South America. Most specifically, we were dreaming of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos. The logistics changed a few times, but when we sat down three weeks ago to book airfare we were shocked. Shocked and appalled, I say! Just to fly in and out of Lima, it was over $1,000 per person–and even more if we wanted to make it a multi-city trip, adding in Quito or Santiago.
Over $2,000 just to get us there? What now? Time to brainstorm!
Croatia & Montengro
I’m pretty obsessed with visiting both of these countries, and we were really pushing for something less city-focused than past trips. We thought renting a car and driving through little Eastern European towns would be the perfect way to spend our time, and hello? Look at this view:
Nature? Check. Relaxing? Check. Adding to the embarassingly small list of US states I’ve visited? Check. I liked the idea of a cruise, though hubs wasn’t sold. Either way, we thought this would be an interesting change of pace.
Road Trip Up the West Coast
When we toyed with adding Santiago to our South American itinerary, the main draw was the thought of wine tasting around the region. Since that was nixed, why not make it home grown with a few days in Napa? Hubs has family in San Diego, and we thought driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Vancouver would be pretty amazing, no?
Iceland & Scandinavia
We were all over the place with this plan, but it was always a mix of driving around the countryside of some Nordic country. B & K had already sold us on Iceland after their layover there last year, and we thought our pale skin would fit in just perfectly with the Nords! (I mean it, we’re REALLY pale).
When it came down to it, if the airfare prices weren’t deterring us, we realized we weren’t particularly inspired by any of these options. Sooo… we decided to carry on with the Latin flavor we’re sure to pick up in Mexico and officially decided on…
Costa Rica and Panama!
Thanks to August falling smack dab in the middle of the Central American rainy season, airfare is completely reasonable, and though we went back and forth over how debilitating rainy season actually could be, from what we’re reading it’s an amazing time to go. The rainforest is completely green, and the rain itself only hits for a few hours in the afternoon. Chellooo, perfect time to duck inside for a nap… or a drink! We’re still working out details, but for now, we’re thinking we’ll divvy up our time between Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and central Costa Rica, possibly with a few days in the Pacific Northwest (though we’re 100% open to recommendations).
Now I just have to convince the hubs how serious I am when I say I refuse to take a 15 hour bus from Panama City to San Jose…
Ooh we like #4! “We’re addicted to travel” is a way better excuse than “we hate unpacking.” 16 Ways You Know You’re Addicted to Travel
Wow. Perhaps the captain is Cal Hockley’s great great grandson? This all just seems like something he would do. Captain’s showoff maneuvers to blame for Italian cruise disaster
Panama is everywhere! Definitely a newbie addition to our bucket lists. Emerging Hotspot: Panama
100% agree–especially if you’re breaking your budget to enhance your experience. When to break your travel budget
I mean, this is something very real for us to consider if we ever want to move to Europe long-term. Guac addicts and proud of it. It’s Impossible to Find Mexican Food in Europe
the romantic & the wino