Travel Advisor l Romance Travel Specialist l Group Travel Host
Usually, the hidden gems take a bit of an effort to get there. We can become so accustomed to instantaneous that even when we plan to vacation and relax, we want it now.
However, it is true that good things come to those who not only wait, but are willing to pack a bit of adventure and patience. We finally arrived in Costa Rica around 8:00pm. Customs took a bit, but not unusually so. When we checked in at the hotel, we learned the city had a 10pm covid curfew. The hotel restaurant was closed, and yet we were able to order pandemic room service widely known as, Grub Hub.
Hotel Presidente is in the heart of downtown San Jose. The rooms were beautiful. Spacious. Very clean. Complimentary breakfast was an assortment of local favorites and a select menu of al a carte items. We meandered our way through local streets that had a system of their own. Maps or asking for directions became comical and we quickly learned the best way to see anything was simply walk in the general direction and enjoy the journey.
Although petty theft is at large, I never felt intimidated or out of sorts. The wearing of masks, temperature checks, hand washing stations and 6 ft distance rule was widely practiced. The market was busy, the streets were full. Speaking Spanish is a bonus, but not necessary. Currency exchange isn’t required as the U.S. dollar is easily accepted and in return you’ll have colons returned as change. The money is beautiful and a great souviner if you don’t’ use it all during your visit.
A private driver was arranged to take us from San Jose to Nayara Gardens, located in La Fortuna. The ride was estimated about 3.5 hours. With rest stops appointed, we enjoyed the change in terrain from the city to the lush green that cascaded around us. It rained off and on and we enjoyed taking in the scenery. Make sure to prepare for this drive. It’s beautiful, but quite twisty.
Nayara Gardens met us with incredible welcome drinks, warm masked smile and rain that seemed to just make the entire jungle come alive.
Our casita was awe-inspiring. Plenty of room, his and her vanity, outdoor shower, deluxe amenities and a private balcony where you became one with nature listening to the choir of birds and frogs.
We had the same driver, and he became our personal tour guide pointing out coffee beans or answering our many questions. More incredible sights of mountain terrain and local towns kept us intrigued and before we knew it, we were on the coast.
As we ventured our way down a very steep and bumpy narrow drive we ended up at an open-air reception with bottled water and golf carts waiting to take us to our hideaway by the sea, Arenas del Mar.
More warm masked smiles greeted us with their signature welcome cocktail and an entourage of monkeys swinging from the trees and rooftop, who the staff referred to as the monkey mafia and made sure to warn us to keep doors locked and food hidden. The beauty of sunshine and ocean after being in the jungle for a few days was like the grand finale.
Highly recommend Ronny’s Place for a delicious dinner and incredible views. Or El Avion if you’re looking for fun place for lunch. You can see the engineering of the economically conscience Costa Ricans firsthand, as they recycled a cargo plane and turned it into a pretty incredible bar and restaurant.
Testing at the resort was very convenient. We were given forms to fill out when we made the appointment at the front desk. They had a nurse and assistant come to your room at the scheduled time and the entire process took maybe 15 minutes and then you were back to enjoying the sunshine or chasing monkeys off your balcony.
The people of Costa Rica, the staff, the hospitality…I was constantly overwhelmed and reminded of how incredible it is to be a part of a country that takes pride in who they are, and what they have to offer. With so much division and controversy in our country, it was comforting to know it still exists elsewhere. I loved the authenticity. So many places are modern and updated, yet so much more is untouched and traditional. I will always love Mexico, my heart is in Fiji, but I think I just found a new home for my soul.