One of my top ten trips of all time is an adventure-filled, cross-country trek through nature in Costa Rica. For 12 days my best friend Mary and I drove through two-thirds of the country, alone in a jeep – even though people warned us not to do it alone.
Cross-Country Jeep Trekking
Don’t let others’ doubts stop you from having an amazing trip!
We met a few people at the airport when we landed, four men, who thought we were crazy to rent a jeep and drive the country alone. They asked us, “What will you do if the Jeep breaks down?”
We didn’t have a good answer and said, “We’ll figure it out if that happens!”
In a great bit of irony, our jeep held out through the entire cross-country journey and we saw those same men on the side of the road 2 days later – when their jeep broke down!
Our first vista point is one to be remembered, but not necessarily for the vast and beautiful view.
We pulled off the road to look at the view. As we returned to the car, Mary realized she had been standing in a red ant farm and her legs were covered with ants! Be aware of your surroundings when you travel in nature.
She spent the next 10 minutes screaming as I wiped the ants off of her. We spent the next hour laughing about it.
A highlight of the trip was staying at the base of Arenal, in the Arenal Observatory Lodge. You might just witness your first erupting volcano!
As we tried to sleep on our simple bunks in a cabin, unused to “roughing it,” we heard what sounded like a loud clap of thunder in the distance. Our curiosity peaked; we headed out into the early morning dark and saw thin streams of lava and what appeared to be steam coming out of the top of Arenal.
The volcano erupting is a very cool, exciting and a bit scary event to witness, especially as we seemed so close to it. Many of our fellow guests at the lodge stuck around in the pre-dawn chill to watch this natural masterpiece and show.
If you want the best view and chance of seeing Arenal erupt, I highly recommend the Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Monkeys, Sloths and Birds
Costa Rica is filled with opportunities to see local wildlife, especially if you use a local guide. At the lodge, there were several opportunities for hiking to hot springs and beautiful gushing waterfalls. It’s a great place for birding, but unfortunately I took the trip before I became a birder!
During a hike on Manuel Antonio, you might see monkeys and sloths for the first time! With sloths, they move very slowly, so you have to watch very closely to see any movement. The monkeys are incredibly entertaining creatures to watch as they eat bananas from a tree on the side of the road instead of in a zoo, too.
During the day we hiked to the hot springs and beautiful waterfalls. This would have been a great spot for birding and I can’t wait to return someday.
The real reason we chose Costa Rica is we wanted to go river rafting on the Pacuare River, because there were rumors to dam it soon. It’s known as one of the most beautiful river rafting locations in Costa Rica.
With 3.5 or 4 ranked rapids in places, it was exciting and challenging (and quite a workout) to make it through the river. There are parts where you can relax and enjoy the very lush green and beautiful landscape surrounding you. Of course, they never did dam the river and you can still enjoy the rapids!
The Fun of Getting Lost
The trip wasn’t all nature and wildlife though. A good portion of our time was spent trying to figure out where to go – which was an adventure in and of itself. With unclear roads signs, limited GPS signals, and locals that didn’t speak English, it was fortunate Mary spoke Spanish, or we would have gotten even more lost.
On more than one occasion we’d find ourselves off-course and the locals giving directions of, “Turn left at the big rock and right at the small tree,” which had us in constant fits of laughter. We were even pulled over by Federales once (at which point neither of us knew any Spanish!).
Apparently, he was telling us to drive to a bank and pay a fine. When we continued to demonstrate that we didn’t understand what he was saying for about 15 minutes, we were let go to continue our drive across the country!
Costa Rica provided a great adventure and lifetime memories over those 12 days. I look forward to returning to Costa Rica again someday to make new memories with my husband – who’s been there more than a dozen times himself. Maybe I should ask him to write a blog post on his experience!
Interested in your own Costa Rican outdoor adventure? Get in touch to start planning today.