I thought I’d start off my blog with an in depth guide to Thomson’s Grand tour of Costa Rica, as when we had booked it we knew very little about what we had let ourselves in for. It was an amazing trip and if you love nature and wildlife then this country is a must!
It’s a two week trip comprising of a tour across the country for the first week, and then a stay in a Riu hotel for the second week. This is only a rough guide as I assume they may change the accommodation and activities, but this was what we did on our trip in September 2016.
Upon arriving at Liberia airport we were met by our very happy tour guide and bus driver who took us by mini bus to the Hacienda Guachipelín Lodge, along with the rest of our group, the transfer took approximately one hour. There were ten of us in our group in total and the mini bus had big windows so we could see the beautiful scenery all around us whilst travelling during the week.
After arriving at the hotel we met in reception with our tour guide who explained what we were going to be doing and answered any questions we had.
The hotel is a bit like a farm, with cows and horses which woke us up at six in the morning! There is a swimming pool, restaurant and bar on site, so we could unwind after the 11 hour flight!
After breakfast we met in reception for the horse riding trek through the forest, if you’ve never ridden a horse before, not to worry, they pretty much follow each other, after about an hour of riding through the forest we boarded a bus to go river tubing.
As you go straight from horse riding to river tubing it’s a good idea to wear your swimming stuff underneath your clothes, also make sure you wear shoes you don’t mind getting soaked as you can’t do it bear foot. It’s really great fun, but be warned the water is very cold! If you don’t want to take part in either activities or only wish to do one, talk to your tour guide and they can arrange for you to stay at the hotel, as we went back to the hotel after the activities to get showered and packed before heading off to Arenal.
The journey to Arenal took around an hour and a half, en route we stopped at a cafe in a picturesque spot over looking a lake, they did a range of amazing coffees and there were humming birds whizzing around so make sure you get your camera out.
Once we arrived at Arenal Springs we had the night to relax and do as you wished, this was our favourite out of all the accommodation during the tour, all of the rooms overlook the volcano, there are several thermal swimming pools and a swim up bar which serves amazing cocktails.
Today was a busy one, first on the agenda was a trip to the Arenal hanging bridges, for this you’ll need to wear trainers, long trousers and a long sleeve shirt however you’ll be fine in a t shirt. You’ll need to make sure you use bug repellent and take a waterproof jacket as it’s likely to rain, it did whilst we were there and ended up having to buy rain macs from the gift shop. The rain forest walk lasts a couple of hours and you’ll see plenty of wildlife so make sure you take your camera!
After the hanging bridges we went to visit a local school, if I’m completely honest this wasn’t my sort of thing, the kids showed us some traditional Costa Rican dances and then took us on a tour of the school, they had pigs, cows, birds and a butterfly house and it was quite interesting to see how different their school is in comparison to the ones we have in England. After the school visit we went to a local farm for some much needed lunch, the family who own the farm were very welcoming and gave us good food and even sang whilst we were eating. Afterwards we were given a tour of the farm and showed they us how they make sugar, before giving us a parting gift of some home made liqueur.
Later on that evening we visited the Tabacon hot springs for some much needed relaxation after a busy day, we also had dinner here, which comprised of an amazing buffet that had a large array of foods to choose from.
After having breakfast we departed for Sarapiqui where we stayed at the Selve Verde Lodge which is about a 2 hour drive away, out of all the accomadation during the trip this was our least favourite due to the lack of air conditioning, the food was also not so great compared to the previous hotels. There are rooms with air conditioning here located in the main building where reception is, however if you choose to change rooms be warned, the building is next to a busy main road and the traffic may keep you awake, these rooms are much nicer and have balcony’s looking out at the trees where you can see monkeys playing.
After having lunch you go on a guided tour of the forest, like Arenal you will need to wear trainers, long trousers and a t shirt, also ensure you use plenty of bug repellent and take a waterproof jacket just in case. The trail was incredibly muddy when we were there and there are ants all over the place, but there’s lots of wildlife to see. The walk lasts a couple of hours, afterwards you return back to the hotel to freshen up before having dinner in the restaurant.
Our tour guide took us for a wander around after dinner and showed us all the different species of frogs, which there were a lot, they are everywhere!
Once we had breakfast it was time to head to Tortuguero for two nights, the bus journey takes about an hour and half, (most of which is down a very bumpy road) followed by an hours boat ride. Tortuguero is only accessible by boat and has some stunning scenery and wildlife. After arriving at the Pachira lodge we had lunch and went to our room. The rooms here also do not have air conditioning due to it being in a national park, however we found the temperature at night was cool enough for us to sleep comfortably.
After having lunch we visited the main Town of Tortuguero which is across the other side of the river, here you’ll find lots of little gift shops and also the beach on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
The rest of the evening is for relaxing at the hotel if you wish, there is a swimming pool with a bar area. We had the opportunity to go and see Turtles laying eggs on the beach, which was an extra $30 per person, so if you have the opportunity to do this I highly recommend it!
Today was a pretty leisurely day, after breakfast we went on a boat tour of the Tortuguero canals national park, which took a couple of hours, it was incredibly hot however the scenery and variety of animals we saw was worth sweating for. After this we had the rest of the day back at the hotel to relax and do as we wished.
Today we left Tortuguero for San Jose, stopping off for lunch along the way. Once we arrived at the Tryp Wyndham hotel, our lovely tour guide Eduardo left us, after spending a week with him telling us what to do and where to go, we were sad to see him leave. The hotel has a bar/restaurant area. There is also a steak house across from the hotel. We opted to order a Papa Johns pizza which the receptionist kindly ordered over the phone for us.
Day 8 onward
We got up early due to the transfer from San Jose to Liberia taking around three hours, we had breakfast in the hotel before meeting with the guide who was taking us on our last leg of the tour. We stopped halfway at a cafe to get some snacks and drinks before heading off to the Riu Palace.
Upon arriving at the Riu palace we were informed we could not check in until three, however if you keep going back to the desk and asking they may have your room ready earlier. I would also recommend buying a snorkel before going as there’s loads of species of fish to see (I recommend the Tribord snorkels from Decathlon) The snorkels on offer at the hotel are quite poor. If you wish to use a kayak or paddle board which you can do for free, then you will need to get down to the beach pretty earlier as there are not many available and they are very popular.
There is plenty of hotel entertainment, however we were happy to spend our time snorkelling, we could also see hump back whales and dolphins splashing around in the bay. The zip line at Diamante eco adventure park which is located down the road from the hotel is also worth doing whilst you’re there. they pick you up from the hotel and drop you off afterwards, I think it cost about $30.
So there you have it, I’ve tried to fit in as much information as I can whilst trying to keep it short. If you have any questions about anything at all then feel free to ask! 🙂