Melissa and I chose Costa Rica as our honeymoon destination for many reasons. Once we began to plan for our luna de miel, as honeymoons are known in Spanish speaking nations, we had two main decisions to make. Which city should we fly into? How do we choose an itinerary?
Flying into Liberia Airport
My brother the Freak had recommended bypassing a flight into the Costa Rican capital city, San Jose. He reasoned that it is overcrowded and polluted and many tourists jet out as soon as they hit the runway. Electing to fly to Liberia, we made it safely but our luggage didn’t. So we lived in sweat-stained clothes for our first two days in the surf town of Playa Tamarindo, and received fresh threads when our bags arrived.
Hotel Capitán Suizo at Playa Tamarindo
“There are so many of them”, I blurted out glancing from branch to branch, “Mel there are monkeys in the trees”. Melissa didn’t even peer up from her latest Robert Jordan fantasy novel. “Oh yeah”, she offered with a nonchalant air, “I read about that on Tripadvisor and figured I’d let it be a surprise”.
Monkeys are a big deal to me. I still well up every time I watch Project X. Checking out the troupe that hung and swung at our resort, Hotel Capitán Suizo, I scurried from tree to tree. For over an hour I stalked and monitored monkey movements. This particular group commutes to Capitán Suizo via vine to beg for scraps from vacationers.
Located a short walk down the beach from the heart of surf-crazed Playa Tamarindo, our lodging was close enough to stroll for dinner, yet far from the noise of partying backpackers. Capitán Suizo offers a filling breakfast, served me my first ceviche, and commands beachfront real estate. Birds and tiny lizards mingle with guests, and iguanas stretch scaly necks from rooftops to munch on foliage. The ocean competes against a crisp pool vying for the attention of sun-worshippers.
Monteverde Cloudforest and Hotel El Establo
After a few days of sand and soaking, we hopped a bumpy van ride to Monteverde Cloudforest. Renting a car in Costa Rica is a risky proposition. It rains so much that they hardly bother fixing the roads, which can be difficult to navigate in mountainous regions. Once in Monteverde, we checked out a few local resorts before settling with Hotel El Establo. We had a suite complete with jacuzzi and a balcony boasting sunset views of a peninsula surrounded by bays. The one downside was that our suite lacked a door to the toilet. That’s a bit of a speed bump when you are on your honeymoon.
On our first full day, we took a tour through the cloudforest. Our guide was not some tout who conned us outside of the entrance. He was an expert on wildlife and ecology and spoke fluent English. Leading us through a well-worn trail, he spotted howler monkeys, sloths, and even the national bird, the quetzal. Pairing his crazy telescope with our zoomed camera lens the bird seemed like it was a foot away. We could even see it chewing on insects. Brilliant jewel bugs crawled in our hands and flapping humming birds ate from feeders.
The next day Melissa collided with a huge tree during our tour with Aventura Canopy Tours. During the first part of the tour we hiked on metal platforms anchored to thick trees and climbed through a hollowed out strangler fig. Later we had a brief tutorial, signed away our lives, and zip-lined over 250 feet in the air. The tour included fourteen adrenaline charging glides, a free fall, and a Tarzan swing.
We were in charge of our own brakes, which is how Melissa got herself into trouble. I happened to catch her zipline accident on video tape, because I had gone ahead of her with our camera. She was in good position but her speed was alarmingly fast and she wasn’t slowing down. She smashed into the trunk of a tree and her legs flew in the air. Her legs and spine took the brunt of the collision and she didn’t even get a scratch. Despite the zipline accident, we still enjoyed the day.
Lounging in hot pools at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort
After our adventures in Monteverde Cloudforest our goal was to relax for a few days at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. The resort is located a short drive away from a volcano named Arenal. The volcano feeds dozens of distinct thermal pools which are scattered through the grounds of Tabacon. The temperatures for the pools vary from comfortable to scorchingly hot. Some are private pools, others are serviced by bars, and one pool features a massaging water fall.
Many people visit Arenal Volcano, or the nearby town La Fortuna to visit Tabacon Resort for one day to enjoy the pools. But I am glad we decided to stay there on our honeymoon. Guests in Tabacón’s rooms get access to the hotsprings during normal operating hours. In addition, guests can use the pools before daytrippers are allowed in for the day, and after they empty their lockers and head back to their own lodgings.
On one day Melissa and I enjoyed a few hotsprings early in the morning. As the park became packed, I went back to the room to change, then hired a taxi. The driver circled me around the volcano in his car. He stopped at different spots around the circumference of Arenal, allowing me take pictures of various angles. Huge gray spots on the volcano represented mounds of cooling ash. Only a few hours earlier, the ash was lava oozing from Arenal’s crater. I later returned to Tabacon and rejoined Melissa at the hot springs just as the daytrippers were heading out.
These three locales represent the highlights of our honeymoon in Costa Rica. We look forward to returning to these same places and exploring new ones when we return.