Tag Archive: Costa Rica


So when I saw that AA was having a fare sale last month to any country in Central America, I immediately started checking out schedules and where we could have the most fun in the least amount of time. In typical Mulkeen travel fashion, this was going to be a quick trip (4 days) and wanted to maximize every minute we had. With some weddings, the World Cup, and some other trips planned in 2010 already, vacation days for Annemarie are running slim, so we had to plan accordingly. After looking over Guatemala quite a bit, the flight times just didn’t fit into our schedule, so we reverted back to Costa Rica and it turned out to be the right decision this time around. Then again, I would’ve gone anywhere new, so it really didn’t matter to me.

Arenal Volcano

As mentioned in earlier posts, I’m a huge fan of TripAdvisor and always use it when traveling abroad for hotels and activities. Nothing is better than reviews from actual travelers, rather than the everyday BS that comes out from magazines, columnists, and hotel staff. I was able to find a hotel that met all of our criteria and had a central location to everything we wanted to do. This might me the smoothest trip we’ve ever booked, and that’s saying something.

So we took off Friday for Miami for an overnight layover. I wanted to get to Costa Rica as early as possible on Saturday so we could take some advantage of the day, seeing we had a 2.5 hour drive up to La Fortuna, our home for the next 4 days. We were able to crash with some friends in Miami, and they treated us to a night out on a private boat docked in Miami Beach. I will be the first to tell you that I am not a fan of Florida, especially Miami, but that’s a whole other story. But if I had to be there, lounging on a boat having some drinks and grilling up some food is the only way. It was nice to relax and catch up with some old friends, while checking out some monster yachts that are around Miami. We got about 5 hours of sleep, then headed back to MIA to catch our flight to San Jose Airport. I had some free upgrades laying around, so we used them and sat up in business class for this leg for comfort, but more to beat the 200 passengers in coach to the immigration line. You never know how deep that line will be, and this time it was a good decision. SJO is under major construction right now as they expand the airport, and immigration lines are very limited, so when we ran to the line to be about 100 deep, we were happy. Within 5 minutes the line was 300 deep and growing. We got through smooth, picked up the rental car, and headed off to La Fortuna

We were told this drive would take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours, and it’s only 75 miles away. We either are used to aggressive drivers or just drive a bit faster than the normal person, but we got up there in just over 2 hours on the windiest road we’ve ever been on. Check out this picture of the GPS we had in our car, and you can see that this drive was not for the faint of heart, or anyone who gets car sick very easy:

The straight road from SJO to La Fortuna

The drive up to La Fortuna is pretty spectacular. The landscape of the country is beautiful, with rolling hills, waterfalls, and more plants and flowers than  you’ve ever seen. I thought Ireland was green, but Costa Rica puts it to shame. After we rolled into town, we decided to stock up on some bottled water and some snacks in case we needed them on our hikes. Also we needed to find an ATM, since the local currency, the Colone, was much smarter to use than US dollars. Found that easy, and pushed off to the hotel, El Silencio del Campo. The “hotel” was more like a resort, with 21 detached villas sitting at the base of Arenal Volcano. The whole town is based around this volcano, and it’s obviously the focal point in this part of the country. It’s constantly active, with it’s last major eruption in 1996. Because of this, there are hot springs all over the place in La Fortuna, including one at our hotel.

The villa was great, with king bed, huge bathroom, and all the amenities you could think of, with the exception of a telephone, which is the last thing we wanted to be near while on our quick holiday. The hot spring was at the back of the property, and completely secluded from any of the villas, and was HOT! I’ve been in hot springs before, but this took some getting used to, especially if you sat under the waterfall. It was pretty amazing after a few minutes, but you needed to get out pretty often so your body could adjust, so we filled those breaks with cocktails, naturally. After a quick dip, we headed into town to get some dinner, and ate at Don Ruffino’s, which is rated the #1 restaurant in town, and for good measure. After trying out 4 restaurants in 3 days, this was above and beyond the rest. Everything is very relaxed in this town, and it was nice just to sit at the bar of an open air restaurant, eating some ceviche and escargot while people watching. It was a busy first day, but we needed to crash early since Day 2 started at 7am for us.

Towel Art waiting for us in our room!

Day 2, and we have an adventure packed day ahead of us. We decided that this was not going to be a beach vacation, but instead be an activity filled trip in the rain forest. Our first adventure for the day was with Pure Trek Canyoning, where we would rappel down 5 waterfalls in the middle of the jungle. Neither of us had done this except when my college roommates let me mess with some of their ROTC gear once and I rappelled down some building, but forget about that. We headed into the jungle with a group of 12, including a woman with her two daughters, aged 11 and 12. Now, if these two girls are game to do this, we have no excuse. We get into our gear, and hike down to the first waterfall. 165 FEET HIGH! This was the highest of the 5, and would break us in. The toughest part was just leaning back into your harness and letting the ropes hold your weight, not the fact that you were dangling 16 stories up next to a waterfall with nothing but rocks below. Once you pushed off, it was awesome. I went a tad slower because I wanted to see the waterfall from different angles, but once you got the hang of it, it was pretty easy. We did 5 in all, with each one getting you a bit more wet. I highly suggest trying it out, no matter where you are.

Annemarie headed down....165 Feet!

We wanted the day to be full, so for the afternoon we booked a canopy tour with Sky Trek. Most canopy tours travel through the jungle at eye level with the trees, but not this one, This tour was above the canopy, and at our highest point, was 660 feet above the ground. The drive up to the place was interesting, with all rocky roads, potholes the size of cities, and a severe lack of signs. But we found it, and saddled up. Again, we are put in another harness, but this and a steel cable was all that was between you and 66 stories of air beneath you. We had to take a tram up to the first platform, which according to Annemarie, was more scary than the actual zip lines. I’m not so sure about that, but moving on. They gave us about 10 minutes to get our bearings at the top, take some pictures, and check out the view. There were 8 lines in total, and the first two were practice lines which were only about 100 feet each, and 10 feet off the ground. Not really a test, but more to make sure the gear was working properly. The 3rd line was the beginning, and was the highest, at 660 feet up, or 66 stories. We could barely see the other platform in the distance, which added a little to the anxiety. One guy was alone and very eager, so he went first, and took off fast. They only put one person on at a time, so you get to watch them and hear them until they finish, which helps…..the fear. I went second so I could get over the nerves. Hooked up, pushed off, and went. Moving at around 40 MPH, hanging from a cable while it’s windy is quite an experience….and the view was incredible.

Saddled up ready to fly like a bird!

From there we did another 5 lines, where we got up to speeds near 50 MPH on Line #6, which was 1/2 mile long. I took some video of that zip line, letting the camera hang below me so you can hear what it was like, see the height, and somewhat see the speed at which we were moving. All in all, a great experience, but might need a few shots of tequila before we do it again. We had some daylight left, so after SkyTrek we headed over to a swimming hole that was downstream from the waterfalls we had rappelled earlier in the day. There was a tarzan swing that you could use that was about 20-30 feet up from the water, and there were plenty of tourists/locals trying it out. The water everywhere is crystal clear and very inviting, so we had to try it……or, I had to try it, as Annemarie was not feeling too confident about holding onto the rope.

On our last full day, we hiked to the La Fortuna Waterfall, which has turned into quite a tourist attraction there. It’s about a 20 minute steep hike down, but well worth it. I’m not sure how high this particular one was, but the amount of water coming down was pretty impressive. We took some pictures, and I dove into the waterfall just because you could. The current was constantly pushing towards the rocks, and the water was freezing, but the experience was worth it. We then went downstream a bit, where the water is a bit calmer, and you can sit in the rapids as if you were sitting in a hot tub. The speed of the water coming over the rocks felt great. We stayed down there for a while just to relax before hiking back up an hitting the tarzan swing one more time to cool off. We then headed into town to find some small souvenirs of our trip and grab some lunch. Ended the day with a trip to the hot springs and then grabbed some dinner in town, where for the 3rd straight night I had some ceviche. I have to learn to make that stuff decent enough that I can eat it.

at the base of La Fortuna Waterfall

All in all, was a great trip, albeit too short. One more day would’ve been good, with possibly some whitewater rafting and some spelunking, but I guess we’ll keep that for next time. The picture link is to the right and I’ve added a video link as well where you can see some of the waterfalls and our zip line adventure.

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I feel uncomfortable unless I have at least one trip planned, either domestically or internationally. With trips to Las Vegas and Charleston, SC in January, I didn’t think I would travel much more. Well, that never seems to work out, whether I plan it or not. American Airlines had some crazy sale to many countries in Central America for about a week, and I found some rates that were hard to pass up. So after going through a bunch of dates and countries, we are heading to Costa Rica in about a month for 4 days. Quick trip I know, but we figure that we’ll try a place out first for a quick trip, and if we like it we’ll come back. So with that being said, and only $230 later, we are headed to La Fortuna, Costa Rica…home of the Arenal Volcano.

Pretty excited seeing that we’ve never been to Central America as of yet, and it knocks out yet another country on our quest to 50 before we settle down. Costa Rica will be #31, and with South Africa and at least 3 other EU countries being added, I’ll hit 35 halfway through the year. Somewhere in there I still would like to find a deal to Iceland, and possibly a trip to South America. My work focus is now to grow enough to give me even more flexibility to travel. I see some results from the work that I’ve done since going on my own in 2002 everyday. I see the car in the garage that was a childhood dream and my first business goal. I see some statues and pieces of art around the apartment, but when I see the pictures of us in all corners of  the world I relive memories immediately of what we’ve done and what we’ve seen….so far.

So on to the New Year and hopefully a lot of new countries. I just noticed the other day that if we based our travel off the UN Country List, we have seen 15.3% of the world. We have some work ahead of us for sure 🙂