Costa Rica: An Adventurer’s Paradise, Zip-Line Through the Jungle

Sometimes Plan B is Better Than Plan A

For our first standby international trip, we ended up in Costa Rica. We had tried to get to Cancun the night before, but were one seat short of getting on the flight. Not wanting to waste our time off of work, we quickly researched plan B. (see blog post on flexibility) Deciding on Costa Rica, we slept at an airport hotel and flew to San José the following morning.

We had a limited amount of time in Costa Rica. In our brief research, we selected a hotel with an airport shuttle and a day tour that would pick us up at the hotel. Waiting until after we had received seats (see blog post about bookings), we booked these. Upon arrival at the airport, we picked up sim cards and cash. (Both of which happened to come in handy, but can be done outside of the airport for better rates). We went through immigration and came to find we needed to book a return ticket. We did so, and the immigration officer seemed slightly skeptical of us only being in Costa Rica for a day and a half, but we did not have an issue getting through.

Trust Your Gut

Our issues began when we left the airport. I learned the crucial lesson of calling the hotel to confirm the shuttle pickup. They could not arrange for a pickup with less than 24-hour notice. Not wanting to drive and the hotel being 30 minutes away, we embarked to find a taxi. I had researched ahead of time and felt prepared. Only the red cabs are legitimate, and we’d read to make sure they started the meter.

Immediately upon exit, cab drivers hounded us. Eventually, we selected a driver. Our first indication that something was off should have been that two men took us to the car. The car was in a covered garage away from the other cabs. Having walked there, we ignored the red flags and got in the cab. The cab driver proceeded to ride up the meter in the city. It was almost triple the rate it should have been. Wanting to avoid any more issues, we paid and went on our way.

Greeting from the housekeeping staff at the Gran Hotel

Exploring San José, Costa Rica

After this minor debacle, the rest of the trip was incredible. Our hotel, the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, was beautiful and in a good location. We went out to explore San José for the remainder of the day. Having been warned of petty theft, we carried the bare minimum. We went shopping, and I found an umbrella (as it was the rainy season). We also found a sticker and a couple of avocado pens, to give to our nieces and nephews. After shopping, we went to see the Metropolitan Cathedral of San José. Mass was in session, but it was a beautiful building to see.

We wanted to experience local food, so we went to an empanada place and a bakery. We got arreglada, cerro, queso, chicharrones and pan tortuga. It was a memorable meal on the cheap! After eating our empanadas in our room, we went to the hotel bar for drinks. I had the best Piña Colada I’ve ever had at the hotel! While enjoying our drinks, we saw some parrots flying around the city. We went to bed early in anticipation of our big day in Costa Rica.

Tour: En Route to Arenal Volcano

We awoke early for breakfast at the hotel before our tour. There was an incredible spread of tacos, tamales, french toast, and other enjoyable breakfast items. I’m always excited when there are non-conventional “breakfast” foods for breakfast. I sometimes find American breakfast to be a little boring. After breakfast, we went outside to meet our tour guide, who was to pick us up in front of our hotel. Our tour began exiting the city and venturing out into the jungle. Our first stop was at the La Paz waterfall. It was raining, but the waterfall was beautiful, and we had fun climbing behind it. The rain cleared up for most of the rest of our day exploring.

After the waterfall, we stopped at Casa del Cafe, a coffee plantation. We walked around some coffee plants and admired the landscape while sipping delicious local coffee. After the coffee plantation, we hopped back into the van to the next stop. The next stopping point was Cinchona. This was an adorable cafe known for its bird-watching. We enjoyed a snack and drink on the porch with hummingbirds zooming past our ears. We saw a variety of birds, but most of them were small. At times, they can have larger jungle birds visit the cafe.

Zip Line through the Costa Rican Jungle

Impressed with how our tour had gone so far, our next stop was equally impressive. We went to Centro Turistico and saw giant iguanas sunbathing in the trees. I had never seen a larger lizard before. We enjoyed a Costa Rican lunch as well on the tour. I ordered the papaya juice, which was delicious. We decided to add the Go Adventure zip line tour to our package and got harnessed up along with the rest of the group. I haven’t been zip-lining since I was a kid, so I was a little nervous. We didn’t want to drop our stuff in the jungle, so we opted to leave it in the tour van.

The zip line course was a thrill. We flew through the jungle on several zip lines down a mountain. Many of the zip line’s platforms were secured to the jungle trees. The zip line staff was helpful in their initial safety demonstration and their assistance throughout the course. At the end, we removed our safety gear and to our surprise, saw a sloth perched at the top of a tree! It was fun to see a sloth in the wild! We sat through a local village presentation that was less than pleasant (there were many bugs flying around us throughout the presentation) and then took a trailer back up the mountain to meet our guide.


Our tour group became nervous because our guide was not at the meetup point. All of our stuff was in the van, so we would have been in a pickle if he had left us. In retrospect, I might bring a money belt/fanny pack for this purpose. To our credit, we thought we would be staying in an all-inclusive hotel in Cancun, not zip-lining through a jungle. We were relieved when our tour guide arrived. He had simply enjoyed a much-needed nap. (This tour lasted a total of 16 hours, and I would not be surprised if he embarked on the same journey time and time again) We went to a gift shop on the way to the next stop. I found a hummingbird ornament and some earrings. Bryan found a Toucan figurine.

Paradise Hot Springs and Arenal Volcano

After the adrenaline of the zip line, it was a nice change of pace to go to Paradise Hot Springs. Here, we changed into our swimsuits and enjoyed the resort’s many pools fed by the volcanic hot spring water. Many of us opted to get a tropical drink at the pool bar. The rain clouds began to part, and we caught our first glimpse of the Arenal Volcano. Unlike the craters we had seen in Hawaii, this volcano was the classic cone shape, with steam coming out the crater at the top. It was impressive! To view it from the comforts of the hot springs was truly magnificent.

After our time was up, we began the journey back to our hotel. We enjoyed a dinner on the way with more Costa Rican specialties, including chifrijos, casados, al pastor tacos, patacones, and milanesa. The rest of the drive was enjoyable, as we listened to the sounds of the jungle. A symphony in its own right. Exhausted, we went to bed, awaiting our departure the following day.

Journey Home from Costa Rica

Unfortunately, we got stuck. The flight home was payload optimized and there was only one flight for the entire day. We spent the morning trying to develop a solution but were fruitless. We got escorted out of the airport after the flight departed, as we no longer had seats. So we had to figure something out. It was raining heavily, and we did not want to experience another cab ride. Tours were all departed. We decided to book an airport hotel and relax until the next day. This time, we made sure that the shuttle was in operation. We enjoyed a meal near the hotel and ate our pan tortuga from the day before. The following day, we had no issues getting on the plane and enjoyed a stress-free trip home!

One response to “Costa Rica: An Adventurer’s Paradise, Zip-Line Through the Jungle”

  1. Incredible trip in such a brief time frame! Glad the return flight worked out.

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