I knew we were there as soon as I felt the choppy air. I pushed up my window cover and looked out over absolutely stunning, lush mountainous greenery. A personal paradise for the outdoor adventurer, I thought.
Juan Santamaria International Airport was an absolute breeze to get through. From there, our driver drove us about an hour away to Los Suenos Ocean & Golf Resort, an elegant and beautiful Marriott property situated right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
My first glance at the resort was in no way disappointing. An open lobby allowed the slightly warm, yet certainly needed, breeze to waft through the building during check-in. The staff was exceptionally friendly, although not overbearing, and I could feel the happiness radiating within them. That is the moment I finally realized I was in Costa Rica.
The room was spacious, with sliding glass doors allowing me access to a beautiful, colorful garden. Imagine waking up, stepping outside into the warm Costa Rican air, coffee in hand, and taking in the sight of the blooming flowers and rainforested terrain in the distance, all while hearing the relaxing sound of the ocean waves crashing into the sand along the shore. Could it possibly be any more tranquil?
The white bed in the middle of the room stood out against the beige backboard and provided a warm place to rest my head. The rainfall showerhead allowed me a moment of luxurious relaxation while I washed away the day’s adventures. At night, perfectly placed along the sliding doors, the in-room hammock granted me a place to softly sway back and forth while reflecting on the pure, unblemished beauty of this rugged, foreign country.
Taking a dip in the shimmering pool was a highlight of my time spent at the resort—and the pool in itself was a sight to behold. Almost like a maze, I was able to start at one side of the resort and reach the other without ever leaving the water, swimming under numerous small bridges along the way. This place is pure Spanish colonial architecture at its finest.
Wanting to experience everything the resort had to offer, we took a tour through La Iguana Golf Club, an 18-hole championship golf course that provides golfers of all skill levels a serene, world-class experience.
For those new to the sport, expert lessons are available. If you’re on a time crunch, a few swings at the driving range is the perfect solution. Whether you have three hours or 30-minutes, you’ll never forget golfing among the wandering iguanas while the wild monkeys shook the surrounding trees and the Macaws could be heard overhead.
On my second day here, a 15-minute ride afforded me even more outdoor adventure. Rainforest Adventures Jaco, rightly known as the greatest Costa Rican experience, lives up to their tagline. While visitors can climb a waterfall, walk across a hanging sky bridge or take an exciting, off-road ATV tour, the adrenaline junkie inside of us all opted for a zipline experience.
Our adventure started with a tram ride, taking us up high within the mountains. Along the way, our guide educated us on the surrounding nature, including the history of the trees and the numerous species of birds and butterflies. Even without the informative narrative, the unbelievable views were enough to stun us into silence while we peacefully took in the exposed world around us.
Fifteen platforms and ten cables make up the entire experience. While the very first cable provided me with the semi-fast speed I was craving, it was the view from the platform at the end that really made me lose my breath. I remember standing in awe at the sight before me. In that moment, among this perfect, protected rainforest with the ocean in the distance and a small piece of the Jaco skyline before me, I felt like the earth was giving me a glimpse into some of her best-kept secrets.
While day two left me with some memorable moments I’ll never be able to duplicate, day three is where something inside of me changed.
Since 2009, Costas Verdes has been reforesting the country’s degraded beaches by planting trees along the shores, which in turn also brings wildlife back to the area. One thing I learned during my time here, Costa Ricans love their country and the untouched rainforests it contains. The simplicity of life, along with nature in its purest form, really means something to the locals and they will do anything they can to preserve it.
While I didn’t do much with the organization except plant a few trees, it provided me with a whole new appreciation for life. Like many, I haven’t taken the time to appreciate and understand certain aspects of the world entirely. Transformative travel has been an increasing trend, and I can say that’s exactly what I experienced here, somehow coming out of the experience as a better person.
After getting our hands dirty for the greater good, we piled back into the van and headed to a Marriott property located on the outskirts of the capital city, Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose.
Situated on a coffee plantation and surrounded by trees emanating my favorite morning smell, first glance of the property allowed my eyes to take in what true Spanish, hacienda-style architecture really is. The grand space of the open lobby was filled with years of history, including spots where you can still see the frescoes painted by Costa Rican artist Lourdes Gamboa.
The view from the lobby was unlike one I’d ever seen anywhere else. A simple staircase led to a beautiful fountain that sits in the middle of the courtyard, surrounded by multiple restaurants, meeting rooms and more. I could feel peace and serenity engulfing me from just that one view alone.
My room was exactly what I’ve come to expect from a Marriott, inviting and warm. From the purple and orange hues to the coffee cherry headboard, the colors and designs reflected everything the hotel itself represented. The spacious room allowed me plenty of space to freely move about, and the comfortable bed was the perfect place to rest when my exhausted body needed to rejuvenate.
When I opened the sliding glass doors, my fourth-floor terrace provided me with views of a glistening pool, colorful gardens, mountain after mountain and a glimpse of San Jose in the distance. If you’re looking for a wedding venue, the beautiful backdrop here does not disappoint.
We decided on lunch at Bar 10, a restaurant within the hotel that combines a modern-day sports bar with a trendy restaurant vibe. This, is where I had the best burger of my entire existence. Surrounded by bright flowers and green foliage, the most accurate word to describe the view from the outdoor seating area is peaceful.
The following day, a coffee tour at Doka Estate and a La Paz Waterfall Garden tour were on our itinerary. Being the coffee extremist that I am, I knew the Doka Estate tour wouldn’t disappoint.
The grounds were nothing short of what I expected from a coffee plantation, filled with row after row of coffee trees. It was amazing to see how my longtime daily companion came to be.
From the workers that pick the small cherries to the workers that spend each day in the hot sun, raking row after row of beans allowing each side to dry evenly, I have a newfound respect for the process as a whole. Not to mention, the finished product was so delicious that I came home with three bags of coffee beans and a container of chocolate covered beans. Shamefully, it lasted me only two weeks and the disappointment once I reached the end was real.
When I learned of our upcoming tour of La Paz Waterfall Garden, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I envisioned seeing was one or two small waterfalls somewhere within the jungle; what I actually saw was beauty, nature, untouched territory and wildlife at its finest.
We started our tour passing by vibrant plants and flowers, making our way to an area containing rescued wildlife that included macaws, toucans, monkeys, sloths, pumas and jaguars, who looked incredibly hungry if I recall correctly.
The hike to the waterfalls was something I didn’t expect. Although I was able to experience the beauty of the world in the sights surrounding me deep within the forest, I was left with an immense amount of pain in my legs from the long trek, reminding me that I should push myself into as many physical adventures as possible.
While the ride to the plantation was about an hour long and the ride back from La Paz was around 90 minutes, it was definitely worth the trip. I pushed myself into new adventures and I cannot wait to continue doing so in other parts of the world.
The next morning, I loaded myself and my belongings into the free airport shuttle, beginning my journey home. When I arrived at the airport doors, I took a look around me and tried to take in every last detail of this amazing place.
The beauty is something you can’t find anywhere else. Rolling hill after rolling hill will forever be embedded in my memory. The locals are people you feel like you’ve known forever. The simplicity of this culture, completely different than my own, is something that I have the utmost respect for. If you want to experience true happiness, this is the place to be—and as the locals say, Pura Vida!
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