Pura Vida!: Our Stay in Paradise in Costa Rica

Nayara Resorts (2017)

Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

For our Trek WITHOUT Kids (2017), we were so in need of a vacation; but seriously, aren’t we all? In need of a time to disconnect, to grow in our spirituality, our marriage and to leave our daily routine behind.

We based our destination choice off a goal that Logan has always had: to zipline. I also preferred the idea of staying somewhat close to the good ol’ USA since we still had two young boys at home to {occasionally} worry about while gone. We preferred an adventurous vacation over a beach destination since we had already checked that off our list. And so, the internet pointed me to the mountainous, volcanic areas of Costa Rica in La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano National Park.

A {normally} three-hour drive from the San Jose airport to this beautiful resort area seemed to be the perfect way to escape into the rainforest and unplug.

Y’all, the area (and specifically the resort) blew away our expectations.

Here is our review on our first ever international Trek WITHOUT Kids (2017):

Accessibility

 If you’re looking for a quick international destination, this isn’t it. Reaching paradise was a bit more than a hop, skip and jump away. Although you can drive to Orlando and take a direct flight to San Jose, CR, we chose to connect from JAX > Ft. Lauderdale > San Jose, CR. After arriving in Costa Rica and being more than a little excited to begin our adventure, we faced a road block…literally.

The {normally} almost three hour drive around the windy hills of the Costa Rican country side stopped with a halt. An overturned truck had near fallen off the cliff earlier in the day and it backed up traffic on this two-lane, underdeveloped highway for the remainder of the day. We spent four hours sitting on the road without movement and our driver finally pulled into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for us to stretch our legs. The drive to the resort took us over seven hours in pouring rain.

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Connecting in Ft. Lauderdale worked out well for us on the way there but we ended up with tons of delays on the return flight. The customs process was very lengthy coming back into the U.S. and we ended up spending the whole day traveling home.  Stick with me, though, because it was truly a paradise.

Accommodations

 I’ve likely already lost you due to length of travel. Prepare to have your mind blown! We booked only four days, three nights for this trip because we don’t like to leave the kids for too long and don’t want to exhaust our parents. After losing a day to above traffic jam, Jet Blue, my parents and Nayara Resorts were kind enough to extend us for another night stay. For the first three nights, we stayed at the beautiful, indescribable Nayara Springs, an adult-only side of private villas. For the final night, we stayed at the more family-friendly yet equally as beautiful sister resort Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens.

Nayara Springs:  Named the No. 1 Luxury Hotel in the World by Trip Advisor in 2016 & 2017, we were seriously blown away with its elegance. We had our own plunge pool in our villa that was fed by natural mineral hot springs. The area was so private and romantic, surrounded by lush tropical rainforest plants and flora. We felt like we were the only two people in the world when we were in our villa! We also loved the outdoor double shower in our villa.

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Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens: On the last night, we switched over to the Casita Deluxe. It was about half of the size of the villa in the Springs but had a lot of beautiful features (including also having an outdoor shower). If your budget allows, consider going for less nights but booking a Springs Villa in Nayara Springs. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is important for us to mention that the staff in both sides of the resort were friendly, accommodating and made you feel like royalty. You can access all areas of both parts of the resort without your kiddos, too.

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Food and Drink

 I admit, we came to Costa Rica for the resort. We only left the property once for a meal besides our travels to and from there. The food at Nayara Resorts was amazing. I’m not even sure if that’s a strong enough word. Our personal two favorites were a cozy, wine tasting spot called Nostalgia Bar and a yummy snack from their Asian/Latin Fusion restaurant, Asia Luna.  Nostalgia had self-dispensing wines for you to try and the laid-back atmosphere was my absolute favorite. Logan’s mouth {literally} watered as he ate our appetizer at Asia Luna, plantain-wrapped chicken sushi rolls. The bomb.com!

On the final night of our stay, we made a reservation at Altimara Restaurant, the main restaurant on the Spa & Gardens side where we typically enjoyed a delicious omelet station, buffet brunch with adorable coconut water drinks. It was Grill Night which turned out to be one of our best dining experiences of the trip. Logan had a Tomahawk steak bigger than his smile as he ate it and I sampled all of their amazing dishes but had the best stuffed peppers I’ve ever had. Live Latin music during our meal made us feel like we were seated in heaven.

Excursions

Day Two: *Essentially, during a half-day trip we were to take the tram up to zipline and do a two hour hiking/hanging bridge tour. The Sky Walk tour was fantastic! We saw not one, but two eyelash poisonous vipers just chilling in the rainforest. We also saw a tarantula and some beautiful birds. Daniel, our guide was the bees knees and we already miss him! Remember how we went to Costa Rica to zipline? Well, guess what happened? We took the tram up, we saddled up to sign our life away and although I was petrified, we headed out and did our first practice zipline. God must really care for me deeply because within moments it began to downpour (this is rainforest downpour — like buckets of cold rain being dumped on you) and the wind picked up to make it a balmy 70 degrees. We were honestly miserable. Although the experience looked amazing, we couldn’t see a foot ahead of us let alone any views of the Arenal river, Arenal Volcano or the rainforest. So we headed back on the tram and decided to skip (along with several others in our group).

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Day Three: **We admitted from the beginning that we came to relax. So we consider another “excursion” a trip to Spa at Nayara. It wasn’t originally in the plans but we were so blown away by the beautiful location and unique options on their spa menu so we signed up on our adventure-free day. We were in for a serious treat! Logan (this was his first ever spa experience – what?! How is that possible?), had a massage while I chose a chocolate exfoliating body scrub on the table next to him. Set in the middle of the rainforest, you can hear the sounds of the birds and wildlife and you cannot help but escape all of your current thoughts.

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Day Four: ***We had a wonderful day of hiking the Arenal volcano and parts of the rainforest with a very informative and sweet tour guide from Trek Costa Rica, Jaime. We heard howling monkeys, saw several {beautiful} wild turkeys and learned so much about the currently dormant, yet still active volcano. In addition to that three-hour hike, Anywhere.com hooked us up with a visit to Ecothermales, Arenal’s only natural hot springs. With mineral hot springs ranging from 104 degrees (Logan’s favorite) to 98 degrees (my favorite), you could relax in waterfalls and explore the beautiful property of several pools. Those thermal waters made your skin feel brand new!

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Pura Vida – The Costa Rican Way of Life

You have heard the term Pura Vida, or pure life, which is how the Costa Rican people live and raise their children. It essentially means no worries in the world, no big deal, life is good. Pura Vida! was a contagious concept through CR. As we sat in the terrible traffic jam on our first day, worrying that we may not even make it to the resort, our driver kept checking in on us with a huge smile and giving us a thumbs up sign. No one, not one car honked in anger while stuck. Citizens and tourists got out of their cars, walked around and just talked to each other, got to know them better. It was a beautiful time of seeing the glass as half full.

The staff on our excursions and at the hotel also represented the pura vida lifestyle. Regardless of their rank of position, every single employee felt so blessed to have a job, to have the opportunity to do something they loved and wanted to impress you with any English they had recently learned. We hope to bring some of that attitude back home with us.


Trek Difficulty Level: (2): On a scale of 0-3, this trek was definitely a 2 in difficulty. It was well worth every second and the area of La Fortuna is a gem. We highly recommend making the trek to Nayara Resorts as it is unlike anything we can even describe in words! We would, though, recommend planning for lots of car travel, possible delays, possible multiple flights and a long wait in Customs upon returning. {A friend that visited there recommended the mobile app to skip some lines and our app didn’t work. Highly recommend it if it does!}

Trek Budget: $3500. One important note to point out is that we booked both the resort and the Jet Blue flights over six months in advance. You can plan on spending $1000 for three nights at Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens and $1000 on two flights.  {For someone to stay four nights at Nayara Resorts, to remain in the $3500 budget they would need to book a Casita Deluxe at the Spa & Gardens vs. at Nayara Springs. Rates for a private villa in the Springs are close to triple the cost.}

3 Trek Must-Dos: 

  • Go in rainy season; Costa Rica does not refer to their weather in seasons but instead by rainy vs. dry times of the year. If you book between December – May, plan to pay a premium. We booked smack in the middle of rainy season and although the rain did deter our ziplining experience, it didn’t ruin much for us! {Be sure to pack your rain jackets as the weather is quite chilly during a down pour!}
  • Find a sloth! Our driver on the way to the airport suddenly yelled and pulled over which left us a little concerned. Turned out that he spotted a mama sloth tucked into one of the trees. It was one of the coolest animals we have ever seen in person! DSC_0329.jpg
  • Nayara Resorts’ granola bars are the bees knees! A friend who honeymooned there warned us to steal as many as possible on the way out. These vanilla, crunchy heaven bars made us export 12 of them…shh.

Landon’s Trek Tip: N/A

[Be sure to mention Trekking Twice as your referrer if you book this vacation!]

 



Trek Sponsors:

*Thank you to the wonderful staff at Nayara Resorts for partnering with us to receive an upgraded Springs villa for a large portion of our stay. You can find out more information on Nayara Springs at Adults Only: Nayara Springs and more information on Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens at Family-Friendly Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens.

**Many thanks, also, to Sky Adventures, Costa Rica for our discounted excursions. We wished we had the opportunity to zipline, but maybe now we will need to return! Daniel, our Sky Walk guide was truly wonderful.

And a final thanks to Pablo at Anywhere.com – Costa Rica for providing our hike and trip to Ecothermales.  Our wonderful guide Jaime Guzman from Trek Costa Rica. The morning of hiking, trip to Ecothermales and an authentic Costa Rican lunch was a major treat. You treated us like movie stars!

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6 comments

  1. Jenn Coleman says:

    Looks like an amazing adventure!!

    Like

  2. Sarah says:

    It was so great meeting you guys while you were there!!! Hope your last day was great & reuniting with the kids was fun 😊

    Like

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