People often ask, “What is the best place you have ever traveled to?” I have traveled extensively around the U.S. and to 15 countries across the globe – so with all of those experiences I must have a favorite.
It’s a tough choice! I love so many cities and my travels have all been wonderful and very impactful, but if I HAVE to pick one destination, it would be Costa Rica. It was March 2004, and I was about to enjoy my final spring break as a college student before receiving my hard-earned bachelor’s degree. At the time, I was 26 and working nearly full-time as a group specialist selling corporate getaways and group vacations to Europe and Costa Rica. I had two other good friends/co-workers who were also interested in traveling there, so we purchased tickets on a whim when fares were low.
I contacted a colleague from one of the tour companies that I worked closely with and asked if she could recommend an itinerary for our visit. Rather than writing back with some ideas of things to see and do, she told us not to worry at all about the trip; we would be well taken care of. “Just send your airline itinerary and we’ll handle the rest.”
Two days before the trip, we received an itinerary that was mind blowing - and all of it was hosted by our business partners. In the travel industry, these Familiarization (FAM) trips are somewhat standard. You have to be able to sell, and in order to sell, you must see!
We were supposed to be picked up by our driver for the week and spend our first night in San Jose checking out the nightlife. However, we wound up getting delayed and instead spent our first night in the U.S. After some upgrades from an apologetic American Airlines and a free change to a flight coming home a day later, we departed one day later than expected. Here’s a rundown of our week in Costa Rica…
Day One – We met our driver and drove to the Arenal area of the country to an active volcano, where we had an amazing dinner at the foot of the volcano. With happy and full bellies, travel exhaustion set in and we turned in at 8:30 that evening… after seeing the slightest trickle of lava roll down the side of the mountain.
Day Two - We went on a Costa Rican wildlife refuge boat tour called Caño Negro. This tour was unbelievable. I saw monkeys, crocs, sloths, rare birds, and so many creatures that I rarely get to view in the wild.
Day Three – We were driven to a town called Monteverde, located deep in the heart of a Cloud Forest. It took about 2.5 hours to ride the 10.5 mi./7 km up the side of the mountain with our driver. The town was misty, but the bars were warm and dry, and the fellow travelers we met kept us up and talking until the wee hours of the morning.
Day Six – In the midst of all of the running around and chaotic fun, it was time for a day of rest. We checked in at an all-inclusive resort in Guanacaste the evening before, and woke up to a beautiful beach and pool area. We lazed around by the pool, reading and sipping tropical drinks.
Day Seven – We decided to do another canopy tour that included zip lining because we had so much fun the first time. This one was much more lax from a safety equipment stand point, but the guides were great and made us feel safe. Afterwards we went horseback riding along the side of a mountain up to a waterfall. It was a scene right out of a travel magazine. After a natural rock water slide, a mud bath and a hot springs soak, we had permanent grins on our faces and headed back to the hotel to get ready for an evening out. We ventured into a town called Coco Beach and checked out the nightclub scene. We met some more locals and tourists there and danced ’til the wee hours of the morning.
Day Eight – Our trip was coming to an end, but luckily we had one more night to check out San Jose before leaving this amazing country. We left Guanacaste and drove to San Jose, stopping at an orchid farm along the way to check out greenhouses full of the beautiful, delicate plants. After checking in to the hotel and saying farewell to our driver for the entire trip, Alvin, of whom we had grown quite fond, we were left alone to enjoy our last night in Costa Rica. We spent it getting to know the locals, tasting fantastic food, and doing loads of bar hopping and dancing until the sun came up the next morning. (Ah, to be in my twenties again! ☺)
So there you have it! Eight glorious days of traveling around Costa Rica in a private vehicle with two of my closest friends on a very inexpensive - yet incredibly luxurious - trip of a lifetime! Remembering our adventures in Costa Rica will always bring a huge smile to my face.