View from our balcony at the Royal Corin hotel & spa near the Arenal Volcano
at the La Fortuna waterfall
A rare glimpse at the top of the volcano…
We’re back!! Every vacation/trip/travel opportunity is such a gift, and this one was a truly special one. We’re already planning our next trip to Costa Rica…
Before I get into my packing debrief, I’ll explain what we did, and the “purpose” of our trip:
Ultimately, this trip was supposed to be a relaxing, easy vacation. Normally, we travel to cities (offseason, of course!) and just take off walking without much of an agenda and we explore as much as possible. We’re not really “relax” and sit around type people, we are always moving, and if we can walk there, we do: when we went to Rome for my birthday several years ago, we logged at least 10 miles a day.
Our main “goal” was to relax and not HAVE to do much of anything, and we planned on staying in just the one area of the country. Still, I did want to do some things around the area, so I packed accordingly. Most importantly, I wanted to bird (don’t say bird watching to a birder LOL – there’s much more to it than just “watching”) and try and explore a little of the local flora & fauna. We could go on “excursions” from the hotel, and we thought horseback riding looked interesting too, which is mostly why I brought/wore my jeans. We didn’t do that.
Anyway, we arrived in San Jose Thursday night, rented a car and stayed at a hotel near the airport overnight and drove out to La Fortuna Friday morning. It was a roughly three hour drive but we were in a bit of San Jose traffic so it took us longer to get there. We also stopped at a cute little Israeli vegan/vegetarian animal rescue/hotel in the cloud forest on the way for lunch.
FYI, the drive and roads were very easy and well-marked. AND there is free wi-fi everywhere. I could have used some car sickness bands on the way back though, I did get rather car sick. Oh, and we did have to navigate a little stream and gravel road once because a bridge was out, but we managed!
We got to the hotel a little after noon and as soon as we could, changed into swimsuits and headed off to the pool(s). The hotel was stunning, and truly luxurious; an absolutely perfect experience. The pools are thermal hot springs and between 93-104 degrees fahrenheit, with two hot tubs and a sauna. There’s also a “cooler” pool, but we didn’t ever use it. I have to be really really hot to want to getting a cold pool, and I was never really really hot since there’s wasn’t a lot of sun.
That afternoon we spent time in the pools and outside, enjoying the swim-up bar (a lot LOL) and then when the rain started later we went back to the room to shower and get ready for dinner. We ate dinner early, and it was so good – a gourmet meal – because we were getting up at 5 the next morning to go on a birding trip.
We arranged a birding trip through the hotel for 5:30 Saturday morning. This was by far the highlight of the trip for me; our guide was wonderful, he is a freelance nature guide basically, but works mostly for eco-garden Arenal, and really good at what he did. This was Leo’s first birding trip, so I was a little anxious about how he would handle it, but he did well. We both agreed that after 8 AM it became rather hot and muggy and we were getting tired, but were glad we went all the places we did, and saw what we saw.
We were not in a great location (they’re more in the coastal areas) to see quetzal, which was disappointing, but we did see a lot of toucan, parakeets & parrots, which were so cool to see in real life (not in cages – I hate to see birds in cages). Leo wanted to see monkeys, but he never did – I saw one at the hotel, while sitting outside on the balcony. And lots of iguana – large ones!
After we were finished birding, we had a “typical” Costa Rican breakfast at the eco garden Arenal, homemade by the owner. It was the best meal we had in the country, and so necessary after all that walking! FYI, the typical breakfast is rice & beans, and eggs, with fruit – always pineapple and papaya.
We spent the rest of the day at the hotel, and then the next day we “hiked” the La Fortuna waterfall after breakfast (it’s basically 500 – 600 steps, real stairs, so not really hiking, more like climbing). The rest of the day we lounged about and had pizza in “town” for lunch, enjoyed afternoon drinks in the pool and then dinner. All the seafood was local, and we tried to eat hearts of palm as much as possible; the restaurant had a really nice hearts of palm gratin that was out of this world. Weird, because I never thought to eat hearts of palm warm, but it worked!
The weather was really rather agreeable, it rained mostly in the late afternoon/evenings, and sometimes only just a long shower or so, and then it stopped; reminding me of Florida a little bit. We only ran into a significant amount of rain driving back to San Jose on Monday.
So, for this trip, I really didn’t “need” a rain jacket, since we weren’t out in it enough to warrant it, but I’d like to have one anyway, just to bring for traveling.
Ultimately, I was okay with what I chose to pack, although I was really disappointed I didn’t have a better camera/zoom lens with me. Oh well. We will go back, hopefully often, since it’s really quite easy to get to, and easy to manage while we’re there. It helps that Leo is a native Spanish speaker (I don’t speak much at all, although I understand a lot), but still, everyone is more than willing to speak English.
The packing debrief:
What I brought, and notes –
Binoculars (used constantly)
sun hat (used constantly)
Travel foam roller (only used once in San Jose because the mattress and pillows at the hotel were so uncomfortable and I woke up with my neck hurting)
James Perse mini canvas tote (used on the drive to and from San Jose only…probably didn’t need to bring it – would bring a small nylon backpack or crossbody instead)
Nike Free sneakers (wore constantly)
Melissa plastic thong sandals (wore to and from the pool)
Emerson Fry slides (wore to dinner at the hotel)
Birkenstock Arizona Sandals (wore a lot around the hotel, out in “town” if it wasn’t raining)
HPE cropped leggings (didn’t wear at all)
Prana skort (wore once hiking the waterfall)
SoLow striped cami (didn’t wear at all)
Zady organic cotton v-neck (didn’t wear at all)
James Perse 3/4 sleeve sweatshirt (wore twice)
Emerson Fry organic linen caftan (wore to and from the pool)
Beklina tie bathing suit (wore a couple of times, although it took 36 hours to dry completely)
Hackwith Design House bikini (wore a couple of times)
Tradlands JJ linen tunic (wore to dinner at the hotel)
Tradlands Catt white tee (wore a couple of times out hiking/birding – loved it for keeping the sun off my chest)
Tradlands Tourist shirt (wore on the drive from San Jose – should have worn it on the drive back; I wore my ES harper tunic and leggings, got wet, and was cold without sleeves)
Eileen Fisher slouchy ankle pants (didn’t wear at all)
6397 Shorty Jeans (wore on the plane trips + on the drive from San Jose)
Oak NYC maxi dress (wore to “town” and to breakfast at the hotel)
James Perse double v ruched dress (didn’t wear at all)
Elizabeth Suzann Clyde pants (wore once, on the birding trip, and they were perfect because the pockets are big enough to hold a bird book)
Elizabeth Suzann harper linen tunic (wore constantly at the hotel, in the room, around, etc.)
James Perse leggings (wore often, with the ES harper tunic and Tradlands linen tunic)
Atelier Delphine Haori coat (wore on the airplane trips, and that’s it)
Everlane u-neck tee (wore once, on the plane to Costa Rica)
Everlane white ryan tank (didn’t wear at all)
James Perse grey casual tee (wore home from Costa Rica)
Organic by John Patrick viscose tee (forgot to bring)
5 pairs of Only Hearts organic bikinis, boyshorts & high-waisted panties
organic by john patrick organic cotton tank dress (forgot to bring)
What I wished I’d brought:
- my DSLR camera with me to capture iguanas and birds around the hotel, the phone was so inadequate for that
- A birds of Costa Rica book, not the laminated pamphlet I brought. It was okay, but not good enough for me; I needed a lot more information. I ordered one from Amazon to arrive when we got home though 🙂
- A smaller, crossbody, nylon/waterproof bag – although I could probably get away with just a smallish backpack (below)
- smallish backpack for hiking – will probably look at Tom Bihn for this
- passport wallet – I would have liked to have had a wallet large enough to fit my passport and everything else I usually carry in my wallet together instead of having to carry my passport separately; I was always worried about having it with me.
- Another swimsuit or two, even – ideally I’d bring a swimsuit for each day. On days we went to the pool in the morning and then the hot tub in the afternoon, I wanted to have a dry suit to put on. Perhaps a 100% cotton swimsuit isn’t the best thing to bring because it took FOREVER to dry. But I loved wearing it when I did…
- bug spray
- cortisone cream – I got a rash on my chest on the way to San Jose for some reason – I don’t know if it was an allergy from a new sunscreen I used, or food I ate at the airport (ugh), but it would have been nice to have a travel-sized tube of anti-itch cream. Also, my husband is much-loved by mosquitos and could have used a little relief…
- a yoga towel to put on the floor to use the foam roller on. I cringed doing it on the hotel room floor in San Jose because it had carpet. Ew.
What I would have done differently:
- I would have not worn/brought my jeans, and instead just worn/brought my Elizabeth Suzann clyde pants and/or Eileen Fisher pants.
- I didn’t wear my Eileen Fisher pants, and I should have, instead of jeans.
- I will not wear my haori coat to travel again – it’s too big and gets in the way of everything, and it wasn’t very warm on the plane, even. I thought I’d use it as a robe/coverup at the hotel, but they supplied robes for us, so I didn’t need it
I was thinking about this yesterday, that I need to do better at traveling with “normal” clothes LOL – more simple silhouettes that are better for layering. For example, although I really loved having my ES harper tunic, it’s impossible to throw a jacket on top of. And I already mentioned how hard it was to manage my haori coat. I could have used a long sleeve t-shirt, and a simple, sweatshirt or hoodie instead of my 3/4 sleeve JP sweatshirt .
Traveling is always a learning experience, in every way, so I look forward to getting better at packing and planning every time 🙂