Winters on the east coast can feel impossibly long, especially by the time March rolls around. This year the season seemed almost endless. In addition to the usual snowstorms and frigid temps, we also skipped our annual trip to Florida and instead made two arctic expeditions (one to Iceland and another to Norway). Now I'm not complaining - I enjoyed every moment wandering through snow-capped Scandinavia. But let's just say that when the opportunity arose to visit Costa Rica's sunshine-filled "Gold Coast", there wasn't a moment of hesitation in my Vitamin-D deprived mind.
This trip to Peninsula Papagayo was special for a couple of reasons. I was travelling with my sister (a fellow yogi & beach lover who I don't get to see often enough), and we'd be visiting the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. I'd visited the southern coast a few years ago, and found it so extraordinary that I couldn't wait to explore the northern region.
We flew into the Liberia Airport, which was an easy 20 minute drive from our hotel - the beautiful Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo. The exceptional staff greeted us with fresh fruit drinks and gave us a tour of the grounds. The luxury resort is large - there are two pools, three restaurants (all of which offer vegetarian options), two beaches, a fitness center, and a spa all on site. There's also a third beach and a fourth restaurant at their Beach House property - a short 10 minute shuttle ride from the main hotel.
Between all of the relaxation opportunities and the local water activities (kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling, just to name a few) there was almost no reason to venture off the hotel grounds. But we couldn't pass up a trip to Rincon de La Vieja National Park. The incredible hotel staff not only arranged a private car to drive us, but also packed a picnic basket filled with fruits, veggie wraps, water, and juice for our little adventure.
Rincon de La Vieja was about an hour drive away. The beautiful 35,000 acre National Park is centered around two volcanoes (one dormant and one active), and is home to tropical dry forests, waterfalls, and local flora & fauna. There's an array of trails and activities to choose from once inside the park (there's a small entrance fee). Some of the more popular options include a scenic 10-km hike (great for spotting local wildlife like monkeys, armadillos, & tropical birds), relaxing in the Rio Negro natural hot springs & volcanic mud baths, and an exhilarating flight through the treetops on a series of zip lines. We decided on a shorter hike that would take us straight to the stunning Oropendola Waterfall. The 20-minute trail led us through the woods, down a swinging narrow staircase, and to a platform that sits by the base of the 82-foot high waterfall. We were amply rewarded with a refreshing swim in the turquoise pool, surrounded by lush scenery in every direction.
One of our favorite experiences at Andaz was taking the Barista Class offered at the hotel. The hour-long lesson is devoted entirely to coffee (one of Costa Rica's primary crops and natural treasures), and was given by Luis Herrera, the hotel's skilled barista and a passionate expert. Luis explained everything from ideal bean growing elevation to the preferred grind, and described the many different techniques used to brew coffee. He demonstrated how each manner affects the flavor & caffeine level of its cup. It was really interesting to learn so much about a drink I enjoy every morning, and of course even more fun getting to sample some of the best coffee I've ever had.
I left Costa Rica feeling both rested and rejuvenated. Perhaps it was the incredible massage at the Onda Spa, or maybe it was the swimming and daily yoga on the beach, but somehow this trip turned out to be the perfect mix of adventure, relaxation, and fun. Until next time Costa Rica, Pura Vida.
* I was welcomed as a guest of Andaz Costa Rica Resort. As always, all opinions are my own.