Bride-to-be Blogger Stephanie: Our Amazing Honeymoon in Costa Rica! (With Photos!)
White water rafting, ziplining, horseback riding, hiking through the rainforest, learning to surf—we had a magnificent, adventure-filled honeymoon that taught us we’re not quite the lay-on-the-beach-type couple we thought we might be.
We arrived at our hotel the Monday evening after our wedding. It had been a long day of travel. The flight is only six hours, but we had a layover in Houston, so we didn’t arrive until 10:00pm Costa Rican time. And while our eyes were drooping in exhaustion, we perked up as soon as we got a closer look at the glorious canopy suite we would be staying in for the next nine nights. Thanks to Pat’s incredibly gracious parents, they agreed to help us splurge on the honeymoon hotel room of my dreams—a suite with a plunge pool! We went in it every single morning and night. The view was majestic—set atop the undulating hillside, we overlooked the beach, the bay, and we could even see the Rincon de la Vieja volcano in the distance. We briefly hopped in the pool that night, but it was not long before we succumbed to sleep.
Still recovering from the best day of our lives and six-plus straight hours of dancing, on our first day in Costa Rica, we fell asleep in three different locations: on the beach, by the pool, and on the deck of our suite (which led to some pretty sweet sunburn—you know, the weird splotchy kind that doesn’t go away for days). But we pulled it together in the evening and went for a sunset hike. Our hotel was located on Pennisula Papagayo, which ascends high above the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, the hike was extremely rigorous but very worth it, in that we concluded on the beach just as the purples and pinks and oranges were beginning to stretch across the horizon—a stunning sunset.
In the days that followed, we sandwiched one more relaxing beach day in between all kinds of adventures. Each day began with a delectable buffet breakfast by the pool. There was always a juice of the day—some kind of delicious combination of mangos and papayas and nectarines, etc. Since I decided I was on my honeymoon and wasn’t going to pay any attention to what was healthy and what was not, I pretty much had dessert for breakfast every morning: milk chocolate, strawberry, and banana crepes; chocolate croissants, guava pastries, cinnamon French toast. I impressed Pat each morning with just how high I was able to stack my plate and how clean I left it—and I savored every bite. After breakfast, it was off to our activity.
It’s very tough call, but I think my favorite was white water rafting. I’ve always wanted to do it. That’s not to say I wasn’t terrified. We spent nearly an hour driving through fields packed into the back of a jeep with other honeymooners and families. Just before arriving at the final destination, we crept over the “Oh My God” bridge, as our guide affectionately called it: a barely one-lane, wooden-planked bridge without sides that crossed over a particularly dangerous-looking section of rapids—which we learned was what we would be going down! We got about a five-minute tutorial, including what position we must get into should we fall into the water, and then we were off. I was shaking I was so nervous. Right before we climbed into our raft, it started to torrentially pour. We were about to get very wet, so of course, it didn’t matter. But at the time, it seemed like an ominous sign.
Within about 20 feet, we were already heading down our first set of rapids, and it was a total blast—scary but overwhelmingly fun. And the rest of our ride down the river followed suit. Our guide was hysterical; we made friends with another honeymooning couple; and we survived some pretty crazy stuff! Some of the rapids were so strong we had to get out of the raft and walk along the banks, which was pretty dangerous in and of itself. We spotted a scorpion floating in a pool between the slippery rocks we were jumping between! But we made it and couldn’t stop smiling, it was so fun.
The other trips that made our honeymoon pretty unforgettable were: an excursion to Rincon de la Vieja for ziplining, horseback riding, and swimming by a waterfall; learning to surf in Tamarindo; and renting a car to make the trek to Monteverde.
Pat and I had been ziplining before in Guatemala, when we studied abroad. Remarkably, I got to talking with one of the operators of the zipline in Costa Rica, and he had built the very same zipline we went to in Antigua, Guatemala. When we started this one, I was worried it might not quite live up to Antigua’s, which featured a four-football fields-length zipline thousands of feet in the air overlooking two volcanoes. And while these ziplines weren’t as long or as high, once we got deep into the forest, we arrived at a canyon that looked like a movie set of paradise it was so stunning, with waterfalls and rivers flowing beneath us as we flew from one platform to the other. At one point, we rappelled down the rock wall to just above the river and then climbed back up, as well as Tarzan-swung our way onto one of the final platforms. Prior to ziplining, we had ridden horses to a waterfall to swim. The water was so very cold but too gorgeous not to go in. So all-in-all, it was a pretty fantastic day.
I had never surfed before, and I had heard the waves were awesome in Costa Rica, so we set up a trip through the hotel to surf town Tamarindo. Before heading into the water, our super cool instructor, Sandy, warned us to not let the current take us toward the river mouth, where there were crocodiles waiting. Seriously! So that was comforting. And then I took a look at the ginormous waves crashing before me and thought to myself, what the heck am I doing? But it’s not like I was going to turn around and go home. Time to give it a go. My first few attempts were slightly pathetic and disappointing. I was worried, of course, that I was never going to get the hang of it. But soon enough, I was up on the board cruising toward shore! What an awesome high, followed by taking an absolute beating from the waves while paddling back out. It was a lot of fun and totally exhausting. I don’t know what took us so long to ask, but right before we were heading in, Pat and I asked Sandy, “So are sharks an issue around here?” “Not really,” said Sandy. “I mean there was someone killed by a bull shark over there (points about 50 yards away!) two years ago, but other than that…” What’s an issue to Sandy?! But we are thankful to have survived our surfing trip, and I’m proud to say I can now surf!
Our last incredible activity was our adventure to Monteverde, the cloud forest. In an effort to save money, we decided to rent a car and make our way their on our own, rather than through the hotel’s ultra-expensive trip. Armed with a GPS and the warning from our concierge that it would take at least three-and-a-half hours to get there, we set off. Another perk of renting the car was to really take the opportunity to see the countryside, which made for a much more entertaining drive. We were within about 30 km in only two hours, and we thought to ourselves, we’re crushing this. Then came the dirt road. And ‘dirt’ really doesn’t describe it—small boulders might be more appropriate. And not only were the rocky roads an issue and the constant fear we were going to get a flat tire in the middle of a mountain in our rental car, but there was also very little separating us and the 3,000 feet below us as we began to climb our way up to Monteverde. I’m a bit afraid of heights. I particularly fear those cliff’s edge-type situations, so I was a little panicked—my palms turned red I was gripping the steering wheel so tight. But in a way, it was a lot of fun—fun twists and turns and interesting challenges. It was also remarkable to see little villages, schools, and farms seemingly in the middle of nowhere tucked into the crevices of these mountains.
An hour and a half later, we arrived at Monteverde and made our way to Selvatura Park. We hiked through the rainforest—so exciting, THE RAINFOREST! We crossed their famed suspension bridges. And then we made our way to their reptile zoo, which housed all kinds of snakes, frogs, and lizards. Pat and I held a baby boa constrictor and learned all kinds of unbelievable information about venom and camouflage. While there, I was totally and utterly fascinated. That night, and frankly for the rest of trip, I had nightmare after nightmare about the nearly 30 different types of venomous, very fatal snakes in Costa Rica. But it was still worth it. Pat and I are somewhat obsessed with zoos, aquariums, Shark Week, Planet Earth, and anything of the sort. Ironically, while I played it cool with the snakes, we next went to the hummingbird garden; and I was petrified! Pat couldn’t stop laughing at me. There must have been hundreds in the garden, and they would miss your ears and nose by millimeters as they whizzed by; all you could hear was buzzing.
The rest of our trip was filled with paddle boarding, kayaking, getting reading on the beach, a fantastic round of golf, and ridiculously delicious dinners that always ended in dessert—why not come full circle?
Costa Rica was phenomenal. I’d go back in a heartbeat. While we filled each of our nine days with some kind of activity, I feel like we could have spent another month there and never run out of things to do. I would love to explore more of the country. We were in the Northwest, and I could tell by our three-and-a-half drive to the cloud forest that each region offers something unique—especially terrain. The weather was comfortably in the mid-80s, relatively low humidity—in my mind, perfection—and while it is currently their rainy season, we only got little spurts here and there. And it never got in the way of what we wanted to do.
As self-professed any-kind-of-animal-documentary fans, the Costa Rican wildlife was abundant and totally fascinating to observe. We spotted monkeys on our way to our hotel room. Crabs poured over the beach at sunset. Racoons and Quadis roamed around at night. Huge iguanas crept through the grounds. You could always spot a bat circling by a light at night. Geckos climbed the walls of our suite. I’d love to go back in the fall when the sea turtles come ashore and lay their eggs. We also just missed out on the migration of humpback whales. Jaguars are apparently prevalent as well.
But of course, the unspoken best part of our honeymoon was that we were together, celebrating the unbelievable fact that we’re now married! Given the long distance we’ve been working through over the last three years with my job in Philly and his in DC, our wedding and honeymoon was the longest (consecutive) amount of time I’ve spent with Pat since college! And I loved every minute of it. While eventually, we had to make our way back to reality, Costa Rica was our dreamland, and I can’t wait to soon return. But in the meantime, I absolutely adore seeing a wedding band on Pat’s finger. We’re finally living our lives together. While our DC condo is nothing like our majestic Costa Rican canopy suite, we’re ready to start our next adventure.