Experiencing the Pura Vida in Beautiful Costa Rica!

Experiencing the Pura Vida in Beautiful Costa Rica!

As a person with the zodiac of a Sagittarius, I often have last-minute decisions about going to places that I hadn’t thought that long about going to.

For me, my inspiration of wanting to experience Pura Vida in Costa flourished after watching a few episodes of House Hunters International on HGTV, stumbling upon a couple of Costa Rican TikTok posts, and finally, finding a hell-of-a deal to fly Frontier from Denver to Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Prep

Talk about a last-minute deal! I had to make a quick decision because if I didn’t purchase the tickets by 11:59 pm that night, I would have lost the deal and the opportunity to experience Pura Vida would have went down the drain. By the way, this deal was for roundtrip tickets from Denver to Costa Rica for 7 days in January, all for $180 dollars, currently with the same airline, tickets are over $750! Although it did include layovers in Orlando for some odd reason.

Thank you to Skyscanner and Google flights for allowing me to be on the lookout for the best flight deals!

To make it sound like I have discipline, I’d like to tell you that I began researching a trip itinerary to see if this deal was even worth it, but in all honesty, I just went ahead and booked the tickets because in my mind, I was ready and I literally only had less than 20 minutes to make the purchase.

For the next few days prior to the trip, I looked into accommodations, rental cars, and things to do to ensure the Pura Vida experience. I found some great Airbnb’s, a luxury resort, and a hotel in the city so that I would be able to explore most of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province.

I went in January, which for Costa Rica was its dry season, known locally as “summer.” It was just what was needed to getaway from snowy ass Denver. Unfortunately though, I had to wear a coat, so I was peeling out of my clothes before I even got all the way out of the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport or LIR Airport in Guanacaste Costa Rica.

After the sun went down, the nights were pleasantly cool, which offered a break from the daytime heat. Speaking of sun, be sure to apply sunscreen! As far as any rain goes, during my time there, I actually did not catch a drop of rain. Apparently, January is the month when Mother Nature takes a break from watering the lush nature of Costa Rica or at least the locations I visited.

Getting to Costa Rica

Traveling from cold and snowy Denver, Colorado, to a hot place with a beach is always an adventure. Upon arrival at the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) located in the city of Liberia, Guanacaste Province, I immediately began stripping from my Colorado attire as it was over 90 degrees in Costa Rica. I did also stop at the Duty-Free shop to purchase some alcohol prior to catching my free hotel transport to the Hilton Garden Inn.

I chose to stay closer to the airport as I needed to pick up my rental car less than 0.5 miles down the street. I want to note that during this time, Uber was not prevalent, so I chose to stay within a close distance in case I needed to walk to pick up the car.

No Pura Vida yet- Nothing special occurred during my first night in Costa Rica since due to the heat, my layover in Orlando dealing with Frontier’s unprofessional staff, and the arrival time at 5 pm, I was truly fatigued, so I went straight to the room and crashed. BAD IDEA!

Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize was that there were no vending machines throughout the hotel, no nearby bars or restaurants, or convenience stores in walking distance that were really open after 9 pm situated by the airport (so let’s just say it was a long night).

My tip for your initial arrival night if you are getting in later in the evening, is to make sure you purchase some drinks, water, snacks, or some type of meal before you turn in for the night. See 6 other tips for Costa Rica here.

The Hilton Garden Inn did provide me with a room temperature bottle of water, but let’s be honest, with the heat reaching over 95 degrees and indulging in mimosas that morning and a long flight, I found myself dehydrated. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a water machine just outside by the pool, where I could refill my bottle with cold, refreshing water.

(It’s worth noting that in some international locations, like Mexico, you may not be able to drink tap water, but in this case, the hotel had safe filtered water available.) When I tell you finding the water machine felt like discovering a hidden gem, it really made my night.

Working with Budget for a Budget Rental

Picking up the rental- I rented a Toyota Corolla from Budget Car rental; it was great on gas and allowed me smooth travel while exploring Guanacaste. However, if you find yourself traveling during rainy season (generally May-November), I would suggest a vehicle with 4-wheel drive since the turf changed many times from concrete, gravel, or dirt and it may be easy for a regular car to get stuck when it is heavily rainy.

I want to give a big thanks to Budget as well for sending a shuttle to the Hilton so that I didn’t have to walk or find a cab to go get the car! This location had friendly service and the price was pretty comparable at $250 USD for 6 days with unlimited miles.

Budget Car Rental

Pura Vida with Airbnb in Playa Ocotal

After picking up the rental car, I was able to head to my next accommodation, an Airbnb condo located in Playa Ocotal which is about a 30-minute drive from the airport that showboated beautiful views of the ocean and the many islands across the way. I did choose to stay off the beaten path as the more popular and touristy area was in Del Coco Beach, passing through you could see many shops, bars, and restaurants catering to travelers.

I wanted to get the experience as a local, so Playa Ocotal gave me the chance to experience that. I was able to walk among locals and experience the fish market, the black sand beach and began to immediately feel and succumb to the “Pura Vida” mindset.

Side Note: In case you hadn’t heard, in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida” means Pure Life or simple life. It is a saying but not only a saying, it is their way of life and something I came to appreciate and miss once back on my home turf.

Visiting Playa Ocotal in Guanacaste Costa Rica

• Snorkeling- you can look for experiences via Google or Airbnb

• Kayaking – You will need to get an early start but worth it

• Father Rooster’s Beachfront Bar & Grill –

I had the pleasure of enjoying a dinner on the beach here, and the experience was filled with good vibes overall. The ambiance was giving Pura Vida, with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the slow motion of sipping cocktails without any cares. However, I must admit that I was slightly disappointed with the limited selection of fresh seafood on the menu during my visit.

Being at the beach, I had anticipated a wide array of fresh seafood options to savor. I was hoping to indulge in the catch of the day or local specialties that showcased the region’s seafood dishes. Unfortunately, the seafood selection was somewhat limited, and I found myself wishing for more variety to truly capture the essence of the coastal cuisine.

• The Lookout Restaurant- Beautiful views, great service, and oyster shots!! (If you are into that.)

• Playa Del Coco (Beach)- more populated and touristy; be wary of anyone who tries to get you to pay to park your car as parking is free!

• Playa Flamingo (Beach) – softer white sands, cleaner, and strong waves for those looking to surf or skimboard.

Staying on bus in the farmlands of Tierra Morenas

Continuing Pura Vida- After exploring Playa Ocotal, my next adventure was in Tierra Morenas. A town which was about a 2-hours’ drive from Playa Ocotal. I stayed in an Airbnb bus/skoolie in foothills and farmlands of Costa Rica.

This was a unique and fun experience as the hosts were exceptional from their communication to the farm-fresh eggs, frozen fresh bagels, and freshly made Greek yogurt that were provided as FREE extras.

I must admit, the weather during my stay was hotter than the spot on your leg when you’ve been on your laptop for more than an hour.

Unfortunately, the A/C was only available in the bedroom. To combat the heat, I propped the door to the bedroom open, allowing the breeze to circulate more freely. The hosts advised to try opening the sliding door to the deck to allow some of the refreshing winds to pass through, but I did not do this, in order to keep those unwanted guests, like flies and other bugs, away. If you’re not too fond of insects like spiders or ants, like me, it’s a good idea to bring some bug repellent, especially for use while you’re outside of the bus.

The Airbnb listing, which you can find directly at @santos_skoolie on Instagram, had surprised me in the best way possible. Who would’ve thought that a converted bus could have a deck?

This unique feature allowed for a pleasant outdoor space, and I could enjoy the surrounding nature from the comfort of the bus. As the sun set and darkness fell, I decided to stay inside the bus. Even though there was sufficient lighting outside, I didn’t want to risk inviting more bugs in. It was a trade-off, but the bus’s cozy interior made it easy to relax and enjoy the company of my fellow travelers without worrying about unwanted critters.

My other favorite features were the views from the shower, the large king bed in the bedroom and the kitchen space.

Overall, despite the minor inconvenience of managing bugs and the limited A/C, my stay in the skoolie allowed me to fall deeper into the mindset of Pura Vida as it was a truly unique and memorable experience. The novelty of staying in a converted bus with its own deck was a delightful surprise, and I cherished the opportunity to embrace the beauty of nature while remaining comfortable inside. If you’re someone who enjoys an offbeat adventure, the santos_skoolie offers a memorable experience.

Places to see and Things to do near Tierra Morenas

• Lake Arenal

• Equus- Costa Rican wood-fired BBQ: This place offered beautiful views of Lake Arenal and a cool trail that led you to a hidden dance club in the woods found behind the restaurant. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Lake Arenal, Equus is a must try. Not only will you indulge in a BBQ culinary experience, but you’ll also discover the enchanting surprise that lies beyond the restaurant. Whether you’re a food enthusiast or a nature lover seeking a unique experience, Equus will keep you in that Pura Vida mindset.

Trail Vlog

Pura Vida at a Luxury Resort in La Fortuna

My absolute favorite accommodation during this trip was nestled in the beautiful region of La Fortuna, a mere 2 hours and 37 minutes away from the LIR airport. The Amor Arenal is an exquisite adults-only five-star resort tucked away in the lush embrace of the rainforest with volcanic views, catering mostly to luxury travelers.

This luxury experience offered private casitas with rainforest view showers, private plunge pools overlooking the forest, fully stocked minibars in the room, and access to multiple spring pools and trails located throughout the property. They also offered Wi-Fi, cable and refreshing A/C!

This property was so lush, tranquil, and private. I was treated as if I was a celebrity with the full-service mud clay spa treatment, 5-star breakfast, fancy cocktails, and easy contact/communication via WhatsApp for transport throughout the property or to get experiences booked through the concierge team.

From the moment I arrived at Amor Arenal, I was captivated by the serene ambiance that enveloped the resort. The warm, welcoming staff greeted me with genuine hospitality, setting the tone for a truly unforgettable stay. As I explored the surroundings, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the resort’s seamless integration with nature.

My luxurious suite was a sanctuary of comfort and elegance, boasting breathtaking views of the Arenal Volcano and the surrounding verdant landscape. Now since we were in the rainforest, the sound of wildlife echoed through the night. The resort provided earplugs to encourage a peaceful rest.

Throughout my stay, the resort’s exceptional amenities and services pampered me in every way.

The culinary journey at Amor Arenal was a great experience. Each dish was a work of art, and the flavors were a harmonious blend of freshness and creativity. Dining amidst the rainforest’s lush greenery added an enchanting touch to every meal.

pura vida breakfast

As an adults-only haven, Amor Arenal provided an intimate and tranquil setting, making it ideal for couples seeking a romantic getaway or travelers craving a peaceful escape. The seamless blend of luxury and nature allowed me to immerse myself fully in the beauty of Costa Rica’s landscape and culture.

Amor Arenal in La Fortuna surpassed all my expectations, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. For those seeking an extraordinary, five-star retreat surrounded by the enchanting rainforest, this resort is a true haven of bliss and tranquility.

My time at Amor Arenal was an experience of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to return to its lush embrace!

Other activities in La Fortuna

• Arenal Volcano

  • Horseback Riding
  • Canopy Zip Lines
  • Hiking

• La Fortuna Waterfall Hike

• Sloth watching tours

• Chocolate tours

• Night tours

• Kombucha brewing

• Rio Celeste Hiking & Waterfall

Pura Vida in Downtown Liberia

After saying farewell to the enchanting Amor Arenal, my journey brought me back to Liberia, the largest city in Costa Rica near the airport.

Here, the landscape shifted, and I found a mix of familiar American-known restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC, alongside local eateries offering delectable Costa Rican cuisine. During my stay in Liberia, I chose to settle at the Hotel Boyeros & Conference Center—a budget-friendly option that provided a sense of security, thanks to its location in the downtown center and gated parking.

Hotel Boyeros & Conference Center is great considering the affordability but I think Amor Arenal definitely spoiled me. The hotel offered a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, making it an ideal resting place for travelers seeking a well-located base to explore the city and its surroundings.

One of the perks of the hotel was its onsite restaurant and bar, which would bring food or beverage to you if you just wanted to stay inside for the day/evening, when I simply wanted to relax in the comfort of my room, in the privacy of my own space.

Again, I am my specialty does not reside in places for families traveling with children, but the Hotel Boyeros & Conference Center had much to offer families. The property boasted a pool, hot tub, and a playground area that exuded an air of excitement and laughter throughout the day. It was heartwarming to see families bond and create cherished memories as they splashed around in the pool or played joyfully in the playground until closing time.

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PTO Needed for Pura Vida

The amount of PTO (Paid Time Off) or (Personal Time Off) needed for a trip to Costa Rica similar to the one described in this post can vary depending on factors such as the duration of the trip, the number of travel days, the distance traveled, and individual preferences. However, for a trip of this nature, I would recommend having at least 7-10 days of PTO to fully enjoy and make the most of the experience.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the PTO needed for various components of the trip:

  • Travel Days: For a roundtrip flight from Denver to Guanacaste, Costa Rica, it’s reasonable to allocate at least two full travel days (departure and return).

  • Exploration Days: To explore Guanacaste Province, including Playa Ocotal, Tierra Morenas, and La Fortuna, you would need several days. Depending on your interests and desired activities, allocate around 4-5 days for this part of the trip.

  • “Just in Case” Days: Consider adding a couple of buffer days to account for any flight delays, travel fatigue, or unexpected situations during your trip.

  • Additional Activities: If you plan to participate in additional excursions or activities like snorkeling, hiking, and visiting waterfalls, you may need to extend your trip accordingly.

Taking all these factors into account, a 7-10 day trip would be a reasonable estimate for this Costa Rica adventure.


In Conclusion

Overall, Costa Rica was a great experience. I truly enjoyed the “Pura Vida” lifestyle that flows through the veins of the communities here. My journey through Costa Rica was an incredible experience filled with the essence of “Pura Vida,” a way of life that radiates through the communities here.

From the moment I arrived, I was captivated by the warm and friendly people, who welcomed me with open arms and genuine smiles. The country’s natural beauty was simply inspiring, offering an array of adventures from snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters, exploring lush jungles to discover hidden waterfalls, and hiking through picturesque landscapes.

Driving through Costa Rica was an adventure in itself, as the diverse roads took me from charming beaches to breathtaking volcano and mountain views. The ever-changing scenery provided a sense of excitement and wonder, ensuring that no day was like the other.

Overall, my time in Costa Rica was an unforgettable journey that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. The “Pura Vida” lifestyle is not just a phrase; it’s a way of living that embraces happiness, gratitude, and appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or cultural exploration, Costa Rica has it all.

If you’re looking for a destination that will enchant you with its natural beauty, thrill you with exhilarating experiences, and immerse you in a culture of warmth and positivity, then Costa Rica is the place to be. Embrace the “Pura Vida” lifestyle and embark on a journey that will leave a lasting imprint on your heart and soul.

See 6 Tips for Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Have you thought about going to Costa Rica or have you been to Costa Rica? If so, did you experience and enjoy the “Pura Vida” lifestyle? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Until next time, Pura Vida! 🌴🌊🌞

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