From Nicaragua to Costa Rica we went, with the great help of Original Travel and via a series of teeny Sansa (not Stark) planes, where my luggage paid through the nose to also be in attendance. A lot of people have asked me if Nicaragua and Costa Rica felt different to one another, but it’s hard to compare and contrast because in both places that we stayed in Nicaragua, we were fairly isolated. I would say that there is more of a ‘bro’ culture in Costa Rica (more students, American migrants) but that could be because we spent half of our 8 days in the country in Santa Teresa, the bro-iest surfing town I’ve ever been to. I was the only person there without a tattoo (nil cool points) and I felt inherently over-dressed – even when sans bra. Costa Rica is also a little more developed. The mosquitoes we found to be way more offensive than in Nicaragua; the weather, more polarising (more rain and more sun.) But that, very much, was to do with the time that we were there (the start of low season, where humidity is at its apex.) The food and the people, however, we found the same: buena!
Breaking up the journey from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was a visit to the Poás volcano (about 40 mins from San Jose airport) and the epic La Paz waterfalls, which is 20 mins further on from the airport. I could not recommend these both more. The volcano – much more awe-inspiring than it appears in my photo, above – is a real tourist trap, but it’s a bit like going to the Taj, when you’re in Agra. You just gotta.
One of our biggest assumptions when we went on our honeymoon, is that we’d see animals everywhere. That we’d hop out of bed and bow to a toucan; do a quick-step with a puma on our way to breakfast. That, sadly, is totally untrue. The animals don’t mind if you hear them, but they’d really rather not see you. We did do some dolphin spotting (below) which was one of our highlights of the entire trip, though my husband scared them away when he over-excitedly splashed into the sea, to swim with them.
With that in mind, visiting the wildlife refuge park surrounding the La Paz waterfalls, is an excellent idea. We saw ocelots, pumas, jaguars, capuchin and howler monkeys, snakes, wandered around the best butterfly avery I’ve ever been in… It’s impressive, really impressive – and all of the animals there were rescued from endangered circumstances, so it’s specifically not a zoo. I suggest getting a guide, if you do either of these activities – we had a guide from Costa Rica tours and he was absolutely brilliant. I felt like an overgrown kid, skittling around the joint. There’s a lodge you can stay in, if you wanted to hang about for more than a day.
From there we were off to the luxury eco lodge, above, Playa Cativo. Nine miles from the gulf of Golfito (on the Pacific Coast bordering Panama) it is accessible only by boat. I am, incidentally, terrified of boats, so you could say that hour-long boat ride in the pitch black rain, thunder and lightning gave me a little bit of the pant-shits. At Playa Cativo, there is a main house and then a sprinkling of casitas, of which we were in one. There was no-one around us and a private beach to our right, which disappeared depending on the tides (it was pretty heavenly.) The beautifully lush and verdant lodge has an excellent reputation – for location, and service. There were only ever one or two couples at Playa Cativo when we were there, which makes for a very quiet atmosphere. It very much adheres to what we found to be the typical, luxury eco lodge experience: an open bathroom (and essentially bedroom, too) and no air con or TV. This will not be to everyone’s speed – the lighting in the common areas is very low and when it was bucketing it down for 12 hours straight, we did struggle with the fact that everything feels damp, and you just want to curl up in bed and watch TV! But when the sun shines, it’s truly the best place on earth.
Playa Cativo has an abundance of young staff waiting to take you kayaking, on boat trips to the colourful town of Golfito (I quite longed to stay at Cabina Wilson, if you are looking for more budget accommodation), to the organic farm – where we learned how to skin a coconut – bird-watching (we saw more Jesus Christ lizards and Halloween crabs than we did birds, but we our enjoyment wasn’t any less for it). There is a set menu, which we found ourselves whizzing through, but the food is incredible – we had masses of ceviche and nachos and burritos.
From Playa Cativo, we hopped back on the 10-seater plane to Tambor airport, on the Nicoya Penninsula, in order to get to the surfing town of Santa Teresa. The beach has a road running concurrently for 5km – and basically everything runs adjacent to this, either road side or beach side. It’s also the most hilariously bumpy road I’ve ever been on and stuffed full of Halloween crabs. You see them squashed all over the road as they scuttle back and forth! Biking had us pouring with sweat – though was easier a few cocktails down – so we soon opted to rent a quad bike which was a fun, much speedier option.
Santa Teresa is cool but vaguely grotty. Latitude 10, where we were staying, is beautiful. Right on the beach with the uniquotuous, central American hammocks, it lead me to wonder: is Santa Teresa the new Tulum? It can only be seconds before the globos descend upon it. It’s kind of mid-gentrification – by which I mean there are some tourist-geared spots like The Bakery (try the iced coffee and fried avocado tacos – below) and The Banana Bar, which are very cool but extremely expensive; but it’s also pretty stinky. Latitude 10 and Flor Blanca are the well known luxe spots in the area, and Flor Blanca is rated slightly higher. I, however, am glad we were in Latitude 10. It’s smaller, low-key rather than luxey and closer to the beach. I also prefer the decor. The food was delicious (are you noticing a theme here?) I would recommend the fish tacos and breakfast burritos even if you didn’t have the gun held to my head.
The outside bathroom (above) was incredibly attractive, though lethal in terms of mosquitoes. I would advise anyone heading to Santa Teresa to invest in the strongest Deet known to man. All the citronella candles in the world (and they burnt them all over the bedrooms) and Jungle Spray (we went through 3 bottles) could not stem the tide of mozzies. My favourite thing about having an outdoor bathroom, though, is that every morning the howler monkey – if we left the loo seat up – would do a shit in our loo. Technically, it could have been another animal (and no, I’m sure it wasn’t my husband), but given the cacophony made by the howler monkeys and their near-human tendencies, I’m going for howler monkey. Never have I been so tickled to find a crap in a loo, as I was every morning, on finding it.
In terms of day trips, there’s plenty that you can do in Santa Teresa, but a lot of it does come at a hefty price. We went on a day trip to Tortuga island. It’s pretty good value, as it includes lunch. Book through a local operator, not your hotel, as you’ll save half the price. It was excruciatingly touristy, but totally worth a visit. The sea is beautiful, and we found a beach pig called Philomena who was small and coarse and so friendly: she liked to be buried in sand. She’d crash to the ground in ecstasy, the moment your hand even came close to her hide. She was our favourite thing we encountered on the island (and infinitely better than the American douchebag turning to his friend and going “hey, Papi! Come sit next to Daddy!” causing both of us to vomit into our lunch.)
We ate local cuisine the entire time we were there, except in Santa Teresa where – forgive me for I have sinned – we cheated, twice, at the Pan-Asian joint, Katana. Oh. My God. We’ve never had sushi like it. It’s really not cheap (I’d compare it to Soho House in London) but I still think of it, often. I am actually dribbling, writing this, and it’s not even 8am and some would argue that it’s a little early for raw fish. Out of all the places we went to, this felt less like low-season than everywhere else we visited, although the beach joints and restaurants wound down pretty early. A few people have asked me, with disbelief, where the rain-soaked photos are. I just didn’t take them. And down by the beach? The rain abated. Sunny, mojito-filled days to end an extraordinary, brilliant honeymoon.
We booked our trip through Original Travel.
All Photos taken on my Olympus PEN
I’m wearing an H&M blouse (similar here), Reformation shorts (similar here) and Superga trainers | Peekaboo Vintage dress, ASOS belt and sandals | Topshop Finds slip dress (similar here), vintage sunglasses and Superga trainers | Caroline Constas cotton blouse (exact style returning soon), Georgina Boyce gold bangles (budget option here) and Theodora Warre Gypsy hoop earrings | Isabel Marant Naoko voile dress | Missoni Mare bikini | H&M blouse, vintage belt, Levi’s shorts and Superga sneakers. Personalised basket by Rae Feather.