Highlights from Our Honeymoon in Costa Rica

Monday, June 11, 2018

Our honeymoon was the most relaxing vacation of all time. The weather wasn't great while we were there, so unfortunately, we didn't schedule some of the tours & activities we'd originally thought we would. We got in one good day of touring, but beyond that, we spent most of our time lying in a private garden next to the beach (no complaints),

Doka Coffee Plantation

On our second day in Costa Rica, we did a full-day tour visiting the Doka Estate coffee plantation & the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which includes a wildlife sanctuary. The shuttle pick us up at 6am (we were the first pickup of the day) & by 8am, we'd arrived at the coffee plantation.

Coffee is one of Costa Rica's biggest exports - about 90% of its coffee is shipped elsewhere - & Doka is Costa Rica's largest coffee plantation. We explored their beautiful plantation grounds, just 40 miles from the active Poas Volcano, & got to see the step-by-step process of making coffee, from seed to bag. We got to try lots of free samples, including chocolate-covered coffee beans, & this tour marked the first time I ever drank - & liked - black coffee!

We also went to one of two butterfly gardens of the day.

La Paz Waterfalls & Animal Sanctuary

The La Paz Waterfall is the most famous in Costa Rica, but there are actually four other waterfalls surrounding it that are just as beautiful - & depending on where you're looking at th em from, you can sometimes see multiples waterfalls all in one view. Man-made trails make these waterfalls the most accessible in the country - though my recent workouts at Harness Cycle didn't make me any more fit for climbing the many, many stairs along the way.

While we did see some animals out in the wild throughout our visit, this tour was easily one of the most exciting parts of the trip, allowing us to see wildlife up close & personal & in a safe (for them & for us), enclosed environment. All of the animals that live at the La Paz Animal Sanctuary were either injured or illegally traded, & they've ended up at this sanctuary because they can no longer live on their own in the wild.

We saw a sloth - in motion, no less! - as well as a 200-lb jaguar named Torito, a toucan named Bob, a few different kinds of monkeys, tons of creepy, massive snakes, & a few very cool frogs, including the red-eyed tree frog, which looks like a living cartoon. They also have a beautiful Butterfly Observatory filled with every kind of gorgeous butterfly you can imagine.

Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel

Staying at this hotel was easily the best Costa Rica decision we made. We found it on Trip Advisor, & because we had no real idea what to expect, we were blown away by how gorgeous & high-end the hotel was. We visited during the off-season & Jardin del Eden was at just 30% capacity, so we received extra-attentive service & even befriended a few of the hotel staff.

We'd planned to stay at a second hotel for the second half of our stay, but when we got there... well, it just didn't measure up, so back to Jardin del Eden we went. They gave us a discount for our return, & on our last night, we moved to a suite with a hot tub, just for fun.

We spent most of our time in the hotel's private garden off the beach, which had its own bar & bartender, Victor. We loved chatting with Victor & trying his cocktail creations; he introduced us to Cacique Guaro & chili water & turtle egg shots minus the turtle eggs.

Howler Monkeys

If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen my series of videos (complete with annoying commentary) about the howler monkeys living in a mango tree on the hotel grounds. It's possible that nothing has ever brought me more joy than those monkeys did.

I couldn't tell how many of them there were, but I identifed at least one big, mangy male - with a louuuuud voice - & one itty-bitty baby monkey who primarily rode around on its mama's back. They howled all morning & rested during the day, occasionally swinging around in the trees by their tails, chomping on mangoes & throwing their leftovers to the ground like animals.

I don't have great photos, to my dismay, but I sure do have some happy monkey memories.

All. That. Food.

I'm thinking of doing another post just about the food we ate in Tamarindo, because truly, we went to some phenomenal spots & found some damn good eats - but the Internet wasn't much help. In fact, it was nearly impossible to find good, reliable restaurant recommendations online, either ahead of our trip or while we were there. We primarily relied on word of mouth, Victor's suggestions, &  restaurants we passed that looked good & seemed busy.

We ate a lot of shrimp - in taco form, primarily - & every day, for breakfast, we had gallo pinto, a combination of rice, beans, & cilantro that's customary in Costa Rica for, like, every meal. I smothered mine in Lizano salsa, a beloved local condiment that I liked so much I ordered it from Amazon to be delivered before we arrived home.

The Scenery

The drive from San Jose to Tamarindo were incredible - enough to keep me from sleeping throughout the drive - & the views from our hotel room were amazingly green & lush. Everywhere we went, things seemed to be vibrant & green & gorgeous.

And the sunsets. Oh, the sunsets! Unfortunately, it rained quite a bit while we were there, which meant we didn't get as many sunsets as we had nights there, but when we were lucky enough to have clear skies... those sunsets made it all worth it. On our last night, Victor took us up to a lookout point that was one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip - just long enough for us to feel perfectly relaxed but ready to come home. We returned to Cleveland happy & chill, looking forward to making some changes & embracing Costa Rica's pura vida lifestyle right here in Northeast Ohio.

And, oh, yeah: We're already planning our next trip back. But next time? Next time, we adventure.

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