From San Juan Del Sur we took our last chicken bus (hurrah!) to the border, followed by a more comfortable air conditioned bus that went directly to San Jose in Costa Rica, where we had a week to kill before my parents flew out to visit us. We rented a cheap little Airbnb on the outskirts of town, and apart from the fact it had a family of some sort of rodent living in the ceiling, we had a lovely lazy week enjoying the cooler weather and drinkable tap water.
Mama and Papa Portman flew into San Jose via Miami, and we were very impressed to see that they had embraced the backpacking spirit and packed very light in brand new rucksacks – something that was made even more impressive by the fact that most of their luggage was actually clothes/toiletries/chocolate that we had asked them to bring out for us from the UK!
As soon as they arrived Dan and I felt like we were on a whole new trip. For a start, we were met at the airport by a man with our names on a clipboard – no hunting around for chicken buses for us this time! We were then bundled into a heavenly air conditioned car that we had all to ourselves – no sharing a single seat with two other people! – and whisked off to our first destination: Finca Rosa Blanca, a coffee plantation in the mountains around 30 minutes outside of San Jose.
We spent two nights at Finca Rosa Blanca, and on our first full day we went on a tour of the plantation followed by a coffee tasting back at the hotel. We learned all about how types of coffee differ in terms of sweetness, bitterness and sourness, and how to tell the difference between flavour and aroma – we all now consider ourselves something of coffee connoisseurs who turn up our noses at anything other than arabica!
After Finca Rosa Blanca we were transported into the jungle of the Arenal Volcano National Park. We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Lomas Del Volcan, where the rooms were individual cabins dotted around grounds that were filled with lush plants and flowers – Mum, an avid gardener and plant enthusiast, was in her element! During our stay we visited the beautiful Catarata Fortuna waterfall, then took a guided hike up to the base of Arenal volcano where we were told about the history of Costa Rica and how the volcano was formed. The following day we visited the incredible hanging bridges, magnificent structures strung over the rainforest that gave us the most amazing views from right up in the jungle canopy. We saw monkeys, snakes and a huge variety of beautiful birds – our guide also pointed out some tarantula nests, but thankfully did not try to provoke them into making an appearance!
The next and final stop on our Costa Rica adventure was Playa Potrero, where we stayed in a beautiful hotel called Bahia Del Sol that is situated right on the beach. There we spent 5 days relaxing, enjoying cocktails at the swim-up bar, reading our books and snoozing on sun loungers by the pool. We also took advantage of the hotel yoga classes every morning, which was Dad’s first attempt at yoga – thankfully he loved it! In the evenings we ventured out to different restaurants in the surrounding area – our favourite was an Italian restaurant that did the most amazing pizzas, which we loved so much we went there twice!
After Playa Potrero it was time for Mum and Dad to head home, and for Dan and I to fly off to Panama. Rather than taking a 6 hour drive back to San Jose for our flights, Mum and Dad had booked us all on an internal flight from Liberia airport back to San Jose. However, to Mum’s horror, we turned up at Liberia to discover that our plane was basically no more than a minibus with wings – a fact that was made even more traumatic for her when, after we took off and had been flying for an hour, we came down to land and discovered that we had just done a big circle and come straight back to Liberia! There was a storm over San Jose at the time which prevented our tiny plane from landing, and the pilot couldn’t let us know because there was no speaker system on board. So unfortunately for Mum, a quick hour long flight turned into several hours of airborne terror in the tiniest commercial jet of all time. Luckily she recovered from the trauma and it didn’t put a downer on the end of the trip!
We said our farewells at San Jose airport, having made plans for Mum and Dad to next come and visit us when we get to New Zealand. They then had a night to spend in San Jose before heading back to the UK, while we hopped straight on our flight to Panama.