How to Honeymoon in Costa Rica
“It’s rare to see them moving and eating like that,” said our guide Juan. We were bobbing beneath a tree in Tortuguero’s canals and staring up at a Costa Rica celebrity – a three-toed sloth – as it slowly chomped on some leaves. It was in that moment, just two days into our three-week honeymoon, I knew we’d picked the right destination.
My husband Brad and I usually arrange our own travel but, as it was a special occasion, we’d decided to tailor make our honeymoon with Flight Centre. For us, it needed to tick four boxes: nature, luxury, adventure and relaxation. We wanted to go at the start of dry season (November), and asked for a range of destinations and experiences, as well as nicer hotels than we could normally afford (thanks to some kind wedding contributions from family and friends!), and private transfers – so we didn’t have to worry about any navigating. I’m delighted to say that our Travel Expert delivered; everything exceeded our expectations, at every point.
Planning your trip? Here’s how to honeymoon in Costa Rica just like we did – from where to stay to what to expect:
Tortuguero National Park
We spent a night in San Jose before embarking on the three-hour car and boat journey to Tortuguero National Park, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. It was a travel-heavy way to start our honeymoon, but it was worth it. Our hotel, Evergreen Lodge, was surrounded by jungle and packed with wildlife. We went out on the water and wandered through the forest, spotting caimans, lizards, monkeys, sloths, a magnificent red-eyed tree frog and a plethora of birdlife – all in just two days. And by night we were lulled to sleep by the sounds of the rainforest, before being woken by howler monkeys and birdsong at dawn. Thanks to our guide Juan – who showed us wildlife, took us to Tortuguero village and gave us recommendations on what local dishes to try – it felt like we were in the very heart of an Attenborough documentary.
WHERE TO STAY: Evergreen Lodge (full board)
With its cabin-style rooms, teetering on stilts in the jungle, and only accessible by boat, Evergreen is the perfect introduction to Costa Rica and its epic biodiversity. In particular, we loved it for the people – the staff here couldn’t do enough for us, and even presented us with a honeymoon gift on our first night: a beautiful fruit creation, filled to the brim with Pina Colada.
Arenal & La Fortuna
From Tortuguero we travelled to Arenal, undoubtedly one of the most picturesque places in Costa Rica with its mineral-rich hot springs, vast lake and active volcano of the same moniker. The volcano is visible from pretty much anywhere in town, protruding skywards and often shrouded in mist, providing the ultimate backdrop to all of our activities.
As fairly active newlyweds, we decided to try waterfall rappelling – after all, what’s more romantic than following your new husband down a 165-foot cascade?? We also visited the mighty La Fortuna Waterfall (accessible via 500+ steps), and spent an inordinate amount of time soaking in our hotel's outdoor hot tub. Bliss.
WHERE TO STAY: Arenal Lodge (bed & breakfast)
While this hotel is out of town, it undoubtedly has the best views of the volcano. Unwind in the infinity pool and gaze across at the peak, as the clouds shift and fade around the crater. Our room, a Junior Suite, boasted a hanging egg chair on the balcony – equally great for admiring that view. Our favourite thing about Arenal Lodge though is its hummingbird garden, towards the back of the property. Take a seat here, and watch as dozens of these tiny birds dart around a vast greenhouse, their wings beating at audible super-speed.
We crossed the lake to get to Monteverde, stealing some final glimpses of Arenal Volcano. We reached our next hotel within a couple of hours, and had only been checked in for a few minutes when the mist rolled in. We were now deep in the cloud forest. For us this is what made Monteverde so fascinating. We even ziplined through the haze, above the forest canopy, speeding along at 43mph! It's easy to see why Monteverde is famed for having the best ziplining in Central America.
Monteverde is also home to a reserve, popular for wildlife spotting – particularly after dark. We embarked on a night hike here, and saw millipedes, sleeping birds and, best of all, a side-striped palm pit viper. This luminous snake is so deadly and so fast that it can catch a hummingbird in flight. In awe we stood below it and took a picture... but we didn’t hang around for long, just in case.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Belmar (bed & breakfast)
This Swiss, chalet-style property is one of the best in Monteverde. We loved it for its gardens – where we spotted a family of agouti – its hot tub and its complimentary tea and coffee in the on-site tea room.
While my new husband and I love to explore, after the freneticism of spending two years planning a wedding, we were keen for some down time. Enter Guanacaste. We booked five nights of all-inclusive resort time, staying at the Pacific Coast's Playa Conchal – renowned for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
We relaxed on the sands, soaked up the sunsets, gorged on a la carte cuisine, and drank more Pina Coladas than I can count. We even went out in search of turtles – one of my favourite creatures – and, thanks to our dedicated tour guide Chris, saw three black Pacific females on their way to nest, hauling themselves up the sands of nearby Minas Beach in a moving display of nature.
WHERE TO STAY: Westin Playa Conchal (all inclusive)
This hotel is a place for indulgence. And golf, if you need to practise your swing. With several a la carte restaurants, two pools, Deluxe Suites as standard, and a postcard-worthy beach, it was exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries. We both heartily recommend taking advantage of the 24-hour room service, if you’re feeling particularly lazy and just want to unwind in your room with your loved one.
Manuel Antonio National Park / Quepos
We’d heard that Manuel Antonio was one of the best places in the country to see sloths. Having already been spoilt with our sightings so far, our bar was set pretty high. Our guide Danny took us on a tour through the national park itself and, while the results were slow to begin with, by the end of the afternoon we’d seen dozens of capuchin monkeys, bats, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and, miraculously, three sloths. We saw innumerable birds too, although not as many birds as we saw the next day when we kayaked through the mangroves at nearby Damas Island. It was an immersive, up-close experience as we paddled through narrow channels, spotting crabs, fish and herons, and admiring the surrounding forest as the sun glanced off the water.
WHERE TO STAY: Parador Resort & Spa (bed & breakfast)
Located in Quepos, just 10 minutes’ from the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park, we absolutely loved the Parador. The grounds are labyrinthine, with a Spanish feel, the infinity pools offer an unrivalled view across the Pacific Ocean, and – if you’re lucky – you can spot sloths up-close here. We saw this two-toed sloth (pictured above) from barely a metre away. The best thing, though, is happy hour. You can get some delicious Daiquiris for buy one get one free between 6-7pm, a great way to toast any honeymoon.