I’ve wanted to visit Costa Rica for some time, and finally had the opportunity to travel there on a solo adventure this past April. For me, the main draw of Costa Rica was its eco-tourism; I wanted to see the rainforest, spot a sloth or two, and just take a break from my busy life in the city. So on my 26th birthday earlier this year, I bought my roundtrip airfare for Costa Rica!

Here’s my recap of this trip...

Day 1 (Departure) - San Jose: I made an overnight sojourn from Washington, D.C. in order to arrive in San Jose early in the morning. From the moment I landed, I couldn’t help but marvel at how sunny and warm it was outside. I checked into TripOn Open House Hostel, took a few hours to plan day trips for the week, then left the hostel to explore the immediate area, get lunch and groceries.

I thought to myself, “This will be a fun time!

Day 2 (Arrival) - San Jose: After eating breakfast, I made my way to Downtown San Jose via Uber for a free walking tour. I joined six other travelers at the National Theatre of Costa Rica where we were greeted by a woman named Eva, our tour guide. One of the first facts she shared with the group was that other travelers were oftentimes encouraged by their peers to skip San Jose—the capital city of the country—altogether since the eco-tourism sites in other cities were more popular. San Jose seemed like such a vibrant city, so I was shocked to learn this. I was proud of myself for taking the opportunity to explore what was a hidden gem—and a place with a deep and exciting history.

On the walking tour, I learned that the first McDonald’s opened outside of the United States was opened in San Jose. Costa Rica has not had an official army in 1948 because the president at the time wanted to invest in schools. As a result, Costa Rica has a literacy rate of over 96 percent. The country is also known for its use of renewable energy, and has the ambitious goal of being solely reliant on renewable energy in the coming years. I really enjoyed learning so much not just about this city, but also the country as a whole.

Day 3 - Tortuguero National Park
My first day trip outside of San Jose was at Tortuguero National Park—located north of San Jose in the Limón Province—with Grayline Tours. The tour operators picked me up from the hostel at 6:00am, and I met two other female travelers in the car. After an hour of driving, we stopped at a hotel for breakfast before making our way to the national park.

The water was not deep enough on our sojourn back to the bus from Tortuguero National Park, so we had to walk above the water where we got a different view of the scenery. By the time I got back to the hostel, I had dinner and soon went to bed. This was a truly fun and jam-packed day!

Day 4 - Braulio Carrillo National Park: Today’s trip was to Braulio Carrillo National Park, located less than an hour away from San Jose, where visitors can take a tour of the rainforest and its gardens. This tour was more relaxing and lasted about half a day, but it was very breathtaking. I was picked up from the hostel by a driver working for Rainforest Adventure and met another woman traveling from Mexico in the shuttle bus. When we arrived at the national park, we were greeted by our tour guide who showed us around a garden before taking us on a 90-minute tour of the rainforest via an aerial tram. We essentially had the rainforest all to ourselves since the cruise season in Costa Rica was over—and just two other tourists were zip-lining elsewhere on the premises.

The rainforest was so refreshing! It was generally quiet besides noise coming from insects and birds. The atmosphere was strikingly green and full of fresh air. I appreciated the opportunity to soak in nature this way as a city dweller. Check out this video below of the journey, since words alone just don’t do it justice:

We also explored the rainforest by foot and saw a butterfly and orchid garden, different frogs and snakes, and plants that we originally spotted while looking down from the aerial tram.

I was definitely enjoying the Pura Vida lifestyle so far!

So, what was it like for me to experience a volcano and further adventures while in Costa Rica?
Stayed tuned for Part 2 of my travel diary!