Costa Rica was every bit as wonderful as we hoped it would be.
Before Costa Rica, we had been in Arequipa, Peru, where we had had a difficult time. Already exhausted and travel-weary when we arrived, our time there seemed to be blighted by illness and misfortune. Indeed, Amber became so badly ill that we were unable to travel until she got better, and we had to delay our departure from the country by almost a week. Then, when we finally were able to leave, through an extraordinary set of circumstances (and driven in part by our own foolishness), we somehow managed to miss our flights. A journey that should have taken 12 hours became an epic 36 hour battle, and probably the most intense and stressful experience of our entire trip.
So, when we finally arrived in Costa Rica, we felt like shadows of ourselves, highly anxious and deeply in need of some TLC and R&R. Both of which we got in spades.
We were travelling to Costa Rica to meet with our friends Laura and Hanno and their little girl Maya. Some of our dearest friends for many years, we were all extremely excited to have this holiday together after so much time apart. Maya is eight months younger than Amber, and the last time we had seen her was back in London before we came away, when both the girls were still babies. We could not wait to get them back together – the prospect of Amber having another little person to play with, after so many months of adult (and parent) overload, being particularly important to James and I.
We had been due to spend 10 days together on what we thought would be a beautiful and sprawling beach house on the Pacific Coast. As Amber was too ill to travel, Laura, Hanno and Maya arrived at the house before us. What greeted them upon their arrival however was an isolated house that was unsuitable for children, and night time temperatures of 32 degrees. After a fitful (and sweaty) night, they knew they couldn’t stay any longer, especially as they were stranded there without a car. So we made the decision to move somewhere new. Cue a hectic 24 hours of frantic Watsapp communications as we panic-searched Airbnb trying the find a suitable home for our girls at the very last minute.
Finca Los Titos, Turrialba
But a suitable home we did find, and when I say suitable, I mean pretty much perfect in every way. We ended up in Finca Los Titos, a coffee farm up in the hills of the Central Valley. A family run business, the farm was still functional and beautifully maintained, set in rolling hills and surrounded by banana plantations. The farm house had been recently renovated to very high standards, and featured one of the most delightful and well equipped kitchens we had yet had on our trip.
The whole place was stunning, bordering on paradisical. The house was nestled in what felt like a mini jungle, with towering tropical trees that housed not one but two wild sloths. Several pairs of binoculars plus books on the local wildlife were at our disposal, and we spent hours watching lizards, butterflies and birds, confidently going from amateur to professional twitchers in a matter of days. (It is a little known fact that while Costa Rica makes up for only 0.01% of the world’s landmass, it houses a whopping 4% of the world’s biodiversity – a fact we now proudly rattle off the second anyone asks us why its so good there.) Every morning we were served a homemade traditional Costa Rican breakfast, made by the friendly staff that worked on site. And to cap it all off, the owner of the farm kept arriving with boxes of toys for Amber and Maya to play with. Every day felt like Christmas Day (albeit a warm and sunny one filled with lizards and sloths).
What ensued was the most relaxed and uplifting week we had had for a long time, eating, drinking and generally being merry. The only slight downside was that we didn’t have a car, and without a car we couldn’t really get anywhere. But with so many pleasures at home, we didn’t really want to go far. We managed to arrange a couple of trips out to local restaurants for lunch, and even squeezed in a night out on the town while the babes were babysat at home (Turrialba was sadly not the party capital that we had optimistically hoped for, especially not on a Tuesday night, but we nonetheless painted it red until an eyewatering 11pm).
After a week, we woefully packed our bags and reluctantly left Los Titos – gone but never forgotten. We all drove to the airport together where we said goodbye to Laura, Hanno and Maya who were flying back to London that day. The three of us then drove onwards to Atenas, a pleasant little town set slightly in the hills only 20kms or so from the airport, that bills itself as having the most perfect climate in the world. A bold claim, some might say, and although we perhaps found it a wee tad too hot during the day, we are not the sort to quibble and it must be said that was indeed extremely pleasant in the evening hours.
We really only had two full days in Atenas, one of which was lost when Amber refused to nap (for pretty much the first time on the trip, if not her whole life) and we spent the day periodically (and pointlessly) trying to encourage her to. The other day was spent pleasantly milling around a local fruit and veg market, playing in a playground and drinking beer in what at the time I hoped would be a charming local establishment, but was effectively little more than a road side shack.
Thus concluded our time in Costa Rica. Despite only being there for a handful of days, and not making it to either coast once, we absolutely loved it. Lush, friendly, warm and beautiful, it has everything going for it. We hope (and are already scheming) to travel back as soon as we can.
Costa Rica facts and figures
- Costa Rica’s national language – Spanish
- How we got by – we both more than happy (and secretly relieved) to let Laura, with her superior Spanish skills, take the lead on communications
- Number of kms travelled – a measley 209kms (which despite being hardly anything still took over 10 hours of driving, unsurprising given the poor state of Costa Rica’s allegedly infamous roads)
- Different types of transportation used – only taxis this time
- Beer brands consumed (and favoured) – Imperial
- Bottles of wine consumed – middle age seemed to hit hard when we got disproportionately bad hangovers after only a couple of glasses of wine. We therefore largely stuck to beer (with a couple of bottles of bubbles thrown in for good measure)
- Favourite animals – Costa Rica was off the chart when it came to wildlife, but the winner of the best animal category simply had to the sloths that lived in the trees on Los Titos coffee farm. Smiley, furry and unbelievably cute, they had us hooked from day one. A special mention also has to be made of Maya the miniature schnauzer, the dog who took Amber under her wing in Atenas when her friend Maya flew home to England
- Least favourite animals – can’t really call these animals but the ants in our house in Atenas were HUGE
- Country highlights – being constantly wowed by just how much wildlife graced our presence at Los Titos farm; the rolling hills surrounding Los Titos; endless stars in the night sky in Atenas; sunsets over Atenas town
- Most treasured moments – just getting there was pretty bloody amazing, especially after thinking that we were stuck in Peru for the rest of our days; arriving at Los Titos, hugging our friends, and being given the tour of the stunning house and grounds; slowly but surely unwinding as we settled into the relaxed pace of farm, as the reality hit that we had landed somewhere very special; Amber and Maya becoming increasingly tight as the week rolled on; as cheesy as it sounds, the sound of Amber’s laughter filling the house, a sound we hadn’t heard for a good couple of weeks while she had been so ill; relaxed lols and chilled vibes during naptime, when the girls slept and we got some time to ourselves; a rare treat of a night out on town with Laura and Hanno; Amber and Maymay riding a toy car, giggling together in complicit enjoyment, looking like two little old ladies on a day out; a memorable evening just the two of us in Atenas, as we sat under the stars, chatting about our little family’s future, as the realisation dawned that we were slowly coming to the end of our trip.