Costa Rica is a Nature Immersion Adventure.
Costa Rica stole my heart and turned it green, with deep love of its bountiful and vibrant nature. A true untouched gem in many ways, the raw beauty of its jungle landscape, towering volcano, and vast ocean vistas, inspired me down to my core. Gavin and I were blessed with the kindest hospitality, epic culinary experiences, and exhilarating excursions with our #highvibecrew. From soaring through the clouds high above the rainforest canopy on a zip line to galloping the beaches on horseback, Costa Rica was a true adventure, and one I’ll never forget.
Ask Gavin about how I like to travel and I think you may get a sarcastic comment along with a roll of the eyes because I tend to ‘pack it in’ a little… Ok, ok, not just a little but A LOT… Our vacation schedule usually leaves us a bit more tired than when we started due to the fast-paced nature of a Kelley-designed trip. My zest for life runs hot and I crave to try so much of what this beautiful planet has to offer. I thrive on it. Thank goodness I have a partner who accepts and understands me, and in turn, I get to make sure we have downtime too. Relationships are always about balance, compromise, and communication, right!?
If you are looking for a more relaxing vacation you can choose any one of these spots we visited and settle in for a week or longer, as they all were epic! Or if you’re a bit crazy like me go ahead and do it all- just one word of caution- driving here takes much longer than WAZE will tell you, so a good amount of time is spent driving between locations, but the countryside is breathtaking. Add a karaoke-loving bestie Caroline (@howcarolinecarolines) and these car treks become another memory-making event! I think we perfected “I’m a Genie in a Bottle” and other 90’s pop hits!
Our first stop on the Costa Rican journey was Volcano Arenal. Deep in the lush rainforest, we stayed at the Nayara Tented Camp. This tent was the most luxurious glamping experience I have ever had. The sprawling room had a beautiful four-poster bed with a cloud-like mattress that beckoned you to linger and stare at the enormous volcano on the horizon just beyond our door. The lux bathroom had a clawfoot tub perfect for bubble baths with bubbly and an outdoor rain shower. But the very best surprise was the private plunge pool on our deck that was naturally heated by hot springs and twinkled in vibrant colorful shades of glowing lights at night. Gavin and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the spring-fed waters our first night, our bodies soothed by the healing mineral waters (and the wine ;))
The next morning we rose early to the sun rising up over the verdant green volcano. We had breakfast in our room and then took a little tour of the grounds. There were hot springs everywhere, a pool with a swim-up bar, and SLOTHS! Yes, sloths! This property has 8 native sloths and we were lucky enough to meet one on our tour. I named him Merle. We watched him precariously balancing on a tiny tree branch way up high, and he never made a move. Merle and I would not vacation well together haha.
That night we visited the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort with our crew. I have never seen such an expanse of hot springs, complete with waterfalls and little stone paths that went in every direction. It was a mystical fairyland of rising steam and rushing mineral waters. Such a unique experience and exactly the relaxing experience we all needed at the end of a long eventful day.
Up bright and early we departed Arenal and headed to the Pacific coast. We drove up and down and all around windy roads alllll the way to Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas. We were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff and immediately whisked upstairs right away for a special ceviche cooking experience with their amazing renowned Chef Jose. I can not say enough about this unique cooking demonstration. Chef Jose was such a delight, a robust storyteller, true artisan of food, advocate for protection of the seas, and a down-right great guy. Gavin and I not only learned how to make amazing ceviche from the best, but we also learned about the history of this culinary delight (and one of my absolute favorites), and made a new friend. It doesn’t get any better than that. But it actually did! The view at Sentido Norte restaurant is ridiculous, perched high on the cliffside with panoramic 360-degree views of the ocean. Absolutely stunning! Like ‘pinch me” I’m dreaming. Oh, take me back to Casa Chameleon!
Fueled on ceviche, we capped off the day with an exhilarating horseback ride down the beaches and through the woods. Gavin and I are avid horse riders, and we had the absolute best guide who granted us permission to gallop flat out like crazies down the wave-kissed sandy coastline. Nothing compares to touring a country on the back of a horse!
Our next stop along the adventure was in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had a wonderful stay at the Koora Hotel, in an apartment-style villa so the whole gang could stay together. The villa had 2 story windows looking out on the cloud forest. What’s a cloud forest you ask? Well, it’s’ exactly as you may suspect- our hotel was perched on a hillside on top of the cloud-covered rainforest just like a Care Bear land (yes I’m a child of the 80’s)! Koora hotel offered so many nature activities, as it is situated right at the gate to the RESERVA AGUTI Nature Preserve. They hooked us up with a night nature hike lead by the fearless and knowledgeable Victor. Once the sunset and the night cast its darkness, Victor equipped us with flashlights to venture into the preserve’s inky abyss. We learned about so many things unique to this cloud forest area and discussed the ongoing preservation and rehabilitation of many endangered species of native trees. We saw an abundance of frogs, stick bugs, millipedes, and even a tarantula (from a safe distance)! The tour left me in wonder about how alive this planet is!
Next on this list of bucket list items was zip lining at Selvatura Adventure Park! I could barely contain my excitement and butterflies. Careening at an extremely fast speed tethered to a cable 1000’s of feet in the air is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you wanna know what it feels to soar like a bird high, like really high, above the treetops then this is a must-do!
The next day we headed back to San Jose to get a little taste of the capital before we took off early the next morning. Not knowing what to expect, San Jose really surprised me with its culture, colors, flavors, and history. We stayed at an eclectic historical PINK Airbnb that was covered in art. The lovely couple who hosted us was so amazing, greeting us on arrival, telling us all the hot spots to check out, and even welcoming us on a private tour of their art gallery.
That evening we walked a few blocks over to the trendy Barrio Escalante district. As we explored, Tamalin (who’s secret superpower is to find the best hidden gems) found a funky little spot with music, beckoning us to come inside. We wandered in and met the lovely and charming Oscar Toribio of Toribio Donato, a local high-end sustainable fashion line. He showed us around his studio and super chic lounge- restaurant, DOMA, just recently opened. This place, the clothes, and the decor were to die for. A must-go when in San Jose!
That night we dined on delicious fare at Isolina. Their menu consisted of inventive fusion dishes including seafood lasagna and an amazing wedge salad, but the best discovery was their fabulous wine cellar. The sommelier showed us top vintages from all around the world and we bought a few bottles to take home, just too good to pass up. Absolutely the best for vino and upscale dining in San Jose!
As we departed early the next morning I peered out the plane window to see the vast green jungle that reached as far as the eye could see. In many ways, it looked like the moss art murals I create! “Wow”, I thought, “such a vibrant country so full of life in every way.” Travel and nature are so inspiring to me both in my work at Art Botanica, but also spiritually. They remind me to really live with purpose and intention. This immersion into the Costa Rican jungle, and really connecting with it, was a gift. I’m in awe of its complex harmony and its astounding beauty. I am thankful for all the beautiful humans we met along the way who shared their little slice of heaven, and for my crew of adventuring friends whom I love making memories with, and finally thanks to my love Gavin Brodin for choosing to journey with me all around the world! Everything’s better with you my love.