We were only in Iceland for three full days but we packed in as much of the island as possible. There’s so much you can do from Reykjavik, it was hard to decide what to choose but easy to fill our time. The main filter for everything on offer was probably the budget, money quickly adds up there and not wanting to go overboard I tried to find a balance. We had so much fun I think I did a pretty good job on our itenary, if I do say so myself.

Here’s what else we squeezed into our trip.

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon seems to get mixed reviews but I decided to ignore it all and make my own mind up. It was so close to the airport I thought it would be a great start to our trip, so after we picked our rental car we made our way straight there.

There’s a huge car park on site but at about 5pm I was relieved to find it wasn’t that full. Everyone knows that the lagoon is one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions and given its proximity to the airport, it’s popular with stop over trips to America and elsewhere.

If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee, you can just explore some of the geothermal area so we did that first.

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The rich mineral content of the water (silica and sulfur) is provided by the underground geological layers which are pushed to the surface by the hot water. The silicate gives the water its milky blue appearance.

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Once we’d got through the gates, I was directed to a large changing room a little bit like the ones you’d find in a nice swimming pool. I took the required shower and ran from the sides into the warm milky water as quickly as possible.

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It was just like easing into a hot bath and I loved it. I could feel my muscles loosening by the minute and couldn’t stop myself from going “aaahh” whenever a hot rush of water went past.

The silica provides the free mask you can pick up by the handful. I’d paid a bit extra for some added algae and once I’d washed it off my skin did feel pretty good.

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I couldn’t tell you how long we were in there as the time just seemed to melt away.

The Blue Lagoon has always been a commercial site, being brought to life by the water output of the nearby geothermal plant. It’s completely man-made, although the content of the water is all natural. I think if you take it for what it is, and don’t expect an authentic natural experience, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. We went at an off peak time so it wasn’t too busy.

 Lava caving

All of the activities in Iceland are naturally centred around its beautiful landscape and its surprising just how much you can do. Since our activity day was James’ actual 30th birthday, I narrowed down the options to three and let him choose. Luckily he went for the option I was hoping for – lava caving and snorkelling Silfra.

The tour takes you to Leiðarendi, which just a 30 minute drive from Reykjavik but, like other parts of Iceland, it looks like you’re on another planet.

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There are over 500 lava caves in Iceland and there are two ways they can form from volcanic lava. Leiðarendi was a result of super hot magma running underneath cooling lava creating a cave it its path.

I’m fairly good with small spaces but given the seismic activity in Iceland I was a little apprehensive.

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We crawled through tight spaces and squinted under the light of our head torches at stalactites and stalagmites. Then we turned off our headlights and took in the pitch darkness and utter silence. It was both relaxing and eery.

With the lights on we made the most of the photo opportunities.

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We were probably underground for about 40 minutes. I really enjoyed it but I was quite happy to be back above ground and moving on to our next activity.

Snorkelling Silfra

You may remember Silfra from our drive around the Golden Circle. Silfra is the frissure between the North American and European tectonic plates. I’d first heard about snorkelling between the two continents from Kaelene via her blog Unlocking Kiki. I knew it was something James would love to do so it had to be an option. I actually really wanted to scuba dive Silfra but between the cost and the challenge of managing the buoyancy of a dry suit for the first time meant I had to take it off the list.

We pulled up to Þingvellir National Park and got into our kit.

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I waddled into the water in my flippers and manovered myself into a sort of floating starfish position. At just 2°C my exposed lips went a little numb but the rest of me was pretty warm and dry. I was quickly distracted by the views and all else just floated away.

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The glacial water that runs through Silfra offers some of the clearest water in the world. It’s so clear it feels like you’re looking deep deep down into the depths of the earth.

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As the sunlight flickered through the water I couldn’t get over the views and of course ended up being at the back of the pack completely mesmerised. We only had a disposable camera but the pictures we took are some of my favourite from the whole trip.

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One thing I think everyone should try to fit into their intinerary.

Hallgrimskirkja

Despite it being one of Reykjavik’s best-known landmarks, I have to admit I hadn’t actually heard of Hallgrimskirkja until I started trying to find where the iconic view of the capital came from. But once you’re in town it’s impossible to miss.

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The church was commisioned in 1937 but wasn’t finished until 1986. The design is said to resemble basalt lava flows. I was expecting a tall climb but since it’s quite a modern building there’s a lift right up to the top.

At 73 metres high the church offers some of the best views of the city and beyond.

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Little attention is often paid to the views out to the mountains but I loved seeing how the city thinned out.

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Of course I was still keen to get that iconic snap and patiently waited my turn.

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Between the painted buildings and the sight from up high, Reykjavik looked liked a little cute toy town.

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It was about 8 Euros to enter the church, which I felt was comparative to the price of other things in the city.

Northern Lights

I was so convinced that we wouldn’t see the Northern Lights I decided not to book a tour and rely on having a car to see them if they turned up. But we were so so lucky and saw them for three nights in a row!

The first night was just a ribbon of green in the sky, enough to get me dancing on the spot though. On the second night we went out to Grótta but I failed to take any pictures and the strongest point was whilst we were tucked up in bed.  So when I saw the sky come to life after dinner on our third night I was pretty determined to get out there with my tripod and sat on Reykjavik’s harbour with a few others for well over an hour. It was worth it to watch the sky come to life and take away these snaps.

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I had no idea what I was doing but using a tripod, choosing a slow shutter speed, turning auto-focus off and experimenting with the ISO settings seemed to do the trick.

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A little part of me regretted not doing a tour but that’s life I guess. I still felt so lucky and enjoyed getting to watch my own little show from the convenience of a short walk from our hotel.

Sadly, that brings us to the end of our trip. Although Iceland felt like a once in a lifetime trip (partly due to how expensive it is) I would absolutely love to return. We saw a few campervans on our drives out there and I think it would be a fun way to explore the island in summer.

Have you been to Iceland? Do you have any trips planned?

If you’re planning a trip and have some questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them so leave a comment or get in touch.

As I peeked behind the blinds of our hotel in my PJs on the second morning of our trip, I couldn’t have been happier to see cloudless skies and the promise of a sunny day ahead. When you’re in a country like Iceland getting up early is easy. From what I’d seen in the first 36 hours I was sure that our next adventure along the South Coast would be just as stunning.

Since we were up so early I suggested we grabbed a quick coffee and a pastry for later. James is generally quite obliging about my pursuit of the perfect coffee and before he knew it we were on our way to Reykjavik Roasters.

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We stopped by Sandholt for pastries (which were naturally devoured at the first stop on our journey.)

Although we’d taken the exact same route out of Reykjavik the day before, I still couldn’t believe the beauty of it all.

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Our first stop was about 45 minutes from the city. We quickly discovered that the best thing about the South Coast is that there’s little chance of getting lost and you don’t need to worry about accidentally driving past Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It’s pretty hard to miss.

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The natural power of waterfalls is mesmerising.

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Whilst there was already a decent crowd of tourists I was pleased to find that it didn’t feel overcrowded and so far Iceland has avoided adding those barriers which can all so often spoil the view.

Although, I couldn’t quite believe we could walk right behind it and get *THAT* close.

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Just five minutes away we found our second waterfall of the day, tucked behind a crack in the mountains. Although smaller than the first, as Gljúfrabúi is enclosed the space and the noise really adds to its power. I gingerly climbed up to take a closer look but I was quite happy stepping back to take the pictures.

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(Luckily, James didn’t actually lose his foot in the process!)

We weren’t really clock-watching but we must have been there about an hour. Time just drifted by in Iceland.

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After taking a turning too early, almost driving right into someone’s private land, we found our way to Skogafoss. Our third waterfall of the day.

It’s hard to get bored with waterfalls when they look like this.

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There are far too many photo opportunities to be had.

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We ate lunch at the main restaurant and although it’s expensive it was probably one of the best views I’ve ever had with a grilled sandwich.

With more to see we didn’t really hang around before getting back on the road.

I was pretty excited about our next stop as it promised something different to what we’d seen so far. Solheimajokull would be our only glacier of the trip and it didn’t disappoint.

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It’s hard to put Iceland into words because the landscape just makes your jaw drop in awe.

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(Fancy a dip? 😉 )

You can do your best outdoor gear catalogue look here.

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(Or perhaps just the classic – “I was there”.)

We hardly spent anytime at Solheimajokull and caught up quite a sweat clambering there and back to the car park so that we made it to the end of our journey before sun down. The problem with drifting time is that it’ll catch up with you eventually.

Dyrhólaey was a little trickier to navigate largely since there was a fork in the road and we took the left rather than the right and ended up behind the arch instead of in front of it. All the same, the views were stunning and I felt so excited to be by the coast again.

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The volcanic sand certainly adds a dramatic contrast.

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Our final stop of the journey was Reynisdrangar. Famed for its basalt sea stacks I was sure it would be the perfect end to our day.

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It’s hard to resist climbing up.

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But the sun glistening off the rocks was something else.

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With a drive of over two hours back to Reykjavik, we eventually had to pull ourselves away from the view and get back on the road.

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But the best thing about road trips is chatting all the way back and watching the sun drop behind the horizon.

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In case you’re planning your own road trip here’s a map of the places we visited, plus an extra swimming spot we didn’t make it to in the end.

Have you visited any countries where the nature has blown you away?

I’m SO excited to finally share our trip to Iceland with you, partly because I get to relive the memories but also because (as I’m sure you’re already aware) it’s a beautiful country.

I’d organised the trip for James’ 30th birthday at the end of September and was impressed that I’d managed to keep it secret to the day we actually flew (almost 9 months!) It was pretty strange getting excited about somewhere when the other person can’t join in, but the control freak in me did enjoy all the planning sessions. With Iceland being so popular these days there’s plenty of information out there but Two Feet One World, Unlocking Kiki and Pinterest were my go-to sources.

I’m going to skip our first afternoon there and go straight to our first full day driving around the Golden Circle, a popular route of some of Iceland’s best natural attractions. We set out quite early in the hope that we’d possibly get ahead of some of the tour buses. The problem was wanting to stop to take photos enroute.

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I restrained myself to just the one stop as I was pretty keen to get to our first destination –  Þingvellir National Park. Just a 45 minute or so drive from Reyjavik.

Þingvellir not only offers spectacular views across a rift valley marking the boundary between North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, it also has historical and cultural significance for the country. The national parliament of Iceland was established there back in 930 and operated on this site until 1798.

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It was unbelievable just how much history lay before us and how stunning it was as the seasons were beginning to change.

It’s not surprising why Þingvellir is such a popular place to visit as it’s a great place to understand a little more about Iceland’s culture, which I could have wandered around for hours.

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It’s easy to see why the producers chose to film scenes for Game of Thrones around here.

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As we were stood between the tectonic borders of two continents, I couldn’t quite believe we were actually in Iceland. (But I was surprisingly pretty excited about heading back in a couple of days to delve into its crystal clear glacial water.)

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Iceland quickly makes you realise just how much nature dwarfs humanity and it’s pretty humbling.

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I can’t remember how long we were there for, maybe an hour or so in the end as there was plenty to see. But with so much still to see we were quite conscious of time so we hopped back into the car.

The drive itself is pretty much as spectacular as each stop.

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It reminded me of some of the perks of driving (and being a passenger.)

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Naturally, I was keen to make the most of having a car and added some extra stops on to our trip. The first extra (our second stop of the day), was Kerið.

Kerið is a volcanic crater lake, unusually made of red rather than black volcanic rock. You pay a small entrance fee (about £4 I think) and simply walk in a circle around the crater. This picture doesn’t quite seem to do its sheer size justice. 560ft wide and 180ft deep, it’s hard to imagine until you see it.

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It was quite a blustery day and with no barriers around the edges I honestly pictured either dropping my phone right into it or tripping and tumbling down. So we decided to walk about a quarter of the way round to the highest point above the crater and walk back to the car to make our way to the next stop.

We saw the Geysir Thermal Area before we got up close, both the jets of steam shooting into the air but it is one of the more built up natural attractions of the trip offering a place to eat (and warm up).

Little Geysir may not look impressive on first sight but it gives you a good idea of what’s bubbling under the surface.

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Its big brother Strokkur Geysir is certainly the centre of attention. The fountain geyser erupts once every six to 10 minutes. This means you’re likely to stand there in anticipation of an eruption for about 20 minutes (because once is never enough).

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It’s fascinating to watch it bubbling and it always caught me by surprise.

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The rest of the area gives you this strange sense of other-worldliness I can’t quite explain.

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But like every where in Iceland it offers a pretty epic backdrop.

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Almost proof that you’ve visited somewhere that could be an alien planet.

I had added Bruarfoss and Faxi waterfall to our trip but not having a 4X4 or being brave enough to take a rental car on unknown gravel roads (which we might not have been allowed down anyway) meant we had to cut them out of our journey.

But our final sight-seeing spot made up for anything we might have missed. Gulfoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Europe.

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With Iceland being one of the most popular destinations to visit right now I was a bit worried that the Golden Circle would be crowded. But overall it wasn’t too bad and everyone appeared to respect their surroundings. I quite enjoyed how other visitors looked tiny against this epic waterfall.

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The power of that rushing water was unforgettable.

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After being mesmerised by nature for a good while, we hopped back into the car again for just one more stop.

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As you can imagine there’s a lot of thermal activity in Iceland, which means that you’ll find a few thermal pools you can actually swim in. I decided the Secret Lagoon would be the perfect end to our day and I was quite right.

It is thought to be the earliest swimming pool in Iceland dating back to 1891. What we found there was a simple rectangular pool, beautifully hot from the steaming springs right beside it.

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It’s possibly one of the worst kept secrets in Iceland. But like everywhere else it wasn’t overcrowded and it was much less commerical than the Blue Lagoon.

We made our way home feeling wearily satisfied at having had such an epic day. I chose just one more stop, purely swap driving seats 😉

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In case you’re planning to do the drive yourself, here’s a little map of all the places I’d bookmarked for it.

The drive itself took four hours in total (not including time at each site) and all of the roads we took were in good condition. You’ll need a 4X4 if you plan to go off road, but a normal car should be OK in good weather. I would take advice if you plan to travel in winter.

Have you been or are you planning a trip to Iceland?

After an action-packed first week in Costa Rica, James and I sleepily clambered into our shuttle bus from Monteverde, ready for slower days by the sea. The temperatures rose as we climbed down the mountain and I couldn’t believe the change in climate when we reached our first rest stop. I also couldn’t believe these beautiful birds were casually flying around a tree with a tiny monkey sleeping within it either.

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It’s safe to say that I spent the rest of the journey to the beach feeling alert and excited, looking out for that first glimpse of shimmering sea.

Costa Rica has a beautiful coast line on both the Carribbean and the Pacific, which made settling on a place to spend the week pretty difficult. We chose the Pacific Coast because it worked with our plan to explore the rainforest and the mountains and I elimintated trying to fit the Carribbean Coast from our trip after having already been to the Cayman Islands. We narrowed it down again to Guanacaste as I’d read somewhere that it has more sunshine during the rainy season than the popular Manuel Antonio. I chose the small beach town of Playa Flamingo because it was said to be more relaxed than Tamarindo.

Most of the coast line is hidden behind lush vegetation and there are few roads that take you alongside it, making the anticipation heighten as we were told we were just 20 minutes away. After what seemed like a very long 20 minutes, we finally arrived at our hotel.

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Right next to the beautiful beach, with a crisp cool pool and a balcony to enjoy the sunsets. It couldn’t have looked any better. I’ll admit it didn’t look this perfect on the first day as a few afternoon clouds had gathered, but I saw this view almost every morning when the sky was usually clear from clouds.

As the rest of our holiday blurred into mornings on the beach, afternoons at the pool and evenings drinking cocktails out of coconuts. I thought I’d just share the highlights of our stay.

P L A Y A  F L A M I N G O

The area we were staying in was tiny and the restaurants were pretty limited. As we didn’t plan to hire a car for the whole week I felt a bit concerned about this at first (I am just so used to the endless choices in London!), but after a while it really didn’t matter as I was much more interested in my stunning surroundings.

The beach itself was just the right length to go for a morning walk from one end to the other without getting too tired or hot and there were plenty of places to grab some shade (my favourite being sat under the palm trees.)

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Butterflies fluttered along the stretch of white sand, teasing me into attempts to take their picture.

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(You can imagine how long I hovered around to get this one 😉 )

The waves crashed loudly but there was just enough surf to go in for a paddle.

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Let’s not talk about the moment I got swept up in one of those waves as I turned to my back on the sea to reach the shore. Ouch.

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On top of the glistening sand and the cool blue sea, the sunsets were amazing and I made sure I was there every night at 6pm to see it.

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It’s hard to describe the love of a stunning sunset, I guess it’s the humbling awe of nature’s creations and the marbling of colours right before our eyes.

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James was paddled in the waters, after being brought up in Guernsey and Sark he’s always drawn into the sea, but standing on the shore was enough for me.

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I really wish you could bottle up these calming moments, where nothing seems wrong with the world. But the photos will at least bring back the memories for years to come.

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P L A Y A  C O N C H A L

Playa Conchal is known as one of Guanacaste’s best beaches, famed for it’s stone-white sand and crystal clear waters. As it’s only 20 minutes from Playa Flamingo, there was no way that I was going to miss out on this stunning sight.

It wasn’t the most straightforward beach to get to as we had to park up our hire car in nearby Brasilito (you can drive closer to the beach if you have a 4X4 or you’re a particularly confindent driver on sand!) But it was so worth the effort.

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One of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

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And really peaceful. There were so few people around, you could walk right towards the end of the beach and be the only person there.

The sea was perfectly calm and irresistable as the day got hotter.

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We spent the majority of the day there, reading books, swimming, chatting, playing cards. We left shortly after my favourite time of day.

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That point where the sun is lowering in the sky, the temperature is perfect and you’re in a total relaxed state. Isn’t that feeling one of the best reasons to go on holiday?

P L A Y A  T A M A R I N D O

Playa Tamarindo is known for its surf and attracts the cool crowd.

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It’s much bigger and busier than the other beach towns we went to but I enjoyed a different pace and being somewhere with more of a buzz.

I tried surfing when I was travelling around Australia and my poor upper body strength stopped me from being all that good at it.

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But I was more than happy to sit on a lounger and watch James take a lesson and discover that it’s so much harder than the pros make it look.

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The weather was a little mixed that day but it was nice to relax on a lounger, eat ice cream (which is strangely harder to come by in Costa Rica!), and paddle in the sea.

T H E R E ‘ S  M O R E

There’s always more to do in Costa Rica and you can find the same sort of things we’d done in the mountains on offer from resorts by the beach.

I really wanted to do more of a wildlife tour as it didn’t feel like we’d seen many animals, so we took a boat ride around to Palo Verde National Park. The main aim was to see monkeys in the wild and (as the tour guide told us) we were pretty lucky that day.

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These monkeys are called ‘cappuncino monkeys’ in Costa Rica (I have a feeling there’s an official name for them) and they’re said to be the most friendly.

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We also saw howler monkeys, who were a little scary and made so much noise for something so small. We passed crocodiles, bats and lots of birds too.

James wanted to do scuba diving and I was keen for it too. Luckily our hotel had a dive centre so we had a quick refresher before setting out to sea.

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It was AMAZING. I forgot how exciting scuba diving was and we were treated to turtles, puffer fish, all sorts of star fish, and swam alongside schools of fish too. I wished I’d brought a Go Pro throughout most of the trip but I was desperate for one at that point, just to be able to re-live watching that turtle swim out into the infinite ocean.

The journey there and back was pretty lovely too.

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_ _ _ _

And that, my lovely readers, is the end of our trip to Costa Rica. (Although, I’m still thinking about that coffee farm post!) I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into such a beautiful country.

Here are a few of the last few links, in case you’re planning a trip there one day.

How we got there: Interbus – another good journey, which took about 3 – 4 hours.  We also flew from Tamarindo’s tiny airport back to San Jose for our international flight using Sansa.

Where we stayed: Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa.  A nice, clean hotel, right next to the beach. The breakfast was pretty good and you could get OK snacks for lunch. I have a feeling it was the height of luxury when it was opened, and it’s certainly worthy of a 3.5 star but I wouldn’t go beyond that knowing what you can get in London for 4 stars. The only thing that annoyed me was having to wear a wrist band the whole time we were there because they offer full board.

Where we ate: Coco Loco was my favourite restaurant. It was right on the beach, had some good and fairly cheap food, and offered tasty cocktails. There are only three other restaurants in the area which were pretty good but nothing to shout about. 

Activities: Palo Verde National Park – We booked this from a random guy on the beach, he was much cheaper than the hotel tours but we probably got a cheaper service. That said we probably got the same boat tour. Aqua Center Dive Center – was linked to our hotel and offered us one of the easier scuba dives. You can do snorkelling with them two and the other couple that did it saw some great things too.

Where are you travelling to this summer? Do you have any plans for the rest of the year?

We left Arenal for Monteverde using one of the quickest option possible – a shuttle bus, a boat and another shuttle bus.

The boat would take us across Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake. It was expanded by the Government in 1979 and the dam that runs off it provides around 12% of the country’s electricity. Anything manmade in the midst of beautiful country sounds unappealing but it was all forgotten once we were out on the water.

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We waved goodbye to Arenal, excited to explore somewhere completely new.

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The hills rolled beside us and it felt like the lake could go on and on. But just as I had got into our journey we were pulling up on the shore and heading back into the shuttle bus.

I could hardly complain when the views were like this within a few minutes.

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Monteverde is 1,440m above sea level (the highest parts of London are only 100m!) and known best for its cloud forests, diverse wildlife and outdoor activities. We climbed up and down so many hills on bumpy gravel roads before finally reaching Santa Elena.

I’d booked a last minute tour around a coffee farm for the afternoon so we pretty much dropped our bags at the hotel and hopped into another tour bus. There is so much to tell you about the coffee farm, I’m saving that for future post!

We only had one full day planned in Monteverde but our lingering jet lag came in handy again as we woke up at 7am the next morning and went out to explore Santa Elena.

One of the best things about being in the mountains is all the fresh coffee so of course we started at Beso Espresso.


Powered by the freshest coffee I’ve ever had we covered the tiny town of Santa Elena in about half an hour.

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Before we were picked up for our trip to Selvatura Park to zip line our way through the cloud forest. It was such a fun way to explore!

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We ended on a high with the world’s longest zip line, 1km long! I got such a rush from the speed, the height and views above the forest.

With our feet back on the ground we took to the bridges.

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Before long all we could hear was the wildlife. It was so so peaceful.

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With no one around I got a little silly with the photos.

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But after recovering from a few fits of giggles I was back to enjoying the beauty of the forest.


(Has anyone seen FernGully? I had totally random 90s flashbacks with this view.)

As we reached the end we spotted this beautiful bird.
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Surprisingly, when we got back to Santa Elena we still weren’t done with our exploring so we went on a hunt for a ficus tree I’d read about during a random Google search about things to do in the area.

A ficus wraps itself around a tree, strangles it, and eventually becomes a tree itself. It sounds pretty evil but it’s pretty spectacular in person.

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We’d read that you can climb right up to the top to find an amazing view but as the sun was beginning to drop I chickened out after I climbed up a few feet. I can be a total klutz sometimes and I just pictured getting myself stuck up there!


Can someone braver go back and get a picture for me?

That night we were fast asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow, lulled into a deep sleep with the sounds of the forest flowing through the room.

After five jam-packed days I was starting to feel totally ready for a week by the beach.

_ _ _ _

How we got there: Taxi-Boat-Taxi.

Where we stayed: Hotel Ficus – Huge rooms with a great view over Santa Elena. It was so nice to be somewhere closer to town, even if it did involve trekking up some big hills before and after dinner (all the more reason to order dessert!)

Where we ate: Treehouse Restaurant – The whole restaurant is wrapped around a huge tree and it’s quite fun ducking your head to get to your table. The food was an average American menu but we enjoyed the simplicity for a night. Toro Tinto – A pretty good steakhouse where I had the best burger! One tip I learnt at this point is to check if the 13% sales tax is included in the menu, it can seem pretty cheap until you get a bill with an extra 13% tax and 12.5% service charge.

Activities: Selvatura Park – There are two zip line parks, we chose this one because I’d read that the zip lines go through the forest rather than over it and because it had the longest zipline too. We paid $30 for the photos, which felt a little steep when we only got a picture at the beginning and one section of the zip lines. Ficus tree – We asked for directions from a local tourist information office.

James and I landed at San José airport in the middle of a torrential rain storm, greeted by a swarm of taxi drivers only too willing to take us to our next destination. After being suspended between time zones for 11 hours, my body surprised to find it was only 5pm instead of 12am, I was feeling dazed and confused so we had to pull aside to figure out exactly what we were meant to do next.

Before long we were sailing down a motorway towards our hotel for the night, watching 4X4s charge through the rivers of water running down the street. The taxi driver confirmed it was the start of the rainy season and I had fully prepared for this, but I still had those early holiday butterflies. Will it be as amazing as I’d imagined? Will it be warm and sunny when we eventually reach the beach? Will I see a sloth or a monkey?

As the day quickly dipped into the night, we tried to stay awake for as long as possible by distracting ourselves with food and a few local beers, before eventually giving in and slipping into sleep.

Jet lag is a great natural alarm clock and the next day we were bright-eyed and eager to hop into the shuttle that was taking us to the mountains. The next three hours were spent with my face glued to the glass, as if I was heading to Jurrasic Park and searching for the first sight of a dinosaur. (A thought that I couldn’t shake off after James mentioned the book was set in Costa Rica.)

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Arenal was the first stop of our holiday. It’s well-known for the spectacular active volcano that looks over the town of La Fortuna. The volcano has been asleep since 2010, so sadly there’s no lava to be seen but when you can see it in its full glory, it’s epic. It’s also surrounded by lush rainforests, natural hot springs and abundant wildlife, so there’s loads of other things to see and do there.

We were keen to start exploring as soon as we arrived, so we ditched our backpacks at the hotel.

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And got in a taxi to La Fortuna Waterfalls.

We could hear the thundering water before we could fully see it.

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500 steps down and we were right in front of it.

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There’s something epic and jaw dropping about the power of nature that you can quickly grasp from a waterfall. There’s also something strangely soothing about it too.

You can usually swim quite near to the waterfall but due to the recent rainfall it was too dangerous. So we swam just around the corner, which was equally stunning.

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The upside of travelling to Costa Rica in the low season is that there are far fewer people around well-known spots like this. We took plenty of photos and then made the epic climb back up before returning to our hotel for the night.

Damp from throwing our clothes over our swimwear, we were eager to get back and jump into our hotel’s hot springs. It wasn’t natural like the ones you can pay to visit, but I’m sure it had the same effect. It was the best place to go at the end of the day, so so relaxing and was fun to get into when the heavens opened.

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The next day was our main activity in Arenal and I woke feeling anxious, hopping down waterfalls on a rope (officially called rappelling) and racing around river rapids isn’t something I do often.

The feeling held right up until I got distracted by a family of monkeys swinging in the distance, then returned as I perched on the edge of a 90ft waterfall.

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And as I ziplined out in front of 60ft waterfall to be dropped to the ground.

I was surprised to decide that rappelling was epic. It gets the adrenaline pumping and the scenery is stunning. You don’t have to be super fit to do it, but you have to be OK with heights.

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After five drops of varying heights, we were taken straight to the Balsa River for our next activity, white water rafting.

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I started to feel more confident at this point. In fact, I remember being more anxious at Lee Valley than I was in the middle of Costa Rica! The lush surroundings probably helped.

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We didn’t buy the official photos so these are just some snapshots using an old waterproof camera as we gently rolled down the river before rushing through rapids. It was during one of these parts that we had our first sloth sighting!

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I quickly realised they were going to be pretty hard to see up close, given how high they like to climb and how long they like to sleep up there (17 hours apparently!) But that was one of the great things about these activities, lots of adrenaline but you’re right in the middle of nature too.

The tour guide was fun and friendly, he also made me feel confident that he knew what he was doing (much more so than in Montenegro!) and kept our spirits high with frequent “PURA VIDA!” high fives with our paddles. He even got the truck on the way back from the river to stop so I could get this clear shot of the volcano (it had been covered by clouds up until this point).

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After the rafting we were taken to a local farm for lunch, where we were served a Costa Rican dish that is known as a ‘casado’.

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Slow cooked and mildly spiced meat with rice, refried beans, potatoes and salad. We had this a couple of times in Costa Rica but this one was my favourite. They also showed us how they made coffee in Costa Rica and I had my first fresh cup, which I was very excited about.

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(There is so much more of this to come! 🙂 )

Our last day was a bit more relaxed with a gentle volcano hike through the rainforest.

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The sheer size of it is immense. As the guide talked about the difference between rainforests and jungles I was taken back to geography lessons and I couldn’t quite believe I was in the middle of it all.

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I thought we might see a bit more wildlife on the hike but I’m guessing the nearby volcano has something to do with that! We did save a tiny turtle though!

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We also saw a few different birds (for which Costa Rica is well-known), before getting a pretty great view of Costa Rica’s largest lake, aptly named Lake Arenal.

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And a cloudy view of the volcano.

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But on our final morning, I walked out of our hotel room to sit in the rocking chair on our porch and get stuck into my book. I couldn’t believe that after days of cloudy views I finally got this epic view.

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Then we packed up our belongings and got ready for the next part of our stay in the mountains. Monteverde!

_ _ _ _

How we got there: British Airways now do a direct flight to Costa Rica starting at £550 return. Interbus was a great and affordable way to travel around Costa Rica. They had small buses so few stops, collected us from our hotels, arrived on time, and stopped for refreshments.

Where we stayed: Park Inn by Radisson, exactly what you’d expect from a hotel chain, decent room for an overnight stay in the capital but a bit far out of town to explore the city.  Volcano Lodge & Springs. I was really impressed by this hotel for just £50pn (in low season). The price included a pretty good buffet breakfast, great view of the Arenal Volcano and the hot springs were lovely. The only downside was that it was a 10 minute drive out of town so we had to get a taxi to go out for dinner.

Where we ate: Soda Viquez, good local food and pretty cheap. Our hotel, tasty food from a mid-priced menu with a bit of a random mix of Costa Rican and other cuisines.

Activities: La Fortuna Waterfall, rappelling & white water rafting, Arenal Volcano National Park hike (organised through our hotel, but I think you can also do it on your own with a fee at the National Park entrance).

Have you been to Costa Rica or done any exciting activities on holiday?

Look out more Costa Rican adventures over the next few weeks, mixed in with a few London ones of course 🙂