A Mega Combo Adventure at Buena Vista Lodge, Costa Rica
by Jessica Percy-Campbell
My fascination with Costa Rica started when my grandmother brought me back a funky coconut carved monkey with marble-eyes and twisted-wire glasses as a souvenir when I was five years old. Since then, I’ve been fantasizing about visiting the jungle and all the awesome wildlife it has to offer. I finally crossed Costa Rica off my bucket list this past August, and it was everything I’ve ever dreamed of.
As I suspected, Costa Rica is an animal lover’s paradise, with everything from little iguanas scurrying across your path to the eerie sound of howler monkeys in the trees, to anteater and raccoon families shuffling around in the bushes. You can often find great snorkelling right off beach with schools of tropical fish swimming around your ankles steps from the shore. I even saw schools of fish jumping out of the water in unison! I recommend wearing water shoes, as there were many baby sting rays in the water — adorable to look at, but very painful to step on by mistake.
My mom, my boyfriend Wes and I ventured to Costa Rica for the first time together. Hands down, I think we can all agree the highlight of our trip was zip-lining through treetops swarming with gigantic howler monkeys, smothering ourselves in volcanic mud and bathing in natural hot springs in Guanacaste with AMStar’s Mega Combo Tropical Adventure Package
This all took place at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure about an hour from the unlimited luxury of Dreams Las Mareas Resort and Spa. Our tour guide, Christian, was very informative and had the bus cracking up with laughter (except me, I was trying my best to catch just “5 more minutes” of beauty sleep before we got there). After a short horseback ride and 10 minutes in a steamy sauna, I got my first mud bath experience which was so fun. Splashing around and smearing mud on my face made me feel like a kid again! It also made my skin ultra soft.
After getting hosed down, we lazed around in five different natural pools heated by the Rincon de la Vieja volcano. What could be more relaxing? I honestly could have stayed there all day. There was even a cash bar beside the spa.
About 30 minutes later (too soon if you ask me), a tractor ride took us back up the hill. My boyfriend, Wes, being the adrenaline-junkie that he is, slid down a terrifying 420-foot-long waterslide while my mom and I marvelled at some monkeys jumping around the trees and some coatis roaming around on the ground (Costa Rican raccoon cousins).
I was pleasantly surprised to find a great vegan lunch waiting for me at the buffet. Paranoid from nearly starving to death during past tours on other trips, I had frantically stuffed four pieces of white bread and some packets of jam in my purse earlier that morning in case there was nothing for me to eat during the excursion. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to eat them.
The traditional Central-American buffet at Buena Vista offered lovely local coffee and sweet tropical fruit punch, and included a nice buffet of vegan options to choose from. I chose white rice with black beans, cucumber and tomato salad alongside a carrot and green bean medley. There were other choices available for me as well, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce and other fried veggies. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting such a decent variety to choose from. Sometimes, as a vegan traveler, you are lucky to get a substandard bowl of steamed veggies with no butter!
Costa Rica, as you may have guessed, is scorching hot even on a cold day, so we welcomed the afternoon sprinkling rain with open arms. The hearty lunch gave me more than enough energy to get pumped for the rest of the day hiking through the jungle and 10 zip lines through the treetops. The zip-lining crew was full of beans, racing ahead of one another, joking around, and making everyone else feel at ease. Even though I was a little bit nervous at first (I had only once tried it in Mexico), I was zipping through those canopies like a pro in no time. My only regret is that I didn’t try to go upside down like they taunted me to.
With a national motto like “pura vida” (something like “hakuna matata”) it’s no wonder Costa Rica has been named the happiest place on earth. A country running on renewable energy with vibrant green rain-forests and breathtaking beaches has a lot to be happy about. Pura vida is definitely the lifestyle for me!
AMStar: AMStar offers tours, airport shuttles and transfers in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Hawaii and Costa Rica. You can browse a complete listing of the tours available in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, on their Tour Activity Description Listing. Their Mega Combo tour is a full day of horseback riding, hot springs and zip-lining. AMStar has built a reputation for providing experienced guides as well as superior reliability, new vehicles and rigorous safety standards. Note that some tours have minimum and maximum age requirements. Cost is from $116 USD pp and includes transportation, admission and lunch
Costa Rica: Learn more about Costa Rica by visiting the Official Visit Costa Rica website.
For more tips on vegan-inspired travel to the world’s best sun destinations, check out these other delicious posts by the Vegan Vacationista. Or subscribe to the free A Taste for Travel newsletter.
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You can also read more about Dreams Las Mareas Resort & Spa in Our Wild Planet: An Intergenerational Getaway to Costa Rica, recognized with an award of excellence by the North America Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) in 2015.