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.

Mountain views enroute to Rincon de la Vieja

Mountain views enroute to Rincon de la Vieja in Costa Rica Credit Jaden Gonsalves

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.

Dreams Las Mareas is located on a pristine stretch of coast in Guanacaste Costa Rica Photo Credit AMResorts

Dreams Las Mareas is located on a pristine stretch of coast in Guanacaste Costa Rica Photo Credit AMResorts

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 

Spend a day in the rainforest at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure in Costa Rica

Spend a day in the rainforest at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure in Costa Rica

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.

mud bath for two at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure

Mud bath for two at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure in Costa Rica

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.

Soaking in a volcanic thermal pool in Rincon de la Vieja Park Costa Rica

Soaking in a volcanic thermal pool in Rincon de la Vieja Park Costa Rica

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).

Caracara bird in Costa Rica Credit: Jaden Gonsalves

Caracara bird in Costa Rica Credit: Jaden Gonsalves

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.  

Waterslide at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure

Waterslide at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure Credit: Jaden Gonsalves

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!

Culinary experiences at Buena Vista Lodge and Adventure in Costa Rica

Culinary experiences at Buena Vista Lodge and Adventure in Costa Rica

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.

Zip-lining or canopy tours are a thrilling way to experience Costa Rica's volcanoes and rainforest

Zip-lining or canopy tours are a thrilling way to experience Costa Rica’s volcanoes and rainforest

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!

Travel Planner

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.

Bahamas: Breezes Resort Rebounds After Hurricane Matthew 

Florida: Vegan Festivals, Food and Cocktails in Florida Keys and Miami  

Cancun: The Stuff Vegan Dreams are Made Of 

Kauai: 3 Top Vegan Eats on Kauai 

Aruba: Finding Vegan Heaven 

Panama: Secrets Playa Bonita Panama: A Paradise for Nature Lovers 


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.

Costa Rica Dreams Las Mareas swim-out suites offer luxury in the heart of nature

Costa Rica Dreams Las Mareas swim-out suites offer luxury in the heart of nature Credit Jaden Gonsalves

 

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Showing 12 comments
  • Jaime S.
    Reply

    Is the Buena Vista Lodge part of the Dreams package or is it an additional charge ? Looks like a blast!

    • Jess
      Reply

      It’s an extra but totally worth it!!

  • Cindy McCain
    Reply

    I love the swim-out suites and enjoyed seeing another part of Costa Rica. Thanks for all the great info. I need to check out your Aruba post, too, since I’m “close” living in the DR.

    • Jess
      Reply

      Cool! Aruba is one of my favourite vacation spots, very beautiful

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure looks wonderful. Although I’m sure it would be a great way to see the Costa Rican rainforest I don’t think I’m up for ziplining. But the soak in the volcanic thermal pool is another story – sounds great.

    • Jess
      Reply

      I didn’t think I was up for it either but once I tried it now I’m dying to try it again!

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Reply

    Hi, Jess. I love Costa Rica, too. I spent a week in Puerto Viejo (exactly two years ago, for the Chocolate Fest!) and have visited both coasts via a cruise ship, but I’d love to take in the Dreams Las Mareas Resort & Spa. Definitely looks like my kind of place! By the way, for point of clarification, I didn’t think that Vegans ate butter (or any animal by-products.) I’m assuming that when you mentioned butter, you mean a plant-based alternative?

    • Jess
      Reply

      Hi! Thanks for the comment. Yeah Costa Rica seems like the type of place you can visit again and again! You’re right about vegans not eating butter (except for plant based versions like Becel vegan or Earth Blanace), I was just eluding to the fact that sometimes when you tell a cook about your diet at a resto or while traveling, all they can come up with is plain steamed veggies and it’s pretty boring and uncreative (imagine eating that for dinner multiple times a row on a trip! Bleh!) my vegan pal and I often joke about making an Instagram of all the horribly uninspired food we’ve received at restaurants over the years (a dry baked potato with nothing to dress it with.. A green salad that’s literally only lettuce and onion with oil and vinegar…or at upscale places you might get a fancy twisted cucumber peel with decorative diced tomatoes for dinner.. Where’s the substance?). I’m grateful that didn’t happen in Costa Rica at Buena Vista or Dreams resort, people were very courteous.

  • noel
    Reply

    Well this is quite upscale and really nice for Costa Rica, I could probably do that slide and zip line all day long and then have a nice long buffet meal and siesta.

  • alexa meisler
    Reply

    Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure looks super fun. My son would love it. Think it needs to go on the ‘travel to do’ list!

  • Debbra Dunning Brouillette
    Reply

    Costa Rica has been on my list for years! I would love seeing all the birds and wildlife! Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure will now be on my “radar!” Thanks for the post.

  • Culture Tripper
    Reply

    Lovely photos! I’m not sure about ziplining with monkeys but I would be soooo ‘into’ those Costa Rican hot springs.

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