Nia’s Travel Diaries: Costa Rica, Central America
Wondering what international travel looks like following the COVID-19 pandemic? Follow along with Notiq Agency founder and CEO Nia Hines as she explores some of the world’s most stunning destinations and shares first-hand insights in this new blog post series called “Nia’s Travel Diaries.”
Why Costa Rica?
I chose Costa Rica as a must-visit Wanderlust by Notiq™ getaway because Central America is a region that many people overlook when thinking about where to vacation. My goal with the Wanderlust by Notiq™ travel opportunities is to give my clients exposure to destinations they may not have initially thought to visit or may not feel comfortable traveling to by themselves or with their family. When clients join me on our Wanderlust trip, I’m with them every step of the way to ensure the entire group gets top-notch service. Additionally, Costa Rica served as the perfect destination to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday! Our trip lasted from May 27 – June 1.
BEFORE THE FLIGHT
Pro tip: If you’re checking luggage for your flight, plan to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of your departure time. Lines are long! I also suggest that you apply for Global Entry to avoid having to take off your shoes and remove your laptop from your suitcase—things that can significantly slow you down in the security line. It will also allow you to enter and exit the United States more easily for international trips.
After our less than 4-hour flight to Costa Rica from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, we landed at Liberia Airport, and the customs line took 2 hours to get through, so be sure you pack your patience! Things are very different than it was pre-COVID-19. These countries are getting an influx of travelers excited to be out exploring the world again. Thankfully we had snacks and water to get us through the long wait time. We also stopped at Duty Free (a widespread airport convenience store) to grab some items on our way out before we headed to baggage claim.
Once we were through, we greeted my mom with a “Happy Birthday” sign (she loved it!), and found our way to our guide, who provided us with private transportation (a perk of our Wanderlust by Notiq™ getaways—you get the VIP treatment). Pro top: Get WhatsApp downloaded for you and your guide to communicate, because that’s who you can contact for local things while you’re in the area. While the driver may not always speak English when traveling internationally, your guide usually will if they’re leading travelers from the United States.
Speaking of the VIP treatment on our Wanderlust trips: We were personally welcomed by the staff at Planet Hollywood Costa Rica at the VIP check-in desk, plus we had access to the VIP lounge, where upgraded drinks and snacks awaited us.
Once we checked into our home for the next week in the Guanacaste Province, of course, the first thing on our mind was food! So we settled into our rooms and met for a casual dinner at the resort’s on-site restaurant before resting up for the next day’s activities.
Our second day in Costa Rica included exploring local shops and dining at local restaurants—a given for any itinerary—but the real highlight was the Arenal Volcano Mistico tour. The guided excursion began with a hike through the rainforest that led up to an afternoon of relaxing in Arenal’s only natural hot spring, Eco Termales Hot Springs, which was situated about 3 hours from our resort in Mistico Park, which allowed us to take in Costa Rica’s scenic environment. (Costa Rica is a very eco-friendly destination, and the country’s focus for travelers is on sustainable luxury, so we definitely got a taste of that life.) During the excursion, we got to walk across hanging bridges and see a variety of animals, insects, and plants, and even go tubing down the Arenal River. It was a memorable afternoon, to say the least!
After a day of hiking and exploring, it was time to kick our feet up, so we reached out to our personal guide through WhatsApp and had them pick us up and take us to two local beaches: Playa Hermosa, our first stop, just 35 minutes from our resort, where we had a great lunch (think: deep-fried red snapper—yum!) and drinks, and Del Coco Beach, a short 15-minute drive from our first stop, where we also ate and imbibed some more. Pro tip: Always include a free day in your travel itineraries! You need those days on long trips where you don’t have any major commitments and can just relax. (See my other expert tips for curating the perfect travel itinerary here.)
Our fourth day in Costa Rica was a special day, because we celebrated my mom’s 70th birthday! To toast her milestone, we had a fun photoshoot on the black-sand beach at the resort with a local photographer (pro tip: some resorts require fees to bring outside guests onto the resort, so confirm with where you stay if you’re looking to do something similar), and then grabbed dinner that evening to seal her 70th birthday celebration!
As an optional excursion, we kicked off our fifth day by walking to Marina Papagayo for lunch (the views are unbeatable), stopping along the way for a photo op at the absolutely gorgeous Peninsula Papagayo Club & Resort, dubbed Latin America’s ultimate coastal retreat. Before walking back to our resort, we sat on the beach’s petrified wood to soak in the views. It was a perfect day mixed with just the right amount of exercise, food, and relaxation!
On the final day, we kept it simple: a nice breakfast before departing for Liberia Airport, just 32 minutes from our resort. ¡Adios, Costa Rica!
Here are my own personal takeaways from my trip to Costa Rica, being shared to help you create your own pro/con list when deciding whether you want to visit this destination!
What I Liked:
- Costa Rica is eco-friendly, which makes for unique experiences.
- The country is perfect for relaxing and recharging (I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone looking for a high-energy nightlife scene).
- It’s also perfect for being outdoors, so nature-lovers would thrive at this destination.
What I’d Do Differently:
- I felt so silly not knowing Spanish, this trip reminded me of how much I really need to brush up on my Spanish speaking skills! Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything. Every destination offers something different, and visiting these destinations allows me to more intelligently explain and communicate to my clients the differences between many destinations when I’ve had the opportunity to explore them first-hand. I pride myself in being a well-traveled advisor.
Wishing you safe travels,
Have questions about traveling to Costa Rica or traveling in general? Want to book a group trip with Notiq Agency? Visit us at www.notiqagency.com/services to set up a consultation!
Nia Hines is the founder and chief experience officer of Notiq Agency, which offers extensive group-travel services. She has a passion for travel, planning, and organization, as well as a deep love for creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences. As an extremely well-traveled advisor, some of her favorite destinations she’s experienced include Cape Town, Hawaii, Masai Mara, and Nice.