Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary Trip to Costa Rica
In January of 2016, I went to Costa Rica for my first time for a PaleOMG Retreat. While I was there, I fell in love with the beaches, the plantains, and the water. But the whole time I kept thinking about how I wished my husband was there to experience it with me. So when we got home from our wedding in Jamaica last year and while I was having the post-wedding blues, I decided to book a trip to Costa Rica for our 1 year wedding anniversary so he could experience it himself.
If you haven’t been to Costa Rica, it’s an incredibly lush country with palm tree farms everywhere, fantastic beaches, and incredibly kind people. I went to Manuel Antonio the first time and loved it so much that I decided we should stay there again. Manuel Antonio is about 3 hours drive from the San Jose airport so instead of making that drive like I did my first time, I booked us a little puddle jumper flight through Sansa Air which is a quick 20 minute flight to Quepos Airport. Since we took the redeye out the night before, we landed in Quepos around 2pm and got to our Airbnb in 20 minutes. Easy peasy! The first place we stayed at was from a recommendation by a reader! This treehouse in Quepos is up some hilly and bumpy roads into the jungle. And it is literally a treehouse in the jungle, but it has a full functioning kitchen, running water, full bathroom and an amazing deck to have coffee on in the mornings. But be sure it’s later in the morning because around 5am, you have monkeys playing EVERYWHERE. And I’m sure they would love a little coffee mug souvenir to take with them. What’s super cool about the treehouse, other than it being a full functioning treehouse (like, whaaaaat?) is that it’s all mesh and wire everywhere so you can see out into the night and while the sun is rising and breeze is blowing in. And when the monkeys coming to jump on your roof like a trampoline, you get to see it all! Check out my video here! We saw so many different creatures while we were there, even a little lizard in our room!
Since we landed pretty early the first day, we first ventured out to the Marina which has a ton of shops and restaurants to check out. Since we had just landed and make the hilly walk down to the Marina, we decided we were in major need of a cocktail before dinner. One cocktail turned in two before we grabbed a cab to one of my favorite spots in Manuel Antonio – Café Milagro. I went to Café Milagro many times the first time I went to Costa Rica so I was excited to go back again for their delicious food and another cocktail to top it all off! I tried the pork loin and mojito and both were perfection! After dinner, we headed to El Avión for a cocktail at sunset. This bar has an amazing view overlooking the ocean and beach. And once we were pretty liquored up, we decided to walk to the beach. The thing about Manuel Antonio is that it’s a little town built throughout these mountains and hills, with the beach at the bottom. So if you want to get anywhere, you can take a cab, the bus or you can walk. BUT, the walk can get pretty damn sketchy since there aren’t really any sidewalks and many, many blind corners. But hey, cocktails were pumping through our blood so we walked it to the beach to dip our toes in the sand before our first day came to a close. And what did we do after that? One last cocktail, duuuuuh! And then we ventured our way back to the treehouse.
The only problem we ran into that night was our cab driver wouldn’t drive us all the way to the treehouse because the roads are so rough. So he dropped us off at the marina and we walked our way up the pitch black road. This had bad idea written all over it. I was exhausted from not sleeping, I was 4 or 5 cocktails deep, it was extremely hot that day, we didn’t actually know the roads so we kept getting confused at the forks, and then dogs came running after us barking. The only light we had was my cellphone and the moonlight reflecting off my tears. I seriously lost it. Deep crying lost it. I was so freaked out we wouldn’t be able to find our place, but we did. And all was fine. Dramatic per usual, Juli. And the monkeys waking us up in the morning made it all better! Seriously the coolest thing to wake up to.
The next day we decided to head back to Café Milagro for breakfast before heading to the beach for the day. They have the best coffee drinks and awesome staff so I couldn’t wait to go back. After breakfast, we headed to the beach for the day. Most of our trip was filled with days spent at the beach because both of us love the water so much. I grew up at the pool and my husband grew up at the lake, so both of us were ready to get in the water, on boards, and get our ears filled with sand. At Playa Manuel Antonio, you can rent lawn chairs and umbrellas and staff will even bring you drinks and food. It was less expensive to buy drinks at the Supermarket across the street so we would wander over there when we got thirsty, but we ordered food on the beach and it was seriously delicious! One day I ordered steak fajitas and the next day I got the chicken fajitas. It was never hard to make good food decisions when we were in Costa Rica. They have protein, carbs and fat no matter where you go!
Another thing that is great about the beach is that you can rent surfboards and boogie boards. So that’s exactly what we did! We found someone who would rent it to us for $5 for the entire day so we were able to hang out on the beach with the boards as long as we wanted. After surfing in tiny waves in La Jolla, I wasn’t feeling quite confident enough for the bigger ones in Costa Rica, so I decided boogie boarding would be my new sport of choice. Come to find out, boogie boarding is way easier and WAY more fun than surfing, with a much higher success rate. Pretty much 99.9% success rate. I spent our beach days feeling like a kid in my rash guard and boogie board in tow. It was awesome. I seriously felt drunk from happiness and laughter. And drunk from sun poisoning after being in the water so much. Seriously felt like hell for a while from that sunburn.
After our first couple days exploring the beach and Quepos, we decided that we wanted to be a little closer to town so we booked the rest of our trip at La Mansion Inn. If you are looking for a hotel with the most amazing view, amenities, wifi, and a pool – this hotel is for you.
La Mansion Inn overlooks both Playa Manuel Antonio and The Marina. You get views from both sides of the property! They also have a pool, viewing deck for tanning and lunch, a wonderful restaurant with seriously great food, a bar, amazing friendly staff that is always helpful (especially with setting up excursions) and extremely spacious rooms with the some of the best views I’ve ever experienced. Breakfast is included which was helpful so we didn’t have to head out looking for food while super hungry. We spent so much time in the amazing pool and at their pool bar before heading out to the beach. It was seriously awesome.
When we weren’t at the beach or at the pool…or out drinking cocktails…we were out on a couple excursions. Looking back, both of us agree that we would have probably just stayed on the beach instead of doing the excursions. We love staying moving on trips and getting our exercise in with excursions and exploring different places, but we were getting PLENTY of exercise walking everywhere and playing in the water. But we did try a couple excursions including a catamaran cruise at sunset where you get to snorkel, watch for fun sea creatures, and have dinner on the boat while watching the sunset. We were lucky because they say that the cruise usually has 300 people on it and ours only had 50 people on it that day, so it was super spacious. What made that catamaran cruise worth it was seeing dolphins!! We were able to see a handful of dolphins jumping out of the water and flopping all over the place. I’ve never seen dolphins in the wild like that so that was pretty damn cool.
The other excursion we decided to try out was an ATV tour. This ATV tour took us through these palm tree fields then up a mountain and to the Rainmaker Trail. It’s thing that’s cool about this hike is that it leads you to waterfalls and little swimming holes, which is pretty cool! And you get to see a ton of little creatures throughout. We didn’t know there was a hike included and neither of us like hiking. I get it, there are beautiful things to see when hiking, but I can walk uphill through a jungle without paying for it. So we didn’t love that part. We wanted to go fast like we had back in Phoenix on one of our trips, especially since it was only the 2 of us on the excursion that day. But we got to see some incredible views with the tour guide when he took us off course since it was only two of us and he was trying to waste some time. And at the end, they serve you a traditional Costa Rica meal out of this cute hut and it was seriously the best meal I had the entire trip! So that made it worth it. End a day with food and I’m into it.
When we weren’t watching monkeys and sloths, playing in the water like children, or out on excursions, we simply enjoyed all the food and drink we could. They have a ton of Supermarkets around town where I was able to grab some snacks like these crazy amazing plantain chips and coconut waters with huge chunks of coconut in them. And we also spent a couple nights at a restaurant called Emilio’s Café , which was right down the street from our hotel and right next to Café Milagro. They have seriously amazing coffee and cocktails and we had some great meals there, too!
If you’re looking for an amazing place to visit (or move to, let’s be real), Manuel Antonio is such an amazing place and I highly recommend it. I really want to go back to Costa Rica and visit other areas because I’ve heard great things about pretty much every other city. I can’t wait for us to go back again someday! Until then, I need to start planning our 2 year anniversary. I’m thinking Hawaii!! Planning trips this far ahead of time proved to be not only financially helpful since half the trip was already paid for ahead of time, but it kept us from feeling too stressed out since it was planned for so long. Seriously so excited for another year with my husband and to see what happens! Cheers to love and beautiful exploring!
Manuel Antonio/Quepos Quick Summary:
- Sansa or Nature Air – for an easy 20 minute flight to Quepos (instead of 3 hour drive)
- Airbnb Treehouse – for the jungle experience
- La Mansion Inn – for views and amenities
- The Marina – for shops and restaurants (and amazing sunset when it’s not cloudy)
- Café Milagro – for delicious food and amazing coffee
- Emilio’s Café – for amazing views and delicious food (and dessert!!)
- El Avian – for views and delicious cocktails
- Playa Manuel Antonio – rent lawn chairs and water sports equipment, plus they will serve food and drink to you on the beach
- Ocean King Catamaran Cruise – for whale and dolphin watching
- FourTrax ATV Tour – ATV, hiking, swimming and home cooked meal
- Rainmaker Trail – you can hike this whole trail and it was super cool things to look at, plus homemade beer and food at the end of the trail
Stay tuned on the podcast this week – I’ll be sharing even more details and experiences from the trip!
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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36 thoughts on “Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary Trip to Costa Rica”
Great info! Thank you! What was the average price range for meals and did you have to exchange US dollars into whatever currency Costa Rica uses?
it depends where you go, but places like cafe milagro and emilio’s are pretty close to what you would get in the states ($10-$20 depending on the time of day) but if you go to more “hole in the wall” local spots, it’s definitely a little cheaper. and you can use US dollars, they just give you colones back. and you can always exchange money at the airport!
Love this post! We went to Tamarindo, CR for our 15th anniversary and want to go back for our 20th. Would love to see other parts of CR… I am researching everything you have posted:)
Loved the west side of Costa Rica when we went. Looks like this area should be added to the list…We also went to Kauai for our honeymoon! Beautiful scenery and hiking (which we’re in to) but not the best food scene so I’d reccomend Maui for you guys! (Wailea in particular)
If you are looking at Hawaii, you should absolutely go to Kauai!! It is seriously amazing and very low key
thanks for the recommendation!
I totally second Kaua’i!!! We honeymooned there and it felt exclusive…no big buildings and the beach on the north shore was deserted! We did a helicopter tour, a catamaran tour, hiked Waimea, a ziplining tour, and an ATV tour. We are like you two, in that we don’t like to sit still, BUT after all we did, we sort of regret not veggin’ and just hanging out on the beach (and doing a couples massage!). When/if we go back, we plan to do just that–that place is beautiful. The views are breathtaking, and if you go, make sure to order a lavaflow or 2 or 3 😉 Also, rent a convertible.
PS: Costa looks amazing and now I totally want to go!
We stayed in Kekaha which is on the south-west side of the island near the na’pali coast, which is literally the opposite side of the island from where the touristy parts are. Good news, it was so quiet and very private, bad news is it was about 20-30 minutes from any restaurants or anything. if we went back, we’d definitely stay in Poipu!
Loving your travel posts! You’ve got me hooked on visiting San Diego, Costa Rica, and I already booked a trip to Dallas this fall staying at The Joule 🙂 You asked if readers would like ‘Live Instagram stories’ yesterday & I didn’t know if you received any feedback. I like the Live feature and love tuning in when I can. It almost feels like you’re ‘hanging out’ with the people you follow. I’m always bummed if I can’t tune it & look forward to the next time they announce they’re doing it again! Thanks again for all the breakfast ideas on Instagram, I love seeing how easy it is to put together egg-free options on your stories. You’re the best!
Lol, careful with which San Diego you go, there is a San Diego a few miles east from the capital wich is technically a slum, or a bad neighborhood, you don’t want to go to that San Diego 😉
that’s so cool to hear! you’re going to love the joule hotel, it’s amazing! definitely get coffee from their coffee shop and try their restaurants and bars!
Thanks for the info! I have been waiting for it. We are getting married in September and are trying to figure out where to go on our honeymoon in the Caribbean to and Costa Rica is one of the ones on our list. Still need to really sit down and figure it out!
Hi. Just in case, remember the rainy season goes from May through November here, so in September you’ll get a lot of rain, and I mean a lot; you will probably get sunny, warm mornings but it always rains after 1pm. The dry season starts around December and ends around April – May ,we’re having the first showers of the year these days.
Thanks for the advice/tip Adrian!
As I stated in another one of your CR posts, my family and I just got back from Manuel Antonio in March…so so fabulous! It was so cool to read your post, and mentally re-visit where we had our Best. Vacation. Ever! Cafe Milagro rocks, I think Adrienne (the owner) is a Denver girl, too. You can be as busy or as lazy as you want to be in this part of Costa Rica…ziplining, fishing, surfing, or just hanging on the beach. I’m soooooo ready to go back!
And now, a plug for the place we stayed…Villa Perezoso. Centrally located, near everything you mentioned in the post. A private home with…wait for it…a full staff! A chef, housekeepers, and a house manager. Having a chef was just amazing. We planned the menus together, and everything was so fresh and tasty. The food was local and very clean. I maintain a Paleo/anti-inflammatory diet, and Jose the chef made sure every meal had suitable dishes for me. And yes, when the rest of the family was gorging on an amazing non-Paleo dessert, Jose always had a beautiful fruit plate with a hunk of dark chocolate for me to enjoy. Randall, the house manager, arranged for all of our transportation and excursions. I just can’t say enough great things about this beautiful home and amazing staff! You gotta check it out:
Thanks for the post that brought back such great memories, Juli!!!
Do you think you’ll do another 30 Under 30 trip?? I got super jealous listing to Joy and Claire talk about their Coasta Rica trip, but I was on my honeymoon then. I’d love to travel with like minded people!!
i’m not sure! no plan to at this moment but maybe someday in the future!
Yes! Thank you for this! We are honeymooning in August in Costa Rica!
Thanks for the info! Im from Costa Rica and these tips help me a lot to prepare for my next trip!!!
Manuel Antonio is so special…. i had my first trip with my boyfriend there .. now husband!
And also it was the place where I always went with my family ????
Im glad you enjoyed my country and hopefully you will be back soon!!!
So awesome and the tacos look amazing! Thanks for being so legit Juli! Since following your blog I have become so much more confident in myself, I have started eating 99% paleo (aside from the very occasional cocktail or rice) and I joined (and love) a crossfit gym. You’re an inspiration, and I am glad I am not the only girl in the world that kind of, sort of hates people.
Awesome! Thank you!!
In your instagram you mentioned you wanted to change up your scenery because of some crappy experiences your first day. Were you referring to getting lost and the dogs barking and all that on the first night, or did something else happen at your first location?
yes, that experience
Looks like a fantastic vacation and loved that you used Airbnb for part of the week! Perfect mix!
I traveled to CR in high school and then again a few years ago, I can’t believe how much it has changed in the last 20 years! I’d recommend checking out Samara on your next trip. 🙂
I am in Maui with my husband for our annual anniversary trip. Super amazing! I recommend spending a day or two in Honolulu and then going to another island. We have been going to a crossfit gym down the street as well and that has been very fun.
I was in Costa Rica the same time you were! I stayed in Jaco and definitely recommend visiting that area if you do go back. It was an awesome beach/surf town with a lot of restaurants and shops.
I loved eating rice and beans at breakfast, and tried to recreate it as soon as I got back from. Definitely not the same without the Salsa Lizano!
I definitely want to visit Manuel Antonio when I go back to Costa Rica because I only saw birds, no monkeys 🙁
I loved Costa Rica! I went to La Fortuna which was amazing and did ziplining and waterfall rappelling, and went relaxing in a hot springs restory! So much fun. We did a hike that accidentally ended up being over 6 miles round trip but we got to play in the base of a waterfall so that was fun. We also went to Jaco, I wouldn’t recommend it. It reminds me of Myrtle Beach/ Daytona Beach (very commercial, cheap tourist beach towns, sorry to anyone who lives there but you know it’s true). We actually hated walking around Jaco so much we booked a day trip to Manuel Antonio which was great, I want to go back just to Manuel Antonio! But oh my goodness do I miss the coffee and food in Costa Rica!
Happy anniversary! Sounds like you had a ton of excitement. You’re so adventurous. Looking forward to hearing your podcast about your trip too. XO.
Costa Rica is so great. I’ve been 3 times and will go again. Haven’t been to Manuel Antonio in over 10 years but I hear it’s getting pretty built up. My favorite place is Monteverde (the cloud forest), it’s incredible. La Fortuna/Vulcan Arenal (hot springs are fabulous) and Lake Arenal are also great. Montezuma beach (but no swimming). Osa Peninsula – more wild, super hot jungle but the kayaking in the mangroves is fantastic. I haven’t even been to the Caribbean side or the Pacific surfing beaches. Love it.
Do you use natural/safer sunscreen? What kind do you use? Sorry if you have talked about this elsewhere and I missed it – love your blog!
i’m not sure if this brand is all natural, but i love SuperGoop. their stuff is amazing. but i know beauty counter has some great all natural ones!
Would be that a dream trip? *-*
I wish I could take my girlfriend to a place like that on our 4 year dating anniversary 🙂
Btw, great post! Very detailed
I’m a big time PaleOMG blog reader and now obsessed with your podcast!! I’m in the market for some new traveling experience and I think Costa Rica sounds amazing for my boyfriend and I. Did you find that it was a super expensive trip or was it decently cost effective?
**Side note: I can’t wait to make your new pumpkin pie cookie crisp recipe this weekend!! Pictures to come! **
not crazy expensive, but not super cheap either! you can definitely do it up cheaper when you aren’t in as touristy areas, though!
I stumbled across your blog today while googling paleo beef stew crockpot recipes — obsessed! I saw you have a travel section so I thought hmmm what are the odds she went to costa rica. I booked a trip to Costa Rica for me and the boyf, 10 days in Feb. Not only did you go to Costa Rica, you stayed where we are staying! Although we are not staying at the Tree House, but we are staying in the apartment that is on the same premises, owned by Thomas and Lili as well. (The tree house was unfortunately all booked). I am so happy to read what a positive experience you had in Quepos. Thank you for the great read. I now follow you on IG as well. Can’t wait to see future posts!
that’s so awesome!! what a small world!