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A Suitcase Sized Present

Raise Winter Spirits with a Getaway to Costa Rica

Article by Ashley Lesniakowski

Photography by Ashley & Lauren Lesniakowski

Originally published in Conroe City Lifestyle

A chill goes up my spine at the mere thought of colder weather. If this sounds like you, then let me introduce you to your black sand oasis. More specifically, the country of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a mountainous place full of rainforests with hidden secrets and furry friends among the trees. I was lucky enough to travel to this gorgeous country during the off-season this past July. However, the best time to travel to Costa Rica is now, in winter, when the temperature there rises. December is the perfect time to acquaint yourself with this stunning country. 

Unfortunately, December also happens to be one of the busiest seasons for air travel, with about 75 million people traveling by air for the holidays. Last year, 1.6 million of them went through George Bush International. So, do some preventative planning.

"I would always recommend allowing extra time at the airport during the holidays, especially Christmas!" says Katie Hernandez, a Houston-based travel agent with Happy Day Getaways. She recommends arriving at IAH early and allowing plenty of time before your flight boards. She also had a few extra tips to help make the journey as smooth as possible.

"To help prevent lost or stolen baggage, it is ideal to purchase Apple air tags (or equivalent) so you can easily track your baggage," says Hernandez.

Our stay was central to a city in the Guanacaste Province on the Pacific side of the country: Playa Hermosa. There are hundreds of hotels and rentals in the country, including the VRBO home we stayed at. Like Katie, many travel agents agree that renting a car in Costa Rica will likely complicate your trip.

"The roads can be in rough conditions, and it can be tricky to navigate through the rural areas. For local city transportation and traveling across the country, Costa Rica has a good bus system that is affordable and reliable." says Hernandez." Shuttle buses are often available to transfer guests from a hotel to a tourist attraction. Additionally, when you book a tour in Costa Rica, transportation may be included in the itinerary."

Since we had a big group, we hired a driver for the week.

Our trip was filled with as much activity as we could jam into eight short days. Traveling by van, we started the week by hiking to view one of Costa Rica's most popular marvels - Rio Celeste and its enchanting turquoise blue waterfall. The Celeste River is located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park and is the stunning reward of an approximate mile-long hike. 

We took an amazing nature detour at Sloth's Ecological Farm on our way back from the falls. The Farm is a protected area of the local rainforest, which is home to countless animals and plants that the staff were able to educate us on - as well as spot sloth friends for us! And that was all on day one! 

The following week was filled with an ATV tour of black sand beaches, full of mud and thrills, and an absolutely exhausting day of zip-lining, horseback riding, and river rafting at Canon De La Vieja Lodge. We then relaxed at the Rio Negro Hot Springs with a well-deserved decompressing volcanic mud bath! 

Between sloth sightings and adventuring, we unwound each day with pool time, drinks, and fantastic food at countless restaurants. Nothing is more satisfying than a bustling day, a full stomach, and a gorgeous sunset that even the best cameras cannot capture. 

I can honestly say that the people of Costa Rica were so welcoming, friendly, and kind that you can't help but find yourself smiling at any given moment. If that isn't the best prescription for the winter blues that money can buy, I'm not sure what is.

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