Recently I left the country for the first time for a service trip to Costa Rica through my high school. My experience in Costa Rica was not only eye-opening but also a way for me to develop my passion for photography. If you are simply looking for jaw-dropping views and a secluded stay, I cannot accentuate the importance of visiting this beautiful place. Here are the places I visited during my stay in Costa Rica.
Sometimes you see the word hotel and automatically think of places like the Marriott, Sheraton, and Renaissance; but if you are more attracted towards hotels that accentuate the beauty of nature, the Hotel Los Heroes, located in Nuevo Arenal, is the best option.
The view from this hotel is unlike any other I have seen before. The Hotel itself is decorated in paintings symbolizing 700 years of the foundation of Switzerland and 100 years of Costa Rican Democracy. Not only does the hotel fit the part, but Hotel Los Heroes is located along Lake Arenal which is full of luscious, green mountains. Cows can be found surrounding the hotel. There were several days where I walked down to the hotel’s farm and interacted with all of the calves. You can pet them and there is little to no surveillance on the animals so it’s basically like a petting zoo! The hotel is not only scenic but is also a great place to hike. See the video below to see the cows at the hotel.
If you’re up for some exercise during a typical, beautiful Costa Rica morning, Hotel Los Heroes is an amazing place to explore. The Hotel has several paths you can follow which all lead you to gorgeous destinations. One morning I woke up at 4:30am and ventured out with a small group in order to see the Costa Rica birds as they arose. We followed a path which led out to a road and continued along this road for a mile until we saw several toucans and other unique birds. Another morning I woke up at 6am and explored the location of the hotel on my own. I paced down the railroads and discovered a newborn calf taking its first steps. The cow stumbled around as the mother kept a very close eye on me, but I couldn’t help but sit and stare in awe of such a magnificent moment.
The hotel also has railroads that lead to Costa Rica’s first rotating panorama restaurant, Rondorama Arenal which rotates while you eat food, giving you a full view of your surroundings! Not only is it unique because you spin (slowly don’t worry) while you eat, but also you get an incredible view. I was honestly too distracted by the view to remember exactly what I ate, but I faintly recall fresh fruit, bread and butter, and quite possibly pancakes (a relief after days of eating chicken and rice). The staff are very interactive and even pulled out an ancient horn that was used to call in cattle and went around letting us use it! Another outstanding aspect of this restaurant is the commute there and back. Although you can hike, the hotel offers a stunning mountain train ride that takes you directly from the hotel to the restaurant. The train goes along Lake Arenal as well as many cow and horse pastures causing an extremely entertaining train ride. See the video below for a beautiful visual.
The hotel also has the main restaurant located within the same building as the hotel rooms. I cannot speak to the variety in the menu as the service trip meals were predetermined, but I have no complaints about the quality of the food. All of the staff were very attentive and even through a language barrier we were able to communicate and engage together. Most days our group ate buttered toast (homemade butter!), fruit, coffee, chicken, rice, and more. Even when we went out for the day the staff were kind enough to give us ice for our water bottles.
The forest in Costa Rica is unlike like the forests in North East America (where I am from). The forest is home to many creatures that are unique to Costa Rica, and going on a tour through the forest is an incredible experience for anyone — especially if you’ve never left the country before. On our rainforest tour, we were able to see monkeys, snakes, sloths, and frogs! The volcano was certainly noticeable at our tour location. Our group then went to a ziplining company where we went on over ten zip lines throughout the day. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a helmet that allowed me to put my GoPro on it so I was able to record the best views! If you are afraid of heights I would take caution, your zip line is mostly in your control! Below you can see the wildlife and views that we encountered during our tours.
If you want to explore Lake Arenal while getting a good arm workout, definitely look into kayaking! Our group was given a short boat ride to a loading dock where we received our kayaks. Following a tour guide, we were able to kayak through the beautiful waters of Costa Rica, and after we got too hot we jumped in!
A small portion of our service group hiked several miles to find this unforgettable Hummingbird Park. You can find hummingbird parks all around Costa Rica and are an exciting way to experience the exotic hummingbirds. You can even expect to see a few unexpected visitors (see photos below). They approach you allowing you to even take photos with your phone!
Unfortunately I was limited to what events I could partake in as I was part of a group where most activities were pre-planned. Costa Rica offers so many opportunities for adventure other than what I had experienced within my stay. Some of these activities include (from TripAdvisor):
- Rafting Tours
- Waterfall Tours
- Sloth Tours
- Visit National Parks
- Horseback Riding
- Coffee Tours
- Hot Springs
- Whale Watching
- Visit Beaches!
My visit to Costa Rica allowed me to explore my love for nature in addition to my passion for photography. Not only did I participate in exciting activities like Ziplining, kayaking, and hiking, but I was also able to observe the unique animals and plants surrounding the beautiful country. Costa Rica is breathtaking and is an amazing place to get exposure to new activities and animals in an entertaining way. Costa Ricans have lived by the saying “Pura Vida” which means Pure Life in English. Although this seems simple, Pura Vida has been a part of Costa Rica for over 50 years and resonates with the nation in a variety of meanings. If you want to observe the pure life of Costa Rica, plan your visit soon!
*For more photos from the trip, click here