An Iguana just Bit Me! (and Other Costa Rican Disasters)

My recent girls’ trip to Costa Rica was a beautiful disaster.

It was my first time traveling to a non-European country as an adult and was the perfect storm of just enough under-planning, language barriers, physical weakness, and random accidents.

But I still had the time of my life.

Here’s everything that can go wrong in Costa Rica (but hopefully won’t for you):

See also:

San Jose Costa Rica Traffic

Waiting for our Airbnb host in the monsoon.

Your friend Smoky could have a family friend who doesn’t speak much English who graciously picks you up at the airport, but then you get stuck in traffic and roast in the car and when you finally break free from the gridlock and arrive at your Airbnb, your GPS actually can’t find it and leads you in circles around the block for nearly an hour.

Your AirBNB host might be super gracious and come out to meet you to lead you to the apartment, but as soon as she steps outside there is a surprise monsoon and she gets soaked and you get soaked and Smoky’s family friends get soaked and no one is really happy about it.

San Jose Rainy Season

Soaked, but at least glad to know where we were staying.

Your AirBNB host might let you check in early even though you made her essentially take an extra shower, but as she’s finishing up the preparations you hear her mutter “Hay agua en mis zapatos” and it takes a second to register, but you figure out she’s got water in her shoes and you later find out she recently received them as a birthday gift.

You might have some shoe troubles of your own and wear a new pair of Birkenstocks that were supposed to be comfortable walking shoes, but you didn’t break them in well enough, so you rub your feet raw on the arches and toes and tops on day one of a walking-intensive trip and have to soak them in a plastic container you found under the sink and hope for the best.

San Jose Art Musuem

Peep the shoes that would betray me

You might have to pee so badly on the drive to Arenal that you pull over at a little bodega that’s essentially in a cave, but it’s raining again, so you can’t tell if you’ve wet yourself or if it’s just the rain and then end up peeing into a toilet with no seat for legitimately 47 seconds while rain pours through gaps in the ceiling.

When you get to Arenal, Smoky’s phone might have no service and it’s getting dark and starting to rain and when you arrive at what looks like Costa Rica Sky Adventures there’s no hotel in sight, so you drive helplessly up and down a really steep hill for like 30 minutes and nearly back into a ditch and you’re almost in tears, but then you spot a security guard, but he doesn’t speak English and once again another kind Costa Rican is getting drenched by a sudden onset monsoon trying to help you find your Airbnb. Only to find out that the little house you’ve been driving past for this entire time is where you were supposed to be all along.

See also: 

Arenal Airbnb Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Our Airbnb in Arenal! At Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Costa Rica Sky Adventures

The Jurassic Park View

When you collect yourself emotionally you might want to go get dinner, but the place your host recommended is closed, so as your pull into what you thought to be an abandoned driveway to turn around, your headlights illuminate a man peeing and you obviously startle him so he panics and starts trying to hide, but he can’t stop peeing so it’s just going everywhere and the stream is swinging back and forth as he looks for a hiding spot and you might urge your friend to drive faster and desperately call “Lo siento!” out the window at him as you speed away.

Costa Rica Weather

She wasn’t a fan of getting constantly soaked

When you get back to your room you might forget you put your phone charger in the front pocket of your bag and panic when you “can’t find it” so you send Smoky out to the car to search for it cause you’re not dressed, but she can’t find it either and makes multiple trips and then starts panicking herself because she can’t find HER other charger (even though she didn’t even bring it) all the while putting her life at risk because there’s some sort of animal out there and it legit sounds like the Chubacabra.

Costa Rica Zipline Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Soarrrrin Flyyyyin

(and the power might go out in the middle of the night because of the rain, so when the air conditioner reboots it might start beeping and flashing a bright white light for like EVER so it’s a good thing you don’t have epilepsy)

The next morning, you might sign up for zip lining, but you might do what Smoky did and only mentally prepare yourself for one 20MPH swing 500 feet above the Costa Rican rain forest with Costa Rican Sky Adventures, but when you suddenly have to do five more, you panic and feel like you’re gonna pass out midair.

Costa Rica Arenal Lake View

On the hike we took after ziplining. It was her jam. I was dying.

It might take you over 3 ½ hours to drive from Arenal to Monte Verde (even though they are only 13 miles apart) cause Costa Rican roads are low key insane and it could have been raining so you have to dodge hella landslides and eventually you’re basically off-roading on a rocky path in your little two wheel drive and you’re high up in the mountains and it’s so foggy it looks like the planet where Luke Skywalker finds Yoda and you might become so emotionally attached to the car in front of you for pointing out the potholes, that after driving behind it for a good 90 minutes you might shed a little tear when it turns off the path.

See also: 

Costa Rican Roads

Views on the way to Monteverde

When you get to Monteverde, you might be excited about staying in your super cool and chic refurbished shipping container, only to find out that it’s like 1000000 degrees inside because you can’t open any windows because it’s like the planet of the moths outside and there are tons of bugs inside too and the wifi doesn’t really work because it’s literally a metal box.

Monteverde Sky Forest

Not as cloudy as I hoped

When you go on the local coffee tour, you might misunderstand the guide and think she said it starts “one kilometer from the parking lot” when in reality it’s more like one mile, so you’re walking down a dirt road into some freaky thick mist and cars of other tourists are driving past looking at you like you’re an idiot.

Then after the tour, there might be another sudden onset monsoon and you’re trapped in the visitor center for like an hour after you wanted to leave because you need a ride to your car.

See also:

Don Juan Coffee Tour

Covfefe in the rainforest

When you get to Manuel Antonio, you might get upgraded to a room with a view and everything might seem to good to be true, but if you’re like Smoky it’s your actual worst nightmare because the hotel literally has an iguana infestation and they’re constantly scampering all over the place and one might even bite you because you tried to feed it a banana.

el faro beach hotel

My little Amigo

El faro beach hotel

Before the betrayal

You might forget to put on sunscreen the day you spend the whole day at the beach, but it doesn’t really LOOK like your getting burned because your skin is still its usual milky white, but then all of a sudden you can’t even bend your legs anymore because they are TOAST and your shoulders are practically burned shut and everything hurts. Even looking at photos of the ocean might make you feel sick.

El Faro Beach Hotel View

EL Faro Beach Hotel has a GREAT view of the Pacific

Playa Manuel Antonio

Posing on Playa Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is really hilly, so you might keep forgetting to take the parking break off and wondering why the car shakes and shudders when you try to back it out and when you finally return it, you have to take an Uber to your Airbnb by the airport and since there are no addresses in Costa Rica you have no idea where you’re actually supposed to go, so you’re left to fend for yourself and end up walking in ankle deep mud alongside a railroad track with a girl who speaks no English looking for it.

And when you finally find it, you’re so freaking tired that you crack and eat at Denny’s.

BONUS: since Costa Rica is one of the only countries my dad has been to…

Costa Rica Fishing

Dad’s photos that actually turned out

You might be my dad and be down near the Nicaraguan border on a fishing trip in the 80s and you can see some super sketchy government activity going on, so you try to take photos of it every time your boat passes, but when you develop your film expecting to expose a conspiracy, it turns out you faced the camera the wrong way and you just have a bunch of photos of your armpit.

The dress I’m wearing is from Dress Barn. 

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  1. August 1, 2017 / 3:07 PM

    I literally could not stop laughing the entire time I read this…I’m sorry for your misfortune but it’s pretty funny ! Hopefully I can avoid some of these problems. Though your inability to find your Airbnb reminds me of when I went to Martinique and we literally drove around for three hours looking for our Airbnb because the only address we had was “Point Sable Blanc.” That’s right, no town, no street, just a “White Sand Point”….and then we couldn’t even find whatever that was so I ended up having to ask a random kayak guide in French where that was and even he had to ask someone else…since no one had ever heard of this place. We eventually got there, but the boyfriend was pretty frustrated with me for not doing some more intensive research on how to get there.

    PLUS, once we got there it was a locked gate and we didn’t have the combination. So I had to turn off airplane mode on my phone & use roaming to call the caretaker in order to get the code. Good job, me.

    • August 1, 2017 / 7:51 PM

      Your Airbnb disaster is literally me haha. It also happened to me in Dublin…I didn’t plan too much and just had a general idea of where we were staying, so even the customs officer was like “???????? u ok” because I really had no idea what to put on the immigration form.

  2. Kerry
    August 1, 2017 / 8:36 PM

    you are SO FUNNY. i kinda hope you continue to have these ordeals every time you travel because they are HILARIOUS for the reader.

  3. Debbie
    August 4, 2017 / 12:17 AM

    Laughed so hard the whole time, especially the part about your dad taking pictures of his arm pit back in the 80’s.

    • August 7, 2017 / 7:55 PM

      Hahaha. You know dad!!! His life is like I Love Lucy Episode.

  4. August 5, 2017 / 2:39 PM

    Yikes. I’m pretty sure this would all happen to me too! lol
    Costa Rica was my first solo trip back in 2012 so I stayed in hotels/inns and had shuttles drive me to and fro since I didn’t know much about international travel. I’d love to go back for another round sometime though.

    • August 7, 2017 / 7:57 PM

      Yes!! I hope I didn’t make driving there sound too bad. It really wasn’t that hard — just funny! 🙂

  5. August 5, 2017 / 3:28 PM

    Loved this post! This kind of reminded me of my recent trip to Colombia. Some highlights :
    – stuck on a highway in the mountain for literally two hours in unmoving traffic… at 12am.
    – we finally got to the town around 3am and we hadn’t booked accommodation so we went to the hotels but they were all locked so we sat outside beeping for half an hour… When that didn’t work we found a motel and checked in there. Only to find it was a SEX MOTEL! Like it had a ‘love machine’ and everything. And there were no blankets.
    – like you we had to navigate some ridiculously bad roads. We just couldn’t avoid every pothole and one of them was so bad the wheel bent and our tyre punctured. But we were in the middle of nowhere so we just had to keep driving and hope we didn’t fly off the road…
    Anyway, thanks for bringing up these great memories! ? like I always say, it’s all part of the adventure.

    • September 14, 2017 / 12:10 AM

      omg!!! I’m crying reading this. too funny.

  6. Alison - Up&AtEm Travel
    August 5, 2017 / 6:11 PM

    I know this was going to be a fab post – just from the title! The situations are so funny, and really made me think that “She’s A Trip” suits you perfectly 😀 From iguana infestations, to getting soaked, and everything else, you’ve got a ton of stories to tell! I also thought it was cute how you added the bit about your dad.

    • August 7, 2017 / 7:58 PM

      This is the nicest comment!! haha. This trip indeed was completely insane. And yes, I couldn’t resist. When I was retelling these stories to him he was like….I guess Costs Rican disasters run in the family.

  7. August 5, 2017 / 10:44 PM

    “low key insane” is a very polite way to describe the roads in Costa Rica. But hey- at least you got some great stories out if it…right?

    • August 7, 2017 / 7:59 PM

      Very true!! From Arenal to Monte Verde was the trickiest bit.

  8. Valerie - Trusted Travel Girl
    August 7, 2017 / 3:50 PM

    Sometimes the crazy things turn out to be the best stories!!!

    • August 7, 2017 / 8:03 PM

      I’m learning that. the further removed I get from this the funnier it gets for me haha.

  9. August 7, 2017 / 5:12 PM

    Costa Rica looks incredible! I would love to visit someday. It seems like it’s full of adventure and so exciting! Thanks for the tips as well 🙂 Hopefully I can avoid the same disasters when I go to Costa Rica haha!

  10. Meg
    August 12, 2017 / 3:19 AM

    WoW, Costa Rica sounds like an adventure!! What an array of stories you gained from just one trip. Catching the guy peeing in your headlights had me laughing – you couldn’t make this stuff up!

  11. August 12, 2017 / 5:33 PM

    This is honestly hilarious. I hope that you’re at least looking back and laughing at your adventures now. It seems like some absolutely crazy situations to be in. I would have full on cried during most of those. (although the sunscreen one will never not be terrible. I too burn very easily and after one terrible incident where I had to go to the hospital, I vowed never to be burned again. Sunscreen is my life.)

    • September 14, 2017 / 12:12 AM

      it’s literally just now starting to be funny to me haha.

  12. August 12, 2017 / 5:54 PM

    This was hilarious! I could picture every scenario and fumble you wrote about happening (and happening to ME). Haha! What an adventure. At least you got some good stories out of it!

  13. February 11, 2019 / 7:36 PM

    Sometimes I think these trips are better after you get home!!

    We went to Puerto Rico in October 2017 to buy a boat, 2 weeks after the hurricane hit and your pics REALLY reminded me of that.
    We had no electricity in the AirBnB apart from a generator upstairs at the hosts apartment with a cable to run two items at a time. Coffee maker or fan??? No cooking or aircon.
    The host was an utter nutcase, predatory pervert with a thing for his dog. And a gun.
    We shopped by torchlight as the shops had no electricity or lights either.
    After 6 weeks of hell working in the mozzie infested boat yard we sailed out and we are still traveling 16 months later in an RV!

    So many “adventures” lol

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