Travel - Costa Rica

  • I flew into Costa Rica from Panama and again I'd an issue with my proof of exit. The first person wouldn't check me in even though I'd a flight booked from Mexico to LA within 2 months of me entering Costa Rica... which showed I had to leave the country to get to Mexico. For some reason that wasn't good enough.

    So she sent me to a computer to book something to prove it. Fortunately after a while, another employee came over to me, chatted about my situation and checked me in. Just something to be aware of.

    Here are my current batch of photos.

  • Puerto Viejo

    So I flew into San Jose, got a shuttle to my hostel (Gaudy's, really nice) and stayed the night. The following morning I got the bus straight to Puerto Viejo and arrived at roughly 2 so I still had a nice bit of the day left. Since I planned on leaving the very next day I decided to walk around the town.

    It's very much a small Caribbean town, everything is very open, right by a long stretch of beaches, lots of restaurants etc. So I made my way to the beach and walked all along it. I kind of wish I'd left everything back at the hostel as I wanted to jump into the water. Still it was a nice walk with some interesting scenery along the way. A random platform, overgrown with trees now, about 5 meters into the water that people were fishing on.

    The next morning I rented a bike and cycled out about 5kms to the Jaguar Rescue Centre (Named due to the first animal rescued being a jaguar). I'd heard a lot of great things about the place, obviously it's for a good cause. They rescue animals and release them back into the wild once they've recovered. They do two public tours per day and private tours. Although I don't know much about the private tours. It's all volunteers that work there and all the money they make goes straight back into improving the centre. When you get there, you'll probably see wildlife straight away without even going in. I was greeted by about 4 sloths climbing the trees in the area. The tour itself is really interesting and entertaining. You get all the information on the animals in the centre along with why they're there and other reasons etc. Generally you're pretty close to the animals too. So I highly recommend it if you've any interest in wildlife and any interest in trying to protect it.

    As I mentioned earlier, I didn't stay for long. So I got the bus at 1 back to San Jose, stayed there for the night again (same hostel) and got a bus from another terminal to Fortuna the following day.

  • La Fortuna

    It used to be an extremely popular tourist spot due to the Arenal volcano where you were able to see the lava flow however that abruptly stopped back in 2010. So now it's mostly popular for the hiking to the volcano along with hot springs and some extreme outdoor activities.

    So I haven't mentioned that Costa Rica is expensive. It's a place I'd recommend as a vacation spot but for backpacking it's a bit of a difference. You can't find as many cheap hostels ($12 is around the starting price now as opposed to $5-6 in South America) and even in the local restaurants, meals will still cost at least $6 while your standard restaurants are like $20.

    That all applies to Fortuna. Food is expensive, there are a lot of tour operators for hikes and tours to place further out but I went out of my way to do everything as cheap as possible. So I rented a bike (for $10 at the hostel! Even that's bloody expensive) and cycled out to the 1968 park which is a private park that has it's own hikes near the volcano. It was $10 to enter as opposed to $15 to enter the National Park and I'd heard it was nicer by some people so I went with that. Now it's a 30km cycle in total so if you don't fancy that, you can get a bus towards Tilaran and get off by the park and do the same when coming home. The trail take about 2 hours (the long one) and you get to go through some forestry and lava flow so it's really cool. If you're lucky too, the clouds might clear up and you can get a really nice picture at the summit.

    So the other reason I cycled was because there is a free hot spring area a long the way. All the spa's and done up hot springs cost at least $30 from what I saw so I'd no interest in that. So I believe this one is called Tabacon and it's right next to the hotel and spa, underneath the bridge. As you'd expect, there's a lot of locals down here but still plenty of room. Just keep an eye on where you leave your stuff to be safe. After all the exercise earlier, it was really nice just planting myself next to some rocks and leaving the hot water flow around me.

    The next day I went a bit further in avoiding tours. Now I don't entirely recommend this but it worked out for me. I wanted to go to Rio Celeste which has a really cool waterfall area and it's cool because the water is sky blue due to the minerals in the two rivers combining. Now you have to get a bus towards Upala and stop off at Kitara. Here you take one of the first lefts you'll see, you should be able to spot a few things mentioning Rio. Now the park is still a good 8km from here so your best bet is to hitchhike. I got lucky on the way out as I asked a guy on a motorbike where I needed to go and he just gave me a lift out there. It was unbelievably nice of him as the road towards the end is pretty damn awful.

    It costs $12 to enter the park and there are roughly 3-4 points of interests in the park. The blue lagoon which is self explanatory, a viewpoint of the whole park, where the two rivers meet and you see the change in colour and minerals and the waterfall itself. I really liked seeing the rivers meet. It was just really interesting reading the information on why the colour changed and seeing it happen in front of you. Of course the waterfall is beautiful too.

    To continue on with my luck, as I walked back towards Kitara I was again hitchhiking. After about 2-3km walking a person stopped and it turned out they were going to San Jose so he drove me about 40km to a town that was only 10km away from Fortuna so he saved me a lot of walking, a lot of waiting and a nice bit of money too. Also while we didn't talk too much, it was fun to practice my Spanish a little bit. So all in all it cost me about $16 while most tour companies were looking for $50.

    The hostel I stayed in is called The Howling Monkey and I'd definitely recommend it. It was one of the cheaper places, it's pretty nice, beds are solid, good wifi and has a slide leading into it's pool from the hostel itself. That was very refreshing after I got back from Rio Celeste! It is about 20 mins walk outside the town though so if you need to do anything, do it before it gets dark. And if you need food after, you can still get things delivered to the hostel.

    I did get some bad information the next day though. I thought the bus to Tilaran was leaving at 8:30 (owner told me that) but it actually left at 7:30 and that was the only way to connect with a bus to Monteverde which is where I was going. Fortunately though there is a tour operator called Red Lava right next to the bus station and they did a bus-boat-bus service direct to Monteverde so I wouldn't have to waste a day. It cost $20 but that was still much better than spending an extra nights accommodation here, especially since my time is a bit more limited now.

  • @tokeeffe9 said in Travel - Costa Rica:

    La Fortuna

    So I haven't mentioned that Costa Rica is expensive. It's a place I'd recommend as a vacation spot but for backpacking it's a bit of a difference. You can't find as many cheap hostels ($12 is around the starting price now as opposed to $5-6 in South America) and even in the local restaurants, meals will still cost at least $6 while your standard restaurants are like $20.

    Ain't that the truth, our country is far more expensive that the rest of Latin America, and our wages are higher, but not that much higher, it's pretty ridiculous that a lot of essentials are far more expensive here than it the US and Western European countries.

    Still I hope you enjoy your time in CR, in case nobody has told you make sure you don't spend time in San Jose during the week days, there's already pretty much nothing worth seeing, and because of some circmstances traffic is particularly bad this days.

  • @bard91 I always knew it was going to be expensive so I decided I'd only check out a few places and make my way to Nicaragua quickly. So I only spent two nights in San Jose and both times were due to needing a bus the following morning.

    I know what you mean by traffic, getting out from the airport was pretty crazy alright.

    Where are you living in Costa Rica?

    Just going to write up on Monteverde and I'm off to Nicaragua tomorrow. It is a lovely country, as I said I'd totally recommend people to come here for a vacation.

  • Monteverde

    So the bus dropped me straight at my hostel, La Suerte. One of the cheaper hostels in Costa Rica and it includes a pretty nice breakfast too. When I was checking in, I was able to book everything I wanted to do (Morning hike on high bridges and a night hike to check out wildlife). It is incredibly windy here all day. You're going to hear lots of trees rustling and creaking etc as you sleep.

    As I mentioned I did a morning hike the following day at 8am. It was only a short hike, you can complete it in about 2 hours maximum really. If you're a wildlife enthusiast you might and can stay longer for another bus. It is a place where you can see lots of bird but you probably need a good eye or guide. I didn't really see anything but it was cool going over the bridges and being on par with the top of trees.

    I'd the majority of the day to chill out and walk around the town. It's very small and hilly, full of your typical continental restaurants and outdoor shops. Every other place appears to be a tour operator offering more extreme outdoor activity. In the end I went a little outside the center, down and up a hill to a shopping centre that had more traditional costa rican cuisine and it was very tasty. I got the typical Casado with chicken, rice, beans, plantain and salad. It was a huge portion too.

    And my favourite part of the trip, the night hike. I'd already done this in the amazon but I definitely enjoyed this time a lot more. It wasn't humid and I wasn't surrounded by insects and we were fortunate enough to see a nice mix of wildlife in an armadillo, sloths, racoons, snakes, tarantula, toucans and other birds. The guide was really funny and interesting too which helped. So I'd highly recommend the night hike. Also, the night sky was really beautiful that night. Stars everywhere. It really makes me want to buy a tripod and new lens.

    The following day has been all about planning for Nicaragua. The bus leaves here at 4:20am in the morning to Irma and from there I make my way to Rivas. The only thing I've really heard is it's significantly cheaper to get a few buses to each destination rather than one direct there. I'll post something if I feel it'll help but I think this site does a good enough job at explaining how to cross the border - Crossing borders: Nicaragua to Costa Rica

  • @tokeeffe9 You could say that I live in a suburb of San Jose, about 40 minutes away from the center, although it technically isn't, for the most part we have our four big cities that are close enough that we usually just talk about them as a single big city.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your time here, the prices are definitively not great, specially in comparison, but there're definitively a good number of cool places to see.

  • @bard91 Absolutely, there are a load of places I've missed out in but you can't see everything!

  • I've uploaded all of my Costa Rica photos now, link in the OP.