A quick visit to Costa Rica

My short break from traveling stopped when I flew into San Jose, Costa Rica. For whatever reason, the research I had done on Costa Rica failed to get me excited. I carried on nonetheless.

I had some ideas for a route that involved first heading to the Caribbean coast, then heading back to the Pacific, and working my way up to La Fortuna and Monteverde before moving on to Nicaragua. However that all changed when I arrived and realized how expensive Costa Rica was–for hostels, food, and entrance fees. So I stayed in Costa Rica for just 7 nights.

After arriving, I spent the night at an interesting hostel in San Jose. Wandered around the city for a bit with a British girl from my dorm. Woke up early the following morning, and made a stop at the overpriced, though moderately interesting Jade Museum before catching a bus to the coastal city of Limon. From Limon, I caught a bus to the hippie surfer hangout of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

The massive Rocking Js in Puerto Viejo

I arrive in Puerto Viejo and make the long walk from the bus station with a heavy pack to the super hostel that is Rocking Js. I’m put into a small stuffy 4 person dorm with one other person–a young German girl on her first backpacking trip. We decide to find food. We grab a meal at one of the many overpriced Gringo hangouts in town. After running into a dread-locked lad from our hostel we learn of a party at a beach bar down the street. We decide to check it out.

This party quickly fills up with gringos and locals alike. 90s hip hop blares from speakers as we sit on outdoor pick-nick tables. Drunk white girls dance like they think they’ve got the moves. Someone starts a bonfire in front and all gather round. A traveler takes out his flaming numb-chuck thing-a-mobob and puts on a show. We leave after we feel we’ve gotten out share of entertainment.

The following morning we decide to move from the dorm to a tent. Then we spend the rest of the morning at the beach, grab a vegan sandwich at a hippie cafe and rent bikes to take to a nearby resort that allows use of its beautiful beach to those who buy something from it’s bar. We buy a couple ginger ales and enjoy the beach. In the evening a couple German guys invite us to grab sushi. This turns out to be an expensive bad decision— OK-sushi for way too much cash. We get a free Mango daiquiri before heading to bed early.

Our next day we seem to finally get things right. The day starts with oatmeal at a cute cafe, and continues with bike rentals. We decide to ride to Manzanillo, about 12 KM away, beach-hopping and exploring along the way. We stop at The Jaguar Rescue Center, a sanctuary and rehab center for animals, reptiles, amphibians found in distress. For $15 we get a guided tour explaining each resident at the Center, from deer to monkeys, parrots, sloths and pythons. This is a fascinating and worthwhile stop.

Beautiful Costa Rican Beach

Me and a monkey

Red eyed tree frog at the rescue center

Red eyed tree frog at the rescue center

End of the line–Manzanillo

We continue on our bikes, grab another vegan meal at another hippie cafe and stop at another beautiful beach. We reach Manzanillo and turn around and head back to Puerto Viejo just in time for a sunset- happy hour on the beach at a spot with live reggae music. We head home and are in bed fairly early. It’s a pretty perfect day.

Sunset in Puerto Viejo

Sunset in Puerto Viejo

I awake early the following day anxious to head north. I head to the bus station and grab the first bus to San Jose. From there, I grab a bus to Liberia. This turns out to be a questionable idea, as my bus seems to take its time–first getting a flat tire and needing to pull into a hot garage for over an hour (failing to let any passengers off and hence cooking us), next getting caught in traffic from an accident, finally needing to stop in a rest stop for 30 minutes to wait out a storm.

I arrive in Liberia after 9 in the evening, sweaty, tired and hungry. After checking into Hotel Liberia, a quick stop at a street food stand satisfies me for the evening. I’m not sitting in the lounge area long when I’m greeted by a group of travelers– a solo Dutch girl, American guy, 2 German guys and 4 American girls. The whole group is heading out for a beer. I join them–it is a Saturday night after all. We go to a local hangout, playing the usual Latin music videos, and have the usual get-the-scoop chat. Though I enjoy myself, I’m exhausted and head home early with the Dutch girl.

I awake the following morning and decide to join the German guys on a trip to the nearby Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park. This works out well for me as they have a rental car, and I would not have otherwise visited this spot because of the expensive cab required to reach the entrance.

We hike around the park, seeing the standard sights– bubbling mud pools, waterfalls, other-planet terrain seeping sulfuric gases–before taking an intense 12 km loop up and down foothills ending in a hot sulfuric bath. We enjoy a soak and hike back to the car.

Volcanic bubbling mud pots

Just another lovely waterfall in Costa Rica

Just another lovely waterfall in Costa Rica

Soaking in the volcano springs

After a much needed shower we form a group from the hostel and head to a nearby spot for an awesome dinner of fish, veggies, plantains, and gallo pinto (rice and beans). Not wanting the night to end, we buy beer from the grocery store and drink it in the park. A local wacky man approaches us and I practice my Spanish with him—conversing on politics, difference between life in Costa Rica and the US, and other topics I have since forgotten. We head back to the hostel. I agree to join a Kiwi girl whos catching the 7 AM bus to the border the following morning. Thus ending my short, but ultimately sweet trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica seems beautiful, but the fact that it is easily the most expensive country I’ve encountered in 5 months, paired with my extreme excitement to return to the country that motivated me to start planning my big leap–pushes me forward.

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Categories: Costa Rica

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