February 2014 & March 2017
Going twice to the same country is a waste? yes, that’s my opinion as well. But some places are so exceptional, that only one visit isn’t enough. Costa Rica is such a country. The diversity in natural beauty is so big.. I’ve been here twice now and by far didn’t see enough (sloths) yet. I’m just addicted to rain forests and fluffy animals! Add this up to very friendly locals and great public transportation.. it makes Costa Rica almost perfect.
What to expect?
This country is much more developed then other countries in Central America. There’s good infrastructure, reliable public transportation, locals speak English, national parks are taken care of and you can feel safe. The nature of this country is stunning and prices are cheap. No surprise it’s pretty touristy here. Especially our (older) friends from the USA find their way to Costa Rica as well as families. Some retired American citizens even move here to spend the rest if their lives on the sunny beaches. Pura Vida 🙂 To me the lush green hills, countless animals and friendly locals stand out. Although worlds apart, I found the vibe similar to Malaysia.
I’m very enthusiastic about Costa Rica’s public transportation as it’s super cheap and convenient! You can get almost everywhere by bus. They are clean, safe and frequent. There are various companies that offer shuttle services as well: a mini van will take you straight from A to B for a price between the taxi and the bus. Otherwise, renting a car is the way to go. Most visitors choose this option! You will find car rental places and parking spots everywhere. That said, be careful when renting a car, as it’s one of the only areas you possibly get ripped of! Read those tips to minimize the chance.
I only have seen a few highlights, which I will describe below. Much more left for the next time 🙂
One of the most touristy destinations in Costa Rica. If it wasn’t for the beauty of the nature, I wouldn’t recommend staying in this uncharming village La Fortuna. BUT , look at the header of this article and know why you can’t miss out on Arenal. This is the Rio Celeste river in Tenoria Volcano National Park. A park actually not very close to La Fortuna. The only way to get here is by own transport or with a organized tour, from La Fortuna. I did the tour for only $55 including lunch! I was so happy to go here!!!
Another popular tour in La Fortuna is to visit the Cerro Chato lake (on the smaller Vulcano) combined with the waterfall and hot spring visit ($35). You can also hike by yourself through the area, park fee is $12 and I’ve heart you can cheat to walk around the kiosk, but I’m not sure if you should do that.
Welcome to the second paradise. First of all, this is nót an overly crowded tourist destination. Second of all, on all of Costa Rica’s Caribbean side, there’s a very nice, laid back, reggae kind of vibe. And than the best part of Cahuita: the Cahuita National Park. Heaven on earth. Not only was the park the most beautiful place I had been in my life, it also holds plenty of wild life. I found here countless sloth’s, monkeys, racoon’s, squirrels, yellow snakes, blue crabs and colourful birds. From Cahuita you can visit the botanical gardens and animal sanctuary tree of life. Also, north of Cahuita there’s a black sand beach which supposed to be nice. Note: in Cahuita itself are no dorm rooms as far as I know. Therefore you can stay in the party neighbour Puerto Viejo. Which is also very close to the national park.
In 2014, this was my final destination, and it was wonderful. A long way to get here and than you get to this very laid back village surrounded by stunning nature. Tours are offered to visit the national park. We went with one of the locals on a small boat. Just paddling through the bushes, spotting wildlife. Epic!
In the village you find small shops with local/handmade goods (souvenirs). You can tell, there are rich Americans around as there are some more ‘fancy’ restaurants as well. One of those is the Wild Ginger, where I had a very nice meal. Also Budda Café is a nice one and try out Taylor’s Place. We stayed at Miss Miriam II which was ok. Ask around for directions, there are no street names.
You will only find information about reaching the place from Limon or Moin by boat (expensive!) BUT you can also do it by public bus.
- Take an early bus from Cahuita to Limon (really early like 7.00, $3, 1,5hr, 5 daily)).
- In Limon you walk one block west to Terminal Caribeno. From here, get the bus to Guápiles ($4, 2hr, hourly departures).
- In Guapiles take the bus to Cariari (45 mins). It was waiting for us.
- In Cariari catch the last bus to La Pavona at 15:00 ($2, 1 hr). Note: in Cariari you have to walk again to another bus terminal, from the new one to the old one! It’s 500 meters to the east. This is a very nice drive through banana fields!
- In La Pavona (not really a village) you buy your boat ticket at the restaurant ($3), go to the boat, sit down and relax. You made it! The moment you are on the water you will enjoy great views and spot crocodiles.
Useful website with maps to make the chances of not getting lost bigger: Tortuguero by public bus/
Not much to tell about apart from that taxi drivers try to mislead you and the restaurant restaurant El Balcon de Europe (calle 9) is a nice one. Don’t feel unsafe or uncomfortable here, the city is pretty modern. Nothing in compare to Managua for example!
Completely different from San José. This village isn’t very interesting either but it’s safe and a great place to continue on towards Nicaragua or coming from Nicaragua. There’s a new bus station called ‘Pulmitan de Liberia’ where you can wait for the always and ever delayed Tica Bus to bring you to Nicaragua and soak up local life meanwhile.
Playa del Coco
It was a bit of a mistake from me to come here. I wanted to avoid the ‘super touristy’ Tamarindo, but arriving at one of the only two hostels in Playa del Coco realised I made a mistake. There were no other travellers and the village was literally full with senior Americans enjoying their old days. Good for them but a bit lonely for me! However the hostel had a nice pool (once the weekend was over and all the local kids left) and I could recap everything I had experienced the past weeks. I also found some nice little restaurants and enjoyed my solo diner here.
Other beaches in Nicoya
After doing a lot of research I think this are the places to be: Tamarindo, Samara, Montezuma and Santa Teresa. So skip playa del Coco and go here instead!
Tica and Nica bus are your friends! You can book your ticket by emailing them or go to one of the stalls!