Right after coming back from Malaysia I already knew – I need more. My wanderlust was more awakened than ever so within three day I was the happy owner of a flight ticket to Costa Rica. The choice of the country was rather unconventional – and I have to recognize, also a bit embarrassing. As there are so many places I want to travel to, I picked Costa Rica as there was this travel guide Lonely Planet Discover Costa Rica.. In comparison to the other guides, it has plenty of colorful pictures so by flipping through the pages you already get an idea what places are a must-see. Whereas on the common LP guide there is a lot of text and all places that sound interested need to be investigated further via Google and YouTube. Bottom line is, I choose Costa Rica as there was this Discover guide available and I wanted to go to Latin America (and besides Peru I believe there isn’t this edition for Latin America).
Anyways it was a great decision. The country is beautiful, flora and fauna impressive and besides crocodiles I believe I saw all the different species of monkeys, crabs, snakes or even raccoons – as described in the guide.
If you like nature, this is definitely the place to be though you need a full pocket. Unfortunately you need to pay for everything. Every single national park you want to visit has a fee, every waterfall you could walk to, has an entrance door so you must pay for it. I understand that nature protection, taking care of the path etc. has its costs but considering the amount of people visiting, it´s definitely too much.
Comparing to Asia, where the average income is also low, at least prices stay reasonable. Just a quick equation- whereas I paid $2 to enter Taman Negara Pulau Penang, I had to pay $35 to enter Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal.
Food wise Costa Rica has tasty food though I personally found it a bit boring after some days as basically on all typical dishes you have a tiny bit of salad, rice & beans, fried banana and some meet or fish. Of course you get also a lot of American food but I always try to eat local stuff. Besides eventually sounding negative, I enjoyed the time there as well as the sweet fruits mostly consumed in fresh made juices.
As for the route itself I started obviously in San José, stayed a night and went right the day after to the Caribbean coast by bus. It was one of the longest trips I made in relation to the km I travelled – for around 200 km it took me 8 hours! Right after being travelling for half an hour in the bus it suddenly stopped. The first stop only took 10 minutes, then we moved again – till the next stop. Leaving the city I first believed it was the traffic, but then there were accidents and I don’t know what issues. After around one hour we had our fourth stop and this time we wouldn’t move on. On some point the driver left the doors open, everyone went outside, sitting on the pavement or going for a walk. Nothing happened. The driver went away and on some point I started to worry. When the driver got back I went to him asking if he has any idea when we will move on and what happened. He couldn’t reply to any of my questions. Could be in one hour, in four or the next day. Those are one of the things you read about but nothing you actually want to experience. The locals took it quite relaxed saying that we have some fruits left so at least we would have something for breakfast and they started to lough.
At some point we start seeing cars driving by so everyone got calmly back to its respective cars, trucks or buses and slowly we finally progressed the trip. In Limón I had to change the bus and arrived in Puerto Viejo when it was already dark. After a restful night listening to the sound of the jungle I rented a bicycle and went discovering the area. Puerto Viejo is a nice little town and within a few kilometers you can find beautiful lonesome beaches or spots for hiking like Parque National Cahuita – where I learned my lesson always to completely close your backpack – I left it some centimeters open and when I came out of the water for getting my lunch break a monkey had stolen my sandwich as well as the left over chocolate cookies. Worst was that he (or she?) was sitting in the three just above me eating joyfully my lunch whereas I know that I had to walk at least more two hours before getting back into town and being able to buy food.
After some days in Puerto Viejo I went to Bocas del Toro in Panama. The trip itself was organized and you first get to into a minibus who drives you close to the frontier. There you must get to the office, pay a small fee and get some paperwork done, change the guide, cross the worst bridge ever walking over the frontier (please see the pic.. I got close to a panic attack as I just couldn’t feel save crossing and the bridge was too long – and I knew I would have to cross again on my way back). After this you get into another minibus, after another hour drive there is a boat and after 3-4 hours you arrive in Bocas. The islands are great. The architecture is colonial style colorful houses nicely decorated. There you also get to rent bikes easily and can discover the island. Besides going to the beach it is also nice for boat tours where you can see dolphins or do snorkeling.
Afterwards I crossed Costa Rica heading to the pacific coast and spent some time in Jacó (which has a wide beach but besides this I wouldn’t recommend to stay here for long) before crossing the sea by boat travelling to Malpaís/Santa Teresa via Montezuma. There I had my first surf experience which since then has been an important factor on where to go on holidays as I always try to improve so that one day maybe I don’t feel like a complete beginner with no strength anymore. It’s a greats spot for learning and the whole vibe of the town is just cool and relaxed. Sitting on the beach watching the sun going down and the last surfers in the water is just amazing.
After spending days on the beach and doing some zip lining we rented a car and drove around the Nicoya Peninsula, stayed a night in Lepanto and then drove inland to do some hiking in the national parks. I saw several volcanos, waterfalls and even better, my new favorite, humming birds. We had the car till getting back to San José which was the perfect chance to stop wherever you feel like and see some other parts of Costa Rica.
It was only two weeks but I managed to see a lot, relax but also made lots of new experiences. After visiting Central America I´m really curious of visiting South America. The countdown is running, only 3 month to go!