Costa Rica was full of goodness! Here's the best of Costa Rica from my eyes for you to enjoy.
We caught the bus and water taxi from Bocas Del Toro, Panama and crossed the border into Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. There are many bus companies who take you from Bocas to the Costa Rican border, from there you cross the border and go through customs by foot and meet your connecting bus on the other side. We used Puerto Viejo Satellite to get more information and Caribe Shuttles and Boat to organise our trip. The first week or more was spent in the beautiful beach side town of Puerto Viejo, known for its great surf and Rastafarian vibes. There is a bright mix of Afro-Caribbean, Bribri Indian, tico and hippyesque counterculture that gives the town a really nice atmosphere. We booked a cute AirBnb just a short bike ride out of the main strip, bike rental shops are everywhere in town and they are the best way to explore the town and surrounding beaches.
The best of Costa Rica Caribbean side? The food! The local kitchens "Sodas" have a delicious and fresh mix of daily options. I ate better meals from the local kitchens than I did restaurants and for way less. Normally it would be a mix of rice and beans and veggies with patacones (fried plantains) and avocado. But, if you aren't a veggie head like myself you can get fresh fish and all the sides.
The beaches in Puerto Viejo were just stunning not to mention the gloriously green forests full to the brim with wildlife. Zac had his best surf of the trip at Salsa Brava, a great reef break super close to town. It is recommended for intermediate surfers and above but there are so many other beach breaks a bit further up that are great for novices like me. There are plenty of board hires and surf schools for beginners too.
We were in Puerto Viejo during the off season (May) so it was less crowded and the party vibe wasn't booming, which was no problem for us but if you want to enjoy the town at it's peak, travel there during Nov-Jan for a more bustling town.
A few tips in this town is to carry cash as no one really takes cards, hire a bike, eat at the sodas, look out for two-for-one drink deals and enjoy the beaches.
After Puerto Viejo we headed for the capital, San Jose. I was actually expecting to hate the city, I really hadn't heard many good things from other people. But, my mind was changed thanks to our amazing hosts and their great hospitality. They directed us to the best spots in town to eat, relax and explore. We only stopped in San Jose for a few days before heading to Alajuela, but the time we spent there was great.
We hired a car to travel to Alajuela to see Volcán Arenal ( A 5,437ft Volcano), it is about a 4 hour drive from San Jose. The volcano is in resting phase at the moment but not so long ago it would erupt every night nearly giving an awesome show. (They were minor eruptions towards the end of the active phase, not crazy town destroying ones.) The town of Alajuela was really pretty and the highlight was hiking everyday to see beautiful sights and also finding the local Tabaconcito hot springs.
There are many hot springs in town that are located within hotels and are fancy, which is cool, but I would choose the local springs every time because they are beautiful and free. Finding them is easy, we just asked a few people in town and got the directions we needed and I also checked blogs for extra help. But what I love the most is that locals have put candles all around the edges of the pools and at nighttime this place just looks magical.
After climbing volcanos I wanted to tick something my bucket list, which was visiting Territorio De Zaguates "Land of the Strays". A dog refuge and shelter located in the hills of Costa Rica home to over 900 furry friends. I am a huge dog lover and getting the chance to visit this place was amazing. On Saturdays and Sundays they open their gates and let travellers come on walks with the dogs though the massive property. It was one of the best days of my life seeing all of the dogs so happy and being taken care of. It was also heartbreaking to hear their stories and how some of them came to be there. But the best thing is nearly all of the dogs are adoptable! Before packing your bags and jetting off to visit too, check their Facebook page for upcoming events and walks.
So after fulfilling my dream of cuddling hundreds of dogs in one day we headed back to San Jose and on to Santa Teresa at the bottom of the Nicoya Coast. This is a pretty basic surf town consisting of a dirt road strip of shops and eateries along the beach. To be honest I found this placed really over priced, and pretty americanised. The main road is hectic to navigate if you don't have a four wheel drive car or dirt bike. Walking it is fine unless it has rained, then it is a mud pit. We got over the town pretty quick, but I know some people really love it there. Different strokes for different folks, but I myself like seeing locals thrive when I travel. Here it felt like expats had taken over the little coastal town and when I checked the real estate agent there were a good dozen mansions for over a million bucks up for grabs. How that amount is justified... no idea. Just kind of annoyed me as you realise that the locals will never probably be able to afford their own land again.
After Santa Teresa we decided to head back to Puerto Escondido, Mexico to have a break from paradise in paradise. My overall experience of Costa Rica was awesome, the greeness of the jungles, the lovely people, the stunning beaches all blew my mind. But, Costa Rica also blew my mind with how expensive it is. USD is king there too so that never helps. If you are travelling there for a holiday and not long term travel then go for it, go crazy. As a long term traveller it is always good to stick to budget so you don't blow your money on one country.
Handy bits about Costa Rica:
Language spoken: Spanish
Favorite beach: Puerto Viejo
Currency used: CRC and USD
Travel costs: Moderte to high $$
Best way to travel: Bus and boat
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