Although I only spent two weeks in Costa Rica, I know this is a place I will come back to again, as it is just spectacular! The locals are cheery and it is definitely true that they use the phrase ‘Pura Vida’ for everything- hello, thankyou, don’t worry, have a nice day…
A little more expensive than it’s Central American cousins, though transport is cheap, safe and comfortable and it is easy to find your way around by public bus. Taking the TICA bus from Managua, we sailed smoothly across the border into Costa Rica and landed in Liberia, the second biggest city in Costa Rica. Liberia is nothing that special, and served as a transit stop for us, however we did take a trip down to the Llano de Cortes waterfall just south of town.
Having heard that Tamarindo was quite a tourist town, I decided to head further down the Nicoya Peninsula to Samara, where I spent quite a few days lazing by the beach! Afternoons were spent jamming on the hostel terrace with a Tico named Enrique, who worked the town by night for tips. Needless to say hearing the old rock and roll tunes sung in Spanish was quite the experience – Rolling Stones, anyone?
By night, the place comes alive however don’t expect any activity before around 11pm. Many nights were spent playing pool in the Media Luna and at Las Olas. I took up an invitation to attend ‘Bohemian night’ which involves meeting at a bar at midnight, to join the locals after they finish work – then jamming together and dancing under the stars on the beach until around 5am. The sky was clear and the night was warm!
By chance I met a few ladies who were studying at the local Spanish school and they invited me to join them on a road trip down to Corcovado National Park in the south of the country. I was entrusted with the map and given the all important job of DJ, while Tammy made the full day drive down to Puerto Jimenez.
We spent the night close to the national park in the small town of Puerto Jimenez, on the Oso Peninsula in the deep south of the country. The hike itself was a beautiful 15km journey through rainforest right next to the beach – and we saw why it is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world! I was so impressed by our time there that I have made a separate post here – check it out.
Making our way back up the coast, we stopped in the surf town of Dominical and the second I walked into the Cool Vibes hostel, I knew that I wanted to stay a little longer than one night. The others understood and were a tiny bit jealous, as they were on a schedule to return back to Samara.
The town being small has a very laid back vibe, great waves and friendly people. For the first time on my trip I managed to have a surf, although trying to back it up the next day was difficult, particularly after completing an exercise session on the beach with a German who was a personal trainer. Sore abs, anyone? So I did what anyone would do in my situation and had a massage down on the beach.
I’d met a friendly crew at the hostel and we decided to head up to a house on the hill just out of town, to have a few quiet beers in air-conditioned comfort. Two cars paraded up slowly in convoy, the Jimny struggling to carry four large men up a steep slope but refusing to give in, and soon an American, two Germans, four Canadians, and me the token Aussie arrived at our destination. Needless to say the language of drinking games was universal, although at times some of the rules got lost in translation!
While I wanted to stay longer in this awesome little town, I felt like it was time to move on, heading towards Panama. To break up the journey, I decided to stop for one night in San Jose and then in the Carribean coastal town of Puerto Viejo.
Inside Kaya’s place, the hostel where I stayed, was also the local microbrewery. Dangerous! Quickly being convinced to pull up a pew at the bar, I made friends with the brewer and a lovely couple from San Diego and tried many of the special experiments that were on offer behind the bar – sours may be an acquired taste!
After a quick pint or two I set off for an afternoon walk along the beach. Locals were playing football on the most waterlogged pitch I have ever seen, and fisherman had taking over an old barge which lies sunk just off the coast.
Not wanting to miss seeing a sloth, I hired a bike and headed out of town in the morning, stopping by a bakery for breakfast and checking out Playa Cocles. The Jaguar Rescue Centre was around 7km out of town and only do tours twice daily, which was on my must do list.
Entirely run by volunteers, the centre relies on donations as it does not receive any funding from the government. Sadly, the animals in need often are rescued from animal poachers and are often not in very good condition when they arrive. Although there were no jaguars to be seen, the animals in residence included an Ocelot and a Margay (big cats), Sloths, baby monkeys, birds and snakes.
We were treated to seeing some signature Costa Rican red eyed tree frogs, including a mating pair which the centre founder was extremely excited about – apparently it is a rare thing to see.
Cruising back to town, it was time to leave magical Costa Rica and board a public bus for Sixaola – the most laid back border crossing I have seen so far! Passport stamped and an hour lost, and we were headed for Bocas del Toro.