Several hours had passed since the Panamanian / Costa Rican border crossing and finally we found ourselves arriving in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. The bus ride had gone without incident and for most parts of the journey was very scenic with rainforest vegetation dominating the all round vista on either side of the national highway.
As far as capitals go, San Jose is up there as probably one of the least appealing in the world – even the local Ticos will agree with you! However, we certainly made the most of our limited time in the capital.
That evening the three of us (yes Fudgie, Daniel and I) needed to venture out to the international airport to collect our good friend, Ali Auber from Jersey, who was joining us for a few weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua! We had not seen Ali since the day I was naturalized as a British Citizen in the Royal Court in Jersey, so we were very excited at the prospect of spending some time with her over the coming few weeks. At the airport we waited and waited and finally her plane landed. Looking nice and tanned after spending two weeks in Jamaica, Ali appeared with a big smile on her face! Also, notable on Ali’s arrival was the presence of a backpack that weighed about 30kgs and a nice handbag on her arm…hardcore backpacker? Not! So that is where the nickname “Princess Backpacker” was coined and from this moment Ali was referred to as the princess backpacker! More nicknames were to come over the impending few weeks.
The next day was the only day we had planned to be in San Jose…actually by mid afternoon we wanted to be on a bus to Monteverde, which is a small village town located in the cloud forest region of the country. We managed to get a fairly early reprieve from our spot at the bar because the not so friendlier staff at the hostel thought it was time to close before telling any of us punters (I mean you really should tell the patrons that it is time to leave before just turning off the lights!). The next day arrived and we made the most of our time in San Jose. I saddled up as tour guide extraordinaire for the day and after a brief pit stop for breakfast and to check the timetable for buses to Monteverde, we were on our way! For the next 4 hours I took the troops on what I thought was one of the best city tours in the world (lol). Actually, 1 hour might have been enough to satisfy your appetite in San Jose! Check out the photos if you dare, but seriously we took what we could of the city and then got out of there!
So it was off to the bus station, where we prepared sandwiches and snacks for our bus trip to Monteverde!
We arrived in Monteverde late in the evening and surprisingly for once were not hassled by hostellers with their leaflets and lengthy spiels about how great their digs were and why we should stay with them as opposed to the person next to them offering exactly the same price and deal. Instead the hostellers are not allowed by local law to pass a certain line at the bus terminal, so all the normal ramblings are indeed happening, but from a distance! It was a bizarre situation and different from any other busy terminal experience in Latin America.
We spoke to several hostel representatives and finally agreed to go with a lady to her hostel as she seemed genuine, did not hassle us too much and her place looked suitable for our purposes. Incredibly the price of one room, including private bathroom, for the four of us was only USD 20 total, so there were no arguments from our side. Our place had a wonderful setting overlooking thick cloud forest country and also our deal included breakfast and all day coffee / tea! Super stuff!
It must be said that our time in Costa Rica coincided with the rainy season so our fate, in terms of weather favourable to good backpacking, was in the hands of god! We enjoyed a good few days chilling out in Monteverde and were lucky enough to experience another wonderful coffee tour - well, actually I did not go as I was trying to catch up on mails and updating our website, but the others said it was an educational experience and the photos more than substantiate their claim. Check them out when you have time! One other day we ventured out to do “zip lining” through the cloud forest of Monteverde – actually it was about 15kms of zip lining above and through the cloud forest! This was without doubt one of the most exhilarating experiences on our trip. Despite some initial fears we all successfully completed the 15km zip lining course, which included some high octane moments doing the 1km long “super man” and the free falling “tarzan swing” – check out the photos and also videos on the website!
Playa del Coco
So having experienced the dampness of the cloud forest region, it was off for some beach action at the popular Tico destination of Playa del Coco in the departmento of Guanacaste! It was a good chance for our last guest blogger (Daniel) to experience 5 days of warmer weather in the sunshine chilling out by the pool and the beach before heading back to the colder conditions of Europe!
Our time in Playa del Coco was spent lazying by the pool at our hotel, walking along the beach, chilling at a great little coffee bar also on the beach and a few other times visiting the American sports bar + casino on the main strip!
We really enjoyed our “rest and recovery” time at Playa del Coco and we also enjoyed having lunch at our place with Kristen and her boyfriend Dylan who are CouchSurfers from Montana, USA living / working at a school in Playa del Coco. We hope you guys are well back in the States!
Next stop…just down the road in Liberia!
Liberia & Rincon de la Vieja
Before leaving Costa Rica I wanted to do something cultural or see a place that would at least give me a lasting positive impression of the country, because until this point our experience had been San Jose for 2 days, Monteverde for 3 days and Playa del Coco for 5 days.
A little further inland from Playa del Coco is the capital of Guanacaste – Liberia. Whilst Liberia does not itselft have a massive amount to offer, it is the place to be if you want to visit the Rincon de la Vieja (The Old Woman’s Corner), which is a national parkland sitting on a tectonic hotspot. It is in all the well known guide books and definitely well worth visiting!
We arrived in Liberia late in the afternoon and met our next couchsurfing host, the lovely Eugenia Muñoz (aka Salma Hayek lookalike)! That night the three of us took our host our for sushi and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other more and exchange stories. Actually, it was Eugenia who helped us organize our day trip to Rincon de la Vieja as many of her previous CouchSurfers had been on this tour as well. Thanks Eugenia, we really appreciated your help!
Early the next day we were up and off on the local bus outside Eugenia’s place to the meeting point in Liberia. After meeting our van we were off to collect a few other people and then it was off to the park for some trekking. So along the way we collect two sisters (Alex and Alicia from Colorado) who bizarrely enough, we find out after speaking to them for 5 minutes, are staying with another Couchsurfer in Liberia who we were meant to be meeting up with for a drink later that night. Alicia and Alex were great fun and we enjoyed walking with them around the park for several hours. If you are visiting the region then definitely take the time to visit the national park of Rincon de la Vieja as the landscape is beautiful, from green pastures to bubbling geysers, and it has a beautiful waterfall on one of the walks in the park. Look out for the howling monkeys as well – they sound so aggressive!
After we got back home Fudgie was tired and Ali had a few things to sort out for her trip to South Africia, so later that night I met up with the Alicia and Alex, their CouchSurfing host Jonathan, Eugenia and a few of their mutual friends for a drinks and dancing. We had an awesome evening, which included later that night taking to the dance floor to practice Salsa. Sorry for stepping on toes! It was a fun evening and really made the time in Liberia fun. It was a shame the girls stayed at home!
So that was it for Costa Rica! I think the weather had a lot to do with our experience not being as good as it could have been as we were there during the rainy season. One thing I would like to do is try to get back some day to experience the beautifully unspoilt beaches for which this country is famous.