One way to spend 10 days in Costa Rica .f
Costa Rica‘s slogan already gives you an idea of its pace of life: « Pura Vida ». It was the third country I visited during my 2016 Road Trip and the destination we had decided to meet up with the friends I had left behind in Boston, 3 weeks earlier.
We rented a car to fit the 5 of us and took the road to discover a country with quite a few fun facts. For example, that the country has almost 10% of the planet’s faune and flore, or that it doesn’t have an army, which is surprising for a country in such a strategic place, or that it is considered one of the most valued environmental destinations in the world… Another not so fun fact is that it’s not that cheap to travel through Costa Rica.
I got the feeling I didn’t quite enough make the most of Costa Rican nature. If I was to change one thing of our 10 days in Costa Rica, it would be to see more fauna and flora and spend more time in National Parks and Sanctuaries. For sure in 10 days one needs to choose what to do and which areas to cover.
You may have understood, Costa Rica is the Nature & Adventure kind of holiday.
♣ San José
San José, being the capital of the country, is nice but nothing too interesting. The idea is to walk around the city and soak up the latin atomospher for 1 day and enjoy some pretty cool street art.
What I really remember from San José is that we actually mainly went for food and beers. We did walk around and see what there was to see, but it’s not a very charming city, however it’s quite lively. There was a lot of music everywhere and it was warm and sunny; it really had that Latin feeling.
♣ La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano
We started the day with an impressive view on to the Arenal Volcano, the star of La Fortuna, from our room, which is always pleasant.
To get some serious stuff done, we went hiking around the Arenal Volcano. It’s really nice, views are awesome, it’s not too difficult, nature is terrific and varies quite a bit actually. You walk on hardened lava and around a nice lake. Unfortunately, clouds decided to stick on top of the volcano, but it was a very nice hike. It probably took us around 3 hours.
You can also hike on the Cerro Chato Volcano, supposed to be pretty cool, go rafting and go to the Waterfall, which we didn’t have time to do
In La Fortuna, you can go to hot springs, or rather so hot pools, heated by the volcano. We had asked in our hostel and they were only suggesting places we had to pay 50$ to get in to stay 2 or 3 hours… That was for us, out of budget and therefore, out of question. Eventually, a girl in a local shop told us about this place locals went to, Las Termalitas de Arenal – 4000 Colones / 7€. It was very nice. The water was heated by the volcano, it had 4 or 5 pools, there were very few people and we chilled there for a couple of hours.
Monteverde is THE eco-tourist place in Costa Rica, with a crazy biodiversity, thanks to it’s Cloud forests, coffee plantations, ziplines, suspension bridges, monkeys, birdwatching, day and evening hikes and others! The region harbors over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species, and over 2,500 varieties of plants, 420 of which are orchids alone.
Costa Rica has some of the longest ziplines (in the world?), with 1-mile-long ones. It was loads of fun and the views over the cloud forest and the sensations are really cool. Feeling like Superman, so high up in the sky. That was an experience! It costs around 50$ and Monteverde has a lot options to do it.
♣ Santa Teresa
I spent the night in Cobano, because I had met some costaricains, but it’s nothing interesting and we all 4 went to Playa Carmen the next morning, which was really really nice. All the Santa Teresa, Mal Pais, Montezuma area has a lot of beaches, which are nice and wild, with quite a few waves. Obviously this place is paradise for surfers and all other water sports like windsurf, paddle, etc. ! Playa Hermosa and Playa Santa Teresa are the most well know.
I remember thinking that Costa Rican tourism looked… interesting. Don’t know if it was because of the season, but on the beach, there were not many people, but there were a lot of families, the slightly rich hippie kind of ones, vegan for sure, parents full of tattoos, with their surfing boards and 1 or 2 small kids. It was quite funny, but in the end, it was only in this place.
I didn’t do any, but Costa Rica is quite well know for it’s many Yoga courses and I am not surprised you can do quite bit in this area. In Mal Pais, you can also go to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve if you have extra time.
♣ Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
We had read that we could see a lot of wild life in the park and that it was beautiful, so I was expecting something quite wild. Instead, it was kind of manicured, with a paved road all along and we had the good idea to hire a guide, so he could to spot out, with his big lens, the sloths Costa Rica is so famous for. So we saw a couple of these (they are such funny creatures, they are so slow! You can only really imagine it when you’ve seen one) and we saw some white faced monkeys. They look so sweet, so cute, so human!! But, be weary, actually they are aggressive spoilt little brats, used to tourists giving them all their food.
The beach area at the end, was really nice. White sand, blue water, pretty perfect. All of it was nice, definitely, just not what I was thinking. We arrived too late to really make the most of it, but you can easily spend the whole day there.
There are also a couple of very nice beaches and restaurants around the park. We went to Playa Espadilla, just by the National Park.
If for example you don’t have enough time to go to the other places, Manuel Antonio is a good concentrate of all the main activities you can do in Costa Rica. You can without problem do hiking, rafting, animal watching, ziplining, horse riding and sport fishing. The later is pretty expensive and not really my thing, but Quepos, the town of Manuel Antonio, is very famous for it.
♣ Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Puerto Viejo is a cool town, pretty chill, weed, loads of bars and party, surfing when the weather allows it. Typical backpacker destination. It definitely the kind of small place where you can wake up one day and tell yourself: « it’s been 3 weeks already?! ». The main beach had this fascinating black sand, something I had never seen before.
I wanted to go visit the Jaguar Rescue Center, which is an animal rescue center you can visit and also volunteer. As I asked a taxi driver to bring me there, he explained that the tours start in the morning and sometimes need to be booked… So I walked down the main road and there are some really much nicer beaches, much more wild and on top of that, there were some sloths in the trees on the way. I ended up in Playa Cocles and if I had rented a bike, I would have gone on to Playa Punta Uva.
The other activities I would have liked to do are the Chocolate tour and the Cahuita National Park or the Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge which are supposed to be good. Although it’s true by the time you get to Puerto Viejo, you’re kind of done with all the National Parks…
♣ Other famous places:
« Tamarindo is a popular resort beach town located in the Guancaste district of Costa Rica. The area is filled with lots of tour operators, resorts, and surf shops. Tamarindo is famous for its surfing and wide breaks. However, the area is more expensive than other parts of the country because of all the resorts and development, and therefore I suggest you not spend a lot of time here. It makes for a good major town to stop at before you head to other parts of the Nicoya peninsular, which are often less crowded and cheaper. Just be aware of that before you travel here but it is a good destination to visit in itself. »
I Would have loved to go there and maybe do some volunteering with the turtles! « Tortuguero, is one of the country’s most important nesting sites for the leatherback, green, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles. From November to January, night tours of the beaches offer visitors the chance to see baby turtles scrambling towards the shore for the first time. The area is also Costa Rica’s Amazon-like rainforest, and you can take many boat tours around the canals to see over 800 species of wildlife, especially many types of birds. Maybe one of the best parts of Costa Rica! »
« Marked by a small hub of banks, restaurants, grocery stores, and offices near the main highway, Uvita is a town that offers much more than convenient commerce. Take one of the many dirt roads into the mountains and you will discover hidden neighborhoods neatly tucked into the rainforest. From here, you will have breathtaking views of the famous whale tail, a giant sandbar shaped just like that of a whale fin. On the coastal side, a charming Tico neighborhood named Bahía Ballena abuts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and one of the only marine national parks in Costa Rica, Marino Ballena. A stop here will give a glimpse into real Tico life and show you why Costa Ricans are some of the happiest people on earth. »
« Because of its rich biological diversity, the Corcovado Foundation considers the park to be one of the world’s most important sources for future knowledge about rainforest ecosystems and conservation. The untouched wilderness and shear remoteness will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a place where nature, not man, rules the world. » It « is located on the Osa peninsula and its main access point is Puerto Jimenez. It still is one of the more remote national parks though but with excellent wildlife watching. The waterfalls, beaches and rain forest make this park a real gem. »
♣ Useful links:
- Transportation: Bus timetables & Hertz Costa Rica
- Good blogs and websites: Nomadicmatt, Matt & Jenn, Costa Rica guide
- Volunteering: there are many volunteering opportunities Volunteer in Costa Rica is one of the websites. The Jaguar Rescue Center is also a place you can volunteer.