Ever dreamed of hiking in Rainforest? I did and picked CostaRica to do that on my birthday (don’t ask my age). I researched as we all do and picked which side of the country I want to explore. CostaRica has too many beautiful places and not possible to cover everything in 5 days. So I picked pacific cost. Check my other post for on arrival visa to Costa Rica in Visa tips section. My plan was to use public transportation to go around the country.
I arrived in an early morning flight from BWI to San José and reached San José at 10am. Tomie (my host in San José) had sent me directions on how to get to his place. I took my blue backpack and walked out of the airport with full confidence and then after taking 10 steps I had a panic attack. I ran back to the airport and got a rental car for 5 days. Not that the place was scary but it was my first time in a country where I didn’t know the language. Tomie and Paula are such wonderful and friendly people. They gave me a private room at their place and laughed when I told them about my panic attack. After the introduction and talking briefly with them about what to see in town I went out to start exploring the town using public transportation. It is cheap to use local transportation. Make sure to keep exact change [Tip1]. Downtown is crowded with people shopping even on a weekday afternoon. I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting beautiful churches, museums, the marketplace, and feeding pigeons. Don’t miss out on trying some street food.
After I got back home Tomie and Paula got to know that it was my birthday and they wanted to celebrate. We went to an international food store and got Indian spices to make chicken curry with rice. On our way to the store I showed them my Indian driving skills by giving them adrenal rush for a second (when we got home they were glad to be out of the car haha.) We spent the night talking about so many things. I learned about Costa Rican culture and how easygoing people are. Paula and I connected so much that we felt like we had known each other forever.
I woke up early in the morning and got some recommendations on what places I shouldn’t miss and left San Jose to get to Manual Antonio. If you drive without stops it will take around 4 hours to get there. I was stopping along the way at the beaches of Jaco and Playa Hermosa. Playa Jaco is famous for surfing classes and tourists from all over the world go there for surfing. Something to consider if you are into surfing [Tip 2].
I looked up online for hostels in Manual Antonio and made a list of hostels to check before deciding which one. Out of all the places, I liked the view and coziness at Vista Serena. The people are friendly and they have hammocks in the front porch overlooking the ocean and a great sunset view. The price was reasonable and had bunk beds in the AC room. I totally recommend staying there if you are a backpacker and low on the budget like me [Tip 3].
Here is the link to their website http://www.vistaserena.com/
I got some milk and toast for breakfast provided by the hostel. I met fellow travelers and within no time we formed a group of 5 girls to go hiking in the park and swim in the ocean.
Tropical beaches are my favorite and combining it with hiking is amazing. The hike was moderate but long in the Manuel Antonio National Park. We picked a trail which gave us access to the hidden beaches in the park which are less crowded.
Watch out for BLACK CTENOSAURS! They are very sneaky, and it’s easy to miss them in the rocks. One of the girl almost sat on it thinking it’s a rock. These lizards are huge [Tip 4].
After a day of hiking and swimming we headed to a popular bar in town which is built out of an old airplane. They had good tropical cocktails and yummy seafood.
I hit the road early to reach Alajuela by lunch. Driving through the mountains was breathtaking, but risky. The roads are steep and curvy, I was scared at one point to go any further and pulled over on the side of the road
These curvy roads take you through small mountain villages and farms. When I needed directions Google Translate came handy for translating English to Spanish [Tip 5].
As planned I reached Alajuela by 1 pm and checked into Arenal Backpackers Resort. As I didn’t make a reservation, the only bed available was in a mixed dorm. People in the hostel are friendly as expected from travelers. I made friends in no time and we were out exploring the town and ready to hike Arenal volcano.
Late in the night we went to hot springs river with beer and drinks. It was dark and crowded so we walked further up the river to find a quite spot. All of us found places to sit in the river and something happened, something I never thought of. A few college kids came and started lighting candles on the rock. Imagine the feeling of sitting in a warm rushing river drinking beer with lighted candles all around, it was romantic and was the only time I wished for a boyfriend 😉 I didn’t take my phone to the river so no pictures, read it again and picture it in your head.
This day was the best part of my whole trip. A day filled with action and adventure. 8am is when it all started with hiking to get to waterfalls so we could jump in them. It was a package of waterfall rappelling, zip lining, jumping off the cliff, hiking and going head down between canyons. Yes you read it right all those things in one trip. I was so panicked for my first jump and then the adrenaline rush kicked in which didn’t stop for the next 3 hours. All that action was caught on my Go Pro 🙂
I will try to compile all go pro videos from my adventure and post them soon.
To stay on budget, I ate at local soda places which serve good local food at a fraction of the cost compared to fancy restaurants [Tip 6]. In the evening I spent hours talking with fellow travelers in the hostels. This trip gave me an opportunity to meet people from all around the world. I went to bed with so many stories and jokes in my head. Here is the link to Arenal Backpacker Resort which is truly a resort for backpackers [Tip 7].
The next morning, I left to go to the airport and got on the flight back to BWI. My flight was in the evening so I had time to go hike the Poás Volcano National Park.
Feel free to contact me for any questions while planning your trip to Costa Rica. Pura Vida!