What a delight – the fresh air and cooler temperatures up in the mountains!! Even though we had quite a lot of rain, I didn’t mind in the slightest. Mikael (the Swedish guy), Augustina and I did a hike in montverde national park, which was beautiful. We didn’t see too many animals but the eerie swing-like sound (a white-chested manakin or something like it) and the moss-esque epiphytes hanging off trees everywhere, together with a low-hanging mist often felt in the mornings in the mountains made it a great little hike. Apparently the part of the reserve open to tourists is only less than 1/20th of the entire monteverde protected region!
Just outside the reserve there was a hummingbird garden with feeders and I managed to get some excellent shots of the little hummers – keep an eye out when I put my photos up!
Other than the beautiful nature hikes that you can do there, it’s a little bit like the Queenstown (NZ) o costa rica with adventure & thrill activities galore. And the money to pay for them will last about as long as the adrenaline rush – they aren’t cheap! However, we did give in to the ziplining as it’s a must-do in monteverde. Ziplining is where you’re strapped to a cable and you “fly” high off he ground across varying lengths of cable. There are 3 companies that do it in monteverde: one is in and over primitive rainforest, so a great view (selvaturas). Aventuras tries to attract customers by having the biggest Tarzan swing (strapped to a rope like Tarzan and you jump only to end up swinging around fora while) and on the zipline you can also do the superman hang (strapped to your back and crossing arms and spread out as if actually flying) which selvaturas doesn’t have, though their ziplines are over farms. Extremos is secondary rainforest too and theyre waiting on a permit to build a bungee to 152m.
We chose the primary rainforest one, as Agustina was scared anyway to do it. I’m glad we did, because on the last 2 ziplines, which are long and for stability you go in pairs, the views were stunning!! Didn’t see any monkeys in the canopy, sadly.
The next day we did a hike to a 100m waterfall, again beautiful, and rested the rest of the day. The next morning Mikael left us, and our plans being cancelled due to rain, we hung out like lazy sloths all day. When you go to monteverde stay at pension santa elena, the people we so so so helpful!!
I said my goodbyes to Agustina (we’d been traveling together for a month!!) as she was heading west and I went east.
I took a bus to San Jose and then a bus to Puerto Viejo, at the bottom of the Caribbean coastline. Costa rica has some excellent beaches for surfing but if you’re not into that then you’re limited to those in the north on the pacific side.
As I was waiting for the bus to leave in San Jose it hit me – Costa Rica doesnt have to pushy vendors selling every single nicknack on the planet that invade the bus aisles at every stop. It certainly is more peaceful but the liveliness of the sellers also has its charm.
Puerto Viejo is, as all things are in costa rica it seems, much more touristy than I expected. Quality souvenir stalls lining the one street parallel to the beach and nice, albeit pricey, restaurants. I do think Costa Rica has my favourite comida tipica (local dish) – called casados, which is a plate with a pile of rice, a pile of red beans (frijoles, what else!), some salad, some fried plantain and a type of meat. My favourite are the meats in a tomato sauce, de-lish!
In puerto viejo I stayed at a hostel called rocking J’s, which is almost worth coming to puerto viejo for – you can hang up your own hammock/tent, pay for one of their hammocks with an accompanying lockers, pay for a tent (which has a mattress in it) with a locker or go upscale to the dorms and private rooms. It is quite the party hostel, so music until late, but it’s setting right in front one of the black sand beaches works in its favour too.
Rain threatened in the morning but the afternoon saw a breakthrough of sun, which was just wanted I wanted as I was heading back to rainy Belgium soon. I was contemplating a trip up the coast to Tortuguero, which is a protected mangrove forest where tonnes of various turtle species come to lay their eggs every year on the same coastal side but up north, but I decided against it, opting for a short trip to Bocas del Toro in Panama instead.
Bocas del toro is a group of islands on the Caribbean side, easily reached from Costa Rica, with great surf, beautiful corals and white-sand beaches. Most people stay in bocas town, on isla colon, but I decided to stay on bastimentos island, which has nicer beaches and the famous bastimentos colour morph of the strawberry poison dart frog, with black spots on its red body. Many people mistakenly believe that they’re only to be seen on red frog beach (actually found on the whole island) though red frog beach does have sloths. I didnt go to red frog beach, but stayed on wizard beach – more quite and undeveloped, and had 1 day of sun and 1 day of cloudy weather. Paradise!
I headed back to San Jose a with a full day to spare as I didn’t want to risk the bus breaking down and me missing my flight. In San Jose I stayed in hostel Pangea, which reminded me a bit of hostels in Australia – a big institution, clean and made me feel cleaner than I’d felt in a long time!!
I spent a morning walking around San Jose, which is actually really nice and I’m sure would get a lot more visitors if it ever managed to clean up its act about night crime. The beautiful buildings, civilised (and western) main shopping street (pedestrianised) and big park are lovely.
And that’s when I gave in and said goodbye. I headed to a hostel in Alajuela, much closer to the airport than San Jose, stayed the night and hopped on a free airport shuttle for my 8am flight.
It’s been a great 10 weeks, full of fun, nature and adventure, an I’d highly recommend it to anyone!