Apparently when I get a little too much time on my hands, my go to is to look up cheap flights and pack my bags. The beginning of July was no exception, and I found myself on a flight to Costa Rica within a week of buying my tickets (most spontaneous trip I’ve ever planned, but when the round trip is a reasonable price, I couldn’t say no).
It was perfect timing as well, I planned to meet up with a fellow travel friend from Australia, Monika who had been spending the last few months making her way up from South America. We’d meet up in San Jose, arriving within a few hours of each other, and go from there.
Having no plan worked in our favour, and we met another traveler in our hostel with room in his car. Perfect, we’d come along for the ride, and ended up in La Fortuna at one of my favourite hostels (one night turned into four). Surrounded by rainforest, volcanos, and hot springs, La Fortuna was a nature wonderland, and having access to a car made things quite a bit easier. Finding ourselves in Costa Rica during the rainy season kept things interesting, but something about tropical rain just adds to the experience.
We stayed at Arenal Backpackers Resort, whose views of the Arenal volcano, swimming pool, and option to be in a tent, the perfect place to stay.
With our nifty rental car, we were able to explore the surrounding areas, heading up a trail to where there were remnants of the 1968 eruption and walking through the rainforest and getting close to local animals. Sadly, no sightings of sloths, but I’ll add that to the list for next time.
Hot springs are also quite common in the area, and luckily amongst all the fancy spas, is a few free options. You’ll most likely spot it along the main road, look for the groups of people and bright yellow barriers across from Tabacon. Bring a few beers and try to head back before it gets too dark.
Lastly, the La Fortuna waterfall was pretty incredible, expect some tourists, but we found it worth the entrance fee and of course, don’t forget to go for a dip. Our favourite little local tip was to check our Pizza John’s, it was a little out of the way, but the owners were friendly and the pizza was top notch, but their specialty is ice cream with unique favours everyday.
With my trip being only a short week, I wanted to head to the coast for at least for a few days, and we chose the easiest destination of Tamarindo. Nicknamed Tama-gringo, you can see why. While quite touristy, it was nice to just chill on the beach with sangria in hand for a few days. We stayed at Pura Vida Mini Hostel, a quick walk to the beach and surrounding restaurants.
Tamarindo was where I really felt the differences of Costa Rica in comparison to other Central American countries. While a lot safer and relatively easy to get around (from most major hot spots, you can grab a seat on an organized bus) it’s quite family friendly, and you can get by with minimal Spanish, but that also means prices are a little more expensive and places can seem a bit “too popular”. Thankfully, with eco-tourism being a huge part of Costa Rica, there are still plenty of places that are untouched and waiting to be explored. With more time, I would have loved to check out some less crowded coastal towns, do Monteverde, and head to the Caribbean side. Until next time… you’ll find me where the wild things are.