Costa Rica

One of my favourite countries!  Costa Rica is so magnificently rich in flora and fauna there are times when you can’t help but get overwhelmed with what this country offers.  Acknowledged as one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet; nature lovers are sure to not be disappointed with a trip to this wondrous place.

 

West Coast:

 

San Jose – Flight to Costa Rica are more frequent to San Jose international airport.  As with many big Central American cities, the initial step out of the airport and into the rugged wilderness of the city lights can be quite daunting.  I chose to stay for just one night in San Jose to recover from the long flight then head out away from the city into nature. (1 night stay).

 

San Isidro del General – I initially stopped here to break up the journey from San Jose to Puerto Jiminez and it was a great find.  It’s not a popular tourist attraction but it has beautiful landscapes and many things to do.  I was only here for one night but made a trip to the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve at the base of Mount Chirripo.  A peaceful setting and a great surprise from this small city. (1 night stay).

 

Puerto Jiminez – Probably one of the smallest towns I have visited with some of the most fascinating things to see right on its doorstep.  The town itself is pretty much one long dirt road with a small beach at one end, adjacent to creeks full of caiman and bizarrely an air landing strip.  Rent a bike and you can quickly get to some amazing, peaceful white beaches.  Most importantly, this town is the doorway to Corcovado National Park – simply one of the best places I have ever spent time.  We hired a guide from the town centre who picked us up early the next morning and took us deep into Corcovado.  The plethora of animals that we saw in their natural setting was phenomenal.  If you are in Costa Rica, you must, must, must make the journey and visit here! (3 night stay).

 

Dominical – A small beach front town with a very cool market place and delicious, fresh food.  The perfect location for lazing in a hammock and enjoying the surf after visiting the nearby waterfalls.  Be wary of the crocs who aren’t afraid to invade you hotel grounds! (2 night stay).

 

San Jose – Over-night stop off for bus links to Monteverde. (1 night stay).

 

Monteverde – What a difference a few hours on a hair-raising bus ride can make.  From the warm beaches of the east coast to the fresh mountain air; at 1,400 metres above sea level, Monteverde is misty, humid, and a little windy.  There is so much to do here you need a few days to fit everything in.  Zip-lining through the rainforest canopy was a particular highlight, as was the trip to the Cloud Forest Reserve with its quiet paths and hundreds of hummingbirds flittering past you.  Make sure that you do a night walk where you can spot sloths, snakes and spiders.  The serpentarium on the outskirts of town is a surprisingly interesting stop on a wet day.  You can’t visit Costa Rica without a trip here! (3 night stay).

 

Jaco – Out of the clouds and back to the shore.  Jaco is definitely more tourist centric than many other places in the country.  Surf in the day and party in the night.  You can take a trip here to nearby Tortuga (Turtle) Island or arrange a shuttle boat over to the Mal Pais. (2 night stay).

 

Mal Pais – Very popular with surfers and water sports enthusiasts, Mal Pais is a small but vibrant stop.  By night this sleepy, surfer town becomes lit up with the multi-coloured lights of bars and restaurants.  I stayed a short bicycle ride away from the main road in a lodge where I went to sleep every night to the sound of insects and bats and awoke in search of howler monkeys. (2 night stay).

 

Tamarindo – Despite being the most touristy destination in Costa Rica the beach here is beautiful and it provides easy access to San Manuel Antonio National Park.  There are some bigger bars here and readily available internet access! (2 night stay). 

 

Nicaragua: San Juan Del Sur – On a tip from a traveller I met in Mal Pais I took a bus from Tamarindo across the border into Nicaragua (which was hassle free and well directed but make sure you have a return ticket or ongoing travel ticket out of Nicaragua or they won’t let you in).  San Juan is a very cool coastal town with the smell of coffee and freshly baked banana bread filling the air.  Take a trip to the local nearby beaches and a boat across to Ometepe.  (3 night stay).

I returned to San Juan Del Sur 3 months later to learn Spanish at a local school.

 

East Coast:

 

Puerto Viejo – The east coast of Costa Rica has a different feel to the west.  Facing the Caribbean sea, the Caribbean influence is certainly present.  The beaches aren’t as nice as along the west coast and if the sun isn’t shining, there is very little to do.  (1 night stay).

 

Panama: Bocas Del Toro – An archipelago off the northwest coast of Panama, Bocas del Toro is an eco-tourism favorite with white beaches and clear waters filled with fascinating fish and hundreds of star fish.  There are snorkelling and island hopping trips aplenty to keep you busy in the day and open air restaurants to stock up on tasty dishes in the evening.  A great place to relax and linger in the colourful carribean vibes. (3 night stay).