I know it’s taking me a long time to post these, but I’ve been busy lately.
After our awesome rafting trip, our tour bus dropped us off at the hostel we thought we were going to stay at, the Arenal Backpackers Resort. It turns out that this place is pretty popular as it was the only 5-star hostel in Costa Rica. The place was really nice and even had a pool, which is definitely a first for me in a hostel.
Since this hostel was full, the guy working there told us we could get a room at the hotel directly across the street for the same per person rate. The only problem with this is that the room had a 4 beds and we had 5 people. 2 guys ended up sharing one of the beds for one night, and luckily it wasn’t me!
The town of La Fortuna is best known for having one of the largest volcanoes in Costa Rica (there are several). It’s called Volcán Arenal and is typically one of the most active volcanoes and the best to see. At night, you’re supposed to be able to see small bits of lava shooting out the top. Unfortunately, when we were there, the volcano had been inactive for the past 7 months. Oh well, I still got to see a volcano! This was the view from the balcony of our hotel room.
Even though we weren’t staying at the hostel, they told us we could still hang out at the bar that evening. Apparently between us we spent enough money at the bar that they told us the next morning that we could come back and use the pool as long as we were in La Fortuna! We ended up using the pool the night before anyway, though. They even had a poolside bar! After the bar at the hostel closed fairly early that evening (I think 11pm), we headed out to find a club that we were told was right down the street. This was a “2-blocks” type of situation as it was not right down the street. After wandering down the street through a dark neighborhood and with the direction of a couple police officers, we eventually found the place we were looking for. Since it was so far off the tourist strip it was all locals who went there…and us. That made for a fun night! And of course, there was a sign outside the place with the motto of Costa Rica.
From Puerto Viejo, we were trying to figure out the best way to get up to La Fortuna to see the Volcán Arenal. On a bus, it would have taken roughly 10 hours with about 5 stops in between. We decided that was not a good option. Having 4 of us, we could have taken a cab for $50 per person, which wouldn’t have been too bad. The third option was doing a half-day rafting trip which would drop us off in the area we wanted to end up in for only a little bit more than the cab would have cost. BINGO! So we got up early to catch our bus to the spot where we would begin the rafting trip.
The Pacuare River was rated by National Geographic as one of the top 10 river trips in the world, so I was pretty excited to get it going. For those of you who haven’t done rafting before, you have a guide who calls out instructions such as (paddle) forward, back, or down if you’re coming up to a big rapid and you need to get down in the boat in order not to fall out. Our team of 6 was doing pretty well until once we were coming up to a big one and didn’t hear our guide say “DOWN!” leading us to all go crashing on top of each other and one guy to get busted in eye by a helmet. Luckily, nobody actually fell out of the boat.
Our tour started off pretty calm, but then got pretty crazy!
This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and I can’t wait to go rafting again!
From San Jose, I took a 4.5 hour bus ride to Puerto Viejo. It turns out that it’s good to buy your bus tickets more than 5 minutes prior to the bus leaving, otherwise you end up standing for the entire trip (which was not fun)! Puerto Viejo is a beach town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica only a short distance away from Panama. Had I realized this when I was there, I would have probably taken a short detour to Bocas del Toro. Oh well, another trip I guess.
First, the hostel I stayed at was pretty unique. It was called Rockin’ J’s and backed up right to the beach. You could sleep in hammocks, tents, or cabanas. I think the hammocks were only $3 or $4 a night to sleep in, while the other ones were $7 or $8.
And since it had a private entrance to a beach, this was the view from there.
After my Italy trip fell through the cracks at the last minute, I booked a ticket to go to Costa Rica 5 days prior to leaving. I was surprised it didn’t cost me more considering it was less than a week ahead AND it was 4th of July weekend when I flew. Anyways, after a short connecting flight in Fort Lauderdale I landed in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose.
My first impression from the plane was that Costa Rica is mountainous, green, and very lush, which turned out to be completely true. When I walked out of the airport, I was greeted by what seemed like hundreds of shady cab drivers trying to get my attention. After a little negotiation, I decided that a cab to the center of San Jose (about 25km away) was still too expensive, so after asking a couple people at the bus stop around the corner I hopped on a local bus for about $1 (compared to $20 for a cab). People on the bus were very friendly and pointed me when to get off at the main bus station, which was only a little bit of a walk from my hostel. I stayed at Aldea Hostel, which turned out to be a great choice because it was a great hostel and I met a lot of really awesome people there. Before I left, I had only booked my first 2 nights in San Jose and figured I’d determine the rest as I went. I believe this is the best way to travel so that you’re never tied down to specific plans in case you find somewhere that you fall in love with and want to stay longer, or vice versa, if you hate somewhere you can leave when you want.
When I got to San Jose in the middle of the afternoon, it was raining pretty hard. It turns out that when I went is the winter season in Costa Rica, as well as the rainy season. What this means is that, for the most part, all day is sunny and beautiful until around 2-3pm when it begins torrential downpouring for a few hours. This happened just about every day of my trip. This definitely helps bring down the humidity, but also put a bit of a cramp on my exploration plans a few times. I ended up just hanging out at the hostel for the rest of the evening and playing some card games (King’s Cup anybody?) with some people I met there. One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the cheap beer in Costa Rica is way better than a lot of the beer we have in the US. The 2 big ones are Imperial and Pilsen, and both are extremely tasty.
The next day I got up relatively early and went out exploring the capital and here are a few pics of what I found.