Average cost p/day: $US60
Time frame: 2 weeks
Currency: Costa Rican Colones (US dollars also accepted in most places)
Costa Rica is a country that many backpackers skip when traveling through Central America, but I think it’s well worth visiting. It is often overlooked because it’s much more expensive than the rest of the area – yes, the activities are pricey, but they’re also amazing! The hostels are also not as good as in the rest of Central America, certainly not as social (I have still listed hostel recommendations – but don’t have your hopes too high for these ones!)
HOWEVER. There are many amazing reasons to visit Costa Rica. The standout reason is the wildlife. Costa Rica is full of sloths and turtles and just about everything else you could imagine. There are beautiful national parks you can explore and stunning beaches to relax on. There is also someting for the thrill seekers – whether it be white water rafting, zip lining or bungee jumping. So give Costa Rica a chance!
WHERE TO GO
Monteverde / Santa Elena
The neighbouring towns of Monteverde and Santa Elena are an absolute must-do in Costa Rica. For about US$50 you can do a canopy tour at Extremo Park that includes a tarzan swing and fourteen ziplines – the longest one (which you go down face-first!) is more than one kilometre. While cruising along the lines, you’ll get incredible views of the mountains and even a waterfall. They also offer a bungee jump if you’re looking for a bigger thrill! While in the area, be sure to check out the huge ficus tree, tucked away in the jungle near the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge. Ficus trees are hollow, therefore ideal for climbing. Another great activity is a night walk to discover the wildlife. We spotted sloths, kinkajous, frogs, snakes, birds and an assortment of weird and wonderful insects, including enormous spiders!
Hostel recommendation – El Tucan (Santa Elena)
Manuel Antonio is a little piece of paradise. The stunning beach seems to go on forever, perfect for relaxing or going for a walk/run. You could spend a whole day exploring the incredible national park, full of sloths and monkeys. The monkeys are hilariously cheeky. Don’t take any food in – they will find a moment when you’re not looking to unzip your bag, rummage through it and steal your snacks.
Hostel recommendation – El Faro Beach Hostel
Uvita is somewhat of a ‘hidden gem.’ It’s a quiet little town on the south Pacific coast of Costa Rica, not often visited by backpackers. Just outside of Uvita there are amazing waterfalls called Carata Uvita. The first waterfall is about 8m high and you can swim in it’s pool, or if you’re brave even slide down it or jump from the top of it. If you keep walking further upstream you’ll find more and more waterfalls to splash around in. There’s also a short hike that starts in town and ends up on the top of a hill, offering views of the coastline – which looks somewhat like a whale’s tail. A couple of hours away, ideal for a day trip, you’ll find Isla de Cano. This is an amazing spot for snorkeling. The bluest water I’ve ever seen! You’ll most likely pass dolphins and maybe even whales as you motor your way out towards the the island. Colourful coral reefs, huge schools of fish and plenty of turtles fill the crystal clear water, making it well worth the pricey day trip.
I’ll be honest, San Jose is a dirty and dull city. However…it is somewhat unavoidable because just about all buses in Costa Rica go through San Jose. So, if you end up having to stay over night, then the least I can do is lead you to a decent hostel…
Hostel recommendation – Hostel Pangea
If you’re after a funky little beach town, with diverse shops, bars, restaurants and market stalls, Puerto Viejo is the perfect place. There are many opportunities to see animals while here, both in the wild and at animal centres such as the Sloth Sanctuary and the Jaguar Rescue Center.
Hostel recommendation – Rocking J’s
Rio Pacure (for white water rafting!)
World renowned for its white water rafting, Rio Pacure most certainly will not disappoint! As well as spectacular rapids, you’ll be treated to dozens of waterfalls and beautiful views. Every now and then, when the water is more calm, you’ll be able to hop out of the raft and just float down the river. Great fun!
Do this as a day trip from San Jose or Puerto Viejo. Some companies will even pick you up in one location, and drop you off in the other!
Still on my to do list —
Tortuguero: Sadly, I missed this place. By all accounts, it’s the best destination in Costa Rica for spotting wildlife, namely turtles.