Costa Rica is, was, and always will be a dream. It’s almost everyone’s first trip to Central America, and there is a reason for it. It’s absolutely stunning, cheap to get to, ‘exotic,’ and unbelievably filled with biodiversity! The landscape is constantly changing and every town has something new to offer! If you’ve never been, please please, book yourself a flight ASAP and try and sneak a few extra days off of work to maximize your time. The country may be small, but transportation still takes a long time to get from point A to points B,C,D,E,F,G – the list goes on!
I first visited Costa Rica three years ago in May 2010 with my college roommate Tim, and another good friend from college, Mike. We graduated a year earlier, and this was our first trip abroad. We planned every second of this trip out, something I will always avoid in the future if possible. Flexibility, along with price, are my two #1 priorities while traveling. We did loads of research and booked activities for 4 out of 7 days, with travel days built in. We whitewater rafted, canyoned, ziplined, and went caving. We visited Arenal and Manuel Antonio National Park and spent a day on the beach in Manuel Antonio, attempting to surf and playing a game that we invented called “Rock Bocce” – A combination of Bocce Ball and using the Earth’s supplied materials of rocks, the beach, and other rocks. It was unbelievably hot, to the point, that our time spent on the beach was 98% spent in the Pacific Ocean (the other 2% playing Rock Bocce), and it was still hot, as the ocean water was over 80 (28) degrees! It was an unforgettable trip, but I’m really glad I returned on this backpacking trip.
Most backpackers skip Costa Rica, not because it doesn’t have a lot to offer (see paragraph 1), but because of the price. Costa Rica is freaking EXPENSIVE. It’s basically a few years dated version of America, with almost the exact same prices, sometimes more expensive – especially in the most touristy of destinations. My journey to Costa Rica began from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua – Lennart and I had just spent the weekend having a wee-bit too much fun in San Juan del Sur and we were on our way to the magnificent, dual symmetrically coned Isla de Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, 6th largest in North America following the great lakes, and your second fun fact of the day, the almost site, of the world famous Panama Canal.
Lennart and I have hiked a lot of volcanoes. There are only so many you can do on one trip, and other than relaxing a 6+ or a 10+ hour hike awaited us in Ometepe or simply chilling out on the lake. On our Chicken Bus on the way there, we asked each other, would you rather just go to Costa Rica instead – we both agreed and our journey began. Seven hours later, a 4th border crossing, and 5th country together – (man did we have an epic trip!) we arrived in Playa del Coco on the Nicoya Peninsula. R&R was on the docket. And did we ever. A relaxed night, a relaxed day til midafternoon, I watched a little March Madness (America’s college basketball tournament) and had Lennart, possibly the first Norwegian ever, fill out a bracket as well. He got his first taste of last second winning baskets and near misses – what an exciting time! That night, we both entered into a Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament with both English and Spanish (mostly) spoken at the table, which was a first for me, as Vegas requires the only language spoken at the table to be English. It was a 30 person tournament, paying the top 6 – we more than held our own. He cashed in 6th and I finished in 3rd – hell yeah, $200+ more to travel with!
The following day, I went for a beach run on the picturesque Coco Bay, Lennart and I peppered on the beach (bump, set, spike between two people) and eventually found our way into a game with a bunch of locals. We were initially on separate teams, and eventually united on the same team to the chagrin of the locals, and once we were, we ran the table on them, kindly bowing out as darkness was fast approaching, leaving without any injuries other than sore as hell feet and knees from diving and jumping on the sand that couldn’t be more than 2″ (5cm) deep.
We went out for drinks, we met a girl named Sarah who has been working diving in Playa del Coco for a few months, and her and I shared contact info – as we might be on the same boat from Panama to Colombia in mid May – we’ve been in contact ever since, despite talking for no more than 10 or 15 minutes, and this may actually work out – how I LOVE traveling so so very much!
After a good night’s sleep, a few souvenir purchases for Lennart, we began our 9+ hr trip to Santa Teresa, also on the Nicoya Peninsula, about 100km by way of the crow’s flight, but not for us feeble humans. We’ll have to go the looooong route…….