Best time to visit:
Summer (verano,, from December to April) is the best time to visit the country. Winter (invierno) coincides with the rainy season: there are fewer tourists, but the floods make getting around difficult.
In a word:
Pura vida (live intensely)
Malaria is present in the province of Limòn, elsewhere the risk of contracting it is almost non-existent. Dengue is widespread so protect yourself from mosquitoes.
- Before a bus trip, put all important objects and documents in a bag that you will keep with you: it is not uncommon for some baggage to disappear from the hold during stops.
At the table:
The most popular dishes are based on chicken, fish (fried or grilled), rice and black beans. Try the gallopinto (rice and beans mixed with eggs, cheese and cream); batidos (smoothies made with fresh fruit).
Wait for the deposition of sea turtles in Playa Tamarindo; Climb the jungle on horseback in La Fortuna; Visit the toucan rehabilitation center at the Toucan Rescue Ranch in San Josecito.
In this wonderful adventure we focused on some Central American states; slowly, on the road, using hundreds of colorful local buses and vans, we traveled the long stretch of land that connects the two Americas.
We started from Guatemala after falling in love with its ancient Mayan culture, its traditional clothes, its markets and its religious people, we crossed the small El Salvador hitchhiking stopping in the most suggestive towns; we then continued south through the infamous Honduras with its Mayan sites and tropical islands; we fell in love with Nicaragua with its colonial cities, its volcanoes, its people of the "revolucion" up to the very modern Costa Rica, with its beaches, its national parks and its lush nature! We only skipped Belize and Panama, having endorsed them on previous trips!
Here is the part dedicated to Costa Rica!
Our suggested itinerary (13 days)
La Fortuna, Arenal
Manuel Antonio NP
San Josè and surroundings
We leave the island of Ometepe for Costa Rica.
A ferry, a taxi and various buses take us to the border. Never seen such a long tail.
After the usual paperwork (it takes almost two hours!), We take a bus first to Liberia and then to our final destination: Playa Tamarindo!
When we cross the border we find that the whole landscape changes, if so far, passing from one country to another we had not noticed big differences, this time instead ... people no longer jump on the buses still running but form the orderly rows, you can see boys well dressed and often with surfboards under your arm and everything has exorbitant costs ...
We wake up and go directly to the beach to dive into the ocean ... basically we just have to cross the road ...
At sunset, we leave for Playa Jesus, 15 km from here, to try to see the large green turtles of the Pacific laying their eggs ...
The search begins ... hopefully well! We try first on a beach but in vain ... we follow our guides through a path that leads us to another beach of films ... the sky is a bit cloudy but the full moon manages to illuminate everything!
The wait is long, Nature has its time. Suddenly, in the distance, we see a large black spot on the shoreline, it looks like a small rock, but ... looking better ... that black spot just emerged from the waters of the Pacific moves ... goes to the top of the beach, then stops, changes its mind, yes turns to dive back into the black sea of the night.
In several hours we will see half a dozen of them and each time the emotion is great ... the emotion of following these large prehistoric amphibians in silence, without lights, behind them, trying not to disturb their slow movement ...
After a few days at sea it's time to dive into the heart of nature in this beautiful country. We take four buses to get to La Fortuna!
The landscape changes completely along our way.
Surfers from Billabong or Quicksilver move away to make room for large green hills and Milka cows that look like Swiss alpine landscapes.
Our hostel is delightful. There is a huge kitchen, a nice sitting room with a large adjacent garden. We plan to stay here at least three nights. Not far from here there is a waterfall, an excellent opportunity for a dip with the liana in the pool of icy water.
Morning by the sea, evening on the slopes of the Arenal Volcano.
In the afternoon we leave for a hike.
We immerse ourselves completely in a rainforest that swallows you inexorably ... it doesn't matter if the sun is shining outside, it's dark inside.
We enter another world, a thousand different shades of green and populated by many animals. We see a sloth that dozes on top of a tree, rarely and only for a short time, the cougars and jaguars are always lurking.
Colorful birds in bright colors fly joyfully and convey a great sense of freedom.
We swing on a liana like Tarzan, we climb steep slopes following Guillermo, our guide, one of the survivors of the fateful eruption of 1968 ... then it was thought that "Arenal" was only a mountain ... life flowed quietly among the greens pastures ... the first signs were given by the cows that suddenly stopped drinking in the river ... the water was boiling ... but the poor and ignorant peasants could not imagine what was about to happen ... a beautiful day in March, the story of La Fortuna will mark a important date: the sky darkens, the earth begins to tremble and in a few minutes for many there is nothing more to do ... toxic gases descend to the valley at a speed of 100 km per hour killing everything they encounter ... then incandescent rocks , like fiery rain, they finish the work. An entire village is razed.
Arenal was not a mountain ... Arenal is a volcano.
We continue our journey up to a bed of petrified lava.
It is starting to get dark and we still have a long way to go.
Suddenly our guide stops. He looks terrified. It takes us away from the area. There is a very dangerous snake ready to attack, evidently disturbed by our presence. We put ourselves at a safe distance and observe it with admiration. It went well. In two hours we would die of a bite.
We go on, this time with more caution, while the forest sinks into absolute darkness and not even the shining full moon can illuminate our path. The creatures of the night begin to emerge from their nests, burrows, holes ...
But it's time to relax! We stop in a hot spring, a stream of hot thermal water ... soak for an hour, as in a large whirlpool tub we enjoy the moment thinking about the great adventure we have just experienced ...
Early in the morning we find ourselves riding on docile horses to immerse ourselves again in this dense nature. What a feeling of freedom to trot among those mountainous paths ... we stop to go down 700 meters to admire a majestic waterfall and then start galloping between green meadows and blue canals ... we are enchanted by two toucans who make a brief appearance and we conclude this unforgettable adventure in a reserve of large colored butterflies and microscopic red frogs the size of a nail!
As usual, to reach a destination, even if not very far away, we have to travel all day changing numerous buses, but now we are used to it and it's almost fun!
And so, starting at 5.30 in the morning from La Fortuna we find ourselves first in San Ramon, then Punta Arenas, then Quepos, finally at destination!
Twelve hours of travel but we're back to the sea!
Manuel Antonio National Park. At the entrance they provide us with a map that we will follow in detail so as not to miss a square meter of this paradise of Nature. We go through the gate, we immediately see the big blue butterflies, we arrive at the beach, wonderful, it was worth it to wake up early because we can enjoy it without the horde of tourists who will soon arrive rowdy.
We follow the paths along which we meet many monkeys, lizards, agouti ...
Two gentlemen observe the top of a tree with large binoculars. They invite us to take a look. I am petrified with amazement. On us there is a sloth mother with her baby that moves tenderly.
Further on we find a huge spider web with its architect intent on eating a large insect just caught.
After a few steps we begin to listen to a dull, repeated noise: here is a red-headed black woodpecker. We walk in the forest, different sounds blend together, the sound of our footsteps on the leaves, the scream of monkeys, the crawling of reptiles, the singing of birds ...
And after walking for several kilometers we stop to dive into a transparent green sea, while we swim we see the monkeys playing on the trees throwing fruit just stolen from the bags of tourists on the beach.
A little further on, a band of washing bears patrols the area in search of food ...
It is Sunday afternoon here in Costa Rica and all citizens of the capital return to San Josè after a nice weekend at the beach. Between curves and traffic we suffer a little but in the end we reach the capital and shortly after we find ourselves at "Dona Lela" eating an excellent "casado" with our couchsurfing friend: Carlos!
Here it is fresh, San Josè rises at the foot of the volcano "Irazù".
Toucan Rescue Ranch. This rehabilitation center is managed with great passion and devotion for animals. We admire toucans, colorful parrots, sloths, hedgehogs, monkeys, owls, a tiger cat ...
Each has its own story. There are those who have been injured by another animal, those hit by a car, those mistreated, many come here dying ... volunteers work hard to treat them, pamper them, feed them and bring them back to life.
We spend an unforgettable morning!
Barrio Amon, an architecturally and artistically very interesting neighborhood. Delicious lunch at the "Cafè Mundo" and we leave for the Orosi Valley.
We pass through the old capital: Cartago with its short-legged inhabitants! 😉 and then dive back into the splendid and luxuriant Costa Rican nature between valleys, streams and an enchanting lake. The air was fresh, the hot sun made the magnificent green of the meadows shine even more, the colors of the flowers exploded in the middle ...
There is no better way to greet this beautiful area of the world that has welcomed us for almost two months.