Costa Rica – Tour summary

The first country of my trip around the world has been wrapped up. Costa Rica is as green as people are friendly and overall it was a good start.

Day 1 – Arrival – San José

Usually I wouldn’t count the arrival day as day 1 but the plane landed so early and I was through border control, customs, baggage claim and inside a taxi to the hostel in under an hour; and checked in and unpacked before 11h in the morning – and all that despite this near disaster.

For San José, sadly, that’s more than enough time left in the day to explore because the city itself has nothing much in terms of attractions and sights.
I visited the Museo del Oro Precolombino and the Museo del Jade and enjoyed the warm breeze while roaming the streets after leaving wintery Germany.

A golden statue with a dominant beak and wings displayed at the Museo del Oro Precolombino in San José, Costa Rica.
Museo del Oro Precolombino

Day 2 – Exploring San José

Just walking around town, trying to spot some nice buildings. Walked through the Mercado Central (Central Market) which is pretty cool, a maze of stalls and booths, and eventually ended up in the Sabana park and next to it in the Museo de Arte Costarricense which is free.

Front view of the Teatro Nacional in San José, Costa Rica
Teatro Nacional San José, Costa Rica

Day 3 – San José to La Fortuna

This was mainly a travel day, spent on a public bus. In La Fortuna I had just about enough time to shoot some admiring glances at the volcano Arenal and collect some tour flyers from the different agencies before it got dark. And also enough time to grab a massage in one of the many local spas.

Volcano Arenal seen across Lake Arenal, La Fortuna
Volcano Arenal seen across Lake Arenal, La Fortuna. It’s still active!

Day 4 – Hanging Bridges Mistico and night walk Ecogarden Arenal

For nature walks in Costa Rica it really pays to have a guide who knows where the more stationary animals live and how to spot the more mobile ones. The day I spent on a guided tour crossing hanging bridges and watching birds, in the evening I did a legendary night walk.

Mistico Hanging Bridges tour guide Bernado is crossing a bridge, looking for wildlife.
Our guide Bernado keeping a look out for animals

Day 5 – Eco Termales Hot Springs

With a nearby active volcano, it makes sense that the entire area offers many hot springs – so you really can’t skip this attraction. Eco Termales appealed to me because of their restricted number of guests and it was really very empty and relaxing.

Eco Termales hot springs completely empty, surrounded by lush green.
Eco Termales hot springs – all this just for me!

Day 6 – La Fortuna to Monteverde

Another travel day. What was advertised as the exciting sounding “Jeep-Boat-Jeep“, to cross into Monteverde via Lake Arenal, ended up being the by far less exciting “Van-Boat-Van“. The views are still good, it’s just slightly cramped and uncomfortable, especially if you end up sitting next to a manspreader… sigh.

Two figures walking down a hill in Monteverde, bathed in the unreal red-orange glow of the setting sun
Monteverde sunset is pretty amazing

Day 7 – Santa Elena Cloud Forest National Park

The smaller and less overrun cousin of the Monteverde cloud forest reserve has nothing to be ashamed of. It offers quiet and nature and, well, clouds. It’s easy to reach by shuttle and even a little cheaper.

Clouds obscure much of the surroundings in the dense growth of the Santa Elena cloud forest national reserve.
Santa Elena cloud forest has it all: Clouds and Trees.

Day 8 – Cerro Amigos and zipline

The Cerro Amigos is the only free cloud forest hike in the area, so I had to give it a go. The path is incredibly steep and not very pretty. The top is, you guessed it, cloudy. Could have skipped that one.
In the afternoon I went ziplining with 100% Aventura and it was awesome – apart from the Tarzan swing.

Ziplining in Monteverde
Zippin’ through the trees in style.

Day 9 – Monteverde to Manuel Antonio

And another travel day. The only interesting bit here were the river crocodiles at Rio Tárcoles, just chilling out in the sun.
In the evening, once in Manuel Antonio, it was nice to wander along the beach.

Crocodiles in Rio Tárcoles lying in the shallows
Crocodiles in Rio Tárcoles

Day 10 – Manuel Antonio National Park

The award for most wildlife seen in a day definitely goes to Manuel Antonio, but the hordes of tourists turn the park from a nature experience into a beach spectacle. This is definitely not a secret spot anymore.
Would come again for the monkeys though.

Iguanas sunbathing on a rock by the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Iguanas are just one of many animals you get to see in Manuel Antonio National Park. They started spitting when people got too close.

Day 11 – Manuel Antonio to San José

I had planned to stay in Manuel Antonio for much longer, do some diving and surfing, but the entire area had me put off. Everything was too artificial and people weren’t very nice. So I decided to leave early and give the Caribbean coast a try instead, since all the locals seemed to like it much better.
So back past the crocs and back into plain old San José since there is no direct bus connection over to the atlantic side.

Day 12 – Zero Day

I started calling days where I do absolutely nothing “Zero Days“. So I had booked myself into a nice hotel and spent all day there.

Three Rituals-brand amenity bottles in a hotel bathroom
Enjoying some amenities

Day 13 – San José to Puerto Viejo

Another public bus, roughly 5 hours with a short stop in Limón. My hostel was right by the beach in Playa Cocles, a couple of kilometers outside Puerto Viejo. Playa Cocles is everything that Manuel Antonio isn’t and there is nothing better than just lying in a hammock by the beach under palm trees and watching the waves.

“Beware of falling coconuts“ sign next to palm trees by sandy beach.
Ok, I will.

Day 14 – Jaguar rescue center

I was very lucky with this one. I hadn’t realized that there were only tours at the rescue center, no regular entry, and I managed to show up just in time to get in. The tour is super interesting and presented by the center’s volunteers with much heart and enthusiasm.

A juvenile sloth is being weighed by a volunteer of the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo.
The majority of rescues are sloths, especially babies. Just look at it!

Day 15 – Puerto Viejo and surfing

In the morning I took a leisurely stroll through Puerto Viejo and rented a surfboard from a shop near the hostel to spend the afternoon in the water. My surfing is terrible but I did manage to catch a couple of waves. Still can’t stand up tough.

Day 16 – Puerto Viejo to Panama

The Costa Rica adventure ends at the Sixaola border crossing into Panama, where a whole new adventure begins!

Sixaola border crossing Costa Rica to Panama
Sixaola border crossing Costa Rica to Panama – this is already past the exit point on the Costa Rican side; this is nomansland!

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