Itinerary 1: Costa Rican Sampler

First thing is first, find your flights! I have found that flying into San Jose is the cheapest (Liberia tends to be more expensive) and that February (before University spring breaks) and April (near the end of the month) tend to be cheaper (around $300-$500 round trip from Alberta, Canada). My advice is to use Google flights first and follow up with Momondo if you do not find anything sufficient on Google (but Google is my first choice always).

Now here we go, an itinerary for 14 days in Costa Rica:

  • Day 1: San Jose
    •  Arrive in San Jose at your preferred time, and spend the night at Hostel Pangea (for 14USD a night in dorm) and tack on an extra 14 for a shuttle ride (which runs 24/7)hostel-pangea
    • Crack a beer, eat a burger and fries and get some sleep ’cause you’re on the road tomorrow.
  • Day 2: Depart San Jose– Rise and shine, you’ve got a bus to catch. Hop on the bus bound for La Fortuna/Arenal at the intersection of Calle 12 and Avendia 7.
    • About a 4 hour ride, departs at 6:15am, 8:10am, and 11am (costs somewhere around 5USD)
    • Either stay at Arenal Backpackers (about 17USD dorm room a night) or Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna (about 13USD dorm room a night)
      • The main difference is the Arenal Backpackers is set up with a pool and resort feel (but farther from the town) and Backpackers La Fortuna is set in the middle of town but no pool of its own (though you have access to the sister hostel just up the street at Arenal Hostel Resort which has a pool)
  • Day 2-4: La Fortuna/Arenal 
    • Things to do:
      • Rio La Fortuna swimming hole (guess what budget travellers, it’s free!) located at the opposite end of the waterfall, it has crystal clear water, and a Tarzan rope to swing on if you’re already feeling like a jungle man (or lady)
        • Leave La Fortuna, head a mile past the road that takes you to the La Fortuna waterfall and at the La Fortuna river bridge, head to the left and climb underneath
      • img_1521
      • Head up to the Arenal volcano
        • Any tour is perfectly fine, no matter how long or hardcore of one you want to do, they have short one’s (about 1-3 hours) or ones that last all day (about 8 hours)img_0156
        • My most valuable advice is don’t pay an arm and a leg for a tour including one of the fancy hot springs (unless you have boatloads of money… and in that case, why are you reading this? Leave the cheap tricks for everyone else)
          • Instead: hop on a tour (provided by most of the hostels) that takes you to the free hot springs located near the Tabacon, ours cost maybe 10 or 15USD per person and we got free drinks and volcanic mud masks, and the awesome feeling of being surrounded by the jungle at night, with the calm and peaceful noises
            • I mean, you could go alone without a tour…but if you slip and fall on the rocks and break your neck it’s kinda nice to have people around to help you out (if you’re gonna attempt it alone, please go during the day, when you can see what’s going on)
        • tabacon-free-natural
      • The Venado Caves
  • Day 4: Depart La Fortuna alright, since it’s the quickest way to get to Monteverde (about 4 hours…rather than somewhere around 8 to go around), take the taxi-boat-taxi tour (25USD a person), plus you get spectacular views of the volcano and a lovely boat ride, the tour leaves at 8:30am or 2:30pm (book this one in advance on http://www.anywhere.comdsc04941
  • Day 4-6: Monteverde 
    • Things to do:
      • Monteverde Cloud Forest (20USD admission)/Santa Elena Cloud Forest (around 14USD last I saw) to maybe catch a glance of the elusive Quetzal and marvel at the fluffy clouds settling on the tree topsdsc04968
        • Both are a great option, Santa Elena is slightly smaller (and houses spider monkeys!), but if you aren’t an expert, the differences are hard to spot. Both are lush and beautiful and a relaxing hike.
        • And either one you go to, the admissions go to the protection of the reserves
      • Monteverde Rainforest Night Walk-gives you a chance to check out all the nocturnal animals (like the cute Kinkajous) you didn’t see on your day hike through the cloud forests
        • Goes at 6pm and 8pm, and lasts about 3 hours (about 25USD)
      • The Bat Jungle, designed by a bat biologist, you’re sure to get a unique experience and get up close and personal with about 90 bats from 8 different species
      • Zip lining and Aerial Adventures
        • There are so many adventure parks and trust me, you’ve gotta try it. Personally, we went with 100% Aventura– with canopy zip lining, bridges, superman zip lining, a massive Tarzan swing… it was all the adventure one person can handle
          • The canopy tour includes 9 regular zip lines, 2 superman zip lines, 1 hammock bridge, 1 rappel, and 1 mega Tarzan swing (about 3 hours, 50USD per adult)
          • The hanging bridges tour , with 6 bridges in total, spanning canyons and rivets, bringing you up close and personal to the upper canopy (rates vary on company, and what type of tour decided on) sky-walk-2
  • Day 6: Depart Monteverde early-you’ve got a long day of travelling
    • Grab a shuttle (for slightly more than public bus-but way more convenient for this day of travel) and make the trek to Puntarenas- around $100USD for private (maybe make some buddies to share with, most shuttles can fit up to 8)
    • Once in Puntarenas you want to take the ferry and board the one bound for Paquera (at 5am, 9am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, and 8:30pm), and the ticket is 1.70USD
      • Its about a 65 minute ride across the Gulf of Nicoya
      • ****NOTE: the 5pm ferry is the last one you can take across to connect with public bus on the other side that connect to Montezuma, Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa
    • Now that you’re across, hop on public bus to Cobano-the last one leaves at 6:30pm (or hire another shuttle and head to the hotel you’re staying at)
      • Then take your local Cobano bus to Mal Pais/Santa Teresa
  • Day 6-9: Mal Pais 
    • The tranquil town, spanning about 5km on a dusty road still has the laid-back surfer vibe that Santa Teresa has started to lose with its boom in tourism
    • Budget travel: Mal Pais Surf Camp (starting at 15USD)- a stone’s throw from the beach, and a great place to grab breakfast (whether you stay there or not)
    • Higher end: Oasis Mal Pais, I stayed here and we got our own villa with a pool on grounds and had a quick 2 minute walk to the beach (and right next door to the surf camp)
    • Things to do:
      • Relax at the beach and work on your tan (but make sure to get that sunscreen on)
        • Take some surf lessons, or grab a boogie board, or simply just body surf the wavesdsc05115
      • If you’re looking for a change of scenery, grab a cab or take the bus to Santa Teresa to check out the beaches there
      • Or if you haven’t had enough of hiking take a day trip to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve to check out more flora and fauna
  • Day 9 (or 10): Depart to Montezuma, there is some wiggle room here because a cab ride is about 20 minutes
  • Day 9/10-13: Montezuma 
    • Ease into the busier hippy vibes of this seaside village by checking out your surroundings and grabbing food at Cocina Clandestina, a jungle-butterfly garden-seaside eatery
    • Where to stay: Hotel Aurora, comfortable and cozy, within walking distance to everything
    • Things to do:
      • Montezuma Falls- a 40 minute river hike leading you to a swimming hole, and further up, a little cliff jumping at a second set of falls, and a rope swing on the third set
        • or check out any other set of falls surrounding Montezuma and Cobanowaterfall-map-montezuma
      • and when it comes to nightlife, get your butt over to Chico’s Bar and catch up with everyone in town
      • Make sure you get all your beach time in, cause its almost home time
  • Day 13: Back to San Jose 
    • Quickest way back across the gulf is Zuma tours boat ride , leaving Montezuma beach at 8:30am for a 1 hour zip across (a little pricey at 40USD)
    • Once in Jaco (where the boat drops you off), hop in the included shuttle to downtown and from there hop in a shared shuttle or take public bus back to Hostel Pangea in San Jose (remember? The place you started at :))
  • Day 14 (or late day 13): catch your flight and head home!!

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Hope this kinda helped anyone planning!

xx

R.

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