Costa Rica

I drove 880 miles from 8/20/13 to 9/27/13 through the rainy season of the well-loved "rich coast", Costa Rica.  I had a fantastic time here and Costa Ricans are some of the friendliest, most patriotic people I have met.  They are very eager to talk to you and most that I met speak great English as well.  They disbanded their military back in 1949 and are one of only a dozen or so countries without it.  If you aren't aware of the Happy Planet Index, which is an index of human well-being and environmental impact of 143 countries all over the world, Costa Rica took #1 in 2009.  Pura Vida!

Costa Rica is extremely popular with ex-pats and foreign investment, considered "safer" than other central american countries, so real estate and prices in general are very high compared to the minimum wage income of only $500/month.  The price change from Nicaragua was very noticeable, with most things 2 to 3 times as much.

Since I traveled through late August & September, it was the low, rainy season.  It storms almost daily and makes camping really, really, really fun.  There are much fewer travelers & slightly lower prices at this time of the year.

Here's my route on Google Maps:

Costa Rican driving route

Side note: I've decided to change my blog a little bit to add more info about where I stayed and the activities I did, including prices so as to help other travelers.  I use a few excellent websites to find campgrounds and hostels in every country: & so would like to show you my experiences and some new places I found:

Here are the towns/cities I visited and what I was up to...

Playa Carrillo (Guanacaste Province)


Place: Camping Mora (If you are driving to Playa Carrillo from Playa Samara, their house is on the left side about 100 yards BEFORE you first see the beach of Carrillo on the right)
GPS: 9.868733, -85.501317
Cost: $4/night camping
Parking: $0 (right by my tent)
Nights Stayed: 3
Showers: Warm
Tap Water: Drinkable
WiFi: Yes (up by where the family lives)
Kitchen: No (I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner twice with the Mora family & they didn't charge me for it.  I don't know ho often they do this, but I gave them an extra $8 in the end for meals, which I know is not much)
Hammocks: 0

Their sign:

Camping.  You can see how dirty my car got when driving down the Pacific coast road.  Driving this road was a terrible idea and I went through 3 rivers and hundreds of pot-holes.  Also, the closest I have been to getting stuck in the mud.  Phew.

Notes: The Mora family is the most hospitable family I have stayed with on my entire trip.  They are more than happy to talk to you (good for practicing Spanish!) and I felt like one of the family members while there.  I went fishing with the father, Juan, to his favorite fishing spot and we caught dinner for the family.



Company: I went with Juan Mora
Cost: $0

Fishing poles are uncommon with locals all through Central America.  They use just a spool of fishing wire and always seem to be quite successful.  I was having a hot streak and caught 5 that day (tigres, chanchos & one other type of fish).  All of these were fried up for dinner.

Juan Mora taught me how to fish without a pole.  Here he's cutting up fish and squid for bait (The squid made the day):

Last picture from the Moras' house - Juan found the bones of a whale washed up on shore of Playa Carrillo about 6 years ago.  Pretty cool:

Walking to the beach, Playa Carrillo:

Cost: $0
Note: There were only a few people on this beach and there are no hotels or businesses along the beach (just the road you drive by on) so it is not touristy or crowded

Hanging out on Playa Samara

Cost: $0
Note: This is the much more touristy/crowded beach up the road from Playa Carrillo with lots of surfers, horseback rides and hotels right on the edge of the beach

Ciudad Colon (San  Jose Province)


Place: My friend, Fern's, apartment
Cost: $0/night
Nights stayed: 18 days

View from Fern's place.  The picture does no justice to the actual view.  Lightning storms would come through almost daily and this was the spot to be:


Cooked & Baked:

Nowhere else on my trip have I cooked this much, almost 3 meals everyday plus exttras.  By the end, I was making fresh coconut milk, fresh bread, cookies and granola regularly.  Here's some coriander, fennel seed, rosemary, caramelized onion & garlic bread (made with the fresh coconut milk I had whipped up).

Playing cards, mainly Cribbage (cribbage board - don't leave home without it):

Hiking up to "Las Eolicas de Santana" or "The windmills of Santana":

My friends, Fern & Lucas, walking along.

We were hiking for almost 8 hours that day and I would never be able to follow the route up there again, through fences, the forest, neighborhoods & more.

We saw some very cool things along the way.  Check out these crazy worms that move as a unit:

A magical yellow log:

Lots & lots of butterflies:

A creeping fig  - it is actually an evergreen vine & a member of the Ficus family.  It completely swallows whole trees by wrapping around them and grafting to itself.  The tree inside then dies.  The creeping fig produces non-edible figs:

Orchids, lots of these in the trees:

"The Naked Indian" tree (El Indio Desnudo).  These trees have very high levels of iron in them (thus their color) and I learned you can cure Anemia (iron deficiency) by making a tea from the bark:

San Jose (San Jose Province)


Place: Hostel Nomadas Backpackers
GPS: 9.940636,-84.109937 (Google Maps)
Cost: $12/night shared dorm
Parking: $0 (inside their locked gate)
Nights Stayed: 2
Showers: Warm
Tap Water: Drinkable
WiFi: Yes
Kitchen: Yes, plus your stay includes coffee & 2 pieces of toast w/ butter & jam for breakfast
Hammocks: 0

Notes: A very nice Colombian couple with 2 sons runs this hostel.  You're really at their house, but it is setup with one big dorm room, private rooms upstairs & very new looking bathrooms/showers out back.  I would definitely recommend this place and it is not far from the main park, La Sabana, in San Jose.


Sitting in La Sabana park, reading & people watching.  The trees in this park are beautiful, with oranges & greens in the bark.  Though there are many, many types of trees in the park, these are abundant along the outside.  I was told they are a type of Eucalyptus.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (Limon Province)


Place: A friend of a friend (couch surfing)
Cost: $0/night
Nights stayed: 3

There were about 8-9 people sleeping at this small house where 3 girls lived.  Playing one of the greatest group card games, "Chancho", with Mexicans & Argentines:


Bicicyle Rental:

Company: I forget, it was on Avenida 69, but there are plenty of places to rent bikes from
Cost: $6/day (I kept it overnight during the 3 days)
Places I rode: Along the coastal rode through Punta Cocles, Punta Uva, and ended in Punta Manzanillo.

These are all beautiful beaches where you can stop and chill out.  I rode around for a few days with the 3 other Argentines I met at the house I was staying.  From right to left, Pablito, Gonzalo & Alejandro, who have are riding their bikes from Argentina to Mexico:

Uvita (Puntarenas Province)


Place: Flutterby House
GPS: 9.153748,-83.738118 (Google Maps)
Cost: $12/night dorm
Parking: $0 (inside their gate)
Nights Stayed: 2
Showers: Warm
Tap Water: Drinkable
WiFi: Yes
Kitchen: Yes (the best hostel kitchen I have seen!)
Hammocks: 6-7 (I think)
Rentals: Bicycles, Surfboards

The kitchen (there's a second "station" on the left with another fridge, sink & 3 burner stove.  They even had cast-iron pans - lovin' it.

Notes: The owners are 2 sisters from Half Moon Bay, CA and seem to have really put a lot of thought into what makes travelers happy.  The volunteer staff is extremely friendly & helpful (and most have been there for months).  There is a yoga area (with mats), a ping pong table, corn hole (they were having a tournament the day I left), a slack rope, board games & lots of books (1 for 1 exchange)


Whale's Tale:

Location: About a 35-40 min walk down the beach from the hostel
Cost: $0 (I was told by the hostel staff that sometimes there is a guy charging $6/person to get onto the beach because it is part of the national park...I saw the guy with a vest but he did not say anything to me or charge me)
Note: You have to go at low tide so it will not be under water. Here's an aerial photo, using a helicopter I found hidden away in the brush.

Now from land: I walked there around 10:30am, you can see the last puddle here on the strip of land that opened up when the tide went down.  Beach on both sides:  I've never seen anything like it.

Drake Bay (Puntarenas Province)


Place: Jade Mar
GPS: 8.689512,-83.664218 (Google Maps)
From where you get dropped off by the boat on the beach, you walk the main paved road going up the hill & it is about 7-8 minutes up on the right.  The owner had a ride waiting for us by the beach.
Cost: $10/private double with shared bathrooms/showers. (Other rooms w/ private bathrooms are available for more)
Parking: I wanted to drive into Corcovado National Park but it is rainy season & the river becomes impassable, even with a 4x4.  I left my car in Sierpe for $5/day (was $6/day but I haggled for $5) & took a 30 minute boat ride to Drake Bay ($14/person one way)
Nights Stayed: 2
Showers: Warm
Tap Water: Drinkable
WiFi: Yes
Kitchen: Yes
Hammocks: 1

View from the balcony outside right outside my room:

Notes: A very nice Costa Rican couple owns this (husband named Johnny)  From my room, I had an amazing view of the bay and saw Scarlett Macaws flying by, among many other birds.  They had fans (big plus for me!), 2 bath towels & 2 bars of soap in each room.  I definitely recommend staying here.


Corcovado National Park Guided Tour (all guides walk around with a telescope to see all types of animals):

Company: Matilda's (I dealt with Everest when booking it)
Date: 9.26.13
Cost: $80/person (ouch! - was $85/person but haggled for $5 less) for 1 1/4 hour boat ride to/from La Sirena (one part of Corcovado) & guided hike.  We left at 7am & got back around 2:45pm.  Lunch included (2 sandwiches, 2 cookies & an apple) + a pineapple for everyone to share at the end.
Animals seen: 3-toed sloth, anteater, king vulture, all 4 species of monkies there (howler, squirrel, spider & white-faced monkies), black iguana, a dolphin, a variety of birds

Note: It is extremely uncommon for me to pay this much for one day but I was told it was a must-do, and wouldn't have seen a lot of the above animals without the guide.  The information provided by by the guide (in English & Spanish) was extremely helpful & interesting.  Here's our guide:

A King Vulture (Zopilote Rey):

American Crocodile (Cocodrilo Americano):

Squirrel Monkey (Mono Ardilla):

I was all monkey-ed out by the end of the day, with an 1 hour boat ride back from the park in the baking sun.  Tomorrow I would take the boat back to Sierpe to pick up my car and cross the border to the final country in Central America....Panama!  Stay tuned.

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