Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Along the Road: Costa Rica

One of the first things you notice when you get off the plane in Costa Rica (or before you arrive, if you're the planning type) is the addresses, or lack thereof.  The address of the first hostel we stayed at read something like this:  Avenida 11 between Calles 3 & 3 bis.  But the catch is, there are no street signs in Costa Rica.  Not. A. One.  And while that might drive you planning types (aka "The Old Me") crazy, I believe it added to the allure of the Pura Vida.

Having left our cell phones and computers back in the USA, now the only way someone could find us was if they knew to walk 500 meters up an unnamed dirt road, across the river and through the rain forest, make a right at the fifth coconut palm, continue on for 100 meters and make a left next to the howler monkey hanging from the mango tree, make another right at the waterfall and well, you get the picture. 

So we relied on public transportation to get us to each point on the map.  Public transportation... and the oh-so-helpful Lonely Planet guide to Costa Rica.  The map above shows the route we took, starting from San Jose.  We spent one night at Hostel Pangea in San Jose ($30/night, w/hot water, shared showers) and the next afternoon we caught a bus southeast to San Isidro (about a 2-hour ride), where we had lunch and caught the next bus southwest to Dominical (about 1-hour ride).  We found it amusing that every Tico (aka Costa Rican local) seemed to know exactly where we were headed without even asking.  We figured we'd fit right in down in Dominical, and we did. 

We spent two nights at Hostel Antorchas ($14/night with private bath w/cold water showers) before catching another bus north to Quepos (2-hour ride), where got a room for two nights at the Wide Mouth Frog Hostel ($30/night with shared, cold water showers).  While staying in Quepos, we took a short bus ride to Manual Antonio National Park and spent a few hours frolicking on the white sand beaches and hiking through the rain forest. 

From Quepos, we hopped on a bus headed north to Puntarenas (about 3 hours) and took the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to the town of Paquera, on the Nicoya Peninsula.  The ferry ride was just over an hour long and once we arrived in Paquera, we took a bus about an hour south to Montezuma. 

Montezuma proved to be the place where we lost track of time.  Actually, we lost track of time somewhere between San Jose and Quepos.  Montezuma was the place where we learned what day it really was...which gave us an extra day of travel!  And since Montezuma was definitely the best stop on our trip, we decided to spend our extra day there, giving us three nights total at Hotel Lucy ($22/night w/shared, cold water showers).

From the first night in Dominical all the way to Montezuma, we were traveling one day behind a couple from Germany, Kai and Kristen. They, too, had been following the Lonely Planet guide to Costa Rica and since we'd been bumping into each other all over the country, we decided to travel together from Montezuma to Alajuela. They were due to fly out the morning before us. So we got back on the bus and traveled one hour north to Paquera, took the hour-long ferry ride back to Puntarenas and then another two or three hour bus ride to Alajuela, where we stayed in the dorms ($13/person, shared showers w/hot water) at Maleku Hostel.  The next morning, the four of us took a bus from Alajuela to Volcan Poas and spent a few hours hiking around and watching the smoke billow out of its crater. 

Riding the buses was a great experience because we got to see a lot of the countryside without having to navigate our own way down unfamiliar streets with no names.  We were able to see how the Ticos live and travel and interact.  None of the buses cost more than $3 one way and they all ran on time to the point that we never missed a bus and we were never waiting too long, either.  We had our doubts about how much of Costa Rica we'd actually get to see in ten days... and in the end we actually got to see quite a lot. 

In my next few posts, I'll try to pick out a few pictures and give a little synopsis of each place we visited...


  1. Lovely Blog, especially the part of CR! Seems familiar to me :-)

    We are still working on catching up european time and haven't even uploaded the pics...

    And....I hate using my cell again, drives me crazy!!!

  2. How awesome that you went to C.R. Is it as Americanized as some people say?

  3. yes, it IS as americanized as they say. that was a little disappointing because i wanted to practice my spanish but everyone spoke english. but it was a beautiful country and we had sooo much fun. everything was wild and carefree there. so different from here.