We arrived in Costa Rica capital San Jose on 17th of December. We decided to fly in although we would have wanted to travel by land with buses. We decided not to because we had heard from many people that political situation in Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua is not good and we were advised to avoid those countries. In San Jose, Kaija found a Couchsurfing place for us for a couple of nights. We stayed at Luis place who is very kind and nice person. The first night we also had Marco from Venezuela as a companion. He is a friend of Luis and he also decided to cook for us a typical Venezuelan dish – chicken avocado arepas. This recipe is something which we will take home 😉
During our stay, we went to walk in the city. We realized that there is actually not much to see in San Jose, thereby we only spent one-day doing sightseeing there. We went to the local market and visited most of the churches.
Next day we took a bus to the outside of the city and visited the volcano of Irazu. Since we have visited a few volcanos already during our travel, then Irazu did not impress us much. We also had to pay 30 dollars for the entrance in order to see the blue-watered crater lake. Unfortunately, you could only observe the lake from the distance. When we leaned and sit on the wooden barrier to have a better look of the lake, we upset the park ranger. However other people who came with us seemed to be quite impressed by the volcano and especially of the turquoise blue water crater lake. Looks like its something to do with us and we need to do something else for a while, like a beach vacation. After this not so successfully spent 30 dollars, we decided we will not climb to another volcano unless there is something really spectacular about it.
While being in San Jose we had to figure out our further plans. Luis was so kind and allowed us to stay one more night til we have figured out what we will do next. We wanted to go somewhere by sea to enjoy the beach, but since it was Christmas season all the prices had gone up. Secondly, we did not want to go that far from San Jose because we had to be back there by 27th since to take a bus to Panama City. We again were forced to buy an exit ticket from Costa Rica when we flew in, so we quickly bought a bus ticket to Panama City. This kind of ruined our plans to trip along the coast to the border and take but to Panama City there.
So finally, we decided we will go to Jaco since we found cheap bunk bed backpackers and surfers’ hostel there. Jaco is known as a party town and it sure was. Including our hostel where there was a party every night and people smoked a lot of green stuff. We spent the next 7 nights there.
We left the town only twice, one time we visited a neighbor village Hermosa beach and the other day we visited Quepos where we visited Manuel Antonio natural park.
Playa Hermosa was a nice and quiet natural beach which was a nice variety to crowded Jaco beach. We went there to watch local surf competition. Two German guys also joined us from the hostel. Lars and Felix are brothers and younger one of them is an exchange student in Costa Rica and older one came to visit him during the school holiday. We spent the whole day at the beach. Weather was hot and seawater did not cool us down a bit. There were many palm trees and we grabbed the coconuts and drank coconut milk to quench the thirst. We also saw many parrots and iguanas at the beach.
Jaco beach was not our favorite but due to good connections with hostel staff, we got a beach chair and umbrella with cheap price in addition to the surf lesson which Kaija took. This was good enough for us to accept the touristic beach as well 😊
In the evening while we were walking the beach, we some people playing volleyball. Kaija, being a volleyball player herself, went to check right away if they need an extra player. Kaija played with three Austrians and also agreed that we meet next evening to play again. Lars also joined and Lars and Kaija duo was unbeatable.
One evening we took a short walk to a nearby observation platform. We heard about this place from the hostel and despite we were soaking from sweat when we made it to there, we still enjoyed the great view to the city. The platform itself was like unfinished construction of something. We heard that someone wanted to build a nightclub or a bar there. Anyway, we found this place pretty cool and decided to also watch sunset there. We were not the only ones there. It looked that some people had prepared better than us and took their hammocks with. Jaanus wished had done the same.
Manuel Antonia national park was a real jungle where you can find wild exotic plants and animals. Jaanus also tried to blend in with the monkey becoming one of them. There was also a nice white sanded paradise beach. Many beaches in the area with dark or black sand due to the influence of volcanic rock. We had to keep eyes on our stuff because common wild guests of the beach, monkeys, and raccoons, were lurking to get onto our stuff. Our roommate in hostel told that monkeys stole his passport at the beach causing a lot of trouble to him. We also saw a lot of iguanas there.
Temperatures during daytime were close to 30 and seawater was also too warm and not providing any cooldown effect. The only thing which was cool was the pool water in our hostel.
We also spent Christmas in the hostel together with other travelers. We decided we all cook Christmas dinner together. We all agreed that we are making burritos. We bought all sort of tasty stuff like chicken, prawns, tomatoes, onions, salsa, guacamole, beans and salat. The dinner was great and for some of the people, the party lasted till morning. We took it easy and spent the evening with one Argentinian couple and taught how to play Yahtzee. We enjoyed the evening and Christmas celebration with others and it helped us to get over the homesickness especially during the Christmas time. We knew that at home there would have been traditional blood sausages, sauerkraut and Jaanus favorite pork chop with a fatty stripe. It was our first Christmas apart from our families.
In summary, Costa Rica was a pleasant beach vacation. We, however, were quite surprised that prices in Costa Rica are quite high and comparable to prices in the USA. Especially visiting national parks was expensive. Thereby we lived quite modestly and most of the times cooked our own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This did not mean that we did not have lot guanabana and mandarin ice-cream. Ice cream is our favorite and especially with that heat provides a nice cooling effect. Since mandarin is Christmas fruit in Estonia then it also made us feel a little bit like at home.
On the 27th of December, we took a bus from San Jose to Panama City which was a 17-hour ride. Although the bus was not super comfortable then this time passed quite quickly and soon we were already in Panama City. You can read about this in our next blog post.