Many have asked me why I wanted to visit Costa Rica, but honestly I don’t really know. I think what attracted me with Costa Rica was its rich nature and wildlife. I didn’t want to spend two full weeks on the beach, I wanted to see and do stuff as well.
It was hard to figure out the itinerary for the trip, there seemed to be many great places worth visiting. I started looking at group travels and quickly figured out which was the most popular places. I began to research those places a little more and decided on a few spots I definitely wanted to visit. Those were Corcovado national park and La Fortuna. I wanted to spend my last days at a beach and relax, and it was really hard to choose a place for that. I finally chose Manuel Antonio because it is closer to San José than the Nicoya Peninsula (which has many beaches) and because of the popular national park there.
This post will be an overview of the trip where I shortly will write about the different places and how many days I spent at each spot. Further on the places and tours I took will be described more in detail. (This post will be updated with links when I’m done.)
1. San José – day 1
The trip to San José went very smoothly. I arrived around 8 pm and took a taxi to a nearby hotel. There isn’t really any other option than to spend one night near the airport when you arrive in the evening (unless you’re going to San José city). All I did here was to take a shower and go to bed! I was leaving 7 am the day after.
2. Puerto Jiménez – day 2-3
The day of the departure back home in Sweden I woke up to an email saying my domestic flight from San José to Puerto Jiménez was cancelled. Not a good way to start the trip since that was the first thing I was gonna do in Costa Rica. I had booked both of my domestic flights with Nature air, which is one of the two airlines in Costa Rica. But since they had a crash on 31st of December they had to cancel all of their flights because they were under investigation. So, when I arrived in Costa Rica I was lucky that the other company Sansa air had flights available.
And after a night in San José a driver from the hotel took me to the airport. Many of the hotels near the airport offers free shuttles to the airport, that’s very convenient. The terminal was really small but just near the international terminal. They weigh your checked luggage and you have to stand on a scale with your carry-on luggage so they know exactly how heavy the plane will be. Feels a bit strange to step on a scale, but of course I understand why they do it. The security is just a guy with a small handheld metal detector who looks inside your carry-on. You get fancy boarding pass too.
From the terminal you take a small bus to the small airplane. Along the way we could see that there are a lot of construction work going on at the airport right now, it’s expanding quite rapidly.
The airfield lies just next to some small houses and a graveyard. On the picture below you can see the small Sansa terminal. Smallest airport I’ve ever been to.
I took a taxi to my hotel, it was a bit long to walk in the heat with my luggage so it was nice to get a ride.
I got to the hotel a couple of hours before the check in so I had to wait a while for my room. I just wanted to change my clothes and eat. But finally I got my room, and I even got upgraded because of other people prolonging their trip and so on. So that was nice, now I got a room with a view.
I spent the afternoon in Puerto Jiménez with walking on the beach and checking out the town. I also had to spend some time on the wi-fi planning what to do the following days…
3. Drake Bay – day 3-6
As my plans changed a little and I couldn’t find a tour that started in Puerto Jiménez and ended in Drake bay as I originally intended I decided to go to Drake Bay earlier. I was hoping it would be easier to find tours in Corcovado from there than Puerto Jiménez. I had the option of taking a taxi for 100 dollars or the much cheaper bus to Drake Bay. I chose the bus.
After two hours the small bus came. The road to Drake Bay was very bumpy on winding dusty roads and took 1,5 hours. The windows didn’t close so all of my stuff were all dusty when we finally got to Drake Bay. The view was nice during parts of the way though.
Drake bay is a very small town. It is not the easiest place to get to, you either take the dust roads that gets flooded during the wet season or you have to take the boat from Sierpe. There is an airport, but for some reason it was closed when I was there.
In Drake Bay I took a guided hike in Corcovado national park. I did the one that goes through Sirena ranger station. We saw many cool animals like tapir, different monkeys, macaws, anteater and crocodile.
Can you see the sloth?
One day I took a snorkeling tour to Cano Island. We saw some pretty fish and ate lunch at a beautiful beach.
4. La Fortuna – day 6-9
On day 6 it was time to move again. I woke up around 6 am, did the last of my packing and went out to breakfast. Around 7 am a taxi came and picked us up and brought us to the beach. The boat leaves around 7.15-7.30 from the beach of Drake bay to Sierpe. And since there are no docks in Drake bay you have to get in the water to go on the boat. There are several small boats doing this route depending on how many people there are. It takes around 45 minutes and goes through the mangroves until it reaches Sierpe. And it’s not until you get off the boat you pay the 15 dollars it costs. We were four people from my hotel who were going to San José, so when we got off we quickly got a collectivo and could leave pretty fast. There are people waiting at the docks offering rides anywhere. We needed to go to Palmar and from there catch the bus.
When we got to Palmar the driver saw the bus, the pink Transcopa bus that goes to San José. He honked and followed him so that the bus would stop. Two of us could then get off and on to the bus. The bus was full and we got to sit on the floor. A little random, but turned out pretty well for us and we didn’t have to wait for the next bus. The bus went along the coast to Uvita, Quepos and Jaco. It was in San Jose around 13.45. Very comfortable bus, if you have a seat.In San José I had to take a taxi to another terminal in the city. Long story short, I didn’t get an official taxi with a taximeter and ended up paying 12 dollars for the ride through the city. And he was driving like crazy. Well, at least I got there quickly.
At the bus station you need to go all the way up to level 3 to buy tickets and then down again for where the bus leaves. I did that and just had time for a toilet break before it was time to get on the next bus. There are no direct buses to La Fortuna in the afternoon so you have to change in Quesada. My bus got in at 16.58 and the next bus left at 17.00. The bus then took about one hour to La Fortuna on small roads but with beautiful views, really pretty actually.
La Fortuna is a great place for many activities. The first day I took the Arenal Observatory hike. On that you go to an observation deck with a view over the volcano and lake Arenal. Afterwards you go on a small hike to a waterfall, look for animals (we didn’t see any in the forest though…) and visit the frog pond. In the frog pond I finally saw the cute red-eyed frog! Finally we drove to the natural hot springs which was really nice. It was really dark though and we had to leave all of our stuff in the bus so I don’t have any photos. But it was super nice.
I took a guided tour at a chocolate plantation.
I visited the La Fortuna Waterfall.
The last night I took an evening tour where I saw plenty of birds and more sloths.
5. Monteverde – day 9-11
The trip to Monteverde went fine. After the shuttle picked me up it took about 40 minutes until we reached the small port in the human made lake Arenal. The boat then took 30-40 minutes to the other side. On the ride a guide talked about the environment, but I was sitting in the back with the noise from the engine and couldn’t hear much. The trip had a nice view but it was a bit windy.
When we got to the other side many cars were waiting for us. The road to Santa Elena was very bumpy but with a beautiful view and took about 1,5 hours. Unfortunately we didn’t stop anywhere along the road for photos.
When I arrived I just had time for a two-hour hike in Monteverde cloud forest.
The next day I visited Santa Elena cloud forest.
…and the hanging bridges in Selvatura park.
6. Manuel Antonio – day 11-14
It was much colder in Monteverde than I thought it would be. It was very windy and rainy so it was so nice to get back to the warmth by the beach in Manuel Antonio. Here I spent most of my time at the beach and by the pool at my hostel.
But I couldn’t leave before I had visited the national park of Manuel Antonio, maybe the most visited place in all of Costa Rica.
And that was that! Two weeks went by pretty quickly. Overall it was a good trip with a lot of walking and many animals. A good place for all kinds of trips I think. I think it’s a very nice country and the people really are as friendly as the rumour says. If I would do it again I would plan it a little differently though. Many people are saying that renting a car is the best option for transportation, and sure, I think it is almost everywhere for the freedom to stop wherever you want, but I thought it was really easy to travel by bus and shuttles. The only thing is that there are not many departures in the evening or night, and my guess is that they don’t want to drive on those bad roads in the dark.