Puerto Viejo de Talamanca:
For a vacation from a vacation go to Puerto Viejo. The beaches are fringed with coconut trees and the rainforest is filled with all kinds of critters including sloths and various kinds of monkeys. In the evening you’ll more than likely boogaloo to some funky reggae music at one of the many bars in town. Playa Negra (Black sand beach) is a little less touristy for those wanting some quiet away from crowds.
I stayed in Rocking J’s hostel ($15 dorm, $7 hammock $8 tent), which is about a 10 minute walk from the centre of town. It’s tucked away next to a pretty tranquil, quiet section of the beach but the hostel is not so tranquil. It’s huge and more or less, the opposite of quaint. Guests have the opportunity to leave their mark in the form of artwork on tables, walls or wherever, which are already covered in loud murals, mosaics and shiny things.
Side Note: Unfortunately, while I was there three robberies occurred, and all on the same Saturday night. People walking home from the bars, especially women were targeted. Staying in groups at night is the safest and smartest option.
Mosey on down the road (half hour bus ride) from Puerto Viejo and you’ll end up in Cahuita. Cahuita is a little more chilled and lot less touristy. Yet the National Park and sloth sanctuary still brings in a bit of a crowd.
The sloth sanctuary unfortunately is a little pricey with only two tour options for $30 or $150. For sloth lovers on a budget you’ll more than likely spot one high up in the trees while hiking Cahuita National Park (which runs on donations). Additionally, divers flock to Cahuita National Park which houses over 35 species of coral.
Manzanillo is usually white sandy beaches, crystal clear blue water, coral reefs and coconut trees. But when I went there it had just flooded and looked a little more muddy than google images suggested. Despite that, it’s a great place to spend a relaxing few days or see on a day trip. You can rent a bike here, or in Puerto Viejo from one to the other, the ride is about an hour long. I rode from Puerto Viejo and saw 2 sloths in the trees by the road along the way. As it’s a fishing village, you’ll find all kind of seafood delights here.
Pretty similar to every other capital city. There’s history culture, good food and a lot of traffic. In San Jose you can find the Jade Museum and Pre-Columbian Gold Museum which boasts rare pre-Columbian artefacts. For clubbing, restaurants and shopping check out Escazú.
Charming colonial town in which you’ll find coffee plantations, volcanos, House of Culture, churches, museums and more. An hour down the road you’ll see Poás volcano with walking and hiking trails and a huge cloud forest.
Not at all on a tourist route. I ended up here through a volunteer placement. But it’s said by the locals to be one of the more beautiful places in Costa Rica, though I’m not too sure about that as there is a lot of competition. It’s luscious and green way up high in the mountains. The town itself is small with not a lot going on, yet has a bunch of farms and friendly locals. From what I have seen (while there and online) there are no public accomodation options.
Misty forest with huge biodiversity. Entrance fee is $20. Here you can see all kinds of animals and plant species. We saw plenty of birds and critters including the Quetzal (Guatemala’s national bird) spotted by our guide without which we would not have seen anything. Guides do not need to be organised before hand as they are at the gate. I highly recommend one. While you’re there you can get your zip lining fix with a tour through the jungle or visit the hanging bridges
The town close to the national Park, Santa Elena is absolutely beautiful with delicious restaurants, nature walks, gardens and adventure activities close by. I stayed in Casa Tranquilo hostel ($11/dorm) which is pretty chilled out with a good vibes, BBQ's and cool people.
For such a small town there’s quite a lot to do. The most popular attraction being Arenal Volcano which looms over the city in the distance. Arenal is an active volcano which awoke from it’s slumber in 1968 burying three nearby villages.
Close by, there are a ridiculous amount of hot springs, both free and paid. Additionally, you can cool off at La Fortuna waterfall, go wildlife spotting in Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, hike through Arenal National Park, and test your courage with some white water rafting.
There’s a bunch of cool places we missed, such as:
If you have visited any of these places, let us know your experiences in the comments below.