Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Costa Rica to Venezuela

We had decided to fly out of San Jose, Costa Rica to Caracas, Venezuela as we had no plans at the time to travel through Panama. The flight had already been incorporated into our round-the-world ticket fare so it was simply a matter of turning up at the airport.

The night before our flight we arrived in Alajuela, a district on the outskirts of San Jose but only 5 minutes’ drive to the airport, and checked in to the Alajuela Backpackers. We chose the hostel as it offered a free pick up and drop off service to the airport and as we were dropping off our hire car at the airport we were able to get a free lift back to the hostel.

However, when we checked in we discovered that the drop off service was not hourly and that we would either have to get to the airport over 2 hours early or 30 minutes before take-off. Out of curiosity we asked a taxi how much the fare would be and found out it would be 2,000 colones, just over £2. All of a sudden the free shuttle service didn’t seem like such a good selling point.

The next morning, an hour before we were due to board, we hailed a taxi and headed off to the airport. When we arrived we had to pay a departure fee of US $28 per person at the immigrations/customs office, located on the right-hand side of the departures area. The back of the receipt served as an immigration form which we had to fill in at the check-in desk.

Once the formalities were dealt with we headed through security and waited to board the plane to the next chapter of our adventure – South America!

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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Cahuita Sloth Sanctuary

On our way back to San Jose, for our flight to Caracas, we decided to drop by the nearby sloth sanctuary just outside Cahuita. We learned that the centre had organically grown from a nature reserve to a sloth sanctuary as more and more people brought orphaned and injured sloths to be cared for.

During the tour of the centre with our guide we met some of the permanent adult residents, who had either been too injured or had been cared for since young, and were now unable to survive on their own in the wild.

Cahuita sloth sanctuary: Our guide with a resident two toe sloth

We learned that there are 2 types of sloths residing in Costa Rica, the 2 toe and the 3 toe sloth. They are different in size and as the name suggests they are distinguished by the number of toes they have. However, the easiest way to tell them apart is via their colourings:

2 toe sloth:

Cahuita sloth sanctuary: Resident two toe sloth

3 toe sloth:

Cahuita sloth sanctuary: Resident three toe sloth

We were then shown to the sloth nursery and met some of the current little sloths being cared for. They are so adorable that you could see how hard it was for people to not reach out and just hug one!

Cahuita sloth sanctuary: Sloth nursery

The last part of the tour, and in keeping with the sloth way of life, was a gentle canoe ride around the lagoon, where we got to spot wildlife and generally just soak up the tranquil surroundings.

Cahuita sloth sanctuary: Lagoon ride

The sanctuary is solely funded by tours and donations, so if you are in the Cahuita area make sure you drop by, as you will never get this close to a sloth in the wild.

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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Our final stop in Costa Rica turned out to be Cahuita on the Caribbean Sea. We originally travelled from Dominical and Uvita on the Pacific side taking in the scenic mountain route running parallel to Chirripo. For our final 5 days in the country we had planned to get back to the Caribbean side and do a final spot of snorkelling and then try to see the sea turtles coming in to lay their eggs.

We had heard rumours that there were sea turtles in the Manzanillo National Park, next door to Cahuita. So we opted to try our luck instead of trying to get into Tortuguero National Park which seemed a lot more expensive and difficult to get to.

Cahuita National Park: beach and the lagoon

When we arrived in Cahuita we asked around and were told that yes there were turtles nesting in the area but as we were now at the very end of the season the chance of seeing them was very slim. With that in mind and knowing that the price of the tour would be $40 p/p, plus boat expenses which could be up to $20 each, we decided that we were too close to the end of our budget to take the tour with such slim chances.

Instead we opted for a fantastic afternoon of snorkelling at $25 p/p. The price was for a 3 hour tour around the coral reef at Cahuita Point. We had previously been snorkelling in Belize along the barrier reef but were surprised by the amount of beautiful and deadly fish lurking around, including a couple of nurse sharks who swam right past us!

The last few days of our time were spent on the beautiful white sandy beach of Cahuita National Park, where there is no set entrance fee but instead they just ask for donations and you can come and go throughout the day.

Cahuita National Park: sandy beach

The feel of Cahuita is unlike anywhere else in Costa Rica, it’s Tico meets Creole, which means the vibes are very chilled and the place seems to go slower than time itself.

Cahuita: main road

It was a great place to stop and recharge before moving onto South America, and as it was still low season the beaches and town were very quiet allowing us to really soak up the atmosphere!

Cahuita National Park beach: a quiet spot

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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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After our stay in Domincal we headed a little further south towards the national park of Ballena, a whale reserve area. Although out of season we had heard that there were secluded beaches and quiet spots along the coast.

We found a great little place to stay in just 5 minutes from Uvita beach called Felix Cabanas. For $30 per night we had a private cabin with kitchen and bathroom and use of the swimming pool and hammocks. We decided to stay a couple of nights and to explore the nearby beaches.

Uvita: cabinas Felix

The best one we found was playa ventanas, about 10 kilometres further south. Although part of the national park the entrance was not manned by any park ranger which made access completely free. When we arrived just after lunch there was not a soul to be seen, we literally had the place to ourselves. The surf here was also less strong than in other areas making it possible to enjoy a swim.

Playa Ventanas: to the north

The cove was littered with coconut trees dropping their fruits, so much so we helped ourselves to a couple for later. When we returned to the cabanas we struggled to open the coconut as we did not possess a machete like the locals seem to carry around at all times! However, the owner of the cabanas kindly came to our rescue and showed us how it’s done, allowing us to enjoy chilled coconut chunks by the pool. The perfect ending to our day!

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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The village of Dominical is still a lesser known beach on the tourist trail and offers you a chance for peace and quiet. We stayed at the Piramy’s hostel which is just across the road from the beach and a little further away from the couple of larger hotels that can be found there.

The accommodation seems to be catered primarily towards dorms but they do offer some pretty good rooms, although basic. Unfortunately the rooms have uncovered windows around the top of the walls which is not great for keeping out mosquitos and other bugs. The beds did have a net over them but it was riddled with holes.

However, if you are looking for a beach front hostel and don’t mind taping up the holes in nets then the hostel is a nice little place.

Playa Dominical: thunderstorm brewing

We only stopped for the one night as we were headed to Uvita down the road and liked the look of the place. The beach is not ideal for swimming as it has pebbles and strong currents but it is almost deserted and offers you a nice place to read a book. If you are into surfing though it is an ideal place for you as we seemed to be the only non-surfers there!

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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Manuel Antonio National Park

During our stay in Quepos we decided to visit the National Park of Manuel Antonio. I had visited the park 6 years ago when I had spent some time in Quepos and was keen to see it again.

Since my last visit they had obviously had an influx of visitors as the entrance had been moved to a small road off the main street, and the old entrance on the beach now served as the exit. We arrived a little after 7am and found crowds of tours at the entrance gates. 6 years ago at the same time I had been waiting alone for the park ranger to turn up to let me in…

The park has obviously greatly improved in terms of trails, signs and the facilities available like showers and toilets. We did almost every trail available taking in most of the park which took us until 12.30. It can get quite hot in the late morning and despite being in the shade for most of the walk we still managed to slightly burn our exposed shoulders, which we did not expect.

Manuel Antonio National Park: new path

The main difference I noticed between now and before was the distinct lack of wildlife. We did get lucky and come across a family of white face monkeys crossing on one of the trails, but apart from that we rarely saw any other animals. Whereas 6 years ago there had been monkeys in virtually the whole park jumping through the trees screeching at each other, along with lots more birds and giant iguanas all over the beach.

Manuel Antonio National Park: white face monkey

Can you see the crab? 

Manuel Antonio National Park: spot the crab

The beaches were still as beautiful as I remembered them but we were unable to make the most of them as they had changed regulations and you were not allowed to re-enter the park if you decided to go out.

Manuel Antonio National Park: quiet beach

As we had no lunch with us we had to leave and couldn’t come back in. I found this incredibly hard to believe as surely they could just stamp you in and out and allow you to fully enjoy the day at the park.

Manuel Antonio National Park: beach through trees

So unfortunately after we had lunch we had to instead content ourselves with the public beach which unfortunately is not as calm to swim in.

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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Quepos and Manuel Antonio beach

In August 2006 I spent a month in Quepos doing my TEFL/TESOL course and knew that I would one day return to this beautiful part of the world.

Manuel Antonio beach: sunset

Nearly 6 years later I arrived feeling a little apprehensive about how much it might have changed and as much as I would like to say that it hadn’t, it inevitably had.

The first big change was the town itself. You know deep down that the minute you see a sign advertising the next town has a Subway or Pizza Hut that it will not be a nice quiet town.

Driving through Quepos I was taken aback by the sheer number of cars on the road as well as the back to back signs now competing for your eyes down the streets. Despite it not having really grown in size, the once small, quiet town now seemed instead to have been taken over by shops and hotels.

Quepos: street near the bus station

The big shock came as we headed to our pre-booked hostel. I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw it but the Pura Vida hostel now resides in the building of my old school. To say it was strange walking into your old school and seeing it converted into a hostel is an under statement and a half!

Once checked in I couldn’t resist driving down to Manuel Antonio and seeing just how far the changes had gone.The once quiet road was now buzzing with traffic and just before the half way point to the beach I started to notice the increase in hotels and restaurants. The shocks came with the large complex resorts that now replaced the once lush beautiful road side forest. I would say that the buildings had easily doubled in numbers in 6 years.

Manuel Antonio: main street by the beach

When we hit Manuel Antonio beach 10 minutes later I could see that it too had changed and unfortunately not for the better. The once quiet surfer’s beach was covered with sun loungers and parasols, the road had parking marshalls competing for you to choose their parking site, something that never even existed before, and disappointingly the once colourful market stalls that ran along the beach front were nowhere to be seen.

We sat at Marlin’s restaurant, one place which had strangely not changed, and took in our surroundings. It was still a beautiful place with the unmistakable stretch of coastline melting into the forest, but it had lost that tranquil feeling.

Manuel Antonio: sandy beach

We stayed in Quepos for a few days and enjoyed sunsets at the port, walks on the beach in Manuel Antonio, revisited the national park, did a snorkelling trip and even splashed out for a dinner at El Avion restaurant, something which was also still there.

Manuel Antonio beach: sunset haze

Yet despite everything I could not re-kindle the happiness and peacefulness I had felt from the first time around. Our time in Quepos did make me all the more appreciative of having experienced the area before mass tourism arrived and glad I had not waited any longer before returning as unfortunately there seemed to be plans for even more resorts to be built.

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Playa Hermosa

Whilst on our way to Quepos we decided to take a look at the beaches along the way, including Jaco and playa Hermosa.

We arrived in Jaco first and were unsure as to whether to stay or not. The town is literally door-to-door bars, hotels and restaurants. So much so that signs are clambering over each other to try to get your attention.

After asking at a couple of hostels for prices, which by the way are not easy to find amongst the confusion, we discovered that it was actually an expensive place to spend the night, so we decided to move on.

Playa Hermosa, our next stop, proved to be the complete opposite. It seemed deserted in comparison to Jaco, so much so that we found a cabin across the road from the beach for $30.

Cabinas Brisa del Mar were basic but provided all we needed for our stay, including kitchen and private parking. The really nice touch was the noon check out time which gave us time to go to the beach in the morning and then freshen up before heading on.

Playa Hermosa

The beach was nice to relax on but it is not a swimmer’s beach as the surf is quite strong and needless to say this attracts a fair few surfers to the region. So after a couple of hours we decided to head onwards to our main destination, Quepos, which was now just less than an hour away.

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Crocodiles at Tarcoles River

We had a tip-off that we would be able to see crocodiles at the Tarcoles bridge, so on our way to Playa Hermosa and Quepos we kept an eye out for it.

As we neared Tarcoles we crossed a very large bridge and saw people looking over the railings and thought this must be it. We drove across and turned back around as parking is only available right before the bridge when coming from Tarcoles.

Once parked we noticed the brown sign with crocodiles and felt assured that this must be the right spot. We walked about half way back over the bridge and peered over on the right hand side and spotted a crocodile in the grass.

We thought we were really lucky to see it until a group of tourists on the other side motioned us over saying we really had to see that side, so we crossed and leaned over….

Tarcoles river: crocodiles

We could not believe how many were just lying there asleep in the mud! More so we couldn’t believe that there was cattle around them! The poor cows did not seem too happy about sharing their space with these creatures and seemed to know exactly where they were and give them a wide berth.

Tarcoles river crocodiles: sleeping couple

It was definitely a worthwhile stop just to be able to see so many of these large creatures relaxing in the afternoon sun, despite the traffic just above their heads.

Tarcoles river: crocodile relaxing

On our way back we stopped to ask the police patrolling the bridge why the cows were in the same field and were told that they do not eat them, as their main diet is fish and small animals. Even so I have to say I would not like to attempt a swim here especially with this guy below!

Tarcoles river: crocodile waiting for dinner

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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Cerro Chato

Whilst in La Fortuna we decided to hike up to Cerro Chato, the now inactive older brother of Arenal volcano. Located next to Arenal it offers views of its brother and a crater lake to swim in. The entrance to the trail is located next door to the Rio La Fortuna waterfall and starts through the grounds of the hotel.

We were warned that the hike is quite steep and would take about 2 hours to get to the top, once there we would have to descend for around 15 minutes to reach the actual crater lake but that the views are worth it. So off we went.

The first part of the hike, through open fields, was a little slippery but manageable. Once past the first viewing point it started to get quite steep and as it had rained a fair bit over the last few days it was incredibly muddy.

Cerro Chato: viewing point

After about 45 minutes we reached the start of the forest. The weather at this point was not looking too good but we were hopeful that it might pass. This part of the trail was a lot harder the incline was higher and there weren’t any real steps in place. The few that were there were incredibly high, at least so for me. At 5′ 2″ it felt more like an SAS assault course rather than a hike with mud holes to jump over, giant roots to scramble up and rocks to climb over.

Cerro Chato: forest path

Just as we reached the second view-point and realised the weather was not going to clear it started to rain, being determined not to miss out we put on our waterproofs and carried on.

2 hours later, covered in mud and wet we reached the summit and the last part of the hike – the descend to the lake. If I had thought that the going was tough before than this was a whole new level! The “steps” were so steep in places that I literally had to jump down ledges.

Cerro Chato: climb down to the lake

By now I was rather annoyed with the hike and hoped the lake would be worth it after all. As we reached the lake we realised that there was no chance of seeing more than a few metres across it, let alone seeing Arenal. The clouds were so low that your only view was of grey clouds.

Cerro Chato: crater lake with no view

Needless to say by this point we were cold and soaked through and so decided to not hang around but instead try to head back to the warmth of the car.

The journey back was even more treacherous as the rain made the rocks and roots extremely slippery. By the time we got back out of the forest the rain had let up a bit and was now just a drizzle.

After about an hour and a half we finally arrived back at the car, luckily we had bought a change of clothes as we had planned to go swimming in the lake so we quickly changed and had our lunch in the car just in time for the heavy rain to start again.

I am sure that in dry conditions the crater lake offers beautiful views and a lovely swimming spot but if its looks like there is a chance of rain don’t bother as the hike is really not worth it if the views aren’t there. Also be prepared for a challenge!

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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized


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