Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo to Tamarindo

As the little boat set off from Isla Colon, Bocas Del Toro to the mainland, the 4 of us on the back row shared a knowing look as we simultaneously zipped up our life jackets. The weather had turned, the waves were high and the journey was going to be rough. Waves crashed over the side of the small boat despite my best efforts to hold down the plastic tarp. Clutching my back pack, which was stuffed with all my valuables, I just hoped that my passport would survive unscathed. I was soaked to the skin and had a face full of salt water by the time my feet hit shore. Little was I to know that this was a sign of things to come and I wasn’t going to be dry for the next week!

The surfer town of Puerto Viejo, had been highly recommended and with a chance to visit a sloth sanctuary I’d been keen to hang there for a few days. It was an absolute wash out though, so after just 1 night I boarded the bus to San Jose. The only plan…to try and out run the storm! San Jose wasn’t my destination of choice when I was pondering my route, but after 8 hours navigating the winding mountainous roads on a packed public bus I was happy to hop off. I wasn’t there for long but Hostel Urbano located in the student filled San Pedro neighborhood had a nice feel.

This was the deciding point, did I head west towards the beautiful Manuel Antonio or did I keep heading north. A look at the weather forecast made my decision for me and north to La Fortuna it was. Upon arrival in La Fortuna, I couldn’t resist a local coffee and chocolate tour at Don Juan. The perfect combination! And now in my happy place, I was adamant…rain was not going to stop play! A short walk around the Arenal lake area and I was rewarded with wildlife sightings, monkeys, snakes and when I saw my first toucan I thought my life was complete! The natural hot springs were like river rapids, not exactly relaxing but wearing a volcanic mud mask and drinking my rum and squirt (will never get old!) it was a heap of fun.

From La Fortuna, I crossed Lake Arenal to Monteverde the must do location in Costa Rica! Zip lining through the cloud forest and hiking through the Santa Elena reserve were amazing. Lush, green and a literal rain forest – peaceful and beautiful. The highlight – spotting my first sloth, a two toed one, hanging out in the tree above.

I definitely made the most of my time but having spent several nights wrapped in multiple blankets I was pumped to be heading to the pacific coast. Tamarindo definitely lived up to it’s Tamagringo name, but since the sun was shining I was totally okay with that. The perfect mix of party and chill, it felt like vacation.

A short walk down Tamarindo beach and a tiny hop across the estuary in a fishing boat (to avoid the crocodiles) was Playa Grande. It took less than 20 minutes to get to but it may as well have been a different world. An empty beach, a 15 minute walk to the mini market and pretty much bugger all around. I’d only planned on staying for 1 night but the relaxed atmosphere and unique accommodation at Pipe House made it difficult to leave. Beach, hammock, sunset, repeat.

I have mixed emotions about Costa Rica. I enjoyed my time there, but I think perhaps my high expectations were a little too high. This combined with budget, time and weather constraints and I felt a little incomplete as I headed to the Nicaraguan border. That said, I’d definitely go back but when I do I’ll have a bigger budget and will be renting a car!

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