Thursday, December 12, 2013

October, 2013... Costa Rica - Part 1

So I left Belize on September 30th, went to Mexico (twice) North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and then came back to Belize on October 18th... home to San Pedro on the 19th.

My plan, when I got back, was to just work as much as possible for about a month at Wahoo's while waiting for my new job to start.
Remember the very first blog about my October travels - October, 2013... Starting with, Mexico! ?
Of course you do, because you're a loyal reader and we love each other... but I don't mind reminding you that I was with two travel buddies at the time - John Kennedy and Eric from Colorado

Look at me gettin all fancy with the photo collage!

John Kennedy lives here in Belize, and Eric had been in San Pedro for three months doing something awesome, like becoming a dive master, but went back to CO while I was visiting home, and we weren't sure when we'd get to meet up with each other again, until... 

One of his friends booked him a ticket to travel with her and a few other people in Costa Rica for about two weeks (my friends need to start hooking me up with plane tickets, by the way) and he invited me to come meet up with them. 

Hmmm.... Stay in San Pedro and work for three more weeks at a painfully quiet bar, in the peak of slow season, where I wouldn't be making any money or doing anything productive with my days, OR go hang out with someone I had grown a bit attached to and some other cool people from Colorado, in a country that's been on my bucket list for at least ten years.... 

I did what any bored (and close to totally broke) 35 year old would do... I borrowed money from my parents for a plane ticket to San Jose. (I'm so lucky they love me)

I flew out of Belize City on October 26, stopped in El Salvador for a two hour layover (I'm SO pissed that I didn't get a passport stamp from there!!) and then spent a night by myself at the Hotel Cacque, which was only a five minute taxi ride from the airport, $20us, and totally fine for a night. (My only complaint was the noise of the planes coming and going all night)

Here's my very first view of Costa Rica from the balcony the next morning:

The owner of the hotel, Johnny, I think, made me coffee in the morning and then drove me to the bus terminal to wait for one that had "Liberia" on the front. 

Quick reminder- I speak NO Spanish. Unless it's to ask for a beer or a bathroom, I have absolutely no businesses trying to talk to anyone in a Spanish speaking country. 

Luckily, I knew that the bus I was taking was going to cost about $12us, so I just went to the counter, said, "Liberia," to the man, and slide him $20 (I'm so happy other countries take US currency, it makes me less paranoid about doing math in my head) 

I got myself settled way in the back of the huge, comfy, double decker bus and just watched the country pass by until nodding off, all sprawled out and using my backpack as a pillow. 

I just had to go find some maps so I can give you a better idea about which part of the country I was in, Guanacaste:

If you see, in the next map, the San josé international airport in the central area of Guanacaste, and the Liberia airport northwest of there, that's pretty much the length of the bus ride.

I think it was roughly a five hour ride, which I mostly slept through, and when I got there I hung out at the bus terminal for about an hour before Eric showed up with two other guys, my new travel buddies, Ben and Shane.

There was some sort of crazy drama with their other friend over the previous two nights that they had already been in the country.... so she went home, and the other person they were expected never showed up after that. 
(They'd have to tell you about all that on their own, since I wasn't there for any of it and it's not my story to tell, but I found it to be quite hilarious)

We started driving, I'm not sure if any of us an exact destination in mind, (I certainly didn't) but they said that that had heard about a little coastal surf town called Tamarindo that sounded cool, so we headed that way.

They were right.... Tamarindo was super cool. I'm not even a surfer, but being in surf towns always makes me happy for some reason. (I was totally hoping to take a surfing lesson while we were there, but I was having major bathing suit malfunctions in the waves so I decided to bail out and go back one day when I have a more cooperative suit and know a few more Spanish words and phrases.)

We ate lunch at a restaurant on the beach and then wandered around (walking, then driving) looking for a place to stay. I don't know how we found it in the dark, down some back street just outside of town, but we stumbled upon Tamarindo Backpackers, a totally fun and funky little hostel with dorm and private rooms, a/c, a pool, a full, shared kitchen and living room area, wifi, plenty of space to lounge around, hammocks... pretty much everything you need, as well as awesome owners, Chris and Anne. 

You should totally check out the pictures on their website- mine aren't great.

The reception area- cold beers in the fridge!

We spent our two days/nights there just checking out town, the beach, and a few bars...

          Found a little skate park

The boys rented surf boards one day and Daniel - I think he's a long-term hostel guest/employee of Tamarindo Backpackers - took us to the next town over, Langosta Beach, which is a lot less crowded than Tamarindo. (Langosta means "lobster" in Spanish - I'm getting better already!)

It poured for a bit while we were there- but when you're already playing in waves in the warm ocean, that doesn't really matter much.


           Eric, Shane, Ben, Daniel

That was such a fun day, and later that night we went to the Langosta Beach Club and watched this aaaaamazing sunset before doing rounds of shots with the owner.

   No photoshop, no filters, just beautiful.

Since we had a rental car - a beast of a small SVU called a Fortuner that we all became very attached to - we wanted to bounce around a bit, so we took Chris's advice (hostel owner) and went up to the Rio Celeste area (San Miguel, Bijagua, specifically) and stayed at La Carolina Lodge, which is sits on 170 acres on the eastern slope of  Volcano Tenorio and is a full-time cattle ranch and farm as well as a lovely jungle lodge.

     The main lodge/river cabin -  looks small from the outside... until you get to walk around it

                              Front porch

Hammock on the right overlooking the river (I'll get to the river soon, what they've got going on down there is super cool)

Porch on the right side of the lodge- again, overlooking the river

       Out door fireplace over on the left side

Huge family-style dining table on the left side of the lodge 

                             Cooking area

                             Cooking area 

Seriously, some of the best food I've ever eaten, and it's all right from the farm. 

Now, some pics of the inside of the lodge, before I get to the good, outdoor stuff...

Cozy living room with lots of books- the bathroom is behind that blue door, and the screen door you see next to it goes outside to the kitchen area.

There is one room with four beds, one room that I *think* had two single beds, and then two more rooms that each had a double bed - all with mosquito netting

Ok, now, my favorite part.... The river. 

On one side, just a few steps down a path, they have a nice deck/lounging area where you can jump in and swim in the natural pools or do some fishing. 
On the other side.... the wood-fired hot tub! 

All the landscaping and pathways are so pretty 

                         The river

The hot tub- made with river rock, filled with natural river water, and heated by burning wood. Genius!!

          I want to go back, right now

                  Best idea EVER

We went for a little nature hike our first afternoon there and saw more of the property...

                       The barn 

                   Paddock area

             Another guest cabin 

                  Cows in a field 

               Dog (Toby) in a field

It started raining once we started walking through the jungle, and my flip flops weren't cutting it, so Eric and I turned back once I determined that the Costa Rican jungle is similar enough to the Belizean jungle and I didn't need to see any more of it at that exact moment. 

One thing I did see, though, that I've never seen before in Belize, was a Strawberry poison dart frog 

We actually saw 4 or 5 of these little guys

The jungle is dangerous, man! Our tour guide from the lodge, I totally forget his name, sliced his hand trying to move a branch out of the way on that walk...


We kept busy on our second day, for sure..

After breakfast, we drove to the visitors center for the Rio Celeste waterfall in the Tenorio Volcano National Park.
The long hike (in borrowed barn boots) was totally worth every, sweaty moment...

                 Effing gorgeous

      Finally, a picture of the four of us!

    Going back up was a biiiiiitch

Further down the trail...

  Ben washing his face in the hot springs


This is the exact spot where the fresh water runs into the line of sulfur and some kind of chemical reaction takes places and turns the water that fantastic color. SO cool!!

And this guy is the national bird of Nicaragua- the Guardabarranco.

               Sooo so so green

We had lunch and rested for a little while when we got back to the lodge, and then took a horseback ride over to a little lake to go fishing. 

                  Toby came, too

I can't believe I don't have a picture of the boat.... Eric, Ben, Shane- if you read this and you have it, send it to me pleeeeease!

A little puppy started following us when we tied up the horses and walked down to the lake, and got to tag along in the boat after making a lame attempt to swim out to us 

He stayed on my lap and wrapped up in my shirt the whole time because I looooooove puppies

Toby also got pulled on board after swimming across the entire lake to catch up

We rode the horses back to the lodge in the dark and had our last dinner there, then Eric, Ben and Shane had a little alone time.... three guys out in the rain, in a hot tub at night with candles flickering nearby.. I'm sure it was magical for them. 
(They crack me up) 
I just went to bed, I was BEAT!

We left the next morning after breakfast.... and that's where my next post will pick up - 
I'll tell you about Lake Arenal, an awesome skate park, a brewery, Monteverde, Montezuma, and whatever else I'm forgetting about at the moment. 


  1. It looks absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing...

  2. The detail and effort you made with this post is really telling. Gorgeous photos. I have family friends who have raved about Costa Rica. I'm hoping to visit for the first time next year :)

  3. that's awesome:) nice work on that one. you are seeing some serious country on this adventure~ peace~ Brent