Dominical is a very small and quaint town. There are only three dirt roads and a handful of bars, restaurants, and hostels. On the first day in Dominical we settled into our hostel(Piramys) which was across a dusty road from the beach and took a stroll around town. For dinner/late lunch we followed a fellow travelers advise and went to a sandwich shop in town. The name is Chapys and it’s to die for. The most delicious part of the sandwich may very well be the fresh baked ciabatta bread but the fresh local ingredients and quality deli meat certainly add to the wonderfulness! After dinner we set up our hammocks on the beach and enjoyed a breathtaking sunset.
The next day Amber and I went our separate ways for a few hours. Amber had a massage scheduled for that afternoon so I took advantage of a fellow travelers offer to accompany him on a waterfall hike. After a long hot hike in the heat of the day we reached a good sized river cascading down over the rocks into a deep swimming hole fully equipped with a rope swing and places to jump from. After a activity filled day for me and a relaxing, meditative day for Amber we fell asleep soon after the hostels lights out at 10pm.
We awoke early the following morning and ventured to Marino Ballena National Park only a short bus ride away in Utiva. The park is named after the humpback whales that migrate there every year. Almost too coincidentally there is also a perfectly whale tale shaped piece of land that can be walked out to at low tide. This whale tale is a stretch of sand extending from the beach and fanning out on either side into tide pools and coral. We spent over 6 hours at the park; from lounging in the hammock to floating in the water. We arrived back in Domincal starved and headed back to Chapys for a filling sandwich! Tomorrow we are off to Golfito for the night, before we begin our 3 week volunteer adventure.
Poza Azul Waterfall
Marino Ballena National Park
(Not our picture but wanted to show the whale tail)
After a few bus transfers, we arrived in Manuel Antonio. We roamed the streets, exploring the available room options. We agreed that Vista Serena was the best option with dorm beds for $14 and million dollar views of the ocean. After a hearty breakfast, we headed off to Manuel Antonio National Park. There is a $10 entrance fee to enter the park and lots of tour options. We opted to tour the park ourselves. The beginning of the park was busy with other travelers however, it was more secluded once off the main path. There are a few different beach options and lookout points to explore as well. There were white face monkeys all over the places. They seemed to be competing with the local raccoons for snacks for the tourist. We were also fortunate enough to see a toucan and some sloths. The park itself is not that big and can be explored in a few hours. We spent the rest of the day longing in the hammocks at Vista Serena and enjoying the beautiful sunset.
After a quick pit stop in San Jose, we made the 5 hour journey to La Fortuna(Arenal Volcano). Once we arrived we were greeted with lush vegetation and cooler temperatures. After shopping around for 30 minutes, we decided to call Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna home and ventured out around town. The massive Arenal Volcano can be seen from almost everywhere in town when it is not covered by clouds. The best views of the volcano can be had early in the morning. Although the lava is no longer visible, there is still smoke coming out of the top. The main street is lined with tour centers, restaurants and hostels. La Fortuna is an adventure paradise. There are tours for zip-lining, white water rafting, volcano hikes, waterfalls and hot springs just to name a few.
After a good nights´rest in the great orthopedic beds of our hostel, we decided to take on the day! We woke up early and caught a glimpse of Arenal before the cloud coverage. We then headed to the La Fortuna Waterfall. We choose to take a cab to the park entrance because it is quiet the hike up. The falls cost $10 to enter and can(and should) be done without a tour guide. After hiking down over 400 steps we arrived at the pristine falls. With a 200ft drop and beautiful green-blue water below, it was very breathtaking. We jumped in the water to cool off. The current and force from the falls was very strong but very refreshing. We hiked back up the steps and back down to the town. After the long hike up and down our legs were feelings like jello so what better way to refresh them, than with the local hot springs.
There are plenty of tour groups that offer packages to the Baldi Hot Springs. We shopped around and found the best deal from Red Lava Tours. They offered us transportation to the springs, pool access and dinner for $38 per person. The Baldi Hot Springs are one of four hot springs options in the area. We chose Baldi because they have over 25 pools ranging in temperatures and water slides. The whole place was like an adult water-park complete with swim up bars. We spent the evening exploring pools ranging from 93 to 116 degrees!
Our stay at La Fortuna is short but well worth it! We are off to Manuel Antonio.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Baldi Hot Springs
Baldi Hot Springs
After a few days, it was time to leave the quirky end of the road beach town of Montezuma, so we caught a water taxi to Jaco. It was an hour long ride across the Gulf of Nicoya. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of some ocean life while along the journey but there was none to be seen.
At first we were a little skeptical of what Jaco had to offer and considered skipping it all together. From what we had read in the guide books Jaco is know for being filled with drugs, prostitutes, and Gringos. Upon arrival we were met by a family friend who was generous enough to host us for a few days and show us around the town. We have been spoiled by good food and good beds while staying here and it will be hard to get back on the hostel circuit.
One night we went out for drinks at Villa Caletas. This was a very upscale resort situated on a mountain side, 1150 feet above the Pacific Ocean, offering breathtaking views of the Nicoya Peninsula and the sun sinking beyond the horizon. After drinks we made our way back into town and ate dinner. The place we ate offered fresh fish among other things. The tuna steak was the largest and most tasty I have ever had. Ambers Mahi Mahi was just as delicious but not as big.
Today we continued enjoying all the fresh fish that this coastal town has to offer and went for fish tacos. We went to the JacoTacoBar due to the many rants and raves that we have heard about it. It did not let us down! They had 5 different types of fish and other meats to choose from. We went with tuna and dorado. In addition to the tacos they had an unlimited salad bar so that you could all all your own toppings to your tacos. We quenched our thirst with some fresh squeezed orange juice and lemonade with mint and ginger. I would highly recommend the TacoBar!
We spent 3 nights in the beach town of Montezuma. The town itself is small but very lively. It is located on the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula which can make it hard to get to. We chose the expensive private shuttle because it would have taking anywhere from 11 to 18 hours on the public bus system which just sounded painful. We stayed at Hotel Auroa. The term “hotel” may have been a stretch but none the less it did its job for us. The hotel is located right downtown and about 1 minute from the beach.
The first full day we were there we hiked to waterfall which was a popular spot with the locals and travelers alike. It was a set of three waterfalls, all with beautiful swimming holes at the base. The hike up to the other 2 falls was very rough and steep! We had to hold on to branches and rocks to pull ourselves up while the ground slipped out from under us.
The nightlife in Montezuma is very energetic and young. We spent two nights at Organics which is a great organic restaurant with live music. They have home made gelato and wine creations. We opted for the white wine with mint and orange. During the day, we got our juice fix from The Green House, which whipped up all sorts of fruits and herb combinations for under $4. We also walked along the coastline to Playa Grande. The beach was almost completely empty and felt like we were on an episode of Survivor. After our long walk along the beach we cooked up a dinner of pasta and chorizo. After dinner we went into town and were lucky enough to catch a seemingly impromptu performance of fire dancers and drummers. If you happen to make your way down to Montezuma ever, they perform every Thursday night at 10pm right in the center of town.
We are back in Costa Rica! Writing this post from the beach; Playa Samara. This is a great little beach town that isn’t too developed yet and still has some charm. It’s Superbowl Sunday so we are at the packed local bar watching the game.
The last time we checked in, we were in Granada, Nicaragua. We have traveled around quite a bit since then! From Granada we took a chicken bus and then a ferry to Isla de Ometepe. If you have ever wondered where the old yellow school buses go when they retire… It’s to Nicaragua! The get a makeover complete with Jesus paintings or whatever else the driver wants. They also are always over capacity… extremely over. Just when you think it’s full, more people get on until you literally can’t even move, and barley get off. After we made it through the chicken bus and bumpy ferry ride we arrived to the island and headed to Little Morgans. The hostel is owned by an Irish man and is very unique. It is situated between the 2 volcanoes on the island and has fantastic views. Our beds were above the bar (all they had left) and were pretty loud but otherwise no complaints. The hostel was full of other young travelers and we met some really great people.
During the day we rented bikes and rode around the island to Lago de Apoyo. It is a mineral pool, warmed by the volcanoes. It felt like a giant swimming pool, with fish in it! For dinner we headed to the Eco-Farm down the street. This farm practices permaculture and allows guests to stay in exchange for a few hours of work a day. The farm sold Nutella, hummus, chocolate and jams that were made on premises. We went for the famous pizza night. Our pizza was delicious and made from local ingredients.
The following morning we returned to the mainland and headed towards the border. After a few hours in line we were next! However, we were quickly disappointed when we realized that our plane tickets home were not enough proof for the officials that we were leaving the country! We were forced to buy $50 bus tickets that we will never use! It was a very frustrating situation but there was nothing that we could do about it. Perhaps because we were American, they gave us more trouble. We will never know….
Either way, we are loving Costa Rica now and plan on making our way down the Nicoya Peninsula then taking a water taxi across to Jaco.