After a few days in the big city of San Jose, we headed to the town of Puerto Viejo. This beach town with its laid back Caribbean vibe is very welcoming to the young backpacker like ourselves! We chose to stay at Rocking Js Hostel because Willy had stayed there 4 years ago. The hostel is huge and caters to every type of budget offering accommodation ranging from hammocks to the Pimp Suite. We opted to save some money by sleeping in the hammocks. The hostel is full of other travelers from all over the world! It is decorated in mosaics done by guests and has a great beachfront.
We rented bikes to cruise around town and head to the other beaches. We spent one day visiting the Jaguar Rehabilitation Center. This establishment takes in all types of abused and injured animals.
We were able to see baby sloths and play with the young spider and howler monkeys. The whole place is run by volunteers and we would defiantly recommend it!
When we were not lounging in our hammocks we also spent time in the tidal pools near the hostel. Their are a few deep tidal pools that allow for a nice refreshing swim. The tidal pools are also full of life! We saw many small fish, and eel and sea urchins!
The past 2 weeks at Casa Orquidea have flown by! We have finally begun to get into the swing of things and time is cruising along. We wake every morning to the sounds of chattering birds and other animals outside our door. By 9am the sun is high in the sky and beating down on us so we take advantage of any shade that we can get. Our daily chores include weeding, edging and raking. We have also been working with their local caretaker, Alex. Alex only speaks Spanish, so it has been good practice for us! Alex also invited us out on his boat for some fishing. 5 days after the full moon, Needlefish gather by the shore to breed. This freenzy draws locals from all over. Willy tried his luck, and was able to catch 2 fish and he also spotted a sea turtle and dolphin from the boat. The hardest part of it all was learning how to gut the fish.
Our afternoons are spent wandering around the gardens or reading in our hammocks. After reading some of Trudy’s herbal medicine books, we have been experimenting with the local plants. They have spice and medicinal gardens which offer a variety of plants to aid in wounds, headaches and stomach issues. We are also fortunate enough to be able to pick fresh basil and oregano from the garden. There is a giant grapefruit tree and lemon tree next to our house which has provided us with fresh juice in the morning!
View from our porch
We were greeted by our host Ron MacAllister at the docks in the port town of Golfito. He showed us around town ; where the best produce and groceries could be purchased and other important landmarks. It was our duty to plan out what foods we would want to eat and buy all of our supplies for the next week. After a few hours, we met back with Ron and made the 25 minute boat journey to our new home, Casa Orquidea. We were greeted by Trudy and Spike (dog) at the beach. After unloading all our bags and supplies we were showed to our cabin which will be home for the next 3 weeks.
The 70 acre property looks like a scene out of Jarassic Park. There are Scarlett macaws hovering about and lizards running across the grass. There are hundreds of trees and flowers. Casa Orquideas is known for its many species of orchids and heliconias. The property is truly a magical and special place, its hard to describe it. Cruise ships and boats stop for tours almost daily. The tours include a weekly National Geographic tour boat.
By our cabin, we are fortunate to have a grapefruit and lemon tree. We also have access fresh pineapples and a wide array of herbs and spices. The ocean is just a stone throw away from our porch. Instead of trying to sleep with traffic noises, we now just hear the sounds of the crashing waves and the wild jungle outside our door.
Work begins at 7am for us. By this time the heat is starting to rise and the macaws are already squawking and making their presence known. We work for 4 hours. Our daily tasks include weeding, edging and maintaining the gardens. Ron and Trudy are always available to answer any questions and offer suggestions. After work ends at 11pm we are free to do as we please around the gardens and surrounding area. Most of the time we end up reading/sleeping away the afternoons in our hammocks on the beach.
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!