Pura Vida in Costa Rica
Team Global Gemz Lizzi on "Pura vida" in Costa Rica...
Welcome to Costa Rica- the land of volcanoes, beaches, rivers and jungles. This place has it all, and much, much more!
In Spanish, Costa Rica means ‘rich coast’ and it’s easy to see why! With the huge surfs of it’s pacific coast, many active volcanoes and wild jungles, Costa Rica attracts thrill seekers and nature lovers from around the globe. The other special thing about this country is the people- known locally as ‘Tico’s’ and said to be the happiest nation in the world! Their famous motto ‘Pura Vida’ means pure life and is a perfect way to describe the Costa Rican approach- a healthy balance between work and enjoying life.
Our journey began in Liberia which has the second largest airport in Costa Rica and is a great option for those who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the capital city, San Jose.
Liberia is in the province of Guanacaste in the Northwest of the country. This was a great starting point from which to explore the Nicoya Peninsular, which has countless beautiful beaches, small towns and epic surfing spots. The best way to explore this area is to hire a car (preferably a 4x4) and get off the beaten track.
The coastal town of Tamarindo is a surfer’s paradise- here you will find a variety of hostels, bars and restaurants where you can relax and meet other travellers to swap stories and tips with.
South of Tamarindo there are many beautiful beaches which can only be reached with a 4x4 and a sense of adventure! After the steep mountain roads you will be rewarded with long stretches of empty beaches. Our favourite spots were the adjoining beaches of Playa Coyote and Playa San Miguel where you can walk for miles and see only a few local families- even in peak season. Locos Cocos is the only restaurant/bar in this area, where the owner, Hener, serves up delicious local food with true Costa Rican hospitality. And the sunset from here is out of this world!
Our next stop was La Fortuna, the town at the base of Costa Rica’s most famous volcano- Mt. Arenal. From here we spent a day hiking through the jungles around the giant volcano and to the top of its neighbour- the dormant Cerro Chato. The hike to the top is steep and challenging but worth it for the amazing waterfalls along the way and breathtaking views from the top. The crater of Cerro Chato has a huge lake where you can take a refreshing dip to cool off after your climb. Make sure you check up to date information before you set off as some of the trails are sometimes closed, particularly during the rainy season. If in doubt ask a local- they’re all super friendly! After one night in touristy La Fortuna, we found a gem of a hostel about a mile out of town called Howler Monkey Hostel. The owner is amazing, the coffee next door is delicious and the nearby restaurant, Tiquicia, served the best food we found in all of Costa Rica for only US$10 each, including beer and a generous tip!
Next we travelled to the middle of Costa Rica to stay with friends close to San Jose. After a few days in the city, taking advantage of some home comforts and a washing machine, we headed south east to the Caribbean coast. We combined the travelling with a day of adventure, white water rafting on the Pacuare River. Many tour companies will pick up and drop off in different locations for the same price so this was a great way to break up the travelling! After a very early start, 4 hours of rafting and another bus ride, we arrived in the coastal town of Puerto Viejo.
This side of Costa Rica is completely different to the rest of the country- reflected in the diversity of the food, music and people. Think brightly coloured buildings, palm trees and reggae beats!
Puerto Viejo is the main town in the area and has a range of hostels, hotels, bars and restaurants. If you want to escape this busy tourist area there are lots of beautiful towns and beaches nearby, such as Punta Uva and Manzanillo to the south and Cahuita to the North. From Puerto Viejo it is easy to rent a bike and explore the many quieter beaches close by- our favourites were Playa Chiquita and Playa Cocles, between Puerto Viejo and Punta Uva.
After a month travelling around Costa Rica we still feel like we only scratched the surface of this beautiful country. We will definitely be back in the future!
"Pura vida"... Lizzi x
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By Team GG