Recently, I went on an amazing adventure. It was probably one of my most favourite trips, like ever.
I always wanted to travel to Central America and a few weeks ago, I had a time gap between my time in California and Florida (blog posts coming up soon, I promise...) so I spontaneously booked a ticket down to Costa Rica.
First of all, I wish I would have taken more time to explore and by far, I did not see enough or even just slightly most of the country. It makes me really sad, because it is such a great country. So definitely, I will be back (in my head already planning to come back in a few weeks - I know...) and see as much as possible!
I flew down from L.A. to Liberia, which is located on the pacific coast of Costa Rica - flight is about 5.5 hours long. I took the direct nightly flight with Delta, which was perfect. You go on board around midnight and then arrive in the morning around 6am. Plus, if you book early enough (or as me, super late) you can get a good deal. I only paid around $180 which is super cheap for a mid-long flight.
From Liberia airport, I took a transport down to Tamarindo area. For the whole week, I stayed in the Tamarindo jungle camping, which was so nice. Sleeping in a tent, outdoor showers, nature around everywhere - just way better than some standard hotel. The jungle was still close to the beach (around 10 min with the truck), but also separated from everything else in quiet surroundings. There was a huge mango tree on the camping site (I took some serious naps under the tree) and heaps of hammocks to relax in.
Tamarindo is quite known as a venture destination, especially for Americans. There are quite a few hotels close to the beach area and many shops, cafes, restaurants and so on. The reason I went there was because of the surfing. Tamarindo is known for always having waves throughout the year, and nearby beaches offer surf spots for beginners to pros. If Tamarindo gets too busy, you can go to the beaches close by, where there is way less people. My mission was to improve my surfing skills, so that was the perfect spot for me.
I pretty much did the same almost everyday - woke up early around 6am for a jungle yoga session (monkeys liked to hover in the trees above us), some brekkie, heading down to the beach, surf and swim, a stroll around town for some munchies and exploration, another surf and swim in the ocean, reading a book or listening to music in the hammock, random conversations with new people everyday, a nice dinner underneath the trees - and then I was deadly tired and went to bed at around 10pm. It may sound pretty boring to you but for me it was exactly what I needed and wanted. It was the perfect combination of being active and relaxing, the surf is super fun out there and everyone is just in a good mood. Being by the ocean just calms me down every time, it is a totally different feeling and makes me smile throughout the day. Just knowing, I can go for a swim, relaxes my soul and releases stress.
Unfortunately, my last days were super windy and the water got quite cold and chilly (yes, people were surfing in a wetsuit even and yes, I know we are supposed to be in the tropics). Especially during sunset time, the water got super chilly and I did both - surfing with shirt and just in a bathing suit. Trust me, I can handle the cold but that was just freeeeezing. But hey - that just means more moving around, swimming and paddling, which means more workout, so I guess it was not too bad after all. Only thing, watch out your surfboard. If you don't hold on tight enough to your surfboard, it could go on a little trip on its own, like the one I saw flying across the whole beach when a breeze hit the beach.
Of course, I took some time to explore the areas around Tamarindo as well. On my first day, we visited Playa Negra, which is a beach with black sand and ultra wide sandbanks. The beach is great for surfing, but also to just swim and jump into the waves. What was extremely nice that day was the sunset - make sure to go to the restaurant/hotel, which is located right at Playa Negra. Get a seat on the lawn in front of the restaurant or sit on the benches facing the ocean. During sunset time, you see the palm trees and the ocean in one view, which is just fantastic. Plus, you might be lucky and be able to see some pro surf skills out in the water.
On another trip, we visited the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, which is a national park a bit more up north. At the edge of the park, we stopped in the middle of nothing and trekked down the hill a bit until we saw a beautiful river. The water was extremely clear and it was flowing downwards along the rocks. At some cascading points, the water is flowing down in a waterfall, which you can also slide down. And even better - the water is quite deep at some points, so you can jump off from the rocks.
The river was quite isolated, so there were not many people around, which was great. Just going for a swim and relaxing by the water, is super calming and a great start to the day. After the river, we drove a bit further down the road for a mud bath. Located at the same river, just a bit further away, you can bathe yourself in mud (it smells terribly, but is really good for your skin) and then jump into the river to clean yourself again. The mud is made out of minerals of that area and kept in a hot pot. Not only is it good for your skin, but it is also just so much fun going mudding.
Done with mudding, you can visit the natural hot springs, which are located right next to it. The water is very hot, seriously, but it is a nice activity to end your day and just relax.
People in Costa Rica are very friendly and helpful, it just sends off a great vibe. Watching the sunsets at the beach is simple but just amazing, if you feel all the great vibes coming from everywhere. Sunset was definitely my favourite time of the day - in the water or outside. If I was not in the water surfing, I was sitting at the beach and watching the sun set. Just listening to some music, hanging out with new friends and chatting away - no clouds, no thoughts, nothing.
Beware of some animals in that area! Around Playa Tamarindo, there are heaps of crocodiles - also a shark was spotted at the rivermouth close to the beach. If you want to make your way to Playa Grande, which is right next to Playa Tamarindo and not that populated, maybe consider taking the local boat for a few bucks instead of paddling. Definitely when it is high tide.
I definitely want to go back and do some more exploring. Planning already the next trip in my head, I definitely want to visit Monteverde and the southern part of the country, as well as the Caribbean coast after being only on the pacific side of the country. Additionally, the next time I will for sure explore Panama and Nicaragua as well.
One thing I disliked (promise that is the only thing) is that Costa Rica is expensive. Sadly, it is very americanized (maybe not everywhere, definitely in Tamarindo area). Just a simple snack or even water, costs you quite a bit. I did not expect it to be that much, compared to the other countries in Central America, but it definitely has the same price niveau as in the states. Watch out for sure at the airports (had my most expensive sandwich like - ever).
Anyways, it is an amazing country from what I can say so far so definitely, consider taking down a trip to Costa Rica and for sure, Spanish skills are a big plus (myself I could only order a coconut - Pipa!) and explore this beautiful country. As all the people down there say - pura vida!
Almost forgot - YES! On my way out of Costa Rica, I flew via the capital San Jose. From Liberia, I took a plane to San Jose (you can take the bus as well, it takes about 4 hours or the local bus which can take... well that is a bit unsure, maybe 7 or more, quite a few stops with it). I took Sansa Air, which is a national airline in Costa Rica and oh my - that was a real tiny plane. If you are someone that is afraid of flying (like myself), it may be a rollercoaster ride for you - physically and mentally. I was already a bit suspicious when they wanted me to stand on the scale at check-in with all my luggage to see, how many kilos that all is together. But then I saw the plane - it was soooo small. Like a toy. There were about ten seats and you sit directly behind the pilot and co-pilot. The bags are stored in the back of the seats and you have a seatbelt that is a cross-over one for your body (felt even more like you are going on a rollercoaster ride). What is amazing about the flight, is that the view is so nice, because you don't fly that high and directly above the landscape. From Liberia to San Jose, you fly across the mountains, which is so pretty. But hold on tight, if there are some turbulences (which were obviously strong on that day I flew). The plane drops quite some height in turbulences and loses its balance quite often, shaking you in all kind of directions. It seriously is like a rollercoaster ride, just way up higher and without the tracks. In the end, I had fun (maybe because I did not die), but it was definitely an experience! I have taken some sketchy Asian airlines before but that was definitely something else! So I do recommend - take it and see for yourself!