We had heard lots of horror stories about the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border crossing (thousands of people getting processed by 3 people, with hours of waiting) so we decided to get there as soon as it opened at 6 am to try and minimise the queuing time. Jas and I, plus our friend Andy (who we’d been travelling with since Ometepe) jumped in a cab at 5.20 am and headed to the border. We arrived at the border at 5.50 and there were already about 30 people clustered around the closed gates. At 6, the guards partially opened the gates and started letting people through, a few at a time. We were in the 2nd batch through, so had only around 10-15 people in front of us. It took around half an hour to get processed at this end and when we left the immigration office, we were so glad we came early because there was already a huge queue and more people were arriving from all directions.
Nicaragua and Costa Rica hate each other, so instead of the usual couple of metres separating the two immigration offices, this crossing has an entire km of no-mans land in between the two countries. You could take a bus, but the 3 of us wanted to walk and check it out. It was crazy. There were no signs whatsoever, so we had to keep asking people “donde esta Costa Rica???” which made us feel pretty stupid!! There were masses of trucks parked up with their drivers sleeping underneath them in hammocks, homeless looking people passed out by the side of the roads and even a few little house shacks. On the other side, we got stamped pretty quickly and headed out to find a bus. The whole process took an hour, so again, glad we arrived early!
We were heading to La Fortuna, a little town in the highlands of Costa Rica and we weren’t sure if it would be possible to do it in a day, but we decided to give it a go. We were really lucky and all of our bus connections worked out – so 7 or 8 hours and 3 local buses later, we arrived. It was a cute little town and we ended up staying at this great backpackers called Gringo Petes. We had planned on visiting the volcano and finding some hot springs, but unfortunately the volcano was covered by cloud, so there was no point in that, and the Costa Rica prices were far too crazy for us to be able to afford to got to the hot springs! We had known that Costa Rica was going to be expensive and touristy, but it was still a bit of a shock after a month in Nicaragua. It was full of Americas, about 2-3 times the price of Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras, and not only did the locals speak English – they spoke it with American accents. So we just stayed 2 days, mostly just at gringo petes because he had a good common lounge, outdoor area and most importantly – a decent kitchen (we can’t afford to eat in costa rica)!
After here we caught a bus-boat-bus to Monteverde, a town on the other side of the volcano. It was a pretty nice boat journey, but we didn’t like Monteverde at all, so we just crashed a night in a hostel and at 6am the next morning we jumped on a bus back to the coast. By 3pm we were at Montezuma, a gorgeous little beach town on the pacific coast. We found a brilliant hostel called hotel Lucy and decided to stay for a few days. The hostel was right on the water, so we could hear the waves from our room, plus it had a big veranda to sit on and hammocks, and a great kitchen (we still can’t afford to eat in costa rica!). We spent most our time here walking along the beach, hanging out at the swimming holes (which involved some pretty crazy climbing to get to!) and chatting to other backpackers over beer outside the hostel. We were leaving on my birthday, so the night before we bought some fish off this guy in town – a local fisherman who caught his fish in the morning, then spent the afternoons driving around with his catch in a giant esky on the back of ute, selling it to local restaurants and passers-by. We went in with Andy, and bought a kilo of fresh tuna – which was far too much even for 3 of us! So we cut it into 4 steaks so Andy could have it again the next night. It was de-licious!
We got up early on my birthday because we had to catch a 6am bus, but it was a really nice morning and we watched the sunrise and saw little squirrels running around the trees and power lines. We then did another bus-boat-bus trip number and ended up in San Jose early afternoon. The city wasn’t nearly as bad as we had been told – I think maybe the people who say it’s scary haven’t been to Tegus in Honduras or Guatemala City! We were splashing out and staying in a flash hostel here – it was all new, had a swimming pool and a roof top bar and restaurant. It was a little too cold to go in the pool, so we just lay in the loungers next to it! The best bit about the hostel was the showers, which had hot water!! In the evening we bought a bottle of red wine and sat drinking it and playing cards, then headed up to the roof top bar for a delicious dinner – pretty good birthday!
The next morning we walked to the caribe bus station to catch a bus to Puerto Veijo – on the south Caribean coast. When we got to Puerto Veijo we found a hostel to stay in and ended up in a cute little treehouse type cabin. We only stayed one night here though, because then we discovered “Rocking J’s” – the craziest hostel setup ever, so we moved in there. Rocking J’s is a total party hostel and is set up for cheapo backpackers that don’t care about luxury. He has a few rooms, even a treehouse room with a retractable roof(!), but his main business is camping and hammocks. It’s hard to explain, but he has 2 levels – the floor level is where campers can set up their own tents and is quite spacious. The second level is filled with 58 of his tents – all with mattresses, sheets and pillows. Downstairs again, he has two giant open shed type things, which each have around 100 hammocks set up. Every tent and hammock also has it’s own locker so your stuff is safe, plus he has a big grass courtyard, a kitchen, lots of tables, and of course, more hammocks to chill in – plus he’s right on the beach, has nightly bonfires and a bar/restaurant out the front. An amazing set up! We went for a tent and stayed 2 nights. A great end to our time in Costa Rica.