Thought I’d do an adventure by adventure recount of my trip… enjoy!
La Fortuna | July 1-3
Bus: Montezuma—>Paquera/Ferry ($3.60); Ferry—>Puntarenas ($1.60); Bus Puntarenas—>San Ramon ($2.60)—>La Fortuna ($4.35) ––> San José (~$3)
La Fortuna: Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna ($15/night, prices vary with promotions), La Fortuna Backpackers Resort ($12/night, prices vary with promotions)
San José: Bekuo ($10 for women’s dorm, $9-11 reg. dorm)
Expensive. Mostly tours available. Highly recommend Cerro Chato hike ($12) and free hot springs. (Round trip taxi was $7/person between 4 people.)
There is a strange consortium of hostels in La Fortuna. Called Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna, La Fortuna Backpackers Resort, and Arenal Hostel Resort, all with similar signage and logos, they make no secret of their connection to one another. They’ve got good ratings in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and a friend had gushed about the one she stayed in, so Ally and I decided to stay there. Easier said than done; we were informed upon arrival our first choice was full, so we were escorted to their second hostel… which was also full. Luckily, the last one had a few open spots! But at $15/night because their promotion had just, just ended… It was dark and we were tired, so we paid and hit the pool table. Later, we would be informed the hostel was booked full so we had to move to their sister hostel. Luckily, they were running a promotion now for $12/night… but stopped the next night when we went to pay. I talked them into letting Ally and I pay only the agreed upon price, though. Another example: friends who booked a tour through the hostel paid an extra $20 than the others who went on the same tour through different booking locations. The entire thing felt like a scan, although most of the individual workers were kind. That didn’t keep others in our hostel being kicked out as we were because of overbooked beds even though the beds themselves were empty that night. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The next day, we went out with our roommates-turned-quick-friends from Sweden and Switzerland to a waterfall up a hill. The Swedes had a rental car which they graciously shared with us. Upon our arrival Ally and I discovered that to our horror the entrance fee was some $14. As Ally’s daily budget was $16, we turned around to some hot springs we were told were close by––and free. Our friends promised to meet us there. They actually caught us before we had arrived at the (cold) river, because we had taken shelter from the rain for a while (Ally did exercises as Ally does) and stopped to watch toucans, which we pointed out to the lead guide for a horseback riding tour of some 20 or 30 that was coming up behind us.
On the walk down the hill, we passed a tall blonde youth heading up, who we now believe was a fellow youth traveler staying in our hostel we spent the next two days with. It’s a small world when you all go to the same places. The entire trip we would meet the same people over and over again, sometimes in another country. The beaten path is very clearly defined in Central America. (Especially Panama. One woman’s serious rhetorical question: “What else is there to do in Panama but Panama City and [the archipelago of] Bocas [del Toro]?”)
Also while walking this hill, we stopped and bought a fridge magnet from a shop. The shopkeeper then took us into his backyard to spot birds lured out with some papaya from his kitchen, poison dart frogs, and see his work area. One of the kindest men we met on our journey. :) And we felt transported back in time when we randomly stumbled upon one of the hotels we stayed in the first time we were in Costa Rica! Ally and I went on the ITE trip four years ago, and stayed in this hotel surrounded by dinosaurs made of plants. Seeing the place again was surreal. They seemed to have lost a lot of business––nobody was around, everything was overgrown and dirty. A part of me wishes we hadn’t found it so it would have lived on forever pristine in my memory.
The next day was rainy. From the time we woke up to the late afternoon, water poured from above. With our new English friend, we made “biscuits,” or as we call them in ‘murica, cookies. Chocolate chunk cookies. They were delicious and the one time I baked anything those 6 weeks. That evening, we went to a natural hot spring with our cookie friend and a Tico from the hostel. They were lovely and warm and urban. Much of it was regular river, but parts flowed through abandoned infrastructure turned graffitied concrete playground. At one part, a concrete lip under the water created a cave with air you could go into by ducking under about a foot thick waterfall. Most of those enjoying the springs were locals, families. They brought tall candles to light after dusk, turning the stream into something misty and magical.
Thankfully, the next morning dawned––and stayed––clear. We were both tired of La Fortuna, so we decided to head to San José for transfer south. It was a beautiful place, but everything was built around tours. They seemed like fine tours with over a hundred options at least, but were also between $45 and $120 each, far beyond what our budgets allowed.
Before we left, we hiked Cerro Chato, a shorter volcano (I think) next to Arenal. It was a grueling hike up to and then over the lip to a lake covered in fog. There was a lot of mud, and there was a lot of pulling ourselves up the trail with the help of tree roots and vines. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Finally we were on our way! We stayed at Hostel Bekuo in San José, my new favorite hostel in Costa Rica. (Traveler’s Tip: Don’t pay more than like $10 for a taxi to Bekuo from any bus station. I’ve paid $5 and $6 for first Ally and I, and then myself.) It’s clean and very fashionable. They’ve got a great pool table, outside areas in front in back, TV lounge, and everything is open and bright. And cheap, too. :)
Next adventure: Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park, July 5-6