So, this was my first backpacking trip. Costa Rica, 2.5 weeks, December of 2016.
I’ve learned so much about budget backpacking, trust, meeting locals and have grown so much since then but I thought I would still share my experience with you.
Did I over prepare?
Was it still amazing?
Christmas Goodies!!! I received a lil Osprey travel day pack which has been and was a wonderful addition. An XL Tek Towel which is great because it dries so quick and is antibacterial. Last but not least I received a BeFree water bottle! The pack and towel have lasted 5 months of backpacking to date, and the water bottle was lost along the way later in Cambodia (we’ll get to that) as I gave it to a child. These were all awesome travel tools, 10/10!
Stop over in NYC. I had 10 hours so I thought why not explore? This was a great addition although I definitely spent too much money on this stop over.
We finally arrived in Tamarindo and the first thing I needed was a beer for sure. 25 hours of travelling will do that to you. Tamarindo is a favourite for me although many people have an awful taste in their mouth about it. Is it overly touristic? Yes. Is it authentic to true Costa Rica? No. But what you will find when you open your eyes is an amazing network of travellers from all over the world who live here with very specialized skill sets. This is where I met some of the most amazing and interesting individuals that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels.
I stayed at Tamarindo Backpackers Hostel, it was amazing-as soon as you walk in you feel like you’re part of a family. It definitely is out of my budget now as I’ve become a budget backpacker, but because of my experience there when I return to Costa Rica it will be my first choice!
We learned to surf with Surf As Life Therapy (SALT!). Elias is the instructor and he’s absolutely amazing. I’m serious when I say he doesn’t just give you a surf lesson but more so a life lesson. Do NOT miss Elias if you’re in Tamarindo!
Photo Credits in the above picture go to @onewaywanderer – he’s incredible, check out his work!
After Tamarindo we headed swiftly to Montezuma (travel tip-move slowly between cities to save money). After a very bumpy road to get there we arrived. Soul seekers rejoice! If you’re feeling detached from yourself this is where you need to be. This is not for the closed minded. Think eco-friendly, yogi, nature lovers paradise. Howler monkeys jumping on your roof in the morning, fresh made juice in the afternoon, saving baby turtles at sunset, and unnervingly quiet people in large groups.
Montezuma’s pristine and peaceful untouched beach. Decorated with massive rocks and bleached drift wood.
Make sure to check out the waterfalls! An easy hike to get to the base of the first that gets much more challenging if you want to hike to the mouth of the falls-to reveal a system of waterfalls feeding it. Don’t miss the crazy locals doing backflips off the top!
Quepos. We visited the famed Manuel Antonio national park and decided to stay in Quepos. This was an excellent call because staying close to the park is pricey and touristic while Quepos is a short local bus ride away with major rewards as you stay in a more authentic Costa Rican city. Manuel Antonio was amazing and lived up to it’s name. Every species of monkey that you can find in Costa Rica lives in the national gem. Amazing crystal blue waters and fauna varying from desert like succulents such as Agave to jungle plants. We saw toucans, monkeys, costa rican deer, everything the eye could imagine. It was so overcrowded with people but the people become background noise as you soak in this amazing place.
Our typical breakfast! We saved a lot of money by buying market food that locals were buying and cooking it ourselves.
The most popular beach in Manuel Antonio national park! The waters were so beautiful and clear and the sand so soft on your feet.
Monkeys everywhere! Careful though, these cute little guys are not afraid to steal your things (I lost my towel in this transaction…worth it? YEP).
La Fortuna! The appeal in La Fortuna is the volcano Arenal. Unfortunately when we arrived there, there was a massive tropical storm going on and so we weren’t able to do that hike. We made the best of it though and instead did some other awesome activities!
We did a coffee plantation tour, to observe how it’s picked (we actually picked it!), how it’s processed and roasted. Following this we tried fresh coffee which made me VERY happy.
We went to an animal sanctuary and got to meet this baby sloth at Proyecto Asis! She had been separated from her mother and wasn’t able to survive alone in the wild and so she was being rehabilitated in this centre. Her name is Sheena and yes she is adorable. Life? Made. This was pricey but totally worth it.
This is approaching the popular waterfalls in the region. You have to pay to enter this hike which is always a bummer (all hikes should be free!)-but the funds go to restoring the wildlife of Costa Rica and protecting it-so I didn’t mind paying the fee at all!
Sometimes you can swim in these waters but because there was a tropical storm going on they were much too violent to swim in on the day we arrived.
Due to the tropical storm we were forced to change out route. This is how we actually ended up in my favourite place of the whole trip. We ended up in Samara, staying in Hostel Las Mariposas. There is something about this place. It’s slowed down, happy, vibrant. Expats, retirees, tropical nomads, young and old, all cultures, religions, races. It was so inclusive and incredible. You felt at home as soon as you arrived in this town. The sunsets on this beach were mind blowing, the moon shining across the inch deep water (when the tide goes out) and sending a massive reflection down the whole beach. This was my favourite city in Costa Rica.
We stopped back in Tamarindo to say goodbye to the friends we had made there. As they do, all good things come to an end. This was the end of my first backpacking trip and I had learned so much about myself.
Biggest Mistakes Made
My biggest mistakes I made were…
Travelling too fast – when you travel too fast it becomes much more expensive, you don’t get the opportunity to secure new friendships. You don’t meet locals and you don’t observe culture. That’s why this was more of a vacation than a travelling experience!
Trying to see too much – when you’re trying to see things, you miss the beauty of what’s in front of you
Renting a car – the rentals are super cheap but they don’t tell you that you’re forced to pay 10x the car payment for the insurance and suddenly you feel roped in. MAJOR RIP OFF!
Skipping the Caribbean Coast – I dream of seeing Puerto Viejo.