After our 10 day SCUBA liveaboard to Cocos Island, we had a reunion with friends to celebrate the Christmas holidays together in Costa Rica. The group of us met at the San Jose airport and immediately set out for La Fortuna, home of the Arenal Volcano. Our 3 night stay here was ample time to check out the 1968 Arenal Volcano lava trail, La Fortuna Waterfall, Mistico Hanging bridges, and soak in the hot springs at Baldi Resort. We also rented scooters to zip around La Fortuna and made our way to the free hot springs near the Tabacon Resort. The second portion of our Costa Rican adventure was spent at Manuel Antonio National Park, where we enthusiastically searched for sloths lounging in the tree tops and stalked a wide variety of wildlife with the aid of Jason, a naturalist guide from Jade Tours. Our accommodation at Manuel Antonio was a youth hostel located mere steps from Espadilla Beach, so whenever we weren’t getting tossed by the wild waves, we were busy eating, drinking cocktails, and playing card games until late. From Manuel Antonio, we backtracked to San Jose, stopping enroute to check out the man-eating crocodiles of Tarcoles River. On New Year’s Eve, we had a long journey to make our way over to Bocas del Toro, Panama (courtesy of Caribe Shuttles). A whirlwind week for us to scratch the surface of what Costa Rica has to offer. Pura Vida!
Sunset Inn Valle Del Volcan, La Fortuna: $31.50 for a double, fan room, including breakfast. Short walk (7 minutes) to La Fortuna town. Very friendly hosts (Ingrid & Isaias) who answer all your questions about the La Fortuna/Arenal Mountain area. The house, common areas, and our rooms were clean and comfortable. Rooms have a fan which is needed to cool down. Breakfast here was great, tasty and fresh, and prepared whenever you want it. The only downside to this place was the shared bathroom. There is only one to share between 5 rooms (up to 10 people), which really isn’t enough and can be very tough in the morning if other guests aren’t considerate or bathroom hogs.
Torino Backpackers Beach, Manuel Antonio: $15 for a bed in a 6 pax dorm, fan room. Shared bathrooms, showers and kitchen. This was a great budget option with the perfect location (near the Espadilla Beach, and a 15 min walk to the entrance to Manuel Antonio Park). The staff is friendly and can help with tours. The rooms are clean and comfortable and bonus is you get your own bed (not a bunk bed). There are power outlets for each bed. Fan is strong and it is comfortable to sleep at night. Good WiFi. Free coffee/tea in the morning. There is an outdoor (covered) social area to hang out and chill with friends until late at night. The only negatives about this place is security. Be careful with your belongings, esp at night. Someone stole a bunch of bathing suits and other items left on the laundry line at night. Can’t be helped because there is a lot of foot traffic to/from the beach and it is very easy to walk onto the property to steal things so keep valuables locked in your room.
Capital Hostel de Ciudad, San Jose: $69 for a quadruple room en-suite, AC room, including breakfast. Friendly staff, clean and comfortable accommodation. Our quad room was bigger than we expected. WiFi was good. Common area kitchen good for self caterers. Staff has a list of recommended restaurants serving good food nearby. We had to check out super early but we were able to eat a small breakfast before we left (fruit, pastries bread). Only downside is this place is located outside of downtown, so you will need to use Uber or a public bus to get anywhere. Also, this place is deservedly popular so book in advance!
25 Dec: Meet at 9:30 – 10 am the airport arrival level at “Deli Malinche” (level 2). There is indoor seating as well as curbside tables. Indoor seating might be more comfortable (A/C, wifi). Private shuttle with transportationincostarica.com to La Fortuna. Depending on what time we depart the airport, it will take about 2.5 – 3 hours to reach La Fortuna. Taxi rep: Erick Hidalgo, WhatsApp: +506 83736088 ($160 for the van) Afternoon free to relax around La Fortuna town and celebrate Christmas together. Staying at: Sunset Inn Valle Del Volcan, Avenida 317 50 Metros antes de Los Apartamentos Montana Fuego, urbanizacion Valle Del Volcan, 21007 Fortuna, Costa Rica. (Phone: +506 8324 9482)
26 Dec: 14 hour day tour. Pick up at 7:30 am from Sunset Inn Valle Del Volcan from Jacamar Tours. Recommend: hiking shoes or tennis shoes, comfortable clothing, bathing suit & towel, insect repellant, camera, binos, dry bag for the hot springs. Includes lunch and dinner. No open toed shoes allowed for the hanging bridge! Cost: $187 each Note: this full day tour that takes us to all the highlights of this area. It starts at 7:30 am and goes until 10 pm. All entrance fees, lunch and dinner are included. The company is “Jacamar Naturalist Tours” and the tour is the Combo Tour and Baldi Hot Springs. Sights to visit with a naturalist guide are: Arenal Hanging Bridges, Rio Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano private reserve 1968 lava hike, and natural mineral hot springs of Baldi.
27 Dec: Full day to explore La Fortuna area. Rent scooters and drive ourselves this area. Places to visit: free hot springs (Rio Chollin). People stay for hours and bring drinks, party in the river! 12 hour scooter rental: $20 (based on 2 ppl sharing a scooter)
28 Dec: Take an Interbus shuttle (+506 2101 0062) from La Fortuna to our next destination, Manuel Antonio. Bus will pick us up from Sunset Inn Valle Del Volcan at 8 am (be ready 10 minutes early) and takes 6 hours. Cost is $54 each. Check into our hostel: Torino Backpackers Beach, Despues del Hotel Karahe 50 mts , entrada Restaurante Kacha Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica., 60601 Manuel Antonio, (Phone: +506 2101 9744) Hang out at Playa Espadilla Norte for the afternoon
29 Dec: Wake up early for breakfast. Meet at the Manuel Antonio Main Gate at 7:45 am for a morning park tour (3 hours). Bring sunscreen, bug repellent, water, camera, light clothes, bathing suit and towel. Spend rest of the day hanging out at the beach at Manuel Antonio, so bring sandwiches and water for picnic at the park. Cost of tour: $44 each (includes naturalist guide with scope and entrance fee to the park)
30 Dec: Wake up, have breakfast and beach time at Playa Espadilla. Shower before 11 am checkout. Have lunch and depart at noon to San Jose (should take about 3 hours). Take private shuttle (with transportationincostarica.com) from Manuel Antonio to San Jose. Taxi rep: Erick Hidalgo, WhatsApp: +506 83736088 ($42.50 each) Sleep here in San Jose: Capital Hostel de Ciudad, Avenida 16 A, Sabana Sur 50 metros oeste de Cotepecos, 10108 San José, (Phone: +506 4001 7399).
31 Dec: Wake up early 6 am for 6:20 – 6:50 departure from San Jose to Bocas Del Toro with Caribe Shuttle. Cost is $76 each and the ride takes 10 hours. Pick up from hotel. Drive direct to Banana Azul where you will spend an hour or two having lunch (included) and enjoying this beautiful little resort hotel on the beach in Puerto Viejo. From here we pick you up and make the 1 hour trip to the border. Our guide will be there to assist you with the immigration process leaving Costa Rica and checking into Panama. Our shuttle van will be waiting for you on the Panama side to continue the journey to Bocas Del Toro. The shuttle will drop you off at the Bocas Marine Tours dock in Almirante where you will take a boat the last 30 minutes of the journey through patches of mangroves and various islands to the Bocas Marine Tours dock on main street in the heart of Bocastown.
San Jose to Bocas del Toro Schedule:
6:20 am to 6:50 am: San Jose city hotel pick ups.
6:40 am to 11:00 am: Travel to Puerto Viejo
11:00 am to 12:30 pm: Lunch at Banana Azul
12:30 pm to 1:30 pm: Travel to the border
1:30 pm to 2:30 pm: Border crossing (Costa Rica time)
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm: Travel to Almirante (Panama time-1 hour forward)
4:30 pm to 5:00 pm: Boat to Bocas Town