It’s our last day in Monteverde and this means our Costa Rican adventure is coming to a close. We fly to Canada in 3 days and we cannot wait. Costa Rica has been an experience. We have travelled Coast to Coast, experienced a variety of incredible native wildlife, explored various National parks, punched a raccoon in the face (accidently), travelled on more public busses than I care to share, met some awesome couples to share our journey with and cooked the entire way keeping budget friendly. It’s been a wild ride.
Today was really a day of not doing a whole heap. We got up this morning and were treated to chocolate chip pancakes and fruit – my abso fav breaky here and from there we worked, packed, tidied up and then wanted to get one last dose of wildlife in before heading back to San Jose tomorrow.
We have read about the frog parks in Monteverde and to be honest the reviews are a maxed bag ranging from it was ‘the best experience of my life’ to ‘I’d rather die than go there again’… we were torn as we do like reading reviews before we go anywhere. However, I wanted to see the frogs so we opted for the ‘Selvatura Reptile & Amphibian Exhibition’ as this one looked slightly newer and a bit more professional as after asking, the creatures are cared for and monitored by the permanent onsite biologist.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest
I will start off by saying, today was awesome! Waking up early, getting some yoga in, a beautiful breakfast made by our lovely host Johanna, a stunning rainbow overlooking the forest and then with our newest couple friends we decided to go and explore the ‘Santa Elena Cloud forest’.
We have read in many blogs that the Monteverde cloud forest is FULL of tour groups and very busy compared to Santa Elena bur the only real differences are the price (Monteverde being more expensive) and the fact they have a cloud bridge which brings with it an influx of tourists. Not being a fan of tourists we opted for the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.
The Santa Elena Cloud Forest is actually higher in elevation than the other at a whopping 1600 meters but also has at least 12kms of hiking trails which, for us is exactly what we love to do. Getting there was easy as we had a car and it takes about 20minutes from town as the roads are awful. From there you park up, pay the entrance fee of $16USD pp or $12USD if you are a student, grab a map and off you go.
Immediately, we were amazed with how green, lush and vibrant this forest was. It is so dense and filled with mysterious mist and cloud that it was truly stunning from the get-go. We opted to do the 2 main tracks in the reserve – Cano Negro (4.6kms) and Encantado (3.6kms). Both trails are wonderful, in the sense that the forest is overwhelmingly beautiful, and we stopped a lot along the way to experience the serenity and peacefulness…and to take a whole heap of epic pics!
I can hardly believe it, we are nearly at day 120 and have reached the last location on our Costa Rica Adventure. It’s crazy how fast time has flown but also incredible to look back at all the memories that we have made in this fantastic adventure so far.
We left Manuel Antonio via ‘Expressbus’ which cost $49USD pp and takes about 4 hours – the alternative was 7 hours and 4 public busses, so we chose to spend the extra as I couldn’t deal with 4 publics and the heat! It was great ans as you can see below, Leo had HEAPS of room to spread out in!
Upon arrival here, we checked in to ‘Casa Linda Vista’ – it’s a small Air B n B pretty close to the heart of town and is lovely. There are three rooms I think but a good-sized kitchen and nice bathroom etc, so we are fairly happy and at $35NZD per night with breakfast – it’s a great deal.
Manuel Antonio National Park
We couldn’t come this far without venturing to the National park. This National Park has been described as having ‘one of the top beaches in the world’ as well as being the most visited due to its varied fauna with ‘109 species of mammals and 184 of birds’. Pretty much tropical paradise so we were itching to go!
The National park is open Tuesday- Sunday 7 AM to 4 PM and the entrance fee is $16USD. There are buses that run from Quepos to the national park entrance all day long and they make stops on the hill, which is super handy even though the couple at our accomo gave us a lift (I would recommend the bus over cars anytime though). The bus costs 340 colones pp and you can get off at the last stop and walk to the park entrance. If you drive, be prepared to be stopped by HUNDREDS of asshole guys pretending they work for the park and have great places to park your car for $20NZD a day – these guys are SCAMMERS…just drive straight past them and try and get a space at the Hotel near the park. The parking rates are much cheaper and safer for your vehicle.
Now, to the park – we decided despite the heat, and our obsession with hiking to do every single trail in the park itself. We may as well as we are here for 1 day and the weather was pretty good. The park itself is small and without a guide we still managed to see 3 types of monkeys – Squirrel, Howler and Capuchin, agouti’s, a curious coati, raccoons (funny story to follow), iguanas and so many crabs. As much as a guide is great, we personally saw HEAPS without one.
When we read up on Manuel Antonio, we read there was not just the National park to explore, but the surrounding areas are beautiful, full of wildlife, stunning walks, waterfalls and regional parks…what they didn’t say is that to get to these you need a car!!
However, at our accommodation we met a lovely couple who had a car and when Leo suggested the ‘Nauyaca waterfall’ they seemed keen so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – we had a ride and some new friends.
Situated about 45 mins South of Manuel Antonio lies the Nauyaca waterfall which is arguably one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica. Upon arrival at the office you sign in, pay the entry fee and decide how you would like to face the falls walk. We of course walked as we have legs, but I have added the options below as there are three ways to get to the waterfall from the office. You can hike, go on a truck or go horseback riding.
Beach hopping – Manuel Antonio
In my last post I mentioned that I thought we may enjoy it here, well after sleeping like babies and waking up at 5am so I could do some early morning yoga and get in some work hours, I can say I LOVE IT HERE! We have a deck overlooking the jungle with weights, a TRX and yoga mats so getting in some early morning exercise really made my day.
From there we made the call not to hit the National park today as it’s the weekend and overcrowded but instead do a 6km loop of the nearby beaches, Biesanz and Espadilla. Our host Fernando wass luckily leaving just as we were so offered us a lift to the beach which would cut out al least 2km walking in the heat, so we jumped aboard that offer. He mentioned a fantastic hotel by the beach called ‘Shana’ which is WAY to expensive for backpackers like us, but he said if we bought a drink then we can use their facilities as well as their private track to the beach.
San Jose - Manuel Antonio
After a 5-hour bus journey back to San Jose, a dickhead taxi driver who ripped us off and got the full force of my rage, a bitterly average room in Hotel Otoya…I was ready to explode. We loved Puerto Viejo and were gutted to leave but at the same time I was secretly excited to get back to my fav hotel in San Jose, eat beautiful food and have a night of relaxing before heading to Manuel Antonio.
However, arriving in SJ, it was raining so we hopped in a cab for the 1.6km ride which should have cost no more than a few bucks. To our surprise the ASSHOLE WEASEL of a driver told us the roads were ‘closed’ so we had to go an alternative way. WELL…after hiding the meter and then attempting to charge us $15NZD upon arrival I blew up. Leo took a photo of his regi plate and then the driver blew up, shouting some pish about calling the cops etc etc… so we had a huge argument on the street and after many words and a highly pissed off Scottish chick, he dropped the price to $10NZD…which is still way more than expected but I was too over it to argue any more.
After he disapeared, we checked into our room and another surprise was they put us in the shittest tiniest room in the hotel that was noisy, cramped and no TV. NOPE…just nope. I complained and to our surprise we got moved to a much nicer room and all was well again in the world. I was so over it, but then we sat down to dinner and it was fantastic! I love the food at Café Otoya and this time round they really made an effort (probably to reduce the chance of a terrible review by me) but it was an awesome way to finish the night.
Cahuita National Park
Today, the words ‘’There’s a racoon on the beach’’ came out my mouth. We have now travelled pretty extensively across the world in the past few years, but today we can hands down say that Cahuita National parks was one of the best places we have been to.
After a few drinks last night with friends from home we arranged that the 4 of us would make this epic mission to spend the day adventuring in the National park. Costa Rica is known for its bio-diversity, ecotourism and national parks. Staying in PV has been wonderful as it’s the perfect gateway to Cahuita National Park situated a mere 16kms North.
It has been voted as one of the most amazing parks in the country so when we read that we knew it had to be on the list of ‘to do’s’. A bit of history for you; It was created in 1970 as a National Monument to preserve the coral reefs off the Caribbean coast, but later, the area was reformed as a national park. Currently, it relies on donations and does not charge an admission fee. Yes, we couldn’t believe it either…a free National park!
You can easily catch the Limon bus from PV costing 860Colon (about $2NZD) which will take 30 minutes and drop you about 5minutes from the parks entrance. From there you can sign in and make your donation or simply walk on through depending on the level of wealth you are currently facing.
Jaguar Rescue Centre
As soon as we knew that Costa Rica was on the list I knew I wanted to visit the Jaguar Rescue centre! Situated only 5km’s from Puerto Viejo, The Jaguar Rescue Centre is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured and orphaned animals. With a focus on birds, reptiles, amphibians and small primates including SLOTHS AND MONKEYS (my fav animals), the JRC aims to provide veterinary services, round-the-clock care and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest or the sea of the Caribbean. I had read a lot about this centre before we arrived and base don the upmost care it seems to provide to the animals I wanted to visit, 1 to see them for my selfish reason of getting close to a sloth but also to learn about the animals.
They run 2 tours per day, a 9.30am and an 11.30am. As it was pissing it down again this morning we opted for the 11.30am tour, so we walked into town, caught the bus for 300 colons pp and 5 mins later we were at the centre. **NOTE, the busses run at weird times, so we ended up being an hour and a half early for the tour but it’s worth it to get your tickets as it’s SO BUSY! Oh…and did I mention HOT? Yes, its bloody hot here as well so bring a lot of water!
After the HOTTEST bus journey of our lives we made it to Puerto Viejo and checked into our ‘Hidden jungle beach house’. Getting here was a dream, minus the heat, we left Hotel Otoya and hopped in an Uber to MEPE Bus terminal where we caught the local bus heading to PV. It takes 4.5 hours and costs around $15NZD pp which is much cheaper than the private shuttle which will skin you $75NZD each!
As much as it was super hot, the bus was comfortable, and we got here on time, so I would highly recommend this option if you are looking to save some $$. Back to our accommodation…it is amazing! It is by far the most unique yet as it is the third floor of a tree-house with our own balcony in a garden of sloths, racoons and a whole heap of ‘jump for joy’ wildlife. I clearly picked this one for the wildlife alone and I am glad we did. It’s costing around $60NZD per night but Amy our super host is incredible. She has the kitchen stocked with everything we need to cook and there is a shit ton of snacks to help ourselves too throughout the day. If you are coming this way, book this place!
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!