To write or not to write? Ok, to write as there is not so much information available about Costa Rica, so hopefully this will be helpful for somebody.
Why Costa Rica? When I was a kid I had received a t-shirt from the humanitarian aid (Latvia had just gained its independence in 1990) and it said with big letters "Costa Rica" and then I dreamed that it would be a nice place to go one day... And why not now? Especially if there are friends living there. Stayed for 14 days, best planning help - Tripadvisor and Google earth.
The flight took 18 h via New York (Newark), relatively cheap tickets for 550 euro for 2 people return flight. Great service (Continental), just forget about the wine - have to pay the drinks yourself. Not good for the ones who are scared to fly and need to doze off asap :)
Newark is huge, of course, all security things - finger prints form all 10 fingers, picture, check of luggage etc. But Ok, we are in! The airport is nothing special but for somebody who is in the usa for the first time, Obama shop, Dunkin Donuts and getting the Twilight book is special ;-)
We arrive at 9. 30 in the evening. Plastic x-mas trees everywhere. Manage to get an official taxi and try to find the address. Our friend already warned us that the addresses are not very precise - well, a sentence "just in front of the bus station, a violet house" is a s concrete as we can get... Ahhhhh stress... how will we find the house? It's dark!
First thing next morning - currency exchange - ohhh what a mess in the banks, so better to use ATMs. It's very hot, veeeeery many people everywhere but no tourists. We just spend some time people watching. Girls whether very slim and pretty or.... the opposite. But everything is ok with their self-esteem. Later we realize that it's so difficult to get decent food, it's only fast food everywhere... Oh and people use phone booths to call! So cool to see that ! There are even queues!
Three in one for tourists only
For the next day we book a trip to see the volcano, coffee plantation and park. The agent just puts a cross on the map where we have to be the next day and that's it. Next day we have to be at the place at 6.30. Seems super early but with the jetlag it's actually perfect. Once we have arrived at the pick-up place, I have a feeling that something is not right.... somehow the street has become only a one way street with 5 lanes and they are all going in the city, that's not where we have to go... although some drivers attempt to take the lanes also in the opposite direction, looks like a complete mess and we are kind of lost... and of course nobody picks us up... :( Luckily we clarify the misunderstanding and can go to the trip the next day. The cross was simply put in a wrong street... Ok, we have one more day for San Jose - we spend it in a park (if you can call it a park... bamboos, a pond and eucalyptus trees.)
The weather gets a bit better and the visit to the park is a real treat - waterfalls, monkeys, toucans, butterflies, frogs, snakes...
Our next stop is Arenal - 4 h drive by bus and it costs only 2 dollars. For the first time in my life I see pineapple fields! Happy :-) And there comes Arenal too - just with a little cloud cap - as usually. We rent a car and get to a hotel called Lava Tacotal - seems like a very nice place, beautiful garden, magnificent views on the active side of the volcano. Great! A very sweaty man explains us everything and says that only 20% of tourists see the magma flows... All we need to go to the little bridge and be lucky! Ok, will see...
It gets dark at 17.00 already and the hotel does not seem that nice anymore, turns out we are the only clients!!! Ouch, we are not feeling very well, all those sounds and glowing things in the darkness, no light anywhere.. and then a phone call... Ohhhhhh We are feeling like in the Touristas movie... But luckily we wake up the next morning and everything is fine :) But definitely don't want to stay there for another night.
Next day we go to the rainforest to see the hanging bridges. Tickets seem expensive - 22 dollars but it's worth it - very beautiful! I almost manage to step on the coral snake... ups...
We decide to stay in Linda Vista del Norte - beautiful place with a wonderful view and with a very bad road to get there. But pina coladas and a hot jacuzzi make you forget the road quickly.
A must try is the Eco Thermales, don't even think about other hot springs!
The day after we visit a waterfall and the park of Arenal - you can climb the lava fields and hear time to time the rumbling... we also manage to get to the Observatory with a hope to see lava but we are not in the happy 20%... maybe next time.
Manuel Antonio - Pacific ocean
Our next stop is Manuel Antonio - drive of 3 h by bus. Very, very hot... we did not book a hotel, so need to spend some time to find something reasonable. The higher up the mountain, the better the hotels are but it's the beach that we are interested in... Finally we base ourselves in Karahe and it's a perfect base.
On the next day we visit the park, in the begging we are a bit sorry not to take a local guide but 40 dollars seemed a bit too much for us, so we are just wondering around and joining groups is secret to hear one or the other story and see animals. Cheaters! I know :-) But it works well.
The beach is wonderful, we doze off and see that a badger has eaten all our stuff from the bag... bugger!
When going back to San Jose, we have a surprise, no tickets available on that day. Taxi costs 200 dollars... hmm... not many options but it turns out that there is a local bus which takes 5 h to get to the capital. Why not? http://www.cupotico.com/maps/Manuel%20An…
Puerto Viejo – Atlantic ocean
And then it's time to get back to San Jose and cold but super organised Europe...