Damn, it's SO hot and humid here. We flew into San Jose via Newark with more than 4 hours worth of delays. Even though we flew into Costa Rica at midnight, we were still met with that rainforest humidity and heat...boom to DA FACE! We got a taxi because public buses weren’t running at 2am ($$$ mucho dinero) to our hostel in colonial downtown San Jose. Also, our only option was booking a dorm room because accommodations, we have already learnt, are SO expensive here! Going from a $3 private, beautiful, comfortable and clean hotel room with breakfast included in Vietnam... to a $13 bed in a 6-bed dorm with nothing more included than that. We quickly realized we’d have to be super creative and frugal if we were going to stick to our $35/day budget here!
When we woke up, we explored the hostel itself which was a part of the Selina Hostel chain. It was beautiful! The decor was screaming my name, it was so trendy, Instagrammy and eclectic. I couldn’t get enough.
Selina is also where we coined our nickname "The Dorm Parents" because there was a girl in our dorm room who was clearly there to party, who came in one night at 4am, didn't come home the second night... BUT when we did see her, as she was getting ready to go out and we were half way through a Netflix movie, she asked us if it's okay that she'll be coming home late LOL... We have officially become too old for hostel dorm rooms.
We then went to explore San Jose but because it was Sunday, literally everything was closed except for the main drag of Central Avenue. So, to that street we went! It was a nice long pedestrian street lined with clothing stores, local restaurants (which are called sodas), bakeries, Taco Bell, and surprisingly, a Starbucks and a McDonald’s on every block!
We soon realized that rainy season is a real thing down here, and it will rain... no POUR, everyday for a least 5 hours. So not only do we have to be creatively frugal, we also need to be strategic with our sightseeing regiment.
From San Jose we bussed to Dominical. Dominical was a cool beach-side spot. We got in late and the only restaurant open was one called Fuego. It was a beautifully structured and lux-looking tree fort. It was a brewery and had Kombucha on tap - there was something here for both Carter and I! (BELOW: These next two aren't our images but you need to see how cool this place is:)
It was a travel day and travel days we usually go over budget, so we decided to splurge and get a much deserved beer and meal for each of us. It was DELICIOUS and I don’t regret a single dollar of the $40 meal we had!! Even though the meal alone was over my daily budget for that day. Just as we were finishing, the daily down pour came rolling in, in a thunderous way. We asked for a garbage bag, threw both of our backpacks in, and walked home down the rainforest road in a torrential downpour. You would think this would be rain on our parade (pun, totally intended) but it added such authenticity and was such a fun experience to completely embrace the downpour, complete with jumping in puddles and taking our time to reach the hostel.
We were staying at a super rustic hostel - literally an open concept tree fort meant for 40 people but we were the only ones staying there. We got under our mosquito net, fought off the few buggers that we’re already in there and went to bed with the rain musically coming down on the old rugged corrugated steel roof.
Even though we had a surprisingly restful and bug-less sleep, we moved to Cool Vibes Hostel next door. Where there were actual walls and doors... and people.
We visited the beach and got one solid hour of beach-bumming it until the daily rain came. We retreated back to the hostel where we met a nice couple from Canada. We ended up playing games and enjoying a few drinks with them all night.
The next day, we bussed to Uvita, the town right outside Bellina Marine National Park. We stayed in the Black Sheep Air BnB, a super local, although kind of weird experience. We stayed way out of the town's centre, a 25 minute walk down a long, long dirt path road. We passed chickens, cows, horses, dogs, cocoa bean trees, farms, and local huts on the way to our accommodations with our huge bags on our back, our day packs on our front and sweltering in the 30+ degree heat. One of the MANY disgustingly sweaty long walks on foot on the pacific coastline.
When we finally came up to the property, the family was cooking their dinner outside on a portable grill; their 3 year old son was chasing a spider across the dirt "lawn" and the father was repairing his glass bong... Yikes. Our place was a separate structure to their house, split in two for two rooms that they rent out. After the initial shock wore off, it ended up being a very pleasant experience. The dad was very friendly and we sat outside talking to him for a while; the son was super cute so I, of course, played with him as best I could with the language barrier.
After we got settled and got to know our host family a bit, we left for the marine national park. It was absolutely stunning. The beach made a natural whales tail, with no coincidence that this is Costa Rica’s best place for whale sightings during their migration. Unfortunately, we were a couple weeks shy of it starting in July.
BUT!!! Although we didn’t see a whale... we saw our first sloth! And man, are these things hilarious!!This one below fell asleep reaching for whatever it was reaching for and never moved again...so entertaining haha!
We walked out to the tip of the whale's tale and went for a swim. It's called the Whale's Tail because as you can see from the picture below, the ocean crashes into itself from each side during high tide; during low tide, there is a perfectly sandy beach that allows you to walk all the way down to the end of the tail where the land (beach and rocks) spans out on both sides to look like the end of a whale's tail.
After coming back, we dropped our towels to stay awhile on this practically secluded beach; the national park was massive and surprisingly empty. We picked coconuts that had freshly fallen off a palm tree and Carter worked, and worked, and worked, to open the coconut with two little rocks (kind of looking like an overside ape discovering tools for the first time.)
To my surprise he broke two open and we enjoyed fresh coconut water and ate some delicious coconut! Roughly 5 minutes later a park ranger came walking by and offered us his machete to open our other coconuts...that could have come in handy, eh?!
The next day, we had a bit of a grind getting to the remote area of Drake Bay. We missed the first bus to Palmar, waited 3 hours, caught the next bus to Palmar, then boarded another bus to Seirpe and finally caught the last water taxi to Drake Bay. The boat ride was ridiculous! We saw a massive crocodile before taking off at the shoreline - apparently the river was filled with them, which we confirmed along the way, plenty were laying out on the banks..definitely somewhere you wouldn't catch us swimming. We cruised along the massive river amongst all the mangroves but when we came to the mouth where the river met the sea, the boat had to dodge, maneuver and OUTRUN the massive breaking waves rolling in! It was a calculated operation by the captain, we're glad he likely does that trip a few times a day. It was an adrenaline junkies dream and well worth the very steep $15/pp ticket to get there!
We stayed in Drake Bay for 5 nights at JadeMar Huts. A peaceful rustic cabin in the rainforest where we had local macaws visit us daily. Our balcony looked over the the beautiful eco-lush bay surrounded by Costa Rica’s biggest national park. It truly is a place that you go if you want to completely unplug and relax. At night, we hung out by one single candle-stick's light. That could also be one of the factors of how Carter didn't realize quickly enough that he had a cockroach crawl across his head onto his face one night!!! Despite this cockroach we had an incredible stay, we would get grocers from the local mercado, practiced our Spanish and made fresh pour over coffee every morning on our porch.
In between torrential thunderstorms that came every single day at 2pm, we explored the little village and made our way from dive centre to dive centre. We found the best to be Drake Drivers and approached them with a ThriftyVisuals offer. Carter was able to strike a deal with the owner and we got to do 2 dives and a tour of Corcovado National Park for half price!
The next morning we prayed for good weather and went on a day hike into Corcovado National Park, the largest park in Costa Rica and "the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity" says National Geographic.
We saw all four types of monkeys that inhabit the park (spider, squirrel, howler and white faced), raccoon things, macaws, boa constrictor, so many birds and more...(*I think we've lost our photos of this day some how!?! But take our word for it, it was amazing to see so much wildlife!)
We were so lucky as this was the first day since we've been in Costa Rica that it didn't rain until 5pm! So we were back in the comfort of our cabin when the rain came down.
The day after that we went on our diving trip to Canos Island. Because it’s rainy season and we just had a really heavy rain fall right up to 6am that morning, the water was a bit more stirred up than it usually would be and created less visibility but it was still amazing!
We swam with multiple white tipped reef sharks; Carter getting a bit too close, swimming right above them as they hovered on the floor of the sea to get better GoPro footage! There were also massive lobsters and a variety of huge schools of fish (the most we have ever seen in one place before.)
It would have been a nice relaxing dive... We got to go down on a line (which was a first for Carter and I - and I loved it because it gave me the control I needed to make sure I equalize properly). The max depth of the sand was 20m, so we didn’t have to worry about depth gauging, we just skimmed the surface of the floor BUT... the other divers were maniacs! One guy couldn’t keep his depth controlled and he was up 10m, down touching the ocean's floor, up again, down again. He was making us dizzy. His girlfriend was always running into me - mostly coming down on top of me from above, or swimming in front of me flipping her flipper right into my face, almost knocking off my mask and regulator.
There was another man, who’s wife tried to come down but went back into the boat, who had a GoPro and was more concerned with getting a good shot than staying a respectful distance away from other divers (mainly me). Instead of focusing and taking in the incredible sea life... I was watching out for the crazy out of control divers around me! We surfaced and as soon as Carter and I came up we just started to laugh and say WTF was that?! I mean, we are BEGINNER divers and we looked like dive masters compared to these people who said they’ve had their certificate for over 10 years. Less flappy, more floaty people!!
Our second dive was better managed... this dive we saw sharks again but we also got to see different types of sting and manta rays. We came across a garden of multiples of them all resting just beneath the sand so all you could see was their mean looking eyes. It was incredible! The sharks were also absolutely amazing, we got close enough to really get a great look at their eyes. They can also stop on a dime - like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
We were then dropped off at a deserted beach for lunch and then brought back to Drake Bay...again, just in time for the rain to come down.
After our 5 nights in Drake Bay, we made our way by...boat, bus, more busses and then by foot to Panama!
Our first stop was all the way from the Pacific side of Panama to the Caribbean Sea to Bocas Del Toro, we stayed on Bastimentos Island which was very, very small, and very authentico.
So much so that there was practically zero things to do (especially in the rainy season). One of the better and only accessible beaches on the island was a 30 minute hike away across the island but because of it being wet season, I lost a flipflop to the cause of trying to get there. It started to thunder and lightening also, so we turned back and admitted defeat. Sh*t happens! This is how sunny it was when we started our journey:
The next day in the morning, we did the only other thing left to do on the island and went for another (more successful) hike to a coffee farm "Up In the Hill". It was a nice wooden home on the hill of the island; a bit over grown with exotic plants, trees, fruit bushels, and of course, coffee plants. We had a very nice time up there enjoying our morning coffee!
After two nights, we moved to the more populated (and popular) Colon Island for our last night. We drank, ate and enjoyed everything this little island town had to offer:
And then we leaped over to Panama City to catch a flight... Adios amigos!
Carter Bender & Brittany Wilson left Toronto, Canada to travel the world. Where will they be next? Follow their #cbwtravels blog to find out!