Backpackers Guide to San Jose, Costa Rica

We ended up having 3 separate stays in San José, at the beginning, in the middle during Santa Semana, and at the end just before going to the airport for our next destination. It seems only right therefore that we include San Jose in our blog posts. On our gap year travels this turned out to be the first country we had visited that was part of our original plans. We arrived with high hopes of seeing things we had never seen before. In that time we saw much of the capital, which included both highlights and low-lifes.

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Drake Bay & Corcovado, Costa Rica

This was the last proper stop on our epic two month Costa Rica tour and we hoped it would be one of the best…we still had a couple animals to tick off our ‘must see’ list we had mentally made but would we get to see them here?  We had big hopes for this little peninsula after speaking with others and reading reviews but would it live up to our expectations?

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Waterfalls and Wildlife in Uvita, Costa Rica

Uvita was one of my favourite towns we visited in Costa Rica. Was it the location? In the middle of Quepos and Sierpe, the places we had visited previously and had next on our plans, and situated less than an hour from each. Was is the beautiful beaches, and very interesting places where we went into tunnels as the tide came in, and with it a very powerful display of the strengtrh of the inrushing water? Was it because Carol and I had our first attempt at body boarding, having great fun in the process? Maybe it was the proximity to local attractions such as Reptilandia, Nauyaca Waterfalls, Uvita waterfall and the local ‘swimming hole’. Perhaps it was our unusual accommodation and crazy but lovely host ‘French Greg’ or perhaps it was due to meeting again up with our Canadian friends we had first met in Cahuita, and sharing some of these experiences with them, and of course visiting their fantastic property high up in the toucan-filled mountains. Of course we loved it because of all these factors, and we leave Uvita behind with nothing but happy memories of our time there.

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Monkey Watching in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

After our rather hot and sweaty 41 degree bus ride to Samara we decided that enough was enough, we had gone 7 weeks travelling by public transport and private transfers but we caved and got a car for our final two weeks. Nothing spectacular, a basic Suzuki Swift but for us this was a luxury and meant not carrying those bags or relying on unpredictable public transport. An online reservation with Alamo and a collection on the morning of departure and away we headed to Quepos.

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The Pacific Coast – Samara, Costa Rica

We had spent quite a significant amount of time on the Caribbean coast around Cahuita and in Tortuguero and as time was on our side and we had heard great things about the Pacific side of the country, we decided to pay a visit and see what all the fuss was about. We had been warned it was significantly hotter on the Pacific coast but that it was many people’s favourite area to visit due to the great beaches.

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Quetzel Hunting in Monteverde, Costa Rica

The first thing that comes to mind about Monteverde, is that the climate is very different to the other places we stayed at in Costa Rica. The name translates to Green Mountain, and at an elevation of 1330 metres, just 15 metres lower than the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest point in the whole of the UK, it was unsurprisingly very windy every evening, and generally a lot cooler and wetter than our previous experiences in the country.

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Bird Watching in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica

We had heard good things about La Fortuna and it was recommended as a ‘must see’ on every site we looked at. The volcano itself is called Arenal and the town La Fortuna; however we noticed that both terms were used interchangeably meaning the same area. The town in which Arenal Volcano overlooks is called La Fortuna. Whilst the volcano is currently dormant it’s last big eruption was in 1968 but lava trails were still seen at night coming from the peak up until around 2010.

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An Amazing few days in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Sometimes it’s not all about the destination, it’s about the journey! As spectacular as Tortuguero was, the journey there was at least its equal. Everything had been arranged for us by Ludrick from Green Cahuita. We got a bus from Cahuita to Limon, and Ludrick was even there at the bus station to make sure we got on the first bus of the day. The bus unfortunately when it did turn up was full and we had to wait for the next one; luckily we still had time to make the boat.

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Finding Sloths in Cahuita, Costa Rica.

We had enjoyed our time in San José, but we were here for the animals, would Cahuita deliver the experiences we were after? A 4 or 5 hour bus trip, passing more banana farms than I had ever seen before, I mean there were miles and miles of them, and we arrived in Cahuita.

By far the worst part of our travels is moving on day. We are always excited by the prospect of visiting another place we hadn’t previously been to, but the excitement is balanced by the thought of packing up, again, because it really isn’t easy, and then having to carry our huge backpacks as well as a couple of fairly heavily laden rucksacks.

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Thinking of Visiting Dominica? – Read our Ultimate Guide

For us Dominica immediately takes a place in the Top 3 favourite countries we have ever visited, along with (in no particular order) Iceland and Fiji. We have now visited 3 islands in the Caribbean including Barbados and Antigua and as beautiful as their beaches are, Dominica will definitely be remembered as our favourite Caribbean island.

Visiting Dominica during times of Covid has meant we have had a different experience than most visitors to this lovely Island. During our time here England has locked down and many other countries have put in curfews, tiers and other measures to try and manage the virus. Here in Dominica however we were in one of the safest countries in the world; looking at covid stats Dominica was 199 out of 220 countries in terms of covid risk and it has been managed very well here. At the time of writing, there have only been 121 cases throughout the pandemic and no deaths. We were visiting an absolutely beautiful island and currently one of the safest places in the world!

One of the problems of writing a travel blog, is that it’s a snapshot in time. New buildings will be built and some, such as those damaged in hurricanes, will be bulldozed – landscapes can change and a view of any place can be skewed by the size of the crowds. When visiting a bar or restaurant you don’t want to be the only ones there, because other people add to the ambience, but you also don’t want it to be crowded, or to have to queue. However having some fantastic beaches and snorkelling waters entirely to yourselves is a whole different matter. Absolutely beautiful. One thing’s for sure, thanks to the COVID pandemic, very few will ever see Dominica the way we saw it!

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