In the world of backpacking, there are two words for Costa Rica: Expensive and touristy. Unfortunately, on our visit we found exactly this. Admittedly we only visited two destinations spending a total of 3 days there. On a workers budget and time dedicated to finding the authentic spots, it may be very different.
Our entrance to Costa Rica began at the capital San Jose. We'd travelled 8 hours from David in Panama to get there, having only completed the same length journey 2 days before. Our assumptions that Central America would be easier to travel than South America were wrong. The distances are smaller but you have to get more buses to reach each destination, the buses themselves are less comfortable and then there are the border crossings...
Now in South America this was a serious affair, in Central America it is difficult to even find the border office. The locals in the town helped point us in the right direction when we got lost. Once there we experienced the 'top security', lined up to have our bags checked only for the immigration officer to decide not to look at them. They are also a few mystery taxes you pay, you get the receipt and the total is a couple of dollars under what you paid. Ever so slightly, you start to feel your getting fleeced.
After the gruelling journey, we arrived in the evening and stayed at a great value hotel Arabjuez. It was the comfort we needed and most importantly our first hot shower in weeks. We had an early dinner because when I asked the concierge if it was safe in the area he gave us a curfew of 8pm! Well rested the next day, we decided to get a later bus to make sure we had the delicious buffet breakfast.
Another 5 hours on the bus, including a road traffic accident we reached Monteverde. From the advice of others and Lonely Planet, the Cloud forest there was a must do. We booked a morning tour through our hostel Camino Verde.The beginning was optimistic, we saw a beautifully coloured quetzal, the national bird actually of Guatemala. Our walk through the forest then began with our guide stating 'don't expect to see any animals' and highlighting all the animals you can see in other parks in Costa Rica. Really helpful.
In all honesty the walk was fairly dull, the best bit was at the end seeing dozens of humming birds. We'd seen them a few times on our travels but this was the top spot as they darted right next to you. It turns out this is the perfect park for bird watchers, a niche Rory and I don't quite fit in to.
In the afternoon we went to the tree top bridges and actually got to see monkeys on route. Here we walked amongst the clouds at an elevation of up to 40 metres, it was definitely picture worthy. If we were to give a tip it'd be just do this rather than the cloud forest walk.
By the end of the day we were $130 down. The most we'd probably spent on a day trip with less than spectacular results. In fact as you can tell from the blog it was perhaps the least successful visit of our trip. We were ready to get ourselves out of there and in to cheaper places. With great recommendations, Nicaragua was on the list. Just another days journey away...