There are two kinds of people in this world: sunrise people and sunset people. Most, when asked their preference between the two will chose the later. After all, who wants to get up before the sun, only to watch it rise, a time when the world is still sleeping, shops aren’t open and there are few, if any, cars on the road. To some that scenario sounds boring, dull, but to me it sounds like sheer and utter perfection. Waking with the birds, listening to the sounds of the day beginning and seeing a new day break on the horizon, these things set my heart on fire. Sure I was looking forward to my week of yoga in Montezuma, but more than anything I was looking forward to the opportunity to wake with the sun, walking the beach as it broke the horizon, and welcoming each and every new day with an open heart.
This entire trip to Costa Rica just kind of happened, over the last year all of my thoughts for traveling around South America, Costa Rica was never on the itinerary. Thanks to a cold Wisconsin day and blankets of snow I started searching for yoga retreats in paradise and Costa Rica kept popping up. Next thing I knew I had not only paid a deposit for a one week stay, but also purchased my one-way ticket, assuming the rest would sort itself out. It did of course, I met another set of awesome Couchsurfing hosts and hung out with them in both Monteverde and San Jose, I reconnected with an old friend in the hot springs at La Fortuna, and made even more friends in Quepos. Finally though it was time for me to enjoy that week of paradise that started it all. Arriving in Montezuma I felt a wave of calmness wash over me, and as soon as I stepped foot on the property at Los Mangos, I knew I was in the right place.
Although I was rather enjoying myself in Quepos I was due to begin my week of bliss and yoga in Montezuma. If you search for transportation option between the two there will be numerous results for the speed boat taxi from Jaco, but there likely won’t be much about alternatives. Clearly this speed boat was designed for tourists so I knew there had to be another option, after all people live here and not EVERYONE owns a car. It’s funny though how complacent people can be, relying solely on what’s advertised. After arriving in Montezuma I spoke to a traveler who said, “I didn’t know there was another option” while another traveler I met in Jaco told me he took the shuttle from Monteverde because “there’s no public transportation here”. I don’t know what it is, maybe the travelers in Costa Rica are just lazier, but I haven’t seen many on my public transportation journeys, and these two, who just couldn’t seem to figure it out. I digress, back to the story, instead of paying the $45 for a taxi I chose the bus, ferry, bus option and while it does take a lot longer it’s also 1/8th of the price.
Quepos was good to me, I had a great hostel, awesome Couchsurfing host, good food and lovely beaches, but I had to leave. I really didn’t want to have 8 hours of transportation on my way to Montezuma so I decided to spend a night in Jaco, despite a few hesitations. See Jaco is notorious for being THE party town of Costa Rica, people come here for the nightlife, but I had no interest in that. Actually since being here I’ve only had one beer, and that silly Four Loko in La Fortuna, I guess I’m focusing more on the yoga and wellness vibe of the country. But Jaco, how was I going to get through a night, a Saturday night to be more specific, in the party capital of the country. Simple: pick an awesome hostel with friendly people and own my “I’m cool, I promise, but I’m not going out drinking and having a hangover with the rest of you” mentality.
I heard it was touristy, I knew it would be filled with overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops, but I came anyway. Needing to get out of the city, and more specifically to some warmer temperatures I left San Jose and headed for the coast. I knew to expect higher prices and probably loads of tourists, but I accepted this and looked past it. Manuel Antonio, both the park and beach, is listed in multiple guide books and “must see” destination lists so I figured there must be a reason, and I wanted to check it out.
When I arrived in the country I was fortunate enough to completely bypass the city, instead swept up by my Couchsurfing hosts, able to enjoy a scenic drive into the mountains rather than have to navigate the capital. San Jose seems to be one of those cities that everyone loves to hate, “don’t bother” being a common phrase heard when travelers ask what they should do in the city. I’ve come to realize that I root for the underdog, both in travel and life, most notably and gratefully so with Bangkok. For that reason, and the fact I had cool Couchsurfing hosts whom I wanted to spend more time with, I decided to give the city a few days of my time.
Upon my arrival in La Fortuna I was quickly overwhelmed with the multitude of tour options that my guesthouse owner was spewing at me. I was already tired from my morning of travel from Monteverde so all I really had planned for the afternoon was a nap and wander about town. I was happy he wasn’t pushy about the offers, but I’ll always feel a little bad listening to these long winded spiels knowing full well I have 0% interest in what’s on offer. For those with deep pockets though, and a lust for adventure, La Fortuna seems to be your place. I on the other hand enjoyed a few days of being lazy, reconnected with an old friend and made a few new ones.
Choosing Monteverde as my first destination in Costa Rica meant that I wouldn’t be submerged into the hot temperatures and beach weather that I was craving. Instead the days were warm while nights were rather cool, creating genuine appreciation for those hot showers my hostel emphasized. The weather was definitely better than Wisconsin, but having climbed more than one ficus tree, flying through the canopy and walking about town, I was ready to move on. The next destination I had in mind was La Fortuna, another touristy, but apparently ‘worth it’ place. The city actually gained its name after it avoided destruction from multiple eruptions of Arenal volcano. It’s a small town just SE of the volcano and lake which means tour packages to one or both of these attractions are a big sell throughout the city. To get there you have two options from Monteverde, the first is via public bus and lasts something like 8 hours of winding roads through the mountains, while the second option consists of two buses and a boat. I’d read various reviews that this was the better choice, and although it may be more expensive the boat ride and views of Arenal alone were worth it.
It’s almost impossible to visit Monteverde and not do at least one type of organized tour, whether it be an adrenaline rush of zip-lining, or a more relaxed afternoon learning about coffee, it’s hard to pass on everything. I for one am not generally a fan of anything with the name “tour” in it, generally because those involve big price tags and lots of tourists, but it turns out they’re not always bad. After spending a day soaking in the city, indulging in morning yoga and a walk and afternoon napping, I figured I should give it a go. I didn’t want to just do a tour for the sake of doing it so went with the most natural choice, The Original Canopy Tour. It turns out these canopy tours, now popular throughout the region, originated in Monteverde over 20 years ago. I barely even compared prices or offerings, rather went with my gut and chose to do the original, zipping through not only a beautiful forest but also a piece of history.
It’s one of the more touristic destinations of Costa Rica, although to be fair there are many, so I had little to no worries about finding things to do. Thankfully though, having ot figure that out was postponed by a few days after my Couchsurfing host invited me to join him and his friends on their trip to the city. After a low-key New Year's Even celebration we were up early and hangover free (I love realizing I feel fine when half the world is in a deep, drunken slumber or curled around the toilet). After a delicious breakfast and strong coffee we were out the door and on our way to the Monteverde Reserve. Thankfully the weather was good (enough) with equal patches of wind, rain and sun which left my only complaint for the whole day to be the price of the entrance fee, $20 for foreigners, I really should have tried to just blend in with my local friends, for less than half the price.
Packed with Adventure and Adrenaline, a diverse landscape from mountains to cloudforests, oceans, beaches and waterfalls. It's known for being touristy, safe and expensive, but was for me, a great introduction to Central America.