Central America. 6 Weeks. 4 Countries. $2650. Part 1: Costa Rica

That’s right!

We went to Central America for 6 Weeks, visited 4 Countries, and spent $2650 per person.

(And you could too!)

Here’s where we went and what we did!

PART 1: Costa Rica

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Getting In

Coming from a Winter in Wyoming, Sean and I made a big change of plans and made our way to Costa Rica.  We flew into SJO airport ($150 one-way from Chicago!) near the capital of San Jose, Costa Rica and spent the night there in a cheap hostel ($12 USD). Here’s a step by step guide to get from SJO to downtown San Jose by bus with a link to the hostel as well.

Uvita and Dominical

Upon arrival, we were anxious to get beachside as soon as we arrived in Central America. The next morning, we split a cab with another traveler to the bus station and took a 5 hour bus ride to Uvita on the Pacific Ocean. I decided to pre-book a room on Hostelworld.com and loved everything about Cascada Verde Hostel!! We stayed in a private room with a double bed and shared bathroom for $30 per night for 6 nights. (Dorm beds start at $11/per person). I’ve stayed in dozens of hostels and this might be my favorite one yet! This very clean hostel has a huge kitchen, ideal for those traveling on a budget. We made most of our meals here and ate and relaxed in the large common area complete with multiple tables, picnic benches, and hammocks.20170215_152233_Fotor

The hostel was also right around the corner from a breathtaking waterfall perfect for cooling off on those hot and humid days. The beach at Marino Ballena National Park was about an hour away on foot or a $7 taxi. We spent six days happily lounging in the hostel, at the waterfall, or the beach for less than $30 per day per person.

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My favorite swimming hole in the world
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Made it just in time for sunset.

We also met quite a few volunteers around the hostel. I was informed that a 4-6 hour shift will grant you free accommodation. Contact in advance or just show up and see if they have any volunteer opportunities available to save even more money!

Uvita is about 20 minutes away from Dominical, home of Envision Music Festival. This beach town is all about surfing! If you’re a pro or looking for a lesson, Dominical is the place to go.

Uvita Overview

  • Accommodation – Amazing hostel starting at $11 / night!
  • Transportation – Getting to and from Uvita and San Jose is simple and affordable with buses running multiple times per day. Once there the grocery store, restaurants, beach, and waterfall are all within walking distance.
  • Entertainment – Surfing, swimming, bird watching, yoga, whale watching, boating, scuba diving, fishing
  • Food – Restaurants meals can be as cheap as $3 to over $20. You can always save money by buying groceries and cooking your own meals. Cascada Verde has the biggest hostel kitchen I’ve ever seen!

Puerto Jiminez

After nearly a week in Uvita, we pressed on to Puerto Jiminez on the Osa Peninsula. I visited this small town on my first trip to Latin America, and I couldn’t resist coming back! Bonus: My friends here gave me a steep discount on accommodation.

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We spent 10 nights just outside of town in a private apartment for $20 / night. You read that right. Private room, kitchen, bathroom, and incredible view of the bay in the distance all while surrounded by the rain forest for $20 per night. This property is backed up to Corcovado National Park, one of the most biodiverse rain forests in the world. We spent most of our days reading books and listening to music occasionally interrupted by scarlet macaws overhead or monkeys playing in the trees. Our host graciously offered us rides to town to get groceries or take us to the beach during our stay. This was relaxation at its finest.

Matopalo

We woke up early one day and caught a shuttle from Puerto Jiminez to the even smaller town of Matopalo. Here we met up with Ronnie who lives his life one wave at a time. I was very nervous and excited about my first surfing lesson! And, wouldn’t you know it, even girls from Indiana can learn to surf with the proper instruction!! Thanks for helping me ride my first wave, Ronnie!!

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View from Ronnie’s house! Once a year, you can spot humpback whales feeding their babies from this spot.

After lunch, Ronnie took us on a short hike to a waterfall. On the way, we were surrounded by dozens of white faced monkeys. I was in heaven! Throughout the day, we saw all four types of monkeys that reside in the Osa Peninsula, macaws, toucans, and even a sloth! After a long day, we went to a nearby bar for an incredible dinner and even got to buy some locally grown Cacao Chocolate Bars. Best I’ve ever had in my life!!

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Our surf teacher, waterfall hike guide, and clay mask extraordinaire – Ronnie!

Puerto Jiminez and Matopalo Overview

  • Accomodation – We scored a deal for $20 / night. Although I can’t get that rate for you, I can assure you there are plenty of hostels for that price or less on Hostelworld.com
  • Food – Food is a little pricey in the peninsula because it is so remote. Be prepared to spend a little more on groceries. That being said, we did eat some amazing seafood in restaurants for $5 or less. Ceviche, anyone?
  • Transportation – There are daily buses to and from Puerto Jiminez and San Jose. This would be a great stop of the way to or from Panama because it is so far east. It is sometimes quicker to just take a bus to nearby Golfito and take a ferry across the bay. It’s pretty fun, and you might spot some dolphins like we did.
  • Entertainment – beach, bars, abundant wildlife, Corcovado National Park, whale watching, kayaking, swimming, surfing, hiking, boating, fishing

Getting Out

Our time was up in Costa Rica, and it was time to move on. We took an 8 hour bus from Puerto Jiminez back to San Jose. We booked a room in nearby Alajuela at Alajuela’s Backpackers hostel that included a free airport shuttle. The next morning, we were boarding an $80 plane and headed to our next destination: Guatemala!!

Overall

We had a blast in Costa Rica! We went surfing, swimming, and hiking and saw beautiful birds, monkeys, and sloths. We went to stunning beaches and ate incredible food. What’s not to love about this country?

I will mention, however, compared to other Central American countries Costa Rica is one of the most expensive. If you’re on a tighter budget, spend more time in Nicaragua or Guatemala.

There is a lot to see and do in this tropical paradise. Enjoy Pura Vida in Costa Rica!!

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Next Up: Part 2 – Guatemala

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