costa rica

From Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo

Surrounded by tropical forests, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a sleepy beach town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. If you're a backpacker looking for a nice place to surf and relax on the beach, you've come to the right place. The laid-back atmosphere makes it a popular place among tourists. With beachfront cabins and palm trees lining the beach, Puerto Viejo is the perfect paradise location. 

What did we do?

We took advantage of our one full day there and rented bikes for $6 a day. We rode 26 kilometre roundtrip to the town of Manzanillo while stopping at every beach along the way. The road is paved and fairly level, except for a few hills, which makes the bike ride bearable. When you get close to Manzanillo, you can hear howler monkeys along the way. 

Once we got there, we spent our afternoon lazing on the beach. You can also buy coconuts on the beach. Look out for the guy with the wheelbarrow of coconuts carrying a machete. He's actually really nice! 


We stayed at Rocking J's Hostel in their Tent City for $8/night each. The hostel is quite large with different areas you can explore. If you're looking a quiet atmosphere, this definitely isn't it. Otherwise, it's great if you're looking to party, meet people or looking for budget accommodation. 

Happy Adventuring! 

Free Natural Hot Spring in La Fortuna

On a budget? Try the free natural hot spring in La Fortuna. It's easy to make time to relax in a tropical rainforest. 

With several active volcanos spread throughout Costa Rica, volcanic hot springs are a popular choice. Most of them are located in La Fortuna and offer luxury experiences like thermal pools, waterfalls, slides, restaurants, saunas and spas. However these options aren't wallet friendly and can cost you up to $150. 

If you're looking for an inexpensive option, try the free local hot spring beside Tabacon Resort. From La Fortuna, you can take a 15 minute taxi ride to the entrance Tabacon Resort. Cross the road through the yellow gate and head under the concrete bridge to get the the thermal pools. Take you time and adventure around to find the different pools and waterfalls. 


How we did it? 

We tagged along with a local who showed us the best spots in the hot springs. We went at night, which is why we don't have any pictures of it.

This is actually one of my favourite memories because there were fireflies zooming around, you could look up to stargaze or just close your eyes and listen to the natural sounds of the tropical jungle. It was quite surreal. 


Things to remember:

  • You're in a river, so there's going to be rocks. Try to bring appropriate footwear or you'll be stuck walking on rocks. It's honestly not that fun. There was a lot of regret that day. 
  • If you're going at night, bring some type of lighting equipment like flashlights, headlamps or candles. You're pretty much walking in darkness. 
  • Try not to stay in the hot pools for too long. Switch to the cooler pools every so often to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Happy adventuring! 

Challenge Accepted: Hiking Cerro Chato Volcano

Cerro Chato is a dormant volcano that lies on the southeast side of Arenal Volcano. The unique volcano now has a beautiful turquoise lake occupying the crater that is surrounded by dense forest. It's a challenging and steep hike with very rewarding views at the top - on a nice day. 

How to get there?

From La Fortuna waterfall, take the road on the right side of the entrance until you reach the visitor centre. Head inside, sign-in and pay $10 for the entrance fee. They'll also give you a map of the volcano so you know where to head. There's only one way to the top, so it's quite easy to stay on the trail. The hike takes about two hours to get to the top and about 1-1.5 hours to get back down.

What was our experience? 

Rain sucks. 

We had limited time in Costa Rica, so we had to hike in the rain which made it more challenging. The beginning of the uphill hike isn't that bad. There aren't many obstacles to go through, so you can just enjoy the view. Once you get about 30-45 minutes in, you'll reach an area of big dirt moguls that are a bit difficult to go around. It'll come up a few times before you reach the entrance of the rainforest. 

As you might have guessed, in a rainforest, it rains. So make sure you bring a rain cover for your backpack. If you look through our pictures, you'll see our makeshift one made from a garbage bag - it wasn't very effective. 

The rainforest is definitely the most interesting part of the hike. You're surrounded by tropical sounds and a lush green jungle. You might even catch a view of colourful birds, monkeys or leaf-cutter ants. However, this section can be very difficult due to the mud, the humidity and the never-ending stairs. When you reach the top, you're supposed to see a view of Arenal volcano - we only saw clouds.

Now you have the option of heading back down or checking out the crater lake. If you choose to see the crater, head down the trail on your left. It's steeper and more challenging than the stairs you took to get to the top. But don't let that phase you, it's still very doable. I found the hardest part was when we had to climb a wall with the rope. I definitely wasn't expecting that. 

When you get to the bottom, you'll get a view of the crater lake. Go for a swim, wash off the mud and sweat and take a nice break. In the water, there are fish that eat your dead skin, so your hike is like a muddy spa day. 

Once you get back to the bottom, you can wash yourself off in the showers! 

Happy Adventuring!

Visiting La Fortuna Waterfall

Located in Arenal, La Fortuna waterfall lies at the base of the dormant Cerro Chato volcano. The 70 metre waterfall is surrounded by a lush green jungle where you can hear the sounds of tropical animals in their habitat. For any adventure seekers, you can visit La Fortuna Waterfall and Cerro Chato in one day. But it definitely takes a lot of stamina, especially in the rain. 

Let's get started! 

Since the entrance is accessible by road, we took a taxi to La Fortuna waterfall. When you get there you'll have to pay a US$10 fee to get in, but you're free to stay until it closes. Luckily, the trail to the bottom of the falls is pretty well laid out so you won't get lost. I noticed that some parts can get slippery, so be careful on your hike. 

You'll pretty much be heading down stairs until you reach the bottom. From here, you can check out the falls or head over to the water hole to go swimming. It takes about a 10 minutes to hike down and 20 minutes to hike back up.

Stretch out those legs because they're definitely going to be getting a workout!

 Happy Adventuring! 

Free Local Water Hole with Rope Swing in La Fortuna

Free Local Water Hole with Rope Swing in La Fortuna

After my unfortunate event, we decided to forgo the zip-lining adventure for a cheaper alternative. There's a free local waterhole about a kilometre south of La Fortuna called El Salto (the jump). It's downstream from the La Fortuna Waterfall and just a few hundred metres from the road. 

To get there, we took a taxi (for a cheap fee) and walked back to town afterwards. They drop you off before a bridge. Just walk down the left side of the bridge. There should already be a trail leading to El Salto. You can jump off rocks, go swimming or just hang around the river. If you're feeling adventurous, try the rope swing!