Pura Vida! I’ve had plans to go backpacking in Costa Rica on my bucket list for a while. Not only for its natural beauty but also from the things I’ve heard over the years that made me think WOW! these guys are into something here!
Why to go backpacking in Costa Rica
Some of those things I heard were they’re using almost 100% renewable energy (many “developed” countries are not the best examples on this aspect), they recycle a lot (which is not that common in that part of the world), not having an army (Bravo!), these are more than enough reasons for me to grab my rucksack and start another solo adventure!
Arriving from Panama City to Uvita
After spending a couple of days in Panama, I took a night bus from Panama City to Uvita (which is the same bus that will take you to San Jose if you’re travelling from Panama) and slowly made my way up towards San Jose, not without a few adventures on the way!
On my latests trips I have had one policy, no pre-bookings and no wifi! it’s both liberating and tough at the same time! also, I didn’t plan at all where I was going, I prefer to improvise on the way.
So, after the bus dropped me off I walked towards the beach after asking for a possible place to stay in a restaurant in the “town centre” (it’s a small town).
I arrived to Flutterby House Hostel, I really liked the place, very quirky and with a bit of a hippie vibe, well priced for Costa Rican standards. In Uvita I mainly chilled by the beach.
The sunset in Punta Uvita (Parque Marino Ballena) was really cool, it must be an amazing place to go when the whales are around! it reminded me of the magical sunsets during my time backpacking in Hawaii.
On the following day I went to a small waterfall which was nice, I went pretty early so I actually arrived before they started selling tickets to go in, so I had the waterfall for myself for a couple of hours and free! In the waterfall you can swim a bit and slide the waterfall itself!! don’t leave the place without trying it!
After asking around on where to go next one place was highly recommended, Drake Bay.
Exploring Drake Bay
Without a doubt my favourite place for my entire trip backpacking in Costa Rica! to get there was not so easy but just because it was a national holiday and there were not many buses. But after a 90ish minute bus and a taxi-boat you arrive to this secluded bay named after a famous pirate (there are a cool few stories about possible places where treasures are hidden!)
Drake is one of the most remote areas in Costa Rica and not many tourist go over there, which is the sort of combination I like!
In Uvita, they told me that Drake is a small place so I had to book in advance, after explaining them that I was having a wifi-detox (and consequently getting a weird look) I managed to get them help me to call a hostel and book a bed.
I arrived to Martina’s Place hostel, very simple accommodation ran by very lovely people. The atmosphere was really good in the evening with some drinks, card games and just life stories being shared with other backpackers.
On the following day I went scuba diving with the guys from Osa Divers, which were great! We went to Isla del Caño, which is a marine reserve, so you can imagine the abundance of life!!
It was my first time diving with sharks (whitetip reef sharks) and after the first initial shock I actually got really close to them, but what I liked the most were the huuuge stingrays! I was literally a few inches away and could see how the breathed and everything. There was really good visibility!
Corcovado National Park Tour
A trip to the Parque Nacional Corcovado is mandatory is you go to Drake. You start off with an scenic boat ride and then arrive to the park, which is really well protected in terms of how many tourists can go per day to preserve the ecosystem.
The fauna is super varied and saw animals that have never seen in my life! it was very humid and the hike, even that is all flat, can get tough so make sure to bring water!
On the couple of days spent in Drake I also hiked around the coast line, there are a few trails that are easy to follow and virtually no one else walking on them! I managed to see some monkeys and a toucan in one of those walks!
Up to Dominical!
After a couple of days in Drake I teamed up with a fellow backpacker and we took a bus to Dominical, of which I heard it was a cool vibe surf town. We only stay there for a night and left on the following day but I regret not staying a bit longer (didn’t have enough days to see everything I wanted!).
From Dominical we went to another surf town by bus, Jaco. I didn’t like this town that much just because it was the most developed place of all the ones we visited.
A day in Jaco
We ended up scuba diving in Herradura Bay, compared to Isla del Caño the visibility was not so terrific but if you love diving as much as I do you will surely enjoy it as well! hats off to Esteban, our dive master, as he was super knowledgable and his enthusiasm shows he’s doing something he’s really passionate about.
From Jaco we decided to rent a car to move around faster as we were tight on time, and it was not so expensive compared to buses. If you rent a car, make sure to get a good 4×4! as there are wild “paths” not roads to get to La Fortuna and Monteverde.
From Jaco we quickly moved on towards mountainous terrains and made our way towards Arenal.
Exploring Arenal Volcano area
We stayed in Little Paradise Hostel in Nuevo Arenal, we arrived at night and what a surprise we got in the morning when we saw the view of the lake and the Volcan Arenal in the background! really stunning place! we arrived super late to the hostel (with no booking of course) and Alexandra was super friendly and accommodating!
I really enjoyed the Volcan Arenal Hike, again, bring water! it was a hot day but the views were fantastic. It was my first time by a volcano (apart from snow covered ones in Iceland) and this one was very imposing, makes you think on what would happen if those guys decide to erupt all in one go!
This is the sort of landscape you want to see when backpacking in Costa Rica!
A day in Monte Verde
From Arenal we moved on to Monteverde to visit the cloud forest. This was a nice walk, not difficult at all and we managed to do pretty much all the circuits that according to the guides would take hours to do! at points there are some nice views of the Volcan Arenal far in the distance and you get to see plenty of wildlife!
Our trip was rapidly approaching to an end and we decided to head back again to a beachy destination, my friend heard of a place called Samara and that’s what we marked in the GPS, off we go!
Final proper stop: Samara
We arrived to one of the hostels I have enjoyed the most – ever! – Camp Supertramp, when I first saw at the entrance Thomas (the owner) preparing to light a bonfire I new I was going to like this place! what a perfect place to finish my trip backpacking in Costa Rica!
The place is super chilled, time does not pass by there and I’d have enjoyed to stay several days there! Thomas is really friendly and with bright ideas behind a super relaxed image.
By now, the location where I stayed should (sadly) be closed as he was moving to a much bigger location even closer to the beach, I’m happy for him but it’s shame that his concept hostel is no longer there (as far as I know) as it was really cool.
After a couple of days chilling and walking by the beach it was time to finally head towards San Jose, I didn’t plan at all to spend much time there as I only wanted nature instead of city.
My only half a day in San Jose was spent strolling in the Avenida Central, that week there was an Arts festival so there were performances on the streets which was very nice, in the Mercado Central I had some super tasty ceviche and fried fish.
You may be thinking…. wait a minute!, the trip is over and no words about Volcan Irazú or Manuel Antonio Park!?
Well, after following advise from the locals we decided to skip those destinations as apparently there are pretty crowded and that’s not really my thing. Surely they must be crowded for a reason, but from all the great places and magical people I met on my short trip I’m very happy of the improvised itinerary we did.
If you’re planning to go Backpacking in Costa Rica and have any questions feel free to drop a line!