This is actually my first post right after the trip. I’m still with the jetlag, so I have it all fresh in mind. I’ve been solo backpacking before and I love it. Central America is a great place for it, and hope my story from Nicaragua to Costa Rica will inspire you to do so.
I found a relatively cheap and direct flight to Liberia, Costa Rica. After reading and exploring the options, I decided to go first to Nicaragua, since I was close to the border. I got to Liberia airport and took a public bus to the city, it was very easy.
Next day I took another public bus to the border, left CR and between the borders I jumped into a coach for locals. I suppose my passport looked… suspicious. I was stopped at the border and asked to go to another office, which had no windows, weak light, and one desk. I waited there for a bit thinking that’s not really a nice place to work, but the officer was nice and just asked me some questions about my trip.
Nicaragua – all about volcanos
I finally got to Granada, which is a lovely city. For me, it looked like colonial Spain, and very colourful, I could easily spend many days there. I went on a night trip to Masaya Volcano, where you can see the boiling lava. I was a very cool experience, though very short (you can stay only 20 min on the edge of the volcano).
I also went on a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo, which is a lake inside a sleeping volcano. It was a nice day, just getting tanned or relax in a hammock.
Before starting my trip, people told me I’m brave for travelling to these places, but I don’t feel that way. I just had to buy some tickets/ book stuff, behave as I usually do. I heard stories from other travellers diving 50m to explore an underwater cave or hiking peaks where there is barely any air to breathe. Now that’s brave.
I also overheard an old lady (I would say 70+) telling a friend she walked from Granada to Masaya and back (I think 30km – and I took a bus), she was not bragging or complaining, just explaining why she was more thirsty than usual. This kind of stories inspire me, and I get more chances to listen to them while travelling than at home.
The ocean breeze
I went to San Juan del Sur next. It’s more of a place for surfers and party. I didn’t do any of them. I was thinking to go to Sunday Funday, which is their biggest pool party, but once I found out it starts by drinking from 10 am throughout the day, all my excitement was gone. So I went for a swim and to a viewpoint.
I took one day trip to Ometepe volcano, which everybody recommends. The trip was overpriced and not so worth in my view. It was nice, but not wow. Maybe because I had high expectations and I spent only one day there. For Nicaragua, it’s like a must do.
From San Juan del Sur I was planning to go to Santa Elena. The problem was, by local buses I would change 5 times, plus the border checks, so not ideal. Then I found these shuttle buses, which accommodate most of the options. They are more expensive than the local buses, but it’s way faster and hassle-free. Lazy me loved the idea and used them for the rest of the trip.
Costa Rica – Exploring the rainforest
This time I crossed the border together with other travellers, so I wasn’t asked any questions. I was expecting to get to Santa Elena (Monteverde) later in the afternoon, but I was there by noon, which was great. I explored a bit the small centre, which has basically all you need and then went to the Orchids Garden. It’s small but you get a guide who tells you more about the many types of Orchids in Costa Rica, and they are actually very tiny.
Next day I went for a canopy tour (ziplining) and walk on the hanging bridges. They are very popular and busy, of course. But it’s worth, especially for those who haven’t done it so far. They kept me busy most of the day, but at the end, I went to a Hummingbird garden, which was really really nice.
It’s inside the forest, with a few places to feed the hummingbirds (water with sugar). If you keep your hand next to it for long enough, they come and sit on your finger, while drinking the water. They are so tiny and colourful, it’s amazing to be able to observe them so closely, as they usually move very fast.
I also went to a Frog pond, it was very interesting to learn more about the colourful frogs. You get one ticket to go during the day with a guide, and one extra to go during the night, on your own. I went again by night, it was so difficult to spot them at first, but then a family with 3 kids came along. No need to say the kids were so excited and they found most of them, and 3x faster.
What was quite scary, while I was concentrated to look up and back the leaves to find a 2cm frog, there was a really big spider next to me and I was close to touching his web. On another spot, there was a scorpion on the frog aquarium. Now, we didn’t disturb any of the life outside the aquariums, but since it was very dark I think it’s easy to bump into them. Maybe locals believe you are as used as them to see hand-size spiders and scorpions while you wander around.
I went bird watching in the morning, we walked around the forest trying to spot birds, which are same pretty and colourful. I think for wildlife lovers, Costa Rica is one of the best places, it’s amazing. Monteverde is very touristy, and unfortunately, the prices are up as well.
A hidden paradise
From Monteverde, I went to Montezuma. I didn’t have time to go on the Caribbean coast, where the most beautiful beaches are, and Pacific coast is always a bit windier. But Montezuma is like a hidden treasure. It’s less touristy, very relaxed atmosphere, a few sodas (local restaurants), music and handmade souvenirs. I loved it.
The coast is rocky, but on those rocks, the water made natural pools. I was surprised to find that inside the natural pool there were colourful fishes. I didn’t have time to go to other beaches, as it was at the end of my trip, but I went to Isla Tortuga, with the white sands and clear blue water.
The sky was very clear all the time, it was so nice to see it bright every day. I wish it was like that everywhere 🙂
A colourful farewell
The day before my flight I went back to Liberia. I was not expecting anything exciting, but they had Fiestas Civicas, like city celebrations. So I got the opportunity to see local dresses and dances, which I really enjoyed. There were also a lot of people on the streets, loud music, and party mood.
The only bit that I didn’t find impressive was the food. The local food is casado, beans, rice, veggies, and meat. It’s the same for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It varies from place to place, but the main ingredients stay. What I liked was friend bananas, and it was the first time having fried bananas with cheese.
I generally felt very safe in both countries. Locals are friendly and interested to find out more about you. In Nicaragua, they usually don’t expect a foreigner to understand them, so they talk about you freely. I found this funny on a few occasions.