San Juan del Sur (and surrounding)

Small  village close to the borders with typical surfing vibe, living beach and beautiful surrounding – that’s how we would describe San Juan del Sur.  Our village for one week 😉

Being accomodated in a hostel with really welcoming and friendly staff, we started our visit here with a dive in the  fresh pacific waters and checking our surrounding on the map. We figured that the easiest way to get around will be by car – so we rented one for a couple of days 😉 It took as to many different places:

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Island Ometepe

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Granada

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The road to nowhere…

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Playa Maderas

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Beach at San Juan del Sur

Beaches surrounding San Juan del Sur (those we visited or tried to)

Playa Hermosa (South) – our favorite one, with entrance fee of 3$, but has some restaurants, restrooms and most important: small shelters with shade for everyone . Great also for surf beginners since it is wide enough and everyone can find its own spot to fight with the waves 😉

Playa el Yanke (South) – we don’t know how it is, because our 4WD (NOT!) Suzuki Swift didn’t take us there 😀 😀

Playa el Coco ( South) – beautiful, looooong, calm beach, ideal when you want to be alone,  with a small restaurant

Playa Madera (North) – great surfing spot for locals, but little bit tough for us beginners, since there is not that much space without rocks, still beautiful beach.

Playa Marsella ( North) – this one is really nice, sleepy beach – not for surfing but more for chilling and swimming 😉

Granada

Spanish colonization era town, located next to the lake Nicaragua with some typical spanisch churches, restaurants, bars and nice, vivid park in the middle of the town.

Rivas/ Ometepe

Two volcanos sitting in the middle of the lake, that’s Ometepe island. Ometepe island is approx. 30km long and reachable by boat, Ometepe even produces the greatest banana chips we ever had 😉  According to information from locals, there are a bull sharks living in this lake, hmmmmm….

So all together, this was a really nice, unplanned stay in Nicaragua, generally it was really safe, people wonderful, smiling  and always nice to us (even army guys). We would recommend to visit this part of Nicaragua and hopefully get back one day.

And now we are back in Costa Rica – Pacific Cost (Guanacaste) is awaiting us 😉

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Nicaragua – Little Introduction

So here we are in Nicaragua. 🙂 Since we were close to the borders and anyway had tickets for a bus here, why not visiting the Republic of Nicaragua. Nicaragua is  the largest country in the Central American with its 130375 km2 and 6,2 milion inhabitants – it has a little bit more than Slovakia 🙂 The capital city –  Managua – is third largest city in Central America .

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Nicaragua, as many other countries was conquered from the Spanish Empire in the 16th century and gained its independence back in 1821. From this time on, the history of Nicaragua was connected with many ‘dominant’ nations as UK, USA,… after which was rulling the Somosa Dynasty until the revolution in July 1979.

Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific lowlands – fertile valleys which the Spanish colonists settled, the Mountains (North-central highlands), and the Mosquito Coast (Atlantic lowlands/Caribean lowlands). Nicaragua is sitting on its 19 vulcanoes, from which some of them are still active…

Nicaragua shelters  248 species of amphibians and reptiles, 183 species of mammals, 705 bird species, 640 fish species and about 5796 species of plants.

28 Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO – Nicht in Ordnung 😀 ) are ca. 1 USD

So far we can say is that  in Nicaragua you see a strong presence of Nicaraguan army, maybe it is only because we are close to the borders? To tourist, the are army is always nice and really polite. There is defintely a problem with migration of Nicaraguan citizens whom are trying to leave the country and emigrate to neighbouring Costa Rica.

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La Fortuna, North-West Costa Rica

Wow, what a long day of travelling! In the afternoon, after a long day we arrived in La Fortuna. For the first time, we haven’t booked any hostel in advance, so our first big task was to go search an accommodation for the next days.

The first thing we noticed on La Fortuna was the wondeful climate there. It was way different to the cities at the coast line; fresher and easier to breathe. Of course, the most impressive characteristic was the big volcano „El Arenal“, which was visible even from the city center! Mostly the top of it hid behind clouds, only in the morning at around 6am we could see a little bit of it…

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Our search for a hostel was tricky, since the prices were pretty high (very touristic spot we noticed). Luckily, we searched in advance for some places to stay online and remembered one cheap hostel close by – that was the one we decided for in the end. It was the best hostel we had so far with great welcoming people and a big room (“Hotel Dorothy”). What did we learn? Better book something in advance, because prices might be even better online. 🙂

The next day we got up early to walk to the waterfall „La Catarata“. It was approx. 5km from the city center and when we finally got there, we couldn’t wait to take a dive in the 20 degrees cold water – so amazing! After the Waterfall we did a small stop in spot which locals know as ‘El Salto’ – local kids jump in the water from a roap or just from the stone from approx. 10m. Of course we tried it, too and it was a lot of fun to jump into the clear waters of El Arenal river  🙂  Even more stunning was the following day, on which we hiked up the „Cerro Chato“ volcano. The hike up was really challenging at some spots and after reaching the summit of the volcano we decided to climb down and swim in the green volcano lake; pure nature in the clouds, it was worth the bumpy hike up with roots aggravating it. 😉

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For our last day in La Fortuna we booked an afternoon tour to do Ziplining. We had so much fun flying through the jungle! To end this day, we enjoyed the hot springs close to a hotel complex – the water comes right from the volcano and is wonderful warm. Great day and so much fun stuff to do in La Fortuna. 🙂

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So Pura Vida la Fortuna and see you soon Nicaragua 😉

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Tortuguero, Caribbean Coast

Off we went to Tortuguero, the Turtle Park! Getting there was somehow a big myth to us, since there’s only one way: by boat. 🙂 For everyone who is interested in travelling there, here are our advices.

From Puerto Viejo, the easiest way is to get to Limón by bus, then take a taxi to the docks of Moín and board a boat there. Fortunately, we found this page, showing us a telephone number of one of the guys driving to Tortuguero. We called him one day before our departure, which was really important! The boat leaves at 10am and takes approx. 4 hours – and it was fully booked. 🙂 To sum it up:

Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero

  1. Bus from Puerto Viejo to Limón: 1hr, 3600 CRC for 2 (7$)
  2. Taxi Limón to Moín: 20min, 5000 CRC for 2 (10$)
  3. Boat to Tortuguero: 4hs, 38500 CRC for 2 (70$), book one day ahead
Boarding the boat to Tortuguero

Boarding the boat to Tortuguero

The ride with the boat was an amazing river trip  – our Capitano stopped a lot of times, showing us the diversified nature and animals living close by or in the river in Tortuguero national park and on the way there. We probably drove through 5 different rivers, we saw birds, lizards, monkeys, sloths and even crocodiles ;). Before we boarded the boat we had the idea to swim in the river later  – after seeing the 3.5 m long Croco NOOOOOT anymore 😀

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Once we arrived in Tortuguero, we were already awaited by one guide who brought us to the information center to book some tours and also showed us the way to our hostel. We booked a night turtle watch to see what we came for: turtles coming to the beach in the night to lay their eggs, exciting. Unfortunately, we were very disappointed by this tour. We gathered in a group of 18 people at around 10pm to go together to the beach, where 50 people more already waited for one turtle to see! We literally stood in line to “watch” the turle laying eggs; one could barely see anything…who to blame, more turtles just didn’t want to come to the beach 😉

All together the Tortuguero village is a sweet,  small piece of land in between  the river and Caribbean sea. The village consists mostly of hotels/ hostels and restaurants/ sodas. As you can find this everywhere on the internet, it is one of the most famous Costa Rica tourist attractions. Because of this, expect to pay some money for every single step and trip which you do here (entrance to national park 15$; Turtle Tour 25$; Canyoning 20$…). Be aware that there is no ATM in Tortuguero. 

The biggest organizational effort was needed to finding out how to leave Tortuguero. 😉 At the information desk right at the harbor, the guides told us we have to take a private shuttle to La Fortuna, which costs 60$ per person and takes approx. 5 hours. That price was just too much for us. As we asked for a cheaper way, they told us we could go by boat to La Pavona and take several buses via San Jose, where we would have to stay a night and then arrive in La Fortuna the other day. Honestly, we didn’t really feel well informed but rather messed around by these guys only trying to sell expensive tickets.

Luckily, as we strolled down the main street right sided from the harbor, we saw this sign mentioning Rafa’s tours:

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And seriously, Rafa saved us from spending too much money on a transport which you can have so much cheaper – muchísimas gracias, Rafa! 🙂 He sent us to one of the local boat owners, who reserved us seats for the boat to La Pavona early the next morning at 5am. If you have time for travelling, this option is seriously the best for you. It is necessary to take one boat and four buses to arrive in La Fortuna, the duration is approx. 8,5 hs. Details:

Tortuguero to La Fortuna

  1. Boat from Tortuguero to La Pavona, 1hr, 4000 CRC for 2 (8$)
  2. Taxi from La Pavona to Cariari, 45 min, 4000 CRC for 2 (8$)
  3. Bus from Cariari to Guapiles, 45min, 960 CRC for 2 (2$)
  4. Bus from Guapiles to Puerto Viejo, 1hr, 3000 CRC for 2 (6$)
  5. Bus from Puerto Viejo to Ciudad Quesada (Bus shows direction San Carlos!) , 2hrs, 3000 CRC for 2 (6$)
  6. Bus from Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna, 1,5hrs, 2640 CRC for 2 (5$)

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Bus Schedule Guapiles to Puerto Viejo in July 2016

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Bus Schedule Puerto Viejo to Ciudad Quesada in July 2016

All in all, we managed to get every following bus right on time, except for the one in Guapiles – bathroom break was necessary and the driver wouldn’t wait. 😉 Instead at 8am we left at 9am and could use the time for a small breakfast break…and of course the bathroom.  To sum it up,  the longer ride was 35$ against 120$ (2 Persons), but 8 hours against 5 hours. So If you have enough time, now you know how to get to Arenal cheaper 😉 And you know how to get to see all the beauty of the landscape Costa Rica offers.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Caribbean Coast

We have finally arrived at our first destination in Costa Rica! It was planned to be here already one day earlier, but what can we say? Condor airlines screwed up our time schedule. 🙂 The problem was a not functioning toilet in the airplane which could not be repaired before 11pm – and that was the time the night curfew began, so no allowance for airplanes to take off.  All 253 passengers needed to leave the airplane again (without our luggage, that would have taken too much time and additionally, all aiport workers were already at home ;)), meet at the gate to go through immigration again, get some shuttle buses to the next hotel close by to fly off the next day at 2pm. What a thrilling start for our trip. 😉

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At some point we luckily arrived in San Jose, taking a taxi to our hostel and try to get some sleep. Of course we woke up super early, being in the middle of our jetlag! 🙂 We left the hostel to walk to the bus station “Atlantico Norte” in San Jose to catch the 10am bus to Puerto Viejo. Since our experience with buses in other countries told us to be prepared for an AC close to minus temperatures, we boarded the bus with long pants and an extra long sleeve – big mistake! It was so hot in that bus with no AC that this was the first lesson learned: better don’t prepare for cold buses. 😉 Arriving in Puerto Viejo, we were fascinated by the village – easy going, hippies selling selfmade bracelets, rastas listening to reggae…so diversified! And the craziest thing: right in front of our hostel is the black beach – seriously, black sand….so amazing.

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Since Costa Rica is in the middle of the rainy season (May – Nov.), the rivers are full with water and everything is wonderful green. It can also mean that it rains all day long (what a luck that we invested in some rainjackets and rain covers for our backpacks) or you get up in the morning and the sun is shining for a nice day …every day a new surprise. 🙂

To see the beautiful beaches surrounding the area, we rented some bikes and drove around to the next villages along the coast.  We spend almost the whole  day on the beach – la pura vida! 🙂 Tomorrow we will be enjoying a nice hike in the area of Manzanillo.

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Costa Rica – Little Introduction

So here we are,  Costa Rica 🙂

First of all, a small introduction so that everyone knows a few facts about Costa Rica 🙂

The Republic of Costa Rica with approximately 4.5 milion habitants and 51.100 square km of land is one of the most developed countries of Latin America.

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The capital city  San Jose (appr.  310.000 habitants.) is one of the 7 regions in the country.  Costa Rica borders with Nicaragua on North and Panama on South  and is also known to be the first of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.

There are 14 known volcanoes in Costa Rica, and six of them have been active in the last 75 years. Costa Rica has two coasts with total 1290 km of beauty,  divided in pacific and carribean side.

Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability.

Costa Rica’s seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter.

In Costa Rica, the main language is spanish and you can pay either with USD or with CRC (Costa Rican Colon). So far, from our own experience it is better to pay with CRC, because the convertion between USD and CRC may vary.

[Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Rica%5D

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1 Day left!

And we have chaos in our room. 🙂 No more test-packing, now it’s real – the backpacks are as full as they could possibly be, the most important stuff found its place in there (except for some cosmetic products which I had to left out, Jakub said :() and we feel ready to leave. It’s really difficult to explain what it feels like being one day away from a trip around the world…sometimes we feel like going only on vacation, other times the excitement crashes in and other times we’re super nervous….

Whatever it might be like, we cannot wait for the adventure to start!

To be continued…wooohooo! 😉

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