Costa Rica


We travelled around Costa Rica by bus for 3 weeks, from the Caribbean coast, to the Nicoya Peninsula, down the Pacific Coast and to Alajuela.

Getting around by bus took a while to figure out, but it is completely manageable, at least for most of the places. This is why I created a guide here to help you find your way around the various routes and bus companies. But for now, let’s focus on the itinerary that I can recommend to make most of your time there.


We visited Costa Rica during the rain season (May to November). The advantage is that it is low season, therefore it is easier and cheaper to find accommodations and places are less crowded. The weather can be a little unpredictable (it is like no weather forecast can actually predict the rain/sun by the hour). But no worries, the sun almost always shows up. On the Caribbean Coast it looked like mornings and evening were cloudy or rainy, but bright sun would be around in the middle of the day. On the Pacific Coast, I believe you get sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon and it would often rain after 4pm and at night. During three weeks (16 May to 7 June) we only had two days with no sun. So travelling during rain season shouldn’t stop you. The only annoying disadvantage I found was the visibility under water for snorkelling… The rivers bring some particles to the sea, making it a little harder to see the marine life, while in dry season the water should be clear.

Caribbean Coast

Puertoviejo de Talamanca: was the perfect place to start our trip. Chill vibes, welcoming people, a shiny black sand beach as well as a beautiful white sand beach with clear water, and enough shops around to get the food and supplies you need.

Addresses: We stayed at Pagalu Hostel which has a cold and drikable water dispenser, fully equipped kitchen, hamacs, board games, books, travel guides, warm showers, cosy rooms and was close from everything. We enjoyed eating at Port Vell and at Puerto Pirata.

Manzanillo: very quiet place, especially in low season, as it is the most south you can go on the Caribbean coast. You will find the Manzanillo Natural Reserve at the end of the road, where you can hear Howlers Monkeys, go snorkelling and enjoy various beaches. I advise renting bike for a day and go explore Playa Punta Uva and Cueva Punta Uva.

Cahuita: another chill place with a renown National Park, and a black sand beach a little more north. A nice way to explore this area would be to head out on a boat to go snorkelling around the coral reefs, then get dropped of at Punta Cahuita and walk the park back to enjoy the wildlife. We didn’t get this chance as the weather was a little against us.

Addresses: we randomly found Big J’s place while walking around town, he wasn’t advertising his tours online but the horses caught our eyes. We went for a fantastic 2,5-hour ride, through beaches and jungle. The horses were gentle, well tamed, ridden bitless but very responding. We could also see that they were given a lot of love. Big J was also very helpful and most of all honest. We had let him know how much we wanted to go snorkelling but he wouldn’t book us on anything until he had spoken to his Captain. Unfortunately, two days in a row the visibility underwater wasn’t good enough to go snorkelling. The “guides” selling their services at the entry of the National Park were trying to convince us into booking the boat tour anyway. But Big J was genuine and didn’t want us to waste our money.

Nicoya Peninsula

Santa Teresa: surfers dream, this little town is built on one very long road along the sea. The vibe is something different again, you can breathe in the feeling of adventure, summer and salty air, perfect for a hike along the infinite beach. You can also find many creators boutique along the road to bring home with you a piece of Costa Rica.

Addresses: we enjoyed staying at Pura Vida Surfers with a great outdoor area (lounge, kitchen, pool) and extremely cosy room. The Street Eat food court down the road was our go to for some fresh and healthy smoothie bowls from Sunrise Café.

Montezuma: when you set foot in Montezuma, it is going to feel like a very small place, but it is actually full of wonders. Starting with Montezuma Waterfall. Take a small but tricky walk to reach this impressive waterfall, favourite for swimming and jumping. Next stop in some swimming holes below Hotel Amor del Mar (the hotel staff may tell you it is private, but the seaside is accessible to everyone). Between Ylang Ylang Beach Resort and Nicolas Wessberg Natural Reserve, find a small waterfall displaying a clay rock you can use for face masks. On Playa Marte, you can find the ASVO association monitoring sea turtles and ensuring new-borns make it safely to the sea. You can try to ask if you can join them on one of their night watches. You can also rent bikes and go explore Isla Cabuya (only at low tide). See map here.

Boat tours: we enjoyed two boat trips departing from Montezuma. The first one was heading to Playa Muertos in Tambor to observe the phenomenon of bioluminescence at night. In some areas of the world exists these planktons lighting up with movement. We got to swim, in the dark, and everything around us would light up in neon blue, it was magical. The second was a day trip to Isla Tortuga. We had the chance to see dolphins on the way and to snorkel in the middle of hundreds of fish by volcanic rocks. Once again, the underwater visibility wasn’t the best and we couldn’t see further than a couple meters ahead. After the snorkelling you get to have lunch on one of the beautiful beaches of the island. But it is a very touristy one with many sun chairs, loud music and people… A bit disappointing but this island is a must see. I’ll save you the research by telling there is no accommodations on this island. But what you could try is taking a ferry from Paquera and try to explore the island on your own and find less crowded beaches.

Pacific Coast

Jaco: a nice stop on your way south but rather a big city, although well know for surfing. Take a hike to El Miro, an abandoned villa turned into a giant piece of art.

Manuel Antonio: one of the most famous parks of Costa Rica as it is where you are the most likely to encounter wildlife. Remember to book your ticket in advance and take the earliest entry possible (park closed on Tuesdays). The hike is great, through the jungle and along white sandy beaches where you can swim. We had the chance to see from rather close Capuchin Monkeys, Guatusas, Sloths, Toucans and Iguanas.

If you have more time than we did, keep heading south to explore Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay and Punta Uvita.


Vara Blanca: we finished our trip in Vara Blanca, a few kilometres north of San José, hoping to go waterfall hunting. Let me save you the hassle! Getting around this area is rather complicated by bus. The famous La Paz Waterfall is located in the La Paz Gardens where the entry costs 50 USD per person… Not so far away is located Blue Falls of Costa Rica, a park with Catarata Bajos del Toro, Las Gemelas, La Celestial and Pozo Azul. The entry cost 25 USD (park closed on Sundays). I was extremely sad to miss out on this place, so if you have a car I hope you can make it. So actually, the only waterfall we chased was Catarata La Diana, very impressive but also a bit dangerous. To get to it you have to head through the jungle on a small path and then make it to the river and hike up the slippery rocks until you reach the fall. Careful not to visit when raining as they open the dam ahead. In this area you can also fin the Poas Volcano which is one of the few where you can see the crater. It apparently is often covered with clouds, which is the reason why we also missed out on it. I hope you get luckier than us if you head to this area!

I wish the trip lasted longer, so if you can, I also heard the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde (Biologic Reserve, Butterfly Gardens, Frog Pond) are worth visiting.

I hope this guide gave you inspiration for your journey through Costa Rica. You can head to my Travel Tips blog articles to see some tricks for getting around Costa Rica by bus, what to be careful of and how to pack. You can also head to my Instagram and watch the Highlight “Costa Rica”.

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Adventure by Emily – 2022 ©