It has been almost 6 weeks (with 3 weeks pause in Cuba) since I started traveling around Costa Rica. Everybody was warning me that Costa Rica is expensive and I should be prepared to spend a lot of money. Honestly, it’s not so far from the truth. Costa Rica really isn’t very cheap. The good news is that I am here at the beginning of rainy season so some prices like accommodation went down. The bad news is that food is very expensive no matter what month you come. So why am I still here? Well, I love “Pura Vida” lifestyle and Pacific waves so much that my heart refuses to leave (even when my Trail Wallet graphs suggest I should go).
In past 6 weeks I visited couple of places but the most memorable ones are located north on Nicoya Peninsula. True surfers and fishing villages, world class waves, endless chill out, broken or completely missing roads and hours in buses to travel just a few kilometres. That’s how I would describe this paradise within a paradise. However, if you’re planning to buy your own surfboard, definitely stop in the city called Jaco. This is the closest surfing spot to San Jose and there are many shops with good selection and prices.
I would like to warn you about the transportation problems on whole Nicoya Peninsula. Forget about easy traveling from village to village. Roads are in very bad condition and many of them unridable during rainy season. Public buses operate separately on the south part (Paquera, Cobano, Montezuma, Cabuya, Santa Teresa) and on the north part (Playa Naranjo, Nicoya, Samara). Many villages are not even covered by public transportation. What’s the most important thing to remember is that there are no buses going from the south villages up to the north. You can either (1) take a private shuttle taxi for around $50 or (2) go back to Puntarenas by ferry and take the second ferry to Playa Naranjo or (3) take a bus from Puntarenas and drive around whole gulf. Whichever option you choose be prepared for long hours in the buses.
One long road along the ocean with tens of shops, hostels and small businesses. Everybody rides a quad, motorbike or bike. The road is bad, dusty and the bus ends here. That’s Santa Teresa. I spent almost 3 weeks here working on my surfing skills and … well, otherwise doing nothing 🙂 The waves are amazing and the village atmosphere is very slow. You usually don’t meet many tourists. Probably because of the broken dusty roads and missing 5 star hotel resorts. So if you’re looking for true surfing experience in Costa Rica, definitely come here. The most convenient way is to take a ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, then bus from Paquera to Cobano on the only paved road and finally the bus from Cobano to Santa Teresa/Mal Pais.
I enjoyed Santa Teresa so much that I completely forgot to take pictures. For couple of days I created a routine which I loved. Usually 2 hour surfing session in the morning, another one in the evening and working on my projects, cooking or swimming in the pool during the day. Yes, very hard life.
I loved walking to and from the beach, especially early in the morning when the whole village was still sleeping and there were only couple of surfers trying to catch their waves. Sometimes I was even lucky enough to enjoy the company of big group of howler monkeys. And while I was walking back in the evening during the dusk I could see hundreds of red crabs. Like a big red army ready to eliminate the enemy. They could cut me into pieces if they knew how scared I was walking barefoot among them.
Yes, the life was super easy in Santa Teresa but not much else to do. So if you enjoy surfing, yoga, epic sunsets and long walks on the beach definitely go there. You will be rewarded with one of the best experiences in Costa Rica.
Another small village not very far from Santa Teresa. Unfortunately, only on the map 🙂 It can take you between 1 and 3 hours to get there as there’s no direct connection and buses are not very frequent. You always have to change the bus in Cobano. The village is very small, just couple of shops, beach and cool local vibes. However, be prepared that Montezuma is very popular touristic destination and there can be hundreds of tourists. I was lucky enough to experience only backpackers. Again, mostly because it was the end of high season and the rain was on its way.
The sunrises were spectacular but you have to be strong enough to get up very early (around 5:00) and walk on the beach to find the best spot. You will be rewarded.
The best thing in Montezuma is definitely the triple decker waterfall. 20-30 minutes of walking and you will reach the first stage (and the biggest one). Most people stay just here as the other 2 stages require a little bit of hiking with ropes. Nothing serious but still quite steep. The waterfall on the picture is small and not much water is flowing there. That’s because the rainy season was just coming.
But the best place to experience the true beauty of Montezuma waterfall was on the second and third stage. You can easily jump from the rocks directly to the pool beneath on the third stage. And if you have enough courage you can even try to jump from the second stage to the pool beneath. It’s deep enough even in dry season but it’s quite high – about 20 meters. You have to be extremely careful, the rocks are slippery and it can be very dangerous. In fact, some people even died there. Me personally, I wasn’t brave enough to do this. Maybe next time 🙂
There are many other beaches and even beautiful national park around Montezuma to explore. You can walk for hours and never reach the end.
I rather decided to chill out on the closest beach with some passion fruit and strange vegetable I bought from local guy. I always forget the name but it’s super delicious.
And if you have enough time you can catch the local bus to a small village called Cabuya. It’s about 7 km to the south so walking, bike, quad or even hitchhiking are your options how to get there.
There are primarily 2 reasons to visit this quiet village. First is Isla Cabuya and second is Cabo Blanco National Park. As usually, I didn’t book any accommodation in advance and ended up living in the house of always smiling old woman for extremely low price. This is why I love spontaneous decisions – you never know where you end. Anyway, just hundred meters from the beach I watched beautiful sunrise and thought about my life (yes, I do that a lot).
The next morning I packed my tuna cans, pineapple, couple of bananas, a lot of water and left for the island. The island is really small and can be reached only during a low tide. According to report on internet the low tide was planned for 5:20. Unsurprisingly, it really was at 5:20 🙂
And why is this island so interesting? Well, the first thing is the fact it can be reached only in certain parts of the day. If you don’t check the report or forget about the time you can get stuck there super easily. The second reason is the cemetery which is located on the island. Place where only local people can be buried. Believe me, I haven’t felt so peaceful in a very long time.
The beaches around Cabuya are magical. The only people there are local fishermen going out to the sea.
From the island I decided to visit the first national park in Costa Rica – Cabo Blanco National Park. Hiking is around 2 hours and I spot many howler monkeys and red crabs. There are 2 tracks you can take, both ending on the most magical beach I have ever seen in my life. And because it’s so remote and I started my hike so early, I had it to myself for the next 3 hours. Amazing.
And so I unpacked my food, ate and especially enjoyed the pineapple. I felt like Tom Hanks in the Cast Away movie. The only difference was that I had my tuna in cans 🙂
Hiking back was awful, what else do you expect? Extremely warm climate caused that my fresh feeling disappeared exactly in 63 seconds. On the way down I even lost my sunglasses so I had to hike back 20 minutes. Shit happens everywhere, even in the jungle.