ARENAL: THE COSTA RICA VOLCANO!

The Arenal Volcano is one of the main touristic destination in Costa Rica. It is in the North of the Country and around this area, you can do, lots of things! From the relaxing massage to the trekking to the top of the volcano…. there are several tours that take place in the area surrounding the volcano, and for good reason! You can have access to the rainforest, waterfalls, the country’s largest lake...

First, explore Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal, is without a doubt, the most popular and well-recognized of Costa Rica’s volcanoes. When you arrive there…. You will be impressed by the huge symmetrical cone that dominates the fertile landscape at his foot. From San Jose you can simply take a bus that will bring you to Arenal. For the accommodation, no worries! I arrived there and I searched for a place to stay. I found a nice woman that also had an activity to sell Tour, but she was very nice, as I was a girl alone, so she gave me some good discount. At first I didn’t know if I chose well, but the days after spoken with several other backpackers I understood I was right… good compromise between me and her to have both the best we could from the bargain! I slept for 7 euros, and I bought a tour for the afternoon to the Park and waterfalls plus the tour of the day after to the top of the volcano and last, the passage with the jeep to Monteverde to do the most amazing zip line all for 150 Euros….

Coming back to the national Park…until recently, Arenal was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions per day. The Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, you cannot hike up the volcano itself, but I recommend hiking through Arenal Volcano National Park with a bilingual naturalist guide in search of old lava flow and wildlife.

Slight changes in altitude create unique micro-climates and ecosystems through this region, making it home to a variety of exotic species.

Rest yourself in Arenal Volcano All-Natural Hot Springs

Another amazing thing to do here is to soak your muscles in thermal pools of water! Arenal is also home to several hot springs. Formed when water is heated underground and bubbles to the surface, Costa Rica’s mineral waters have been used as therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. These natural wonders tempt even the most experienced traveler – for a good reason! What could be better than a relaxing warm bath, surrounded by jungle and shadowed by the beauty of the volcano after a day of adventure?

Neighborhood:

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

Close to Arenal, there is a little farming town of La Fortuna that is named for its beautiful neighbor, the La Fortuna Waterfall. As one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and luckily enough, it can only be arrived at by foot (a 15-minute hike) or horseback, if you don’t like to walk. From the lush rainforest greenery, La Fortuna plummets 200 feet to fall into a pool of crystal clear water. Remember: the pool is delightfully cool on hot summer days!

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio has everything you could want in a tropical forest natural area.  Hiking to the sky blue Celeste waterfall is a highlight, but the hanging bridges in the rainforest and trail to Lago Danta through the cloud forest from the Heliconias entrance are equally amazing.

Celeste Waterfall: At a glance these are what puts the region around Bijagua on the list of the best places in Costa Rica.  From ranger station at the west entrance of Tenorio National Park (El Pilón) to the azure tinted cataract a couple of kilometers to the south.

Many hypotheses, conjectures and beliefs have been brought up about the rier color in a sunny day, intense blue, including that the color was due to the presence of a metal such as copper, the river’s proximity to the Tenorio Volcano or because of minerals such as calcium carbonate and sulfur. But all of those explanations are now known to be false,read more about this....

"To understand the enigma of this matter, one should know that two completely transparent rivers, Sour Creek (Quebrada Agria) and the Good View River (Río Buena Vista), converge to form the Río Celeste. It is precisely from the point of union of the two where the waters cease to be transparent and become light blue for the following 14 kilometers of river. For that reason, this point is known as The Dyer (El Teñidero)."

Hanging Bridges Hike

If you like to hike, another possibility is to hike through a private nature preserve along well-maintained trails and across a series of fixed and hanging bridges with views of Arenal Volcano. It is relaxing and it doesn’t take a long time if you don’t like long trails. A naturalist guide will point out the flora and fauna of the area like monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, and more. Don’t miss the waterfall extension trail at the end of the hike!

The Lake Arenal: the passage to Monteverde

The Arenal Volcano is also the base of Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal. With the mighty volcano as its backdrop and the surrounding rolling hills and forests, Lake Arenal is truly a vision of peacefulness. Several activities are here possible: fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding are some of the most popular activities enjoyed from the lake. I pass from here with a cruise to reach my next stop… Monteverde. You can most certainly enjoy its added beauty to the scenery.

PLAYA BLANCA: THE CARIBBEAN CORNER OF CARTAGENA

Playa Blanca is the closest beach on which to spend some days far from the noise of the normal life. It is on in Baru, closed to Cartagena. It was originally a peninsula, but it was separated from the city during the construction of the Canal del Dique, and is now an island.

The life in Baru is easy, about 20,000 native people live there who make their living from fishing, tourism, and the sale of handicrafts on the beach. In recent years, the growth of hotels, eco hotels, and hostels has continued to increase, as has the demand from visitors in search of one of the best beaches near Cartagena.

Baru has many beautiful beaches, but only a few of them are open to the public, including Playa Blanca (the most popular. Other playas are Playa Bobo, Punta Iguana, Puerto Naito). The others, sadly, are either private beaches, or they belong to hotel complexes. Playa Blanca is perfect if you want a simple experience. For what I saw, no big hotel buildings till now, just small huts and a lot of hammocks … For me a paradise!

HOW TO GET TO PLAYA BLANCA BY LAND

You can arrive to playa Blanca easily, There are many ways to reach this land. You can go on your own by taking a bus that leaves from the statue of the India Catalina in the centre of Cartagena and goes to the town of Pasacaballos. From here, you can take a motorcycle taxi that will take you directly to Playa Blanca for about COP$10.000 (3 Euros). If you are only planning to stay at Playa Blanca for the day, you can coordinate your return trip back to Cartagena with the drivers that brought you in.

Another option can be to go by a shuttle bus. You can book it and it will picks you up in your accommodation in Cartagena and takes you to Playa Blanca.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT PLAYA BLANCA

Before Playa Blanca was connected by a bridge to the Pasacaballos small town it was an undiscovered place of pristine, untouched beaches (5 years ago). Now, the area has turned into a very popular destination in Cartagena with a wide variety of accommodation with prices that start at just 4 Euros a night. The place is still really nice and not full of huge hotel buildings.

One of the negative aspects of Playa Blanca are the beach vendors. They will continue to address tourists trying to sell stuff. But it depends on how much effort you will put in find the right place for you. I walked over all the beach to find a good hut without a lot of people, at a good price and with free beach in front of it, so no lots of people that wanted to sell things!

The truth is that those people are only looking to make money for their families and they see visitors as an opportunity to bring food into their homes by doing honest work. I’m not justifying their behaviour, as in some cases they really are annoying, but I believe that saying a simple and convincing “No Thank-you” is enough to keep them away. Or sometimes you can just speak bit with them and they will appreciate it even if you will not buy anything.

A very practical advice is to ignore the oyster vendors. The vendors will come over to you saying that the first one is free, however, this is a lie. Nothing is free, and if you actually want to eat them, you should establish a price for how many you want to eat first. If not, you’re likely to return to Cartagena with empty pockets.

The local women are usually responsible for giving massages on the beach, and they will also try to persuade you and charge you excessive prices. Some treatment as for the oysters. They tell you that they will give you a “free trial” of their work. Again, this is a way to trick you.

In Playa Blanca you could buy lots of Tours, to reach the others iland, to go snorkeling or other activities you preferred. The prices are not high and you can also bargain, so all on you!!

Playa Blanca was perfect for me. The white sand and warm, sky blue sea provide the perfect Caribbean image that that I had the previous year in Cuba.

DISCOVERING MANUEL ANTONIO PARK

Nature, Nature and still Nature. Manuel Antonio Park is an explosion of animal, beautiful view and huge plants.  You will lost yourself among the intense Green, tropical plants and the sea.

Little Monkey in the park of Manuel Antonio

Relax, this is the rule in the Manuel Antonio Park, a magic place that includes in a few hectares the richness and beauty of a country such as Costa Rica.

I’m writing this article and in the meanwhile I’m realizing It is difficult to describe with words the feeling of beauty and peace that you breathe while walking in this park. The green of nature, the blue of the sea, the sounds of animals make up a scenography that hardly you will forget.

The park is located in the province of Puntarenas, few km from Quepos, 192 km from San Jose, on the Pacific coast and is internationally recognized as one of the Parks most rich in biodiversity on the planet. With the establishment of Manuel Antonio National Park in 1972, the people of Costa Rica decided to preserve, for future generations, one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas in the world. Although it is the country’s smallest national park, the stunning beauty and diversity of wildlife in its 683 hectares is unequaled.

Luxury tropical forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps and white sand beaches mixed in one of the most various ecosystems you can imagine. You will find suspended bridges and lush vegetation, numerous species of animals ever seen: in the park live more than 100 different species of mammals and 184 species of birds.

It is not so simple to see the animals but if you will take your time, observe the vegetation you will discover such beautiful creatures all around the park... but remember be silent, or the animals will stay far from you!

DISCOVERING THE PARK

You will walk easily in Manuel Antonio Park because it is crossed by a great system of well-marked hiking trails to allow all different visitors to explore the park in full autonomy.

If you would like to see better the animals at the entrance, you can also pay a guide and He will help you in finding animals with the right stuff.

The park is open from Tuesday to Sunday (Monday closure) from 7 A.M. to 4 P.M. The best thing to do is to go there early in the morning and enjoy a full day of sun walking and chilling on the beach. Remember to bring with you food, but there are many rules on this point, so before going inside be sure of that! For example, you cannot introduce nuts because it is bad for the animals inside if they will eat this type of food. For the rubbish, it is necessary to take it with you outside the park.

Manuel Antonio Entrance

Another important point is that to maintain the natural equilibrium of this amazing place it is forbidden the entrance of more 600 people for day. The cost for one day is 16€.

The Parque is not just nature. It hosts four beautiful beaches, among the most beautiful that I could see during my trip in Costa Rica: Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Playa Escondido and Playita, the beaches are practically deserted and allow you to relax yourself after a day exploring the unspoiled nature.

Little Monkey in the park of Manuel Antonio

STAYING IN MANUEL ANTONIO

I stayed in the small town of Manuel Antonio during my days there. You will find several hideaway hotels and hostels and luxury vacation rentals. In this small town, you can enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies from the “feria” (weekly market), or have a five star meal at many of the restaurants, hire a private chef to cook for you or mix in with the locals and join them eating a “casado”( typical Costa Rican meal) at any of the “sodas”(little local restaurants).

The hostel I stayed, was at the top of a hill and during the sunset, it was so nice pass the time drinking a beer in front of the sea, that you cannot touch, it is far, but I could heard the wave’s movement from there watching the sun going down.

View from the hostel

View from the hostel

View from the hostel


Whether you are a wildlife lover, adventure seeker or you just want to be a beach bum, the array of activities are endless to  help you enjoy your tropical paradise vacation in Manuel Antonio, a perfect place to escape from the normal life!

And always remember: Pura Vida!!!

Little Monkey in the park of Manuel Antonio



MONTEZUMA: “Pura Vida” BEACH TOWN

Montezuma is on the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. This Peninsula is very remote and  Montezuma is one of the most difficult place to reach but it is never overly crowded. The people who arrive here are a mixture of backpackers and young families, looking for a quite getaway.

Back in the past

Montezuma was originally a small fishing village and it was “discovered” by some adventurous travelers back in the 1960’s and 70’s and has been a hippie center ever since. Home to many conservationists, musicians, artists, naturalists, and 'hippies', Montezuma is a mellow and tranquil beach town that has maintained the essence of simple life.

In November, Montezuma hosts an annual film festival.

Today

Montezuma is composed of quiet beaches, wild forest, and lots of monkeys, butterflies, and birds. One of the things that makes it unique is it’s the feeling of peace you have in this magic place. It is a vibrant community, made up of expats and locals.

The landscape is amazing and here you can find a unique open-air comfort and culture. At night, the town's generally relaxed-vibe transitions to a more upbeat fiesta, once locals and visitors have had time to reborn after a full day in the sun.

You can also find notable restaurants host excellent cuisine. The smell of Ceviche and Empanadas of the restaurant is filled the air.

The best beach is sitting at Montezuma's doorstep, Playa Grande (Grande Beach) where many visitors go to relax and chilling in the beautiful surroundings. Some people do also surfing, that is generally good. I passed my afternoons there finding some shade under a tree and the sounds of palm trees rustling in the breeze and waves crashing on shore gently lulled me to sleep.

If you want to trek a bit you can go up and down the coast. There lost in the vegetation you can find tide pools form around rocky outcroppings, and just outside of town, there is a gorgeous 80-foot cascading waterfall with excellent swimming holes and all that just 20 min hike up the Montezuma River.

Montezuma offers many cheap accommodations and hostels.

The most important concept to understand and feel in Costa Rica and especially here in Montezuma is what they mean for “Pura Vida”. To me “Pura Vida” meant Pure Life. Natural, untouched, simple and pure. To explain it in more depth ‘Pura Vida’ can be a greeting, a state of mind, a way of life. You meet someone walking down the street, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You catch the perfect wave while surfing, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You have a wonderful day, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You find a great bar while walking the streets of Montezuma, you say ‘Pura Vida’. It can mean anything but always something good. Anytime something good happens, “Pura Vida” is the appropriate thing to say.

Getting There

Visitors have several options for getting to Montezuma. If you’re on a budget, the public bus is the best choice. You can take the direct bus from San Jose and really enjoyed it because the road view is really nice. Although it is a long trip (around 6 hours), it includes a scenic ride on a ferry.

Montezuma truly feels like paradise at the end of the world, and for a true getaway cannot be beaten as a destination!