As soon as I can, I’ll update you on my one year trip. I’ve decided to leave everything behind and spend real time with the people that matter the most in my life: my wife and three children. This is my story, I hope it will inspire you to create yours.
You can read my previous “on the road” articles:
- On the road #1
- On the road #2
- On the road #3
- On the road #4
- On the road #5
- On the road #6
- On the road #7
- On the road #8
- On the road #9
- On the road #10
- On the road #11
- On the road #12
- On the road #13
- On the road #14
- On the road #15
- On the road #16
- On the road #17
Date: from January 3rd to February 15th
Countries/States/Province traveled through: Costa Rica
Wow… in 2 weeks, I will be leaving again to get back on the road. This is a strange feeling. As I told you, the arrival in Costa Rica wasn’t all cupcakes and rainbows. We never thought it would happen, but we needed some time to adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle. But after we overcame this obstacle, we started to enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica! Once all our families and friends had gone, we also decided to keep ourselves busy by exploring this country. Today, I’m sharing with you everything that we discovered.
If there is one thing you must see in Costa Rica, it is their beaches! After going through the whole Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island to Costa Rica, I can tell you that Costa Rica has the most beautiful beaches (Oregon would come #2 and Vancouver Island #3). What makes them so special? The fact there is virtually nobody on most of them! Finding a pristine beach is already nice, but when you stay there for a few hours and you barely encounter 5 people, it’s just amazing!
My two favorites were Playa Uvita for its balena whale tale (which you will never see unless you go for a hike 😉 ):
Another one that is very cool for small children is the Playa Dominicalito (just south of Domincal).
Dominical, Playa Hermosa and Playa Matapalo are all good for surfing, but we are not there yet!
Hikes & Waterfalls
You know us already, we are huge hiking fans. Since we entered Central America, we hadn’t had the chance to do many hikes besides a few volcanoes (ah! Life is boring, isn’t it?). Fortunately, we were able to find a few hikes in Costa Rica.
Surprisingly, we really enjoyed the small hikes offered at Hacienda Baru. You probably don’t know this place, but if you are looking to see birds and wild animals, you have better chances here than in Manuel Antonio! We not only saw a wide variety of animals such as coatis, agoutis, monkeys and birds, we also saw baby caimans with their mother less than 2 meters from us! There is also a small hike (about 2km) to climb a mountain giving a fabulous view on Dominical and its coast.
My favorite hike finishes with a great highlight: the Nauyaca Waterfall! It’s a cool 4km hike in the jungle and you get to this huge waterfall. The best part? You can climb-up the cliff and jump off into the water! I did it with my two oldest kids… such great memories!
Another cool trip I did with my wife (while my mother was taking care of our children!) was the Corcovado National Park. It’s a nice natural reserve where you can hike, swim in a waterfall and see many animals and birds. The tour we took included a 1:30h boat ride where you can relax and observe many birds, fishes and dolphins.
We did the Manuel Antonio park twice with different family members. I must tell you upfront, it wasn’t my favorite. This is probably because it’s too crowded compared to the other parks we have been to. Nonetheless, it was cool to howl with the howler monkeys while exploring the many small beaches. I have a feeling it’s the best place to take pictures, but you get better memories from other places in Costa Rica.
Crocodiles & other reptiles
Another great activity we did with our children was a Crocodile tour on Tarcoles river. I wasn’t expecting much from this one as I’m not a huge fan of crocodiles. That was until the boat captain got off the boat and started fooling around with one crocodile. It was quite impressive to see them so close! We got lucky and we even had the chance to touch one… scary!
For those who have small children, visiting Reptilandia near Dominical is a cool place to see all sorts of snakes. This is a small “reptile zoo” where you can see many snakes, a few iguanas and frogs.
Going to Costa Rica and ignoring their zip lines would be like going to Western Canada and ignoring the Rockies! We did the Osa Canopy Tour, about 45 minutes south of Dominical. We did two zip lines of about 500 meters each, 9 in total plus 2 rappel stations and 2 suspended bridges…. Oh and the Tarzan rope! We had a blast! I highly recommend it to anyone going to this country!
In all honesty, this is definitely not the country where I was gobsmacked by the food. Fruits and vegetables bought at the farmers markets are great though. We enjoyed going to different markets each week and it helped us to explore our neighborhood.
However, don’t waste your money on restaurants, most of them serve okay food. There are a few exception in Ojochal (notably the Fusion), but overall, I found much better food in Mexico and Guatemala for half the price I paid in Costa Rica.
In fact, if I had a one negative point about this country, it is probably this: it’s not only expensive, but you get less for your buck too. In fact, most things cost about the same thing they cost in Canada. However, the quality is often less. For example, our family could eat for $100-$150 per week in Mexico and Guatemala. However, this budget went up to $250-$300 per week in Costa Rica. And I didn’t eat filet mignon ;-).
Itinerary on our way back
The funny part with doing long term travel is that the only plan that you will not follow, is the original one! Since we arrived in Mexico, our itinerary kept changing. We met new people, we heard of some great places to visits, we fell in love with a spot and decided to stay there for a while. Still, a few weeks ago, we revisited our itinerary to modify it…again!
I know this will change, but this is what I’m looking forward to the next few weeks:
- Nicaragua: the beautiful city of Granada, the Apoyo Lagoon and the Somoto Canyon
- El Salvador: a week of surf and beaches!
- Guatemala: the incredible ruins of Tikal
- Belize: spending a few days in the island to do some snorkeling
- Mexico: Yucatan beaches, more ruins and Palenque
- USA: meeting with other bloggers in Texas, Disney World, Washington museum, Boston, etc.
As you can see, there are lots of things to do on our way back! Stay tuned!
Fletcher G. Hawkins
Sorry we couldn’t get together while we were down there, but we’re already planning a return trip for this coming October!
If you have the time, take the ferry out of Rivas (I think the actual port is San Juan, just east of Rivas) – and take El Rey de Cocibolca (the aboriginal name of Lago Nicaragua). It is a Dutch vessel that was somehow brought to the lake. Once you get on the double-volcano island of Ometepe, wander around the island. Try to get over to Balgüe. Cafe Campestre is run by a British guy and serves very good food. Try for supper at Finca Magdalena (a REALLY rough road (1/4 mile) up to it, but you should be able to navigate it with 2WD in the dry season) and go for the chicken soup. They bring out a huge bowl of this wonderful stuff! And don’t fail to go a little further to the far side of Balgüe. Down the steep hill is a sort of pole barn structure on the lake side of the road. This belongs to Marjelia and Juan. Marjelia serves really cold Toña and good fried fish right out of the lake. But don’t dare leave without picking up a good supply of their coffee. They grow it themselves, pick it themselves, dry it, winnow it, roast it and grind it all themselves, and it is the best coffee we have ever found anywhere. And please tell them we said hello. (Fletcher and Shari)
We had friends who referred us to a family in san juan de oriente. We are staying in this village for a few days. It is a crazy experience.!
Enjoy every minute and take videos of the kids if you can, even if it is just on your phone. When my wife and I toured the US for a year in 2006, we often thought we would be traveling a lot. Alas, that did not work out, but the pictures keep the memories alive. Wish we had taken more videos though.
We are taking a few videos and we have over 6,000 pictures already 🙂 we sometimes look back at the beginning of our trip and it looks like it has been 5 years ago.
Looking forward to meet with you and your family! We will be in your area toward the end of April.
The zip lines are absolutely great. We did them years back when we were there with friends…good memories