From the border we head straight to the beach and continue down the Nicoya penninsula. Then we drive northeast to the famous Arenal Volcano, cross a few rivers and spend some time in the Monte Verde cloud forests.
After 21 straight days of camping, we settle down in Atenas to chilax with family for ten days. Then it's off to the Osa Peninsula and the Corcovado rainforest for some serious adventure.
As usual, below you’ll find updates of where we are and what's happening. Just after we leave Costa Rica, we'll add information about the border crossings, our budget, accommodations and internet availability.
This article is part of our Internet and Phone Report series.
General Availability: High
Quality of Bandwidth: Medium-High
Frequency of Internet in Campgrounds: Rare – Most campgrounds are in national reserves. Don’t expect any internet unless there is an established hotel or restaurant.
Frequency of Internet in Hotels: High (we think). We only stayed at two hotels and both had internet.
We spent more than a month in Costa Rica and covered most regions with the exception of the Caribbean coast. A good part of our time was spent camping in remote areas. We started in the North at Bahia Junquilla, then went south into Nicoya to a few beach towns. We hit the heavily touristed areas around Arenal and Monte Verde, then we spent a week with family in Atenas, just west of San Jose. From the capital we headed south to Cartago, then spent a few days in the mountains on the Pan-Am Highway. We spent a night on the coast near Domical and then headed to Osa, first to Bahia Drake and then Carate.
This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.
Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.
Hooray, you've gotten to go at least six weeks without reading one of these! This time we're in Costa Rica, the most expensive country we've been in since leaving Mexico.
We set an aggressive per diem of just under $70 per day to cover food, gas, lodging and supplies. We had to work very hard to stay under this amount, but in the end we pulled it off. Just barely.
It's worth mentioning that a big reason we kept our per diem this low is that we had ten days of lodging paid for while our parents came down for a visit. We still paid our share of the groceries and gas, but for more than a quarter of our time in Costa Rica we had a free place to stay.
Start: May 22, Puerto Jimenez
Finish: May 25, Carate
Miles Hiked Through Jungle: 25
Bugs Measuring Over Four Inches Seen: 6
Rivers Crossed By Car or By Foot: 16
We had one helluvan adventure this past weekend. The proverbial shit got real, and then hit the fan. In which order, I'm still not sure. It oscillated. Something about a jungle, an 11 mile hike and crossing a dozen or so rivers by car and on foot while experiencing biodiversity the likes of which only exists in a handful of places on earth.
I've been looking forward to this trip since the day I started reading about Central America. Corcovado. This was a once-in-a-lifetime (aka, I'll never do it again) hike. You may have heard of it from such shows as Planet Earth, or Life, or something you would have see on the National Geographic channel before they started with the ghost whispering.
The experts estimate that Corcovado National Park is home to 5% of all life on the planet. Five percent. This park is tiny, you can walk across it in three days. There are more crazy critters packed into this place than you can shake a stick at. And trust me, I shook my stick at plenty of 'em.
Start: May 13, Cerro de la Muerte
Finish: May 21, Puerto Jiménez
Trout Successfully Speared in the Face: 0
Nights Camped for Free on Awesome Beach: 2
Scarlet Macaws Seen: About a Hundred
We've been in Costa Rica a bit more than a month now, and it's safe to say that we're beginning to understand the ubiquitous phrase "pura vida". Literally translated it means "pure life". In Costa Rica it's a way to say hello, goodbye or awesome! More to the point, it means "plenty of life" or "this is living".
This past week we have certainly done plenty of living! In the process, Costa Rica has been nearing the top of my all-time favorite list. I may finally have an answer when people ask me what the best place on our trip has been.
We started the week way up in the mountains of south-central Costa Rica, on Cerro de la Muerte (the hill of death), hanging out with our overlanding friends, catching fish and getting back into the camping groove.
From there we backtracked towards San Jose to visit an old friend of Kobus in Cartago, then went on to the location of our last great Costa Rican adventure: the Osa Peninsula, home of the Corcovado jungle.
Start: April 29, El Castillo
Finish: May 12, Atenas
River Crossings: One Big, Five Small
Consecutive Days Camping: 21
Nights Spent in Ridiculous Vacation House: 8
Birds Successfully Identified: About 30
The past two weeks have brought us through several extremes. First, we set a record for the number of consecutive days spent camping. Then we move into a vacation house with our visiting parents that may very well be the nicest place I've spent a night.
Our travels took us from the shores of Lake Arenal, along three hours of dirt road, through several rivers and eventually to the town of Santa Elena, situated high in the cloud forests of north-central Costa Rica. From there we dropped down to Atenas, a short hop east of the capital city San Jose, where we spent a very relaxing week with family; visiting, recharging and day-tripping our way around central Costa Rica.
Start: April 22, Junquillal Bay
Finish: April 29, El Castillo
Nights Campin' With Critters: All of 'em
Baseball Size Wasps Seen: 3
Costa Rica! Pura vida. We've been here for little over a week and have camped the entire time. Every day brings a new creature into our campsite, and every night we tuck in early to avoid the bugs, some of which are down right monstrous.
We started our Costa Rica experience on the coast, just south of the Nicaraguan border camped in a national park. Then headed to the Nicoya Peninsula and stayed five nights on the beach in three different places.
After becoming fed up with the heat we drove inland towards the Arenal region to see one of the world's most active volcanoes and picturesque lakes.
This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Peñas Blancas
Closest major cities: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and La Cruz, Costa Rica
Cost to exit Nicaragua: C$67 Cordobas ($3 USD) per person ($1USD tax, $2USD for the stamp)
Cost for vehicle: CR$2175 colones ($4.50 USD) fumigation, CR$8365 colones ($17 USD) insurance
Total time: 2 hours
Date crossed: Saturday, April 23, 2012
Update September 2013: Please see the notes in the comments from Patrick & Marijke for the latest info on this border crossing. Thanks guys!