Samara to Monteverde

Our final destination before heading back to San Jose to continue on to Nicaragua was Monteverde, one of Costa Rica’s major ecotourism destinations located in the Cordillers de Tilatan mountain range.

Our main purpose of visiting the area was to explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, “the jewel in crown of cloud forest reserves” as described by National Geographic. And it did not disappoint.

The drive to Monteverde took about three hours on mostly good roads however the last hour plus was essentially uphill on extremely narrow and winding pothole filled roads. If you got stuck behind a slow moving vehicle there was really nothing you could do except wait for a short reprieve from the road curves and step on the gas and hope like hell no one was going to come around the corner ahead. Fortunately things went smoothly and if anything, we had SUV’s on our tail just dying to pass us. We weren’t in a rush but we were driving above the speed limit. So there.

On a side note, the route back to San Jose was different with mostly nice paved and wider roads and mostly downhill.

We stayed at a nice lodge, Miztli Lodge and Adventure, but it was a little away from town, which was downhill from the lodge and a “no way jose” hike back uphill so we took taxis to get to town if any alcohol was to be on the evening menu.

The day after our arrival we booked a 9:00 am bus ride to the entrance of Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, paid $42 USD entrance and spent the next three hours exploring this incredible area of biodiversity. Plants grow upon plants grow upon moss grow upon rock. The area was bursting with growth. Pictures don’t do justice to the this amazing landscape and once at higher elevations you enter the clouds that literally speed through from the Caribbean side towards the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Kind of at a loss for words to describe.

After a little rest later in the afternoon we took a taxi to the local watering hole, Bar Amigo, had some cool ones and then ate at a very average Italian joint near our place. I say very average because Joyce ordered a glass of vino tinto, red wine. When the waiter brought the wine Joyce had a sip and it was very cold. I said something along the lines of “cold, no”. So he came back with the same glass of wine but had added ice cubes. Very entertaining. So, I then put on my Spanish speaking cap and slowly explained that vino blanca should be cold (fria) and vino tinto should be room temperature (ambiente). Joyce got her glass of ambient temperature wine and it was apparently quite good.

We had one day left in Monteverde before heading back to San Jose so we spent the next morning hiking a secondary and primary rain forest that was very close to our lodge, Reserva Bajo Del Tigre, also known as Children’s Eternal Rainforest, Costa Rica’s largest private reserve. The reserve was founded by donations from children in 44 countries and is run by a nonprofit conservation organization, the Monteverde Conservation League. Visit for a lot more information on this reserve.

The hike around this reserve was substantially more difficult than the cloud reserve with large gains in altitude, rooted and rocky trails and steep inclines. It was a real workout.

We wandered around town afterwards and had lunch then went back to the lodge for a siesta and then went across the street from us to a nice little hotel and had a very good but expensive dinner. And for some reason they really didn’t like to give you much butter for your buns.

We headed back to San Jose the next day, March 4th and then departed to Managua, Nicaragua March 5th for the next leg of our journey.

Tamarindo to Samara

We departed Tamarindo on February 26th after a five night stay and then made our way to Samara, another beach resort on the Nicoya peninsula. It was about a two hour drive and we arrived at 1:30 pm at our apartment that we rented in advance for the next three nights and we were happy we arrived when we did.

The place we rented was named Casa La Guaria, advertised as being a 6 minute walk/200 metres to the beach. The photos of course were very eye pleasing and the price was about $115 CAD per night. Most accommodation in and around Samara were sold out so this looked good, it was a whole apartment with a lovely terrace so we booked it.

Without going on and on about the place and it’s location suffice to say in our opinion it didn’t fit the description and we really couldn’t stay there.

Fortunately the owner who we had met at the apartment was very reasonable and waived the 50% cancellation fee, charging us only $20 US for the cleaning service he brought in before our arrival. He also gave us the wifi password and exit lock code so we could sit in the shade on his property and try to find a place to stay in Samara. It was extremely hot and humid outside so we were grateful we could sit in the shade and try to find another place to stay with a better location.

We came across Blue Iguana. A hostel that also had private rooms with bathroom, included breakfast, had a pool and a bar, was close to the beach and cost $90 USD per night. We gave them a call and they held a room for us. We breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The Blue Iguana was a little run down. It was primarily a hostel style place with as mentioned, some rooms with private shower and bathroom. Our room had two beds, AC and a bathroom with shower and was well, quite basic and we’re guessing clean but didn’t really look very clean. Still overall it was kind of funky and we made it work for three nights.

Samara was not what we were expecting. We’re not sure why but we expected something similar to Tamarindo, a built up tourist destination but it was much smaller and laid back. This was a good thing however there also seemed to be many places that were permanently closed so drinking and dining options were limited although the places we did eat were excellent.

The beach in Samara was similar to Tamarindo in that when the tide is out there is a very large expanse of beach to walk to get to the water and the water is very shallow for quite far out. Because of this both Tamarindo and Samara are good places to learn to surf because the shallow water allows for small waves to form. The biggest difference though was the water in Tamarindo was clearer due to less sediment in the sand as compared to Samara.

We were getting restless so three nights and two days were plenty. We had a lot of sun and were looking forward to our last stop, Monteverde, before heading back to San Jose.

Nuevo Arenal to Tamarindo

It was frequently very windy in Nuevo Arenal and also much cooler than the coast so it was a nice reprieve from the heat but it was time to head back to the coast, specifically the Nicoya Peninsula for some more beach time.

Like most of our drives the distance was around 130 km and it typically took about 2 1/2- 3 hours to drive.

Our original plan was to try to get a place to stay in Brasalito. We were told it was beautiful and more laid back than Tamarindo. We also didn’t have any reservations anywhere so we were a little anxious about where we would end up staying.

We arrived in Brasilito wondering if this was Brasilito. We couldn’t see any redeeming features in the area so it took us about two minutes to decide to continue on to Tamarindo. We saved a couple of names of places to stay in Tamarindo just in case so we set our maps to our first choice, Tamarindo Sunshine. Earlier in the morning we checked and they still had one room left so we were really hoping it would still be available when we arrived into town.

It was a short 15 minute or so drive and we arrived into the well developed, traffic jammed town of Tamarindo. Yikes!

The place looked really busy so our fingers were crossed when we pulled off of the main road onto a gravel road, past a run down looking hotel we first thought was our destination and then around the corner to a nice looking place that was our destination. It looked more like a compound with only one large locked door to enter the fortification.

We parked the car, Joyce stayed behind to protect the gear and I proceeded to the door and rang the bell. And knocked. And rang the bell. And knocked a little harder. This wasn’t looking very promising.

There was a tiny space between the door slats that I was squinting through when finally I could see a person approaching the door. That was definitely a relief.

After a short period of time the lady who opened the door figured out what I was trying to say, sweat dripping off of me like I was in a sauna (it was very hot outside and a little stressful) and got the room-booking ball rolling and we were in luck.

They had one apartment available for four days and possibly extendable to five. It was a bit on the expensive side but the grounds were really nice, we had a small kitchen so we could have breakfast, coffee and keep the beer cold, a nice outdoor sitting area and it was a 5 minute walk to a beautiful uncrowded beach and only about 10 minutes walk to the south end of town and there were howler monkeys in the area to boot.

We ended up taking the extra night that was available and had four really good days on the beach, lots of fun at a nearby bar with live music and great lunches and dinners.

The wind did get quite strong the last two days so on our final beach day we walked the length of Tamarindo beach and around a point to Playa Langosta. The area was completely protected from the wind and when the tide was out large pools formed in the surrounding rocks. They were shallow but really nice and refreshing.

It certainly wasn’t the cheapest 5 days. Our rental car sat parked the whole time at $90 USD per day, the accommodation was $180 USD per night, lunches averaged about $25 USD for two and bar drinks and dinner for two about $150 USD.

We ran out of money so this is the end of our blog!

Kidding aside we did have a great time but when we discuss Costa Rica with others we now call it:


We departed the morning of February 26th and made our way further south to the beach resort town of Samara, not sure what to expect but we did have accommodation organized.

Nuevo Arenal to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges and Los Lagos Hot Springs

The first day after our arrival at Nuevo Arenal we drove to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, about a 45 minute drive from our B & B along the shores of Lake Arenal.

Located in the Arenal Volcano foothills, the park dates back to the early 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century over a period of 12 years the hanging bridges and trails were developed through the tropical rainforest in front of the majestic Arenal volcano.

The hanging bridges and hiking are located in 250 hectares of forest reserve and encompasses the interaction of highland flora with lowland rainforest. The hiking was easy and there were 16 suspension bridges of varying length and height where you could view the flora (there wasn’t much fauna) from high in the tree tops.

There are many hot springs in the relative area and as far as we could tell, all have been developed into attractions at the many resorts that exist in the area and all charge different prices for the opportunity to sit in up to 40 degree Celsius water for a few minutes, jump in a cooling pond, repeat the heat and then feel drained for the rest of the day.

Some have more beautiful settings than others with Tabacon boasting springs and pools that wind like a river through a luscious garden in the heart of the jungle. For a cool $89 USD including lunch you can go and cook yourself for a few minutes and wonder how all of your money just evaporated.

The next day we decided to splurge $17 USD each and drove to Los Lagos Resort, about one hour away from our B & B.

It was a very nice resort and the entrance fee included lockers and showers and full use of all the facilities.

We got changed and headed up to the highest pools (we were told they were the hottest at 37 deg. C) and proceeded to boil ourselves for a very short time. Who knew that our body temperature was so hot?

While we were cooling down we had the great surprise of seeing a three toed sloth close by in the trees. We spent $200 USD for a guide to see this in Manuel Antonio NP and didn’t even get close to seeing a sloth as close as this one was!

We hung around a nice natural cool water pool for awhile and then drove to a nearby soda and had a $10 USD lunch.

The moral of the story is you don’t have to pay big bucks to scorch the skin off of your body and feel like a lobster for most of the remaining day.

Jaco to Nuevo Arenal

Our drive from Jaco to Nuevo Arenal took about 3 1/2 hours on good roads and didn’t cost us a penny. Well, actually there was one inexpensive toll but our journey almost cost us $600 USD!

The roads in may areas were winding and the speed limits varied from 40- 60 km/hr and there are no passing lanes so long lines formed behind slow vehicles and slowly cars would pass the slow poke, usually on double yellow lines and occasionally legally on passing lines. We were very patient.

After a while when you are doing 25 km/hr in a 60 or even 80 zone you can tend to get a little anxious but we were in no rush so we were actually quite relaxed.

One after another the long parade of cars ahead of us took their turn and passed the truck that was in no rush and then our turn came to be ready to pass.

One curve in the road and then another. A straight away ahead? Nope. Another turn, slow to 15 kms/hr, speed up to 25 and then another curve and then, okay, my eye caught a sign that indicated an intersection ahead but the road was long and straight and clear and had double yellow NO PASSING lines.

There were no cars coming from the opposite direction. I made an executive decision (these often don’t turn out well), pulled out onto the oncoming lane, stepped on the gas and then nearly had a heart attack when a traffic policeman stepped out onto the highway and directed us to pull over.

Oh no!

We were warned that traffic tickers were expensive in Costa Rica.

The traffic cop meandered over to my window, smiled, I smiled back, and without asking, I pleaded guilty. I know what I did was wrong and just because everyone else can get away with it doesn’t make it right and I have never had a ticket before and I blah blah blah. So he tells us that the fine for this offence, passing on a double yellow line and with an intersection thrown in to boot, is $600 USD payable at any bank and can I have your passport, registration and drivers license please.

I hand over the required documents while Joyce pleads to reduce the fine amount and I suggest a warning would be appropriate and, sorry, what did you say? Do you live in Costa Rica? No, why do you ask? Is it our 17 year old rental that might suggest we do?

I didn’t actually say that but in fact our rental is a 2006 model so it would seem quite likely that we lived here because who in their right mind would rent such an old vehicle?

I think it was pity that I saw in his eyes when he said he can help us out. We were elated by his comment. Help us out! Yay! But in the back of our minds we were wondering. Do we have to figure out a nice way to bribe this guy?

He meandered over to his motorcycle, pulled out a small remote printer terminal and printed out a very long traffic ticket. He then wandered back, handed me the printout, explained there was nothing on the printout of any import and that nothing was registered back at HQ and he disabled the video camera that was monitoring this whole sordid mess. We were off the hook!

We thanked him profusely and he seemed to linger just a little, was he waiting for a monetary thank you? We don’t think so and we think if we did offer some sort of gift this could very well have offended him and caused us some serious crapolla.

We both waved and smiled as we pulled out into traffic. Joyce with her hand over her heart and me wondering if our smiling and waving was caught on his video camera.

We had three nights booked in Nuevo Arenal and stayed at a really nice B & B, Casa Donna Rosa which was operated by two extremely friendly and helpful gentlemen named Werner and Carlos. The house was originally owned by Carlos’ mother and was completely renovated into a four suite B & B, not including the owners main suite.

Carlos was the cook of the household and every morning he prepared an excellent breakfast that included the freshest fruit we have ever tasted. The room we had was large and comfortable with an outside terrace overlooking lake Arenal.

The B & B was quite close to a few good restaurants and Sodas. Having arrived into NA just after noon we had plenty of time to wander down to the village and have some excellent lunch at a local soda. I had a traditional Casados which is Costa Rica’s signature plate and is served with rice, beans, fried ripe plantain, fried egg, salad and your selection of protein. Joyce had the chicken tacos and both were delicious!

Two nights of our three night stay we ate at a really good local Italian restaurant owned by an Italian women with a very interesting sense of humor. The name of the restaurant was “Eatalien Food, UFO Zone Restaurant”. The food was excellent and the owner was a wonderful lady.

Overall it was an excellent place and location to stay and use as our base for a couple of days where we planned on visiting Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges and Los Lagos Hot Springs over the next couple of days.

San Jose to Uvita, Quepos and Jaco


According to Google Maps the drive to Uvita should take about 3 1/2 hours under normal driving conditions. Just over 5 hours later we arrived at our Airbnb cabin in the woods. It was 350 degrees outside with 10,000% humidity and a haze of dust hanging in the air from the the cars flying down the nearby gravel road.

Just before arriving at our cabin we had stopped at a nearby Super Mercado and bought some yogurt, granola, 250 grams of ground coffee, a few cans of beer, a bottle of wine and some peanuts. We walked out $75.00 CAD lighter in our pockets!

On our way to our cabin we noticed a Bar/Restaurant so after getting organized we made a b-line to several cold cerveza’s, some buffalo wings and then some chicken fingers because they mistook fajitas for fingers.

It was a local Soda (restaurant), the music was good and the people were friendly so I knew I had a spot to sit and contemplate life and work on the blog and daydream after my late afternoon showers while Joyce would relax and read.

Uvita de Osa is on the coastline known as Bahia Ballena and is home to Marino Ballena National Park and a beach that seems to go on forever and is famous for the “Whale Tail”, a giant rock and sand formation that forms a perfect whale tail during low tide in an area where humpback whales congregate.

Stock Photo

We spent three nights in our cabin so this gave us two full days to explore the park area, the beach and whale tail and the small tourist village near the entrance to the park.

All of the the exploration to be had around the area was in Marino Ballena National Park. The park is the first Costa Rican protected wilderness area created esclusively for it’s marine resources. Our first day was spent wandering the beach and walking between the tail of fhe whale while the tide was low. It was extremely hot and humid so we made sure to go to the park early and leave the park early.

The park is a tropical rainforest and although we were there during the dry season and animal sightings can be limited our hike the next day through the forest was still filled with some of the smaller amazing ant goings on and a small Boa constrictor in a tree. However just being in the forest and slowly wandering the path through the palms and tropical flora was relaxing and rejuvenating.


Quepos was a relatively short drive from Uvita and is generally the town where one stays when visiting Manuel Antonio National Park, the most visited national park in Costa Rica. The area also hosts some nice beaches.

We stayed at a nice hotel, Tres Banderas, which was located about 6 km away from the park and had a nice swimming pool, restaurant and bar. We booked two nights and arrived early afternoon so we had all of the next day to explore the park. We had a later lunch and then hung around the pool for awhile, had the obligatory mid-afternoon snooze and then enjoyed some bevies and a nice dinner before hitting the hay early to be prepared for a 7:15 am pick up to take us to the park for a private guided tour.

We were quoted $57 USD each for a ride to the park, admission to the park and then a ride back to our hotel. For $90 USD each we could have all of that AND a private guide which we were told was the best way to go because you will get to see all of the creatures great and small that your average unguided person will miss.

If we had decided to just go ourselves, pay about $20 USD return for a taxi from our hotel and $36 USD for two for entrance fees to the park it would have cost us $56 USD.

Instead, we went the private guide route, spent $180 USD plus a $20 USD tip for a grand total of $200 USD for what turned out to be a complete waste of money.

According to our guide, and we hope he was accurate because we paid enough money for his expertise, before Covid the park would allow up to 5,000 visitors per day. This seemed high to us. After Covid, they reduced the numbers to 2,000 per day and tickets had to be purchased on-line so the daily numbers could be controlled. So, the tour companies stated buying up all of the tickets which affected anyone who wanted to go to the park without a tour company. So, they upped the numbers to 3,000 per day and when we approached the main entrance the huge crowds of people became apparent.

For not much more than two hours us, our guide and literally hundreds of other wandered along a wide gravel road. Every few metres crowds huddled around their guides viewing scope, squinting into the lens to try to see some tiny lizard or frog. Others would of course stop and congregate because there must be something great to see so huge people-log-jams would happen.

Our guide would stop, speak to the other guide(s), look around, set up his scope and then show us a tiny undiscernible life form that required the vision of a 20 year old to see. This is how our time was spent. It was awful and we seriously would not recommend this park, at least for the time of year we were there which was dry season in February.

We saw, through our guides scope, a small frog, a lizard, an iguana, a hermit crab, a couple of bats and a sloth way in the distance.

Think twice before hiring a guide.


Jaco was also a fairly short drive and we arrived early to an Airbnb that we booked on-line. This was our third ever Airbnb and most likely our last. We don’t know but somehow they just never live up to their descriptions.

There really isn’t any point in getting into the drama with this place but we will say one thing. When the host tells you that you can use the bathroom sink to wash your dishes and they don’t even supply dish soap or a wash cloth then something really isn’t right about this.

Jaco came across as a little rough around the edges. More people asked if you wanted to buy weed and there seemed to be a larger contingent of women who had shall we say, revealing outfits that you might see in some south east Asian countries.

We spent a few hours the second day on the beach. We didn’t want to pay $20 USD for beach chairs but we did. The beach was okay, we didn’t take any pictures and the next day we headed off to Nuevo Arenal.

San Jose, Costa Rica

We arrived into San Jose from Panama City with four nights hotel booked and no concrete plans for our next three, four, five week or whatever the length would be of our journey through Costa Rica. We are winging it alright.

We stayed at Urban Green Hotel located one block from the 2 kilometre long pedestrian mall running east/west along Avenida Central so the location was good but only during the day time. At night the area became deserted and vagrant filled and it took on a really seedy unsafe vibe.

We were actually quite surprised with what we saw.

The city was run down and in need of some TLC. There are nice areas of course, more affluent, but the face of San Jose, the down town where several museums and theatres were located was actually a little on the seedy side. The pedestrian mall was lined with a huge amount of shoe stores and others of course, a McDonald’s every two blocks with KFC’s thrown in in-between and people selling whatever from blankets strewn on the sidewalks. Somehow we had come here with a different picture in our minds. We know many Central American countries are still considered as developing but Costa Rica we thought had been a few steps ahead of the other countries. We know they are when it comes to health care and education but it didn’t look like it to us when poverty seemed to be on so many faces.

What really surprised us, and we new prices in Costa Rica would be higher than other other Central American countries (except Panama) was the cost of living here. Many items including restaurant meals were as expensive or more expensive than back home in Canada. Beer was cheaper but beer is cheaper everywhere compared to Canada!

We planned on renting a car for two or three weeks however panic set in when the only available rentals were private and they wanted payment in cash. US cash. That was not an option for us so we kept searching and finally by chance, we found a rental company with an older model Nissan 4×4 and we could use our credit card which is important because it covers any damage costs.

With the car hassle out of the way we could relax a little and spend time seeing a little bit of the city and planning our next few weeks.