PREFACE: Honestly, I have no idea how this happened. It´s June and the last time I posted was MONTHS ago. I keep thinking about posting, but the reality of not having my own computer or even tablet (which I did have when I was posting regularly and is now, um, broken) makes it really kind of difficult. But, I want to do better, and so this post re-starts what I can almost promise will be more regular updates. Because I missed so much in between, I may also fill in with some older stuff from the last few months.
So, let´s talk about Costa Rica! Everyone loves this place and for good reason; its gorgeous! However, I have two main complaints that seem to be mirrored by backpackers in general- 1) It is expensive! For me this was definitely true. Having spent the last few weeks in Nicaragua, Costa Rica was a slap in the face. Money just doesn´t stretch as far, with as little effort, as it does elsewhere. However, if you are coming straight from the U.S. for example, I´m sure the overall lower prices will seem great. It´s all relative, right? 2) Compared to the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is almost a mini U.S. I definitely found this to be true. Comparatively, it is a pretty well developed country where there are lots of English speakers, U.S. dollars are widely accepted and there are more Gringos on each bus you ride than I had seen anywhere else. I met more people from the U.S. traveling in Costa Rica than possibly on the entire rest of my trip, and I was only there for 10 days! For a lot of experienced backpackers, it´s just not culturally different enough from the U.S. or other western countries to be as interesting as the rest of the region. But, I´m sure for some and certinaly those less experienced, this would make it the perfect travel destination! Still, no matter what your level of travel experience or desired level of comfort, you can´t argue with the natural beauty in Costa Rica. I had an amazing time visiting just a few new places, including Tortugero.
Tortuguero is a National Park on Costa Rica´s Carribbean side, accessible only by boat or plane. Tourist shuttles are widely available to Tortuguero, but taking public transportation is really easy and 1/3 the price. A bus from San Jose to Cariari (1,660 Colones) then another from Cariari to La Pavona (1,100 Colones) takes you to the boat (1,660 Colones) you need to finally arrive in Tortuguero. The whole thing takes about five hours and will cost you around $9. Bonus: the boat ride to Tortuguero is more like a tour than just transportation, snaking down the river until you eventually land in the small but very charming village. There are many opportunities for wildlife spotting from a kayak or a canoe through Tortuguero´s canals, or on foot through the land portion of the National Park. There are beaches, abundant soccer matches to watch and overall good vibes.
I did a canoe tour ($20) which resulted in spotting three different types of monkeys (Spider, Howler and White-faced), several large birds, a few caymans, and lots of lizards. Later, I walked, on my own, through the National Park and found myself in the company of a very still and very low to the ground family of Howler Monkeys. One even posed long enough for me to FINALLY get a few decent pictures! Spotting these guys running from tree to tree is relatively easy, but getting a non-blurry photo takes a lot of patience, a little luck, and a pretty good camera. Just look at this one´s foot and his face!
Though Tortuguero is not one of the 5 most popular places to visit on a trip to Costa Rica, if you have the time and are interested in spotting wildlife, you should definitely find your way there.