Costa Rica: 3/12 – 3/18

 

Puerto Viejo >>> San Jose >>> Quepos >>> Manuel Antonio >>> Uvita

3/12
Travel to San José and say goodbye for now to our German Friends
+ We all met up in the hostel lobby at 7:30 ready to leave Puerto Viejo on our last day together.
+ On our 4+ hour drive to San José, we were driving through that same place we’d been before so… we made our 3rd and final stop at our favorite Costa Rican restaurant, that same Taco Bell! Since it had been almost 72 hours since indulging our appetites there, we didn’t feel too guilty. Besides, it was practically tradition now!
+ It rained almost the whole drive and at one point, we noticed that in a passing car the guy was leaning out his window and physically moving the wipers back and forth to clear the rain! Lol. We still continue to be amazed by some of the crazy things we see in Costa Rica.
+ When we made it to San José, Marius graciously dropped is off at what would be our fanciest stay of our travels, a Holiday Inn right near downtown! Using some of the free IHG points we had earned back home, we booked 2 nights to catch up on some of the work and research we had fallen behind on.
+ Laura was headed to the San José bus stop to continue onward to the Montezuma area of Costa Rica, and Marius was going to meet up with his brother and 16 of his gay friends. They were staying at a super “schmancy” place near Manuel Antonio to celebrate his brother’s birthday.
+ Our room was also vastly different from the hostels and dorm beds we had been sleeping on and we were happy to have some little luxuries, like soap, hand towels, big soft pillows, and even A/C!
+ We spent the rest of our day lounging in the room using the phones and tablets and watching random movies in Spanish on the tv.
+ We also continued the trend of eating American food and got Pizza Hut for dinner since it was the closest take out to the hotel.

3/13
Rest and Planning in San José
+ Corey woke up early and watched a movie while Liz enjoyed our lush bed a little while longer.
+ We had a very lazy morning and afternoon, spent hanging out in the room and doing research.
+ We eventually ventured out for lunch and to run some errands. We stopped by a few stores and picked up snacks and ate lunch at a restaurant we hadn’t been to since Xela, Guatemala: Pollo Campero. Although it wasn’t quite as nice as before, it still hit the spot.
+ On our way home we passed through the park and watched a live band play as many locals danced. We decided to use the excuse of carrying grocery bags to not dance and went back to our room on the 14th floor, where we could still hear them anyways.
+ San José was definitely the biggest city we’d been in since Orlando (with 1 million people) and neither one of us had missed the crazy hustle and bustle, nor the McDonald’s on every street corner.
+ Back at the hotel, we went downstairs to use their computer room and spent the next bunch of hours researching and planning on those, as well as finally updating the blog which we were weeks behind on.
+ We ended the night by watching more parks and recreation until the wee hours of the morning.

3/14
Rest and Planning in San José
+ Slept in late today since we had decided to use more of our IHG points and extend 1 more night here.
+ Lounged around in the room watching various movies in Spanish before our growling stomachs told us it was time to leave for lunch.
+ Grabbed a quick lunch of more fast food 😦 There were no cheap Sodas within walking distance of our hotel.
+ After trying 2 more shops, we were FINALLY successfully in finding the special batteries we need for our Steripen (water sterilization light). If we had realized the Steripen takes such unique batteries we would have DEFINITELY brought spares from home!
+ Headed back to the hotel to do more planning and make some big decisions that will steer our travels over the next few months.
+ Later, we grabbed dinner of traditional Casados at a cafe . We were happy the cafe was not too far and hurried home after dinner. San Jose is definitely not nearly as bad as other central American capital cities, but still not a great idea to walk around at night.

3/15
Reunited with Laura and Marius in Quepos!
+ Reluctantly checked out of the Holiday Inn and walked across town to catch the 2:30 bus to Quepos.
+ Hopped off the bus in Quepos to discover our hostel, Villas Jacquelina, was very nice but a far walk outside of town.
+ After checking in, we saw a HUGE gecko on the outside wall. The gecko was black and at least a foot long! It didn’t even look real!
+ We walked into town and met Laura at her hostel! Later, Marius joined us and we were all reunited again! 🙂
+ Spent the evening socializing, boozing, and playing Hot and Cold (or Heiss und Kalt). Apparently this is one of Corey’s favorite games.
+ After the long walk back to our hostel up on the hill, Corey passed out in the hammock for the evening.

3/16
Beach day in Manuel Antonio with Laura and Marius
+ Corey and I overslept our alarms and were a bit late getting over to Manuel Antonio to check in to our new hostel (Backpackers Manuel Antonio) and meet Laura there. We decided to save exploring the national park for tomorrow  (to make sure we could get our money’s worth of the $16usd entrance fee)
+ Met Marius and went down to Playa Espadilla right before the entrance to the park.
+ We haggled with the vendor and got a good price on 4 beach chairs and a large tent for shade. We appreciated the shade as it was very hot!
+ Played frisbee on the beach. Liz finally successfully caught the frisbee under her leg! Corey was crazy impressed and wishes his frisbee skills were up to par with Liz’s.
+ The 4 of us watched sunset together and then caught the bus back up the hill into town.
+ After showering, Corey and I ate dinner at the pizza place next door to our hostel
+ Marius joined us after dinner at our place and we hung out the rest of the evening.
+ When it came time for bed, we said our goodbyes to Marius as this will probably be the last time we see him.

3/17
Manuel Antonio N.P. and travel to Uvita
+ After our free breakfast of pancakes and pineapple,  the 3 of us caught the bus to the manuel antonio national park. We all agreed, if we had not already been to other parts of Costa Rica, this would have been our favorite park. Lots of animals and relatively easy to find! However, in all of Costa Rica this park is by far the most crowded with tourists.
+ We saw tons of animals… multiple sloths, squirrel monkeys, baby deer with spots!, howler and Capuchin monkeys, nice Miradors. And Very hot everywhere.
+ After sweating out every bit of moisture from our bodies, the three of us caught bus in to Quepos and then caught a second bus on to Uvita.
+ Arrived in Uvita and checked in to the Tucan Hotel. Corey and I got the last 2 dorm rooms and Laura chose to sleep in her hammock for the night.
+ We ventured our to find dinnner only to discover most places were closed already! It was only 730 on a Thursday night. Corey decided on Chinese food for dinner! Liz tried this Costa Rican ice cream sandwich called TRITS that other backpackes had been raving about.

3/18
Snorkeled Whale Tail beach in Uvita
+ After a quick breakfast of granola bars, we checked out of Tucan Hotel and locked up our bags.
+ We walked 15 very hot minutes up the dirt road to a local waterfall.
+ Luckily, the water was ice cold and very refreshing. Much better than the ocean which feels more like bath water here.
+ Corey joined the other locals and tourists who would climb up to the top of the waterfall and jump into the pool below.
+ After our trek back to Tucan, we grabbed lunch at a local place advertised as a “beer garden”. Unfortunately the beers were so expensive we didn’t partake but we did eat some delicious burgers.
+ Grabbed our bags at Tucan and rode the short taxi ride over to our next hostel, Flutterby House. This hostel had a treehouse feel and was much closer to the beach.
+ After storing our bags on our dorm beds, we walked out to the beach and found Laura.
+ Uvita’s beach is well known for its whale – tail shape when the water is at low tide.
+ We walked down the beach and out to the whale tail. With the afternoon sunlight      looking back to the shore was so beautiful. Seeing the lush green Costa Rican jungle meet the sand and ocean here was definitely the most impressive beach we had seen in the country.
+ We had been warned this stretch of beach was prone to robberies and to not bring any valuables. We were disappointed we didn’t have our camera to capture the beautiful coast line.
+ After reaching the end of the Whale tail, the three of us snorkeled until sunset.
+ We saw Moorish Idols (yellow and black fish from finding nemo) for the first time among many other fish and we hung out with a turtle as he grazed on the reef for a bit.
+ The sunset was a fiery orange as we climbed out of the water and found our shoes.
+ After making our way back to Flutterby house, we enjoyed a huge dinner of fish, yuca, and salad.
+ Corey and I stayed up late planning our next moves in Costa Rica.
+ We eventually decided to give our wallets a break- it was time to move on to Panama.

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Costa Rica: 3/5-3/11

Santa Elena (Monteverde) >>> Tortuguero >>> Puerto Viejo

3/5
+ Today we got to fulfill the stereotype of fat Americans as we ate 2 breakfasts! 1 was at our Pension hostel before we checked out, and 1 was at our new hotel, Moon House (which is only about 100 yards up the road).
+ After we said goodbye to Pension (the strangest hostel we’ve ever stayed at), we checked into our new hostel and Corey took off on a solo adventure to climb these giant hollowed out strangler ficus trees that were just outside of town. Meanwhile, Liz stayed behind to work on the blog and mayyyybe squeeze in a little nap too!
+ After a 15 minute walk, Corey found the series of trees that were hidden in the cloud forest. There were about 7 total, but only 3 were hollowed out and able to be climbed from the inside. This happens because strangler ficus vines grow around the outside of other giant trees and eventually “strangle” the tree and kill it. After many many (approximately 80) years, that tree inside erodes away and all that’s left are the solid ficus vines on the outside that now have a cool looking tube/tunnel that you are able to climb up inside using the vines as a ladder!
+ There was 1 main one that was better than all the rest and Corey climbed that one first and made it almost all the way to the top, but it got extremely narrow and hard to move so he stopped due to fear of getting stuck or not being able to get back down. He then went and climbed the other 2 as far as he could before he encountered the same problem. When he returned to the first tree, other (much smaller) people had climbed it successfully all the way to the top opening, so now he was determined to conquer it himself, despite the size difference. After waiting in the little line to climb that had now formed, he finally got his second chance.
+ This time, Corey managed to maneuver his body into a slender enough position on his back with his arms outstretched above his head to pull himself past the small opening to the top of the tree! He hung out there for about 5 minutes savoring the view of the town before climbing back down and hiking back out of the forest.
+ Afterwards, Corey walked back to the hotel, woke up Liz and they prepared for their next excursion, rappelling down waterfalls! This is referred to as Canyoneering, or just Canyoning. We would be going down a series of 6 waterfalls using ropes and s harness as thousands of gallons of water poured over our heads and our feet tried to grip to slippery rock.
+ On the shuttle ride to the tour, we met a girl named Laura who we began to talk to about different places in Costa Rica. There were also 4 native Costa Rican girls who were going to rappel and the 3 of us ended up getting separated into 2 different groups. So we spent our whole time rappelling talking with Laura and it turns out we had been in many of the same places at the same time over the past 2 months! All the way back to spending Christmas/New Years in Mexico! Somehow we had managed not to notice/talk to each other all the way until this tour! Crazy! (I.e we were all at the Treehouse hostel the same night and talked with a lot of the same people but somehow not each other! )
+ The waterfall excursion was a lot of fun and Liz did a fantastic job rappelling for her first time ever! Holding onto a rope and leaning backwards over a 40 meter (about 130 feet) cliff is easier said than done, especially when slick rock and water is eschewing your vision. Throughout the 6 waterfalls, Liz got progressively better and by the end of the 6th one, Liz was able to jump little bits at a time down the cliff as opposed to walking. She even had a final jump from about 6 feet above the water all the way down without stopping!
+ When we reached the bottom, the 3 of us hiked back to the top and then talked for a while before the 4 other local girls joined us and we rode the shuttle bus back to town.
+ We met up with Laura and her other German friend, Marius for dinner. Then we went back to Tico Rico where we all talked for a while before grabbing a few beers and heading back to Pension (their hostel now, no longer ours) where we hung out and talked for a good while longer. We were even joined by another guy named Will (nickname was Posh Will due to his very Posh British appearance) we had met a few weeks ago at the Treehouse place near Granada. At the time he had been very intoxicated and kept repeating that he was 37th in line for the British throne! He was very nice though and bought our group a round of drinks (in an attempt to impress/hook up with one of the girls we were talking with). What a small world! (Or at least small tourist travel circuit)
+ We finally called it quits around 11:30 and went back to our room to prepare for another hike in a different part of the cloud forest tomorrow!

3/6
+ This morning we woke up and ate our free breakfast and then caught a ride with our new friends, Laura and Marius (and “Posh Will” too) towards all of the forest reserves. They dropped us off at the Curi Cancha Reserve and they continued towards Monteverde.
+ Liz and I used our FSU student id’s again to buy discounted tickets (like yesterday), but this time the guy gave us a bit of a hard time. He asked when they expired, we said they didn’t, and he said well then we could keep them forever and always use them (Correctamundo!). We played it off that we were still students so he gave in and we saved $20.
+ This forest reserve was much less crowded and we both enjoyed our peaceful and remote hike through the jungle. This reserve was a higher elevation than Monteverde so the trees and plants were all different than yesterday. It also wasn’t as thick so it made bird watching a little easier, which is good because we didn’t hire a guide today.
+ We saw another Gwan bird, more Coatis, some new Quail/Dove birds, a whole bunch of hummingbirds, birds that were a relative of the cardinal, and a bunch more different kinds too.
+ After about 2.5 hours, we finished the park’s trails and walked down the road to the Monteverde Cheese Factory. Although they weren’t offering cheese samples or tours that day, we still enjoyed some of their delicious ice cream!
+ We started walking back to town afterwards, but decided to hitchhike instead to save 45 minutes. Some nice ladies from Vermont stopped and nervously agreed to give us a ride back to town.
+ Back at our hostel, Corey decided to book another excursion for that afternoon. This was something he had wanted to do his whole life – bungee jumping! So after a lunch of leftover pizza, the shuttle from Extremo company picked us up (Liz was coming along just to watch).
+ When we got there and Corey signed all his rights away, he went to the loading platform where they fitted everyone with harnesses. They took 3 people out to jump at one time. While we waited for Corey’s turn, we could watch other people jump and see what was in store for him.
+ Finally it was Corey’s turn to jump! He rode out on the cable suspension system they rigged until the tram was directly over the highest point of the canyon. He was with 2 other people and watched both of them jump first. It was even more intense watching them free fall from directly above. Now they hooked Corey up to the cables and put a go pro on his helmet to capture the moment and all of his horror-filled facial expressions too.
+ When he stepped up to the edge to jump, he had almost no time to even think about it because the staff was already counting down from 4, 3, 2, 1 … When Corey jumped he was determined to keep his eyes open the whole time to capture the moment. Falling over 200 feet for about 5 seconds was definitely an adrenaline rush and made his stomach turn, and then the slingshot back up was crazy too. Then there was a feeling of weightlessness as he was suspended back up for a little while and then had another free fall almost as long. Overall, he bounced up and down for a while until they lowered the cable to clip into his harness and pull him back up. He was trying to find the platform where Liz was standing to wave and pose for a picture, but he had no idea where anything was while hanging upside down. When he was up, the tram went back to the cliffside and he safely stepped back onto solid ground.
+ Back at the office Corey and the other people who jumped got to watch their videos from the helmet cam, which were all pretty funny.
+ It was definitely an awesome experience and as cool as he had hoped it would be for all those years. He would definitely do it again in the future somewhere else!
+ The shuttle took everyone back to town and we spent a few hours relaxing and working on the tablets, as well as talking to family members on Skype.
+ We met up with Marius and Laura for dinner at a restaurant called Bar Amigos and had some good pasta and another dish with pork rinds. While eating we talked about upcoming travel plans and where we were all heading. They said they were headed to Tortuguero the next day and had room in the car Marius had rented so we should come along. We don’t know if it was the excitement of the spontaneity or the few beers we had already drank, but we agreed it would be fun so we said yes!
+ The rest of the evening we hung out at Pension with them and a few other people and drank and had fun. Then it was back to the room to pack up since we were leaving town the next day to head to the other side of the country!

3/7
+ So today would be the first time we traveled to a new city in a car with friends, as opposed to public transportation. After a delicious breakfast again of pancakes and fruit,  our friends picked us up and we rode in the rental  car for 6.5 hours through Costa Rica to our next destination of Tortuguero.
+ Along the way we drove along the Pacific Coast before heading east across the continental divide all the way to the Caribbean coast. We passed through San José and got to see a lot of the city due to the weird route that Google maps sent us. One section we passed through was very hilly and reminded us of San Francisco. Then we looked at the map and realized it said San Francisco on the area we were in. Weird!
+ Around lunch time we were hungry and looking for a place to stop when we saw a sign for Taco Bell in 14 km! We all got super excited for the first Taco Bell we had eaten since we left the states, and the first time they had eaten it since they visited the U.S. years ago. So we stopped in and were greeted by the delicious looking pictures and smells we missed so much! After spending too much and eating what was probably our recommended weekly equivalent of fats and sugars, we hopped back into the car to continue our journey.
+ The last part of our drive was through really pretty scenery and banana fields owned by Chiquita and Dole.  At one point, traffic was stopped as a whole line of bananas were being transported on this interesting pulley system from one field to another. All the banana bunches are covered in what looks like blue plastic bags so these banana fields are definitely a site to see!
+ We arrived to the farthest city we could drive to and then parked the car and bought our tickets for the ferry to Tortuguero.
+ After a short wait at the office we hopped in some long skinny river boats and rode through the jungle canals for about 80 minutes. Along the way, we saw a big crocodile and some monkeys playing in the trees, including 1 with a baby monkey on it’s back! The area we were in its commonly referred to as the mini amazon, and we could definitely see why.
+ When the boat arrived in Tortuguero, the 4 of us got our bags and walked down the road looking for a place to stay since we did not make reservations. We picked a decent looking place called Cabinas Tortuguero and got their last 2 rooms.
+ We dropped off the bags and then went walking around to explore the island. It was pretty small so we saw all of the restaurants and shops pretty quickly and then grabbed a snack of pupusas (el Salvadorian tortilla filled with meat and cheese) and later,  dinner at one of the sodas.
+ Afterwards we walked along the beach with our headlamps set to the red lights looking for turtles. We only walked for about 15 minutes, but didn’t have any luck.
+ Then we headed back to the rooms and played around on the phones and tablets before bed.

3/8
+ In the morning we walked to one of the nearby “Supers” and picked up some bananas and chocolate milk for breakfast. Then we walked around looking for a place to rent kayaks or canoes. We’re not sure why, maybe because it was Tuesday, but none of the places were open so we instead decided to do the hike we were gonna do in the afternoon. We walked north on the island but after 30 minutes decided to turn around because it was just more like a road.
+ It turns out the better trails were in the national park in the south so we headed there, paid the ridiculous $15/person entry fee and then spent about 2 hours walking through the jungle that ran parallel with the beach. The hike was really neat and we saw a few Capuchin monkeys, some new kind of interesting looking birds, and a long green viper snake!
+ Back in town we found a place to rent canoes, then quickly ate lunch at another soda before embarking on our river journey just before the last cutoff time to enter the national park.
+ We canoed down the wide part of the river until we were able to turn off and go down smaller side canals. We were behind a couple of tour boats with motors filled with tourists which at first we weren’t happy about because we were sure they’d scare the wildlife away. But it turned out to be a good thing because the guides from those boats would find wildlife and everyone would stop to view it and take pictures and then we would just paddle up and look at it for free! So the first animal we saw was a sloth! We finally got to see one! And it was moving all around on the tree with a baby sloth on it’s back! So we looked at that for a while and then continued on our way.
+ Because the river was pretty low, both canoes would occasionally get stuck on submerged logs. Each time, we would have to try to shimmy the canoe past the log. This made for some pretty funny balancing acts! Luckily, neither canoe capsized. Phew!
+ We also ended up seeing other really small monkeys (hadn’t seen these before), a bunch more types of birds, a caiman, river turtles, a humongous Iguana, another sloth, and a river otter! Plus we heard a lot of howler monkeys all around us. Overall it was a great canoe trip and we saw way more animals than we expected!
+ Before the sun set, we made it back to the dock area and bought some beers from a bar right on the water and hung out in the canoes watching the light disappear over the jungle.
+ When the canoes were returned, we grabbed more beers and hung out at the park talking for a while before liquid dinner no longer satisfied us and we got some meat kebobs from a street side barbeque stand which was pretty good and cheap.
+ Not wanting the fun night to be over, we went to a bar over the water that had a lifesize Jar Jar Binks statue! How and why did that get over here in the jungle? I swear, the random things we’ve found in Central America never cease to amaze me. After a few rounds of drinks, our wallets were begging us to quit so we went back to our room, got ready to leave the next day, and went to sleep.

3/9
+ After packing up and checking out, we grabbed bananas before hopping on the 9 am boat back to town.
+ The river was even lower today so during our trip we had to switch boats to a different one that could go through shallower water. Fortunately no one (or bags) fell in the brown crocodile water and our new boat made it back safely.
+ We began the 4.5 hour drive to our next destination, Puerto Viejo, which was father down the Pacific coast. After about 2 hours we were pretty hungry so we stopped at … the same Taco Bell again! And yes, it was just as delicious as it was 48 hours earlier.
+ Then we hopped back in the car to continue our journey through Costa Rica. After a few more hours we reached our destination and checked into Hotel Puerto Viejo. It had basic rooms but a unique large hang out area on the bottom floor.
+ After some Internet time, we grabbed our frisbee and headed out to the beach and for a walk around the town. The 4 of us threw the frisbee around for a bit and were even joined by a local guy who was pretty good.
+ We had heard about an all you can eat pizza place on Wednesdays so we headed there for dinner. The pizza was pretty good (no Stevi B’s) and we ate 4 large pizzas total. Afterwards we waddled to a supermarket for some water and beer and then headed back towards the hostel.
+ On the way, we noticed something crawling on the power lines up above. After a little bit of confusion and guessing, we realized it was a kinkajou! It is an animal we had heard about multiple times but hadn’t actually been lucky enough to see. We watched it scamper into a tree and then disappear before we could grab a picture.
+ At the hostel, Liz was excited because we were finally going to get to use the pack of cards we had been carrying around with us this whole time. The 4 of us, along with another guy from the hostel from Israel named Tal, played Spoons, Crazy 8’s, Go Fish, and a German game named Schwimmen. It was a fun night teaching American card games to other people and learning new ones from them.
+ Around midnight we called it a night and retired to our open-air room. We would definitely need our ear plugs and eye masks tonight since the room was right off a side street and there were no curtains either. So while the breeze would keep us cooler at night, morning would be very bright and noisy.

3/10
+ Slept in until 9 today! That’s the first time in a while. We dropped off our laundry and grabbed our bags for the beach trip today. After some Internet time in the common area, we met up with Laura and Marius and went to breakfast/brunch.
+ We went to a place called Bread and Chocolate and although it was expensive, it was tasty and filling.
+ After “brekkie” we all hopped into Marius’ car and drove down south to  Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. There, we hiked around the park for about an hour and we saw a sloth, some Capuchin monkeys, and really cool scenery with the dense jungle meeting the beach.
+ We brought our snorkeling gear with us and tried to snorkel on the reef offshore, but the water was too choppy to see anything. So we hopped in the car and drove father north, stopping twice more at different beaches to try our luck again with snorkeling, but with no success. At the last beach, after swimming out 200 yards in an attempt to reach the reef, the water was still too cloudy to see anything. So we gave up hope of snorkeling for the day and instead chose to relax and hang out.
+ Marius and I threw around the football and frisbee for about an hour while Liz and Laura relaxed and chatted.
+ We left and headed to a restaurant called Accirefe for some sunset beers and fun live Caribbean music.
+ On the drive back we saw trivia advertised at a different restaurant so after a shower at the hostel we walked over just in time to catch the 8 pm start time. We had a really fun time and came in 2nd place! We even got 5000 Colones taken off of our check!
+ On the walk back, we stopped at what looked to be the most happening spot in town, Lazy Mon. They were having a ladies night with free drinks and so our fun night continued there. We also ran into “Posh” Will again (from the tree house and Santa Elena).
+ After the free drinks stopped we called it a night and left Laura and Marius to continue the party without us.

3/11
+ We all slept in a little later today and by the time we were all ready to go, we decided to skip breakfast and eat lunch 25 Minutes north in a town called Cahuita.
+ We didn’t have a lunch destination in mind and were driving around aimlessly until we saw a sign advertising “Pizza National Park”!!! After ensuring Corey he wasn’t dreaming, we obviously had to go find out what that was. Turns out it was a pizza restaurant at the entrance to the Cahuita National Park, not a National Park made of actual pizza.   😦
+ With crushed dreams, we sat down to eat and had some of the worst customer service we’d had the entire trip, although the food was pretty decent.
+ Stomachs full, we set off on another hike. This time the trail was much flatter than the previous day and made for much easier hiking on a path that ran parallel with the beach, only about 5 meters into the jungle.
+ On the hike we saw tons of animals! More than we had seen on any 1 day previously. Multiple troops of both Howler and Capuchin monkeys (including lots of cute little baby monkeys!), at least 7 or 8 sloths (1 was super close hanging upside down and eating leaves right in front of us!), 3 raccoons (1 baby), a weird type of squirrel, and different kinds of birds. The only animal we hadn’t seen in all of our travels was a toucan (besides the sleeping one on our Monteverde night hike that may or may not have been real). Just when we reached our turn around point to head back, low and behold we saw not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 toucans! They were a unique kind that were smaller than the one you would normally think about (from the fruit loops cereal), but really cool looking! We watched them hop around different trees and eat the fruits and berries. When they flew off, we headed back finally content with our Costa Rican animal sightings.
+ We stopped at one of the beaches in the park and went swimming, but not snorkeling since was weirdly prohibited without a guide.
+ After a while we left to walk back to the car and saw even more animals! Then we drove back to town and grabbed some beers to sit on the beach and watch sunset. Unfortunately the weather had turned awful so we took shelter under a tent on the beach as it poured rain and just hung out there.
+ We grabbed dinner at Hostel Bikini and then went back to our place for a shower and more card games. Knowing that we had to get up early the next day, we made it an earlier night and went to bed around midnight.

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Costa Rica: 2/27-3/4

Tamarindo >>> La Fortuna (Arenal) >>> Santa Elena (Monteverde)

2/27
+ Today we had originally planned for Corey to go surfing, but his thumbs had not fully recovered from the scooter accident so we chose to forgo the free surfboards offered by Pura Vida hostel and just go exploring instead.
+ We decided to grab breakfast smoothies at a restaurant Liz’s relatives recommended called Nougi’s. It was a nice spot right on the beach to hang out in the shade and people watch.
+ After we had our fill of turning down trinket peddlers every few minutes, we left and went down the road a little until we found a Soda (local restaurant that serves Tipico food). One of the few cheap restaurants in town. We had lunch there and planned out our route for the day.
+ Our plan was to spend the day at the beach. We walked along the Tamarindo beach and since it was low tide we explored the rocks and tide pools, looking for sea life. We didn’t see much however, so we continued down the beach until we got to the river crossing, which separated the beach from the Marino Las Baulas National Park.
+ This area was another long beach on one side (with absolutely no trees or shade of any kind) and an estuary on the other side where you can take river trips with local guides to look for crocodiles. We opted to just pay the $1 to cross the river and skip the $20 river tour, since it was basically what we have in our backyard at home.
+ The beach on this side was a lot calmer and had clearer water, so we went swimming for a while. We eventually decided (after our 3rd coat of sunscreen already that day) that it was simply too hot (with zero shade) to stay any longer so we headed back across the river and found shelter at a restaurant on the Tamarindo beach.
+ It turned out the restaurant was connected with the Brewery we had stopped at the night before, even though they had different menus and names. We got their half order of “Big as your Ass” nachos and had some more craft beers.
+ We then headed back towards the main part of town, while we stopped into different tour agencies to inquire about onward transportation the next day.
+ When it was time for sunset, we grabbed some beers and found a nice place on the beach to watch the sky turn orange and purple again. These sunsets definitely weren’t getting old yet!
+ On our way back to the hostel we decided to finally become official backpackers and cook at our hostel for the first time! So we popped into the grocery store but ultimately decided to just go cheap and easy and cook Ramen and Mac n Cheese. Just like the good ‘ol college days!
+ While we were carrying the groceries to the hostel, a Howler monkey crossed the street right in front of us. He was almost crawling across the ground trying to be sneaky as possible.
+ After dinner was over at the hostel and our bags were packed, we chose to spend the rest of the night lounging in hammocks at the hostel (skipping the expensive and rowdy party scene) and prepare for our next Costa Rican destination, La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano National Park!
+ While we were planning in the hammocks, some guys at the hostel next to us started smoking weed out of a seashell and going on and on about it. They were also repeating how amazing Tamarindo was and how they could stay forever. To each their own, because we did not really share the same feelings and felt that 2 nights in Tamarindo was plenty and that we had enjoyed other beach towns earlier in our trip much more.

2/28
+ The next morning, the shuttle bus we signed up for arrived at our hostel exactly on time at 8 am to pick us up! This was a first for Central America! Luckily we were ready and loaded into one of the more comfortable buses shuttle buses we had been on so far.
+ Our 5 hour ride to La Fortuna was split in half with a stop at a touristy rest stop that had a bunch of Scarlet Macaws hanging around in the trees. We skipped the overpriced snacks offered there and instead ate the subway subs we had bought the night before for the trip today. (Corey loves subway and it’s one of the foods he misses most from home).
+ We switched buses at the stopover area and although our second driver was a little more reckless, we managed to arrive safely in La Fortuna and checked into a really nice big private room we had reserved at a newer hotel called El Secreto. It even had AC! This was a welcomed sight after the last 5 or 6 days in dorm rooms.
+ After soaking up the cool air on our comfy king bed for a little bit, we headed out into the city to explore and pick our excursions and tours for the next few days.
+ We ended up picking a tour that included hiking 2 volcanoes, visiting multiple waterfalls, going over some hanging bridges, checking out some nocturnal wildlife, and ending with a soak and mud bath in natural hot springs! We reserved 2 spots for tomorrow.
+ A huge pizza restaurant with flashing lights and delicious looking pictures was too tempting to pass up so we got dinner there and ordered their extra large pizza. Turns out that extra large is for like 6 people so we had more than half leftover to take back to our hotel with us, but that’s Ok because leftover pizza is still just as yummy!
+ Back in our room we got ready for our big long day tomorrow and then passed out.

2/29
+ Our hotel stay came with a free breakfast of Gallo Pinto so we ate that up before we set off at 8 am for our first destination, La Fortuna Waterfall! This was a huge 70 foot tall waterfall that you reach after walking down 500 steps. Corey went swimming at the bottom of the falls, but Liz was too chicken for the cold water.
+ On our way back up the steps, we passed a couple that had just gotten married and were walking down the steps to the falls still in their wedding dress and tux! We hope that dress stayed white and not too muddy!
+ We then met up with the rest of our tour group for the 2 volcanoes tour (we did the waterfall part on our own). On the tour, we met some nice Canadians and tons of Germans. This seemed to be common in our travels, as Canadians seemed to be the most prevalent, followed by Germans, Australians, and British folk.
+ Our hike up Cerro Chato was about 2 hours through cloud covered rainforest and got progressively muddier and steeper as we went along.
+ Along the way we stopped for a break and while people were snacking, a Coatimundi was running around trying to get free food from people.
+ At that point we were on the highest point of the mountain and from there it was a 30 minute hike down into the crater to swim in a volcanic lake! But those 30 minutes were by far the steepest and muddiest. This made for tough hiking and climbing.
+ At the bottom we went swimming and ate lunch as a few more even braver Coatimundi were actually stealing people’s lunches right from their bags! Just like monkeys or raccoons.
+ During the 2.5 hour hike back up and down the other side of the mountain to our next destination, we didn’t see any wildlife but we did enjoy walking through the cloud forest/rainforest.
+ Along the way we walked over 2 hanging bridges, and saw another impressive and secluded waterfall, plus a toucan flying overhead!
+ By the time we made it to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, it was dark and we got to hear some of the nocturnal sounds of the jungle. At the lodge, we walked to a pond and viewed some of the famous, red eyed frogs that Costa Rica is known for.
+ Wet and cold because it had been raining for 1-2 hours now (and we didn’t have our rain jackets), we loaded the bus and traveled to a natural hot spring in the river. It’s popular amongst both locals and tourists so it was pretty packed but it was still neat to be in a natural one as opposed to a man made one. At the springs, we were served Costa Rican cocktails and given mud facials by our guide with exfoliating volcanic mud.
+ After an hour or so of making new friends and letting the mud dry to make our faces look like a ghost, our 12 hour excursion came to an end and we were driven back to our hotel. We then spent the next hour cleaning all of our muddy stuff off before taking a nice hot shower and climbing into bed to watch some cable TV, what a luxury!

3/1
+ Today we are going to just lounge around our nice room and catch up on some things we had fallen behind on, such as research + planning, uploading pictures, and the blog (and a wonderful nap!)
+ After relaxing in the room and some more leftover pizza, we went into town to book the rest of our desired activities for our remaining 2 days here.
+ We booked hanging bridges through a different part of the Arenal Volcano National Park and a hot springs excursion at a really nice resort nearby that we had heard great things about. We actually found a great deal with the springs that included dinner and was about $22 cheaper than anywhere else we had seen (they gave us the national Costa Rican price).
+ Dinner was at a very busy Soda that came recommended and was a good, cheap meal (although again service was severely lacking – a theme in Costa Rica so far).
+ In our room we just watched some stuff on our tablet before calling it a night.

3/2
+ We spent the first half of the day doing the same thing as the day before and enjoying our comfortable bed and A/C.
+ We headed out to town for lunch, again at a local soda to pay 1/2 or 1/3 what we would at the touristy restaurants.
+ When we were finished with that, Corey got a hair cut at a local barbershop! His first haircut overseas and conquering another milestone that officially makes us long-term travelers!
+ After that we grabbed our bathing suits and day pack and caught a taxi to Baldi Hot Springs Resort. We were worried the place would be super crowded and resemble Wet n Wild back home (as it’s the largest hot springs resort here and most family friendly), but we were pleasantly surprised to find most of the 27 pools empty or at least sparsely populated and still very serene and tranquil.
+ We spent the first 4 hours there pool hopping between all the different pools of varying temperatures. Most of them were the natural thermal pools ranging from 96-115 degrees, but they did have an area with a natural sauna with 152 degree water, as well as some cold water pools dispersed around the property too.
+ In one spot, they had 4 fun slides that you could go down, so Corey went down all of them a few times while Liz hung out in the pool at the bottom and served as the videographer. The slides were surprisingly fun and best of all, there wasn’t a 30 minute wait each time like in Orlando!
+ Our dinner reservations were at 8 and it was an all you can eat buffet! Needless to say, this was a welcomed break from our normal meals and the first time we had eaten at a resort during our travels. We stuffed ourselves with all the different foods and about 6 kinds of dessert, including a chocolate fountain!
+ The last hour was spent pool hopping again and Corey managed to make it to all 27 pools! The pools were even more empty now and we felt really pampered having these massive luxurious pools (complete with steam, lights, waterfalls, swim-up bars, etc.) all to ourselves!
+ The rain started coming down just as we finished up and we changed and caught a taxi back to our hotel.
+ Back in our room, it was finally time to pack up our bags to leave the next day, despite Liz’s plea that 4 nights wasn’t enough! This place definitely was one of the nicest and most comfortable places we had stayed at during our trip so we were reluctant to leave.
+ While flipping through channels in bed, we managed to find Mary Poppins in Spanish! So we watched that for a while listening to the dubbed songs and laughing.

3/3
+ We were checking out today and catching the Jeep-Boat-Jeep transfer tour to Monteverde in the afternoon. But beforehand, we were doing 1 last adventure in Arenal, a Hanging Bridges tour through the canopy and jungle!
+ After breakfast our shuttle picked us up at 8 and it was a bumpy 45 minute ride through the jungle. When we arrived, we met our guide Nancy who gave us a debriefing before we started our hike. Nancy was a great tour guide and took her time to explain all the different plants and find us as many animals as she could.
+ Even though we didn’t see any monkeys or sloths, we did see 2 Crested Gwan’s, spiders, birds, a morpho butterfly, a toad, an eyelash pit viper, and she got a Tarantula to crawl out of it’s hole!
+ We also stopped at a couple of great view points, 2 waterfalls, and hanging bridges where we got to see different parts of the jungle. Nancy was also a very creative photographer and took some really great and unique pictures of us!
+ We would have stayed around the lodge longer to explore other areas and keep searching for wildlife, but we had to catch the first shuttle back to town to make sure we had time to eat lunch and be ready for our next shuttle pick up to Monteverde!
+ Ate lunch at Rainforest Cafe. (No, not the tourist trap at Downtown Disney). Liz finished her meal with a delicious “Choco Vienna”. Expresso, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and crushed cocoa. YUMMMMM
+ Arrived back at Hotel Secreto JUST in time to catch our shuttle for the Jeep-Boat-Jeep (actually bus-ferry-bus) to Monteverde.
+ The first bus ride was unremarkable followed by an hour boat ride through the man made Lake Arenal- almost comparable to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala  (almost!) After we crossed the lake and boarded the next bus to Monteverde, the scenery changed completely!
+ Because we are traveling during the dry season, most of the countryside had been brown as we traveled each country. But here, on the outskirts of Monteverde, everything was covered in a lush green carpet!
+ So the 2 hour bus ride to the little town of Santa Elena was very pretty and our shuttle bus driver was very nice and would even stop to point out some of the cool different birds around.
+ When the bus pulled into town, we hopped off and checked into our hostel, called Pension Santa Elena. We had booked a private room for 2 people and they gave us a room with bunk beds. Despite it being relatively early (around 6), when we asked for a different room with a double bed, he said they were fully booked and there weren’t other options. I highly doubt everyone had checked in already and he couldn’t switch us, he just seemed like he wanted to dismiss the idea and didn’t care.
+ So we dropped our bags and went walking around town to check out different restaurants and speak with tour agencies. We got some info on different activities like zip lining, bungee jumping, canyoneering, hiking, etc. So many different options in this really cool area of the world!
+ We decided to eat at the Mexican restaurant right next to our hostel, Taco Taco. The burritos were relatively cheap (compared to other Costa Rican options) and big and yummy, so we were happy.
+ The rest of the evening we did work on our tablets and we had some of the Costa Rican craft beers they offered right there on site. Then we watched some Parks and Recreation on our tablet before bed.
+ This hostel was weird because they closed the common area and kitchen at 10, so everyone had to leave and go to their rooms. It was the first time we’d encountered this and found it very strange.

3/4
+ Hiking was on the agenda again today but this time we were visiting another famous place that had been on Corey’s bucket list for a long time, Monteverde Cloud Forest!
+ So we ate our free breakfast at our hostel, which actually came from the Mexican restaurant next door – Taco Taco. We then shared a taxi with other people from our hostel to Monteverde in time to meet our guide for the day.
+ We opted to pay extra for the guide since we were told that was the only way we’d be able to see the animals. That turned out to be true, but the only animals we saw were birds. We even got to see the famous Quetzal bird! 2 of them actually! This was special because they have to be in season to have a chance and even then sometimes people don’t see them. If you don’t know what they look like, look them up online because they’re very pretty and unique. We also saw a mot mot, 3 wattled bell bird, centipedes, and even got to hike along the continental divide which had some magnificent views!
+ After our 2.5 hour hike with the guide was over, we went to the Hummingbird garden on the property and got to watch a whole bunch of hummingbirds flying back and forth between the different feeders. Liz really loved that and took a ton of pictures. Plus you could get really close to the hummingbirds, within a foot!
+ We hadn’t done a whole lot of actual hiking with the guide since we would mainly look for birds, then once he found them he would set up a telescope, we’d all look and then take pictures through the telescope. Because of that we didn’t cover a lot of ground in the forest. So we decided to go back into the forest and explore some of the other trails. It was really nice and peaceful and although we didn’t see any sloths or monkeys, the cloud forest and all of the different old growth plants and trees it contained was still awesome and different from anything else we had ever seen.
+ At 2 pm (6.5 hours after we got there), we finally caught the bus back into town and grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant called Tico Rico. Except instead of getting typical food again like so many meals previously, we chose to get hamburgers instead. Not as delicious as they are at home but still really good and filling.
+ Since we didn’t like our room (or the staff and weird rules) at Pension, we looked around online for a different place to stay for the next 2-3 nights and found a good place nearby called Moon House. We walked over and talked to the owner, checked out the room, and decided we liked it so we booked it. The owner, Francisco, also gave us the best prices for our excursions so we ended up booking all of those through him as well.
+ We then spent the next few hours hanging out at Pension and uploading pictures before splitting a burrito from Taco Taco for dinner.
+ Tonight it was time for another guided hike. This time through the jungle at night to look for nocturnal animals, different from what we could see during the day. We had heard great reviews from people about all the different animals they saw, but read some online reviews that made us wary. We decided to try it anyway but our worries ended up being justified as it was basically a glorified staged hike in someone’s backyard. The guides obviously knew just where every single animal would be residing because not only did they do the tour just a couple hours earlier, but the animals are there everyday. So the 10 people in our group tromped along behind the guide as he “found” different animals like sleeping toucans (maybe real? They didn’t move even with 11 flashlights on them), a Tarantula, snakes, and other types of birds. We however did not get to see the one animal we had most hoped for: A sloth. That was the 1 thing that sold us on the tour is that every person from our hostel that had taken the tour saw at least 1 sloth. Of course our recent string of bad luck stuck with us and despite the guide seeing multiple sloths on the 5:30 tour, we didn’t find a single one on our 8 pm tour. So not only were the animals basically staged, but we still couldn’t find them! Disappointed that  we wasted $40, we went back to the hostel.
+ We were determined to end the night on a high note so we decided to go grab a drink at a cool bar we had heard about. Turns out they wanted a $4 cover charge because it was Friday night and we decided that it definitely wasn’t worth wasting any more money than we just had so we went to our next choice only to discover they had closed 2 minutes earlier. Whaddaya know! So we instead just went back to our room and watched some Parks and Rec on our tablet before sleep.
+ Not our favorite end to the day, but at times like these we have to remember we are blessed to even be here!

Click here for more photos of Costa Rica!

Nicaragua & Costa Rica: 2/20-2/26

Granada >>> Isla de Ometepe >>> San Juan del Sur >>> Tamarindo

2/20
+ Woke up at the Treehouse Hostel to howler monkeys in the morning (and all throughout the night). If you don’t know what they sound like, look it up online. They’re impressively loud for their size.
+ Walked back up the hill to the bar portion of the hostel to check out. Glad to see many of our hostelmates were still alive, although many had no memory of their actions the previous 12+ hours (It was THAT insane last night).
+ Seemingly everyone was ready to leave on the free 11 am shuttle so about 15-20 of us crammed into the pickup truck and truck bed back to Granada. Since we skipped breakfast and wanted fuel for our upcoming travels, we got lunch with Jessie and Tanice and reminisced on the funny times from the night before.
+ After saying our goodbyes, we trekked to the bus station (through another crazy market) and eventually caught the bus to Rivas for connections on to Isle de Ometepe.
+ After a bus, taxi and a very complicated ferry ride (We watched as they loaded a huge semi carrying telephone poles onto the deck of a ferry. Not our ferry thankfully!) We made it to Ometepe!
+ Walked to our hostel as the sun was setting and checked in.
+ Caught our breath for a minute from our long travels all day, then walked back into town to grab dinner.
+ Back at the hostel, Liz passed out immediately while Corey researched on the tablet.

2/21
+ Originally the plan was to spend the day exploring the island, but we instead opted to spend it lounging in hammocks (our new favorite pastime) researching for our next city.
+ From our hammocks, 2 large blue and white birds flew over us. These large birds were so different than any other bird we had seen! They had these little plumes on their heads that made them look like some type of cartoon. Almost like a Pokemon! (Over the next few days we discovered these birds are called  Urraca (blue-tailed magpie) and are actually plentiful on Ometepe)
+ Not wanting to walk into town for lunch, we instead stayed at our hostel and depleted our snack reserves.
+ We did eventually head into town for dinner and went to a much cheaper, tipico style food place we had noticed the night before.
+ We also swung into a grocery store and replenished our snack supply (a must have on travels!)
+ Before sleep we watched the movie “Joy”, and prepared our bag to explore the island the next day.

2/22
+ After breakfast at our hostel, we hiked into town and rented a scooter/moped from a store run by 2 sisters.
+ The island is 2 big round volcanoes connected by a thinner isthmus. It looks almost like a pair of goggles from the air. We were on the far left end, but drove almost all around the island throughout the day! (Everywhere we could that there were paved roads)
+ We enjoyed great views both of the volcanoes and the local cities, houses, and shops.
+ Volcano Concepción is an almost prefect cone shape with clouds consistently swirling around the top. It almost looks like something out of a cartoon! Or like a vanilla ice cream scoop with chocolate on top, except the colors are reversed.
+ Volcano Maderas also has a cloudy top, but it is not nearly as perfectly cone shaped.
+ Because both volcano hikes end in the middle of the clouds with no views, we opted not to spend the money (or 8-10 hours of time) to hike them.
+ While driving we did see a troupe of Capuchin monkeys playing and eating on the roadside. So we pulled over and watched them for a bit (while making sure our phone and camera did not become their new play toy).
+ We also stopped to hike and explore a nature reserve called Chaco Verde, which had nice views of the lake and lagoon.
+ Another popular spot we stopped at was a beach called Playa Domingo. It was a nice beach and did not feel like we were on a lake at all, with the waves and sand. We got some smoothies and took in the sights for a bit before continuing on.
+ Our last stop on the island tour was a place called Ojo de Agua. While it was a nice shaded spot to swim and cool off from a natural spring, it was really just a big glorified swimming pool. We still enjoyed ourselves though and watched as people attempted a slack line above the water (and we even tried a couple times ourselves, with no success).
+ After we left there, we were headed back to our town, which was about an hour away. Around 30 minutes into our drive, the sun set and it got dark. Unfortunately, the scooter we rented did not have a right headlight and we were half blind while driving down the dark roads through unfamiliar territory.
+ After about 15 minutes of no problems (and all day driving it fine), all of the sudden about half of the road/concrete was missing on the right side of the road. Before we even saw that or knew what had happened, our bike fell over on the left side and we both skidded along the pavement for a little bit before stopping. Luckily, we were only going about 15/20 kph when it happened (not the 40-50 kph we were in the daylight) otherwise the injuries would have been much worse. Corey got the worst of it since he was in front, with most of his whole left side scraped badly, but Liz had a couple injuries too.
+ It happened in front of a couple shops and a number of people ran over to help us since they saw the accident (and pointed out how the road was messed up there, which we would have seen if we had a right headlight!)
+ Angry at the fact the scooter defect caused our crash and hurting from our numerous injuries, we gathered ourselves and counted injuries. Luckily the bike still worked (although it was scratched up too) and we continued the drive back to our hostel, hopeful that the rest of our journey involved no more spills.
+ Back at the hostel we showered and spent a good 40 minutes tending to and dressing our wounds.
+ We decided against riding the scooter back into town for dinner and instead walked. We went to the street food cart of a person we had met the previous day and got delicious Salvadorian food for cheap. (Turns out our friend was an El Salvadorian who used to live in the US.)
+ Walked back to the hostel and got ready for the next day while contemplating our conversation with the scooter company the next day.

2/23
+ Ate breakfast at the hostel.
+ Got our laundry we had turned in earlier and packed our bags and checked out.
+ Drove the scooter back to the agency and proceeded to have a not so fun argument/conversation with the workers. We approached the situation very calmly, recognizing both sides of the situation. While we were responsible for the vehicle when it crashed, we also acknowledged that the cause of the crash was entirely due to the defect of their rental product (causing us not to be able to see the road). If this had happened in the U.S. with a rental company, there would normally be lawsuits threatened against the company and demands for not only all money returned, but also the payment for injuries, etc. Unfortunately, this is not the U.S. It’s Nicaragua. So between pretending to not speak English well when it was convenient, the guy at the rental shop was very demeaning and dismissive. After explaining how we couldn’t see the right side of the road with the right headlight out, he proceeded to turn on the headlight in the shop, in broad daylight, and claim he could see everything just fine. What a joke! Of course in broad daylight you can see everything. We might as well inform all the car companies that they only need to make cars with 1 headlight on the side, since it has zero effect on the driving, according to him.
+ After almost an hour of circular arguing (and Corey managing to not punch the smug man in the face for his belittling comments and insults) we settled on them keeping our $100 deposit and paying an extra $5 (on top of our $30 rental). We were both very upset and felt like we maybe should have been much angrier and not reasonable (though in a foreign country, where people can buy off police, that’s never a good idea).
+ Still upset but happy to be done with the situation, we walked back to our hostel, gathered our bags, and then boarded the first ferry off the island. Eager to leave that situation behind us, and happy it was not worse physically or financially, we counted our blessings and put our focus to enjoying our upcoming travels.
+ Back on the mainland, we broke one of our travel rules and paid probably triple the price to make our journey to San Juan Del Sur much quicker and more convenient (as opposed to chicken buses). This was partially because we were so drained from the scooter debacle, and partially because our injuries (particularly Corey’s) left us a bit handicapped and wary of trying to get on/off chicken buses quickly.
+ Thankfully our taxi driver was very nice and took us all the way to our hostel, so we didn’t need to lug our bags very far. We checked in to Casa de Olas and were happy to be greeted by much friendlier people than our previous hostel.
+ Although we were in a party hostel, all of the crazy people from the weekend had checked out that morning. So we were given our own private dorm room, which was really nice.
+ We then caught the free shuttle into the actual town of San Juan Del Sur (we were staying way up a hill about 10 km outside of town). During the 2 hours we had before the return shuttle we grabbed lunch, checked out different tour/bus companies,  had some happy hour drinks overlooking the cove, and explored the town.
+ Rode the shuttle back and spent the next couple hours socializing, playing a new drinking game the Aussie’s call Downers, and eating a family style dinner of chicken curry.
+ Apparently Tuesday nights also have a pub crawl and nearly everyone was heading out. We would normally have gone with, but since we had just spent so much money on the scooter, we decided to be lame and hang out at the hostel instead. So the evening was spent browsing Facebook, Instagram, and enjoying the silence of what was now basically our own private beach resort.

2/24
+ Woke up to find Corey’s toiletry bag halfway through our window leading to the monkey enclosure, with all of the contents missing. We reasoned that the monkey must have reached his arm through the fence, in between the partially open slats and grabbed the toiletry bag from Corey’s backpack! We quickly surveyed the monkey enclosure and sure enough, stuff was scattered all throughout their messy playground. We spoke to the staff who escorted us to the gate and then he went in and recovered as many of Corey’s toiletries as possible. In the end, we got back about 1/3 of our stuff, and didn’t lose anything of great value that couldn’t be replaced.
+ We then ate our free pancake breakfast at the hostel and caught their free shuttle 10 minutes down the mountain and into town.
+ From there, we booked another shuttle to Maderas beach, where we happened to hang out with Emilie and Julia again-  two Canadian girls we have been running into multiple times in different cities on our travels.
+ We also ventured off up the beach to explore the jutting rocks, tide pools, and nice tranquil coves. The water in this area was super clear and made for great swimming. We would have loved to stay longer and enjoy the sights, but we had to catch our shuttle back to town.
+ After the 30 minute ride back south, we enjoyed a cerveza while watching sunset over an almost too perfect picturesque setting of little sailboats and houseboats in the cove, surrounded by cliffs. Although we’ve never been huge sunset enthusiasts, even we can’t stop ourselves from snapping way too many photos of the beautiful orange, purple and pink skies as the sun fades away.
+ When the hoards of people on the beach taking photos finally dispersed, we took it as our cue to leave as well and set off for our next stop for the night, a brewery!
+ As we mentioned in Honduras, finding good beer in Central America has been a tough undertaking. When we do finally stumble upon a brewery with delicious craft brews, it’s nearly impossible (and would be downright wrong) not to sample them all … multiple times.
+ So after we finished with our flights of their 3 different homemade beers, we went across the street to a good (an,d cheap) seafood restaurant that was recommended. Our referral source was spot on and we split a delicious seafood dinner, comprised of about 5 different types of seafood in a big paella-like mixture.
+ We caught the last shuttle back to our hostel at 8 and then spent the evening hanging out around the pool watching drunken debauchery from some of the Australian Amigos in town for their last night. The hostel had a policy where if you accidentally bumped into and knocked over the giant Jenga tower, you had to run around the pool naked. Let’s just say it happened often enough to question if they were all still accidents. Luckily, we kept our distance and made it to bed unscathed.

2/25
+ Today marks 2 months of travel!!! It’s hard to believe how fast time has gone by, and how many things we’ve done/places we’ve been to. We were nearing the end of our time in our 5th country, Nicaragua but had 1 more full day for exploring.
+ Hermosa beach was our destination for the day, about 30 minutes south and known for big beaches and lots of Surfing.
+ After 2 more shuttle rides, we arrived just in time to snatch up the last available hammock. The views were great and luckily we had a very strong ocean breeze to combat the oppressing heat. We didn’t laze around for too long though because we wanted to go exploring the tide pools while it was still low tide.
+ So we at off on foot again and for about 2 hours we wandered around on the perilous cliffs and rocky outcroppings. It was very similar to the coast of California with the huge waves crashing against the cliffs and various coves, just far less abundant sea life. We still managed to find a few different sea creatures before hunger drove us back towards the restaurant area. Unfortunately on our trek through a shrubbery area, Liz had her second bout of “I love to put my hand on a cactus” fever. So as her left hand was still recovering from the scooter induced road rash, her right hand’s jealousy led to Liz picking out about 20-30 little cactus needles from the folds of her fingers.
+ Lunch was surprisingly filling and afterwards we spent the rest of our beach excursion lounging in hammocks reading travel guides and watching surfers successfully (and some unsuccessfully) catch some gnarly waves.
+ There was another gorgeous sunset right over one of the huge rocks jutting out of the ocean and we managed to see it through just long enough before hopping on our return shuttle back into town.
+ We had 2 hours to kill (or so we thought) until our hostel shuttle came so we grabbed dinner at a cheap roadside Mexican restaurant, then stopped by the Brewery again for a blues fest they were having. We had heard they would have some different beers on tap, but we were forced to drink the same delicious ones from the night before. Darn.
+ The 8 pm shuttle that was supposed to pick us up never came. After 30 minutes of standing around waiting, we ducked into a different hostel to await the next shuttle at 10pm that headed right next door to our place. While we waited, we researched for our border crossing into Costa Rica the next day.
+ After finally arriving back at our hostel, we spent our last night there hanging out with people, swimming in the pool, and preparing for tomorrow’s travels. Luckily, we somehow still had the whole 6 person dorm room to ourselves this whole time!

2/26
+ In the morning after breakfast we booked flight tickets out of Costa Rica since they require you to show onward transportation when entering through customs.
+ We said goodbye at the hostel and then walked down the hill to the main road to wait for the chicken bus from San Juan Del Sur to Rivas, where we would catch a different bus to the border.
+ After standing around for a while with no luck, we finally agreed on a good price with a taxi driver to the border, skipping the backtracking to Rivas and saving some time. He was nice and gave us some helpful tips and info for Costa Rica. We’re really happy we took Spanish Lessons in Guatemala otherwise we wouldn’t be able to communicate well in these types of situations!
+ The border crossing was rather seamless and relatively quick, compared to other crossings we had done. We even got a good exchange rate from the Nicaraguan Cordobas to the Costa Rican Colones. Which is good, because we had been repeatedly warned by many other travelers how expensive Costa Rica is compared to other surrounding countries, so we would need every penny we could get!
+ We immediately caught a bus to Liberia, where we would catch another bus to our destination for the next few days, Playa Tamarindo. This place was recommended by Liz’s relatives so we were excited to visit some of the same places they had been.
+ Corey was particularly excited about Costa Rica, as it had been near the top of his bucket list for many years! Plus he read so much about the country in the guide books, he was anxious to do all the exciting adventures Costa Rica offers!
+ After arriving in the Liberia bus station we got our next ticket, but unfortunately the bus wasn’t leaving for 90 minutes so we plopped down in a bus station cafe and did more reading until it was time to undergo what was to be our most interesting chicken bus ride yet.
+ We sat in the back row bench this time to keep an eye on our bags, even though we knew it would be a bumpier ride. Although the ride was only about 2 hours, we had some very interesting characters sit next to us. The first was a drunk girl in her 20’s who was very friendly and even spoke decent English, but was very hard to understand due to the slurred words and erratic train of thought. The second was a large sweaty man in his 40’s who at first seemed angry and standoff-ish, but then also started talking to us about who knows what. We both tried our best to communicate in Spanish or English with him, but we were never sure exactly what he was saying. It turned into a 20 minute game of charades while we covered topics ranging from snow, Santa and chimneys, him maybe or maybe not liking various states (we’re not sure which) and smiling a lot. Or none of those are correct and we were as confused as we looked.
+ This “chicken bus” was different than most because instead of going on the most direct path to it’s destination (but still stopping frequently to pick up people) it turned on a bunch of side roads, and in and out of neighborhoods. So it took twice as long as it should have. We asked someone if this bus was indeed headed to Tamarindo and they just responded “Yes. Pura Vida” (Meaning relax and go with the flow).
+ After finally making it to the end of the bus line, we walked through town to Pura Vida hostel and checked into the last 2 dorm beds.
+ We quickly befriended a Canadian guy who had been staying in Tamarindo for about 10 days already and loved it. He gave us some tips and pointers about the area and then walked us about halfway towards a dinner spot he recommended before we parted ways. Liz was craving some southern style BBQ and she was in luck because Tamarindo was the most touristy place we’d been since we started in Cancun, so they had tons of American style restaurants and shops (at American prices) and huge resorts too. So we easily found a BBQ restaurant and indulged our nostalgic taste buds.
+ After dinner we walked around exploring the city and found another brewery! (One of the perks of the American influence in the city. ) We sampled some of the craft beers they had on tap, but chose to move along due to the small cups you got and the poor service. But the beer was good!
+ On our walk back to our hostel, we happened to see a giant movie projector screen on the top of a tall hotel showing the most recent Star Wars movie! We were both excited to watch it again so we hurriedly found our way to the top, only to catch the last 5 minutes or so. Although we were disappointed, they were about to start their second movie which was “The Revenant” so Corey talked Liz into staying and watching. We ended up being the only ones up there the whole time so it was like our own private rooftop theater! Complete with a cool ocean breeze and a cold beer. We were happy we were there for their weekly movie night.
+ Afterwards we went back to the hostel and quietly snuck into our dorm rooms, as usual being the last ones awake.

 

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