Costa Rica: San Jose to Dominical
Once your mind is excited to experience something new in life and and in this case, travel to a new country, I think it releases a supernatural adventure endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine kinda drug. I have no scientific research to back that up, I am speaking from experience here, travel experience. Your exhaustion goes away and your body kicks into another gear. Nine hour shift at work for Mother’s Day, five hour drive to Vegas, three hours of sleep on a couch, then up wide awake at 3:30 a.m. My body reached a new gear. Off to the airport. Take off time was 6:30 a.m. A quick pit stop in Panama City, Panama and then ending our flight travels in San Jośe, Costa Rica.
After grabbing our bags, we started to head outside. I had a little tip that there was a car rental place just outside the airport itself across the street that some friends rented from before when they were there. Before heading outside, you had to walk through a Mob of taxi guys, who were fearless and ruthless. They all wanted to know where we were going. I just politely said, “No thank you, I have a car” (I lied). But after wandering around outside for 45 minutes because we could not find the rental car place we heard about, we had to make the walk of shame back into the airport to rent from one of the places in the airport. That meant walking back through that crowd of taxi drivers. NO GUSTO.
Little did we know, they don’t like people leaving the airport and walking back in through the exits. They snagged us pretty quick! Metal detector-ed us down and started questioning us. We told them what the situation was, that we were looking for a car, and they let us back in.
With a few negotiations, we eventually got a car for $300 bucks which covered all ten days, insurance included. I worked at a rental car company for a whopping whole 28 days, I knew the tricks of the trade. From there…we took off. Our first goal was to get to a hotel in San Jośe. We found one online; it was no special tree house, rooftop cabana loft, it was a nice hotel so we could get some rest and eat a bunch of food and do some planning to where we should start.
No one mentioned about the traffic in San Jośe. Not one blog. Or video. Or anything. I want you to picture Los Angeles traffic in the rain at rush hour. That is the closest thing to hell that is on earth in my first world problems. San Jośe traffic is actually living in hell. It is the worst traffic I have ever experienced. It was so bad that it actually gave people the opportunity to walk up and down the FREEWAY trying to sell you banana chip things, and flowers. When all I really wanted to buy was a helicopter to airlift me out of there before I freaked— AHHH— before I said too many prayers and my mouth became dry.
Within the first hour of travels we almost entered the free way going in the wrong direction thanks to Darian, got lost in the ghetto thanks to Darian, destroyed tires from the small craters that were on the road thanks to it being a third world country, and heard the song Despacito at least 45 times.
Thanks to Waze and SkyRoam, (which I highly suggest anyone who travels should get, wifi basically for anyone anywhere in the world) saved our lives—lets just say saved us the entire trip. And we finally made it to the hotel, alive. Food, sleep, workout, coffee, food, GO. Also, everyone saying Pura Vida was new. Pura Vida means pure life but its more then that to the culture of Costa Rica. It’s an emotion, it’s an attitude, it’s happiness, and it’s a way of life.
Now lets explore.
There was nothing quite like stepping my unprepared shoe created by Nike onto the clay Jungle floor for the first time. Because I slipped and fell right on my rear end. Be an athlete Kyle, right? Instantly, I thought, I am no longer (as a male and human) the top of the food chain and a ruler in this land. There is something out there that could seriously jack me up. From a jaguar to even a tiny pretty looking colorful frog. You can not just skip and hop, arms swinging around, around the jungle with the wanderlust, screaming “I’M A FREE SPIRIT” at the top of your lungs and your hair in the wind, attitude. Next thing you know—your staring at this Shaquille O’Neal sized viper whose head is the size of a pit-bulls head. Dead. You’re dead.
In all seriousness, I experienced the jungle in Thailand a bit. But this—this was a whole new Rain Forest and jungle experience for me. It was incredible. The way you could cut through the air with a karate chop with your hand because the humidity was so thick because the evaporating rain was around. There was also never really a point to where the jungle was quiet. It was like New York City except with a completely different sound, and view, but all the same commotion. From the birds singing their hearts out, to the bugs making only God knows what kind of sounds, and then of course the obscured noise that waterfalls make. They really just make you have to pee all the time.
There is nothing like seeing the magnificent beauty of a waterfall surrounded by moss. So green and trees so green that they should have their own color grid. It seemed, during the day at least, that I was in Pandora from the movie Avatar. I wish there was a forest that lit up with neon lights in the night. I feel like looking out into the jungle from then edge of a lookout point is a lot like life in general. You don’t know what the heck is out there and what is moving towards you. I’m sure there are some things that could cause big problems, yet I know there are things that contain such beauty that the eyes and mind would create love songs that your heart puts the bass line to.
We barely stopped moving the first four days we were there. If I were to go into detail about every single activity we did, food we ate, place we ventured too—this post would be a book. I’ve highlighted the awesome things that stood out the most down. Hopefully when you venture down to the PURA VIDA land, you can check out some of the awesome spots we hit. There is lots of info below!
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Our first stop. The wildlife parks usually always have an entrance fee before entering and it is always worth it. Plus, it supports the business and what not, so just pay it. We paidfor the full day package, which included a BUFFET–(obviously we will chase animals, jungle trek and hike waterfalls all day to make a pit stop and absolutely stuff our faces) and also the entrance to the park was included.
This place was beautiful. It took a bit to get to from San Jośe but the drive through the hills was absolutely worth it. Breathtaking and more green landscape than one can imagine. It had animals, waterfalls, and food. We saw sloths, jaguar, birds of all sorts, butterflies and that Viper snake I mentioned earlier—the one with the head the size of a pitbull. It was as thick as a palm tree; apparently its venom eats away at your muscle tissue and can cause your neurological system to shut down. It was the craziest snake I have ever seen. Thank God for the bulletproof glass separating my head and its.
The waterfalls…Incredible. Head to my FLICKER to see the full album and more waterfalls.
There were three in total and each one did not disappoint. The third which was the tallest, you had to drive down to after you left the park. Worth it! I flew the drone at every waterfall I could; it increased my skills greatly because I was scared. Terrified that the power of the waterfall would take out my little drone, his name is Brone. We hopped in the car, and drove to the next waterfall.
Catarata Del Toro
THIS WAS ONE OF THE MOST BADASS EXPERIENCES. The park was supposed to close at 5. We got there at 4:15ish and there was no one there. The guy who ran the park said, “Look at me, look at me..I am the captain here and it closes when I decide. Have fun!” We paid our fee and wandered off into the jungle again. We had this whole park to ourselves. Nobody was there, I mean nobody. The park being basically our private park gave Darian the opportunity to whip out his machete he bought and cut a leaf, A LEAF not a tree or huge bush, a leaf. Manhood was elevated that day. The waterfall is the tallest in Costa Rica, down into this crazy bowl. We hiked down to the base and the wind was insane and the water was powerful, especially from all the rain that has been coming down which also caused the water to be brown. This picture sums it all up. MUST SEE.
La Fortuna Volcano and Waterfall
Third stop in one day, we have been trekking. Finally, we got to La Fortuna and we decided that we were going to crash there for the night. We didn’t have a place to stay but we drove around down and ended up finding this awesome hostel called Arenal Hostel. It was a pretty frickin’ sweet spot. Hammocks everywhere, heated pool with a swim up bar and television, small waterfall in the pool. Just a cool place, cool vibe, cool people. We finally met other people, which is was a goal to meet someone new every single day.
La Fortuna itself had over 150 activities to choose from. We chose to see the waterfall. It was a easy hike down but loaded with stairs which gave us Betty’s Booty Blaster Workout on the way back up. This waterfall you could actually swim in and it was an experience to feel the power of water. Even trying to get close to where the water fell was somewhat impossible.
I would recommend staying in la Fortuna for a few days and doing as much as you can. I know we wished we stayed a bit longer there but we had to keep moving!
Monteverde (CLOUD FOREST)
This place is no joke getting to. There was a point where the wonderful Spanish speaking lady on Waze told us we were 15 km (9ish miles) away. BUT we still had two hours of driving! Basically you drive on sketchy, dirt, pot-holed filled uphill road into the mountains that gives you views that you only see in movies, particularly Avatar. They call it a cloud forest for a reason and that reason you will have to experience yourself.
This place reminded me of a ski town, except it was in the jungle. A small beautiful little town tucked away up in the mountains. First and foremost, we had to find a place to stay. After checking a few spots out that were expensive, we ended up staying at Cabina Vista Al Golfo which gave us a pretty cool view of the town and mountains and not to mention the room was massive and had a kitchen. It was overcast, since we were technically in the clouds but it left us with a pretty awesome sunset as the clouds disappeared.
There was ONE bar in town, “Amigos.” Everyone went there and they played all the latin music and Despacito you could imagine. Earlier in the day, we each went to a pizza shop and ate a whole pizza. When we walked in, José, who worked there (we just met him when we walked in) was beyond stoked to see us and serve us. He gave us the lowdown on what activities to do and of course how crazy Amigos was going to be that night and that we should meet him there. We did but we will get to that later.
AJosé told us the best spot to go zip lining, it was called 100% Aventura. After we finished our pizza, he walked us right over to the office and we signed up. I wanted to do the highest bungee jump supposedly in Latin America, but instead we did the zip line and Tarzan swing, which was still pretty sweet. The superman zip line was an experience like no other, it was…well you were basically flying.
Back to José, apparently everyone knew José, he served us pizza and then we saw him at Amigos and he goes behind the bar like he owns the place. The lady at our hostel who check us in, EVEN KNEW JOSÉ. The man owned the town and he was one CRAZY dude A best friend I’ll probably never see again.
After our adventure in Monteverde, we ventured down to a town we heard was crazy and decided to spend a few nights there. We found an awesome hostel, booked it, and drove. Monteverde was actually one of my favorite places of the trip, I highly recommend going there, also tons more activities!
All the hype of this incredible place and we finally ventured down. We stayed at the beautiful Selina Hostel in the mountains. Across the street was an awesome restaurant with a killer view and a bar that was inside of an old plane. El Avión.
It was my first time actually bunking up with people in a hostel. Luckily we had some awesome roommates from Austin, TX who I’m sure got sick of Darian and myself talking with a country/’Merican accents THEE entire time. Our hostel was loaded with iguanas as well, which I’ve been dying to see and hang out/make friends with.
Manuel Antonio National Park was just a short hike through the jungle eventually leading to a beautiful beach. Not exactly what I expected but we hired a tour guy who knew everything and found us all the animals. I highly suggest that, you’ll see everything from Sloths to fruit bats. No jaguars though! We went to this “secret beach” to which wasn’t that secret because the internet told us where we could find it. There we rented kayaks and ventured out to the waters.
Anyway, Manuel Antonio was one of the most beautiful places of the trip. It’s beauty and scenery did not disappoint. We also had some amazing burritos at Sancho’s. I highly suggest eating there and enjoying the view from there as well.
Our last stop of the trip was Dominical. A small, really laid back beach town. Before we checked into our hotel (we used some credit card points and stayed at a fancy place), we ventured into the Jungle on the hunt for the waterfalls I’ve been dying to see the whole trip. From the pictures we saw pre-trip I knew this was a MUST when we went there.
Nauyaca Waterfalls! You buy your entrance fee on the side of the road and you can either hike down to a parking lot, or walk. We didn’t trust our car, yet we easily could have made it down to the parking lot. Getting down would have been easy, but driving up the steep sketchy dirt road was the question. So we hiked down, which was killer.
From there– you park, grab as much water as you can, and begin your journey. Except we walked down and we had to rest, hydrate, pull it together, ask ourselves why the heck we walked down that and then get ready to go. About two hours in to the waterfalls and about two hours out. This isn’t a walk in the park just to see a waterfall, this is a walk in the Jungle. The freaking jungle, with sun beating down on you and humidity at 100% and it being 90 degrees up and down hills.
But let me tell you, the hike was absolutely worth the trek and 10lbs of sweat. Because you eventually come up to these two waterfalls…
The belly flop, then backflip into the water, was a glimpse of what heaven will be like. It was magical. You can swim at the first waterfall which is a good size, and you can only check out the second one. I almost crashed my drone here from the wind of the second waterfall, but Brone survived. Then we had to hike out… and off to the hotel.
Dominical itself had a couple cool places to eat, Fuego was a hip brewery with some good food and beer. You HAVE TO eat at DEL MAR TACO SHOP in Dominical. Best food we had all trip, hands down. Cafe Mongo Congo was the place to get breakfast and coffee as well.
That was the end. We packed up all our stuff, said by to the iguanas and took off. From there, back to San José, more traffic and then onto a flight back home.
Our time in Costa Rica soon came to an end. Hope you enjoyed this small book and if you go or are going, you get a chance to check out some of these spots. There was still so much we did not get to choose. So pick wisely with all the activities!