Category Archives: Costa Rica

Visiting Costa Rica: Where to go, what to see and how to get around

I love to travel, but…

Traveling is awesome, but sometimes you just want the comforts of home.

Traveling is awesome, but sometimes you just want the comforts of home – like a hot shower, sans wires.

I love to travel. Experiencing new cultures, new foods, new smells, new landscapes and especially new people makes me feel alive. And it doesn’t much matter if the place I am exploring is on another continent or in my own backyard: The volcanos and colonial cities of Nicaragua or the woods and springs of the Ocala National Forest. I’m immersed, lost, no longer shackled to the people, places and things that have become too familiar, too predictable.

But travel – and especially extended budget travel – isn’t as romantic as some writers would have us believe. There is discomfort, delay, frustration and sometimes danger. Tonight, as we prepare to wrap up two months of backpacking through Central America, I am ready to be home. Continue reading

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Gringos in Paradise: High Wire

Coming to theaters this summer: Gringos in Paradise: High Wire

Border crossings

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By Vicki Barnes

We feel like we’ve crossed so many borders this trip (two in the last few days), it hardly seems a big deal any more. You get your stamps, you pay your fee, you walk out of one country into another, you get your stamps, you pay your fee, you walk into another country.

No biggie! Continue reading

Imaginary lines

imageBy Vicki Barnes
The towns along the Río San Juan are rough around the edges, as one might expect in the distant frontier of a country.
Sandwiched between the river and the rainforest on land that is Nicaragua, but which in some spots is claimed by Costa Rica, it is not surprising that the residents are strong and a bit boisterous. Continue reading

Showering here could be a shocking experience

By Vicki Barnes

Of the things we’ve done without on our trek – television, air conditioning, telephones, washing machines – there is one thing that Steve says he misses one thing more than any of those: a hot shower.

Frankly, with temperatures in the upper 90s most days, I find a cool shower feels far more refreshing.image

It is rare in a hostel to find hot water. A shower here is a place to wash off the grime you have collected during the day. It is not a place to luxuriate under a cascade of warmth.

It is not just hostels where hot water is difficult to find, most of the residents in Central America can not afford a water heater for their home, much less the electricity necessary to heat that cylinder of water and to maintain it at a high temperature. Continue reading

Super fans watch the Big Game in Costa Rica

Seahawks fans in Playas del Coco enjoy the Super Bowl Costa Rican style

Seahawks fans in Playas del Coco enjoy the Super Bowl Costa Rican style

By Vicki Barnes

On the north side of the main street in Playas del Coco in the northern Nicoya peninsula  in Costa Rica gringos are hunched over their drinks at the Lizard Lounge. Three televisions and a projection TV are tuned to the American Super Bowl. Conversation is a bit subdued.

Across the street at Zi Lounge, the place is rocking. Patrons are lifting their beers and umbrella-festooned tropical drinks in happy cheers, slapping high fives with their neighbors and screaming indecipherable epithets to one another and into the street. Five huge screen TVs are blasting the NFL championship game. Continue reading

Take time to smell the roses…and everything else

By Vicki Barnes

Costa Rica is a beautiful country of bright colors and lively sounds, but there is another sense that is tantalized when walking through the streets here: the smells of this country bombard you with every step.

On the main roads, where the tourists travel, there are restaurants of every persuasion. The beans, onions, cilantro and plantains of the local fare mingle with the hamburgers on the grill at the place where you can get comidos rapido.
Fresh fish  on the grill or frying chicken are common scents. Fruits of every variety are always being sliced at corner stands. The familiar scents of bread and tomato sauce are fairly common in the tourist areas as well. Continue reading

What’s this guy doing?

imageThis guy is not picking through the trash outside the bus station. He’s sorting through the packages that have been shipped to town via bus. In a country with few street names and no addresses, packages are usually taken from place to place in the cargo areas of the ever-moving buses. For example, if I wanted to send a birthday present to my Tio Juan in Pinas Blancas, I would take my box, marked with his name and the city to the main bus stop here and put it on the bus. He would go to the main bus stop in his town, show his ID and pick it up. Not as simple as taking it to the post office in the US, but certainly effective. I don’t believe that the packages are guaranteed to arrive undamaged – or to arrive at all.

Sunday is Election Day in Costa Rica (and we hear there’s a big football game too, back in the US)

By Vicki Barnes

As recovering political addicts, Steve and I have been making a real effort to stay away from politics at home. We have made donations to candidates in whom we believe, but we haven’t been active in any campaigns.

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A sample ballot for Costa Rica’s national election

When we arrived in Costa Rica, we began watching the news of the elections here and have been trying to understand the differences between the candidates, the whole election process and the party platforms.

While there are 13 candidates for president, representing the baker’s dozen of political parties, most of the media attention is focused on the  top five candidates as it is not expected that the other parties will get many votes. The most recent polls show the leading vote getter if the election were held today (the election is, in reality, on Sunday, “Undecided” has the majority of support. Continue reading

Expense account: Day 1

While we have been here for a couple of weeks, the real budget part of the trip did not start until today since we were traveling with others. We’ll try to keep an accurate accounting of all our expenses and publish them here each day.

We saved a little money this morning since a hearty traditional Costa Rican breakfast was included in the cost of last night’s room.

ITEM                                                                                                           COST
Last minute items, including some
tea, some hot sauce,  and fruit for the
bus ride…………………………………………………………………………………$   8.77

2 bus tickets to Alejuela Central
(15 min. ride) to catch bus to San Jose……………………………………..$   1.04

2 bus tickets to San Jose (45 min.
ride) to catch bus to Liberia…………………………………………………….$   2.60

2 bus tickets to Liberia (5
hour ride)……………………………………………………………………………..$  14.00

Bottle of Coke at a rest stop…………………………………………………….$   1.90

1 night for 2 at a hostel (Hotel
Guanacaste, Liberia)……………………………………………………………..$  22.50

Dinner for 2 + 1 beer……………………………………………………………..$  12.00

Total…………………………………………………………………………………….$62.83

Tomorrow will be cheaper as there will be no cross-country traveling on the agenda.