Goodbye to Costa Rica. Onwards to Panama

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Dec 17, 2008

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Flag of Panama  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I crossed the border from Costa Rica into Panama today - the sixth country on my trip and alas the last one in Central America - I canīt believe the Central American part of my trip is nearly over ... it`s all gone by so quickly... but very excited about South America. Costa Rica is outstandingly scenic and undoubtedly a wonderful place for a holiday. Indeed it felt more like a holiday experience than backpacker travel at times and many of the people you meet here are away on shorter term holidays looking to get the most out of a precious few weeks rather than longer term travellers. It's been easily the most expensive place on my trip with the daily budget not that far away from doubling what I was spending in Nicaragua ... its not called the "Rich Coast" for nothing :) Itīs SUVīs, modern taxis and many newer cars on the relatively smooth tarmac roads of Costa Rica compared to the horses, cows, rickety mountain bikes, dust and potholes in Nicaragua. Finances aside it`s been a lot of "Pura Vida" fun and I seemed to be able to cover a lot of different places quickly, with ten different hostel/hotel stopovers in eighteen days (Liberia, Monteverde/Santa Elena, Fortuna/Arenal, San Jose (twice), Manuel Antonio/Quepos, Turrialba, Limon, Tortuguero and Cahuita). Itīs been fast paced travel and although of course itīs all great fun, lots of long bus days and packing/unpacking/lugging of my bursting-at-the-seams rucksacks does take itīs toll and I think Iīm in need of stopping still for a few days to recharge my batteries. Four of those places (Manuel Antonio, Monterverde, Cahuita and Tortuguero) were national parks, all are which are outstandingly beautiful places with great walking and mostly empty beaches. Although I baulked at the $10 standard price for entry, Costa Rica does seem to be advanced in it`s thinking to protect these areas and it`s easy to imagine what would happen if they weren`t kept as national parks and were allowed to develop unhindered. Seen some great wildlife along the way including lots of different types of monkeys including the noisy howlers close-up and finally the elusive quetzal bird. Costa Rica doesn`t have the classic colonial architecture of other Central American countries - its aesthetic appeal lies more in the natural highlights - Iīm told this is because the Spanish didnīt find the mineral deposits which created the wealth to finance the buildings like in other countries in the region. Survived San Jose without any problems and I was warming to the place after a while - although its not full of amazing sights ... apart from the cows parade :) ... it has a lively , bustling quality to it and once you know your way around the city it is actually an enjoyable place I think. I got to see another two volcanoes ... in true Costa Rican holiday-maker style without actually exerting myself too much by having to climb them ... and both were impressively active with the red hot lava streams in the night sky at Arenal and the brightly coloured lagoon with the spurting gases at Poas. Stepped up the pace and my heartrate somewhat with a couple of more adrenaline-filled day tours, the whitewater rafting down the Rio Chiquiri and then the whizzing around on ziplines above the cloud forest on the canopy tour at Monteverde - both were very scenic and worth the battering to the wallet. The switch of coasts in Costa Rica from travelling down the Pacific side in Nicaragua to go up to Limon, Tortuguero and Cahuita was also nice in order to get a more caribbean type experience, although I missed out on seeing turtles in Tortuguero by being a few weeks too early. Finally the great weather deserves a mention - I think Iīve been really lucky as its supposed to be "the rainy season" in May and itīs only actually rained properly twice (once in Turrialba and once in Tortuguero during the canoe tour). Goodbye Costa Rica!
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