Do you know the way to San José? tumtumtadumdara

Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
Trip End May 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Costa Rica Backpackers San Jose
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We caught the 7 am bus out of Santa Elena to Tilarán (2 hrs). Our bus driver was in no hurry. At times, he would stop for a minute to BS with drivers going in the opposite direction. Once he idled the bus and went inside a house with a woman passenger for 15 minutes . Hummm. No one else on the bus seemed concerned and we knew we had plenty of time too. Arriving in Tilarán, we were in plenty of time for the 9:30 bus. Just then, a deluxe bus with Cañas written on the front pulled in. Michelle jumped on to get a good seat. Dave jumped in to as the bus was departing well before 9:30. Unintentionally, we had not waited for the local bus and instead caught another speedier bus. It was $1.50 instead of the $0.75. And he did not actually pull into the Cañas bus station and we were dropped on main street. No worries, we walked the few blocks and checked the schedules for the buses to San José. We could easily catch a bus to San José today. So we went to the hotel that stored our bikes and told them we would not be spending the night after all. They were gracious and wished us good luck as we rolled out into the street. 

There is a nice little coffee shop / restaurant on the town square in Cañas with good food as well as WiFi. Over brunch, we Skyped with the Costa Rica Backpackers hostel and reserved a room. We picked this one because they advertise a lot and we had the phone number handy. We were happy to know there would be a room waiting for us in San José once we arrived.

Our next concern was what the bus driver would say about our bikes. The woman at the ticket booth had told us it was all up to the driver. She said, he probably would be happy to take the bikes but we would have to work out the extra 'fee' directly with him. When the driver arrived, he said we should buy an extra ticket for the bike from the ticket booth. But since the ticket lady did not say it, we told him she said it was not necessary. Then he gave us the okay and helped us load the bikes in the storage bay of the bus.

We were thrilled to have gotten in the bus so smoothly. And as we watched the terrain go by the window, it appeared to be like the same lush jungle as we rode through for two days to get to Cañas. We were not missing much by being on the bus instead of on the bikes. After an hour along the flat coastal plain, the highway began to climb and then climb some more, from essentially sea level to 1,160 meters in San José. There was also a lot of traffic on the highway to San José and no shoulder to speak of for cycling. It was better for us to be on the bus.

Our bus arrived in the Coca Cola district of SJ and everyone was let off on the crowded city street rather than at a formal bus station. We worried as we transferred our 11 bags and panniers from the luggage compartment of the bus to the bikes while keeping a sharp eye out to make sure no one ran off with any of our stuff. Then we cycled through the crowd on the sidewalks then on for three or four miles to our hostel. The Costa Rica Backpacker's staff were super helpful. In addition to referring us to a delicious 'soda' (budget cafe) just around the corner and giving us directions for the bus to Terra Nova, they phoned to set up Michelle's doctor's appointments.

Caprichos Del Maiz is the name of a wonderful little soda at the east edge of the supreme court and judicial building complex in San José. The first daily soup and vegetable special we tried there was true home cooking to die for. After that, we knew we would be coming back. They serve very good Costa Rica coffee using something similar to what Starbuck's calls a 'pour over'. It a little cloth filter for coffee served with a cup of hot water. You steep the grinds at your table.

When we were in Nicaragua, we discovered our ATM debit card and its back-up card had both been cancelled by the bank for fraud protection (thanks guys). And we were sitting on a couple of other cards that had expired during our journey. We were living on our emergency stash of USD. We decided to wait in San José for replacement cards. AND, since we had to have new cards mailed to us, we asked Yolanda to toss a new IPOD Touch in the package. Terra Nova Travel is the American Express affiliate here and they were willing to let let us use their address to receive the package. Costa Rica places high import taxes on luxury imports but the first $500 is suppose to be tax exempt. We were skeptical that the post office would let the package through without any delay or tax assessment. But they did! And soon, Michelle was walking out of Terra Nova grinning ear to ear with her new toy under her arm.



The hostel is a well run lively place with a bank of guest-computers, two bars, a kitchen for use of the clientele, a pool and hammocks in the garden and thumping reggae beats emanating from two different, but overlapping, sound systems. The typical traveler stays in San Jose for as short of time as possible. For most, CR Backpacker's is a fine choice. But we plan to linger and take care of business in SJ for a week or two. We are happy that there is a vacancy at the homey Hotel Aranjuez in two day and we now have a reservation!
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