If you’ve heard of Costa Rica, you’re probably aware that it’s famous for it’s greenery, it’s happy residents and it’s mountains. There are adventures to be had in those mountains! Mountain adventures in Costa Rica are probably the main tourist draw of the country. While I don’t normally go for touristy stuff, I can’t resist adventures. So onto Costa Rica I went!
Crossing into Costa Rica
After an uneventful border crossing through the Peñas Blancas border, I continued on to the town of Liberia in Costa Rica’s northwest. It was about a 2 hour drive with some awesome scenery. I’d only planned a short stop in Liberia, as I wanted to get to the mountains as quickly as possible. I really do love mountains! I arrived in Liberia in the evening and it all looked very festive. That could’ve been because it was around Christmas time.
Getting my head around the currency in Costa Rica proved a bit challenging. In Nicaragua, 100 Nicaraguan Córdoba are equal to roughly US$3, whereas 1000 Costa Rican Colones are equal to a little under US$2. It was at that point that I realised that I didn’t know the word for 1000 in Spanish! I had only learnt the numbers to 100, thinking that would be enough.
So when I bought something at the town square, I sheepishly asked how much it was, knowing that I may not understand the answer. The reply was, ‘dos mil’. So two something.. mil must mean 1000, right? I handed the man two 1000 Colones notes hoping that I had guessed correctly. The man took my money and handed me my street food with a smile. I’d gotten a US$3.50 street meal and learned something new! Costa Rica had been great so far.
Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Getting to the Mountains
The next morning I got myself on a bus to the mountains. Sort of. Apparently there were no direct public buses available from Liberia to my destination. So I had to hop on a bus going to San Jose and get off at La Irma. From there I could get a bus onto the mountain town of Monteverde.
I grabbed a snack from the service station at the junction where I’d been dropped off. It seemed to be the only building for miles. I couldn’t see the bus stop that the previous bus driver had promised was there. I tried to ask the staff at the service station where I could catch the bus. As I only had about a week’s experience of speaking Spanish, it didn’t go as well as expected. It turns out that Spanish words spelt similarly to English words have different pronunciations. We all worked it out eventually though.
I made my way across the road to the bus stop, which was a small shelter surrounded by trees. It was barely noticeable from the service station. I started waiting there, not knowing when the bus would arrive. The fact that other people were waiting made me feel a bit more sure about the fact that the bus was running.
Riding with Locals
After about 20 minutes of waiting, I was the only person left at the bus stop. I watched as cars pulled up every few minutes and people waiting got in the cars. I figured it was just an easy place for people to arrange for their lifts to meet them. Then a car stopped and motioned for me to get in. There was a lovely bunch of people in the car eager to know all about me. The language barrier made things a little difficult but the occupants were still super friendly.
They took me a few kilometres up the road, but they needed to turn off the road that went the way I needed to go. By that point, I was only about 3km from Las Juntas, so I decided it was walkable. It wasn’t long before a man in a small red car picked me up and took me the rest of the way to Las Juntas. He dropped me off at the bus station so I could get a bus to Monteverde.
I bought my ticket from a tiny little hole in the wall, which took me a while to locate. The bus wasn’t due to leave for another hour so I walked around the little town of Las Juntas. It was very quiet and very green.
While I was walking around, a few locals stopped me and asked if I was looking for ‘agua caliente’. I guess that means that there are hot springs in the area. They’re really not my thing, so I continued walking and found the town square. It had a lot of interesting sculptures. Some with a definite Christmas theme.
Las Juntas de Abangares was a product of Costa Rica’s 1800s gold rush. It served as a major mining town and important stop for people seeking their fortunes. Its importance in history is documented at the Ecomuseo de Las Minas de Abangares, or Mining Eco Museum of Abangares. I guess that also explains this strange monument on the road heading out of town toward Monteverde.
Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Monteverde
The 30km journey from Las Juntas to Monteverde took just over an hour, because of the size of the bus, the incline and the winding mountain roads. Of course the scenery was awesome. I got into Monteverde just in time for sunset. A very early sunset. Apparently that’s a thing in Costa Rica.
I got lucky when I arrived to check in at my accommodation in Monteverde. Not only was it right near the bus terminus, but the lady at reception was super nice. She put me in a room by myself, but still only charged me the shared room price. As an extra bonus, the place had hot water! Everywhere I’d stayed in Nicaragua only had cold water. But then again, it was fairly hot there, so having cold showers wasn’t so bad.
After checking in, I booked my mountain adventure for the next day. I then decided to explore the town a little bit, only to find that almost everything was closed. It was also much cooler than the foothills and it was very hilly. This wasn’t a problem for me but I could see how it would be for some.
Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Ziplining Through a Forest Canopy
I arose bright and early, excited about my upcoming zipline adventure through a forest canopy. I would soon be zipping along the longest zipline in Central America! But first, we had a safety briefing.
Then spotted some local wildlife on the way up to the treetops.
Each of the ziplines started and finished at small wooden platforms throughout the treetops. As you could imagine, there are quite a few stairs to climb to get to the first platform. Then there was some waiting, because only one person is allowed on the platform at a time. I was excited when I was finally on my way!
The park had a total of 11 ziplines, including the longest zipline in Central America at 1590m. 2 of those lines were superman lines. As the name suggests, you fly down the lines in a horizontal position, like superman. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. The staff member at the platform told us that we were around 2km above ground level at that point. You wouldn’t want to drop something from that height!
After the superman lines, we ended up on a suspension bridge that lead us to the park’s peace de resistance; a 45m high Tarzan Swing!
It’s kind of like a combination of a small bungy jump and a swing, except that the staff are sneaky and will retract the platform you’re standing on with no warning. Which means there’s a lot of screaming.
So how do you end a hard morning of flying around a rainforest on ziplines? Steak and chocolate at a cute cafe with new friends!
Onto the Capital
My final stop in Costa Rica was San Jose, the capital. It is also said to be the safest city in Central America. The locals were very friendly. On my walk from the bus station where I was dropped off, to my accommodation on the other side of town, I was stopped for a chat a few times. One of the most notable of these chats was with a man named William. He had marched right up to me and put his hand out to shake and introduced himself. After the normal questions, he deduced that I mustn’t be married because I looked happy. I couldn’t argue with that logic.
As I continued my walk through the city, the atmosphere was quite festive. I soon arrived at my accommodation. The staff were very friendly but didn’t speak much English. My crappy, but improving Spanish was really getting a workout. After sorting everything out, I retired to my room to see a sign with some bizare rules.
Costa Rica had been amazing and beautiful, but it was time to move on. After a good nights sleep, I hopped on a bus for the long trip to Panama City in Panama. Keep an eye out for the continuing adventure in my next post.
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