Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination because of its biodiversity. Within the same country, you can visit beaches, volcanoes, hot springs, rain forests, waterfalls, urban cities, and more. During my study abroad in Costa Rica, I visited San Jose, Monteverde, Volcán Arenal, La Fortuna, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, and Puerto Viejo.
I studied at Veritas University in San Jose, located in the western part of the city. I stayed with a host family in the eastern part of the city and took the bus to school everyday. Usually, we took the bus to get around the city, and we didn’t run into any issues with it. One of my favorite things about the city was the street food and fruit stands. Everyday, I would get a whole, fresh papaya as my lunch. I’ve never had better papaya than the papaya I bought from my favorite fruit stand. The street food was also delicious, and I didn’t run into issues with food poisoning. My favorite food truck served food that combined Costa Rican and Jamaican cuisines. Also, you cannot visit San Jose without having plenty of gallo pinto, a mix of rice and beans, usually served for breakfast and queso fresco, which is a very light, textured cheese.
As a young woman in the city, walking around, especially by myself, being cat-called became the norm. I didn’t venture outside much at night, but I never felt threatened by cat-callers. Rather, it became such a norm that it was very easy to dismiss when walking around the city.
Monteverde is renowned for its incredible, picturesque cloud forests. The trees extend to the misty, low clouds so it feels like the trees take up the entire sky. There are suspension bridges throughout the forest. We went zip lining through the expansive forest where it felt like you were fulling encompassed by the forest with clouds above your head.
The Arenal Volcano can be seen from quite a distance. The volcano no longer erupts. It forms a large point that falls in the backdrop and serves as an worthwhile sight.
La Fortuna is the town that is nearby the Arenal Volcano. The town features hot springs and waterfalls. We went to the Baldi Hot Springs at night. There are many springs throughout the property and the hottest springs are at the top. The springs offer different amenities such as waterfalls, bars, and lounge chairs.
Bar with a waterfall in the background at the hot springs
The main waterfall in La Fortuna is a beautiful icon of the area. The main waterfall is in the middle of luscious trees and has white capped water. There are other waterfalls nearby that you can swim in and jump into from a rope swing.
La Fortuna main waterfall
Jumping off the cliff into the waterfall
Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
The Manuel Antonio National Park has some of the most gorgeous white sanded beaches. You can see sloths slowly climbing through the trees as you hike through the forest. This park fulfills your expectations of the biodiversity of Costa Rica by providing beaches, forests, and tropical animals.
View of the water and trees during a hike through the forest
White sanded beach surrounded by forest trees
Along the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo has a culture that takes influences from Costa Rica and Jamaica. The town has many people of Jamaican decent making the vibe of this beach town unique in Costa Rica. While we were there, we stayed at Rocking J’s hostel and slept on hammocks. As young adults, the party atmosphere, cheap prices, and relatively uncomfortable sleeping accommodations fit our criteria for a great hostel. That being said, we did get bitten by a ton of bugs while we slept and a mouse ate holes through our backpacks. However, Rocking J’s added to the experience of Puerto Viejo.
The sleeping hammocks at Rocking J’s Hostel
The bathrooms and showers at Rocking J’s Hostel
The beach in Puerto Viejo on a cloudy day