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Early retirement travels - week 4 Costa Rica

Early retirement travels - Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

That’s three weeks in Costa Rica done (and four weeks since we left home). We’ve been to the Caribbean coast (South to Puerta Viecha and then North to Tortuguera), inland to La Fortuna and Monteverde and this week we arrived on the Pacific coast.

We chose Costa Rica mainly with Sally in mind. She gets ridiculously excited seeing animals and has a preference for visitor friendly destinations. Costa Rica ticks both boxes.

That said, the last week has felt a bit more challenging. Nothing’s gone wrong and there were still good bits, but the week's felt a little less comfortable and I let a few things aggravate me. Perhaps that’s simply called a normal week for some people!

I suspect the weather plays a part. It’s rainy season for the central and Pacific coast of Costa Rica so we expected rain, but the grey look and damp feeling still got to me. I’ve also hit my threshold for nature/wildlife walks, we’ve seen some amazing wildlife (added a Jaguarundi to our list this week) but three weeks of looking at foliage and animals is enough for me. Sally had the same thing with temples in Asia last year – they can be incredible but there comes a time when looking at another temple is a temple too many.

We started the week in La Fortuna, visiting a waterfall and some hot springs. The waterfall was good although the water was a bit chilly and the entry fee was $32 ($16 each). That’s OK now and then but it seems we’re frequently paying this much for what is effectively a walk in the woods/jungle. At home, money on a walk is for an ice cream or coffee and a cake, not an entry fee.

Going to the hot springs that the locals use meant they were free and, being the only foreigners, gave us minor celebrity status with some of the other bathers. The hot springs result from the nearby Arenal volcano, which has been in a resting status for the last 10 years, but there’s clearly hot stuff still going on underground.

The roads around Santa Elena and Monteverde were "interesting"

On Tuesday we headed to Monteverde, although we stayed just outside in the small town of Santa Elena. I’ve been impressed with the roads in Costa Rica. They’re mainly single carriageway but they’re mostly in good condition and without much traffic. The exception is approaching Monteverde where they turn into gravel roads with some epic potholes. The car we were following got a puncture from a pothole but fortunately our rental car survived – I’m crediting my great driving, and I don’t think you can prove otherwise😂.

Monteverde sits around 1,600 metres and is known for it’s cloud forests. We did an obligatory Cloud Forest trek, otherwise known as another walk for $32😜 - I do get that there is a price to pay for making the trails but, at the end of the day, it was just a walk. The Cloud Forest looks like something from a movie with trees and plants covered in thick moss and routes and vines hanging from each other. It was a good walk, but without a guide we didn’t really learn about the flora and fauna of the forest which would have made it better but, increasing the cost to $98, made it too much. Oh, and boy, did it rain on us! Other popular ways of seeing the Cloud Forest are on ziplines and hanging bridges throught the canopy, but there was no way Sally was going anywhere near those!

The next evening we did a guided night walk. This was excellent and certainly worth the $25 each. The guide makes all the difference and, although we didn’t see heaps of wildlife, we saw enough and the guide told us what we were looking for, what we were seeing and also some of what we weren’t seeing. He said there can be up to 20 tons of moss growing on a single tree which seems a huge amount.

Friday saw us leave Santa Elena headed for Dominical on the central Pacific coast. It didn't take long to realise that Dominical wasn’t the right place for us. It’s described as a surf town, but “town” is a generous description. More rain didn’t help the look either but that’s our bad for visiting in the rainy season. Googling what to do in Dominical came up with waterfall and nature walks i.e. the same things I’ve done enough of already. We still drove to the entry point for the waterfall but aborted the idea because of the rain and went for the nature walk instead. Another $32 ($16 each) for a walk which was pleasant enough, but not significantly different from walks we’d done previously, and $32 for two people to go for a walk is still taking some getting used to.

We have another four days in Costa Rica before Sally heads home and I head for Colombia, so we’re treating ourselves to a nice hotel for that time. We expect more rain, but we’ll watch it from more luxurious accommodation and with no more nature walks planned.

This week of travelling hasn’t felt perfect but, on reflection, I’m happy enough with it. We’ve seen a cool waterfall and natural hot springs in La Fortuna, and the mystical looking Cloud Forests of Monteverde. The rain and damp definitely put a damper (sorry for the pun) on things at times, but I’m still glad we’ve seen and done the things that we have. Like with early retirement, not every week is going to be perfect

What about my healthy eating and my exercise targets while travelling? Four runs and one other workout should give a perfect 10, but I’m knocking that back to 9 because I stopped and walked on one run. I’m so annoyed with myself for that😬. Healthy eating is an 8, mostly because I’m not doing anything particularly unhealthy. Still avoiding sweets and alcohol but haven’t managed the healthy salads that should be great in a hot country but frequently don’t deliver – the salad produce appears to look pretty sorry in the supermarkets so I keep not buying it.

Daily diary and costs

I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.

Week 4 - what we've done:

Monday – La Fortuna. Morning run. La Fortuna Waterfall followed by hot springs

Tuesday - Morning run. Travelled from La Fortuna to Monteverde. Dinner at Tico y Rico

Wednesday – Monteverde. Published blog post. A day trek in the Cloud Forest.

Thursday – Monteverde. Exercise routine. Life admin and blog work. Walked into town for coffee. Evening nature trek

Friday – Travelled from Monteverde to Dominical. Walk through Dominical, it didn't take long!

Saturday – Aborted trip to waterfall. Walk in Baru National Wildlife refuge. Afternoon run.

Sunday – Moved to a hotel. 20km run in the afternoon

Week 4 - we spent a total of £741 / €829 / $970 for 2 people on:

Accommodation £210 / €236 / $276 One night in our more expensive hotel added 40% to our accommodation cost

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £206 / €230 / $269

Transport £200 / €224 / $262 Car hire & fuel

Tours/attractions £116 / €129 / $151 Four walks (one with guide)

Toiletries/sun cream £9 / €10 / $12


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