Costa Rican hospitality, the Caribbean and Diving in Panama

By Jenny

It has been a while since we gave you an update our trip, so we are actually already in Panama when publishing this. We will try to do better in the future.. As a lot of things happened, I divide this post into three parts to make its easier to follow.

Part I: Costa Rican hospitality

After leaving Jacó, we went back to San Jose where we stayed with Javi, met Kevin and also Luis for 2 days. It is really cool to know people in a country and we again appreciate the value of AFS.
The next stop was in Grecia again where Luis invited us to stay with him.The initial plan was to stay there only for 2 days but thanks to the hospitality of Luis’ family the 2 became 4. Luis was really incredible and took us around with a car, as had Javi before. Thanks to both of their families at this point!

First, we went to….

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…a volcano! This one is called Poás and is located quite close to Grecia. The view was really incredible and as we went up the mountains to an altitude of 2700 m it was quite cold, so time to use our jeans and jackets. Luis was super happy because the top of the volcano is almost never free of clouds. We had so much luck that we could even see the Lake of Nicaragua in the distance (a guide even said this was as lucky as winning the lottery).

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Around the volcano, there was a small hike on which we could enjoy the cloud forest, among it a plant called “poor man’s umbrella”:

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Luis then took us to a waterfall and then to a local artisanry village in which his grandparents live where we also visited the workshop of the famous painted ox carts.

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The next day, it was time for….

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… another volcano!! (sorry for repeating myself). This one, the Arenal Volcano, has been very active 10 years ago, so it is forbidden to go up. Usually it is also covered in clouds, more like this. DSC_0942

When driving there, this was the first view but suddenly, the clouds opened up and Luis’ family was freaking out, again saying that we had so much luck that it could not be for real. Apparently, this volcano is even more cloudy than the other, so they just stopped the car at the side of the road, took out the camping chairs, a bunch of cold beers and enjoyed the view (at about 11.30 am!). Now we definitely know what Pura Vida means.

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Part II: The Caribbean

After the amazing time with Luis and his family, we headed towards a new area, namely the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, more specifically the town of Puerto Viejo next to the Panamaian border. It is a really hippy type of area and we slept there for four nights in a hammock hostel!

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Someone from Cologne has helped to build the hostel I guess…
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Our beds for 4 nights
The hostel is called Rocking J’s and looks really great and colourful. However, it is not recommendable that much any more because of the current staff that is very unfriendly. The hostel is also huge so it feels really like a money making machine. Still, sleeping in a hammock was great and way more comfortable than we thought.
In Puerto Viejo, we enjoyed the Caribbean feeling and amazing beaches, together with some old and new friends. Sietske, a Dutch girl we met in Granada, was on the same bus with us, so we passed our time with her and her two fellow travellers Alana from Canada and Ben from the States.
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Sipping coconut water…

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These pictures tell more than a 1000 words so I guess it is easy to see how much we enjoyed Puerto Viejo. Also, our group was really cool and cooking together was really fun and delicious.

Part III: Diving in Panama

It was again time to leave a country and go to the next, Panama. Crossing the border, this time via and old bridge, was again a bit annoying with all the lines and “helpful” people but we made it safely and easily to Bocas del Toro, an islands paradise just behind the border. During our first evening, we just had great and cheap food, after the crazy prices of Costa Rica.

We stay at Heike’s Hostel which has amazing staff and free breakfast (we are on a pancake diet on this trip..). Very recommendable. On the first day, we went for a boat trip to different locations and saw starfish (Seesterne) right through the water surface, some dolphins in the distance and beautiful beaches that made me feel like I was stranded somewhere in Paradise.

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The absence of sun that day was actually a good thing because we still got burned a little, but the pictures do not make up for reality.. I strolled along the beach and hiked over palm trees and mangrove through the water and it was simply breathtaking.
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The best part was the snorkeling though, really impressive corals and fish. Fellow traveler Jessica made a picture of us:

12188689_10153946577849415_1561105297_nThe snorkelling was that great that we decided to go and ask for prices of doing a scuba diving course. The dive center La Buga was the place of our choice and we decided to do a discover course of one day first. The experience was amazing. At first, we were still struggling with using the gear correctly, equalizing the pressure in the ears and some other tricky things, but soon we could enjoy seeing the corals and many many fish. There was no way this should be all our diving in this trip so we signed up for the PADI Open Water Course which enables us to dive independently down to max. 18 meters.

This was the animal I saw, Photo by jeffrbaldock.wordpress.com
This was the animal I saw, Photo by jeffrbaldock.wordpress.com

The course took 3 days, some (quite boring) video watching, a theoretical exam, a lot of under water exercises and 4 super exiting open water dives. We saw lion fish, many different corals, crabs, a lobster, jellyfish (Qualle) (which unfortunately stung me..) and on the last dive even a giant eagle ray (Rochen)! That was the most impressive for me, the animal just passed by and it looked like it was flying in the water!

The course was really great and both Bocas and La Buga are perfect places for it. Our instructor León was very patient and friendly, only once I felt a bit under panic when we were swimming in strong current. But León took me along and helped me swimming further so I was fine again. Every time we dived, it got more natural and during the last dive, I truly felt like I was flying, just like the ray. It was an amazing experience, all costs included for a total of 6 dives and our PADI certificate we paid 315 Dollars each. This is very cheap compared to other places.

Some more diving pictures:

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Our instructor Leon
Our instructor Leon

In this case, no pictures can make up for the experience, especially since we don’t have an underwater camera. So you just need to do it yourselves one day. But be careful, you might be addicted.

We will enjoy Bocas life with great people, good food and nice beaches for another day before moving on. We will keep you updated on our next adventures.

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Today’s lunch 🙂
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