It took only a few hours to realize most of my friends who’ve come to the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica never really saw Costa Rica. Before coming, they all said the same “make sure you do…” things and quickly I realized how American and comfortable those things were, and abandoned them. Well…except the beach. The beach was freeing, amazing and beautiful and peaceful and godly.
If you’re more explorer and traveler and less tourist, like me and my motley crew, this is for you.
Staying in any of the beach towns, you’re sure to be surrounded by the folks you just left back home. You’re also sure to pay American prices for a disappointing local version of an American dish. I was almost swindled for chicken fingers, nachos, and wings. I had to convince my stomach to chill until I got back into Liberia proper.
Hospedaje Dodero: A cool hostel run by Jesus Dodero and partner, Shawn. After getting over the cold showers, which became heavenly after the muggy warm days, everything was amazing. The people passing through brought liquors and beers and joined us for games of Kings Cup, Uno, and shared their travel stories, and bucket lists. Jesus and Shawn were incredibly hospitable and had answers to every question us wayfarers asked.
Asi Es Mi Tierra Restaurante Peruano: The amazing women running this restaurant fed us almost daily. Peruvian food easily ranks in my top 3 cuisines, and because of this place, I’m sure it will stay there. If you’re looking for a recommendation, try the Arroz Chaufa Mixto (sin Cerdo because I don’t eat pork). This place was for us what Central Perk was for Monica, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Phoebe, and Ross.
Public Transportation: Who needs a car or personal driver when you have a comfortable public bus for less than a dollar with a man who sells water and empanadas? I’m always a fan of public transportation if it’s efficient, and goes where I need to be.
Things To Do:
1. Catarata Waterfall. A gorgeous refuge through the woods. Several times I had to look around and loudly say “I am grateful for this moment.”
2. Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin in Rincon de la Vieja. What a day! This is where I named a horse Sweet Cooch Brown and rode her a few miles through the forest where I was picked up to go tubing through some pretty quick and powerful rapids. After that, and after the lunch that almost made me slap the chef because it was so good, we went ziplining, repelling, rock climbing, and more ziplining. And after realizing I’m not in the shape I thought I was, we hit the mud baths and hot springs, covered ourselves in volcanic mud, they say, and dipped into some hot spring water. What a time to be alive.
3. Go to Nicaragua. The border is a little over an hour up the road, and it’s really inexpensive by public transportation. Leave on the 5:30am bus and head to Granada, meeting other travelers along the way. Surfers, historians, and everyone between enjoy it. This can be a day trip or a few days.
4. Playa Del Coco: Because of the local volcanoes, the sand is black, and because of the mountains surrounding you, this place is gorgeous. We hung our hammocks, dropped out clothes, and ran into the water. Talked to a couple of locals, and they let us take their banana boat and jet ski into the water. The further out we went, the more I fell in love with Costa Rica. The beach houses, the islands, the boats, the people, and the vibe. I could have stayed out there all day. Then came the sunset and I could have died there. Grab a Pina Colada from Zi Lounge! Thank me later. (Do Not Eat At The Restaurants Here Unless You Absolutely Have To. It’s Expensive and Touristy)
5. Swipe Right on Tinder. Let your matches know you’re looking for a tour guide. See parts of the city you haven’t yet walked to, and meet people who can tell you stories about the old churches, the customs, the drugs, and why you should return.
6. Sit In Parque de Centro at Sunset. Undoubtedly, the purples, oranges, reds, and yellows in the sky will capture your attention. Grab a cheap liter or gallon of coconut water from the Maxi Pali (Costa Rica Walmart), maybe some Oreos, and watch the sun change into its night clothes.
7. Get Lost. Hop on a random bus, and ride until something looks cool. Get off and wander the area, eat locally, support local businesses, and have a conversation with someone about the town. You’ll find most people are good, and love to practice their English and help you practice your Spanish.
8. Go As Far From Your Comfort Zone As Possible. Abandon control and live.
9. Go Back.
I had an amazing time, and I will definitely be returning on a solo mission one day in the near future, taking in other regions of Costa Rica, and other countries in Central America.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.