After 2 weeks travelling on the Northwest Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, I stayed 2 more weeks to travel on the Southwest Pacific Coast of Costa Rica with a friend. I was super excited, as I knew that it was not the most touristic part of Costa Rica. I couldn’t wait to pretend being the female version of Indiana Jones and start this new adventure! If you are looking for more rawness and pureness, I can’t recommend enough this part of the country. Now, let’s dive in!
Day 1: Night in San Jose
I noticed that planes (from Europe at least) usually arrive at night around 6pm so taking a first night in San Jose at your arrival is a good idea. It leaves you the time to rest and recover from the jetlag. I can’t recommend enough Xandari Resort & Spa, a beautiful hotel in Alajuela (the city of the airport).
Day 2: Let’s head towards Manuel Antonio
After a bit more than 3 hours drive in the afternoon (took our time in the morning to enjoy the Infinity pool in the hotel), we arrived in Manuel Antonio at night. Sun sets early at the end of the dry season at least (around March-April). We booked Selina Manuel Antonio hostel for 3 nights to enjoy first a bit of social life before going into the middle of the jungle, and we were not disappointed! First night there a Silent Disco was organized. It was the first time I was doing that in my life and it was super fun.
Day 3: Boats, boats, boats!
Waking up the next morning, we saw that the hostel had a partnership with different touring companies including Sunset Sails. We booked their tour starting in the beginning of the afternoon. And there we went! And it was amazing! We were 8 on a big catamaran, sailing around Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way to go to our snorkelling destination, we saw some dolphins. The snorkelling wasn’t that much of a surprise. There was not a lot to see but the sunset from the boat while coming back on it was priceless. We got an awesome meal while sipping a fresh pineapple juice. Perfect moment.
Day 4: First surf lesson!
After enjoying a delicious breakfast at the hostel and some time on the beach, we went for our first surf lesson ever, booked at the hostel, at Manuel Antonio beach! We had a good time although our teacher wasn’t really good. At night, the waves got really big and dangerous and the guy left us on our own while surfing on his own. But that still awakened in my friend and I the eager to learn. So we are actually searching for a holidays where people can teach us how to surf (if you know any good, tell me!).
Day 5: Jungle time!
Got awake at 5 with a strange feeling I forgot something but fortunately it came back. We had our boat in Sierpe to go to our next hostel soon! We prepared quickly and jumped into the car. In Sierpe, we left our car in a private parking and took a boat to go to our next hostel: Jungla Del Jaguar. Located after Drake Bay, close to Corcovado National Park, Jungla Del Jaguar was our favourite place in the whole trip. We loved it so much that we actually decided to stay there 9 nights instead of 3!
This hostel has a beautiful story as an woman many years ago came to this place and fell in love with it and also a Costa Rican living there. They had 2 kids who grew up on this very isolated part of the Corcovado with only sea access. Later, everyone moved and the now owner left to study medicine in US. But few years after, his dad died and he couldn’t leave the place like that. He abandoned his studies in the US to create this hostel and I am so grateful that he did.
In the afternoon, we decided to go for the short hike (45min) around the hostel. We saw and heard many monkeys. And 5 minutes after being back, some people in the hostel offered us to come with them see the Bat Caves for sunset time. What? They got bat caves? Let’s see that! And there we went to see one of the most beautiful hike and sunset I’ve seen in my life. We walked for 2 hours and came back when the sun was down. It was a bit hard as I forgot my front torch but fortunately other people had some.
Day 6: Hikes, hikes, hikes!
From the hotel, as you see, you can do many hikes by yourself. That day, we went for a 4-hour hike called the Nature Trail by the hostel. Nice and challenging hike where we saw again lots of monkeys and even a tapir running away!
Day 7: Chilling time
What we loved in this hotel is the fact that there is always something to do or see but you can also chill out in the hammocks in front of the beach as much as you want to. I decided to chill out all day while my friend was doing horseback riding in the jungle.
Day 8: Don’t go to Drake Bay
That’s it. It’s our last day in this beautiful paradise. My friend and I feel so sad to leave. We fell so much in love with this place but we already booked different hotels like the next one in Drake Bay at Las Cotingas. Arrived there, we discover for the first time Drake Bay and we are really disappointed. Touristy, without any charm, the Bay looks like it was made only for tourists. In our hotel, there is nobody and although the room price is more expensive than the Jungla, the room quality is far from being better. No hesitation. We call back Leo and ask him to take us back. Our room isn’t available but no worries, he got another one for us. ‘Pura Vida’ as Costa Rican always says, there is always a way to make it work!
Before going back to the hostel, we are with Claudio, Dixon and Ismael (all working in the hostel) in Drake Bay doing food shopping. When you are living in such a remote place, everything is more complicated and food shopping is part of it. We helped the guys and discovered the city at the same time, cancelled our booking at Las Cotingas, and came back on the boat. The guys tried to catch some fishes on the way back (the fish served in the hostel is always caught by the owner, his girlfriend or people from the hostel). And we rested in the afternoon.
Day 9: Can we stay there forever please?
That day, Claudio, the guy working at the reception, went for a hike with us and showed us a hidden waterfall. It fell like time has stopped. The waterfall sound was super relaxing, the sun was just over our head to be hot but too much to be burned, swimming into this deep waterfall surrounded by camarones, or shrimps in English.
After this beautiful moment, we came back to eat at the hostel. There, you can cook your own food that you need to bring because they are no food store close to the hostel or you can order a nice meal from the chef. My favourite: the veggie wrap with vegetables and black beans, served with fried plantains bananas.
The afternoon, Leo, the owner, offered us to swim to another beach not far from the hostel. After 20 minutes swim, we arrived on a beautiful beach where we played Tarzan, grabbing vines and jumping into the air, got refreshed at a waterfall and play on a old tree like it was a slackline.
Day 10: Guided tour in Corcovado
Early in the morning, we took off to Corcovado National Park, the official entrance (the hostel part of the jungle is not part of the Corcovado but is right close to it so it’s kind of the same) but apparently there were more mammals in this part of the jungle. And indeed! Just as we arrived, our guide (the hostel owner’s girlfriend Elizabeth) shows us some coatis and their babies. We stayed there quite a while to observe them. They were so cute! We also saw lots of monkeys, red macaws flying in couple (they are mate for life) and crocodiles. After that, we hiked to a big waterfall and a small one where we stayed to cool down before coming back to the hostel.
Day 11: Hike to Rincon Beach
We asked to the chef some sandwiches and took off to Rincon Beach. The owner recommended us this 3h trail to this beautiful beach (nice surf spot too). On the way we gathered some fruits that we ate on the way or brought back with us and ask Claudio to make us a juice with it. The weather was not nice but we still appreciated our swim there and the beautiful walk along the coast.
Day 12: Enjoying the tide pools and snorkelling
That day, we finally tried the tide pool that Leo was telling us about! When it is low tide, you can swim into this sweet, calm spot with no waves. And I truly felt like a kid there, searching for the most beautiful shells (and they are a LOT of beautiful ones in Costa Rica). Then, we rented some snorkelling equipment to see what fishes were around the hostel. As they are multiple rocks around, we thought we could see some animals but we did in the afternoon, where the waves are getting stronger so it was not the best moment to do it. I still saw some big fishes with beautiful black and yellow colours.
Day 13: Cano Island
Booked a tour with the hostel to Cano Island, a beautiful marine biological reserve literally in front of the hostel. We did 2 snorkelling where we had the chance to see multiple fishes and a shark, and on the way to go there dolphins and jumping manta rays! We stopped 1h on the island’s beach and then went to another beach for lunch. It was a beautiful experience really not to miss while in Corcovado.
Day 14: Uvita and Dominical
Time to leave this dreamy place, we were really sad and coming back to ‘real life’ was hard. But we were first happy to see that our rental car still there. We told the guy 10 days ago, we would leave the car for 3 days and we finally came back 10 days after! And we payed really nothing for the parking.
Then we moved though Uvita, couldn’t stop to the Ballena’s beach as it was too badly indicated on the road and we didn’t want to go back. But we made a stop a bit after at Dominical Beach. We were so disappointed. We payed the entrance to go on the beach and for the parking and the beach was really not great. We walked 20 minutes to make the entrance worth it but we left quickly after that.
We finally came back to our favourite hostel Selina and went on Manuel Antonio’s beach. As it was Semana Santa, the beach was completely full. All Costa Ricans families were there, under tents, talking, partying and drinking. It was a completely different atmosphere from the last time we were there. But still great!
Day 15: Manuel Antonio National Park
We woke up early to arrive at the opening at the park and…unfortunately we are not alone there. We can already see a huge line. Fortunately, one guy saw us arrived and ask us if we want to skip the line. Who would say no? We payed him 40 dollars, skipped the line and waited for our guide inside. The guide was great. We saw sloths and lots of monkeys and crabs and at the end of the 1h30 tour, he left us at the beaches. We were told to go directly to the second one so we did. We spent few hours there, enjoyed the view and a swim, then went for a 1h walk on the last trail. We did see some beautiful lookouts so I think you really need to do it.
In the end, we payed 5 dollars more than what Selina was offering us for a guided tour in the park but it was worth to skip the line and possibly a long-time wait. It wasn’t the best guided tour ever because there were a lot of tourists but the lookouts and the beaches are still a must to see if you are around Manuel Antonio National Park area.
Day 16: On the road to San Jose
We planned 3 hours to go back to San Jose and we finally made it in 6 hours. It was the craziest drive I have ever done. People were driving in the same direction on both sides of the highway!! Because it was Semana Santa, at the beginning of the holy week, they opened the highway completely in one direction as all Costa Ricans were leaving the city to go to the beaches and at the end of it like we were, they did reversely. And fortunately for us, we were coming back up at the right moment. If we didn’t, I don’t know how we could have come back to the city!
We arrived at our hostel at night: Costa Rican Backpackers. They have a parking so if you have a rental car that is great but it is really small (4 cars max) so pay attention if you are going there during the high season! Except that, the place looked just creepy. The communal spaces smelled toxic chemicals, the food was disgusting and the people at the reception were not really nice either.
Day 17: Irazu Volcano
We planned to be there at the opening (8am) as we saw in our guide that Sundays and Bank Holidays days were the busiest days. Fortunately, we arrived earlier and were from the first people to get in. The view there was gorgeous. Apparently, it is only starting at 10am that the clouds are covering the crater making it impossible to see the lake inside but fortunately we did see it in perfect conditions. There, you can do another trail to climb up. We did it as we thought we would saw the lake better but you can’t see it at all so don’t loose your time.
Day 18: One last day in paradise
We changed hotels although we paid already because we wanted to have an amazing last day in Costa Rica. We came back to Xandari Resort & Spa and enjoyed the view from the restaurant for lunch, the Infinity pool and a beautiful room.
Day 19: Time to go back
My friend left early in the morning and as mine was in the afternoon. I enjoyed a bit longer the pool and did also an amazing Do-Terra Aromatouch massage. Best time ever!
And that marks the end of my 1-month roadtrip in Costa Rica! It truly is a beautiful country if you are still hesitating to choose it as your next holiday destination. Costa Ricans are super nice, food is good (I can’t say best food ever because I am more into Asian cuisine but…lot of people like burritos aha), the landscapes are amazing and the fauna and flora is incredible.
If you have any more questions about this trip, don’t hesitate to ask me more questions in the comments. I would be happy to help you!
And if the Southwest part of Costa Rica doesn’t seem to fit what you want, you can still get some inspiration from my roadtrip into the Northwest part of the country!
Thanks for reading!