Traveling in Costa Rica is very different than what we experienced traveling in the rest of Central America. Yes, it is more expensive (and because of this many backpackers we have met skipped it completely), but it is also cleaner and easier to travel in. There are far more people here that are on vacation versus “traveling” (i.e. longer term, multiple countries, pinching pennies). People who are taking their precious two weeks of vacation time that we deprived Americans are given (in Australia they get four weeks a year!) and packing as much into it as possible. And Costa Rica has risen to the challenge of providing a lot of bang for you buck, both in monetary terms and in terms of time. It is very easy to see and do a lot in a short time here, if you are willing and able to spend an extra few bucks (although still FAR cheaper than Hawaii or Cancun).
We came into Costa Rica with adjusted expectations of our travel expenses and so far we have had a far easier time sticking to our budget here ($80 a day here, versus $50 a day in Nicaragua). Cabs are metered, hostels all have websites, the prices of activities is stable, and there is public transport pretty much anywhere you could want to go. For example, in Santa Elena (the hub for travel to Monteverde Cloud Forest), most prices are in US dollars (which makes conversion mistakes nonexistent), all zip-line tours cost the same and any traveler can catch the school bus from town to the national park for only $1. And that price is listed on the bus, along with the times that the bus goes to the park. Everything is just so much more… organized.
We took the school bus up to the national park our third day for a little “hiking”. Now, for readers who know me know that I am NOT a hiker. I love walking, wandering, strolling etc., but strenuous hiking to a point of interest is not my thing. Luckily for me, Logan doesn’t love hiking either and Chelsea has the same views on hiking as I do, so our day in the Monteverde Cloud Forest included strolling the trails, snapping some photos, snacking on some benches, and then catching the bus back to our hostel in time for lunch. The trees were beautiful in the park and we saw lots of birds and flowers, but no big animals. There were pretty big tour groups (we opted not to get a guide) and we were not being super quiet, so the animals remained elusive. We spent the rest of our day in Santa Elena napping, playing cards, reading and preparing for our travel day to La Fortuna, the town at the base of Volcano Arenal.