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Caitlin Melvin | Caitlinalisonmelvin@gmail.com | Toronto, Ontario

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COSTA RICA AND NICARAGUA | travel

March 6, 2018

When I booked a last minute trip to Costa Rica, I figured this would be the first time I relax on vacation. Costa Rica is warm, has beautiful beaches and lush rainforests. I booked the trip with my friend Kara, who I've known since grade school but have never traveled with. Little did I know that her travel mindset is exactly like mine: Not interested in staying in one place for too long.

 

So my week-long relaxing trip to Costa Rica quickly turned into a hectic and absolutely amazing backpacking trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. After experiencing everything we did, I am so glad that Kara travels like I do. 

 

I have tons to blog about and we did a few outfit posts as well that I will be sharing, but I wanted to share my travel experience with you guys first.

 

I write blog posts for another Toronto blogger, The Things I Wish I Knew. I'm her travel contributor. If you've read my posts there, you'll know that I'm the most hectic (in a good way) traveler ever. I have a knack for fitting in a LOT in a short period of time. Kara and I kept up with each other well...knowing when we needed a moment to relax and when we needed to get going again. Below is a summary of our trip. If you're not interested in reading it - I have lots of snapshots below for you to check out!

 

We started our trip by booking the cheapest and not the most ideal flights to Liberia, Costa Rica (no regrets.) For $400 CAD, we went from Toronto to Houston - missed our tight connection and got on the next flight to Liberia an hour later, and then after landing in Liberia, we took a 3 hour private shuttle to Monteverde for two nights and stayed at Los Pinos. Here we had a private 3-bedroom cabin (which we didn't need, but was all that was left). Costa Rica is quite pricey. It's really well developed so you'll find prices on food, drink and accommodations don't differ much from Canada and the U.S. (you can also drink the tap water!). We got in around 5:30pm after the sun set, but were pretty tired. We walked to the main area of Monteverde and had pizza and margaritas at a restaurant called Dons Luis. There were a lot of retired Americans and Canadians there. The following day we went zip lining with Salvatura Adventure Park. This one is great because it goes over the trees whereas some of the other companies in this area don't have much underneath the lines. I really loved it and the Tarzan swing at the end was hysterical. 

 

We made for a long trek back to Liberia where we switched shuttles and went en route to Nicaragua. This was a great way to cross the border. It was cheap and although we had to switch shuttles about 3 times in the process, a guide was always with us. It cost about $70 in total to get from Monteverde to San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is where I left my heart! San Juan Del Sur is a little surf town full of backpackers and locals who love catching waves. There's TONS of surf shops, places to eat and drink and an expansive beach to watch the sunset. It's probably not where you want to spend your day, though. But I highly recommend getting there for sun set (the sun sets really early btw!!) because they are the most spectacular! We didn't stay in San Juan Del Sur. We got off at Casa Oro, a popular surf hostel, and caught the $3 shuttle (You can buy tickets for the shuttle inside Casa Oro.) to Playa Maderas to our GORGEOUS hotel, Arte-Sano (see photo above). This little boutique hotel is the coolest. The staff were awesome, and they have two awesome pools. The hotel was actually the home of the owners (the dude is from L.A. and his wife is Nicaraguan I loved Playa Maderas. There's a chill surfer vibe here. Although it's very dry, dusty and tons of steep hills to navigate to get to the beach - it's all worth it.

 

The beach is all surfers and a few cool bars to belly up to after surfing. Kara and I have both surfed before - but living in Canada, we don't have a lot of options to keep up with it. So we did a lesson, and the instructors were really good there. English was slightly broken, but my instructor was still really helpful and helped me improve my technique. There's a hotel called Hulakai just across from Arte-Sano that hosts something fun every night. They also have a sick pool. Kara and I highly recommend Taco Tuesdays. We had so much fun that night, and it was pretty busy. Drinks are cheap and all you can eat tacos are included in your $10 entry fee. We didn't make it to their family dinner nights, but I will check it out next time for sure! Apparently people head into San Juan to party and it gets lively at nights. There's a huge Sunday Funday thing too - but I'm 32 and so is Kara, so the idea of getting drunk with a bunch of twnety-somethings didn't quite appeal to us. I'm sure it's a blast though -  most people speak of Sunday Funday when they hear you are going to San Juan Del Sur.

 

After two nights in Playa Maderas we decided to book an overnight trip in Granada. We lost a little money here because we kept our room at Arte-Sano. To get to Granada, go into San Juan Del Sur and across from the hostel Casa Oro there will be a school bus which leaves on the hour. This my friends is call the chicken bus. The public bus, and it is the coolest experience ever. Sometimes they are playing music, you get some interesting people watching in, but most importantly every so often someone will get on the bus and sell things like churros, medication, pretzels, drinks in baggies with a straw and my favourite, marshmallows. Go ahead and buy yourself a snack. Some of the snacks cost less than one cent U.S. #TreatYoSelf! Also - make sure you pee before you leave and don't drink coffee before you go. The urge to pee on the way there was so bad I almost started crying. lol

 

Granada was not my favourite but it was a cool experience. We stayed at the Maison Chocolate, which had a wicked pool. We spent most of the afternoon there and then spent about $60 U.S for a driver to take us to Masaya to see the volcano. Here we got to see bubbling lava through the gassy smoke of the crater volcano. One of the coolest things I've been able to do. Expensive? Yes. Worth it. Absolutely. Back to Granada, it's beautifully coloured with bright buildings, charming horse and carriages with guides who tell you about the city's rich history (we didn't have time to do this) but also a lot of creepy men who smack their lips at you and cat call. I HATE that. But I have zero regrets making the trek out there - it was really cool to see and I loved the architecture there. You would really only need a full day in Granada, and if you are a woman traveling alone or even a guy traveling alone, it's important to keep your wits about you. Especially when transfering busses in Rivas. Ohhhh Rivas. The taxi drivers will literally get on the bus as you're coming off, try and charm you and get you to take a taxi to your destination. The bus costs about $3-$4. A taxi costs at least $50. DON'T GET ON THE TAXI. When they approach you, say NO.

 

When we got back to Playas Maderas, we enjoyed the afternoon on the beach with all the surfers, did a little surfing ourselves and had beers with a few locals who charter sport fishing boats. I tried to coax them into letting me adopt their chocolate lab puppy, but no dice. We had a low-key night at the hotel for our last night by the pool eating pizza before calling it a night. We had a 4am wake up call since we were going back to Costa Rica. The shuttle costs $35 to Liberia and they leave early to beat the lines at the border. Kara and I lucked out both times crossing the border...we were there for about 30mins to 45mins both times.

 

For our last night, we stayed in Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica at Hotel Bosque. It's a short half hour drive to the Liberia airport and a really great spot to wind down from from traveling. It was a really nice treat, although a little expensive. Playa Hermosa is a 50+ crowd, and everything is very luxe in this area. But you feel very safe, and it's good for relaxing and sunning. I would recommend staying her for one night to enjoy some quiet time. It is a really beautiful beach!

 

And that was my trip! It was amazing, but too short! Aren't they always too short?!

 

If you have any questions about any of the places I visited, please ask!

(Granada, Nicaragua) 

 (Arte-Sano, Playa Maderas, Nicaragua - the red bruise is from zip lining FYI)

 (Maison Chocolate, Granada, Nicaragua)

 (Granada, Nicaragua)

(Playa Maderas, Nicaragua) 

 (San Jaun Del Sur, Nicaragua)

 (San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua)

(San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua)

 (Maison Chocolate, Granada, Nicaragua)

(Maison Chocolate, Granada, Nicaragua)

 (Granada, Nicaragua)

(Granada, Nicaragua) 

(Masaya Volcano, Nicarauga)

 

(Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica) 

 (Monteverde, Costa Rica)

 (My gorgeous friend Kara, Monteverde, Costa Rica)

 

 

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Caitlin Melvin lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Bryon and two cats Finnigan and Lucca. A marketing manager by day, blogger on the side, freelance social media specialist and a lover of travel and new experiences