Costa Rica - The Odd Tourist's Jungle Trails

After all administrative burdens to get Prado back on the road, we’re ready for Costa Rica’s famous landscapes, beaches’n’jungle adventures.

Of course, you have to put all these incredible opportunities offered by this country in relation to its prevailing concept of tourism. Well, in the context of Costa Rica mainly to their orientation towards middle-class US citizens who are primarily eager to tell at home how beautiful were the snow-white beaches, how adventurous the zip-lines in Central-America’s deep’n’unexplored jungle, and how great was the skyline of the volcano in the glooming sunset. And of course, how well they felt when applying their American tipping rules to poor Ticos. Finally’n’most important, how great it was that the Ticos accept everywhere their greenbacks – even if they charge them some 20% more for this privilege. 

Taking into account all these points you’re ready to visit the country.

San José to Junquillal Beach

Sarapiqui, 16th January

We head to the deep jungle in the Sarapiqui Area.  We’re on Highway 32; obviously, it seems to be the preferred road for all trucks sneaking around in the country.

Whatever. On the way a visit to Braulio Carrillo. 1 of the less-known national parks. We pay our 12$ entrance fee each and we’re entitled to walk some 2km within the park.  All longer hikes are currently closed due to Corona. Maybe they think these coronies use these jungle tracks to find their way to the Ticos.

Ok, never mind. And dear Ticos no reason for you to be desperate. You only pay 2$ entrance fee for exactly the same stuff. Shame on you, dear government of Costa Rica for this discrimination of innocent tourists.

The park is at the confluence of 2 small rivers. 1 with ordinary water, the other 1 originating from the slopes of Volcán Igazú, thus characterized by its shining yellow color. What more to see? Of course, all kind of veggies growing in the jungle. Quite an experience with all the roaring trucks on Highway 32 in the background. 

Then on to our accommodation. We’ve been there last year. A small lodge with a number of pretty good walks in the primary forest. Even without the noise of any trucks.

And in the evening the opportunity to have a couple of beers while admiring Costa Rica’s famous Red-Eyed Tree Frogs jumping around.

Volcán Tenorio National Park, 19th January

We move on. To La Fortuna. A kind of tourist hotspot in Costa Rica. With such incredible attractions as hanging bridges, zip-lines and some hot springs. Just make sure your dollars move quickly from your pocket to the ones of the providers of these sensations – and all adventures are yours.

We’re rather interested in a reasonable stopover for the night, a place to easily find a laundry, and most important to have an excellent dinner at El Chante Verde. A small eatery’n’watering hole mainly dedicated to backpackies.

At night, coming back to our bungalow, we have to live another adventure La Fortuna seems to get more’n’more famous for: some unruly invaders took care of our neighbors’ goods – not even leaving them a toothbrush. And the owner of the bungalows just ignoring that all.  Fortunately, we’re not victims of this robbery. Yeah, things like that may be a reality in a place with such a lot of inexperienced and unprepared tourists. Should you plan to have ur honeymoon or another great vacation in La Fortune, just think twice before staying at Rancho Cerro Azul.

Whatever. The next morning it’s time we left this place.

We drive towards the famous Rio Celeste. A rather small river famous for its turquoise color and thus, a primary tourist hotspot.

We move on to a nearby cacao plantation offering some bungalows. Surely a slightly rustic place on a working farm, but offering great surroundings and an insight view into their cacao growing business.    

You’re greeted with a glass of hot or cold chocolate. 

Later they explain to their guests how to grow cacao and how to prepare chocolate.

Of course, there’s more than cacao to discover. Even a  sloth. It seems to be born to sleep.

It’s pouring the whole night. No wonder next morning there’s dense fog. 

Nevertheless, time to visit the famous Tenorio National Park with its even more famous, turquoise Rio Celeste

According to our information, we preferably should arrive at the park gate by 8 am. Just to make sure we’re not part of the daily quota excess – thus we’d have to queue up again the next day; to avoid that we don’t need to wait for 1h to buy the tickets and to find some space on the trail to hike the 3km along Rio Celeste. Ok, Corona is still an issue; thus, no waiting time and no crowds on the trail even if we arrive at 9 am. Of course, you’ll see everywhere clear signs, that the Ticos organized everything to handle the masses arriving during a normal tourist season. An efficient ticketing system, followed by a number of bathrooms to avoid any mishappenings later in the national park and a trail wide enough to handle the masses, etc. 

And strange enough, along the hike several places they call Safety Zones. Just a few sqm cut into the wood, a bench, and most important a signboard. No idea what these places may be good for. We can only imagine they may help poor US-citizens on their all-inclusive adventure trip to rescue themselves from attacking hordes of wild elephants. But as we’re not in Africa… – who knows.

Whatever, we’re strolling along Rio Celeste. Admire the jungle along our way, the famous waterfall, some sulfur bubbling in the middle of the rivers, etc. 

Unfortunately, today the river doesn’t have the intense turquoise color it’s famous for. A consequence of the pouring rain last night.   

After some 2h, the stroll comes to an abrupt end. Fortunately, the rangers clearly indicate that. Just imagine without it, how many innocent tourists would get lost in the impenetrable jungle of Tenorio National Park

Then we’re on our way back. By now, we cross the daily crowd arriving from La Fortuna with all these different adventure tours. Hordes of backpackies squeezed in old minibusses from the hostel to their once-in-a-lifetime experience, masses of elderly well-heeled tourists breathing heavily, sweating, near to collapse just out of their a/c-busses on their organized tour thru Costa Rica, many individuals with their rental cars, exhaust from the dangers of the Tico’s way of driving. All searching for today’s ultimate kick.  Most of them with their guide, explaining them in all languages each’n’every veggie growing in the jungle, reminding them to walk faster to comply with today’s program and warning them constantly of all these unexpected dangers they may encounter in the wilderness.

Of course, these guides are perfectly right to warn their clients. Especially those who only pay them at the end of their tour.

We didn’t believe in all these dangers until we discover our favorite snake sneaking around next to us. The tiny Yellow-Green, Black-Eyed Jungle Snake. Probably the most poisonous snake existing on earth, maybe absolutely harmless. Who knows, we take a picture and leave it in peace.

Rincón de la Vieja, 21st January

We drive on to a sleepery near the small town of Bijigua. Not a too special place to stay, but they have some nice walks with even nicer hanging bridges high above the jungle.

And then it’s definitely time for a cold beer.

The next morning we’re on our way again. Towards the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. A drive thru the rural northern part of Costa Rica, around Volcán la Maravillosa. Huge pineapple plantations, small villages, narrow bumpy roads. 

The visit to the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Formerly many people visited this park to climb the volcano. After a pretty violent eruption in July 2021, they closed the hike to all innocent tourists. Watching the vid showing this spectacle makes the national park’s decision a little bit more comprehensible.

Thus, we have to limit ourselves to the short hike to several slightly less dangerous places near the park headquarter.

Despite the closure of the most impressive trail, we have to pay the most expensive entrance fee so far.

Then we have to read carefully the wooden signboard indicating very explicitly what dangerous and adventurous hike we have in mind.

Being well aware of all this, we’re allowed to walk on the 2,5km long hike to see some harmless volcanic activities and eventually stroll to some waterfalls.

Well, the trail really is superbly developed. The first part with concrete surface – for this part you may use your high-heels. The next 2km are all leveled and equipped with concrete steps. Thus, not the slightest slope, but just a few 1000 steps – each’n’every 1 too high for ordinary human beings – going up’n’down all the way. No idea who had this great idea. Nevertheless. after a few 100m you definitely start getting tired, your knees start hurting and you think you’re on a 3000m climb to a huge volcano.

It’s a hike thru a very different landscape compared to the rainforest we could admire just a day ago. By now we’re under the influence of the Pacific. 

From time to time some incredibly dangerous fumaroles or some boiling mud – slightly reminding us of grandma’s barley soup.

Initially, we planned to continue to 1 of these waterfalls. But, after these 2000 steps we simply decided to go for a lazy afternoon. Strange, after only 2,5km walk. 

Playa Junquillal, 23rd March

After all these volcanoes and hikes in the deep jungle, we think we need some beach life.

We imagine the whispering palm trees in the cool sea breeze and the smooth sound of the waves breaking on the snow-white sand shore. Snorkeling thru the corals in the crystal-clear turquoise water and admiring the incredible multitude of colorful fishes – probably the very same ones we’ll have grilled with some delicious sauce for dinner.

We arrive at Junquillal Beach. We have a bungalow just in front of the sea. Well, it’s slightly rundown, crying for a minimum of maintenance, but nobody cares.

It’s true the palm trees are whispering; unfortunately, in a pretty hot wind. The trees are full of coconuts, you just have to climb up for 20m to reach them. But no worry, they regularly fall down. Mostly without any incident, sometimes followed by a poor tourist in urgent need of a doctor.  But who cares. There’s the huge beach in front of the palm trees. Black sand, during daytime so hot, you might use it to roast a X-mas turkey. And everywhere signboards informing the poor tourist how dangerous it is to enter the sea due to rip currents. Thus, better no swimming, no snorkeling, no corals’n’fishes. 

But sunset is nice.

By the way, for dinner we have chicken.

Hey guys, enough for today. Of course, there’ll be more. Soon.




South America's Calling
Costa Rica - Coast 2 Coast, Pacific 2 Caribbean