Pura Vida: Sole Sisters Guide to Costa Rica & Panama

Monday, December 16, 2013

It was raining when we got out. Our shuttle was waiting for us outside. The moist air instantly stuck to my skin as we stepped out of the airport. It was midnight with pouring rain. We drove through the shiny roads reflected by orange street light. I looked around and I was in complete awe. We're in Costa Rica. Tired but happy, I felt like I was dreaming.

Costa Rica was like my first love. The first country I have ever backpacked in with a great friend by my side. Where I stayed in my first hostel. My firsts in the backpacking world happened in this lush green, rainy, beautiful and wild country. The beginning of an endless adventure.

1. San Jose, Costa Rica

Stroll through the city museums. Go on a coffee tasting tour at the oldest coffee plantation, it would be silly not to, you are in Costa Rica after all. Hike to the Poas Volcano. Be mesmerized by the La Paz Waterfalls. Observe the beauty all around you. Take it in. As if you had no past and no future. Just take it all in.

2. Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Take a bus from San Jose to the town of La Fortuna where you'll find the Arenal Volcano. Go zip lining across the rainforest, hovering over waterfalls and trees with monkeys and sloths. Yell as loud as you can. Conquer all your fears. Go hiking across the jungle, around the volcano, into the wild where the snakes, jaguars, and ocelots roam freely. Jump in the waterfalls. Go in the hot springs at night and stargaze while floating in the water. Go out with your hostel mates, gallivant around town with them. Walk around town, play with the local children, kill the language barrier with kindness, laughter, and gratitude.

3. Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Take a ferry to Puntaneras, then a late night bus to Mal Pais. Stay at a quiet little hostel called Tranquilo Backpackers in this sleepy little surf town in the Nicoya Peninsula. Beach bum's, hammock lounger's, surfer's paradise. Run on the beach, run around town, it's one of the best ways to explore the place. Jump in the ocean afterwards. Lay on the shore. Breathe with the sea, breathe with the waves.

4. Montezuma, Costa Rica

From Mal Pais, take a bus to Montezuma, a laid-back small hippie town a couple of hours away. Stay at Luz en el Cielo, an eco-hostel in the middle of a rainforest. Say hello to the sloths and monkeys hanging from the trees right above the balcony. Enjoy home-cooked family dinners while listening to good music as you connect with your hostel mates. Go to the beach, find a little cove where you can pretend to be the only person in the world. Just for a little while. 

5. Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Go back to San Jose, take a bus to Puerto Viejo to the Caribbean side. Cross the wobbly wooden bridge from Costa Rica to Panama. Take a boat to the islands of Bocas del Toro. Stay at a waterfront hostel. Ride a bike around town. Take a boat to Red Frog Beach and dig your feet into one of the best sands you will ever set foot on. Then go to Zapatillo Key Island and snorkel its vibrant reefs. Lay out on the sand, let the waves kiss your body. Watch dolphins from your boat, snorkel around the reefs some more. Ride water taxis, be in the moment, smile when you say you rode a water taxi. You don't say those kind of things often. At night, mix apple juice with vodka and lime, share with hostel mates, go out and dance the night away. Preferably with a good Latino dancer, if not, dance anyway. And dance with abandon.

Costa Rica has a famous phrase, Pura Vida. Pure life. It means to live life to the fullest, pushing all your limits, as far as adventure takes you. It means to savor life in each delicious moment and to live life with deep gratitude for everything around you. Life is short, so live happy and live free. Maybe that's the force that drives people to this country. Or maybe that's the force that drove this country to them, to me, to you.

To never-ending adventures,
Sole Sister Stephanie

Stephanie is a nomadic photographer, wanderer, adventurer, dreamer. She lives for capturing moments of bliss, wanderlust, inspiring hearts, reigniting spirits, and infinite moments of Satori. Follow her journey at Infinite Satori and get updates from her facebook page.

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