Backpack Beats Part 2: Costa Rica 

Backpack Beats Part 2: Costa Rica 

By Daniella De Windt 

Latin America, here we come! Two inexperienced 23-year-olds, my friend Sofie and I set off on a great backpacking adventure through Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama, to celebrate the completion of our Bachelor degrees. After many months of planning, receiving tips from knowledgeable travellers, discussing which bikinis to bring, and persuading our protective family members, it was finally time to embark on our three-month trip in September 2019.

I will be sharing our adventures and recommendations over the following weeks in The Weekender.


Of course, it wouldn’t be a study abroad experience without a road-trip. So, with five other slightly hungover students, we crammed into a big rental car and set off to Tamarindo, another Pacific surf town. The journey that should have taken us about four hours according to Google Maps, ended up taking us over six hours, due to traffic and bad roads (sounds familiar?).

We finally arrived in Tamarindo around 9:00pm and went straight to dinner at El Sapo, where we had one of the best pizzas of our lives. Hello, fresh burrata ball melting away on a crispy pizza margheritha! Goodbye, road trip “hanger”!

After a great night of sleep in our comfy Airbnb, we headed to the beautiful Playa Conchal, where the remnants of millions of crushed conch shells make up the sand. We then continued on to the surf beach Playa Avallenas. After a late lunch at beach restaurant Lola’s, the confident surfers tried to conquer the big waves. But when we saw the others struggle to get out of the dangerous current, Lea and I were really happy we had chosen a chill cocktail over putting our lives at risk

Tamarindo is known for its nightlife, so after homemade fajitas and some drinking games, it was time to check out the local watering holes. The bars were all bustling and – naturally – the ladies drank for free, so let’s just say it was a memorable night.

After turbo-cleaning our messy Airbnb (no bad guest reviews here), we went for a refreshing swim in the rain and some burgers at the Surf Shack, before loading up the car to return to Jaco.

La Fortuna

We embarked on our next road trip after finishing our last week of Spanish class in Jaco. This journey would take us to La Fortuna, a cute town shadowed by the Arenal volcano, from which we would head off to the cloud forests of Monteverde.

After a four-hour drive and some roadside ceviche, we arrived at the modern Selina hostel in La Fortuna and curled up in our dorm beds.

Early to bed, early to rise; we walked over to El Salto: an adventurous swimming hole with a rope swing. Next up: the volcanic hot springs – rocky pools in the naturally warm Tabacon River – to soak in the mineral water. Best thing about these activities is that they are truly backpack-budget-proof: the courage to ask for some directions is the only cost.


The sunset drive to Monteverde was unexpectedly gorgeous, but the complete darkness and thick fog afterward made the last hour less enjoyable. Thankfully, we survived and the hot tubs and wooden bungalows at the charming Selina hostel welcomed us.

When the long-awaited morning arrived, we were excited to be going to zipline through the cloud forest! A true adrenaline rush on the 1km superman zip line and the freefall swing, but also beautiful aerial views of the lush jungle. Our well-deserved lunch at Taco Taco was followed by delicious cappuccinos and dulce de leche at Beso Espresso & Roasters. Being broke backpackers, we found two other great and – most importantly – free activities: climbing all the way up an old fiscus tree and hiking through the cloud forest reservation.

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo – a surf town on the Caribbean coast – was the last place we visited in Costa Rica. And I don’t know if it was the town’s familiar Caribbean feel, or the friendly people, but we ended up lingering here for seven nights, despite the all-too-frequent rain showers and the slow low season.

One of the most popular things to do is the 13km-long bike ride, which passes four different beaches and beautiful scenery. Cahuita National Park is another great day trip: the 10km walk through the lush jungle passing beautiful beaches is sure to burn some of those cocktail calories. A monkey with a baby on her back ripped our lunch sandwiches out of my hands, but hey, at least we could now say we had had the full Costa Rican experience!

However, our favourite was definitely the Jaguar Rescue Center – an animal rescue centre, just a short bike ride away. The name is a bit misleading, as there were hardly any jaguars, but we did see snakes, birds, monkeys, caimans, felines and, of course, the cutest of them all, dozens of baby sloths!

In the evenings, the sleepy Puerto Viejo transforms into a lively party destination. On Wednesdays, everyone heads over to Johnny’s for ladies night on the beach. Saturdays are for warming up the vocal chords with karaoke and spicy tequila at Tasty Waves before continuing the night on the town. Hangovers are traditionally cured with a big brunch at Bread and Chocolate, while Soulsurfer’s beach burgers provide the perfect pre-drinking meal.

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