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23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

Toronto, Canada
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23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

Hi Everyone,

I will be in Costa Rica January 11-Feb 2. This is my first solo trip and backpacking trip. I am hoping I can get a few thoughts on my rough itinerary.

A bit about me/travel style:

While budget is important to me, I am not on a shoestring budget. Time is precious so I am willing to spend a bit more on transportation and make it up by staying in hostels. Plus I figure hostels will be the best place to meet fellow travellers. I am looking for a relaxing vacation and rather stay at 1 location for a longer period of time than to be on the move constantly. Monteverde/Arenal seems to interest me the least, but everyone says its a MUST SEE, hence my time there is much shorter.

I love yoga, landscape photography, beaches, and I would like to learn how to surf.

Day 1 - Fly into SJO for 2:52pm. I will miss all the shuttles to Montezuma so my thought is to get to Jaco this day and spend the night. Theres a 3:55 shuttle to Jaco or I could take a public bus. transportation-costarica.com/index.php/alaju…

Day 2: Jaco - Montezuma by boat.

Day 3-6: Montezuma

Day 7: Montezume to Monteverde/Santa Elena via Montezuma Expeditions Shuttle

Day 8: Monteverde/Santa Elena

Day 9: Monteverde/Santa Elena - La Fortuna via taxi boat

Day 10: La Fortuna

Day 11: Rafting trip to Peurto Viejo

Day 12-15: Peurto Viejo

Day 16: Peurto Viejo to Bocas del Toro via Caribe Shuttle

Day 17-21: Bocas Del Toro

Day 22: Bocas Del Toro - San Jose via Caribe Shuttle

Day 23: 3:30 flight home

Questions

1: Do you think I have time to make the 3:55 shuttle to Jaco?

2: Should I spend all my time in Montezume or check out Mal Pais?

3. Do I need to get a prepaid sim card? Am I okay without a phone?

4. Since I am in monteverde and la fortuna for only a day and a half each, any *must do* tours to recommend? There seem to be so many options.

5. Should I invest in an anti theft day back since I will have my slr in there?

6. Are money belts necessary?

7. If I swim in a waterfall should I lock my bag to a tree?

Any other tips, thoughts, recommendations are appreciated :)

Thanks everyone!

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1. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

1. I doubt that you will make the 3:55 shuttle to Jaco. It normally takes 45 minutes to an hour to get out of the airport - so if your flight is a little late, that could be an issue. Then, you have to get somewhere to be picked up by the shuttle. If you have only carryon, it will be a little faster. Where would you go to get picked up by the shuttle?

2. I would visit Mal Pais - why not?

3. You are OK without a phone - but it can often make things easier. You can buy a SIM card for your unlocked phone at the airport before you exit the terminal.

4. An anti-theft daypack would be a good idea. Also a money belt couldn't hurt. You may not need to wear it all the time - but just in case. It's not a bad idea to wear one on the public bus.

As for your itinerary - I think it is a bit much. I would spend at least 3 days in each area and eliminate something. Otherwise, you are having the "grasshopper vacation" and not really able to enjoy any one place for packing and unpacking and spending time in a vehicle.

So...... Montezuma, Arenal, Puerto Viejo, Bocas del Toro. Period.

Or.... Montezuma, Monteverde, Arenal, Puerto Viejo

Something like that.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

I agree with Hattie. Montezuma is a great little town but for surfing lessons you really want to base yourself in Malpais/Santa Teresa. No surfing to speak of in Bocas because the islands are behind the reef. If you added a couple more days in Puerto Viejo you could take surfing lessons there. Unlike many forum posters I vastly prefer PV to Bocas. Bocas was great for snorkeling and there was nightlife in Bocas town but there's a much wider variety of things to do in the area around Puerto Viejo.

Slovenia
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3. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

My tip will be about landscape photography. Although the views are exceptional, specially in the Monteverde area, too much of the color green does not allow for same spectacular landscape photos. OTOH, the wildlife photography is just out of this world. All the birds and butterflies in greatest colors. So instead of 17-50 bring your 70-200 (plus TC).

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

Thank you so much for everyones feedback. I really appreciate it.

The 3:55 shuttle would actually pick me up at the airport. Would I have enough time to go through the airport, get my bag, purchase a sim card and have time to spare for 3:55? It feels a bit tight to me... I image I'd be safest to plan on taking a bus from San Jose.

From what I have read Mal Pais is much better for people with cars and Santa Teresa might be a bit more up my alley.

I've decided to cut out Monteverde/La Fortuna making my trip : Montezuma/Santa Teresa - Peurto Viejo - Bocas Del Toro

Slovenia
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5. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

Tara, getting from Montezuma /Santa Teresa to Puerto Viejo is a long day (if not two) affair. As a stop over research about going to Tortuguero for 2 nights. There are companies that will pick you up in San Jose and drop you off in Puerto Viejo. Or consider a rafting trip on Rio Pacuare, with same pick up - drop off points.

Toronto, Canada
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6. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

Thanks xelas.

In my original plan I was going to do the rafting trip from La Fortuna. I still want to go rafting so it seems like a win win to do it out of san jose on the way to PV.

Thanks for everyones help :) I will be sure to write a trip report when I am back.

Dearborn, Michigan
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7. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

Answers:

1) You don't have time to get the 3:55 shuttle (unless you're super lucky) with luggage and customs it's just not likely. If you're just going to Jaco to get to Montezuma, get a hotel pack with Montezuma Expeditions, they'll put you up in a hotel in Alajuela (5 minutes from airport) they'll cover the cab and pick you up in a van at 6am and take you to Montezuma via the ferry by around 12:30ish(?) for $85 ($5-10 more if you want A/C in the hotel). It's longer travel time but it's no rushing and you get the awesome ferry ride (I really like the ferry). Plus, you probably only get to Montezuma a few hours later than the taxi boat, and if you have bad weather (that they can't do the boat), they're going to subtle you to montezuma in a van anyways. This way you see Alajeula which is a really Costa Rica town and not the super-touristy Jaco.

2) Montezuma is awesome, but you can probably decide when you're there about Mal Pais. (Your trip is really ambitious with a lot of running around).

3) If you've got a GSM phone (most AT&T phones are) you can probably turn on international calling for free (I do) but it's $2-3 a minute and you can still use it for emergencies (AT&T lets you get text for free but sending is 50cents). I turn on the data plan $60 for 120MB and I can make Skype calls from pretty much anywhere in Costa Rica (2 cents to US and 8-10 cents in Costa Rica, I think).

5) I use a DaySafe 100 backpack and lock my stuff up when swimming. I also have a much smaller version bag (like the security insert) that they make so if I don't have my SLR with me that I can still lock my stuff up but not need the bigger backpack.

6) It certainly wouldn't hurt. I only use when traveling from place to place. But you're traveling way more than me. I've got 16 days in Costa Rica on my next trip and I'm spending 90% of the time in the same place (Montezuma).

7) Lock up at beach or waterfall. Always!

Gary

8. Re: 23 day backpacking trip - itinerary/questions

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