Green Season in Costa Rica

Week 11 – Playas del Coco to Monteverde

Wow, as first impressions go, I’m impressed. I was happy we finally arrived in the green season in Costa Rica. It was a nice and easy transition through the borders. As well as nice and easy-to-understand buses. Plus, we didn’t get ripped off getting the local bus. We were off to a great start. We arrived early afternoon in Playas del Coco, a nice beachside village. It did look set up for the holidaymakers but the sun was out. So no complaints.

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Straight Down to Business in the Green Season in Costa Rica

A brown sand beach
Playas del Coco

We did all the small things like sim cards, buying food, and booking activities. We were in Playas del Coco for my friend to be able to do some diving. She is an experienced diver so only she could do them but she said they were amazing!! She saw bull sharks, how awesome. I on the other hand just kicked back and worked on topping up my tan. The sea didn’t look that inviting here but the sun was out in the morning so I made the most of it. I was a little ill so had to visit a doctor for some antibiotics. Therefore, all I could do was rest to make sure I would fully recover.

The Next Stop was La Fortuna

Well, I knew there was a volcano here called Volcan Arenal but I had never seen a picture of it. To be honest, by this point, I had seen many volcanos. A volcano is a volcano, right? Wrong. This one was massive and only came out from behind the cloud as we drove into the town. I was lost for words, this volcano stood so high and wide, really commending the attention it gets from many tourists per year. What a great first impression of this town!

Moss growing from the trees in a cloud forest
Monteverde Cloud Forest

The green season in Costa Rica was in full swing. We got soaked by the rain each day. Locals even said this was the worst rainy season they have had for a while. However, we didn’t let that stop us from visiting the river swing. Even though as we arrived the heavens opened and the rain then didn’t let up for the rest of the day. The other attraction we did here was the sloth park. It was perfect visiting just after a rain storm and following tours around so you can find the animals without paying extra. The budget backpacker way.

The Final Stop for The Week Was Monteverde

Wow. The journey by bus around Costa Rica is long and takes a day. Why? Well, you end up getting three or four buses between each destination. There is a lack of direct buses unless you opted for the tourist shuttles. However, the local buses are fine just a bit of a wait between the connecting ones. For the price difference, the wait is worth it. Costa Rica is not the cheapest of destinations so saving a bit of money on transport helps the budget.

Typhoon Monteverde

a scorpion under Uv light at night in green season in costa rica

Yep. The green season in Costa Rica really delivered. A typhoon in July. I managed to get out on a nighttime jungle walk which was fantastic even though I hate creepy crawlies. The guide was great and entertaining. The rains held up and I saw many animals including a green pit viper snake. It was a great experience.

Yet, other than that the attractions were closed throughout Monteverde due to the weather. So, I planned out our next destinations and got some life admin done from the comfort of my bed whilst the rain pounded on the window.

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Backpacking Nicaragua

Week 10 – Leon to San Juan del Sur

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Another day another country. This time backpacking Nicaragua. The border crossing was something else. Probably the longest and toughest ones I have encountered to date. That was even with a company doing it for you. This was the only border where our bus was checked over plus we had to take our luggage inside for the scanners.

Border Crossing from Hell

The border crossing started with a dodgy Covid test. I think it was dodgy as we got the results back within 10 minutes. Therefore, this makes me think it’s not all above board. Anyway, we were nearly at the border after traveling 10 hours in a cramped mini-bus. We had set off early from Honduras to be able to make it to Leon, Nicaragua at midnight. It was well over the 12-hour time scale given but we arrived in one piece with negative covid tests. That is the main thing.

The Next Morning

Volcan Negro's Crater with vibrant green forest as the backdrop
Crater at Volcan Nergo

After hanging most of my clothes out to dry due to them getting wet on the roof of the mini-bus. We set off to explore the town of Leon. Then came the pouring rain. Well, due to it being the wet season it was to be expected. Leon was our first experience of the wet season, we knew it would rain for maybe a couple of hours in the afternoon however it rained all day long.

We were here in Leon to do one activity. The only thing I wanted to do was volcano boarding. Yep, sliding down the side of an active volcano on a wooden plank.

Me getting ready to sandboard down the side of a volcano
Volcano Boarding

Volcano Boarding

This activity is why everyone stops off here as well as the cathedral. However, as we set off to Volcan Negro the nerves started to set in. I am someone who gets a little nervous before trying something new. So, with the short hike to the top over with stunning views all around, it was time. Time to suit up and look like we have just escaped from prison and slide on down. It was so much fun and when the speed picked up even more fun. Well worth the experience.

Backpacking Nicaragua Some More

yellow circular sun over the shadow of Volcan Conception whilst backpacking Nicaragua
Sunset over Volcan Conception

Next on the list of places to go was Granada which was a cute town but again the rain was intense. So intense we couldn’t really explore and partake in the activities on offer. One was closed because of the landslide, the party was canceled and the clouds ruined the magma experience.

Therefore, we just went on our way as planned to Ometepe. An island in Lake Nicaragua made up of two volcanos. It was pretty impressive. Again, the hikes were closed and it rained non-stop whilst we were exploring the island by moped. However, there was one night when the sun was out and we watched it set behind Volcan Conception. It was a truly magical sunset.

Our Last Stop San Juan del Sur

The last stop was this unique, charming beach town. I really liked it despite it being the wet season here there were breaks in the rain. It looks a bit rough around the edges but I enjoyed it. Maybe because this is where I caught my first green wave and rode it all the way! What a feeling, these three days here really made me realise that I want to be able to surf. Therefore it has kicked started a new hobby. It was again nice to be somewhere for four days to relax. Finally, I was able to get some dairy-free ice cream again so I made the most of that.

Summary of Nicaragua

Backpacking Nicaragua was charming, you really get to see the day-to-day lives of the locals. I enjoyed this country for this reason despite the onslaught of rain, I was won over. I would definitely like to go back and experience more of this beautiful country.

Next week I move on to Costa Rica, a country that I’ve wanted to visit for a while. So I’m excited.

Scuba Diving in Honduras

Week 9 – Utila, Honduras

Week 9 turned into two weeks of scuba diving in Honduras on the island of Utila. With each diving company offering the same packages with varying prices it was hard to choose. Some had better living facilities than others. We ended up at Alton Diving School which had its negatives and positives.

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Choosing the Right Dive School

Altons dive shop building with the road
Alton’s Dive School

Once we were through the door it did feel like a cash grab from then on in. I completed my open water course and because of the experience, I had I opted not to go onto my advanced course as most people on the island do. The overall experience at Alton’s Dive School was average at best. The equipment looked better than its competitors and it also provided guests with a kitchen to use. (definitely not the cleanest or nicest). However, a great way to keep food costs down.

The rooms can have up to 4 people in and aren’t very big but they are basic and you get what you pay for. We managed to sneak the water from the college at was there but Alton’s does not provide fresh drinking water, this cost can add up. The experience is what you make it and for me, it was about taking a break from the open road.

Unfortunately, it’s a Negative Experience

Sunset at scuba diving in Honduras
Sunset at Alton’s Dive School

So far it’s been a negative review but there wasn’t that much to sing home about. It was basic. I had an instructor who cared more about his jokes than us, yet my friend had a great instructor and she enjoyed her time in the courses that she did. So, again whether or not you will enjoy the course depends on your instructor.

The location is good as it is at one end of the strip so away from the party scene so if you do fancy an early night it’s possible. As Utila is one main street it’s not far to go to the bars and restaurants. When you are here a day trip to Water Cay is worthwhile. The crystal blue waters and golden sand made for a perfect day. to catch a tan and snorkel.

The Real Downside

The real downside to scuba diving in Honduras is the diving itself. This is something that is beyond Alton’s control. There is the lack of sea life in the waters. The causes are overfishing, eating sharks, and the amount of rubbish swimming through the water. All in all a cheap place to get your certifications but not a great destination. I feel like I would love to spend a little more money and be able to enjoy the location as well as the diving. I feel like this island has seen its heyday for diving, unfortunately.

Next week we enter a new country and you can read about it here!

Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Week 8 – Antigua

This week’s journal entry is all about the 24 hours of experience hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala. This experience deserves its own blog. This has to be my highlight so far. I am not sure if my words can truly sum up the magical experience I had.

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Arriving at the Starting Point

From the city of Antigua which is stunning, cute, and filled with charm. We set off early to reach the starting point of the hike. The very bottom of Volcan Acatenango. This was where we had our safety briefing and picked up some warm clothes. We chose to go with one of the more expensive companies because after cutting costs on tours before; I really didn’t want to on this one. We chose Soy Tours.

What sold us on this one was the fact it was one of two that camped on the sunset side of the volcano plus the cooked pancakes in the morning. Yes, someone runs up the volcano in the morning with pancakes so they are waiting for you for when you return from sunrise.

Starting the Hike

Anyway, let’s not skip ahead. We have to talk about the hike. Oh wow, it was a hike. It was tough. There is no sugarcoating just how hard I found this. The altitude and the steep incline of the volcano really didn’t do me any favours. We hike all day through clouds upon clouds. The cloud forest we passed on our way up was misty and magical adding to the atmosphere. The clouds kept the temperature down which made the hike just a little bit more bearable. I couldn’t imagine making it to camp if that sun was blaring down on us too.

Volcan Fuego erupting at Dusk
Volcan Fuego Erupting at Dusk

We had regular breaks on our way up, the guides were great at setting a good pace for us all to follow. I do have to admit I did opt to pay extra for someone to carry my bag. Simply because we had to carry all our own water. This meant no backache. Plus, I was already unfit so the extra weight wouldn’t have worked out. When we all reached camp the clouds were still hanging about. Therefore, we all took a well-earnt rest.

When the Clouds Lifted

After, a little rested and only a little one because it wasn’t long before we could hear Volcan Fuego erupting. We were about to have the best luck because just like that the clouds that had been there all day started to slowly lift. Revealing Volcan Fuego in all its glory. Then, from that moment on the volcano didn’t disappoint. It kept going. It erupted as the sunset gave us a view for miles across the exposed valley. A valley lined with volcano after volcano. We were finally weeping the reward from my toughest hike to date.

Lava Flowing from Volcan Fuego at Nightime
Volcan Fuego at Night

Mother nature was showing off and I was all here for it as dusk turned to dark. Although, it was cold and I was happy. Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala was amazing and I just sat there watching the volcano into the night just like it was a television. The night was clear and Fuego was giving us a show shooting lava up into the air, then watching it tickle down the sides. It didn’t seem real. This moment is definitely one of those surreal moments in life.

Hiking for Sunrise

Hiking up for sunrise was a difficult one, tired from yesterday and I had a lack of sleep. However, the lack of sleep was worth listening to the volcano erupting all night long. There were some very loud bangs ringing out around the valley. However, this part of the hike was more like scrambling over rocks than following a clear nicely craved-out trail. Yet, I made it up for sunrise (just) but I did miss the break of the day. Again, Volcan Fuego was performing spluttering ash cloud after ash cloud up into the sky.

Coming Back Down

Volcan Fuego Erupting at Sunrise
Sunrise Over Looking Volcan Fuego

You would think it was easier, it was in some ways but at this point, my legs were jelly so just trying to stay upright and not slip on the stones was the mission when coming back down. Also, this time the sun was out so we got to see all the views we missed out on, on the way up. Oh my… they were pretty! All in all what an incredible experience.

Summary of Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Wow. What a truly raw experience something I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime. The company provided great guides, good food, and a perfect camp. I fully recommend using them. This is a unique experience camping on the side of one volcano whilst watching another erupt. There are no words, to sum up, the fierceness of mother nature.

Read about another exciting Central American adventure here!

Guatemalan Adventures

Week 7 – Flores Island to Lake Atitlan

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A ruin temple over 60 metres high
Temple at Tikal National Park

After a long journey from Caye Caulker, we finally arrived in Flores, Guatemala. It was time to start the Guatemalan adventures. On Flores, we only went and grabbed some food and settled in for the night.

The next day we explored the ruins of Tikal National Park. These ruins were amazing. They are situated in the middle of a jungle where these impressive Mayan ruins are scattered throughout acres upon acres of land.

As I am a budget traveller we opted to explore the ruins by ourselves. It was doable. However, we did nearly miss the famous Temple 5! Wondering through this magical jungle you were surrounded by wildlife. Birds filled the air with their tune and monkeys swung from tree to tree.

The monkeys howled loudly, they were everywhere. I feel I spent more time watching them than looking at the ruins. This experience of wandering ruins without information boards would have been better with the guide. This is so you understand the history of the ruins. Here, I would recommend getting the guide plus it wasn’t too much extra money anyway.

Guatemalan Adventures to Lanquin

Waterfall Pools lined with lush green forest during the Guatemalan adventures
Waterfall Pools at Semuc Champey

After, exploring the ruins, the next day we took a tourist bus to Semuc Champey. Semuc Champey was quite the trek to get to. It included a 12-hour bus ride through very windy mountain passes multiple times. Therefore due to the nature of the journey this ride was hell. I couldn’t tell you how many mountain passes we crossed to get there but it was unpleasant. The windy roads seemed to last forever and worse was knowing that we would be doing it all over again to get to Lake Atitlan.

Semuc Champey in my opinion was not worth the torturous journey to get there. I had seen it online with a lot of hype yet for me, it really didn’t live up to it. Normally, I am not disappointed with nature but I felt that I had seen better. The hike was a tough one and long to get to the viewing platform that overlooks the natural limestone bridge. All in all this leg of the journey could be skipped. Also, It was not cheap getting to and from Lanquin nor do hostels have cooking facilities. Therefore, for a traveller on a strict budget, this trip really starts to add up.

Exploring Lake Atitlan

green trees filling th ebackdrop with a natural pool of green and blue water
Semuc Champey

Last up for this week was exploring the many small villages that sit along Lake Atitlan. Arriving after dark was scary. The ‘ferry’ port is in a very random, dark street. Plus, that skipper was very reckless and sped across the dark lake. We made it but those bumps were something else. The small villages each offer a different feeling and are worth checking out each of them.

It was nice to kick back and relax for 4 nights. At this point, we have moved so quickly through Guatemala that it was a welcomed break to be in one place. We even finally managed to do our laundry which at this point was everything that I had in my suitcase.

The next chapter is all about continuing the Guatemalan adventures with a unique experience in Antigua, Guatemala.