Costa Rica

Maximizing your Free Time in Costa Rica

Sarah Joyce is a student at West Chester University and an ISA Photo Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Getting used to being in a different country is exciting, but if you get too comfortable in one place, you might regret not seeing more of the country outside of your city. For the first two weekends of my program, we had two included excursions, the first to Tamarindo Beach, and the second to the Arenal Volcano. During the Arenal excursion, nearly everyone made plans to see other places during our free time. It was pretty easy to figure out transportation and any extra costs. I went to the town of La Fortuna and to La Fortuna waterfall with some friends. I was exhausted by the end of the weekend because I had to wake up before sunrise in order to do everything I wanted to do, but it was all worth it. Sometimes you have to wake up early enough to create your free time.

The photo on the left is the view of the Arenal Volcano from our hotel balcony, shortly before 6am. The second is from the highest observation point after a 45 minute hike.

The photo on the left is the view of the Arenal Volcano from our hotel balcony, shortly before 6am. The second is from the highest observation point after a 45 minute hike.

Halfway through our hike the clouds cleared revealing the peaks of Arenal

Halfway through our hike the clouds cleared revealing the peaks of Arenal

We passed several cows grazing on our way up to the observation point, they were behind a fence and presumably part of a dairy farm.

We passed several cows grazing on our way up to the observation point, they were behind a fence and presumably part of a dairy farm.

Overlook in the Catarata Ecological Reserve in La Fortuna.

Overlook in the Catarata Ecological Reserve in La Fortuna.

To get to the bottom of the waterfall we had to descend down over 400 steps. The way back up needless to say, was much more difficult.

To get to the bottom of the waterfall we had to descend down over 400 steps. The way back up needless to say, was much more difficult.

My best attempt to capture the breathtaking beauty of La Fortuna waterfall.

My best attempt to capture the breathtaking beauty of La Fortuna waterfall.

Several brave swimmers dared to end the chilly waters.

Several brave swimmers dared to end the chilly waters.

For my first weekend free of any group excursions, I planned a trip to Puerto Viejo, Limon, on the Caribbean Coast with some friends. I took charge of finding a hostel that would satisfy everyone’s budgets and was able to find a place not too far outside of town. It is better to plan these weekends at least a week in advance because many hostels will have very limited vacancy if you wait too long. It definitely wasn’t a 5 star resort, but we made some good memories throughout the weekend.

One Friday evening I went with a group of 5 other girls to the National Theater in San Jose to see the opera “La Bohéme”

One Friday evening I went with a group of 5 other girls to the National Theater in San Jose to see the opera “La Bohéme”

The beaches were a lot thinner than I had expected, but tourists and locals alike enjoy them nevertheless.

The beaches were a lot thinner than I had expected, but tourists and locals alike enjoy them nevertheless.

Nothing but blue skies and palm trees on the beaches in downtown Puerto Viejo

Nothing but blue skies and palm trees on the beaches in downtown Puerto Viejo

Everyone rents bikes to ride to and from the beaches and hostels in Puerto Viejo. Palm trees on the beach make for perfect hammock spots.

Everyone rents bikes to ride to and from the beaches and hostels in Puerto Viejo. Palm trees on the beach make for perfect hammock spots.

This very social monkey was a great entertainer and model to our tour group at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo

This very social monkey was a great entertainer and model to our tour group at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo

The Red Eye Tree Frog is quite famous in Costa Rica, but less known is the fact that the White Tailed Deer is the national animal of Costa Rica and is protected from hunting under law.

The Red Eye Tree Frog is quite famous in Costa Rica, but less known is the fact that the White Tailed Deer is the national animal of Costa Rica and is protected from hunting under law.

Not all of the wildlife at the Rescue Center was rescued, this caterpillar made a beautiful appearance at the start of our tour. A perfect example of the daily life of a sloth.

Not all of the wildlife at the Rescue Center was rescued, this caterpillar made a beautiful appearance at the start of our tour. A perfect example of the daily life of a sloth.

The rescue center had several adult sloths, and many baby sloths. On the far left, an adult sloth hangs in the tree, as sloths do. The middle photo shows a sloth hanging from a basket, and the far right photo shows two baby sloths who have just been fed.

The rescue center had several adult sloths, and many baby sloths. On the far left, an adult sloth hangs in the tree, as sloths do. The middle photo shows a sloth hanging from a basket, and the far right photo shows two baby sloths who have just been fed.

The world awaits…discover it.

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