Cycling Costa Rica On A Budget

Travelling through Costa Rica can blow the daily budget out of the water! As we traversed from Costa Rica’s Pacific to Caribbean coast, we had to become more and more resourceful with food and accommodation in order to keep costs down. We avoided hotels in favour of Couchsurfing, WarmShowers, hostels, camping and random invitations. We also hit lots of panaderias for cheap and filling carbs.

Sleeping Under The Stars

On our first day in Costa Rica we luckily stumbled upon the home and restaurant of Ulf and Gorethy at Playa Copal, La Cruz. Because they were closed for the rainy season they very kindly offered us a place to camp and a refreshing shower.

Image credit: Plaza Copal Facebook page
Image credit: Plaza Copal Facebook page

Lounging In Liberia

We spent four nights in Liberia rounding up supplies and doing some repairs after a taxing week on the road. Lars took care of the bicycle maintenance while I spent time writing music.

Thank you to fellow bicycle tourers James and Sarah who suggested we stay at Posada del Tope. For $10 each per night you can stay in a massive, albeit quirky room. This fit with our ‘Costa Rican adjusted’ budget of $20 a day per person.

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Posada del Tope’s (perhaps odd) decor

Food And Good Fortune

Whilst restaurants and groceries are expensive, the bakeries in Costa Rica are fairly reasonably priced. Our favourite panadaria was ‘Santa Clara’ for their most amazing butter biscuits filled with caramel and rolled in peanuts. The more prevalent, ‘Musmanni panadaria‘ was a bit more expensive and not as delicious (in our opinion) but it more than sufficed. We over-indulged in baguettes, biscuits and pastries during our time in Costa Rica, but hey, we needed the cheap carbs!

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This massive cream cheese pastry cost just over a dollar.

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Sir Biscuit Monster McCrazy Eyes

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Lars’ RackPack is perfect for carrying a baguette for making road-side, sub sandwiches.

Good fortune found us in Guayabo when Kely, the owner of the soda (cafe), invited us to stay at her house for the night.

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We arrived in Guayabo with monstrous hunger to find some tico tipico grub at Soda El Torito.  Eating at the local sodas keep costs down. Cost per plate $5

We spent the evening chatting and playing music with her 11 year old daughter Mariela and her Grandma. Kely and her husband were both working 10-13 hours per day, 7 days a week!

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Mariela introduced us to the neighbouring niños and showed us around Guayabo.

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We practiced our Spanish with abuelita (affectionate term for grandma). Lars was actually crouching a little in this photo.

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In the morning we headed back to the Soda El Torito for desayuno on our way out of town…

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…before our goodbyes with Kely.

 Couch Surfing With The Wandering Walters

The ride from Cañas up to Lake Arenal was a slow and steady incline with beautiful views and the usual inquisitive herd of floppy-eared cows.

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New watering holes have appeared after recent heavy rains.

Just before the last few undulating climbs towards Nuevo Arenal, we stopped for fuel.

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Although most of the restaurants on the lake are above our travel budget, we found a soda with generous portions of the daily casado ¢2500 ($5 USD).

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And the race begins! Whoever finishes first can show the other their saddest, hungriest face in hope of a few extra sympathy bites (normally Lars wins).

Meet Kim, Taylor and Aubrie, our CouchSurfing hosts in Nuevo Arenal… and their three very cuddly dogs Baby, Bear and Booker.

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Around dinner time with the Wandering Walters, we whipped up our staple combo pasta & salad signature fuerza de ciclismo.

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Baby, one of the twins…

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Baby’s brother, Bear, known for stealing rolls of toilet paper for reasons unknown…

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and Booker, the oldest and wisest of the three dogs, baring a most hilarious underbite.

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Booker taking a cheeky snooze on Jenny’s Thermarest

And their next door neighbours are very friendly, always popping by for an afternoon tea of left over tortillas and the occasional biscuit!

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Back at the house, we watched Taylor and Aubrie feed biscuits to five hungry cows, now their loyal friends for life.

Originally from Maine, the Walters moved to Costa Rica almost a year ago in search of travel and an alternative lifestyle. They have been living on Lake Arenal for about six months in a cute little home with an amazing view.

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Aubrie showed us the way down to the public beach access for swimming.

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Taylor made a delicious cake for a local restaurant owner who donated lots of food to the rescue team who were searching for a man and his son who were lost in the landslide – such a sad story, but it was lovely to see how the community responded to the tragedy.

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This was an earlier attempt at another cake which didn’t work out, but provided several glorious platefuls of cake for these two ravenous cyclists.

Gringo Pete’s Hostel, La Fortuna

After the long and crazy off-road route out of Nuevo Arenal we arrived in La Fortuna at Gringo Pete’s hostel exhausted. Despite the strange name, the hostel is really clean and spacious with a great kitchen and comfortable surroundings. If you can handle the slightly over-bearing rules and very strict ‘check out or be fined’ attitude, we would recommend this place to stay on a budget. Just don’t take anyone else’s food or Gringo Pete might call the police!

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Breakfast at Gringo Pete’s Hostel, offering a well-equiped kitchen, free coffee and clean private rooms for $6 USD each

Battleship Roadside Hoagies

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We constructed this 3ft sub sandwich with eggs, avocado and salad for about $5 USD.

Hostel Sabana, San Ramon

Another great place to stay in Costa Rica is Hostel Sabana in San Ramon. The owners are really friendly and there’s plenty of room for bicycles!

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A friendly couple run this relatively new hostel in San Ramon. It’s $10 each for dorms or $30 for privates. They ended up putting us in a private room for the dorm price, because they couldn’t find the other keys!

Fellow Cyclist Eduardo, Santo Domingo

We stayed with our Warmshowers host Eduardo in the capital city of San Jose for three nights before taking a five hour bus ride east to the Caribbean.

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Sheema is not allowed up here, don’t tell Eduardo!

Eduardo bicycle toured Ecuador and Peru a few years ago but he had to cut it short due to being accepted to study on a full scholarship in Norway.

We did take a lovely picture of Eduardo but somehow it was lost on our camera! 🙁

Free! Live Music In San Jose

While in San Jose we went to a free festival (la Feria Internacional de Cine) and discovered a fantastic Nicaraguan band called Momotombo. Their use of visuals and theatrical performance on stage was a refreshing change from the more traditional bands we have come across on our travels so far. Imagine a latin-infused ‘Madness’ with thumping rhythm, electronic undertow, trombone hooks and a wild marimba player thrown in for good measure. This band is tight, and well worth checking out.

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Momotombo at Antigua Aduana, San Jose

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The bandleader changed masks at least five times during their set…

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… ending with wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. V for Vendetta!


Puerto Viejo: Smile, You’re In The Caribbean!

We finally made it to the Caribbean coast! I have been wanting to sample the gallo pinto with coconut milk and swim in the clear blue water for ages, and we were not disappointed!

We found a great hostel called La Ruka and spent two nights ($10 dorms, $25 double private). La Ruka is full of colourful art and great vibes. We couldn’t recommend this place enough.

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Finally absorbing some Caribbean rays near Puerto Viejo

How Much Did We Spend?

So for 18 days in Costa Rica we spent a total of $776. That’s $43 per day between the two of us! Not bad, considering it’s the most expensive country in Central America.

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