Splette's Travel Blog
  • Nature
  • April23rd

    Puerto Viejo beach at sunset
    After a few days on the Pacific coast I went spent a long weekend in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. This time I wasn’t traveling alone, though. Rodolfo (also known as Fofo), one of my oldest Tico friends from the time I was living here was accompanying me. It’s Easter weekend and because the Easter week (Semana Santa) is the most important celebration of the year in many Latin american countries exceptional circumstances apply.

    A baby crab digging a hole at the beach

    Baby crab digging hole

    On Easter Friday there was no public transportation at all and by law it’s forbidden to sell alcohol (thankfully, popular tourist spots consequently ignore that law). For Costa Rica Easter also means that everyone is heading for the beach, so it can be extremely difficult to find a place to sleep unless one books weeks in advance – which is so not my style. so we had quite a hard time finding any kind of accommodation. Even the tents and hammocks were booked out.

    I was chasing this crab around. Eventually it was hiding behind this door.

    Bigger crab

    Eventually, Rodolfo got hold of a large hostel that isn’t listed on any of the hostel-booking websites and still had two dorm rooms available.
    We left San José on the first bus at 6am in the morning and arrived in Puerto Viejo about 5 hours later. Most of the Caribbean region of Costa Rica is quite beautiful (so is its Panamanian counterpart Bocas del Toro just across the border) and there’s something for everyone. Puerto Viejo is more of a party town at the beach. A few kilometers down the coast is Punta Uva which is much quieter and even further South is the chill village Manzanillo, a vibrant outpost of Afro-Caribbean culture.
    We stayed at Rocking J´s, a large and surprisingly well-organized hostel (for Costa Rican standards) about 10 min walk out of the city center and right at the beach. The hostel had a good and relaxed vibe and was mostly frequented by European backpackers. Next to our room was a bunch of Israeli surfer boys and we shared the room with two Dutch girls – and that baby cockroach that I found in my bed. Rest in peace little cockroach.
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  • September8th

    One of the beaches near Tamarindo. No people. Almost paradise.It was the day of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake when we returned from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. We would spend a few more days in Tamarindo, which is a small surfer town in Guanecaste (North West Costa Rica). Tamarindo is much closer to the epicenter of the earthquake than where we were at that time. So, it wasn’t a big surprise to see some damage in the holiday home of Gabo’s grandmother where we would be staying.

    A surfer at sunset at Tamarindo beach, Costa Rica

    A surfer at sunset

    After some cleaning up we headed out to the town in the old Toyota pickup truck of Gabo’s dad. Tamarindo is more expensive than it’s Nicaraguan counterpart San Juan del Sur. There are good hotels, shops, surf schools and many bars. The beach in the town is surprisingly nice (unlike San Juan or Puerto Viejo). And just a long walk or short drive away there are some really amazing beaches with almost no people. No comparison to the crowds of people you see in Europe at any half-way descent beach in summer…

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  • September5th

    Sunset in San Juan del Sur

    Peaceful sunset the day before

    I’m in the Pacific beach town of San Juan del Sur, not far from the border to Costa Rica. This morning I was woken up by a fairly strong earthquake. It turned to be a quake of magnitude 7.6 in the North-West of Costa Rica, about 150 km from here (and about 150 km from San José). It turns out that this is the strongest earthquale in Costa Rica since 1991. Everyone in the hostel got up and out of their rooms but there was no damage. The video in this article was taken in La Sabana, San José where I used to live until recently. What I was more concerned about was the chance for a tsunami because my hostel was right at the beach. But the locals didn’t seem to be too concerned. So, I turned to twitter for some real-time updates and learned that indeed a tsunami warning was issued. About 20 min later there was word that the Army is going to evacuate the beach town (ha, even German tabloid Bild got that covered). We packed out stuff but the Army never came. Instead, the Costa Rican authorities canceled their tsunami warnings and eventually a truck with loudspeakers drove through San Juan del Sur letting us know that everything is okay…

    USGS website

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  • August9th

    Splette on a cable. A great way to see the nature from above.One of those fun things I always wanted to do here in Central America but never did (despite living here for a year) is ziplining (or canopy how it’s sometimes called).
    Essentially, it’s a bunch of steel cables spanned across high standing trees. With a pulley you are attached to the cable and can glide from platform to platform. I was lucky, as my friend D’Angelo was able to get me a free ticket at the Vista Arenal tour operator. I was told there are over 120 places in Costa Rica to do this kind of activity. In the place I went to there were 12 zip lines in total, the longest one was 800m.

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  • August6th

    One of the few iguanas that wasn't sleeping

    As you may know, I am into reptiles and in particular I love iguanas. I had a green iguana for many years (may he rest in peace).
    Today, I went with my La Fortuna friends here to a place that is great for watching green iguanas. They were quite big (and fat), much larger than any others I had seen in the wild. They were also extremely lazy and sleepy. They did not seem to appreciate my excitement about them.

    One sleepy iguana

    Sleepy iguana

    Is this iguana not afraid of heights? Or suicidal? DON'T JUMP! You have every reason to live!

    Not afraid of heights

    Two lazy iguanas

    Two lazy iguanas

  • August5th

    Waterfall at sunset

    The waterfall near La FortunaI’m again visiting my American friend D’Angelo in La Fortuna, the cute little town by volcán Arenal.
    There is plenty of activities to do around Fortuna and some of the scenery here is pretty spectacular. Today I went to the nearby waterfall Catarata la Fortuna. We went swimming in the pool beneath the waterfall.The waterfall drops about 70 meters and is located at the base of a dormant volcano. At the bottom of the waterfall is a small pool in which you can swim. Considering the fact that this is a river, the water temperature was surprisingly pleasant. I tried to swim to the center but there was too much water coming down, pushing you away as you try to get too close. What a shame. I would have loved to know how this kind of shower feels like.

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  • September4th

    On the rope I descentI am in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, a small town close to volcán Arenal. While the active volcano is hidden in clouds most of the time and too dangerous to climb, there are plenty of other outdoor activities. I went on a waterfall rappelling tour (or ‘abseiling’ how the New Zealanders would call it). You trek along a small river through the forrest with several waterfalls that you climb down on a rope.

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  • September1st

    Punta Uva beach in Costa Rica. Not sure if this photo does justice to the actual beauty of this place.

    Punta Uva beach: sand, palm trees, blue sea

    After spending a month in the San José area, most of the day on the laptop to earn some money for the rest of my trip, I really needed a break; get away from the computer screen and the city for a bit. So, I decided to visit the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica of which I heard plenty of good things. A four-hour bus ride later, I arrived in Puerto Viejo, a small village on the Caribbean that is overrun by party-hungry college kids, potheads and a couple of surfers. Looking for something more quiet and laid-back, I decided to settle a few kilometers further down the coastal road in Punta Uva at the ‘Casa Viva Beach Houses’. Not the cheapest place but the cabins were just a few meters away from a gorgeous beach. There were never more than a handful of people at the beach – but a few thousand sand flies. It felt like I got bitten by every single one of them. The water was great. I haven’t been swimming in the sea for at least a year.

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  • July10th

    Coffee fruit growing on a coffee plant

    Growing coffee fruit

    One of the places Marissa really wanted to visit was a certain coffee plantation she heard about from the Guatemalan owner of a fair trade store in Chicago. After recovering from the near-death experience of our Santiaguito volcano expedition we took a chicken bus from Quetzaltenango (or Xelahow the locals call it) to a small town called Colomba.

    A chicken bus as seen in Colomba, Guatemala

    Chicken bus

    Marissa was excited about her first ride in a chicken bus. These are old yellow US school busses that, after getting a more or less fancy paint job, are used as local buses all throughout Central America. The term ‘chicken bus’ stems from the fact that people use them to transport just about anything, including chicken (on our bus there were some chicks, too). From Colomba we hat to take a collectivo to the plantation. Collectivos are another interesting mean of transportation here. It’s basically a driver with a pickup truck that leaves whenever enough passengers have accumulated to fill the back of his truck. You get lot’s of fresh air, it’s almost like driving a cabrio, only that it’s a pickup and you share the car with at least 10 other people standing next to you… on second thought it resembles more an overcrowded subway.
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  • July1st


    The next stop of my Guatemala trip was Flores, a beautiful small and sleepy town on an island in a lake. From there we went to the Mayan ruins of Tikal. If above picture looks somehow familiar to you it might be because George Lucas decided to use Tikal as a filming location for his 1977 movie Star Wars: A new hope. We left Flores at 4:30 AM to avoid the crowds and got to Tikal about two hours later. It’s my second visit there and thanks to the guided tour I got a lot more background info and animals to see this time.
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