One of the Ways We Save Money

When you’re travelling and you have no job but you do have a strict budget, saving money becomes top of mind. At least it does when you’re in places like Costa Rica. 

Because Costa Rica enjoys a relatively high standard of living, quite comparable to that in the US, things are more expensive here. Especially compared to Nicaragua, which is the second poorest country in Central America (Haiti being the poorest).

Even knowing this, we’re still always a little nervous when we get our restaurant bill. Even at Sodas (notoriously cheap eateries), casados (typical Costa Rican meal consisting of rice, beans, salad, meat, sometimes a drink) go for 3,000-3,5000 colones (about $5.60-6.60usd). Double that for two people and it adds up!

tasty vegetarian casado Cyn had in Santa Elena
tasty vegetarian casado Cyn had in Santa Elena

You can easily save money on food by staying in places that have shared kitchens and cooking your own meals! 

One day Matt set out to cook a coconut lentil curry. It was A-MAZING! And the groceries cost 4,760 colonies (about $9.00USD), which is amazing considering our meals the pervious night were 5,000 colonies (for a veg curry with rice and beans, and 6,000 colonies for shrimp with rice and beans). Don’t get me wrong, both of those meals were SO good…they were just a little expensive for our budget. 

Shared kitchens are really popular in Costa Rica and so far almost every place we’ve stayed has had a shared kitchen. Sure, some are better stocked than others, but hey –anything is better than nothing!

Stretch your budget (and precious time) even further by cooking meals that can be eaten twice. And remember to pick up some ziplock bags for your leftovers!


Matt cooking a curry in a limitrd shared kitchen
Matt cooking a curry in a limited shared kitchen
The finished curry
The finished curry


Where we stayed to cook this tasty coconut curry: Cabinas Manzanillo – very clean, large room and bathroom, a little too solid of a bed yet quiet at night and not many mosquitos.

We also stayed at a lovely little place for two nights prior: Tambia Point (cabin room)

— Cyn

She Redeemed Herself – Cahuita by Day

Our first impression of Cahuita was…odd, to say the least. Aside from the drunkards, there was the strange old man who came up to us in the middle of the street asking if we smoked (no), who then proceeded to shove a huge-ass avocado in our faces and promptly let us know it was an avocado (yes).

Thanks man. We don’t want your avocado though. Maybe tomorrow, friend.

Surely, it was a full moon when we arrived in Cahuita? It had to have been. There was just so much weirdness!

Things got much more normal after the first night. Aside from the food poisoning/shouldn’t-have-ordered-the-fish that Matt experienced, that is. 

Once Matt was feeling a little better, we ventured out of the bustling metropolis of Cahuita (remember, population 600ish) down a 2 km dirt road to Playa Negra. 

Playa Negra was beautiful, what with her black sand, warm water, and jungle-y perimeter. We were also basically the only people on the beach.

Playa Negra at Cahuita, Costa Rica
Even the walk there was nice and peaceful.  There were hardly any cars on the street, most people just ride bikes.

There was a little surprise though. You know in Los Angeles and specifically on Venice Beach, how there’s Muscle Beach? Well, just before Playa Negra, there’s a tiny one of those. What a surprise! And really handy if you’re fixing for a workout.

On the other side of Cahuita is Cahuita National Park. This is where the real magic was. Positively no weirdness there. 

Unlike other national parks in Costa Rica, you just give a donation of your choosing as your admission fee and then you’re free to hike and go to the beach.

(This was really good for us because the $15-20 USD per person admission charges in Monteverde, Santa Elena, and Tortuguero really hurt our budget.)

We were about 10 feet into the national park when we saw white face monkeys! Up until this day, we had only seen (and heard) Howler Monkeys. These white face monkeys were adorable little guys hanging out in the trees! 

After we watched them play for a few minutes, we carried on through the beach-side jungle, dodging billions of leaf cutter ants along the way. I do not like ants. At all. 

When we had enough ant dodging, we popped out of jungle and onto the beach. It felt like our own little Gilligan’s Island.

Playa Blanca at Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica

We spent the afternoon on the beach, which carries the highest ecological certification that’s possible. It’s beautiful and wonderful for swimming but it did get a little busier than Playa Negra. Still well worth it. And here’s why. 

It’s a playground for Dolphins!

Just as we were leaving, there was a pod of dolphins swimming right near the beach. It was amazing! We tried to take a video but to no avail. 

Then we saw white face monkeys again, and one fell out of a tree! LOL

All in all, I’m glad that we gave Cahuita a chance. The old-school houses on stilts were charming, the beach beautiful, and the wildlife just great! It also helped when we found somewhere good to eat dinner!

Traditional house on stilts
The delicious restaurant

Where we stayed: Cabinas Cahuita – comfortable bed, good location near the entrance to the national park and the a/c was a pleasant surprise. Dudley is there to look out for you and help out in any way he can. He’s a true gentleman.

Favourite restaurant in Cahuita: Palenque Luisa

Getting to Monteverde, Costa Rica from the Nicaraguan Border – The Budget Way

As it’s not so straightforward to do this journey, we thought we would give a little how-to descriptions…

Now, to begin with we almost missed our stop. Like, we were so close to missing it and probably going straight to San Jose. That’s not where we wanted to go.

And thus, our first lived-lesson on the difference between Nicaragua and Costa Rica: in Nicaragua the bus driver/conductor/cash collector will tell you when to get off the bus. In Costa Rica, ain’t nobody helping you so you better hope you preloaded the Google Map onto your phone and that your GPS is working. Otherwise, I have no idea how you’re supposed to know.

And now, our second lesson: Costa Rican buses are less chaotic than Nicaraguan buses, and you will most likely get an assigned seat for your journey in Costa Rica. 

And now for lesson number 3: In Nicaragua, you can ride on a bus for ages before you have to pay someone. That someone you pay walks around the bus and collects money from people (you don’t pay the driver). In Costa Rica, you either buy a ticket beforehand, or pay the driver directly — there is no bus conductor making sure that little old ladies carrying baby chickens get a seat. 

Are you still with me? 

Ready for lesson four, then? In Costa Rica the bus prices are posted, whether it’s in the bus or in the station, so you know that you’re paying the same price as everyone else. In Nicaragua, it’s a crap shoot – I never knew how much buses were supposed to cost. Once we were told that our bus was going to cost about 50 cordobas (just about $2USD) each and it ended up costing us around 28 cordobas (about $1 USD) for the two of us (I can’t remember the exact price but it was WAY cheaper than we were told it would be). On the way home (same route) it was even cheaper.

I swear this is the last lesson for this post. It’s lesson number five: Buses in Costa Rica are much more expensive than Nicaragua. But they’re still really quite cheap, especially compared to Canada. 

The journey by public bus from the Nica/Tica border (Peñas Blancas) cost us $9USD a person. So $18USD total.

There was not a great deal of indication as to how to go from the border to Monteverde so we asked around and were quickly directed to the public bus ticket office and bought a ticket to “Cruce Sardinal”. We had doubts this was where we needed to go yet paid up and waited.

Our first stop was in the middle of the road, in the middle of nowheresville…obviously, there was no discernable identification that that was in fact where we were supposed to get off, cross the road, and get on a different bus at 2:30pm going a different direction.

Luckily, we asked the driver at about the right time where we needed to change to go to Monteverde. He stopped about a minute later and said “aqui”. And then directed us across the road.

We waited at the stop. And waited. And waited as people just ended up hitch hiking. We waited so long that I got a bit of a tan.

Finally at 3:30pm a bus came WOOWHOO! [note: this the last bus of the day from this junction called “La Irma” so make sure you get there before 3:30].

And it was going to Monteverde!

It was our bus — yeehaw! It really did exist. We paid the driver and then took what was the most beautiful public bus ride we’d ever taken.


So, there you go, public bus from the border to Monteverde is possible, is relatively inexpensive and took around 5 hours with waiting time. Plus, it ends up with a stunning bus ride from La Irma to Santa Elena/Monteverde.
  — Cyn

Enter the jungle [Video]

This post was a little delayed in the blogging factory. Seems like you can’t pay your blogging elves enough milk and cookies to get these posts written and uploaded in good time…

Anyhow, elves aside, we were indeed in Tortuguero, Costa Rica for a few days and so we did indeed need to enter it (at a cost of around $8 USD each). Here’s how one can locate this funky little jungle-is-massive town:

  • First, head to the Caribe Bus Terminal in San Jose and take the 9am bus. That’ll get you to the bustling jungling metropolis of Tortuguero by mid-afternoon. Get yourself a ticket to Cariari direct from San Jose.
  • The bus takes a couple hours and drops you off at the “new” bus station in the south of town. You’ll then need to take the public bus to La Pavona from Cariari. For us, this bus was fortunately waiting for us there so we just walked a couple metres, got on it, paid the driver for our one way bus and boat ticket to Tortuguero and set off. (If the bus isn’t waiting you may need to walk 400 metres or so up the road to the “old” bus station to catch the bus to La Pavona). 
  • The second bus takes around an hour to La Pavona. When you arrive, you’ll find a restaurant with some expensive ($1usd per use), albeit it nice and clean, banos. You will also find the dock where the public boat will be waiting for you (they wait for the bus to arrive before setting off). 
  • At the dock, you’ve got your ticket already (or we saw some peeps had to pay for the boat still) yet you will still need to pay for your big backpacks to go on a separate little river boat to Tortuguero. Don’t worry, the boat with your bags follows you or you follow it all the way. It cost us 1,000 Colones per bag (around $2 each).
  • Now you’re on the boat you can sit back and enjoy one of the greatest 1 hour water taxi rides you’ll ever take…

  — Matt

First Impression of Cahuita, Costa Rica and it’s a Little Twisted

From the moment we stepped off the bus, I felt like this place was different. The energy, the vibe, this place has something that the others didn’t.

And, after being here for 3 hours, I think that something is an alcohol problem and a love for music. I’m not sure which is stronger. 

Walking down the street, you can hear music blasting — reggeaton, mostly — from homes and restaurants. It fits perfectly with the Caribbean vibe and the dreadlocked men and quaint pastel coloured houses on stilts.

For dinner, we followed our ears. We went to one of only 2 bars in town. There was a man singing with a guitar and he was encouraging everyone to join him by playing their maracas (grains of rice in plastic bottles). After my first Rock Limon, I joined in a little. 

The vibe was fun. 

What we saw, was not. Before the sunset, we saw multiple town drunks. There was…

  • A very muscular 30ish year old shirtless man stumbling around the middle of the road with a beer in his pocket and a bottle of vodka (probably actually moonshine) to his lips. By the time we finished our dinner, he gave up trying to wear his crocs. 
  • An extremely skinny man of probably 50 or 60 but it was impossible to tell, staggering around, sharing the moonshine/vodka/beer with the muscular man, and then passing out on a concrete bench. 
  • A woman of childbearing age, most likely a mother as her stomach looked like it has housed a child or 2 or 12, sort of strut-staggering around like she was a drunken (high as a kite maybe) Costa Rica’s Next Top Model.  

Cahuita is population 600 (ish). Maybe those 3 people aren’t representative of the whole, and I’m sure they aren’t. It’s just…hard to not notice such severely messed up folks in a teeny tiny town and not get the impression that maybe drinking your face off is kind of all there is to do.

  — Cynthia