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       surfers walking beach playa el carmen
  - Costa Rica

8 Day Backpackers

8 Day Backpackers

Enjoy an eight-day introduction to the best of Costa Rica's budget destinations -- accessible to even the most frugal traveler.

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Monteverde & The Nicoya Peninsula

Day 1: Arrival

Fly into San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). Explore downtown San Jose and snap up a hostel bed for the evening.

Day 2: Exploration & Night Hike

Hop on the 6:30 a.m. bus to Monteverde (about $4); you’ll arrive in time for a leisurely lunch. Spend the afternoon sightseeing on foot – explore the tiny Santa Elena triangle before hiking up the hill to Cerro Plano and Monteverde. Check out the area’s small museums and natural attractions – we recommend the Frog Pond (Ranario), Bat Jungle and Butterfly Garden in particular. Worth the splurge: A night hike at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where you and your flashlight will investigate the cloud forest floor and canopied treetops for the telltale red eyes of mammals, birds and other hidden creatures.

Day 3: Cloud Forest Adventures

Venture out into the cloud forest, where trees drip with epiphytes and nature waits around every bend. Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is an excellent option for budget-conscious travelers; it’s less crowded and more biologically diverse than Monteverde Cloud Forest and it’s also less expensive. (If you’re a student, make sure to show your student ID to cut the entrance fee in half.) Worth the splurge: Monteverde is famous for its canopy tours, and flying high over lush valleys is an experience that should not be missed.

Day 4: Sightseeing

Be sure to get a window seat on the 6:00 a.m. bus to Puntarenas (about $3.50) – you’ll pass through rolling valleys, misty mountains and cowboy country before arriving at the sparkling, blue Pacific Ocean. At the Puntarenas port, buy a ferry ticket (about $3) to Paquera and grab some food to go. During the one-hour boat ride, enjoy the ferry’s party atmosphere, cold beer and incredible views (don’t forget to keep your camera handy). When the ride is over, disembark as quickly as possible – the bus to Montezuma (about $2.50) fills up fast! Enjoy the rest of the day strolling along quiet beaches and enjoying the sunset. Worth the splurge: Montezuma’s beachside budget hotels are relatively inexpensive and the ocean views are worth every penny.

Day 5: Sun, Fun & Parties

Splash around in the Pacific or rent some snorkeling gear and enjoy the morning in Montezuma. Ask ahead of time for the bus schedule to Mal Pais and plan to take the early afternoon bus (about $1.50). After finding a place to spend the night, explore the beach, work on your tan or search for your favorite watering hole. Come sundown, surfers retreat inland and Mal Pais gets its party on.

Day 6-7: Waves & Wildlife

Take time to relax and enjoy your sandy surroundings. Mal Pais and Santa Teresa are known for legendary surf, so rent a boogie board or surfboard ($10-$20 per day) and become one with the ocean. Surfing lessons are available. Worth the splurge: Loosen muscles and find your inner zen during an oceanside yoga session ($10-$15 per class). Also consider a day trip to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve ($10 entrance fee), home to monkeys, agouti and sloths.

Day 8: Departure

Take the bus back to San Jose (about $6), where you can catch any flight departing after 2:30 p.m. or spend the night in the city. Worth the splurge: If your wallet can bear it, consider flying back to San Jose – an inexpensive plane ticket (booked early) will save you about five hours of travel time and will get you to San Jose in time for flights leaving after 11:00 a.m.

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