Written by Ilene Solomon
With the close of another successful Abriendo Mentes class session, and the completion of a stellar weeklong Omprakash conference, volunteers have a bit of a break from all of the planning, preparation, and action. June and the first part of July were incredibly busy for us down here in Potrero (check out our website for more info on what we’ve been up to), so some good ol’ fashioned R&R is just what the doctor ordered.
But, what to do? Where to go? Have no fear, I’m here to give you all a low-down on the Top 10 Places to Eat, Go, and Experience in a 3 part series all about the small coastal village of Potrero. Whether you’re a potential volunteer, future tourist, or considering to move here, look no further…I’m going to hook you up with an inside scoop!
Part I: Top 10 Places to Go
1. Beach Hop. We are quite lucky here in Potrero, as there are 7 distinctly gorgeous beaches within walking distance. From the south to the north: Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero, Playa Penca, Playa Prieta, Playa Pan de Azucar, Playa Danta, and Playa Dantita. Each beach offers something special and unique. Spend the day hiking from one to the next, or spread the exploration out over your time in Costa Rica. You’ll have your favorites before you know it.
2. Playa Danta. While we are on the subject of beaches, you might want to set aside an entire day for Playa Danta. This beach is about a 40-mintue hike when the tide is low, an hour hike on the road, or accessible by bus or hitching a ride. Once there, you can enjoy a mouth-watering-good meal at Lola’s (stay tuned for the DL on Lola’s!), rent a paddleboard or scuba mask, or check out the trails for some hiking or mountain biking. If you’re a little more adventurous, you can even explore the Geocache past volunteer Petr Obhildal set up on one of those islands!
3. Hike to the Castle in Potrero. Just north of the plaza you will reach a fork in the road. Take the path to the right and brace yourself for a hike you’ll never forget! Although your eyes will be happy—breathtaking views of the jungle, beaches, and ocean surround you—your legs will not be as happy. Make sure you stretch out those muscles and bring plenty of water and some energy-packed snacks. It’s best to start this beast early (just as the sunrises) or else you’ll be swimming in your own sweat within minutes.
4. Gelato at the Villagio in Potrero. Whether you’ve just finished the Castle Hike or teaching Abriendo Mentes classes, gelato is the perfect way to treat yourself. From refreshing mint chocolate chip, to creamy cherry, to mango sorbet, you can’t go wrong. This authentic Italian dessert is better in two scoops, because by the time you’re finished, you’ll wish you had more!
5. Tamarindo. About a 30 minute drive (or 2 hour bus ride) away you’ll enter a whole new world of Costa Rica—the tourist haven, Tamarindo, or as the locals call is TamaGRINGO. Here you will find everything from delicious sushi restaurants, cheap surf rentals/lessons, an abundance of souvenir shops, and a lively nightlife scene. On the outskirts of town lays the glowing AutoMercado—a super center grocery store with all of the luxuries from back home…even Dr. Pepper!
6. Rincon de la Vieja: A volcanic National Park almost 2 hours northeast of Potrero. Here you can quench your thirst for adventure with a package tour of zip lining, tubing, horseback riding, and mud baths (one option has a huge water slide in lieu of the tubing) and lunch. Prepare yourself for an all-day excursion. You can also hit the trails on your own. To add another level of adventure: bring your tent and camp at the foot of the volcano!
7. Palo Verde River Tour: In the Palo Verde National Park 2 hours southeast of Potrero, you’ll find a unique place where wetlands and dry rainforest met. Take a river boat cruise through mangroves and canals for some great bird watching, crocodile sitting, and of course lots of howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys. Lunch and transportation are included in this half-day experience. Be sure to bring your camera!
8. Arenal Volcano. A Costa Rican must see! Most likely the greatest tourist attraction in the country, and the most active volcano in Costa Rica, Volcano Arenal, hosts a countless number of visitors every year. The nearby town of La Fortuna has housing accommodations of all budget levels, fine-dining as well as authentic sodas, and enough touts to secure any type of adventure tour you can imagine. Go zip lining, swimming in the hot springs, and hiking along the volcano. This is a place you’ll want to make time for!
9. Monteverde. I’d heard of a rain forest; I’d heard of a dry forest…but a cloud forest?!?! It’s true, Monteverde’s distinct location, elevation, and climate result in constant cloud coverage AKA cloud forest. But this area is more than just clouds. It is home to a unique blend of Ticos and Quaker settlers, which formed a progressive, earth-conscious, traveler-friendly vibe. There is everything from art galleries to rock repelling; hiking to yoga; casados to sushi. An easy Jeep-Boat-Jeep tour takes you from Arenal to Monteverde (or the reverse).
10. Rio Celeste. Located in Tenerio National Park (about 2 hours from Potrero), Rio Celeste is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder. In Costa Rican Spanish, the word for light blue is “celeste.” This river is said to be the place where “God washed his paintbrush after painting the sky”…and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s the deal: sulfur which is emitted by volcanic activity mixes with calcium carbonate. What’s left? A river as brightly and beautifully celeste as you’ll ever see. An added bonus: you’re surround by rich, tropical rain forest with amazing wildlife plus, there are hot springs for swimming!
Stay tuned this week for more insider advice on Potrero from Ilene!