By Rachel Gallucci
Earlier this month, AM volunteers had a week off between Sessions Three and Four to travel, relax, and explore in and around Costa Rica. Of the five different trips that were taken, I caught up with volunteers from three excursions to hear some highlights from their adventures:
Sam and three other volunteers traveled around Costa Rica over the course of a five-day trip, visiting the volcanoes Tenorio and Arenal and their respective national parks. The group made their entire voyage via rental car.
Jamie and five other volunteers explored Granada, Nicaragua, over a four day stay. They made their trip via a combination of bus, taxi, and private shuttle.
Jaida and three other volunteers rented a car and over the course of six days traveled to Limón and Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, Bocas del Toro in Panama, and San José.
Who was the most interesting person you met on your trip?
Sam: The hotel we stayed at in Arenal came with a friend: an 18-year-old Tico named Cookie who had been hired by the hotel owners to do all kinds of general work on the property. Cookie was awesome—he took us hiking and cleared a path through the woods for us to access Lake Arenal, where he let us use worms he had brought to fish. Later, back at the hotel, he gutted our 12 fish and helped us grill and season them for dinner. His real name was Robert, but that’s not nearly as cool.
Jaida: In Bocas del Toro we met these two Israeli guys named Guti and Udi—Udi was my favorite. He taught me how to do dances from Israel and Ethiopia, and he had a lot of accents from different places.
What was the best activity you did on your trip?
Jamie: The best part of our trip was exploring Masaya volcano. There was sulfur coming up out of the ground as we walked around, which was cool. Apparently the volcano had just erupted five months ago, so we got to see pictures in the little museum of the parking lot being covered in lava and chunks that had fallen on cars. We also got to see an amazing view of Granada from the top of the volcano.
Jaida: Party in Bocas del Toro. It was cheap and we could walk everywhere, and they had meat on a stick. One of the docks we were at one night was lit up underneath, and we saw a squid and a box jellyfish swimming around.
What was the best food you had on your trip?
Jamie: We had this drink called Fresco de Cacao, which was like a chocolate milk, but you could feel the little grains of chocolate in it. It was delicious. We also tried the typical Nicaraguan dish called baho—which was like a pot roast without the vegetables and with different kinds of plantains.
Jaida: Oh my goodness, this amazing, delicious curry jerk rotisserie chicken in Bocas. They roasted them outside and you could smell it as you walked past. I paid $2.75 and got a quarter of a chicken and french fries. We also had this really amazing chocolate with strawberry yogurt filling.
What was the best view you came across?
Sam: Definitely the waterfall at Rio Celeste in Tenorio. The water gets really blue because of the minerals absorbed from the volcano.
Jaida: On the boat coming back from Bocas we could see all the mountains in Panama with the mist around them—it was gorgeous.
What was the best deal you got?
Sam: We stayed in a Jungle Suite overlooking Arenal for two nights, which should have cost $350, for only $100. Plus we got Cookie and a fish dinner for free.
Jamie: I bought a hammock for $5 from a guy who was walking along the street selling them out of his backpack.
Jaida: In San José I got a bunch of really nice mango wood souvenirs for only $32. Also I bought a Pura Vida shirt at Walmart for $5.
What was the best place for souvenirs?
Jamie: The Masaya market outside of Granada.
Jaida: In San José they have a touristy market where you can find whatever you need and you can just bargain, bargain, bargain—I got presents for about 20 people there.
Readers’ turn: what’s your favorite vacation spot in Central America?