We took a six day, five night trip inland from Golfito. The exciting and good parts of this trip are in the next post. This post is the tale of our misadventures.
We started and ended the trip with the 7 hour ride on the Tracopa Bus to San Jose ($10 per person each way). We tried to leave on Monday but the bus was booked solid, so we went Tuesday instead. The bus is comfortable but it is still a long trip.
Our first night in San Jose we got off the bus intending to walk a couple blocks to our hotel. After walking a couple blocks through the red light district, we determined that our bus had stopped at a different station than our guide book had indicated it would. We hailed a cab to our intended hotel, Posada de Don Tobias. Tobias was cheap and priced accordingly ($25 for double occupancy with private bath). We tried to wander around town but discovered that Tobias is in a poor neighbourhood; almost everything closed by dark and there were homeless people sleeping on the street.
Luckily Tobias is literally next door to the bus station for Monteverde. We caught that bus at 7am ($4 per person) and enjoyed the 4 hour ride through the mountains. In Santa Elena, the town at Monteverde, we stayed at Monteverde backpackers, which was comfortable ($20 for double occupancy with private bath).
We caught the minivan-boat-minivan to Fortuna from Monteverde, which is described as jeep-boat-jeep. We paid $25 per person for this trip, better shoppers might pay half. Or there is a 6 hour bus for $5.
Fortuna is a beautiful little town that is exists solely for the tourists coming to see Volcano Arenal. We stayed at the lovely La Roca Virgen, which was only $16 for double occupancy with private bath, and was easily our favourite of the trip.
From Fortuna we caught the bus back to San Jose. We bought advanced tickets ($2 per person), which gave us first pick of the seats but I believe cost more than the locals paid. This was well worth it as people we standing in the aisle for almost the entire 4 hour trip.
We decided to try somewhere in San Jose closer to the center of town, and ended up at Principe. Principe charges by the hour and its clientelle mostly doesn't stay the whole night. We knew it was bad as soon as we walked in, but we were too tired to do the right thing and walk out. Particularly as we had just been swindled by our cab driver. Principe was $20, but it was uncomfortable and unsanitary. We hated it so much that we took out our frustrations on each other both that night and the next day. The centre of San Jose, while busy, wasn't anything interesting either. There were lots of fast food restaurants and sketchy-looking bars, but we failed to find a single restaurant with tables and waiters on our walk.
For anyone following in our footsteps, taking this trip from Puntarenas while leaving your boat at the Costa Rica Yacht Club would be a much better plan. There are buses to Monteverde and Fortuna from Puntarenas, which is closer than San Jose. So you save two days on the bus and two nights in San Jose.