Making a list, checking it twice...

Montreal Travel Blog

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T minus 8 days and counting....

1 week, 1 day till I leave for beautiful, sunny Costa Rica. I've started packing and am in the process of making sure I have everything I need for my trip. Sunscreen and mosquito repellant, check. Toiletries, bikinis, board shorts, check. New passport, anti-Malaria meds and all other vaccinations, check. Medical insurance, check. I've still got a few more things to pick up between now and next Wednesday but generally, I'm good to go.

Luggage-wise, I'm backpacking, baby! I bought the MEC Walkabout Travel Pack from Mountain Equipment Co-op that is both travel pack and day pack. I'll be unzipping the day pack as my airplane carry-on so it's perfect. I'll be sure to write up a review of the pack when I get back in case anyone's looking for something sturdy and affordable. This pack cost me $119 CAD which I think is very reasonable. Rolling up sun dresses, shorts, bikinis, and camis leave PLENTY of room still.

I've written To-Do lists here and there reminding myself of things I need to get done before I leave. I like to be prepared and am really not into the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants way of traveling. First solo trip down South and I want to have a solid idea of how this is going down. This Costa Rica surf trip will most certainly not be like my previous trips to Ireland, England, US, or Hong Kong. This is much more adventure travel and since I'm not exactly heading off to some popular all-inclusive resort, I need to coordinate a whole lot more. Thank goodness for the friendly, helpful staff at the Mal País Surf Camp.

I knew right off the bat that this would be a low-cost backpacking trip. I don't really remember how I first heard about Mal País (could have been from 'Cooler' surf magazine or word of mouth) but when I went to Google it, there was a lot. Oh right. I was looking for surf/yoga camps and found some pretty snazzy ones in Mal País. Problem was, the weeklong camps were priced a little too high for my liking at about $3000 for the camp not even including flight and transportation to Nicoya Peninsula. Though the surf/yoga camps for women were pretty luxurious and close to all-inclusive, I decided to try to organize the trip myself and proceeded to look for hostels and backpacker camps to bum around. The Mal País area is often described as having a sleepy surfer town vibe with friendly locals and surfers of all kinds making the trek out to the Pacific Coast for some awesome surf. It's becoming increasingly commercialized as its popularity grows but it's apparently still pretty relaxed.

I found the Surf Camp when Googling and was immediately attracted to it's relaxed, friendly atmosphere, proximity to beach and decent amenities, as well as the additional activities that the staff can organize including surf lessons, board rentals, day trips to Tortuga Island to snorkle, Canopy tours, horseback riding and more. At $15 a night for shared, hostel-like accommodation, how can I go wrong? Reviews were pretty good so I decided to book. Thanks to the office manager's help, I've also got a shuttle pick-up organized that includes one night accomodation the night of arrival at Hotel Los Volcanes in Alajuela, close to the Juan Santamaria International Airport, and the 6 hour long ride right to camp. I can arrange the same thing when leaving so no hassle or worry to organize transportation there. It's also great in terms of security. I'm a single, female traveller. I'd feel more nervous about taking public transportation, ferries and what-not.

So anyway, in reviewing lists and plans today, I decided to find out how far the Surf Camp is from the Café I found in town that offers Wifi. I'm planning on bringing the Midget laptop with me to Skype with the 'rents and friends and also update this blog and since I won't have a car, I'd have to walk from Camp into town. Now, the Mal País area tends to include the town of Mal País and the neighbouring town of Santa Teresa. Camp is situated in Mal País actual while the Artemis Café is in Santa Teresa. I thought I could hang out at the café in the evenings and blog/chat but it only occurred to me today that if it's a fair distance in between, walking alone at night would be just plain stupid. So I felt a bit panicked and Googled maps of the area, e-mailed the Camp and the Café and explored alternative lodging. I think my parents would be nervous wrecks if they didn't hear from me at all, same with friends. I also remembered that Playa El Carmen has the best breaks for beginners as opposed to two other Mal País beaches that are a bit fiercer and hoped the Camp is on the right beach.

THANKFULLY, it is. Also, it appears the Camp is actually relatively close to the Café. Artemis Café is just north of the main intersection while the Camp is just south. I think renting a bike for some afternoons would be smart if I want to explore more of the area, visit other beaches and what-not and if I walk to the Café every morning for breakfast, I can blog, chat, check e-mails then before heading out for the day. Perfect. So all is well still. It's a good thing I looked into this now instead of having to figure this out later and try to change accommodations on the fly. I mean, I could have done it if I had to but if I can avoid any such stress during my vacation by doing this now, I'd rather do this now.

All this to say...a little bit of planning ahead of time is prudent and I think it just makes the whole trip experience a lot better in the end with more time to enjoy and have fun. Some backpackers insist on just going with the flow but I say you can still backpack and do the adventure travel thing even if you plan ahead a little.

Resources:

Pre-Travel

Bon Séjour Travel Clinic - West Island, Montreal
Quebec Blue Cross - Travel & Health Insurance
Mountain Equipment Co-op - Outdoor adventure outfitter

Costa Rica

Hotel Los Volcanes - Close to Juan Santamaria Intl Airport; Alajuela
Montezuma Expeditions - Shuttle service to Nicoya Peninsula
Mal País Surf Camp - Mal País, Nicoya Peninsula
Artemis Café - Santa Teresa
Map of Santa Teresa - Hotels, restaurants, businesses
Map of Mal País - Hotels, restaurants, businesses
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photo by: cvanzoen