Monkeys and mountains and more, oh my! Adventures in Arenal, Costa Rica

Visiting Arenal National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica. It’s an eco haven, famous the world over for its wildlife and boasting some of the most impressive natural biodiversity in the world. Holiday-makers, backpackers and researchers alike flock in their thousands to the national parks that give Costa Rica its sterling reputation as Central America’s eco-tourism hotspot. But after three months living in the built-up touristy beach town of Playas del Coco, I was starting to wonder whether Costa Rica was fully deserving of it’s place on the podium off all things ‘nature’.
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Exploring Playa la Penca, Costa Rica

Playa la Penca, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Guanacaste is famed for its beaches. They’ve earned this slice of Costa Rica global notoriety for their brilliant sand, clear waters and world-class surf. So integral to Guanacaste’s heritage are their famous ‘playas’ that the Pacific coast is peppered with towns which have taken their names from their closest beach; from Playa Hermosa to Playa Tamarindo, western Costa Rica is a veritable mecca for beach junkies. One such beach town, Playas del Coco, became my home for three months of my travels. It’s fair to say that we didn’t have a great relationship, Coco and I. Some days, driven to the brink of despair that any vestiges of natural beauty remained in this over-developed corner of the rich coast, I’d run to the hills in a desperate attempt to escape the sports bars and American diners of the main strip. Just a few kilometres away from the garish lighting and incessant noise, I’d find solace in the quiet, unadulterated calm of Playa la Penca. Not to be confused with Playa Penca – the large, popular stretch of beach which sits squarely in the middle of the long Pacific coast – Playa la Penca is a small, secluded cove which nestles demurely in between the resort towns of Coco and Hermosa.
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Month #6 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Month 6 - the good, the bad and the unexpected

Locations: Coco, La Fortuna, Arenal, Monteverde – Costa Rica // London – England // Singapore // Pulau Tioman – Malaysia The good Where do I start? The sixth month of my travels has been defined by so many singular moments of complete elation that it’s impossible to pick just one to eulogise over here. Salsa dancing in the new year on the streets of Costa Rica, or watching the sunset from my favourite local beach. Teaching my Dad to scuba dive, or the consequent time we spent travelling around Costa Rica together.  Soaring through the canopy of a Cloud Forest on zip lines, or squealing in delight as inquisitive coatis sniffed my ankles. Seeing my family and bestest friends after half a year of absence, or enjoying the first hot bath, duvet and cup of tea I’ve had for months. And that’s all before I laid eyes on the paradise that is to become my home for the next chapter of my adventure – the mind-blowingly beautiful Pulau Tioman in Malaysia. January has taken my breath away on an almost daily basis and has left me with a backlog of anecdotes that are jostling for position in my editorial calendar. After such an eventful month, I can’t wait to share the stories with you but, as each seem to deserve their own post, I’ll whet your appetite with a snapshot of my month in pictures…
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Bucket list item #3 – celebrate Christmas in a foreign country

Christmas in Costa Rica

Roaring fires, presents under a lovingly decorated tree, family gathering together over a delicious roast dinner, novelty jumpers – that’s what Christmas means to me. It’s my favourite day of the year and no amount of scroogery (yep, that’s a word) will pop my festive bubble. Or bauble if you will. And yet this year, for the very first time, I found my self struggling to get into the traditional Christmas spirit. Where oh where is my Christmas spirit? OK, I have a confession to make. I have in fact spent Christmas in a foreign country a few times when I was younger – both in Canada, Italy and, a couple of times, in Germany – but these are all cold and snowy Winter countries where chestnuts on the fire and carols at midnight are still very much the norm. So in my constant quest for new experiences, I first penned this addition to my list with visions of palm trees, beaches and scorching hot weather shimmying through my mind. Last year, in beautiful Costa Rica, my vision would become a reality.
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Falling in like with Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Finding the best bits of Playas del Coco

“I’ve got the perfect title for my first Costa Rican blog post”, I told James smugly as our tiny Avianca plane touched down at Liberia airport. “Oh yeah?”, he said, waiting as the other passengers on board – all seven of them – collected their bags and penguin-waddled past us down the gangway, “what’s that then?” Pause for suspense… “I’m in love with the Coco” I revealed ceremoniously, “like the song!”
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Month #4 – the good, the bad, and the unexpected

Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Location: Playas del Coco, Costa Rica The good Getting featured on Lonely Planet When I first started toying with the idea of writing a travel blog, I was nervous about sharing my writing with anyone. Even the thought of a friend or colleague scrutinising my thoughts and expressions would send me into paroxysms of embarrassment. But, after months of scribbling away at all hours of the night and hiding my words in a secret corner of the internet, I bit the bullet: I made ellieanywhere.com live. Weeks after, I plucked up the courage to attend a travel writing retreat where, along with a group of like-minded women, I dared to voice a dream of mine – to travel the world and write about it, full-time. During the retreat, we each tentatively put together a list of dream publications that we’d like to see our writing published in and, for me, Lonely Planet sat right up at the top.
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Diving the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in Playas del Coco

Diving the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Diving in the Pacific – an adventure 65 million years in the making With the long-awaited sequel to Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hitting the screens this year, it seems like the world has once again been swept with jurassic fever. But for me, the original is still the best. The soundtrack, the drama, the slightly dodgy animatronics, and of course the setting. The original story is based in Costa Rica and, flying into the country over miles and miles of sprawling hillside, it’s not hard to see why. From the sky, Costa Rica stretches before you as an untouched paradise, carpeted in green. It takes only the smallest leap of imagination to picture a herd of diplodocus plodding over the verdant terrain, or a pterodactyl circling the mountain peaks.
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Month #3 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

3 months travelling, Ellie Anywhere

Location: Roatan, Honduras & Playa del Coco, Costa Rica (with the briefest of stops in El Salvador) The good Becoming a certified divemaster After 12 long weeks of sweat, blood and only the occasional tears, it was a true achievement to complete the PADI divemaster internship. My diving has improved a hundred fold since landing on the shores of Roatan, and I’ve learned so much about myself and what makes me tick underwater in the process.
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Pub golf island style – exploring the bars of West End, Roatan

Bars in West End, Roatan

Turning 27 isn’t an especially notable affair. It’s a fairly underwhelming age overall, edging one step further away from ‘mid-twenties’ and into ‘late-twenties-zone’. But turning 27 in a foreign country with new friends and new places to explore was a first for me, and therefore seemed like the perfect excuse to party.
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Month #2 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Ellie Anywhere monthly roundup

Location: Roatan, Honduras The good The XVI Roatan International Fishing Tournament After 6 weeks of living in the West End of Roatan, I’d become happily accustomed to its gentle pace of life. Lazy days and relaxed evenings bleed into alcohol-fueled nocturnal activities, but when it comes to noise, hubbub and all-night parties, Roatan sits happily in the shadow of her party animal sister, Utila. That is until the weekend of the fishing tournament.
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