We flew from Lima and arrived at our first destination in Central America: San Jose, Costa Rica. The fact that we seemed to be the only ones on our flight actually getting off here and not getting a connection says it all: San Jose is pretty grim. Our Rough Guide gives it the apt description of `car dealership architecture`- all there seem to be are car garages, if not it`s just low concrete buidings. Luckily, we only had an overnight stop in the capital before heading off to greener pastures.

So, the following day we went to La Fortuna, a small town right at the foot of Arenal Volcano.Our hostel was made up of little cabins set in the jungle (well, it seemed like the jungle) with fantastic views of the volcano. Miguel, our host, was pretty nuts, but he seemed to take a shining to us and upgraded our room for free.
The weather for the few days that we were there was one of two things: either blistering hot or pouring with rain (it was the rainforest after all), so wandering around the town wasn`t ideal in either conditions (although there`s little to do but eat or buy souvenirs).

Our first day in La Fortuna didn`t consist of much. We settled in, took in our surroundings, and learnt our first two lessons about costa rica: it`s expensive and everything happens really early (most restaurants seem to shut down by 10pm - bit of a shock coming from South America where everything starts at that time!).
Our first night in the little cabin was interesting to say the least. After attacking numerous cockroaches, we managed to lay our heads down, only to hear bugs constantly smashing into the windows, and monkeys crawling about on the roof. After about an hour of undisturbed sleep, I was awoken by a (manly) scream. A bat had landed on Adam`s leg, and he had consequently kicked it off on to the floor. Needless to say, we were pretty freaked out, and seeing as though we`re short on bat-handling training, had no idea what to do. So we ran out and looked for Miguel. Only it was too late and we seemed to be the only humans in the vicinity. Back to the cabin for a bit of improvisation.
Adam headed in and started chasing the bat with a flip flop (I`m sure there are more sophisticated techniques), all the while trying not to catch rabies. Meanwhile I hung about outside generally being unhelpful, watching as the bat ran Adam ragged, crawling into dark corners and dragging its creepy little body across the floor and walls. Success was ours, eventually, although we slept the rest of the night with one eye open.

The second day we did a hike up to the volcano, paying the extortionate price of $50 each for the tour. It was interesting, the guide was very knowledgeable, and it was a great setting, but it was more of a stroll than a hike (at least it was for a seasoned hiker like me, ha!), and to be honest, we didn`t get a much better view of the volcano than we did from the hostel. I was expecting an arduous hike up the rock face, dodging lava rocks and monkeys, but no such luck - you can`t actualy go up the volcano becuase it`s still active and therefore too dangerous. So we dragged our feet back to town, reeling that we just spent $100 on basically nothing. Of course, the Americans in our tour group thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. To add insult to injury, we lost our camera (fortunately we have a spare) and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to rescue it but to no avail. An expensive day indeed.

The third day we went to Baldi hot springs, a hotel that is also home to natural hot springs - boasting no less than 25 pools. So we spent the day relaxing in and out of the pools, and mourning our lost pictures that we had yet to upload to Facebook.
The following day we managed to skip the standard breakfast of rice, beans and fried plaintain, and made our way to Santa Elena in the Monteverde region, a town a few hours from La Fortuna. Although geographically quite similar to La Fortuna, and not that far, the weather was drastically different. The sun was always shining but there was an ever-present cold wind, and we experienced no rain at all.

Like La Fortuna, the only thing you can really do there is go on various tours in the surrounding region - and again, it`s pretty expensive so we were somewhat limited to what we could do. We decided on a coffee tour, and ziplining through the canopy.
The coffee tour was at a local working coffee farm, and although I`m a typical Brit and prefer my tea to my coffee, I found it really interesting to see how the whole process works and sample all the different types of coffee.
Coffee farm. Top: Topshop, trousers: vintage, basket: prop (not a cool new accessory!)

After that pretty Grandma-ish day of going to a farm, we felt like we needed to do something cool, young and adventurous, so the next day we went ziplining through the cloudforest. It definitely got the adrenalin pumping as we zipped throught the canopy, especially the `superman` line where you`re attached, hands-free, and fly like, well, superman, looking down at the mass of forest beneath.