While studying abroad in Costa Rica, I have found that there is no such thing as a typical weekend. Although most are filled with travel, the activities are as diverse as hiking a mountain, beach hopping, or exploring new cities. One weekend that is exemplary of the diversity here in Costa Rica started with a three hour bus ride north from Puntarenas to Libería. Known as the second capital, Liberia is home to one of Costa Rica’s two international airports and is a great base from which to visit beaches, volcanoes, and dense forests. We checked into our hostel with enough daylight left to explore the city, so we wandered into the center of town and found a gorgeous park, anchored by a large Catholic church at one end. Latin American towns are almost always based around a central park and a church, giving a comforting sense of familiarity wherever you go. After stopping to buy some food for the weekend, we returned to the hostel, ate dinner, and chatted with the rest of our group. Soon enough we were playing cards around the small table, enjoying the cool air that comes with nightfall.

The next morning we took taxis to Rincón de la Vieja, a volcano and national park that has multiple hiking trails. We were disappointed to find that the trails to the summit had been closed for some time because of volcanic activity, but we set off to see a waterfall instead. The trail was relatively challenging for me, an inexperienced climber, particularly because it is rainy season and much of the trail had dissolved into mud. The waterfall was worth it, though, not only because it was gorgeous, but also because we were able to swim in its refreshingly cold waters. After hiking a second, shorter trail, we rode back to Libería in time to see the sunset before making dinner. We turned in early, tired after our long day of hiking and knowing that tomorrow would be another long day in the sun.

The next day, we set off to the beaches of Guanacaste, the province in the northwest of the country that borders the Pacific ocean. Of the three beaches that we visited, my favorite was Playa Conchal. The beach was entirely made of seashells, and the water was the clear, blue-green that you expect to see in tropical paradises like Costa Rica. We stayed on the coast to see the sun set over the water, a breathtaking sight.

After seeing the sunset, we were ready to take a bus back to Liberia, but a wrench was thrown into our plans when some locals let us know that there was not another direct bus back to Liberia that night. Instead, we would need to take two buses to get back to Liberia, getting off at a bus stop in Belen and catching the bus to Liberia there. This type of planning on the fly is a requisite skill here in Costa Rica, as the bus schedules are difficult to find and impossible to trust, especially on Sundays. Luckily, Ticos (Costa Ricans) are incredibly friendly, and will often go out of their way to help you. This was the case that night, as multiple Ticos provided advice about how to get to Liberia.

After getting back to the hostel we set our alarms for 4:30am so that we could catch the 5am bus back to Puntarenas, as we had afternoon classes to attend. The next morning dawned bright and early, and it was bittersweet to say goodbye to the city that had been our home for the weekend, knowing that I would not be returning before leaving Costa Rica in December.