Hitchhiking & Road Cheese in Costa Rica

Volcano Irazu Costa Rica
Volcano Irazu Crater Lake
Cartago, Costa Rica

After stranding ourselves on top of Costa Rica’s Volcano Irazu, we needed to find a way back down the mountain to catch a bus to San Jose.

We took a bus from Cartago most of the way up the volcano, then hopped in a jeep with a local guy to get to the top.

Volcano Irazu is not like other volcanoes I’ve visited along my journey. Even though it’s the highest volcano in Costa Rica, there is a road that goes right to the top. This makes it easy to visit if you have a car.

The top of the volcano is often covered with a thick layer of clouds, but luckily we had a short window of time when Irazu’s famous blue/green crater lake revealed itself.

Hitchhiking Volcano Irazu Costa Rica
Hitchhiking in Costa Rica

Hitchhiking In Costa Rica

Because there were still a lot of trucks in the parking lot at the top of the volcano, we decided hitchhiking back would be a fun way to see the countryside. I’ve hitchhiked few times throughout Central America – in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

But this was going to be Abby’s very first hitchhiking adventure. Ever. I could tell she was a bit nervous but excited at the same time. I was excited for her! One of my favorite parts of travel is embracing new experiences.

Hitchhiking often gets a bad rap. Unfortunately, the people who are quick to warn about its dangers have zero experience themselves. Talk to anyone who’s actually done it, and you’ll get quite a different opinion.

Farming Volcano Irazu Costa Rica
Farming Above the Clouds

Finding A Ride

The first 2 vehicles I approached said no. Well, that’s not entirely correct. They made up lame excuses as to why they couldn’t take us. One was a bus full of fellow gringos! The group leader, obviously lying through his teeth, claimed there was no room…

I guess the common local practice of standing in the aisle wasn’t an option either? :roll:

Of course, I don’t expect these people to feel obligated to drive two total strangers down the mountain for an hour. But I always think it’s funny when they feel the need to make up a reason why they can’t.

On our third try, success! This particular family looked deeply into our eyes, understood that we weren’t a pair of ax murderers on vacation, and let us jump in the back of their brand new pickup truck.

Road Cheese Irazu Costa Rica
Attacking my Ball of Queso Palmito

Fluffy Clouds & Tasty Cheese

The first part of the trip on a rutted-out dirt road was a bit bumpy, and we tried to make ourselves comfortable as best we could. We soon needed sweatshirts too. It’s cold in the back of a pickup truck at 11,000 feet…

The ride down the volcano was incredibly scenic though, and more than made up for the discomfort. Clouds came rolling into the side of the mountain as we passed farms and small villages.

Locals had set up little produce stands on the side of the road, and our truck stopped to buy some local Costa Rican cheese called Queso Palmito. I got into the action and bought a giant ball of it to snack on for the rest of the ride. Soft, watery, ice-cold – road cheese is the perfect hitchhiking treat.

We thanked our new friends & found a bus into the city. ★

Travel Planning Resources for Irazu National Park, Costa Rica
Cost: $10 USD entry fee

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Costa Rica
Suggested Reading: Monkeys Are Made Of Chocolate


I hope you enjoyed my story about hitchhiking & Road Cheese in Costa Rica! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have you ever been hitchhiking before?


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (21)

  1. Hitched from Canada to Denver in three days a month ago. Met wonderful people, never felt scared or threatened, and had a great time! Don’t knock it til you try it, amigos.

  2. Hitchhiking is definitely an interesting way to go. It is dangerous to do in the U.S., although I did it once. It was in rural Indiana, so I felt pretty safe.

    • I don’t think it’s any more dangerous in the US than it is anywhere else. You have to be extra careful near major cities, and use other common sense practices.

  3. Abby had a great experience with you all through Costa Rica. We’re still hearing stories! I want to know if she bought any ‘road-side treats’ for the trip! And I do hope she doesn’t start hitching around Plymouth. She could be picked up by the old Curmudgeon!

  4. Great point about hitchhiking and the exaggerated fears surrounding it. All in all, did Abby enjoy her first hitchhiking adventure?

  5. Road cheese. Here we have Road Apples but they’re free for the taking. Texture is probably the same. I don’t partake myself. Road cheese, head cheese and toe jam are not on my bucket list. I don’t hitchhike either. Vermont cheddar is my favorite. It comes from a big cheese wheel from a country store. It goes well with beer; Smuttynose IPA.

  6. Saw your “road cheese” tweet or retweet whatever it was ;)

    Had to see it, GREAT writing there :)

    Will follow, I don’t get enough to follow!

  7. I don’t know about “soft and watery” being two adjectives I want together to describe cheese. But I imagine after hiking a volcano, you’ll eat anything and think it’s awesome :-)

  8. Ok. The “road cheese” definitely hooked me on the story. Great photos and commentary. I’ll have to ask my Costa Rican friends about the queso palmito.

  9. You crack me up man “Road Cheese” is that even a word! lol I’m in Medellin now and settled in almost. Let me know when ya think you’ll be around dude.