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Backpacking tips –places for 10 days trip to Costa Rica?

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Hi there!
I’m going to Costa Rica next month for a ten day - 2 weeks (low budget ?) trip, and have just started researching via forum and soon guidebooks.
I’ll fly to San Hose and will venture around the country, and then will also go to Panama and/or possibly Nicaragua if time and costs permit (and will ask at those forums for some tips).
Could you suggest some nice spots to visit in Costa Rica, at low budget levels of comfort?
Resorts and travel companies, are out of the question…
I hope to move around with public transport, stay at simple hotels/ hostels, walk around cities and villages, have some daytrips to nature from there, possibly on our own with other travelers, or with the help of a local guide etc.
My interests would be beaches, culture, villages, forest, volcanoes… well, maybe too ambitious for backpacking? We’ll see…
Many thanks, happy travels to all!
Nikolaos

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