Don’t worry it 8 years ago but I wish this public service announcement was around on our first visit to Costa Rica.
We were back packing and had our bags stolen. We’d been on the road for 10 months, travelling through the Middle East, Africa and India, Costa Rica seemed easy and felt homey. So we fell asleep and were robbed on a bus, we were determined to get through the country without incident this time, and see if we could find some of our stuff (we didn’t).
We arrived in Costa Rica 1 week before we planned as Nicaragua only gives a 30 day temporary import for your vehicle, we read about extending this but it didn’t seem worth the hassle for one week. So we settled in for 5 days of rest at a Finca, where we ate good food, met fascinating people and gave the Hulk and camper a deep clean because we had guests arriving soon.
Rescued baby sloth at the Finca
View from one of the hikes on the property
Saturday night dinner
Mom and baby horse
Finally we moved on to Junquillal Bay National Wildlife Refuge where we were alarmed at the cost of entry, $15 per person per day, and $4 per person per day to camp, what?! We hand over the cash feeling a little sick, unsurprisingly the place was not busy and we were shown to the “RV” campsite, which included a fully serviced bar, free laundry services and a chef, just kidding we got a sink but for the cost I was hoping for a tiny bit more. The beach was beautiful (except for when I stepped on a thorn) we would have stayed longer but could not bear paying another $38 (USD might I add, which is like a biz-zillion Canadian these days) so we moved on to Playa Hermosa where we found reasonably priced camping but the rest of the area is all resorts, so we had one of our most expensive mediocre meals of the trip. But we knew things were about to get better because my Mommy was coming and everyone knows that Moms make everything better (Dads help too).
My parents do not camp, which translates to luxury for us, our first few nights with my parents would be spent on Playa Grande, a long, low key beach right next door to the manically busy resort town of Tamarindo. We stayed in a lovely 2 bedroom house, it had indoor plumbing and hot water, a TV, there was a pool and we could walk to the beach in 5 minutes, needless to say Dan and I were pretty excited. We didn’t do much there just relax, letting my parents ease into vacation mode, beach, sea, pool, repeat. We did walk to Tamarindo which is possible from Playa Grande when the tide is out, we had to wade across an estuary where the current was stronger than it looked, but it was fun and we were prepared with waterproof bags. The main reason for this outing was a brewery, shocking I know, but the Volcano Brewing Company was worth the wade.
From the coast we headed inland to Rincon de la Vieja. Except we didn’t end up in the National Park, we ended up on the other side of the volcano in a hot springs resort, poor us. The resort was lovely, complete with a butterfly sanctuary, gardens, an excellent restaurant, a water slide (that adults were allowed to use!), and magical mud to bathe in. The mud stunk and was hard to get off, we also didn’t believe the claim about looking 20 years younger, but it was a fun family activity. As was the horse back riding, after a rough start of my Dad’s horse bolting back into the stable and my Mom turning the wrong way at the first turn, we settled into a trot and went to see a waterfall, the highlight was swimming at said falls and spotting Toucans, I don’t see any of us taking up horse back riding in the future.
Back on the Pan Am we headed south (through the longest stretch of road works possible) to Lake Arenal. Don’t worry we made sure we stopped at the Arenal Brewing Company on our tour around the lake. Once again our accommodation did not disappoint, there were more hot springs! We hiked at the Arenal National Park and had a pretty perfect day, many people never see the top of Arenal as it’s usually in cloud, we however had a perfect view for 24 hours. After our hike we visited the town of La Fortuna, this is the town where I called my parents to let them know we’d lost our passports all those years ago, once again my Mommy had been a huge help booking us flights home since we no longer had credit cards, it looked the same. We walked by the public phones we used, the restaurant we ate at (being robbed made Dan very hungry) but decided not to swing by the police station and got some ice cream instead.
Next stop was the cloud forest of Monte Verde, unsurprisingly it was cloudy and bloody windy, it was also the coldest we’d been in a while, but we had a 3 bedroom house to lounge around in (did I mention how lucky we are). It was in Monte Verde that my parents 40th wedding anniversary would come to pass, so we took them zip lining. It was a blast, even though we couldn’t see anything but cloud and had wind whipping rain in our faces we could help but grin the whole time. The second part of their celebrations was a night time coffee tour, complete with, well coffee, and some awesome animal spotting. Sloths, kinkajous, frogs (beady red eyed ones and translucent ones), lots of sleeping birds and thankfully no snakes or spiders, it also cleared up enough to be able to see the Southern Cross in the sky.
Last stop of the visit would be near the Manuel Antonio National Park, here we once again in a 2 bedroom house with pool, and best of a laundry machine, oh and the daily maid service was pretty sweet too. Tom, the property manager hooked us up with his “guy” at the beach, so we had chairs and umbrellas, the sea was a little rougher here and my Dad lost his glasses but his hat floated. Oh and Dan had to be rescued on a jet ski after being caught in a rip tide, Mom and I realised how dangerous the sea was so we decided to go para sailing instead, what fun! We decided while having our stunning aerial tour of the area that I should have brought my camera, you will just have to trust me when I say it was pretty special.
Our last outing was to the National Park itself, we had read about how busy this park was but that it was still worth a visit, sometimes guidebooks get things right. Although it was stinking hot, we walked 7kms saw countless birds, sloths, monkeys, and pig things, and even a managed a quick dip at a pristine beach, before the tour buses arrived.
Then it was time to say goodbye to my parents and for us to return our “normal” travel life, but Costa Rica had other plans. We wanted to hike Chirripó, the highest point in CR but it turns out you need a permit months in advance if you plan on hiking during peak season (which we were in) then we headed to the Osa Peninsula to hike in Corcovado N.P. only to discover you can’t enter the park without a guide at the cost of $65 per person per day and no that does not include your park entry. One thing we’ve learned is there is no point forcing things, so we made the decision to press on to Panama, it turns out that it was a pretty smart decision on our part but you’ll hear about that later.
Bye Costa Rica