Costa Rica Part 1

     Rian and I were very excited to get to Costa Rica.  So far the trip had been amazing filled with so many great spots and wonderful people.   However none of the places were particularly screaming out to us, “make me yours!”.  So we were ready to explore more and to hopefully discover a place that we might call our own one day.
      Clearing out at the Nicaraguan border made for an interesting morning. The chaos and confusion that sets in as you enter any of these borders can be very annoying and over whelming but a reality.  If you start this process accepting this reality you should have no problem! Good thing Rian and I did just that that morning.

      Learning from past borders we accepted the help of a Nicaraguan man Michael.  Michael was the first of at least five Nicaraguan men to run up to our moving truck.  He jumped on the side bar introducing him self and directing us to the correct parking lot.  These guys like Michael work for tips and are for the most part hard working good people.  It’s easier to accept their help and tip them typically a small amount in our eyes but goes a long way for them.
      Michael gathered our correct paper work from us that would be needed to cancel our Nicaraguan car permit and led us to a small line outside of the official building.  Typically at this stage of the process there is always a lot of fast speaking of Spanish and paper work being flipped and flashed around.   Essentially the officials are making sure the VIN number on your paper work matches the VIN on the vehicle you are now taking out of the country.  Easy.  Well that morning they were trying to pull a fast one on us.
     Michael our assistant and some other random guy speaking English tried to convince us that we needed to pay more money to the official who had our paperwork or we would have to be further inspected before our paper work would be approved.  They pointed to the other side of the road and claimed we would have to pay them or our vehicle would be put into an x-ray machine.  Knowing this sounded dodgy and we were not in a rush we told them that they could go for it and inspect away!  We didn’t have anything to hide so why would we not want them to further do their job?  They realized their plan wasn’t working and we weren’t scared or confused.  Michael must have decided he didn’t want to risk losing his tip that he would receive once our paper work was eventually returned to us, so he spoke some very quick Spanish to the official and  presto our paperwork was finished and the OK was given to go!   Rian then gave Michael some of our last Cordoba and thanked him for his help.  Unfortunately that was the only time we felt like someone was really trying to rip us off at a border.  Too bad they did because instead of giving Michael the rest of our Cordoba Nicaraguan money like we usually do we bought a big stash of plantain chips before heading out.  I don’t know exactly what it is but Nicaragua makes some of  the best plantain chips.  We were successfully ready for Costa Rica!

     The Costa Rican border was a little more familiar to us since we were there last year but we used the help of a nice man anyways and sailed right in.   With the proper paper work in hand we drove into Costa Rica with Salina Bay as our possible first destination for the weekend.  Of course we needed groceries since we always make sure we arrive at borders with no food because most countries say you can bring in meat fresh produce.   We came to realize that no one at these borders ever checks for food but its always better to be safe then sorry!  This was our first Costa Rican price tag shock.  We had heard from a lot of Overlanders that Costa Rica was very expensive compared to the rest of the other countries in Central America.  Food was yes a little more expensive but the store was in great shape with lots of fresh stuff on the shelves. There were of course a lot more American brands available at a price as well.   A good example of the price increase that annoyed me was the cost of the five-gallon water jugs.   Typically we had been paying from 30 cents to two dollars but in Costa Rica it was $5.  Loco.
      By far one of my favorite spots in Costa Rica was the first stop at Playa Rajada, the bay south of Bahia Salina on the Pacific coast.  This place was probably one of our favorite spots on the Pacific actually.  We were lucky enough to be one of the only people camping right on the beach under some nice big trees with lots of shade.  The beach was more protected and calm with fine light grey sand.  The trees and grass were all fresh and green and starting to get more lush with the start of the rainy season.  It was a great first few days chillen in Costa Rica.
     As much as we could have stayed at Rajada Bay forever we started making our way South on the Nicoya Peninsula.  Rian and I had a month before my Dad Kevo would arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica.  A month may sound like a long time but really time flies on the road.  Kevo would arrive and all of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica was our goal to accomplish in one month.
      Curious about seeing more of the Nicoya Peninsula we ventured South past Tamarindo.  We made a few good stops in Samara, Playa Coyote, Santa Teresa and Playa Tambor.  Last year we made a few stops on the Peninsula so we really hung out in the out skirts and enjoyed the endless beaches and waves.  Convinced of the beauty but knowing we wanted to see more we hopped on the car ferry to cross the Gulf of Nicoya to Punta Arenas.
       Making our way through the ferry ticket lines that day we met a great group of people.  They were originally from the States but had just moved to Costa Rica.  One of the gentlemen from Florida had just purchased a bar in Manuel Antonio.  We swapped stories and contact information and had some laughs.   It was so nice to meet people as excited as we were about moving to a new place and starting a business.  What was a wake up call during that morning was hearing how much money these business cost.  Of course we had been online searching for businesses and homes for sale and it was looking like either a big loan was going to be needed or seriously meeting the right people with the right opportunity.   It could still happen but we need another option.  What we were finding through out the trip that property along the Pacific coast could be found at a decent price but anything already built has a big price tag and in Costa Rica an even bigger price tag.   This got us thinking more and more as our travels continued.
      Rian and I continued traveling South a long the coast of Costa Rica camping at some really great spots.  Playa Herradura was our first stop along the main land Pacific side of Costa Rica.  It was a great calm bay where Los Suenos Marina is located.  The marina brought back our yachting memories and got us to thinking again.


      We checked out Jaco, Manual Antonio, Quepos and ended up on the beach in Dominical a quiet surf town.  The beach and waves continued for what looked like miles and the camping spot on the beach were perfect.  Time was going by fast and we were only half way down the coast and we hadn’t even touched the interior yet!  We headed South towards the Oso Peninsula where the Corcovado National Park is located and the Gulfo Dulce which intrigued us as we do love calm waters.
       The Oso Peninsula is stunning!  There is only one road in and one road out. The gas stations are far and few in-between and the natural beauty surrounds you. One spot that stinks out was on the calm waters at Playa Blanca. It was a quiet spot in a small neighborhood with lots of shade, grass, local pups and red macaws. The camp spot was under a few big almond trees which we found out is a macaws favorite snack.  The first morning waking up and enjoying out coffee out side we were jaw dropped with the insane amount of local macaws having their breakfast above us.   Needless to say the camera was locked to our faces that day.  I also now have a seriously big appreciation for professional animal photographers, especially birds.
      Rian and I continued further South on the Oso Peninsula.  We stopped in Puerto Jimenez for one night enjoying the calm water beach and local ceviche.  We continued to follow the dirt road out of Puerto Jimenez to Playa Matapalo. The dirt road from Puerto Jimez wasn’t too big of a deal but the road or more like the path that lead to Matapolo was a bit tight.  To our surprise there are a lot of small inns and hotels that dot the path down that way.  We found land and homes were a bit better priced down that way compared to the very popular Nicoya Peninsula.  
       We arrived at Playa Matapolo just in time for a swell coming in so it was a little more “crowded” then we thought it was going to be. Perfectly we found one clear-ish spot in between a few huge trees right on the beach. Surfers were camped out next to us and there were many other surfers and their families enjoying the swell. We set up our spot and busted out the chairs to watch the show. A local man who worked in one of the hotels up the hill was selling fresh tamales making for a great lunch to continue watching the swell grow bigger and bigger. This was yet again another perfect spot with lots of entertainment and of course the wildlife.
       There was one week left before Kevo would arrive in San Jose and Rian and I decided to check out Pavones. Pavones is the most southern town of Costa Rica on the Pacific coast and home to the longest left hand break. Making our way we could really appreciate how quiet and secluded this part of Costa Rica is especially compared to further North.  We approached a perfect grassy spot in front of the beach so we pulled in and spent a few relaxing days in Pavones. We enjoyed the surfers excitement catching some very long waves. The surfers would enter the water further up the beach where the river meets the ocean and then catch a wave that they would ride all the way around the point and far along the beach.  The surfers that day would ride the wave down the beach and literally run out of the water and down the beach to get back in.  The excitement and passion these surfers had was contagious and so awesome to watch. During our stay we ventured into the town to check out the local Sunday football game where we had a few drinks and chatted to some long time expats of the area. Pavones is definitely a hidden gem of Costa Rica which I’m sure the locals want to keep it that way.
      Our Pavones camp spot didn’t feature the most shade so we ended our stay and headed towards Zancudo which would bring us closer to the main high way back North. Zancudo we had heard was a small beach town where the waters were more calm and where a river ran into the Gulf.  Rian wanted to check out the fishing so we headed that way.  Driving a long the main dirt road out of Zancudo we found ourselves at a dead end where the river met the road.  There was definitely no camp spot there so we turned around to look on the beach.   As we were slowly bumping down the road out of the corner of my eye I spotted a sloth!!!! So calm but super excited I directed Rian to pull over immediately! Camera in hand we jumped out of the truck . The baby sloth was eye level in a tree munching away. As we were ogling and staring at the baby sloth an American guy on a motor bike pulled up asking where in Florida we were from pointing to our license plate. Of course we quickly told him the Florida story and where we were from and what we were doing. After he heard we didn’t have a camp spot for the night our new friend invited us to his home where we could stay in the yard on the beach in the shade!
     Rian and I set up camp and ended up spending three nights with our new American friend and his amazing family.   Our time there was filled with fishing trips, feeding the monkeys, swims, beach time and great family dinners. It was so awesome meeting a young expat family living and working down there and enjoying life. We hope we will see them again in the future!!
     Rian and I hit the road refreshed and spent a few one night stops along our way back North along the Pacific coast. As we packed up the camper one morning in Uvita we heard some strange clicking and clanking noises.   That weird noise ended up being something breaking in the crank up mechanism of the camper!!  Great we had one day left before Kevo would arrive and all of our stuff was in the camper with no way to lift the top…. (to be continued).

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