With shorelines on the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, one thing Costa Rica has is plenty of beaches. Beaches come in varying sizes, with very different types of sand and shorelines. Most beaches are found at the end of a long and bumpy gravel road. Getting places in this country takes time. Luckily the country is small. We visited several beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula including Playa Blanca which we took a boat trip to reach. Nice shade under the trees for a nap, snorkeling, kayaking and even a small cave to explore.
On our first trip to Playa Hermosa we happened onto a Triathlon in process. It was interesting, they first did the bike ride, then swim then run. As the contestants came out of the water they ran up the hill barefoot, on dirt and pavement. We never did see the staging area where they put on shoes. Later, during the run we noticed contestants were wearing shoes.
Playa Ocotal was a favorite spot, not so much that it was a great beach but we loved to hang out at Father Roosters. I was always on the lookout for the bird that christened me on our first visit.
Then there was Tamarindo with it’s surf schools and surfer crowd. That did include some good brews! We took a long, dirty road that included fording a big ole ‘pond’ to Playa Avellanas. Hard to believe what seemed like the middle of nowhere was this great beach and restaurant called Lola’s. Truly a spot to visit. The beach was long and wide with a little something for everyone.
Samara was another cute beach side town where everyone came out onto the beach for sunset. Just down the road is Playa Carrillo, one of my favorite beaches. It was private with big Palm trees for shade, nice, fine white sand and clear blue water. No services so you must pack your food and drinks.
Wanting a break from the heat of the coast we headed to Arenal Volcano and rainforest. As we got closer to the mountains the clouds became thicker, eventually blocking out most of the sun. By the next day, it was raining, not cold, but much cooler than expected. We spent the next day hiking on suspension bridges through the rain in the rain forest. By the third day it was clear we weren’t going to see the volcano through the clouds and rain, or much of anything, our clothes were still wet and we headed back to the coast to dry out.
A trip to Nicaragua proved interesting. Even on a large air conditioned bus, the highways in Costa Rica are still quite bumpy. I’m sure our tour covered some of the highlights of this area of Nicaragua, yet, the differences were notable. Horses pulling carts are a common site. You see crafts still in practice, basket making, wooden furniture, etc.
We did stand on the precipice of an active volcano emitting steam and nasty vapors, Volcan Masaya. And had a lovely photo op at the Mirador de Catarina, an extinct volcano now filled with a lake. A short stop in the historic colonial city of Granada only piqued our interest in spending more time in Nicaragua at a later date. Once over the border in Nicaragua the road was great. We were told (by other expats here) we can thank the US military for the road as it was built when the U.S. was supplying guns to the Contras. Evidently we pretty much covered what good road there is.
Doug and I made another trip to the mountains. This time we visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The sun shined and the wind howled as we played Tarzan through the canopy on zip lines. Doug was a trooper! We saw butterflies, insects, reptiles and seven varieties of hummingbirds. It was a great trip once we got there having driven the last 40 km on rutted, gravel roads through pastoral hillsides.
Overall, this has been a great trip. Costa Rica does have a lot to offer, for those willing and able to pay for it. You need a car here, or, the ability to take lots of tours around the country. The country is small, however, roads are bad! So, it takes a long time to drive places.
We didn’t see any major timeshare or super hotel development. There are big hotels like the Westin, Four Seasons, and Riu to name a few. However, these hotels are off the beaten path and not visible. The towns are small and the country is very rural. We saw Burger King (and I hate to admit, stopped there), in a couple towns along the major Pan-Am highway. Most of what you see and purchase stays local.
You can drink the water but don’t flush the paper. Although all the literature stresses Costa Rica’s emphasis on keeping things natural and preserving the environment, I couldn’t really see or feel that emphasis just by being here. Sure, you can find garbage cans but there’s still a lot of trash and not much emphasis on recycling.
There’s not much to say about the food. Beans and rice, mostly rice, called gallos, is the dietary mainstay. Ticos may have this for all of their meals. If this is what you want to eat, comida tipico, you can eat cheap, otherwise, expect to pay close to US rates. Prompt service is not a priority.
We saw a lot of beautiful country and interesting wildlife. It’s pretty cool to hear and see monkeys regularly and the variety of wildlife. We even saw a sloth in the Arenal area one night, walking a telephone wire, yup, hanging from it’s toes.
It’s been a great trip and we’re glad we came. I would recommend a visit, bring lots of time and money. Pura Vida.