Needless to say, we’ve seen a good amount of Costa Rica. Due to housing complications in Santa Teresa, we were able to break our Airbnb reservation, and explore more of the beautiful country. Costa Rica is very diverse for such a small country. In a three hour car ride, we drove through a cloud forest, the mountains, and arrived at the beach.
Puerto Viejo is on the southeast side of the country, on the Caribbean ocean, with major Caribbean themes. Our rice and beans now had coconut in it and we ate fish everyday. We ate so well, some of my favorite foods in Costa Rica: patacones and Rondon, which is fish coconut curry soup. We also fell in love with the street food: Yuca filled with meat, meat grilled on a stick, and freshly made empanadas.
Puerto Viejo was my favorite town we visited. We rented bikes and rode them down the coast, past smaller beaches where the locals hang out (Playa Manzaillo). The ocean is calm and flat, clear blue, where one can see the sand through the waves. Our friends, Rachel and Matt, came to visit us and we enjoyed every second with them!
While we were in Puerto Viejo, we went to our favorite national park in Costa Rica, Cahuita. We saw a family of raccoons sneak up on a woman eating lunch, we discovered snakes, and we had our lunch stolen by a mischievous monkey. The monkey posed pretty for all our photos and then waited for the prime opportunity to steal our tupperware. Right after I unzipped the backpack, he jumped on Claire’s back, and stole our lunch right out of the pack! What a bully! I hope he enjoyed those Kind bars.
I finally convinced Claire to do Zumba with me! There was a local guy who taught classes in the park a few times a week. I really enjoyed the community aspect of it. We were the only gringos who participated, it seemed like the instructor had a steady following of local Ticos. Along with developing our Zumba skills, we practiced our surfing skills. Surfing on the Caribbean is much different than the Pacific–smaller waves, faster sets, and the line-up is much closer to the shore. The break is also shallower, which caused some bruises and burns when hitting the ocean floor when we toppled off our boards.
San Isidro de El General
We were craving more local Tico culture and wanted a break from being a tourist, so we got a great recommendation from a friend who lives in Costa Rica and she connected us with a mutual friend. The town was very small, yet beautiful. San Isidro is nestled in the valley, below a cloud forest. We hiked above the clouds and saw the beautiful countryside of Costa Rica that is often missed by visitors. While staying with the family, we practiced our Spanish and had tea with the host.
While driving from the Panamanian border to San Isidro, we got a driving ticket for crossing a double yellow line. Oops. Was taking the perspective of “do as the locals do”. Our ticket was over $500!!!! Turns out, Costa Rica has the most expensive driving tickets in the world. The ticket was more expensive than a DUI. From research, I learned that driving tickets help fund Costa Rica’s child welfare system. People pay for tickets at the national bank, as well as light bills, college, and other various expenses.
After spending time in the central part of the country, we drove southwest to a small beach town on the Pacific coast, Dominical. While there, we went to another national park, Marino Ballena. At low tide, the beach looks like a whale’s tail. In this park, we also saw many macaws, vibrantly colored and vocal, calling out to their friends.
For Christmas, we were in Jaco, which is probably the most popular beach town. Lots to do, lots of people, lots of flash (and some pretty well stocked grocery stores!). Claire’s family came to visit (minus Papa Cates, he’s coming next trip!) and we loved getting to spend time with them! We visited Manuel Antonio, another national park (we’ve become very familiar with the incredible national parks in Costa Rica). This was the most touristy of the parks, but also very well organized and maintained. Claire’s mom and brother also had their first ever surf lesson and dominated! It was some good times at the beach. Very thankful that Mama Cates and Coley made the journey to come see us ❤
We finished our Costa Rican journey in La Fortuna, with lots of hiking and nature. We spent a day jumping off of water falls with Desafio Adventure Company, I would highly recommend it! We rappelled down a 140ft waterfall, and finished with a free jump from 40ft. It was just scary enough to have the “oh shit” factor, but not debilitating.
We spent another day hiking a dormant volcano, Cerro Chato. (Claire’s edit: how many volcanoes are we going to end up hiking???? good question). We hiked up the volcano and then down into a crater lake. It required some climbing, up and around tree roots and rocks. Felt a little bit like Indiana Jones.
The next day, we treated ourselves to a natural hot spring. It was off the side of the highway and plenty of locals sit in the river and enjoy the rushing warm water.
La Fortuna is very touristy, but also has some local watering holes–a little boy helped us utilize the rope swing and encouraged us when we were a little afraid.
On our last day in Costa Rica, we discovere that Uber is illegal, well ride sharing is. We got into a Uber, and a police officer immediately pulled the driver over. The next thing we knew, the police was unscrewing the license plates off the car. Seems like we can’t keep ourselves away from the Tico police…
Costa Rica was beautiful, breathtaking, and bueno. We are grateful for our 2 months spent in this incredibly diverse country. I loved how I could be in the ocean, glancing at the shore and also admire the mountains at the same time. Not a lot of places in the world where that is a possibility. As we say goodbye to Costa Rica, we say hello to Mexico for the next few weeks!
~ PURA VIDA ~