Well, we're alive! But barely. I officially had my comfort zone ripped out from under me when we drove through (not across, THROUGH) a river. Make that three rivers. Full of crocodiles I'm sure. My 2nd "what-the-heck-were-we-thinking-quitting-our-jobs-and-selling-our-house-and-getting-ourselves-way-in-over-our-heads-by-moving-to-Central-America" moment. We spent yesterday driving on some of the most crap-tastic roads we've ever seen. Which is why we decided to put off Tamarindo (5+ hours of potholes, no thank you!) and instead aim for a small town named Samara. Halfway there we notice a sign saying CHECK DEPTH OF RIVER. I look at Andy and see the light of a wildman in his eyes and he fills with excitement over our first river crossing. Um, why didn't anyone tell me about this before the 2+ hours of pothole dodging?? I guess what you don't know can't hurt you...well until a croc is ripping your arm off. I say ok, we obviously need to turn back and find another way when all of a sudden Andy starts driving at the river! I start screaming (and I may have shed a tear or two) as I beg him to please stop. He does and we decide to try to check the depth. I'm scared to even get out of the car because I'm sure 20 monster crocs are waiting for me in the muddy river water. I notice we are surrounded by massive turkey vultures, which seemed like a bad omen, as if they were just waiting for some more idiot American tourists to die trying to drive through a river. Andy assures me it's not very deep and that we can make it. My last thoughts are that I can't believe we're going to die this way.....
Needless to say we made it, I may have over-reacted and apparently driving through crocodile -infested rivers is just an every day thing around here, so I better get used to it. Especially since we had to drive through two more.
And it was so worth it because as soon as we drove into the town of Samara, we fell in love. The town is pretty small, a combo of beach bars, funky restaurants and taco stands. It has a very safe vibe to it and there are no beach hagglers trying to get us to spend money on crap we don't need. About an hour into our arrival here, I'm already researching apartments to rent. This place just feels like home for some reason.
We check into a cute bed & breakfast right on the beach (well almost on the beach, the only thing between us and the beach is a cool beach bar). The beach is very mellow, with small waves. Unlike Santa Teresa, where you can't even get in the water. We immediately go for a swim and easily spend two hours in the ocean. We walk up and down the beach for a while and get some good sunset pics. Andy did find a cool ring that he bought from some lady, to act as his Costa Rican wedding ring since we left ours at home. It looks like at least a $50 ring but only costs $4. A good sign, I say.
We choose to eat at Gusto Beach, the bar across the street from us, and have delicious banana & strawberry coladas. We order pizza and fish & chips. We head back to the room to do some apartment hunting online and to plan our next day. Sometimes things just seem so meant to be. I find a local rental company and email them our requirements. Close to the beach, affordable, with A/C, pet friendly, for only three months. She immediately replies that she has a client who is leaving for the U.S. for the exact three months we are wanting to rent, his 2 BR house is 1/2 block from the beach, 5 minutes walk from downtown and all the restaurants, has a fenced yard, is in our budget and has A/C in one bedroom & ceiling fans throughout the house. He is going to email us some pics and we may try to go check it out before we leave.
The next day we head to Puerta Carillo, only about 7 minutes from Samara, and find an amazing hotel up in the hills, about a 3 minute drive from Playa Carrillo, which is another gorgeous swimmable beach. We get a very nice room with a kitchen and laundry station, and A/C of course. It has a very nice pool, breakfast is included and its only $90. We decide to stay 2 nights. We swim in the ocean each morning and again each day at sunset. I could definitely get used to this.
We ate at the hotel restaurant for dinner, Andy had the best tuna steak of his life (it was so fresh & delicious) and I had a carbonara pasta. The breakfast was also delicious, fresh fruit, coffee, o.j., and pancakes. We're both pretty lobster-y from our morning swim today so we're recovering in the air conditioned room right now, and thank god for the aloe lotion I made especially for this trip. Wishing I would have brought more!
I don't ever want to leave.
We are packing up to check out of Hotel Tropica Latino, in Playa Santa Teresa. Another new favorite place of ours. This area has the most beautiful beaches and the best sunsets. We splurged on an oceanfront room for my b-day, with A/C, wifi, a huge king bed and an oceanfront balcony. This has definitely been the best birthday of my life!
We are sleeping a few steps away from the best beach in the area. It's so nice to wake up and walk outside and already be at the beach. We've gone for many beach walks while here and I will miss this place when we leave today! Within hours of arriving we were already discussing living here. This area is the perfect combo of everything for us, the beautiful beaches like Uvita but without the sketchy vibe that you could be robbed at any moment. This town feels very safe and friendly. The town itself reminds us of a smaller version of Manuel Antonio, but without the hagglers trying to pressure you to buy their stuff. It suits us well. Plus I've hardly gotten any bug bites while here, which is a good sign.
After checking in yesterday we ate at an Israeli café across the street. Andy had a mai tai and chicken shiskebabs, which were both delicious. I had a watermelon daiquiri and the beef kebab plate, both good but the beef kebab was not my favorite. We took a sunset walk on the beach and then a swim in the pool, which we had to ourselves. The next day was my birthday and we woke up and walked on the beach again. Then we went to a local café for breakfast, we had yucca hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, French toast and coffee. The coffee here is so good, I can't get enough of it. Then we lathered up the sunscreen and laid out in beach chairs by the ocean. Definitely got some good sun! We had a couple ice cold coronas on the balcony and then decided to walk next door to the Banana Beach Bar for some birthday drinks and appetizers. We had the best strawberry daiquiris and ordered some tuna sashimi and a hummus plate. Super delicious of course. They brought me a free birthday shot and I was definitely feeling good after that!
We walked on the beach some more, with some beverages, and were followed down the beach by three gorgeous wild horses (although they were pretty tame). We got some cool pictures with them. Definitely one of my most memorable moments. Then I may or may not have taken a 2 hour drunk nap and slept through the sunset, but Andy got some great pictures for me. We ended the evening with a nice dinner at Shambala, the restaurant at the place we're staying. We had tuna tartare and tarragon chicken in mushroom sauce. Delicious of course!
Now we're off in the direction of Tamarindo, which I'm sure will be one of our new favorite places!
Manuel Antonio national park was incredible. We hired a guide for $20/person for a 2 hour tour through the park and it was the best $20 we've spent. He had the eyes of a bird and within seconds of entering the park we were looking through his telescope at sloths, monkeys, bats, toucans, a poisonous snake (pit viper family), a very rare stick bird that looked like an owl, raccoons, deer, iguanas and so many other animals. We were very lucky and usually people only see half as many animals as we did. It feels like Costa Rica is giving us a great show and is telling us we have to live here.
We ended the tour at the private beach inside the park, and swam in the water for a few hours. We watched the raccoons and monkeys trying to steal food from all the bags on the beach.
Later that evening we went to Barba Roja for dinner and drinks. We had delicious sangria, a spicy tuna sushi roll made from freshly caught tuna, and mahi mahi fish tacos, also the fresh catch of the day. The food here is some of the best I've ever had. So simple, light, fresh and healthy. We met some Texans at the bar and went to drinks with them later, they were really nice. Later we ran back to our hotel in the midst of a massive rainstorm, we were completely dripping wet when we got back to our room. It felt amazing!
The next day we rented sea kayaks and snorkeling gear. We paddled out to a great snorkeling rock and tied our kayaks up. Esteban, an employee at La Posada, gave us crackers to bring and it was incredible being surrounded by all the colorful fish, fighting to get the crackers. One of our favorite experiences so far, Then we stopped and ate lunch at Emilio's café and had more amazing food. Julia had a tuna burger, I had a salmon pita and Andy ordered some ahi poke, all very delicious. And we shared some fries. Later that evening we met some Americans who live in Manuel Antonio at Hawg N Bills. We met a crazy girl named Sarah, who we later found out owns Hawg N Bills, the bar we've been to now every night. They always seem to have good live music and 2 for 1 drinks. The people we met definitely encouraged us to move to Manuel Antonio, they said Andy could easily find work in air conditioning and that I could be successful selling my products. They all invited us to a Memorial Day party the following day, so we decided to stay an extra night. We moved from our super nice 2 BR condo to 2 bungalows, which are really cute, but much smaller.
The next day we headed to check out Uvita. Strange town, very deserted. The beach was absolutely gorgeous and we found so many colorful shells. We met a local family who borrowed Andy's machete to cut open a bunch of coconuts. We drank the delicious fresh coconut water and then she cut them open so we could eat the inside. So yummy! We talked to them for hours, and the oldest son made us animal shapes out of the palm tree leaves. We also met some Americans, one who had their backpack stolen right next to us. Apparently locals wait in the forest area behind the beach and steal your stuff when you're swimming. We didn't set our bags down after that! I got some massive bug bites on this beach, and a sunburn, so we left to head for the memorial party. The food there was not very good but we saw some people we met the night before and stayed a while.; We stopped for local pizza on the way home, which was delicious.
We got up the next morning and headed to Montezuma. We stopped over the Tarcoles river and saw at least 30 massive crocodiles! Well that saved us $100 going on a crocodile tour (although we may still do that). We ate lunch at a cool restaurant near the water while waiting for the ferry. Andy had a BBQ chicken wrap and I had arroz con pollo, which was some of the best food I've ever eaten. We took the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera and then drove on some dirt and gravel roads to the small village of Montezuma. We found a cute little place called El Jardin, right downtown and has an ocean view and pool view, air conditioning and Wi-Fi, for $76. The woman who checked us in was saying they haven't had any rain in 6 months, which is why it was so hot, and that she was hoping for rain. As soon as we got our bags from the car we were enveloped in a massive rainstorm. Some of the craziest thunder and lightning we have ever witnessed. We took some pretty cool videos. Once it lightened up a bit we headed across the street to eat dinner at Chelo. Each place we eat at is our new favorite. Chelo is homemade Italian food and did not disappoint. We shared a favorite local dish of breaded meat covered in mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce and ham, as well as a ham & mozzarella & bell pepper pizza, which we saved some of for breakfast. I also had a homemade frozen lemonade. The food was incredibly delicious and affordable.
Next we headed down to the only bar, Chico's for some drinks. The bar was full of only locals and we were the only tourists. It's nice coming during rainy season, when the towns aren't overwhelmed with people. We are definitely liking Montezuma so far, it's such a cute little town with a very friendly vibe. We came back and swam in the pool before bed. Andy rescued a massive 7-inch bug from drowning in the pool, so hopefully that will put some good bug karma our way. I do have quite a few bites, but today I made sure to wear long pants & sleeves and have managed to avoid getting a bunch more. Now that the rain is here, the bugs will be worse, so my plan is to cover up and avoid them. Now we're researching where to go tomorrow. We want to stay somewhere really nice for 2 nights to celebrate my 34th birthday. We are aiming for Santa Teresa and possibly the Hotel Tropico Latino, which sounds perfect.
And something just ran across the roof of our bungalow. Probably a big iguana. Hasta Luego!
We have arrived. After a long day of traveling and flight delays we barely made it to the rental car place before they closed at midnight. They require a $1000 deposit on a credit card (which we were not told about ahead of time) and since we don't use credit cards, this was an issue. The only credit card we have is a Discover, which is the only card they do not take. And we thought NOT having credit cards was a good thing! But lucky for us the Costa Rican people are some of the nicest on the planet. The rental car guy gave us his personal cell phone # and then called his friend at another rental car place and his friend was able to get us the same car for the same price. Few!
So after midnight we finally find ourselves in a car, with air conditioning! We look at the address of our hotel, 900 meters west of the soccer field. Um, what?? And there are no street signs anywhere in San Jose. So we find ourselves driving through the ghetto of San Jose at 1am, lost, and neither of us speak Spanish. I definitely had a "what the heck am I doing here" panic moment. But after weaving through crazy streets, we somehow stumble onto a tropical paradise, in the middle of the ghetto. As soon as we pull in they bring us 4 ice cold beers and ice cold beer mugs, immediately melting the stress of our travels away.
The next day we eat a wonderful breakfast with tons of fresh fruit and the best coffee I've ever had. We review the directions to our next destination: a treehouse in the Escazu hills, overlooking San Jose. The directions are very long and detailed...and make absolutely no sense. We end up driving in circles for a couple hours, thinking we will never find the place. We finally pull up google maps and enter the GPS coordinates and eventually stumble across the place.
We were immediately greeted by a massive pitbull and 2 other huge barking dogs. The pitbull, Goofy, has become our new best friend, and his name fits. His lopsided ears and personality match his name. We then meet Leroy and Juanita, who do speak English, and are also some of the nicest people we've ever met. They show us to the treehouse, which is a very special piece of paradise, built by Leroy. Leroy is also an expert gardener, which is evident when you sit in their yard surrounded by hummingbirds, butterflies and beautiful flowers.
Leroy and Juanita have an American staying with them named Julia, and they suggest we go to dinner when she returns. And she speaks Spanish!! Lucky for us she immediately likes us and takes us under her wing. We go to an incredible restaurant overlooking the San Jose lights and have our first Costa Rican dinner of friend plantains with black bean sauce, and sirloin cooked in a jalapeno sauce with tons of veggies.
We wake up in our treehouse and are again served a yummy breakfast full of fresh fruit and fresh eggs. Julia offers to take us to buy a GPS so we don't keep getting lost. Everyone at the stores does not speak English, so we need her as a translator, and after speaking to many people we decide to buy a Costa Rican cell phone and a pay-as-you-go SIM card, which will give us access to GPS, as well as a working phone since the people at Verizon are a bunch of worthless idiots. (We spent hours on the phone with them before leaving and they promised our phones would work here, which is not the case).
Later that evening we meet up with Julia for drinks and appetizers. We find a sports bar that is playing the Yankee game and has a delicious red beer, that tastes like Mirror Pond, on tap. We feel at home! Then we go pick Leroy up and take him to another bar to watch the soccer game between Heredia and Alajuela. Alajuela won!
The next day we were off to San Ramon, to stay in a little remote cabin on the river. We hiked down to the river only to be told later by Jorge, the groundskeeper, that we needed to wear high boots on the hike to avoid poisonous snakes and insects, oops! On our hike back up we did spot a snake, hiding in a tree branch. Jorge came to get him out and assured us he was not poisonous (at least we think that's what he was saying, he doesn't speak English).
San Ramon is very "buggy", tons of flying beetles, spiders, mosquitos. We also saw lots of frogs, lizards and hummingbirds. We hiked around Arenal volcano, which was gorgeous. Our car battery died in the parking lot, leaving us stranded. We once again were surprised by how nice Costa Ricans are, as a local young man jumped our battery and refused a tip.
Now we are in Manuel Antonio, with our new friend Julia, staying in a very nice air conditioned condo. We went to the airplane restaurant last night (El Avion) for drinks and appetizers. Then onto another bar with some strange & interesting new friends we met and had more drinks and listened to an amazing guitar player & singer. This morning we woke up to monkeys on our balcony, we fed them bananas and started our day off right! We are headed to the Manuel Antonio national park for the day.
So far we have only been robbed of our booze! Pura Vida!
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.