5AM should feel early but lately I’ve been waking up by 5:30AM. The sun is up by 6 and the past few days there’s been no blinds on the windows. I got my bags together and loaded the bags up. Before leaving the hostel, Ian and I had a quick breakfast of toast and Guava jelly.
We were on the road before 6AM as we wanted to get to the border as early as possible to avoid long lines. We arrived at the Nicaragua exit at 6:20AM. After paying the $2 exit stamp fee and getting the required signatures and stamps from several customs and police officials, we were ready to start the process of getting into Costa Rica.
For a place that has the motto of “pura vida” or the good life, they sure make it frustrating to get in. Costa Rica has a complicated process of having the customs buildings a 1/2km a part. You have to go back and forth between the two. When we went to get our required insurance we were surprised that they said it was $31 per vehicle. All the guides we read said it was $17 so we tried to figure out why were being charged so much. After a few minutes of politely arguing and asking questions to the insurance agent we were left with no choice but to pay the $31. The poor woman was probably so tired of us. As we left Ian said at least if we got ripped off it was by a beautiful Costa Rican woman. I love when people see the bright side of things. I later found out that the price we paid was then new cost of the required insurance. I’m glad both of us were polite about thinking we were being ripped off.
Ian was headed to the Caribbean side so we split up after crossing the border. I kept riding south on the PanAmerican highway then along the coastline to Manuel Antonio. I stopped at a gas station to fill up and was hit the brutal fact that Costa Rica is expensive. On average gas was $5.60 a gallon. And that cold refreshing coca cola that cost $.50 in Honduras is $2 here. I met a lot of other riders who were going to stay in Nicaragua longer and then drive through Costa Rica in a couple days to avoid the hit on their budgets. I’ll just eat more ramen noodles.
I reached Manuel Antonio and posted up on the balcony of Hostel Vista Serena. With a giant iguana on the tree next to me and the amazing sunset and ocean in front of me, I sat on the couch and relaxed. I rode 230 miles today and without realizing it I drove half way through Costa Rica. Time for a break. I drove to Manuel Antonio to meet up with my friend Fawna who is on vacation down here. I know Fawna through Roadtrip Nation and coincidentally she booked a vacation with her friend Kelly around the same time I’d be traveling through.
Once again it was an early start to the day. No one can sleep through sounds of a jungle full of birds in the morning. Another reason I need to buy ear plugs soon. I forgot to ask Fawna for a pair. She was nice enough to bring down a small package of supplies that my friends and mom put together. Chain wax, lithium batteries for my Spot GPS Tracker, and a few other things. Thank you Jason, Amanda, Fawna, and mom for the help getting me the supplies.
Manuel Antonio National Park was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Must be why it costs $10 to enter. I know $10 isn’t a lot of money but it’s basically half of a days entire budget for me. No worries. With the possibility of seeing sloths, monkeys, strange reptiles, and swim on beautiful beaches, I won’t remember the price a week from now. We trekked along the path through the thick jungle. Opting not to get a guide we searched the trees for monkeys and sloths but with more than a dozen guided tours going on it was pretty easy to spot the animals the guides were pointing out. There were some places on the trail where monkeys ran around screaming as a family of raccoons came strolling through the area. We saw several sloths but I forgot to bring my zoom lens and they were too high in the trees to get a good photo. Sloths move a lot faster and more often than I expected.
We followed the trail past the beaches and onto a small peninsula where we hiked up and around to a small cove away from the main beach. We kept passing more iguana lizard creatures hiding by the side of the trail. They were all different. A few had really spikey skin.
By the afternoon we had hiked around the main trails in Manuel Antonio and went swimming. We decided to drive south to try to get to Corcovado. I saw clouds off in the distance so we packed up and hit the road as fast as we could. I don’t remember how long into the ride it came, but the storm caught up to us. I was following Fawna and Kelly in their rental car and I told them that if it started raining we should pull over to let the storm pass. It started raining just a little bit and I told them it was fine and to keep going. A few minutes later the sky opened up and began to down pour. Without any shoulder or place to turn off we kept going but slowed down. The rain was coming down so hard on the road that visibility was just a few feet. After 10 minutes or so we found a place to pull off. It was still pouring. I jumped inside their rental SUV and we waited for the storm to calm down. What a luxury to have a support vehicle! We waited maybe 20 minutes and it did eventually slow down. We drove off and the rain was just about coming to an end when I felt something hit my rear wheel. I didn’t see anything on the road so I slowed down and checked around my bike. My tool tube was missing! I keep a pvc tube with a bunch of tools mounted in front of my engine. I turned around and rode along the side of the road trying to find it. I rode back two miles to be sure and then slowly retraced my route to look for it. No luck. Fawna and Kelly showed up in their car and we did another pass. We spent about 30 minutes searching the area I thought it might be but couldn’t find anything. It was painted black but most of that paint had chipped off so the now bright orange tube should be easy to see. I was only thinking about how difficult it’d be to find a few of the tools down here, and more than that the cost to replace my wrenches and sockets. I told Kelly and Fawna that was enough, it must have gone off the road into the river or somewhere. I rode a few more feet and then I saw it. It was about 15 ft off the road underneath a banana tree! Such a huge relief!
Being slowed by the rain and then my missing tool tube, we weren’t going to make it to Puerto Jimenez, the main town near Corcovado, before dark. We looked for something nearby and Fawna found Casa del Arbol (House of the tree). We drove down the dirt driveway and found a quaint little wood building with beautifully carved designs. The place was obviously handcrafted. Following a set of stairs up to the second floor and then through another door we realized we were on a small footbridge to a tree house hotel room. The place was incredible. As we unpacked our bags and settled into our tree house for the night, we watched the sunset over the jungle surrounding the home. Another amazing day full of adventures and the unexpected. Finding the tree house hotel made riding through the rain storm worth it.
The next day we drove onto the Osa Peninsula to the town of Puerto Jimenez. We had originally wanted to get to Corcovado but then we heard the road to get there is unpaved and can take 4-6hrs. Not having that much time we decided we’d just check out the beaches on the Peninsula. I followed them down to Puerto Jimenez then I jumped in their SUV and we drove around to explore. We just started taking different dirt roads in search of perfect beach. One dirt road we went down had a water crossing that was about 3 feet deep. We eventually found a nice spot and spent a couple hours swimming and hanging out.
Wild scarlet macaws (parrots) flew from tree to tree, filling the quiet beach with the sound of their calls. So this is the pura vida everyone’s been talking about.
As usual, the afternoon rain came and we headed back to Puerto Jimenez. I picked up new straps to remount my tool tube and we hung out at the hotel enjoying a fresh pineapple. Fawna and Kelly surprised me by treating me to dinner that night. In the morning they are heading north to the volcano and to some other areas. I was thinking about taking the ride down to Carate to Corcovado but with all the strong rainstorms I decided I’d rather just head to Panama and see what I can find there.
Hanging out with Fawna and Kelly the past few days has been so good. They are both full of an excitement about life that you just have to smile when around them. In our own ways we’re all on different adventures. Fawna is on an adventure of being an incredible artist and Kelly is constantly pursuing new wild adventures like getting her sky diving license and rock climbing. I love seeing people living life and not holding back. Fawna has been creating one of a kind screenprint artwork for a couple years now. You can see her work around DC as she’s regularly featured in galleries and exhibitions. Her prints can be purchased from her online store.