Costa Rica

Phew, what a whirlwind trip. Instead of blowing my 2 weeks of vacation in one swoop this year, we split it into two 1 week chunks. The first week being dedicated to a week in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has been on our vacation radar for a couple years now. We all wanted to try something a little different than the all-inclusive nature of a cruise, and venture out on our own a bit more. Having rented a car on most of the islands we visited in the Caribbean last year, I was confidant that I could handle whatever Costa Rica threw at me.

Initially we looked at planning the trip ourselves, but we found that this would be a very overwhelming task, so we had Kris Pak at Flight Centre manage this portion for us. They did a fantastic job of working with us and our list of places that we most wanted to see, which included the Caribbean Coast, the Arenal volcano and the Nicoya Peninsula.

After the final arrangements were made, we were on our way. The rental car was originally intended to be a Toyota 4-Runner but we opted, at the last minute, for an upgrade to a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which had more space for our luggage. It was a great rig, I wouldn't mind having one here in the US. The diesel engine was efficient and had a lot of torque for which came in handy for some of the roads around Montezuma. Turns out that the vehicle is indeed available in the US! Its called a Lexus GX270! (Unfortunately, that incarnation sells for $20,000 more than the stripped down version known as the Prado, and there's no diesel option). The final talley on the odometer when we turned the vehicle over in Tambor was 1016 kilometers, which is 635 miles. Not bad for 8 days at an average speed well below 30mph. You can see a map of our trek here. The roads were not nearly as bad as we had prepared ourselves for, but we were there during the dry season and we did not venture up near Monteverde which I hear is where the driving is an experience. The roads, for the most part, were paved and well-signed, but there were a few areas, such as in Nicoya, where they were potholed and very dusty, but still easily traveled in an SUV. The major highways, however, were a challenge due to their narrow, curvy routes and the fact that they are absolutely choked with semi tractor-trailer combinations. Plan on having a vehicle that is capable of good passing acceleration if you don't want to be perpetually stuck behind them. I think the "delay of 5 vehicles or more" law is strictly a US thing, because they could care less that they're slowing down half a mile of cars behind them.

The country of Costa Rica is amazingly diverse. Its almost as diverse as a country the size of the US concentrated into a footprint the size of West Virginia! From the tropical jungles of the Caribbean coast, the cloud rainforest of Monteverde to the dry forests of Nicoya, you could experience two or three biomes in 1 day's drive. The wildlife was equally as diverse. However, there was one very noticible creature in all of the regions we visited. The infamous Howler monkeys. They could be heard every evening and morning at every region we stayed at. Their haunting calls were eerie and wonderful at the same time.

The people of Costa Rica were astronishingly friendly. You can see everywhere that they take great pride in themselves and their country. You can get by without any Spanish language skills, though we tried our hardest to use what we remember from our high school classes. All of the people that we encountered were friendly and welcoming. Most would gladly go out of their way to help us if we had a question. The most horrible person we dealt with the entire trip was a bitch of a flight attendant on our SJO->LAX flight on American Airlines. Way to represent your country and your company. She may have been on the flight, but she was in no way an attendant.

The food. Oh my, the food. I've never had the pleasure to travel where the food is both delicious and amazingly cheap. I think the most expensive meal we paid for was $8/plate and that was for authentic argentinian/patagonian grilled steaks and kabobs in Puerto Viejo. Normally meals ranged from $4-$6. I even had a $7 filet mignon in Tambor at a patio-style restaurant. It was tender and covered in this amazing butter sauce and a plethora of bacon. That would have been a $25 meal at home.

With all that said, here are the photos from the trip in their full form. I'm trying to figure out if I should show all of them here, even the uninteresting ones, or prune each section down to the good ones. There are several sections with over a hundred thumbnails to load, which can be a bit cumbersome.



Days 1 and 2
Caribbean Coast: Cocles, Puerto Viejo

Days 3 and 4
Arenal, Tabacon

Day 5
Nicoya Peninsula, Mal Pais

Day 6
Isla Tortuga and Montezuma

Day 7
Tambor and the Curu Wildlife Refuge

Day 8
Montezuma, Tambor

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