My sister (Jen) and my nephew (Oscar) have made it to Costa Rica, which was perhaps no mean feat. They arrived in the biggest storm yet so far in this ‘green’ season. It's not wet, just green... according to the tourist board classification of this time of year.
Yeah? Well the scenes outside the airport were less luscious foliage and more Doomsday reckoning, resplendent with blackened skies and Hadean thunder cracks.
We were certainly asking a lot but had we planned too much for our 11yr old autistic nephew? Not only were Mikes, Jen and I asking him to fly halfway round the world but then to spend three weeks travelling on local busses, eating strange foods, staying in hostels in areas pretty much off-grid oh and to suffer the wrath of the dreaded sand fly bites….
Thankfully, no, everyone was in great spirits despite the weather and the next day's sunshine allowed the fun to begin in earnest as the cannonball competition kicked off in the hotel swimming pool. Said comp was followed by a visit to the animal rehabilitation centre just down the road from the hotel Rosa De America, at Zooave, where we saw our first sloths (and baby sloths), as well as mountain lions, tapirs, scarlet macaws, and countless other rescued animals hoping to be rehabilitated back into the wild. Well worth a visit if you stop over in Alajuela.
After only two days to recover from their jet lag we were dragging both sister and nephew back to the airport to fly down to Golfito. The plane ride was straight out of Indiana Jones (or to be more continentally accurate, Romancing the Stone) with a tiny, twin propeller plane and a landing that saw us flying below the tree line, with mist covered mountains out left and right and in front!
Just as we were looking for the inflatable dinghy to eject into, we banked a steep right and found a valley to descend down to a tiny airstrip. Phew!
Golfito was ace. We stayed at La Parruja Lodge which didn't disappoint. On the morning we arrived, a troop of squirrel monkey's greeted us along with coatis, agoutis and a huge iguana. Tick, tick, tick, on the laminated wildlife card we got for the kids but are secretly coveting ourselves.
That same day we arrived we visited a many tiered waterfall via local bus, sweltering hike and squashy taxi ride (9 of us squished in - me and Jessy in the boot - me having flashbacks to both childhood birthday parties in Dad's white Citroen and teenage years in Jarrett’s red Ford Escort).
The very next day we embarked on our most ambitious trip yet, an all day wildlife boat tour around the Golfe Doce. We saw racoons, masses of monkeys, crocodiles (even a tiny baby one), scarlet macaws, blue and green herons, pink spoonbills, kingfishers, pelicans, many other countless birds and best of all a massive pod of dolphins. Cue everyone jumping off the boat as quick as humanly possible. There must have been around 50 dolphins in the pod, just bodding about in the water for about 20minutes, sometimes swimming towards us, other times jumping out of the water just far enough away to tease us. It was amazing. We got a bit rained on, as we motored home and perhaps the sensory overload with the wind and the wet was a tad too much for OJ, who had a moment on the way home but luckily only the swimming goggles went overboard and with the help of a huge machete to remove a short's label, we all made it back happy and safe, if a teeny bit tired.
From Golfito, we moved on via private minibus and public boat to Drakes Bay on the Osa peninsula, here we ticked off more wildlife with Howler monkeys and Humpback whales. The former spotted on the coastal trail towards the Corcovado National Park, the latter spotted whilst sunbathing just metres from the shore of the deserted Playa Cocalito. Tick, tick.
A few days chilling out here in Drake's Bay, discovering deserted beaches and trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to avoid that pesky rain and it was time to move on again. This time to Quepos and Manuel Antonio, via Uvita and a great stay at Villa Lomas De Pacifico.
In Quepos, we hired a 3 bedroom villa with private pool and the parties started. Between our wedding anniversary, Jessica's fourth birthday and the Olympic Games kicking off we had much to celebrate and had our work cut out relaxing but we managed it. We'd packed it in the first week and a half so now it was time to get into proper holiday mode. Days were spent playing in the pool before heading down to the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio, followed by more playing in the pool and a home cooked meal in front of The Olympics on the TV.
After being on the road for 11 months, cooking your own food in your own kitchen is surprisingly enjoyable and eminently satisfying and is something I was surprised to miss. It took me a bit to actually remember what I used to knock up for food, but after a couple of dull sausage and pasta meals, I was soon dazzling my dinner guests (uhum, yeah right!) with carbonaras, chilles, fajitas and even home cooked real potato chips! I even got to do the classic knock on the neighbour's door (albeit for an onion and some garlic, as opposed to the obligatory cup of sugar).
Quepos town itself was an easy ten minute walk from the villa, and was a great little place. It has everything we could ask from a town, an amazing bakery where we bought a cake worthy of finals week in GBBO, a second hand clothes store, for picking up bargain board shorts, a great bookshop, and a fancy new wharf area, complete with super plush restaurants where my lovely sister treated Mikey and me to an anniversary dinner. Not that I'm counting, but I think this was the fifth time we've been out sans kids in 11 months.
The beach at Manuel Antonio was hands down the prettiest of Costa Rica, OK so it was touristy but we are tourists, so I've no problem with a beach where you can rent a sunlounger and buy an ice-cream or a fresh coconut from the beach vendors. We didn't splash out the $64 to enter the national park to find the deserted beach, we got as far as the massive queue before deciding we were happier not to queue and just have the free beach with all the conveniences you could want. We are on holiday after all!
Zip lining featured again, twice. Once accompanied by a bevvy of middle aged Alabama ladies, who were very vocal! The boys decided against this one but Jess, Jen and I zipped through the trees again and it was just as fun as the first time; I even felt I was getting the hang of it a little now. Jess took on the rappelling and the Tarzan swing solo this time with no guide. she looked ridiculously titchy swinging from such a great height as everyone sang Happy Birthday to her! Also, on the wildlife update, we spotted Toucans and a three-toed sloth (the smiley ones). Tick tick. Not much left on the card now!
The second zipline experience saw all the boys involved. Whilst Oscar and Mikey took on the zipline rollercoaster, Otto plumped for the more sedate Bike canopy with me to accompany him. Which one do you think Jen and Jess went for?
But all too soon, it was over and time to head back to the capital to say another goodbye. Trust us to pick the day of a national taxi driver strike to travel. A hot walk with all the bags into town preceded a nervous wait for a bus watching news coverage of highway blockades all over the country. Uh oh!
Luckily, we rang the hotel we'd booked and they arranged for an unmarked private car to pick us up at the bus station in San Jose, so we avoided trouble (best way, I'd say in Central America) and landed one last night and morning for a few more cannonballs before Jen and Oscar left for the UK.
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Kelly and Mikey (but mostly Kelly). We sold up in the UK to travel with our two littluns for a year or so. If you want to know more click the about us!