CR Beaches, beaches and more beaches

November 20, 2016, Trip: Costa Rica
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November 20th

We arrived at Playa Hermosa and found Congos Hostel & Camping. They have a large lot next to the hostel with actual campsites that include power and lights with picnic tables – something we’ve not seen in ages. There is water available, bathrooms with showers and it’s less than a block from the beach. When we arrived there was one motorhome already here and Mark from Montreal came over to say hello as we set up. He and his wife, Claudie were travelling with their two tween children and they were heading north tomorrow. They had driven to Panama and were returning to Montreal via a different route.

After setting up, we of course, had to check out the beach. We took a walk and then came back for our suits and chairs to sit for the afternoon. It is pretty warm here but the humidity seems less than we’ve been experiencing the past few months – even drier than the day before.

Tuesday, we decided after planning out our route for the next month or so, we’d hang here for three more nights. We spent another afternoon at the beach reading and swimming. Today it was hardly muggy at all; just about perfect weather.

It’s Wednesday now and Hurricane Otto is heading to northern CR and southern Nica. Luckily we are on the west coast so other than some wind and rain should not be greatly affected. The government has evacuated people along the northern Caribbean coast and it may be a wet couple of days everywhere else. By noon it was quite cloudy and the wind was picking up a bit but nothing major at all here. By midafternoon, we had a short sprinkle and expected to get rain over night but not a drop but it was getting muggy again. We could see rain off in the distance when we walked the beach before dinner.

Thursday, we awoke to overcast skies again and heavier humidity, but still no big rain. Now weather reports were saying Otto will hit land today (not last night) so we’ll see how the day goes. Today was also the day a 7.0 earthquake was recorded off the coast of El Salvador/Nicaragua. We felt nothing down here but heard that others inland and a bit further north in CR, did.

The sun never showed its lovely face today and midafternoon one of the campground employees came over and suggested we put our awning in and move out from under the huge tree we are parked under in preparation for the anticipated storm; both good ideas. The hurricane made landfall in Nica so CR continues to be able to say that no hurricane has every made landfall there (at least since records began being taken in 1851). The northern coast did get major rains and suffered mudslides from Otto and the storm is headed our way but will weaken as it crosses over to the Pacific. We are the only campers here right now so we just parked near the middle of the lot and our extension cord just reached one of the outlets without having to bring out our second one.

Fran went from a walk on the beach before dinner before the rains hit and met a couple from Illinois who had just arrived here in Playa Hermosa. John and Susan, are retired and doing some travelling after her recovery from a nasty bout with cancer. They were quite amazed to hear about how we were travelling.

The rain began after dinner and it rained most of the night but never too hard. There was some wind which we discovered in the morning had blown down a small tree near us and a huge branch off a different tree than the one we’d been parked under. Doug went for a morning walk and saw that there were many branches down on the roads but things were being tidied up pretty quickly.

As a matter of fact, the tree Fran saw down near our rig, was righted and supported shortly after she saw it.

After packing up camp we left the hostel and moseyed on down the coast. Our destination was the north end of Playa Grande at Tamarindo. There was a hotel that that apparently allowed campers in the lot and it has lots of nice amenities; a bit pricier than we like to pay ($20 nightly) but for what you got, it sounded good.

Once again both the GPS and maps.me led us slightly astray but at least this time, it was not biggie. They directed us through an abandoned subdivision that dead ended at a building so we backtracked and carried on in the direction Doug thought we should be heading and eventually both caught up to us and no longer lead us astray.  (this is why Doug navigates and Fran drives!)

Notes: We definitely find CR more expensive than other Central American countries and find that prices are often quoted in USD. As usual we tend to pay in local currencies as it’s cheaper especially if the business is giving a better rate. However, despite this the lack of infrastructure (roads mostly) is frustrating; you are paying first world prices for third world infrastructure. The roads are not as good as Nica and there are more dirt/gravel ones with of course, as mentioned earlier, lots of creeks to cross and some have to be impassable in rainy season (which we believe is now over). Even internet is not reliable here; so far the connection at Playa Maderas was the best but it crapped out often.

Something else of note, CR is way cleaner than the other countries; it’s rare to see a “garbage dump” on the side of the road and there are recycling bins in many places.

The people seem better off, not as many shacks and better vehicles on the road. Many people speak some English and are happy to hear we are learning Spanish.

Upon arriving at Las Tortugas Hotel, we learned from reception that they no longer allowed campers (despite asking her to call the owner – which she refused to do) so we had to find alternative digs. The reason we were coming here was to see the national park where the leatherback turtles nest and it’s the exact right season (for a change) for this event. The parking attendant at the beach suggest that we try at the park office to see about parking there but when Doug went to ask, the lone employee (the museum was closed) said he’d have to ask the manager who was not coming for a while. He also said the leatherbacks rarely nest here any longer due to the increased development along this coast – there’s too much light for them.

We then met a couple who were just about to go in and ask, and they too confirmed that Las Tortugas Hotel had told them this news but that you could take a canoe excursion up the coast to see other turtles (maybe olive ridley ones?). They too were disappointed.

Although the beach is quite lovely, after checking around and perusing our app, we decided to move the coast further to Playa Avellanas and camp there as there were not many options here. The roads are pretty much all dirt with plenty of potholes but certainly a regular car could make it with care.

Fun fact: there are SO many butterflies around us; we found this a bit in Mexico but even more so here; unfortunately they rarely pose long enough for a photo! We’ve seen lovely blue ones, yellow ones, yellow and black monarch looking ones, red ones, spotted ones and so many more.

There were two spots mentioned on iOverlander here, one being a restaurant right on the beach (Lola’s – the parking lot was super crowded) and another a small camping place about 400 metres beyond. Otto lives here and has a side lot where larger rigs can park and a sandy area out front where smaller rigs and tents can camp.

We paid him about $36 for three nights and got settled and hooked up to power. The property is fenced but right on the beach with rocky outcroppings and tide pools there and has picnic tables, bathrooms and both indoor and outdoor showers. Our kind of place; the only thing really missing was Wi-Fi but we knew we could use our hotspot if we really needed internet and just up the beach past Lola’s, some turtles have been known to nest.

We got into our bathing suits, blew up our boogie boards and went back up the beach out in front of Lola’s. Just past our place, we immediately met Gary & Gray from Port McNeil, BC lounging on the beach and chatted with them a bit before hitting the waves. The beach in front is nice but rocky at either end so no really conducive to riding waves but out in front of Lola’s was clearer and there were surfers over there. We played for a while and then upon returning met six Americans sitting under a tree who were spending the day here. We chatted with Ted, Casie, Nikki and her wife, as well as a couple from Maine. (sorry can’t remember your names!).

Later they came over to “our place” for a beer and we chatted some more. The sun came out this afternoon but it did rain overnight Friday.

Saturday and Sunday we had mostly cloudy skies but the sucker holes in the sky allowed the sun to come through on and off during the day. We spent the weekend doing our usual walking, Spanish, exercise, reading and swimming with the added bonus of boogie boarding . We asked Otto about the water here so we could add to our tanks and he said he drinks it but others drink only bottled water. Not a big deal to us as we use chlorine and have a filter but he very nicely brought us two gallons of potable water from Lola’s down the beach free of charge! We asked him about getting laundry done anywhere nearby but there were no options. We’ve pretty much been living in our bathing suits here so we don’t’ have a lot but will need to be done sooner or later. Always nicer to have it done when we stay somewhere for a while and there’s no rush (sometimes it costs extra for faster service).

Saturday night a German couple joined us at Casa Camping Avellanas. Gunnar and Marika are on vacation and rented a 4×4 SUV with a rooftop tent so they were exploring Costa Rica on their own.

Sunday night we decided that we’d stay a couple more nights – no rush, right? and it’s so quiet here with few tourists. Otto only charged us $23 for these two nights.

Monday the sun came out a great deal in the morning but there are storm clouds in the distance a lot of the day. We saw turtle tracks on the beach while walking this morning and after meeting Gary & Gray again, they advised that they were told that they’d missed seeing the large turtle (probably leatherback) early this morning by fifteen minutes! Now that would have been so cool.

We decided to check out the bar about 400M down the beach for sunset tonight but it was closed, however, there was a vendor selling cold beer out of a cooler.

Tuesday after exercising and breakfast, we met Gary & Gray again, swimming in a good spot on the beach in front of our campsite. If you enter the water at the right point, you can make it out deeper avoiding rocks. We chatted with them for a while in the water. They are heading back to San Jose today. We managed two boogie boarding sessions today as the tides were on our side; so much fun.  We have seen had some spectacular sunsets here.

Tonight on our evening walk, we ran into a backpacker, Marco from Italy, looking for a place to tent camp. We told him there were four spots around here, two of which we knew nothing about, our spot and Lola’s restaurant but we weren’t sure if they took tent campers. So Marco came back to Casa Avellanas with us and Otto settled him in but unfortunately, there are no cooking facilities here, just a sink as far as a kitchen goes. So we told Marco he could use our stove inside to cook his rice for dinner.

We decided on Wednesday after five nights here, it was time to move on mostly because this place has no internet and although we have a hotspot, we are careful how much we use of that. 3GB for one month costs $16 so data is pricey here compared to the other countries we’ve visited. We are also out of fresh fruit and veggies (no truck seems to come here – we’ve been spoiled!) as well as other food items and beer! Otto did offer to charge us only $20 for two more nights but we passed.

So we packed up and offered Marco a ride to Santa Cruz because this spot was not going to work for him. We know there are grocery stores there and it’s not too far off our route to Playa Samara. The campground there also does not have Wi-Fi but we’d like to stay there a couple of nights anyway. It’s pretty muggy today (it rained a bit last night) and the sun didn’t really come out fully until midafternoon and even that was spotty. So far in CR, we’ve had no completely sunny days. We have heard of others who were in CR last fall for seven weeks and had only two days of sunshine! Yuck. Tomorrow is December 1st so officially, anyway, the rainy season should be over.

After shopping we went straight to Samara (with a stop for a jungle dump) and it’s all paved road now.

We are staying at Aloha Camping and Bar – right on the beach at the northwest end of the main beach.

The bay is quiet pretty but we are disappointed with the beach; not as wide or as clean (mostly debris though not garbage at least) as Avellanas. There are many surf schools but we’re not seeing a lot of waves that we’d even want to pull out our boogie boards for yet. It’s pretty touristy here too.

Here we met a couple from Wisconsin, Alex & Christine (she’s actually Chilean) and they arrived in Costa Rica recently and they are turning around when their visa is up (for some reason they only got a 30 day visa). CR is as far as they are going. He works on the road via the internet like Doug.

We took a walk on the beach to almost the south end and then came back via the streets looking for laundry service. We were sure spoiled in Mexico; laundry was SO cheap. It seems to get more costly the further south we go. Here they want nearly $4US a kilo! In the end we paid just over $20 for 7.5 kgs; we stopped by one evening and mentioned we had at least 7 kg and the man at the counter said he’d give us a 10% discount so the next morning Fran dropped it off and told the lady at the counter and told her about the offered discount and she calculated incorrectly and instead of giving her 10% off the total, she wrote a 25% discount per kilo! Then when Doug went to pick it up, instead of charging the 11,250 colones, he only had to pay 11,000 so not quite as bad as expected.

Thursday morning it was low tide in the morning and the beach redeemed itself; it was much more pleasant and it seems we are at the better end of the beach.

Doug took a walk about 5km out to check out another campground on the next beach south of here that was supposed to have Wi-Fi but no one had visited it since 2012 so we were not sure if it was even open; it was pretty run down and the price was about the same as where we were and no Wi-Fi was offered nor was it right on the beach so he came back and we decided to stay where we were. He did say the beach was quite beautiful there though; we’ll both see when we leave here as we have to pass by it on our way south.

We pulled out our umbrella and enjoyed some chill time on the beach on Thursday and in the afternoon also walked into town and spent some time at a beach bar for internet as there is none at the campground. We spent happy hour on Thursday night with Alex and Chris and they left on Friday midday after we exchanged media (movies, music and such).

Friday night, a family from New Zealand arrived; Vinnie & Jackie have three kids and are spending five months in the CR with a month in Nica (they are based out of Playa Jaco in CR).

So Saturday morning we decided to pack up and head further south down the Nicoya Peninsula to a different beach/campground that has Wi-Fi. Both our GPS and maps.me had us taking the coast roads but did not take into account the recent rains so we actually got to three different points at rivers with no bridges (first a river that was not on the map, then Rio Bongo and then another unexpected river) where the rivers were too high to attempt crossing without either water coming in the doors or getting stuck in the mud! Doug tested them out with his walking stick and the water at one point was above his midthigh.

So an 87km/53m journey that should have taken 1.5 hours, took five hours and we didn’t even get to Playa Mal Pais! We kept having to detour and then just went to the other coast of the peninsula to take the long way around and when we decided to go that way, we still had 87km to go! We then stopped in Playa Naranjo near the ferry terminal and stayed at Hotel Oasis for the night as it was now 3:00 and we didn’t want to risk 70km taking 3-4 hours. This place was supposed to have Wi-Fi but we hardly got it to work.  Doug also got in a few hours work sitting by the pool.

Sunday, December 4th, is the date of the San Jose marathon (that German couple we met a week ago told us as they were participating) and although Doug looked into us heading over there early, opted not to for various reasons. So…..he decided he’d walk a marathon today. He arose at five a.m. and headed in the direction we were going to drive today and prearranged with Fran where to meet him at an approximate time. Shortly after he started it began to rain but that didn’t hinder him, he pushed on. Fran left Hotel Oasis around 10:30 and made a couple of pit stops (groceries and gas) in Paquera. Our GPS said the drive to Mal Pais was 70km and it was about 29 to Paquera where she stopped. That took well over an hour as the road was horrendous. It seems they ran out pavement just after Hotel Oasis and as it was raining, it just made driving around and through pothole that much slower. After Paquera the road was paved again and she made it to the “meeting point” on time. Doug had completed his 26.2 mile walk and was in pretty good shape.

After cleaning up and changing, we carried on and made it to the small town of Saint Theresa near Playa Mal Pais where we again lost the paved road and travelled the last 1km to our destination: Camping Elimar on the beach.

This place gets great reviews on iOverlander and many travelers we have met have spent some time here. There were a couple of tents and a VW camper from Mexico when we arrived. After some tricking maneuvering through the trees we got ourselves a nice spot near the rocky beach. There’s a reason this area is called Mal Pais (bad country) as the beach is rocky and but quite beautiful. William, the man in charged helped us into our spot and we settled in for at least one night (we don’t like to commit to longer at first until we “test” things out e.g. power and Wi-Fi).

The power worked great and the Wi-Fi was the best and most reliable we’ve had in CR. We were quite amazed seeing how far away from a large center we are here (we are almost at the tip of the Nicoya peninsula). It was still overcast this afternoon so everything around here is quite wet. Our rig is actually parked further from the building and we got a full signal.

By that afternoon we had decided we’d spend at least another three nights here; good to get internet stuff done! 🙂

Monday morning it was low tide and we were able to walk up the beach back into Santa Theresa and check out where some sandy swimming beaches might be and also to see where the other camping spot that appeared to be right on the main beach at Playa Santa Theresa up here might be (it didn’t get as many visits or any rave reviews). We walked about 20 minutes to the main turn into “town” and carried up on the sandy beach (fairly nice but not spectacular). There were a few surfers testing the waves and some people soaking up the sun on towels and lounge chairs. We find a sign that said camping and checked it out but it seemed to be yet another place that was no on iOverlander and did not offer internet; it also looked a little too rustic for us with lots and lots coconut trees (a hazard for solar panels!). We asked someone on the beach but they were not really sure. We then took the little side road into town and walked back through town to see what was available. Turned out this little town was bigger than we thought as it offers groceries, booze, pharmacies, a small department store, a hardware store, car & atv rentals and lots of little restaurants and shops.

We observed this on the beach as we walked; Doug had read about how shelled critters on beaches like to exchange shells as they outgrow their’s and although we thought this might be what was going on as there was an empty larger shell in the mix, we did not actually see any of them move; who knows? maybe it was some kind of mating ritual or “beach party”!

As we wandered through the village, we saw laundry service for half what we paid in Playa Samara! So we decided that we’d bring in our sheets and towels later in the week and get that all caught up.

Upon returning to Tigger, we found we had some new neighbours: Miles (an American from LA) had arrived and he was travelling south like us; he currently had a few temporary riders: two of his lady friends from LA and a German girl, Melena whom he’d met in Honduras. While we were sitting reading or rather trying to read while watching the waves crash over the rocks in front of us, a couple walked over inquiring about our rig. Charlie and Cathy are from Vail, CO and are here on three weeks’ vacation. The next day we got an email invite from them to join them for lunch at the Mexican place just up the beach from us.

So Tuesday and Wednesday we did chores around Tigger (usual home maintenance stuff) and walked the beach and chatted with our fellow campers. There is a young Italian woman, Valentina, camping here with her two year old son. Her partner had to fly home to Israel for a wedding so she is tenting it here with a toddler! Kudos to her.

Doug took the laundry in Wednesday morning and Fran walked into town in the afternoon to pick it up after we had lunch date with Charlie and Cathy. Lunch was very good and the company was very nice. Thanks again guys! We invited them to join us for happy hour that afternoon (and to use the internet as Cathy said it was not great at their hotel) but they emailed us around dinner said they’d gotten held up so we said we’re staying another night so rain check if you are still around.

That evening a Swiss couple arrived, Monica & Schawi, who were northbound and have been on the road since 2013 – so slower travelers like us and they go home every summer for a few months.  A young man from Vancouver, Glen, also showed up today. The campground is getting full.

Thursday, we hung around for one more day/night as the weather was so nice now. We spent happy hour with the Swiss couple swapping recommendations and experiences. It threatened rain tonight but other than a few sprinkles it didn’t last.

Friday after breakfast we packed it in and drove back a ways to a larger town to stock up on fruit/veg and went to the little hippy town of Montezuma right on the beach again. Turns out the one camping spot no longer offered power so we splurged and got a cheap hotel room on the main drag. The beach here has a rocky section and a nicer section. We remembered staying in this town with Serena back in ’08. It’s a very small and super touristy place. After checking in, we walked around, went for a swim and then enjoyed some AC in our room.

So we splurged again for dinner and went out to some quite good pizza then some gelato for dessert. Turns out the bar across the street likes to play loud music till about midnight so we didn’t get to sleep very early. We usually go to bed around ten but was more like 11:30 until we even tried to sleep.

We both awoke early Saturday morning and decided the hotel was not worth another night so we checked out and drove northeast along the coast stopping in the town of Tambor at the beachfront to make breakfast in the rig.

Lately, we’ve been having some electrical issues (Doug HATES electricity related stuff). The running lights on the coach of Tigger have stopped working but we are not too concerned as we rarely drive at night but then the stereo began acting up by coming in and out; then the light over Doug’s bed became very finicky and finally when we tried to run the generator this morning – not even a click!

After breakfast we drove to the ferry terminal at Paquero to catch the boat to “mainland” CR rather than drive up the gulf and back down; it cost about $40US for Tigger and us for a 65 minute ride – wasn’t a really efficient loading and unloading process but the price was right – take that BC Ferries!

We have some friends that stayed at a nice ranch near the ferry terminal on the other side and that was our destination for today. Eco Ranch Rossy has rooms, fruit trees, a restaurant/bar, cabins, horses and ATV’s for rent as well as a very nice swimming pool.  Just before arriving here, the stereo began working and the generator was working!  Mystery!; still no running lights though.

We were warmly greeted by a waiter, got set up and he brought us a table, two chairs and two rocking chairs to relax in. We ordered some lunch and ate right next to Tigger. Then we insanely decided to wash the salt of Tigger; with buckets and hoses, we spent three hours cleaning the mud and salt off the rig. It was sunny when we left Montezuma this morning by upon disembarking from the ferry on this side, it was overcast and sprinkled briefly on and off the rest of the day – naturally, because we were washing our vehicle!

We spent a quite night at Eco Ranch and decided we spend a second night and have a relaxing Sunday. The sun never came out but we’re not that far from the coast so it’s still rather muggy. We spent some time walking, on the internet and planning our next move.

 

 

 

 

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