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Making our Way to Manuel Antonio, NP


January 6th, 2017

Talk about the best laid plans. We had put Tigger in storage not only to keep it secure but to give us another two weeks on our permit. What a hassle this has proven to be.

Doug landed from LA about an hour late and his experience getting Tigger out was horrendous. It was as if they were trying to make it stupidly difficult. It took him SEVEN hours!  First he goes to the Aduana (customs) at airport as we’d read was the first step but they said we needed new insurance first! The insurance office is three miles away (you can only get a new 90 day policy; you cannot change or extend the existing policy and it cost $40 but we think we only paid $30 when we crossed into CR), then Aduana sent him to the storage place where they said they didn’t understand why he was there….. so they called back to the Aduana and it took 1 1/2 hours for her to give him a piece of paper with details of our vehicle, then back to the Aduana to get vehicle release and finally back to parking to pay (80$ for 16 days including fees & taxes!) and finally get the vehicle. At one point during this process it hit noon which meant closing for lunch but at 12:30 the woman came back but after beginning to help Doug, she stopped at one point and ate her lunch!

As it was getting late in the afternoon on a Friday, we decided not to try and make it the 90 kms to our next destination: Playa Jaco back on the Pacific. We figured we’d hit weekend traffic before dark and never make it comfortably so we headed back up the mountain to Volcán Poás and back to the free place we’d stay at in December. We arrived just as the boutique was closing and there was already an overlander’s vehicle parked there although they were not present.

We settled in and spent about an hour unpacking all our bags and rearranging things before dark. After dinner, we checked the other vehicle (it had Belgian plates) but still no one was home. We wanted to get an early start on Saturday so we didn’t get a chance to meet them.

Upon going Alajuela to the coast, we stopped (after the most frustrating directions) at Walmart to stock up after not living in Tigger for more than two weeks. We then began heading out of dodge on the toll highway only to be stuck in traffic! We actually paid for this privilege! The highway keeps going from one lane to two lanes and it wreaks havoc on the speed of the traffic. Once we took the turn off to the south, it did get better.

Before getting to Playa Jaco, we stopped at Crocodile Bridge; this a free tourist attraction where there is a natural habitat for crocodiles. As we were not sure how much parking there’d be, we stopped about 500m before at a pull out on the road, and walked down to the bridge. Naturally, once we got there, we saw lots of parking but we needed steps, right? At the bridge there are, of course, many vendors set up as well as a few restaurants and a reptile park (which is not free). We walked across the bridge and observed about 40 crocs lazing in the river. They were not all the active so fifteen minutes was enough time spent in the sun and we returned to our rig to carry on down the road.



We had a campsite in mind in Playa Jaco but upon arriving there, they wanted to charge way too much for the use of power (about $10 a day!) we went down the beach to the south end and found a different campground where the per person rate was the same but the power was less than $4 a day. We spent a couple of days here. There were no other overlanders here with us but a few locals were tent camping. It was half a block from the famous Jaco beach and we were content.

We walked out to the beach and lo and behold there was the Belgian camper again! We left them a note telling them where we were and they did stop by the second night for a beer. Sarah and Alain have about one month left in their travels from Canada to Panama left before returning to work a bit more and then do South America another time.

Wandering the town, we found this taco bar that we’d visited back in 2008.

We looked for and found a laundry place (way over priced but we had two full bags already….) and had it done before leaving Jaco.

While the beach here is famous, it was not our favourite, mostly because it was too busy but also there were lots of pebbly sections so not so nice for strolling barefoot. We did enjoy the water a few times, took our umbrella down one day to read on the beach and really can’t complain much.

We left there on Monday after getting our laundry done and drove further down the coast to Manuel Antonio National Park. This is CR’s smallest, but premiere and most visited park complete with swaying palm trees, playful monkeys, amazing beaches and hundreds of birds.

We were a bit anxious about finding a campsite with power nearby (and it’s hot again here at the coast) so we planned to stop at a hostel that friends had stayed at in July which now shows as “no longer allowing camping” to take a chance and down that same road, we found “Joey”, a parking attendant in front of a different hostel/bnb and he said we could camp there with power for a reasonable price. The beach here at the NP is beautiful and we are lucky to have this spot. It’s a very short walk to the sand, there are palm, mango and almond trees for shade, outdoor showers to rinse off and slow Wi-Fi. We got set up and walked the beach to do our spanish before a swim.

That afternoon we also arranged a guide for a tour of the park for the next morning.

Bernie picked us up at 7:30 the next morning and we bought tickets to enter the park. Bernie is a birder and a naturalist and quite a font of knowledge. He had a scope with him (as do most of the guides) and was able to spot things, we’d never have found on our own.

There are SO many butterflies and most do not stop to pose for photos.  We have seen many of these blue ones called “morpho” but we cannot take credit for this pic:

We saw lizards, birds, iguanas, spiders, five sloths (though all were pretty camera shy), bats, racoons, a deer and white faced monkeys.

The park includes many trails to ocean views, many white sandy beaches, mangroves and jungle.

Our tour was about two hours and then Bernie left us on our own at the end of the main trail to wander a few more trails and by lunch we were pretty hot and sweaty and went back to the rig, changed and played in the ocean for a bit before lunch and another afternoon of vegging on the beach.

During our after dinner walk, we met a young Finnish couple (sorry we have NO idea how to spell their unusual names!) and they had just seen a sloth cross the road on the power lines above and it was sitting in the tree. We watched for a bit while it settled itself and we chatted with the Finns. They were on a yearlong round the world backpacking trip visiting a couple of countries on each continent.

Wednesday, we stayed one more night just chillin’ and getting back into our exercise routines etc. While sitting on the beach, we were entertained by the little white faced monkeys and one actually tried to steal Fran’s towel off a branch.