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Okay the Pacific Side Has Better Weather


February 6th, 2017

We decided to stop in San Isidro de El General on the way to the coast as we’d read that they allow overlanders to camp in the parking lot at the Best Western for less than $9 a night albiet without power but there is a pool.

We arrived midday and Adrian at the front desk helped us get parked and settled. This town is at about 700M/2400ft elevation so it doesn’t cool off all that much at night but with both fans going, it wasn’t too bad that night.

Can you imagine being able to get away with hanging laundry in the parking lot in a Best Western where you live!

We decided since it was cheap to stay another night and take advantage of the fast Wi-Fi and walk the town. We enjoyed the pool both days and Doug looked into climbing Cerro Chirripo, the tallest peak in the country but there were no spaces left for the overnight hiking option until April! and the “do it all on in day” option had no openings until next week.  It was too hot to hang around here another week without power.

As we were parked under some trees that second day and it being only partly sunny (but still hot) it did not allow our solar panels to replenish much at all. So we needed to move on after two nights.

We wanted to go back to Playa Colonia near Uvita to the El Tecal campground – we both feel this is our favourite beach in CR even though the campground is not right on the beach, it’s a very good one. It was very hot when we got here – about 38C/102F!

Since we had access to lots of water and there is a great sink/counter area by the bathrooms, Fran did a few “loads” of laundry which we hung to dry while going for a dip in the campground pool and then after lunch went to the beach to sit under the trees for the afternoon, cooling off in the water when required. There is a lovely breeze at the beach that you don’t really feel at the campsite much. We are about 300m from the ocean and another 100 meters to the “free” access. We absolutely love the wide beach with big tide differences here and the beach is long for walking and the water is warm (you can probably walk for 8km if you want one way).

Sidebar: Playa Colonia is part of the Marino Bellena NP and if you walk north along the beach, cross the small river, you are on Playa Uvita where you can reach the whale tail. If you round the point at the whale tail, you are on Playa Hermosa so there PLENTY of beach to walk on. There’s a river crossing the latter beach as well which you can either walk inland and cross or at low tide, make your way across but we’ve only gone as far as that river.

Doug did a long run Friday morning during which he came across a great deal of road kill: couple of sloths, a cat of some sort (maybe an ocelot?) and a skunk.  Fran did some more laundry and then took a long walk on the beach.

After lunch it was back to the beach again; Saturday rinse and repeat. While at the beach we had our sheets and towels washed by the staff at the campground for $3. Now that’s more reasonable. Our little Scrubba bag is really too small for sheets/towels and ringing them out would take forever.

That evening a backpacker, Mark, showed up. He’s in CR for a month and will be attending and working at the annual Envision festival nearby next week. He is American but lives near Playa del Carmen in Mexico now.

Christine and Mark are now in Costa Rica and they reached out saying they have friends coming for two weeks and did we want to join them at Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. She suggested dates and we figured that it could work for us. We’ll see how this pans out.

Sunday it was quite hot and we went for a dip in the pool in the morning where we met an Albertan, Randy, who was a retired teacher and he and his wife Linda, are touring Nica, CR and Panama for three months. They joined us for happy hour after our afternoon jaunt to the beach. At the beach today, we met another American who’s been living in Uvita for 9 years now and he and his wife have become permanent residents. Todd says they really enjoy the simpler life here and don’t plan to go back.

By Monday we still had not heard from Doug’s employer about working so we are biding our time remaining here at Playa Colonia. We decided we could easily stay at this campground for another week, so Doug went to the manager and proposed a cheaper weekly rate than the nightly rate we were paying and he agreed ($7 instead of $9pp).

That morning Fran managed to very ungracefully break one of our camping chairs. Now we’ve had these great low slung REI camping chairs since 2013 so they have had a long life considering how much we use them. In the past 18 months we’ve also used them on the beach quite a bit and Doug has done some repairs to them; the rivets break; he puts in bolts and nuts but they all get exposed to too much salt. We do tend to rinse them off before we leave a beach camp but that just delayed the inevitable. So one break was fixable the other not; he managed to finagle a way to temporary allow us to use the chair but we knew it wouldn’t last.

We then continued a daily routine for the next nine days: exercise (most days), breakfast, internet time, household chores, walking doing Spanish lessons, lunch, beach time, shower, happy hour (with various people), dinner, walk and some tv time before bed.

Monday, we met a young family from Sherbrooke, Quebec on the beach. Ian, Jasmine, 3yr old Evelyn and 8 month old Phillipe are spending five weeks in CR and found a cheap AirBNB place here. Turns out Ian grew up in the same part of Ottawa as Fran did!

That night’s happy hour was with Randy & Linda and Mark popped over for a bit. Randy and Linda asked us to join them out for dinner Tuesday night so we agreed and this meant we could put off going into town for groceries another day. There is a small supermarket about 100 metres from us and we were able to get bananas and bread there so we should be good to wait to shop.

Tuesday – Happy Valentine’s Day – we went out for dinner with Randy and Linda to a Mexican place that while service was slow, it made the wait worthwhile as the food was excellent and the Margaritas were pretty darn good too.

Wednesday, we unhooked Tigger mid-morning and made our way into the village of Uvita. First stop was up a dirt road to a spot that Randy told us about where we could get a view of the whale tail. It was a steep 4×4 road but worth the effort. Turns out we found out later that it was not the same spot and their photo shows more of the tail than ours so we can think him for this shot:

We also took advantage of the remoteness and dumped our tanks before stopping at a nearby waterfall. For $2 you hike about three minutes down to the stream and there are two decent size pools with clear cool water to swim in and if you are so inclined, you can slide down the upper fall into the water OR jump off that rocks up there; we passed on that part, but watched other crazy people do it.   At the ticket booth/restaurant we met a couple from Prince Rupert but didn’t catch their names. We ran into Jasmine and her family here too.

Then it was a stop at the grocery store to stock up and to find a new camp chair. Todd (the American we’d met a few days earlier that lives here) had told us about a hardware store near our campground that might have some so we after seeing a really cheaply made one at the grocery store for over $20 we checked went there and bought two better quality ones there at less than $13 each. We swapped out the webbing for the new frames and it’s all good. (The reason we swapped out the fabric is that the one cup holder in the new one was pretty cheap and our chairs have two cup holders and the fabric is better quality and dries more quicky.)

Late that afternoon, a young Englishman named Aaron drove up on this motorbike. He’d left England, crossed Russia and Mongolia before shipping to Vancouver and was on his way to Ushuaia. He’s had quite the “quick” adventure; been on the road only ten months! Randy and Laura returned for happy hour and Jasmine and her family joined us and we saw a couple of macaws and toucans in the trees around us. 

Thursday, Doug finished the taxes (yes, he doesn’t like to have things hanging over him) while we still await word from his company and thanks to his financial acumen, we are getting a very decent refund! That afternoon, Randy & Linda joined us on the beach; we brought out the boogie boards and all took turns riding the waves. Jasmine’s family was also on the beach near us today.

Friday morning Fran took a looong walk on the beach and upon her return, we met a young Dutch couple, Diana and Steve travelling in a VW camper with a 15 month old daughter AND her parents that arrived this morning.

Shells and creatures Fran met on the beach:

After a final happy hour with Randy & Linda, we said goodbye and wished them well on the rest of their vacation. On our walk after dinner we came across some busy ants:

As usual, a few locals joined us in the campground and the beach was full of tents in the trees and lots of folks on the beach, playing in the surf, playing soccer on the beach, lying IN the sand at the water line (we don’t understand this as you get sand EVERYWHERE doing that), surfing, boogie boarding, building sand castles and enjoying their weekend at the beach. This usually means for us, it’s a little harder to find a shady spot in the trees with a view so we bring our beach umbrella and park ourselves around the high tide mark well before high tide.

Sunday afternoon two young men who were lifelong friends in the Ukraine but one now lives in the US, pulled in. Art & Alex are exploring Costa Rica camping and in a rental SUV.

Tuesday we unhooked to go into town to stock up as we plan to stay until Sunday. Christine and Mark have advised that they should be here in Uvita on Thursday or Friday to spend a couple of days with us before we all go to Drake Bay. We have booked a hotel with AC in town for three nights and they decided to do without AC and are staying with their friends on the park border so we’re not sure we’ll see them when we are all there so it will be nice to spend some time with them before we cross the border next week.

That evening a young Argentinian couple who now live in Mexico City drove up in their VW camper. Paloma is going to be a vendor at the Envision Festival which starts tomorrow and Nicolas will be an attendee. She makes jewelry to sell on the road.

Wednesday morning was spent doing some bigger household chores and while working a couple of men from North Van walked over. They are staying in the rooms here and noticed our Canadian flag. Guy and Jeremy are father and son here on vacation.

Fran discovered many sand dollars on the beach as the tide went out one afternoon all in one area.  They were not bleached at and when she used her two to flip over the upside ones, they began burying themselves in the sand.

Here’s a video of one:

Later that day a couple (she French, he Norweigan) with an infant arrived with a tent; they are at the end of their vacation and have decided to just stay put here for a few days.

Thursday afternoon, Christine and Mark were parked in the campground when we returned from our afternoon at the beach. They had gone to try and spot us down there but we missed each other. After we all showered, we enjoyed a couple of hours of happy hour and began catching up. We’d last seen them back in May in Guatemala when they returned to Mexico to housesit and finally we are again in the same country. Now they’ve only been in CR about three weeks and we have to leave next week, so we hope our paths cross again in a few months.


Friday and Saturday we spent some time with Christine and Mark again on and off and continued to enjoy the beach.

On Fran’s final walk out to the tail she was one of only two people out there; the other persona, a young Tico man, was exploring the tidal pools and called her over to see some small starfish.  One was only about 1.5 inches across and moved too quickly to get a photo but here’s the larger one she saw:

here’s a pan of the beach walking out there and if you squint you can see the rocks of the whale tail on the left  🙂

After a morning chat with Mark and Christine, on Sunday, we unhooked and headed to Drake Bay.