After a great first few days in Costa Rica (see Part 1) we continued our road trip around the beautiful country of Costa Rica.
After a good sleep we started the morning with a little walk around Tamarindo (Point C in the above map). The town is one of the touristy spots in Costa Rica. The local to tourist ratio was about one to one. The town had just started some road works so the whole town had dirt roads. It gave the town even more of a rustic feel. Judging by how hard they were working on the construction I expect that it may be a dirt road town for a fair while.
After a nice tropical breakfast (amazing pineapple!) we finally got to see our first Costa Rican beach. Unfortunately we were a bit disappointed. Now maybe our research wasn’t good, but we were expecting white sand beaches. The beach had dark grey sand. After some research we found out it has to do with the volcanoes and lava from a long time ago. The actual beach itself was nice. It was flat and easy to walk along, the water looked nice and there were beautiful palm trees hanging over the sand. Everything else was great, but there is something about having dirty feet after walking along the beach that doesn’t seem right.
So after a short walk we got back to our room and typed “white sand beaches Costa Rica” into out trusty friend Google. Apparently there were a few around, with the closest one being Playa Conchal, which is also a ‘shell beach’. Not only was it going to be white sand, but it was named amongst the top couple of beaches in Costa Rica on various online websites and had amazing reviews. And online websites are always right. Aren’t they? (Maybe I shouldn’t joke about some online websites giving bad information, when we operate one that you guys are taking information from. Don’t worry all our information is fantastic. We promise!)
So we made Playa Conchal our next stop. The beach is a little further north along the coast (near Point D on the above map). After arriving in Playa Flamingo you need to drive along the beach to get there, which was fun, but a little bit worrying considering we were in a two wheel drive car. We got there and found a beach with ‘whitish’ sand, a few shells and lots of people. Maybe we have been spoilt for beaches in our time, but we weren’t ecstatic. After living in Australia and having visited beaches in Florida, Mexico and several Caribbean Islands we have high expectations for a beach. We jumped in for a swim and chilled for an hour or so. The water was a perfect temperature. Warm enough not to be cold, but not too warm that it wasn’t refreshing.
We weren’t ready to give up yet, so we tried a few move beaches further along the coast. We tried a couple near the Playa Panama area without much luck (near Point E on the above map). We did however stop in a few great little towns. People were friendly, food was cheap (even in the more touristy areas) and the souvenir stuff was actually good. Not just your crappy shot glasses and cups with ‘I love Costa Rica’ on them. There was some really nice bits and pieces to buy. Wood carvings, nice cloths, feathers with hand painted Costa Rican animals on them and machetes with nice leather sleeves to name a few. All reasonably priced. And our favorite part was we were not harassed when we walked past to come in to the stores (one of our pet hates). Our favorite was Playa Flamingo, but most of the towns were similar.
We headed inland to a town called Liberia (Point F on above map). It is actually a very big town and appears to be a bit of a backpackers hub. The bars across everyone’s windows and barb wire around the fence lines was enough to tell us that Liberia was just going to be a place to sleep. Having said that, we did go for a wander at night for a bite to eat and there were enough people on the street to feel safe.
So today we headed back inland. We were very excited as we loved our time near Volcan Poas and from what we were told where we were heading was even better! So we started our journey to Monte Verde (Point G on above map). And it was an interesting journey as the way there involved a section of about 40km of unpaved windy road. Oh well it’s a hire car, let’s go!
The drive took what seemed like forever. Some of the roads we were lucky to be going 10km/hr. We looked at each other wondering what we were actually going to find at Monte Verde if this was the track out here. However we shouldn’t have worried, as when we got there it was a beautiful area. The main town in the area is actually Santa Elena and is set up nicely with plenty to do. We ate lunch at a Bar Amigos and had what has now become our usual order since traveling to Mexico – Fajitas!
After refueling we stopped at Monte Verde Cloud Forest. Once we got there we noticed that one thing was missing – The cloud. It was a crystal clear day with beautiful blue skies! Definitely not going to complain. We spent a few hours walking around the reserve. It was a peaceful walk and it felt like we had the reserve to ourselves. We ran into some wildlife. There were heaps of birds, but unfortunately no sloths. We would have to wait to see our first sloth. The reserve was a beautiful green with a scattering of color from numerous flowers. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and recommend a visit to anyone.
After a few hours we jumped back in the car and continued our drive to our next stop, Fortuna (Point H on the map) – Another long drive with plenty of unpaved road. Fortunately we were on our way when some rain set in. No more crystal clear skies. We would come to learn that afternoon rain wasn’t unusual in Costa Rica. We didn’t arrive until after dark, and driving along these roads at night was an experience. No street lights, no road markings, rain and fog. A good combination to make sure you are staying alert at the wheel.
Tomorrow we explore the Volcan Arenal area and see our first sloth!