Part 3 of our adventures starts and ends back at the beach. We start on the Pacific coast, with a night of wild camping. We found some safer stretches of coast in this part of our journey and could enjoy something for FREE in Costa Rica! After all that complaining we did about prices in the last stretch, it was a nice change of pace.
A couple of highlights along the Pacific Coast: Manuel Antonio National Park, a beautiful preserved area with hiking trails. This was the one National Park we decided to splurge on entering. Due to the hot weather and needing to leave Mitzi behind, we got up early and were there right for the 7am opening. The temperatures then were still cool and we had the place to ourselves! The sights were great and we were out just after 9am, as the temperatures were just starting to creep up and the crowds were really rolling in. The park wouldn’t have been half as nice two hours later (nor would it have been possible to go without the pup).
Uvita and Marino Ballena National Park – technically there is an entry fee here, but we stayed in a spot that has a private entrance and enjoyed walking along the beach here. It is known for the “Whale Tail” land formation. You can walk out to the end during low tide and enjoy the great view. We went as the tide was coming in and got to splash around in the waves that were coming from both sides.
Osa Peninsula – There was a lot of great wild camping spots on the Peninsula and plenty of wildlife sightings – some turtles in the water of Golfo Dulce and Scarlet Macaws dropping shells on us from Playa Matapalo. We didn’t go into the National Park here – again, no dogs and the high price tag – but we don’t feel like we missed out on much and enjoyed all the lovely free (and safe) beach camping.
Backtracking up the coast a bit, we stopped in Dominical for a couple nights. We were technically “wild camping” but it didn’t feel so wild, since they were in a parking lot next to a bar where we could pick up WiFi, had a short walk to an brewery, and close to a surf shop where we rented some boards. This was most definitely Rachels last time on a surf board – 4th time was still not the charm. Ben had fun practicing, but we were both ready to head back in the mountains!
Up near Chirripo National Park, we found a hostel with camping that let us park the Landy there. It is the low season now, so we were the only guests and got to chat a bit with the hostel owner. We poked around the villages, found a short trail past some waterfalls, and bought cheese and chocolate at a couple local shops. We also went up to a private nature reserve to go hiking our second morning there. Unfortunately it was also not dog friendly, but the trail was very short and temperatures are cool, so Mitzi didn’t mind letting us go for a walk without her.
Our next stop was for 10 days at a small Animal Shelter in the town Pueblo Nuevo. Rachel has been wanting to do some volunteer work while we travel, and this opportunity seemed perfect. The day to day work involved lots of dog walks (fun) and dog poop (gross) but the best part were cuddling with the sweetest bonded pair, Clarita and Kasper. If we weren’t limited to one dog on the upcoming sailing trip, we may have taken off with these two.
From the shelter, we got back on the road with a nice 4×4 road full of views on our way up to 3000m. Just outside of the National Park Los Quetzales is the beautiful mountain village San Gerardo de Dota. We went on two beautiful hikes and paddled around in a cute little lake.
Next up, back to San Jose to pick up more car parts! But first to the Central Valley to see the sights and visit a Swiss bakery. Our first Zopf since October! Due to recent rains, their campsite was flooded so we headed to the city that night instead of staying in the beautiful area. On the way we visited a few beautiful spots: Sarchi, famous for their elaborately decorated Ox Carts, Cartago with a beautiful church and ruins in the center of the city, and the ruins of Iglesia Ujarrás. We spent the next three nights at the same hostel as our last visit, had some more delicious food in the cool neighborhood there, and visited the National Museum. Out of San Jose, we spent one night up in the mountains by Volcan Irazu hoping to see some Quetzals – but still no luck. And from there a long drive down to the Caribbean coast and the town of Puerto Viejo. From here we are getting travel documents ready for Mitzi, and as soon as that’s all in order it will be off to Panama!