Costa Rica pt.4
Drove from Tamarindo to Manuel Antonio, took around 5 hours plus an hour break for lunch (at a nice soda/restaurant just off the main highway after a bridge over a valley, cannot remember the name unfortunately) and we arrived just as it was getting dark. The drive, whilst long, is fairly easy with some rough roads for 10-15 km exiting Tamarindo but then paved highways the rest of the way. The final stretch from Quepos up into MA is very twisting and poorly lit so we were glad of the last of the light getting up there.
We were very pleased with our hotel, the Plaza Yara, which is a smaller independent hotel situated about half way between Quepos and MA. The hotel was quiet, clean and the room very large with a nice big bathroom and a separate lounge/kitchen area (think we had some kind of family room as were travelling as a group of 3). Breakfast left a little to be desired, was perfectly nice but only offered ordered options not buffet so you didn’t get much of a fill. Once settled in the hotel gave us some tips about activities and suggested the Manuel Antonio Expeditions team (tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g309274-…).
And what a superb recommendation it was. We dealt with Paul/Paulo over the phone, a Canadian now nationalised Costa Rican, who talked us through all our options, what would work best for our timescales and the tide patterns for the mangrove boat tour and even agreed a discount as we were a group. The morning was spent with his colleague Juan Brenes, having been driven to MA NP by Paulo. Juan gave us a guided tour of the park, which is all simple trails and quite busy/touristy but nevertheless an excellent nature viewing opportunity – we saw sloths, howler monkeys, white faced capuchins (Marcel from Friends), iguanas, tiny lizards, beautiful birds and some interesting creepy crawlies. We were then dropped by at our hotel around midday to freshen up for an hour (much needed as we had naively expected a proper hike so had worn heavy jeans and walking boots when shorts and trainers would have suited!) before Paulo came for us and took us for a traditional Costa Rican lunch cooked by his very own Tica wife! We thought this was a wonderful personal touch and the food was delicious. Particularly sweet of him was that I had mentioned earlier in the day that I’d heard all about ‘Ceviche’ but hadn’t had a chance to sample any and was worried it was the last day or so of our trip and he made up a batch especially! He then took us out for a delightful boat trip through the mangrove swamps, seeing more capuchins, kingfishers, cranes/egrets, bats and even an impossibly cute tiny Silky Anteater. We finished with drinking the juice from some freshly cut coconuts before being dropped back off at our hotel.
Day 11 we drove back to San Jose late morning, the drive was about 2.5 hours plus we stopped for a while at the Rio Tarcoles crocodile bridge which wa amazing seeing almost 40 huge crocs just lounging around sun-bathing. Almost got stung on all the tolls into SJO, totally ran out of small change (colones) and would have been in trouble if there’d been 1 more. Our hotel, again the Sleep Inn, was central/downtown SJO but the satnav guided us there fine and the traffic wasn’t that difficult to manage (though I am experienced driving it London which may help). Afternoon in SJO, not much to do, strolled down to the main square when the National Museum/Gold Muesum etc were which killed a couple of hours, then just headed back to our hotel and saw out the day in the neighbouring sports bar. On reflection, given our flight was 3pm and SJO is frankly rubbish, we should have stayed an extra night in MA and driven straight to the airport. Wouldn’t have been a problem at all.
Day 12 was a fairly stressful trip home – mainly due to the gross incompetence of US immigration policies and Miami airport in general. Seriously, if you can get a flight to CR that doesn’t go via the US it is worth at least an extra £50 to avoid the stress and hassle. From what we saw you could lay-off 20-30% of Miami’s airport staff overnight with no impact on service or speed. Having to run to catch our flight back to the UK even though we had 2.5 hours lay-over is ridiculous. SJO airport was generally ok, though be warned – food and drink prices are an astonishing rip-off, even by airport standards, and, (this may have been specific to American Airlines), having gone through all of the airport’s security and re-bought bottles of water for the flight etc, AA were operating a second security clearance at the gate itself stealing everyone’s water back off them and creating a lot of irate passengers. NB: Departure tax of $28 is payable before check-in (this would usually be added to your airline ticket), best come prepare with the dollars but there are cashpoints next to the desks and the service is fairly swift and efficient. BE WARNED: payment of this tax by credit card is treated as a cash advance and very experience – pay cash!
Anyways, that was the end to our little trip to Costa Rica. A truly fabulous and beautiful country, matched by its inhabitants. Pura Vida!!