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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
843 days a wanderin'

Perusing the Pacific, Costa Rica

Jul 28, 2017
by John

Many times we have mentioned that the beaches of the pacific usually do not fit what we prefer. That does not mean we have stopped visiting them or that we do not appreciate their beauty. Our ideal beach consists of being able to get into the water without receiving a pounding or having sand penetrating the most sacred of orifices, two things that practically define the pacific. If traveling has taught us anything, it is to drop our expectations and keep our hearts open. While we spent the majority of our time along the coast sitting under the shade of trees hanging with friends watching them, and others, surf, we eventually visited Manuel Antonio which took our breath away. We had searched a long time, obviously missing a few contenders along the way, for an idyllic beach on the pacific shores. Without a doubt, Manuel Antonio has become one of our favorite places and a reminder of how everything is not how we presume.

What We Did

Bowie's Point, Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas

We had been missing the sun so we left the mountains for the turbulent shores of the west coast of Costa Rica. Matty & Ingrid were slowly surfing south, as were Matt & Amie. We had all been messaging and chose Bowie's Point, a free spot on Playa Hermosa, for an impromptu meet up. On our way we stopped at the Crocodile Bridge to gawk at the famed wildlife before arriving, surprising all four of them. It was great to see everyone again and to offload a bag of goodies we brought back from the States for Matty & Ingrid. After two days of catching up we all bid farewell with tentative plans to get back together again somewhere further down the coast.

Crocodile Bridge, Puntarenas

Effie can't touch this style

Bowie's Point, Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas

It'll take weeks to get all the sand out

Bowie's Point, Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas

These people will live any damn place

Bowie's Point, Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas

Some kind of magic carpet ride

Dominical, Puntarenas

After a failed attempt at visiting Manuel Antonio, my gout decided it was going to whip my ass one last time for another 4 excruciating days, we hooked back up with everyone at Playa Dominical. Pete & Natasha had arrived the previous day and Matty & Ingrid got a room in a hostel to take a break and clean their van. About an hour after we parked, Matt & Amie pulled in completing our gang of misfits. Another two days were spent chatting and watching the surf sessions.

Dominical, Puntarenas

It doesn't seem like cows are the problem

Dominical, Puntarenas

Gringos do grow under trees

Dominical, Puntarenas

Twinsies...and Pete

Dominical, Puntarenas

You gotta shake it like a Polaroid picture

Uvita, Camping El Tecal, Puntarenas

On three separate occasions we stayed at Camping El Tecal, 6,000C per night for a total of 7 nights, making it our go to spot as we wandered aimlessly back and forth on the pacific coast. It's where we weathered the final ugliness of my gout attack before heading to Dominical. It is easily one of the best camping spots in Costa Rica, probably why we used it so much, and has some of the best facilities we had used in a long time. Living in a parking lot is the usual occurrence, having a separate space for campers is absolute luxury. Flush toilets, showers, grills, and plenty of sinks with potable water really made staying there wonderful. Mandi used the above ground pool a couple of times and she spotted a toucan in the tree next to our van one morning.

Uvita, Camping El Tecal, Puntarenas

Not exactly incognito

Uvita, Camping El Tecal, Puntarenas

Not token, toucan

Uvita, Camping El Tecal, Puntarenas

Grass, wtf

Zancudo and Pavones, Golfito, Puntarenas

Wanting to explore the southern beaches of the pacific we initially chose Zancudo as our overnight spot. We arrived early and were slightly underwhelmed so we ate lunch while watching the ocean and decided to drive to Pavones.

Zancudo, Golfito, Puntarenas

One hell of a game of pick up sticks

Zancudo, Golfito, Puntarenas

There's that smile!

While surfers know the infamy of the wave at Pavones, it is truly one of the most beautiful spots along the coast. We chose a free spot that Sarah & Hani, Adventures in Skyhorse, added to iOverlander and it did not disappoint. Shortly after getting settled a horse wandered over to graze. We were approximately 20 feet from the water at high tide. The ocean was transfixing and the surfers off in the distance were taking some of the longest rides we had ever seen. The following morning we sat on our couch, drinking coffee, watching the crashing waves.

Pavones, Golfito, Puntarenas

Spewge rock

Pavones, Golfito, Puntarenas

The toe in question

Pavones, Golfito, Puntarenas

Hmmm, which way do you think the wind blows

We recorded part of our drive from Zancudo to Pavones and the mesmerizing waves we watched while drinking our coffee.

Osa, El Chontal, Puntarenas

Through our research we decided we didn't want to explore the pacific coast of the Osa Peninsula but we did find a place, El Chontal (7,000C per night), that sounded very interesting. While it fell a bit short, we thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife on the property. The two resident puppies kept us entertained and they startled a pair of coatis we hadn't noticed hanging around the deck we were parked next to. Scarlet macaws came through for an evening snack, getting deep within the trees preventing a proper photograph. While leaving the peninsula we encountered our first aardvark, 10 minutes later our second crossed right in front of us on the highway. Our foray on the Osa, while not exactly as we imagined, was a reward nonetheless.

Osa, El Chontal, Puntarenas

Macaw doesn't go ca-caw

Osa, El Chontal, Puntarenas

Bogtastic

Osa, El Chontal, Puntarenas

Those cute little boot shaped feet

Osa, El Chontal, Puntarenas

It doesn't seem like you're telling us the truth

Uvita Falls and Ranchos Remo, Puntarenas

Hoping to beat the heat, even just a little, we drove up to Uvita Falls (1,000C per person). The hike is short but the main waterfall and swimming hole were a welcomed reprieve. We only carried our GoPro, I'm still learning the best way to use it, so our photos don't do the falls any justice. The swimming hole is deep enough to jump into from the top of the falls and, if so inclined, one could slide down the waterfall face. We watched a couple fit young men slide but there appeared to be a decent bump about halfway down. We just swam a little and soaked until we both had a slight chill from the cold water, definitely worth the less than $4 it cost for the both of us.

After drying off we drove to Ranchos Remo, 11,000C, for the night. We had read that it had a great view and decent food, albeit a little pricey. The camping was just OK but the view from the restaurant was phenomenal. We could just make out the Whale's Tail, a formation in the ocean, but the angle wasn't the best. We had afternoon coffees in the restaurant while doing a little research on their WiFi in between long stares at the ocean. Our chicken dinners were a little overcooked but tasty, $12.50 per plate. While waiting for our food a couple of toucans perched in a tree about 50m from us. Instead of going to the van to dig out a camera we relished in the experience of it all.

Uvita Falls, Uvita, Puntarenas

Not as stuffy as it looks

Uvita Falls, Uvita, Puntarenas

Nature's spa

Ranchos Remo, Uvita, Puntarenas

It does look great in photos

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

We weren't entirely sure we were going to visit Manuel Antonio after our first attempt was thwarted. The camping options are less than desirable making it a pain. Ultimately we decided it would be stupid to skip the premiere park in Costa Rica so we booked a room at Hotel Tres Banderas for a couple of nights to make visiting the park easier and to have some A/C, not mentioning the Polish restaurant that just happened to be onsite. Our stay at the hotel started out a bit rocky when we had to change rooms due to mildew, the owner said we were causing him trouble, but everything smoothed out soon enough. While we can't really recommend the hotel as it was barely sufficient, the Polish fare at the restaurant was phenomenal.

We used the local bus to get a ride to and from the park, 310C each per way, and wandered the trail to the entrance. While in line we realized we needed to already have tickets which were not sold at the entrance but about 100 meters before it. Tickets purchased, $16 each, we had our backpacks checked for unauthorized food items and were soon wandering the 2km to the main beach at about 8ish. There were very few people scattered about so we found a nice spot with some shade and laid out our beach blanket. Sunning, swimming, and watching the local wildlife pillage other visitors bags for food ensued. It's sad how dependent and daring the Capuchins, coati, and racoons have become and even more saddening at how stupid and irresponsible people are.

Regardless, it was a beautiful day that will forever be remembered. The crowds started picking up around 9:30, reaching our little patch around 11:00 giving us the signal it was time to head out. While ambling out we came across several guided groups whom were watching sloths, just as Pete & Natasha had described. One sloth was practically over the trail so we snapped a few photos while enjoying her company. Even though it cost almost $35 for the two of us, including transportation, it would have been a huge mistake to miss. We never imagined the pacific could be so calm, gleaming like the Caribbean, exactly our kind of beach!

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

Where in the hell did this come from

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

Yes please

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

Say, are they trying to make the pacific look like the caribbean?

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

You need to get out of the shade

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

I never get enough sun on my butt either

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

Quit monkeying around

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

And crawling on the planets face, some insects called the human race

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

What you laughing at?

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas

Those deviants are every damn place

Honorable Mentions

While we don't list every place and thing we do there are some that stick in our minds. Weeks later we catch ourselves mentioning them to others or just savoring the memory of the exquisite cuisine we consumed. Here are a few standouts.

Cafe & Macadamia, Puntarenas

At first we though the price for breakfast was a bit steep, 5,000C each. We should have known the plates were huge when the guy taking our order made sure we meant to order two. One would have fed the both of us but we ate what we could and boxed the rest up for later. By far, the best Tipico and the largest array of sliced fruit we have ever had.

Mama Toucans, Dominical

Another great little health food store with some hard to find items. We couldn't believe they had fresh blueberries, at $6 per tiny carton we still couldn't stop ourselves from buying them.

Cafe Delicias, Dominical

A very small cafe and bakery with decent breakfast options. Our favorites were the breakfast burrito with french toast and the eggs, bacon, and avocado plate. Each were served with coffee and were 3,000 - 3,200C respectively. The owner is very friendly and has ridden his motorcycle up to Mexico. He is planing to ride South America one day.

Restaurant White Eagle, Hotel Tres Banderas, Manuel Antonio

Wonderful Polish food. We ate diner there twice for approximately $26 each time. The Goulash was our favorite but the Hunter's Stew is a close second. Every Polish dish we had was delicious.


Say what? (2)
Jul 28, 2017 at 04:31 PM
Glad you found the fabled Pacific beach! Looks gorgeous, even if steamy.
Jul 28, 2017 at 04:41 PM
We're sure we skipped a couple beautiful pacific beaches during our search but it's hard to believe there is another in Costa Rica quite as wonderful as Manuel Antonio. Since we could easily get into the water, beating the heat was a cinch!
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