Woke up at 3:30 am Montreal time (1:30 am CR time) to catch a 6:10 am flight to Miami. Flights were with AA, on time with no problems. Had a 3 hour layover in Miami before getting a 12:45 flight to SJO. Arrived SJO around 2 and went through the customs line in 2 minutes. We picked up our bag and tried to get colones out of the Scotiabank atm, but neither my girlfriend’s card (from Scotiabank Canada!) nor my BMO card worked. We met up with Max from Vamos Car Rental outside the airport to pick up our rental.
I had reserved a Yaris with Vamos, mostly since I thought I’d want a closed trunk, but there were none left so we were given a Jimny instead (same rate of course!). I took only the mandatory insurance and used my credit card for CDW (but we were not asked to show proof). The total for 8 days + mandatory insurance + GPS ($2/day if you like them on Facebook) + free Toucan map (a very big, detailed, waterproof map they ship to you in North American for free) was $282.
After a few minutes of programming the GPS for our MA hotel, I was off on my first driving experience outside Canada/USA. It was a little stressful at first but I got the hang of it very quickly. The scenery on the drive (both man-made and natural) was exactly how I imagined Central America would be. Soon after we left it started raining hard (Welcome to Costa Rica!), which caused traffic as cars had to slow down to drive over feet-deep puddles on the road! The toll road ($4) went quickly and the coastal road was fun to drive, one lane in each direction. Watch out for all the pedestrians and bicyclists on the side of the road. Lots of fruit stands and sodas along the way, though we didn’t stop at all. The last 30-45 minutes of the drive was at night, but it was still easy to drive if you went slower.
We got to La Posada at around 6:30/7 and went to sleep soon after, with our dinner consisting of snacks we took from the road.
We had the Monkey room at La Posada ($125 for the first night and $80 for the next two – Smaller and slightly cheaper Posada room wasn’t available). The room had a nice covered porch with chairs, a table, and a hammock. We made good use of the porch when it was raining or we needed a break and didn’t want to be inside. We really enjoyed our stay at La Posada. It has a big beach-bungalow vibe (our room was painted green), the breakfasts were great, we heard only the sounds of the rainforest all night, and it was very convenient to be able to walk from our room to the park entrance in 60 seconds. We didn’t see any wildlife on the grounds though.
Day 2: We woke up around 5:00 am and sat outside for awhile. At 7 am we bought tickets and walked a little bit into the park (not all the way to the beach) and back in 45 minutes. We saw a few Blue Morpho butterflies, lots of crabs, a small snake, and mostly enjoyed being in the mostly deserted rainforest (go first thing in the morning to avoid crowds!). We then had breakfast, sat around our hotel for a while and went into the park around 10, with our bathing suits on (no guide, no cameras, no valuables). On the way to the beach we saw a bunch of white-faced monkeys (from afar), some lizards, and some more big crabs. We then went swimming at Playa Manuel, which was all you imagine a perfect tropical beach to be. We then walked to the park exit along the other beaches, and on the way we saw a mother+baby sloth! They were climbing very slowly down a tree maybe 10 feet above us, in perfect view! The baby was grabbing on to the mother’s stomach while the mother was meticulously figuring out how to get from branch to branch. We and about 5 others watched them for maybe 15 minutes until our necks were about to fall off. Too bad we didn’t have any cameras!
We then continued to the exit. Just before the exit to the public beach, we had to cross a few feet of water (I think it was high tide and the water cut across the sand). We had flip-flops on, but if you are wearing shoes you can’t get wet you might want to exit the way you came in.
At La Posada’s recommendation we went to El Sol for dinner, which was amazing. I decided to have a Casado for my first dinner in Costa Rica and I was very happy with my choice (though it was $9, but it was huge and ocean views always inflates the price). I did not expect a Casado to be so flavourful!
We then went back to the hotel, watched some Criminal Minds with spanish subtitles, and fell asleep early.
Day 3: We woke up early, read books on the porch, and had breakfast when it opened at 7:45. We then went out for a guided tour, this time with running shoes and cameras. It was raining lightly when we went out, but I thought it would stop soon and since it was so hot I decided not to take my light poncho I packed specifically for this reason.
We got a guide at the entrance who seemed like an actual official guide, though they all say they are official and all the others are not. We paid $15 per person – this was simply by asking for that price, I’m sure that if we had negotiated we could have paid less. We shared our guide with a big group from Spain, so the guide alternated languages (but mostly spanish). We soon saw (through his scope) a jesus christ lizard, an interesting looking spider, a monkey eating some fruit, and a sloth from very far away (through the scope you were able to see his fur but not much else). Soon after tons of monkeys started coming out, and we saw way more than the previous day, and from closer. They were eating, jumping over our heads, in the bushes a few feet away, and a few ran across the road right next to us (no need for our guide now)! The guide pointed out a big green lizard camouflaged on a leaf that was very interesting. Then the light rain turned into a huge downpour, and it didn’t stop. At first I didn’t mind being wet but after a while I got quite cold (I have never been so wet without being in a swimming pool). We had put all the cameras in plastic bags, but I forgot my phone in my pocket. I didn’t think it could get so wet in a pocket, and usually it’s fine to take out in the rain, but now the touchscreen on my phone does not work (as in the phone turns on, receives texts and calls, shows the correct time, etc, but I can’t even unlock the screen). I left it in rice for a few days but it didn’t change anything, so I will see if I can fix the screen when I get home. For now I’ll have to go the rest of the trip without my phone.
Back to the tour – in the pouring rain our guide pointed out grasshoppers, grasshopper larvae, a wasp nest, and a huge viper snake that was pretty close but too well-camouflaged to see without the guide. Otherwise it was raining too hard to see many animals – we couldn’t even look up. We ended up succumbing to the cold and leaving our guide and turning back at the beach (after about 90 minutes). We wanted to take pictures of the beach but it was raining too hard to take the cameras out. Overall, even though we probably chose the worst day to go with a guide. I would still say the guide was worth the $15 a person, unless you’re on a tight budget.
After we left the guide we walked pretty quickly out of the park. We were happy our hotel was right outside the entrance. All our clothing was completely soaked. We were going to leave them to dry and then put them in plastic bags, but luckily Hotel Playa Espadilla does laundry for $4 a kilo (La Posada’s machine was broken). We dropped all our wet clothing off there, along with our small amount of laundry from the previous two days, and we picked it up washed, dried and folded later that night. Well worth the $4!
We spent most of the afternoon outside on our porch watching the rain (Mike at La Posada said it almost never rains nonstop like this). When the rain finally quieted down (but didn’t completely die off) we did a little bit of souvenir shopping at the stalls on the path between the park entrance and the public beach. We bought about $10 (in colones) worth of jewellery. Along the way we saw some humongous crabs, about the size of my hand. Afterwards we planned on going back into the park for a little longer, but it had just closed (4 pm). We went back to our room, had dinner at El Sol again (couldn’t resist). I had the garlic Mahi-Mahi which was amazing (and soaked in garlic). My girlfriend (vegetarian) had a grilled cheese for the second night in a row (she’s a grilled cheese lover) which was also great. So far we are very impressed with Costa Rican food. We then walked back to the hotel (and saw some huge frogs on the road) and went to sleep early.