We spent a few days travelling down the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. We first reached the coast at Tamarindo, which was quite an upmarket resort town with lots of hotels and restaurants and a beautiful long beach.
We had one night in Tamarindo before moving on. South of Tamarindo is the Nicoya Peninsula, which we skipped for the moment. This early in the trip, it’s still quite difficult to gauge how much time we’ll need where, and we didn’t want to risk leaving ourselves short of time elsewhere for our “absolutely must visit” places. We therefore cut back East from Tamarindo, passing the Northern edge of the Gulf of Tamarindo and then pretty much following the coast South.
We stayed in most of the main beach resorts, just because that’s where the cheaper hotels are to be found together with a choice of restaurants. We had two nights at a place called Jaco, which is apparently the biggest beach resort in Costa Rica but was still tiny by Spanish standards. It was more downmarket than Tamarindo, with more fast food-type outlets than “proper” food places. We enjoyed it though for a short stay.
The highlight of Jaco has to be the hotel we stayed at. The information on the internet made no mention of it being packed to the rafters with Beatles-mania….. We saw a hotel with a cutout Elvis on the roof during our USA travels; this one had the fab four on the roof. Or should that be the fab five?
Not far from Jaco were the river Tárcoles and Carara National Park. The river Tárcoles is famous for American crocodiles, which can be viewed from a road bridge. We counted about 40. I’ve never seen so many crocodiles in one place. Apparently the locals do feed them chicken, which might account for the numbers. There was a barrier on the bridge, but it wasn’t particularly high; I kept a careful watch for any larger tourists barging past……
We walked all of the trails and saw a reasonable amount of wildlife. The highlights were an anteater (not a good pic I’m afraid), some little bats on a tree, and monkeys (spider monkeys and white-faced capuchins feeding in the same fruiting tree with some toucans and parrots, and howler monkeys). We also saw two agoutis, a basilisk lizard, and gazillions of leaf-cutter ants hard at work…
Further South, we spent a night at Quepos, which is a medium-sized non-touristy town near Manuel Antonio National Park, which many British tours to Costa Rica seem to include. From Quepos it’s a 6-7km drive along a dead-end hotel-lined road to Manuel Antonio. We visited Manuel Antonio at the weekend, and it was by far the busiest National Park we’ve been to so far, though many of the visitors seemed to be locals heading to the lovely beaches in the Park. We walked some really nice trails to viewpoints over the beautiful coastline.
Wildlife highs included a sloth up a tree (which we’d never have found if an Australian couple hadn’t passed on instructions about where it was…..). We do have a pretty unexciting video clip of a stationary sloth, but no photo I’m afraid. There were also lots and lots of white-faced capuchins here. We heard plenty of howling from the howler monkeys, but didn’t manage to spot any.
It was at Manuel Antonio that I finally declared the small Nikon camera I’ve been using dead, so future photos will be from Mark’s camera / I may unfortunately have to appear more often in photos. Sorry ’bout that!
Our next stop was a little place called Playa Dominical, which is a small backpacker resort by a beach. Everything there was pretty rudimentary. Our accommodation for the night was prettty grim, but everything there seemed to be of a similar standard. We went to what seemed the best place in town to eat… only to discover that it was a vegetarian café. Mark put a very brave face on it, deciding that rather than going elsewhere, he would cope….. He declared the veggie chilli he had to be very good (the menu promised all kinds of ingredients – chocolate etc), though the real winner was the monstrous muffin he had for pudding. Think of a normal-sized muffin and then multiply by about 6. It was huuuuuge…..
A bit further down the coast, we got to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena. This is a protected marine area with a beach you can visit. The name Ballena (whale) comes from sandbar extending from the beach to a rocky reef with the exact shape of a whale’s tail. At low tide, the tail is exposed. On the day we visited, we were told that we could walk across at 1pm. Needless to say the first hardy souls started trudging through the water at 12.30. It still seemed quite deep and turbulent as you have waves from both sides meeting along the sandbar. We waited until shortly before 1pm to have the fun of walking through the water without the fear of being knocked off our feet!