After La Fortuna we drove our rental car to a beach town called Jaco on the Pacific side. It was about a three hour, absolutely breathtaking drive. Costa Rica is so lush and beautiful and you can find almost every shade of green imaginable – the different colors of the flowers absolutely pop out. It was a very curvy drive with some steep inclines since we were moving away from the mountains and onto the beach. If you find yourself making this drive it is good to know that the route markers do not exist on this stretch so asking for directions along the way is advisable. We stopped a few times to ask if we were headed the right way and also followed a very friendly tour bus driver for part of our drive.
When we finally arrived in Jaco it had gotten dark and we didn’t have a place to stay yet so we stopped to eat first. For about 20 kilometers before we hit the town we had seen signs advertising the Taco Bar so that is where we stopped. It was a cute little restaurant with swing seating with delicious fish tacos and juices. We wanted a beer after a long drive but they do not serve alcohol (except wine) so they let us bring our own beer from the store down the street. We utilized their Wi-Fi signal and got a recommendation for a hotel just down the street which we stayed at for two nights. The hotel was called Blue Palm and it was very basic but served our purpose. It is not on the beach but the walk to the beach is a short one.
We called it a fairly early night that night and decided to start fresh in the morning at the beach. So the next morning we ate breakfast at The Taco Bar (computed a bit as well) and then headed for the beach. Jaco is a very cute town with a main strip filled with shops, restaurants and bars. We were told it’s a bit of a party town since it is the closest beach town to the capital, San Jose. Surfing is good in Costa Rica so there was a surf shop on about every street or corner. We even encountered a little shop called Monkey Poop
where we bought a few things including their nutty monkey poop (toffee peanuts) which was delicious. We spent the afternoon playing in the ocean where I lost my polarized sunglasses when a wave went over my head (didn’t grab them in time). Then it was time to get out of the sun and grab a beer at one of the beach bars close by. That night after a quick nap we went back as the sun was setting and put our hammock up on two palm trees to enjoy the sunset. We couldn’t ask for a better end to the day.
Our last stop in Costa Rica would be Manuel Antonio which is also home to one of Costa Rica’s national parks. We decided to stay at another place recommended by my uncle, Costa Verde. On the way over we stopped at Hermosa Beach which is only about a 10 minute drive from Jaco.
We were told it is a prettier beach and less traveled. It was all true so we played in the water for awhile then it was off to Manuel Antonio.
It took us about an hour and a half to drive there and we found the hotel with no problems. They have converted an old 727 into a room that sleeps six but we opted to stay in a bungalow which ran for about $160 US and when we got up to our room it was fantastic. It was a private bungalow with its own kitchen and balcony. The view from the balcony was of the Pacific Ocean and it was absolutely amazing. The mixture of blues and greens made it very obvious we were surrounded by a tropical paradise. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Costa Verde so we decided to just hit the pool that afternoon (the walk to the beach takes about 15 minutes). The pool is also overlooking the Pacific Ocean so we had a fantastic view and a couple cold drinks while we lounged around. There were a few iguanas lounging around with us as well. That night we caught the sunset from our balcony with a glass of wine and then went to dinner later in the evening.
The next day we decided to visit the national park before we checked out of Costa Verde – I really wanted to see a sloth. We decided against hiring a guide because we were somewhat short on time but we did stop and look if there was a group of people looking at one particular spot. We saw monkeys in the trees immediately, birds, frogs and butterflies but no sloth yet. The trail leads to a beach which is a bit more protected so the waves are calmer and it’s a gorgeous spot so we had to get in and swim around for a bit. We did get to look through one of the guided group’s telescope to see a sloth sleeping high up one of the trees along the beach so my goal was achieved but I was still hoping to see one a little closer. We were getting close to checkout time so we had to rush through the rest of the trail but before we got to the end there was a family looking at one of the trees along the path – and there he was, a sloth about an arm reach away from me. I was so excited – he was moving so slow he looked fake. At first he was just moving his head back and forth checking us out but then a larger group showed up and he got a little nervous and headed up the tree. I was so happy that we had seen him and just in time because we had to move fast to make it for checkout.
After we checked out we played in the pool and had lunch poolside for an hour or two. Then it was time for us to start the drive to San Jose. We were flying out extremely early the next morning so we had to get to San Jose and find a place to stay the night. The route to San Jose took us back through Jaco so we stopped one last time at the Taco Bar to grab a bite to eat. It turned out to be perfect timing because a family friend and his family had just flown in to Costa Rica the night before and it turned out he was in Jaco. The crazy thing was that he was just driving around town and spotted me at the Taco Bar so he stopped to say hello. We followed him to the hotel they were staying at to meet his family and grab a beer. This really is a small world.
It was dark by the time we arrived in San Jose but luckily there were road signs to direct us to the city and most of the route was highway and toll roads. We found a hotel to stay at very close to the airport and close to the drop-off location for our rental car. So we dropped off the car and our stuff in the hotel and went to find dinner. That night was a late one and we were up before sunrise the next morning. The hotel’s shuttle took us to the airport and we were on our way out of Costa Rica.
It was such a wonderful trip and we are planning a trip back for either July or January where I will get to explore another part of Costa Rica – the Osa Peninsula. If you ever get the chance please take a trip to Costa Rica so you can experience its beauty. I loved Manuel Antonio and would say it is a must see if you are in that area of Costa Rica. I will finish with one more word of advice – please stay longer than 9 days!