The Costa Rican Road Trip, Part 1: Playa Del Coco to Nosara

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Six months ago my boyfriend and I went to Costa Rica to see if this would be our next home. Carsten is a scuba diver and New York hasn’t exactly been an underwater mecca for him, and anyone following my blog knows that NYC isn’t exactly paradise for me, either. We had bought $350 roundtrip tickets from NYC (thank you, Travelzoo!) – while still on vacation in Curacao – and told all of our friends to do the same. Four of ’em did, so there we were: 2 couples plus 2 of my girlfriends in 2 SUVs for a week in Costa Rica.

Here’s the catch: We were going to camp. Or if we were feeling really fancy, we would stay in a hostel, but generally were going to try to rough it –  if only so Carsten could justify the insane amount of gear he bought at REI. Nevermind that two of the ladies had never camped a day in their lives! A very ambitious itinerary was planned – from Playa del Coco down to the Osa Peninsula, across to Limon on the Caribbean side, and back – which demonstrates the absurd amount of ignorance we had about Costa Rica, a country which, if pressed to be described in one word, I would use “inaccessible.”

Hours into the first stretch down the western side of the Nicoya Peninsula we realized how undoable our plan was. Besides the main highway, every road is really meant for an off-roading vehicle ready to tackle the bumpy terrain and cross the rainy season rivers. We couldn’t even make it to Nosara, blocked from the northern side by flooded streams, and the Osa and Limon were quickly scrapped.

The Itinerary: Playa del Coco is the only location in Costa Rica that boasts year-round diving (other locations suffer from runoff in the water or weather problems). Come see the big pelagics off the coast of this sleepy fishing village. The crowd is more retirees-in-white-tennis-shoes than young-surfer, though, so if the latter is what you’re seeking, head down to Tamarindo. Great for beginner or advanced surfers, there is plenty to do in this lively (if touristy) town.

The Highlights: Roadside ceviche, downpours in the jungle, and waiting 2 hours just north of Nosara, watching local villagers move debris from the river threatening the structure of the bridge

Worth Checking Out… The Monkey Park near Tamarindo. More than just monkeys, this well-kept park houses an ocelot, alligator, toucan, various exotic birds and spider monkeys. We must’ve been the only tourists in Costa Rica NOT to see monkeys in the wild, so it’s a good thing we stopped here. Your $10 entrance fee goes towards the rehabilitation of these animals, who are nursed back to health and reintroduced into the wild when possible.

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