Costa Rica – San Jose, Manuel Antonio and Jaco

11th September 2014

Another stupidly early morning, another taxi, another plane. On the bright side, Gemma’s tooth wasn’t causing her any pain, and we might actually get to enjoy Costa Rica! The descent into San Jose airport was beautiful, and we landed safely amongst the lush green rainforests.

There was a man waiting for us outside the airport, he had a sign with our name on it. He rang another chap who was to come and collect us. That was his only job, hold a sign then make a 5 second phone call. As we got into the minivan that came to collect us, he said ‘tip for me?’ I thought you cheeky bugger you’ve not earned one! I gave him some Colombian leftover coins and told him to be happy. He didn’t look impressed, but I wasn’t fussed.

We signed our lives away to POAS Rent-A-Car and jumped straight into our 4×4 vehicle, a Daihatsu Terios. I opted for the full insurance, as I’d heard dodgy things about Costa Rica’s roads. Our journey for the next 3 days was pretty mental, see the Google map of it here.

The first part of our journey was a steady couple of hours down towards Manuel Antonio on the South West coast. I had wanted to see the national park and take Gemma to a special place nearby for lunch.

I tapped the name of the restaurant into the satnav and we headed down the motorway, with only a few ‘you’re on the wrong side of the road!’ shouts from Gemma. The right side of the road just doesn’t feel right to me! I soon got used to it, but having the gear stick on my right was still an issue, the first 100 kilometres was full of me banging my left hand against my door when I went to change gear, an automatic response when you’ve been driving in the UK for 7 years!

The scenery is amazing everywhere in Costa Rica, and we were loving it. We made a pit stop at the side of the road for cold drinks (it was roasting!) and eventually found our way to the restaurant, called El Avion. To this day, it’s the best idea for a restaurant I’ve ever seen. The owner had an old aeroplane shipped to a spot high up near the coast, meaning you can eat your meal with the best views in Manuel Antonio.

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Not a bad view for your first meal in Costa Rica
Not a bad view for your first meal in Costa Rica
El Avion entrance and nose of plane.
El Avion entrance and nose of plane.

We filled up on gorgeous fresh food, then headed 10 minutes down to the coast to the beach and national park. We parked up for the agreeable price of 3,000 colones. This includes ‘protection’ of your vehicle. Basically, pay it or have your window smashed. Excellent! I can’t remember exactly how much it costs to get into the national park, but I think around 15USD per person (don’t quote me).

It’s a nice walk, and we chose to go alone over taking an expensive guide. We saw sloths, lots of birds, and an iguana. Due to time constraints (massive journey ahead) we couldn’t complete the trail, but I was almost dying of dehydration anyway so we did half the trail and turned back. We spent half an hour checking the busy black sand beach out, then jumped back into the car to begin the next leg of our journey.

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We were headed to Jaco, apparently a nice, quiet surfers paradise. It was a few hours driving, and Gemma even fell asleep at one point. I had noticed that the roads weren’t half as bad as people had said. After seeing Bolivia and Peru, a two lane tarmacked motorway was 5 star.

We got to our hotel for the night, the ‘Perico Azul’. The hosts were very welcoming and there is free parking. Just what you need after long drives!

The small but clean pool is in the middle of the 8 or so rooms at this place, with the communal areas at the far end. Breakfast isn’t included, but the kitchen facilities are second to none to cook your own. We chucked our bags down and went for a walk to check Jaco out.

When we got back, we were hot, sweaty and needed to relax. We decided to go for a dip in the pool. It was lovely and cold when we got in, just what we needed! As were messing about in the pool we heard loud squawking coming from the trees nearby, and as we looked up, a group of extravagantly coloured parakeets gave us a free 10 minute flying show! As we were in the pool, there are no photos, but we got some photos later in the week of the same breed. ‘Perico Azul’ literally means ‘blue parakeet’.

There was a nice Israeli guy staying opposite us, he couldn’t go home because of the war so had had to stay longer at Jaco. It’s not a bad place to be stuck! We went for food with him and had a good evening putting the world to rights. After a few drinks we hit the hay, ready for another gruelling day of travel tomorrow!

All in all it was a good start to Central America, and hopefully there is more to come!

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