We arrived at Hotel Chantel amidst a huge downpour (it’s rainy season) and that made the drive pretty slow. The hotel is located off the main road, up a steep winding path, so as to reach it’s mountain side location.
Aside from being drenched, when we got out we were happy. Partly because the views were beautiful, and partly because we knew we didn’t have to drive for any more 2 hours plus periods in the car!
We were met by Anita and her partner, who welcomed us and checked us in. They were very good with us because we paid in cash, so I would recommend that. We didn’t have enough to cover the whole stay so they let us go and withdraw it the next day.
Our room was number 9. As with all the rooms, it had a lovely view over the bay and Coco Beach. We were the closest room to the pool, which is handy. We were very wet and the water was ponding on the slippy tiles outside the rooms so we decided to get our shopping out the way immediately. We dumped the bags and drove back down to Coco to find a supermarket.
View from our room
We had a kitchenette in the room so we bought proper food (eating out does actually get boring after a while!) and I stocked up on some beers. I was in love with ‘Tona’ beer ever since our trip to Nicaragua. It’s lovely.
Once back at the room we showered, changed and rested. They advertise having wifi in the rooms, but this is not true. It works fine in reception, but there is no signal in the rooms. The hotel has an oyster restaurant upstairs so we thought we’d check it out, especially as Gemma had never tried them.
We had them charbroiled, grilled and fresh (something like that). The fresh ones have never been nice, but I thought I’d give it a go once more. I can confirm, they are still horrible. The charbroiled ones were nice, and grilled were okay. Gemma tried a charbroiled, and she’s not a big fan. Then again, if it’s not part of an English Sunday dinner and doesn’t have mint sauce on it, she rarely is. It was pretty expensive, but good to try it once.
The chef/barman kindly ordered us a taxi so that we could check out the nightlife in Coco. We went to a ‘sports bar’ that wasn’t showing the Floyd Mayweather fight, I told them they shouldn’t be able to call themselves a sports bar when the best pound for pound boxer is fighting and they are not showing it.
We found our way to ‘Coconutz’, which is a real sports bar, albeit very Americanised. We endured some NFL match before the real sport came on, and as I predicted, Mayweather won on points (I’m not a boxing genius, he always wins on points). By this time I was pretty merry, and we were both ready for bed. We grabbed a taxi back for 5USD and hit the sack.
The next morning was the 14th September, and I woke up at 4am in eager anticipation of the Derby County football match. We were playing Nottingham Forest. For those of you that don’t know, Forest v Derby is like North Korea v South Korea. Except the Forest fans are much worse people than Kim Jong Un, and probably fatter. I jest, of course, but it is the biggest game of the season for us, so I was determined to see it.
I can’t blame any sports bar for not being open at 6am (kick off time) so I had to find an alternative. I tried online streaming (don’t arrest me please) but had no idea what to do, so that failed. My brother had sent me his password for his Sky account. The game was being shown on Sky Sports, and I could access his account through an app called ‘Sky Go’, which lets you watch your Sky channels on your mobile from anywhere. Or so we thought. It turns out that Sky Go only works in the UK, so that failed too.
Eventually, I FaceTime’d my brother (I find it works better than Skype) and he put his phone in front of his TV for me. Not entirely official, but the quality was really good, and I didn’t mind sitting in reception for the game. I would have sat on the roof to watch it if necessary.
For those that care, we drew 1-1. It was tense, and I woke up the entire hotel when we scored the equalizer. Apologies to those affected. Anita was very nice about it though. Then again I suppose she would be, as if there was wifi in my room, as advertised, I could have watched it from the comfort of my bed.
The breakfast is a set one, and you get rice, beans and eggs. There is coffee and orange juice too, all help yourself. The views from the breakfast bar and lovely, and I was slightly jealous that Anita gets to live here. It was a warm day and we could see a rainbow. I can see why so many people move to Costa Rica on days like that.
In the morning we walked down a path to the left of the hotel, as we had been tipped off by ‘MyTanFeet‘ that there was a waterfall down here, and Anita had said we might see monkeys. I was desperate to see monkeys!
The walk is only 10 minutes, and the waterfall is very nice. We climbed up as far as we could manage, it took us about 30 minutes before the rainforest around us became dangerous to navigate with water flowing on the ground. It doesn’t take long before you get very hot and sweaty amongst the trees!
The noises are amazing, flying insects that sound like World War 2 planes and noises coming from the cracks in the rocks that sounded like hissing. We were using those cracks to pull ourselves up, so no snakes please!
We had fun on the way back down, carefully slipping down, before continuing our morning walk. We carried on around the mountain for around an hour, ending up going through some farmland and being chased by a tiny but loud dog. It’s always the little ones.
When we got back we decided on going for a dip. Of course, the heavens opened and we got drenched, but when you’re in a pool that’s not so bad! It’s a small pool but has a nice view and we were the only ones there so it was nice.
After drying off inside and waiting until the rain subsided, we headed out for Playa Bonita, which is a small but apparently beautiful hidden beach inbetween Hermosa Beach and Panama Beach. We got there after only 10 or 15 minutes of cruising, which was nice when you are used to 3 hours as an average drive.
There was a road block on the final approach to the beach with a manned hut next to it. The ‘guard’ was polite and smiley (most Costa Ricans are!) but he didn’t speak English so I gave Spanish a shot. ‘Quiero ir a la playa’ and then pointed towards the beach. I think/hope that means ‘I want to go to the beach.’ He gestured to the ‘Cerrado’ sign (stop) and then pointed to the cliff face and animated a rock falling on his head. He would be very good at charades. We were disappointed, but clearly the sign was there for a reason so we headed back.
There are two ways to return, and we took the winding and extremely steep (1st gear only!) route back to have a scout around. We found a nice little spot to park up and take a couple of photos.
We got back to Coco and went straight to the shops to find Gemma a bikini. It didn’t take long, and whilst it wasn’t all that cheap, it looked very nice. We sat down for fresh fish and vegetables near the seafront, delicious.
We took a quick walk along Coco beach, which is busy and not the nicest beach in the area by a long stretch, but it’s good to see locals and tourists enjoying themselves together and there is plenty to do if you so wish.
On the walk back up to the car, we passed a football pitch (they’re everywhere, proving that it is the best sport in the world!) with a game about to kick off. We watched the first 2 minutes before Gemma shrieked like a snake had bitten her toe off. Turns out she had stood in an ants nest. I rubbed her feet and we promptly left.
We saw a touristy looking ‘trip shop’, so had a quick look inside. The prices are all very similar and the end product is also similar. Finding the company that provides the service is the key to bargain prices. I noted down some prices and we left.
When we got back to the hotel it was nice and hot, so we changed into our swimwear and went for a dip. 5 minutes into the swim, it began pouring it down. The pool is cursed! Gemma went back inside, I stayed and enjoyed my beer.
We had fajitas that night (I love her fajitas), watched a film, and went to sleep. We have a big day tomorrow!
I woke up to pancakes and grapes, which was very nice! We knew we wouldn’t make the hotel breakfast because we had a trip planned today with Jonas from Adventours Costa Rica. I had found that he was the most popular tour guide in Guanacaste, so we opted for a full adventure combo day with him, booked months in advance.
We were to meet at the Auto Mercado, which is a 2 minute drive. Jonas arrived shortly after we did, around 7.30am. We jumped in his 10 seater minivan (overkill for 2 passengers) and headed towards Rincon de la Vieja, a mountain that was 90 minutes away from Coco. The journey was pleasant, and Jonas made us feel welcome.
On arrival, there is dense rainforest, broken only by a wooden building and dozens of workers harvesting various fruits and vegetables. This place was amazing, and we were told the full history. Everything is organic, and they only consume food and drink made on the land. This includes meat! They rear their own cows, and have their own stables for horses.
We were given freshly squeezed orange juice and a helmet ready for horse riding. The horses were in good condition, seemed very happy and weren’t fussed about us jumping on their backs! We rode a short distance up the mountain, with some great views, to the start of the zip lining course.
There is a ‘practice’ line that is very short and after being harnessed up we both got a slow motion zip across it. All is well, we can brake using our hands and we’re not scared. Let’s crack on.
There are 10 lines in total I think, some short, some long, some almost horizontal, some really fast. Of course, the fast ones are the best! We both loved it and after a few on our own we did the Superman and an upside down one. Head rush!
To see all of the snaps from our horse ride and zip line, click here.
The best one has to be the one with views over the mountains and a river underneath you. It was gorgeous…
We headed back to the ‘base’ and were told to change into our swimwear, and given a nice glass of water. Once changed, we jumped on the back of a tractor (no joke) and began a bumpy climb up another side of the mountain to the top of a waterslide. Several people, including Jonas and some of the workers at this place had warned us against lying down, and to keep our elbows inside the little black ring we would be given. It is too fast if you lie down, they said.
We reached the summit and I was surprised to find a man made stone flume, with some big old ants crawling around near the start of it. Not only that, but there was no water. It was as dry as Gandhi’s flip flop. Behind the bit where you get in however, was an industrial sized fire hose with a huge wheel attached to it. As the brave man here, I volunteered to go first. I grabbed my black mini rubber dinghy and stepped into it, then I sat down (well, sat up, as instructed) and waited for the tractor driver to turn the wheel.
The water hit me like a train in my lower back. A really cold train, and the driver had fell asleep with all his weight on the accelerator. After a few rapid corners, I was having great fun, but then I began to slow down a little. Now used to the temperature and speed, I had the genius idea of lying down to make myself go faster.
I travelled faster than the original train that had hit me. Each corner was touch and go if I would go over the edge, and after one corner I was flipped onto my side, an adrenaline filled and painful experience. I flipped myself back, but couldn’t sit up due to the ridiculous pace of the ride. Cue rule break number two. I had to grab the front of my black dinghy to pull myself up, and naturally this causes the elbows to protrude.
Both elbows grazed, but now sitting up, the final part of the ride was approaching. This section had more dips than an Indian phone book, and I think I may have fractured my coccyx on the way down. A stone kamikaze. I was shot out into the water, taking a nice big blast up the nose for good measure.
I am infinitely stupid for lying down, but most men are in that way, aren’t they? I still regard this as the best water slide I have ever been on. It wouldn’t pass health and safety tests in Spain, never mind the UK.
Gemma came flying down shortly afterwards and made an equally ungracious entry to the water, but looked very happy and we both fancied a second go. Fortunately Jonas asked us. So we did. Not before I realised that one of the huge bull ants had got into my swim shorts and bit me on the ass. I literally pulled it out of me.
This time I vowed to stay up straight, and Gemma went first. It was great fun, and Gemma felt my pain from the first go, she flipped over too. I told you it hurts! We could have stayed there all day. Quality.
Next we walked past the restaurant and down towards the river, where they have a pot full of red hot volcanic mud (could have been any mud, but why would they lie?) that we were instructed to rub all over each other! Apparently it’s good for your skin.
We washed off in the river… well, I did. Gemma stood on a rock and cupped water onto herself. I got fully in and embraced it. She doesn’t like it if she can’t see the floor, and the water was chest height so we had no chance. Once washed, we hopped to the other side of the river where there is a manmade hot springs pool. A huge pipe pumps the water from the volcano straight into a huge pool, which is conveniently attached to a bar!
Gemma, usually freezing, was in her element. We casually relaxed in this massive space, with nobody but the barman and some wildlife way above us for company. Gemma sat next to the pipe, which was hotter than my hot tap at home. I couldn’t hack it, and opted for the underwater seat next to the bar. I had a pina colada, and guess what, it was all fresh ingredients. Tastes like a completely different drink, lovely!
After 45 minutes of being oh so lazy, we dried off and crossed a pretty cool bridge over the river and headed to the restaurant. I only eat meat when I can source where it’s from, and having not had red meat for about 3 months I was ecstatic to have found this place. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t had it in so long, but it tasted amazing. Really tender, melted in my mouth. The veggies were crisp and perfect. Gemma had a vegetarian option and said it was good too.
All done, time for the journey back. We got back around 2.30pm from memory. Still wanting to explore, we drove straight towards Playa Conchal, which Jonas had recommended. Following his off the beaten track directions, we ended up finding Playa Matapalo instead, which I thought was beautiful anyway!
There was only us and a fisherman on the entire beach, so I parked up near the water and we went for a walk. We walked down the beach at first, then back down and across the rocks on the South side. Again there were many crabs, and some big ones in the rocks!
I noticed a sign some way back from the beach, and had to check it out. Although, I must admit, I was pretty scared. Apologies that it is a bit blurry!
Before I lost a leg we jumped back in the car and tried to find our way out on some pretty bumpy tracks, avoiding pools of water and large tree roots as we went. We came to a clearing with huge trees on one side, and suddenly my trip was complete. MONKEYS!!! I spotted one, then another, then the whole pack. A local was farming nearby and came to help us too.
It was still afternoon time, so they were pretty lazy. They are most active early morning and in the evening. Enough light to move safely but not too warm.
We took a left after that, and carried on exploring. We came to an empty bar, with small walls made of empty beer bottles. Some hadn’t been fully emptied though! We grabbed a drink and I was talked into having a ‘Margarona’ by the bar owner. Basically, a Margarita with a Corona in it. Literally in it.
It was really nice and we enjoyed the sit down. We headed back towards the hotel after that because we wanted to book a trip we had been discussing called the Marlin Del Rey. We booked it with the hotel (very easy and they tried to get us discount), then hit the pool. Would you believe it? It started raining…
We went for a meal that evening at a place next to the Coconutz bar we had been to previously. It was up some stairs and after much deliberation and persuasion by the promo guy we walked up and sat at a table overlooking the busy main street in Coco. A little gecko was on our table, the smallest I’ve ever seen. Must have been no longer than an inch long and 5 millimetres wide.
There are tiny country flags on the walls of this place, about 100 of them. I don’t think getting a third of them right is particularly impressive, but I knew more than the waiter so I was happy. I remember the food was good, but I can’t for the life of me recall what we ate. Something vegan no doubt.
After that we took a walk to the beachfront again, and sat in the bar on the corner. I had a ‘Kaiser’, a beer I’d never tried before. It wasn’t great. On the way out we noticed a crab scuttling out from underneath the step near the exit. It was huge, the sort of crab that could pinch your finger off. It went towards the sea at first, then changed its mind and went the other way, down a side alley. It was sizeable!
We took a decent walk back up the main street and found ourselves at a cocktail bar called Mi. We had far too many cocktails, all of which were freshly made in front of our eyes, and enjoyed the company of an American couple we had sat next to. All of this whilst listening to a live singer with his guitar in the background. It was excellent. We jumped in a cab and headed back to the hotel, knowing for the first time in a long while we didn’t have any pressing plans for early the next day, a welcome feeling.
After a great lie in, we headed out towards Playa Conchal. Instead of driving our back road, which last time got us lost (although we found Matapalo and monkeys!), we decided to stick to the official route and make the journey properly.
It is an easy drive, and seeing the beach makes it all the more worth it anyway. The first beach you get to isn’t Conchal, it’s a different one. You have to drive onto the beach, through some forest, then onto Playa Conchal. It is a shell beach, and the waves can be deceptively large. It is also absolutely beautiful. You’d think you might get bored of amazing beaches, but no, they just keep giving.
There was a surfing ‘shop’ set up on the beach and a massage parlour. Both were just big gazebos. It was quite busy, but I suppose we’ve already had 5 beaches to ourselves in the last week, and we can’t expect it every time! We parked up near some police motorcycles (safer?) and took an open top bag out with some essentials in (towel, sun cream, drink etc.). I put the car key in one of my pumps and placed them high on the beach, next to the bag, and we went down to the water.
As the waves lapped against our feet, the sun beat down on us and we looked out over the bay, we had a nice moment. This was short lived however, as I saw a freak wave coming towards me that looked like a mini-tsunami. I turned to Gemma, who was further up the beach and closer to the bag and shouted ‘GRAB THE BAG!’, which in fairness, she ran and did, whilst my pumps got swept away.
Phew, we thought. That was close. Then the penny dropped. Car keys! I dived into the sea to grab my pumps. They were, of course, empty. Oh dear. I ran back up scouring the shells and saw a glistening little key poking out. Somebody was definitely looking after us.
After repositioning the belongings adjacent to the massage parlour (surely they’d know where the tide gets to) we headed back to enjoy the waves. It is a very strange tide, because there can be 5 minutes of almost nothingness waves before 2 giants crash over the shore. It’s fun to swim with them though, and try to stop yourself being sucked out to sea. Around 3 metres out from the shore the seabed drops sharply and you can’t touch the floor. Good fun for me, panic for Gemma!
We sat on the beach and watched the world go by for a while, spotting an iguana in a nearby tree and seeing just how much money this massage place was making. They had 3 beds, and all of them were full for the entire time we were there.
We drove back to the hotel to change for the afternoon trip (Marlin Del Rey), then grabbed a cab to Coco Beach. We waited on the mini pier for the boat to arrive, and got some good snaps.
This trip was $85USD per person, and we weren’t 100% sure about whether it would be worth it prior to boarding. A tiny boat collected us from the shore, along with a dozen or so others, and took us to the Marlin.
It’s a decent sized Catamaran, and all the staff were very welcoming. Inside there is a bar with unlimited booze, any beer, wine, spirit, cocktail you can think of. Sweet. We had a relaxed safety talk on the front of the boat, a large sun deck with ample seating and some netting to lounge on.
We were lucky with the weather, it was hot and dry, so everyone was happy. I had a few beers and cocktails while Gemma had pop (English slang for carbonated drinks) and we spoke to everybody on board. They were mostly Yanks, including people from Seattle, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Georgia and Texas.
After about an hour and a half of boozing across the lovely waters, we pulled up near an isolated beach on what looked to be an uninhabited island. This is where we would be snorkelling! We donned our masks and flippers and one by one hopped into the clear blue water, which was warmer than expected too.
Gemma did really well, and we went swimming with our heads down, pointing out various schools of fish that we saw. Apparently small sharks are common around there, but posing no threat to humans. I’m still pretty glad we didn’t see one, because Gemma would have panicked and I would have had to act brave despite probably being scared stiff.
We saw a turtle bobbing its head above the water, moving nonchalantly as they do. We saw so many fish under the water it was like watching Finding Nemo with the best 3D glasses on imaginable. I loved it, and it’s the first time I’ve snorkelled at a coral, but I really hope it’s not my last.
We briefly went to the beach for a rest, but realised we’d rather be in the water checking out the fish so didn’t stop too long. Once back on the boat we saw a little monkey walking along the beach, probably checking out the intruders!
We topped up with some more drinks and chit chat before hitting the water again, this time without snorkels, just for a dip. The boat has a slide on the back so I went down it head first, which was fun. I think the Jack Daniels may have been to blame.
Once we were all aboard and the sun was beginning to set, we had yet more drinks and relaxed on the sun deck, getting some great photos. We headed back, and the staff on board let me take a load of beers with me in my backpack, which was appreciated. The trip was well worth the 85USD, for the boat and snorkelling alone never mind the free booze. Can’t recommend it enough.
We grabbed a cab back to the hotel to shower and change, then went straight back out on the town for more drinks! We met a couple that were honeymooning in Coconutz, and although I don’t remember a thing, Gemma tells me I was pretty drunk. We had cocktails, and apparently some of mine were lit on fire. I think when you are drinking things whilst they are still lit, shows when you should be in bed.
The next morning Gemma wasn’t too impressed with me. I wasn’t too impressed with my headache. As I slumped towards the bathroom to relieve myself I noticed a not-too-pleasant smell coming from the shower. Turns out I had chosen the shower, over the usual favourite toilet, to be sick in. I made a feeble attempt at cleaning up (turning the shower on) and when it didn’t work I just gave up.
Poor form, yes. Was I bothered with a headache like that, no. I drank water like it was going out of fashion from 6am to 7am, when we were to be picked up by Tenorio Adventures, who run the white water rafting in Guanacaste. I had found the company that ran it, rather than pay a ‘finders fee’ to a travel company. Turns out that we only saved 5USD per person, because Tenorio offer the package for 80USD to travel companies (who then charge $130) and members of the public pay 125USD. Never mind, 10 dollars in total saved!
We were picked up by a nice guy in a brand new 4×4, very posh. He drove us to a meeting point 15 minutes from our hotel. On the way we passed a river which is home to lots of crocodiles, and I’ve never seen one in the wild. He said we could stop on the way back.
We were put into a minivan with another couple, from Mexico, for the remaining hour long journey. They were on their honeymoon too, and we got on well. Gemma and I would love to go to Mexico. They were from Medina I think.
After that journey we were put into a 4×4 with another couple, this time from the states. They were doctors, so drowning became less of an issue! We realised why we were switched to a 4×4 once we hit the first few bumps. Fortunately we were crammed in so couldn’t bounce around too much, and the ride was only 15 minutes long.
The rafts were being towed behind us, and once they were set up and the safety briefing was over, we took to the water! There was a practice 100 metre stretch with a small 1 metre drop in it to get everybody used to the boats. 5 people in each, including one guide. After the short practice run there are some rocks to walk over as they prepare the rafts for the adventure.
As we were about to get out, a man in his 50s ahead of us slipped over on the rocks and his ankle twisted the wrong way. Ouch! We then spent half an hour waiting as the guides all paddled back upstream to then lift him up to the bridge above where we started and off to hospital. Poor chap. Turned out he had torn a ligament.
We finally set off and paddled away to our guides instructions. We had partnered with the American doctors, a wise choice I think!
The river was calm for the most part, with the odd rapids swerving around rocks for some fun. They were advertise as Class 3 and 4 rapids, but for the most part were Class 2. After an hour we were in dense rainforest and the sun broke through the canopy to give us a good dose of tanning. We turned a corner and were in an almost non moving body of water, where we were instructed to jump out and have a swim.
Gemma was less than happy, and after some persuasion by me (and the guide saying ‘Get out or I will push you out’) she jumped in nervously and I stuck with her as we swam forwards. She was fine once she was in, but I could tell she’d be happier on the raft. We jumped back in shortly afterwards and worked as a good team pulling each other in, before the rapids started to become more difficult and therefore exciting!
As we neared the end we were told of a 12 foot drop, a Class 4 rapid, where the rafts sometimes flip over. Gemma and Nicola pleaded with the guide to not make us flip, and he said he would try his best, but could not make promises.
We were 2nd over the drop, and the first team flipped over and we heard screams of panic from down below. Great. As we paddled towards the drop we were told to speed up (it helps chances of staying upright) and we all dug in like we were 100 yards from the end of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race.
Woooosh! We flew over the drop, and despite a shaky landing and being soaked, we stayed in the raft! I turned to see the girls beaming with joy and the drop was definitely the best part of the day. The next team stayed upright too, with the final team flipping and the poor Mexican girl we had shared our lift with was a little shaken, but okay after a few minutes. The staff wait to see if anyone falls out and they dive in to rescue them immediately.
We had seen lots of wildlife, including a huge spider that made my heart stop, and despite that and my burnt knees I had enjoyed it. Whether it was worth $125 is debatable though. I wouldn’t do it again, so probably not. We finished with a snack and a beer, a ride back to the meeting point and lunch. Lunch was nice, and there is a TV playing all the days photos on repeat to entice punters to purchase.
During the ride abck to the meeting point, we were driving parallel to a canal (made for irrigation) and the driver shouted up for everyone to look right. Low and behold a wild crocodile! It was only about 1.5-2 metres long, but long enough for me not to want to get out of the vehicle! It was sunbathing on the concrete just next to the water.
We began our journey back to Coco with the Mexicans and even bagged ourselves an invite to their new house which is currently being built. Place to stay in Mexico, check.
We said our goodbyes and the nice fella in the posh 4×4 took us the last 15 minutes back to our hotel, not before stopping by the crocodile infested river to try and spot some big ones. We couldn’t see any, but he pointed out their nest and said they usually mill around this area.
Later that evening, once showered and changed, we drove to Playa Hermosa to check it out, then Playa Panama. Hermosa was empty and looked really nice with the sun on its way down. Panama is 5 minutes up the road, and still had some signs of life on it, including a man that we tried to get to hire us a jet ski. He said it was too late in the evening.
We wanted to do one, so I said we had enough time in the morning, but he wouldn’t accept the booking without a deposit. This is low season, and I know full well he won’t turn us away. Eventually he became rude and the deposit went from 20USD to 10, then to 5, then to 2. I had had enough of him and said we will be back tomorrow, but are going now. He was a poor salesman.
We had to drive back pretty slowly, as it was now pitch black, and Costa Ricans don’t bother with street lighting. Around halfway back, a motorcycle came very close to the back of us and began flashing his light, then slowing down, then speeding up and flashing, then slowing down. Eventually he pulled over. There was no way on this Earth I was going to stop, and I can only imagine what his/her plan was.
We also nearly crashed into a pedestrian who was walking along a dark street with all black clothing on. Due to the poor lights on the car I didn’t see him until the last minute, but fortunately swerved around him.
We parked up at the hotel and grabbed a cab to Coco once more. We had arranged to meet some friends from the other night at Coconutz as there was a buffet on. When we arrived they weren’t there, but the buffet was, and it was surprisingly good! Another strange feature of the night was a huge projector screen that was showing some weird Johnny Depp film (Transcendence). Apparently Wednesday was film and buffet night.
Despite it’s strange nature, we did watch the film as we filled up on vegetables and fruit. There was a man with 2 large SLR cameras taking photos of the buffet, and piling his plate up high, then photographing that too. He would then approach the buffet table, grab a slice of pizza and eat it, leaving his plate piled high. Nearly as weird as this place having pet turtles plonked in the middle of the bar. This place was strange tonight!
Aside from the man taking pictures of Gemma as she went for seconds, the night got less weird after that. We moved to the bar area and it was here where we met another honeymoon couple, from Seattle. After 20 minutes of chat and getting to know each other they admitted to having seen me last night, in my terrible state! They said I swayed towards the toilet and looked drunk as hell. Oops.
We told them about the cocktail bar, Mi, and they were open to it so we walked up the road for some cocktails. It was here we saw the couple that we had arranged to meet in Coconutz, along with their friend from Texas. We found a big enough table and the cocktails and conversation started flowing.
It was a good night, and some good topics came up. I couldn’t believe the Americans view towards the gun laws. Some of them agreed with the new rules regarding giving teachers guns (crazy in my eyes) and we debated that for a while.
Then when it came to paying the bill, this place added 10% automatically for tips, which I was fine with as it was good service. However, the honeymooners paid 20% ON TOP of the bill which already included 10%. For me, they would have had to give us our own waiter, a back massage and a shoe shine to get an extra 20%. Cultural differences are part of what travelling is all about, and this insight has given Gemma and I a ‘heads up’ for when we go to the US.
After a quality night, we got back around 2am and knew we needed to get some shut eye before flying to Los Angeles tomorrow. We didn’t want to leave Costa Rica though!
Gemma must have been tired as she didn’t wake up in the morning, so I headed out to Playa Ocotal to have a quick look around before we had to check out of the hotel. It’s a nice beach, but there are so many of them around here!
We opted to leave the jet skiing, partly due to time and mainly due to the operator! We checked out of Hotel Chantel and said our goodbyes to Anita and co before starting our days travel. We had planned to see a couple of waterfalls before going to the airport. First up was Llanos De Cortez, probably one of the most famous in CR.
It is just off the main highway, and I had been told of a sign that you can only see when heading South, which was lucky for us, as we were! I slowed down around the area I thought it might be, as there is nothing for it on the SatNav. I spotted the sign at the last minute, and it was so last minute that we had to drive past it and turn around to safely turn into the mud road. The sign is a large wooden board, with WATERFALL in pink letters on it. Yep, faded, pink letters. If we weren’t on the lookout we would never, ever have seen it.
The drive is about 100 metres before reaching a right turn and a lady guarding the gate. The donation required is 2000 colones. We paid and began the 1km bumpy, muddy drive to the waterfall car park. Here you have to pay another 2000 colones. There was only 1 other car in the car park.
There is a short walk down to the waterfall, and once you arrive it is amazing, and deservedly CR’s most popular. We had a quick play on the rocks to the right, spotting newts and other little animals bombing around everywhere, then took 5 minutes to take it all in and chill. Couple of touristy photos later and we were off back up the hill to the car.
I had read about a waterfall in Bagaces too, so we tried to find that, to no avail. All the locals just kept pointing us to Llanos De Cortez. Maybe my research was wrong and they were one and the same.
We kept driving South, stopping only for lunch. I had punched ‘San Jose Airport’ into the GPS and it was taking us there with enough time before take off, excellent. We got to San Jose, and closer and closer to the destination, and with 500 metres to go I could see a tiny airfield with one runway, not how I remember the big international airport.
We approached the ‘terminal’ and it was no bigger than a house. An armed guard sat on the gate and walked up to get rid of us. I informed him that we needed Juan Santamaria International Airport, and he said we were in the wrong part of town. This was a military airport. I thought Costa Rica didn’t have a military? Whatever.
We bombed off in the direction he was pointing as Gemma tried to type the correct airport into the SatNav. On the way there we must have gone through no less than 6 toll roads. Each with a different nonsensical price. Crazy. Our flight was due to leave at 4pm, and it was now 2.45. We were already late.
We found the car hire place, a few kms or so from the airport, and filled out the paperwork as quickly as we could. Part of the deal was that they drop us back at the airport, but traffic was busy and it was hammering down with rain. I asked the driver to make sure we got there by 3pm to at least give us a chance of making our flight. He drove well and we made it, just.
Once inside the terminal we had to run to the back of the airport to pay our ‘exit fee’ (29USD pp) and fortunately the queue was short. Then we had to check in, and then we had to go through security. Oh dear. Security would not let us through without a copy of our ESTA (you need one of these to visit the states) but I told him they were electronic. He didn’t care.
We had to rush back to our airlines customer service and ask for him to say we were okay to fly. He had to check our ESTAs online using our passport numbers, and after 10 sweaty minutes we were cleared. After queuing AGAIN for security we made it through and went straight to boarding our plane. Phew! I said we didn’t want to leave Costa Rica yesterday, be careful what you wish for eh!
Short and comfortable flight to Guatemala, where we didn’t have enough time to leave the airport (no passport stamp so it doesn’t count!) and we had to pass through security another time before being allowed to embark on the last leg of the day to Los Angeles.
The security was mental, everyone was scanned, patted down and their hand luggage was sprawled out across a table. Especially mental when you consider that we had just been on a flight, we were just connectors. I can’t remember what it was now, but I something taken off me, something that I had had on the previous flight. Despite my protests they were never going to give in, so I had to let it go.
Travelling with only hand luggage is great, until you hit overly security conscious USA. Find out what happened in LA in the next post!