I don’t think we wanted to like Costa Rica. Despite it being a wonderland of beaches, wildlife, and mountains, we thought it seemed like a tourist trap. We knew people who had spent months of their trip in this small country and we also knew that it was one of the most expensive countries we would encounter. But after getting out of the big city of San Jose and started to really explore the country we couldn’t help but like it. We did our best to try to save money by wild camping, and cooking for ourselves, but we got sucked in a couple times to awesome campsites next to amazing restaurants and threw that out the window. Between sightings of sloths, crocodiles, and toucans were amazing visits with friends, new and old, and Costa served as a beautiful backdrop for it all!
Our time in Costa Rica came with a lot of emotional ups and downs. When we first arrived here, it was back in June and we were just getting ready to fly home to work and visit everyone for a couple months. We felt bad for how ready we were to go home and how burned out we were on Central America. Then when returning we had a lot of trouble getting excited about being back. We knew we were in for a pain in the neck getting the truck out of storage, plus the forecast for the first 10 days we’d be there was rain and thunderstorms and 80+ degrees every day! So long story short, complain, complain, complain! But when we got here, met up with Driven to Wander, and then got the truck back, we felt like we were right where we were supposed to be!
The time we spent in Costa Rica was awesome and just as promised by the other overlanders we talked to, we could have stayed here a LOT longer! We can see how some people end up spending 3+ months in just this country, though our budget couldn’t handle it for that long!!
Arrived in Costa Rica:
Days spent back home in the middle: 120
Left Costa Rica:
Crocodiles seen in the wild: Approximately 24, including one swimming in the ocean up and down our beach…
Hours spent trying to get our truck out of storage: 8.1
River crossings: 0… we had high hopes of doing at least a couple, but rainy season and flooding thwarted us!
Price for cheap beer at the grocery store: $1.50 per (bad) beer in a 15 pack! Hence why we couldn't stay in Costa Rica very long...
1. Favorite town: We really liked Dominical and everything it had to offer. It’s a surfing/beach town that feels a lot like Caye Caulker in Belize, but with less of a spring break vibe. You can camp anywhere on the beach right next to town for free and there are lots of awesome coffee shops, restaurants and bars to visit in between surfing lessons or SUP yoga classes (neither of which we actually did, we just skipped right to the restaurants and bars).
2. Favorite meal: Breakfast at our hotel on the first morning back in Costa Rica. We were surprised by our friends Okan, Donna, and Indigo of Driven to Wander who had booked the same hotel as us and were also setting out to get their truck from storage that day. We shared an awesome Tipico breakfast while we all discussed our feelings about being back on the road after time at home, and our frustrations over Central American bureaucracy.
3. Most unexpected thing: Seeing a momma and baby sloth just hanging out in the yard of the hostel we were staying at! They were asleep in the tree and the owner’s son came over to get us so we could see them. They were so close we could practically reach out and touch them, but of course we didn’t as we didn’t want to disturb their much needed mid-morning nap!
4. Favorite encounter: We wild camped on a beach with Driven to Wander and in the morning when I set off with the shovel for my morning “business” I was distracted by a troop of Capuchin monkeys just hopping around in the trees above me. That was quite the encounter!
5. Most useful local word/phrase: Pura Vida! (prounced poo-rah vee-dah) Simply translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, it is more than just a saying—it is a way of life. Costa Ricans (Ticos) use this term to say hello, to say goodbye, to say everything’s great, or to say everything’s cool. Oh and they say Ciao for goodbye instead of Adios.
6. Favorite drive: Going back to before we left for home, our drive up into the mountains of Parque Nacional Los Quetzales to see Pete and Natasha of Here Until There was awesome. It was great to get some altitude and watch the temperature drop as we climbed up over 9,000’. The scenery changed and we saw a totally different landscape to that of the rest of Costa Rica. It’s an incredibly diverse country, so I hope people who visit don’t just see the beaches and jungles, but also the beautiful mountains!
7. Best free experience: Our wild camp at Playa Agujas with the Scarlet Macaws, Capuchin Monkeys, and Marvin the 12’ crocodile who visited our bay in the afternoons to do a little fishing! No wonder the signs said don’t swim there!
8. Most frustrating thing: The 8 hours it took to get our truck out of storage for sure. Trying to use our very rusty Spanish to retrieve the multiple documents that all lead to the one document, a new Temporary Import Permit, that would allow them to release our truck. All while knowing if we missed the 4pm deadline the truck would be locked away all weekend and we’d be stuck in the hotel until Monday. Thankfully we made it just in time and pulled out of the storage yard as they were locking the gates behind us!
9. Favorite experience: Getting moved back into the truck after 4 months away and realizing how much it feels like home to me. It was the thing I missed the most while we were in Oregon. We use the hashtag #homeiswhereyouparkit a lot when posting on instagram, and for us that is definitely the truth!
10. Best thing about the country: Hands down the wildlife! They are frickin’ everywhere!!! Sloths in people’s yard, crocodiles swimming by in the ocean, monkeys and scarlet macaws sitting in the trees above the camper. So endlessly awesome!
Trading the favorite picture for a couple videos I took. They're both with just my phone, but show you just how much wildlife we saw in one day camped on the beach!
KP's Favorite Things:
1. Favorite town: St. Pacifico. Really just a couple small restaurants and a hostel clustered between a single dirt road and the beach, we spent 3 hours here in our hammocks, held up by road construction.
2. Favorite meal: Taylor’s butter chicken with Okan’s potato salad. An odd sounding, great tasting combination.
3. Most unexpected thing: Meeting Okan, Donna, and Indigo at our first breakfast back in the country. We knew they were in town, but didn’t realize we were all staying in the same hotel. I always really enjoy meeting people whose Instagram feeds or Expedition Portal builds I’ve gained inspiration from.
4. Favorite encounter: Watching Taylor finally get to see toucans after such a long wait and so much searching. She exudes such pure joy and excitement in moments like that, the event itself is far outweighed by her reaction to it. For me anyway.
5. Most useful local word/phrase: Hola. A la aduana Santa Maria por favor. Not really a “local phrase”, but we sure used it a lot running back and forth all day trying to get our truck out of storage.
6. Favorite drive: Climbing back into the mountains after leaving the beach. We went from sea level to over 5000’ in just a couple hours of driving. Big rivers, roadside waterfalls, and the obvious run-off damage from the recent hurricanes made for a beautiful and interesting drive. The quickly cooling mountain air felt pretty good too.
7. Best free experience: Camping on the beach in Dominical. We got a lot of the best of two worlds, camping for free on a beautiful beach, but with Wifi and cappuccinos.
8. Most frustrating thing: The series of poor decisions we made that led up to us losing our new friends Driven to Wander in the mountains..
9. Favorite experience: Hiking through the jungle to a waterfall. That’s it. Just a simple hike through the mud, heat, and humidity to see a beautiful cascada high in the coastal mountains of Costa Rica.
10. Best thing about the country: The sheer diversity of environments in such a small area. Everything from tropical beaches to 9000’+ hardwood forests.
Favorite picture: This one of 4 year old Indigo’s scooter waiting silently on the beach for him to return. Something about the peace and tranquility of the image contrasted with the perpetual energy and excitement of the subject’s absent owner is beautiful to me. Or whatever. 😊