Quepos, Costa Rica

We arrived in Quepos on August 10th. The Airbnb host was very nice and picked us up at the bus station. The apartment was located on a very local street with a lot of ticos (Costa Ricans) homes. There was a friendly local family living in the house below our apartment. Unfortunately, they did not speak any English but he introduced himself and we always said hola while passing by. The family had two very friendly dogs and the small Chihuahua would come to visit us on our porch. The larger dog was kept down below, but on our last day, he got out to visit us and was very friendly. It amazed us that he could fit between the columns to access our porch.

 

On our first full day, we went to explore the shops in Quepos. It was a pretty small town, probably about 5 by 10 blocks, right next to the water. There was a very nice walking path around the water leading to the colorful Quepos sign right on the edge of town.

We continued walking on the path in the opposite direction and reached the Quepos Marina. This was a newly constructed plaza with shopping, restaurants, and tourist excursions. We came to the Marina a couple different times just to sit, relax, and listen to the ocean. One day, we walked past the Marina and found a nice park with an outdoor gym and exercise machines.

The biggest highlight from our trip to Quepos was visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park. The entire time we had been in Costa Rica all Tim had wanted to do is see a monkey. He talked about it all the time and anytime we were near what might have been considered a rainforest, he would start calling out for George. You know, George the curious monkey? Well, George never came when he was called until we went to Manuel Antonio National Park. And after that, we saw George and all his friends quite often.

 

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The Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest, but most popular national park in Costa Rica. The park had multiple beaches and hiking trails, which mostly consisted of walking up and down stairs. My legs were very sore the next day.

We saw a group of monkeys on the path while walking to one of the beaches. They were jumping and swinging from all of the trees. When we were relaxing in our hammock on the beach another group, or maybe the same group, of monkeys invaded the trees above us. One monkey actually tried to steal our plastic bag with our flip-flops. After a short tug a war match between Tim and the monkey, Tim won and the monkey ran away empty-handed.

We were in the middle of the last hiking trail of the park when it started to downpour. We had to get out of the park and run to the bus in the pouring rain (around 3 miles). Who would have thought it would rain in the rainforest?

One evening we went to eat at the Tico Rico restaurant that was located in a hotel on the side of the mountain. It was covered by the trees and had a beautiful view of the water and sky. While we were eating a monkey walk across the restaurant’s roof and jump into the trees below us. Our waiter told us that in the mornings they had to be extra careful because the monkeys would try to get into the kitchen and steal the food. We went back another night to this restaurant and got to enjoy the pool and water slide.

We took an hour bus trip and spent a full day in Uvita and went to Marino Ballena National Park, which is actually just a beach. What makes the beach special is that it has a huge sandbar shaped like a whale tail that is only visible during low tide. Unfortunately, we got to the park right when the tide was rising and we weren’t able to fully enjoy the sandbar. But, we were still able to relax on the beautiful beach.

Our last day came too soon, literally. We got the dates mixed up and thought we had another full day. We were planning to go back the Manuel Antonio National Park and do a couple other last-minute things. Oh well. Lucky our host sent us a message the night before asking us what time we were planning to leave. This allowed us to wake up extra early to pack and clean up.

This was a beautiful area and we are blessed that we were able to create these lasting memories.

Jaco Costa Rica

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Jaco is the prime example of a beach town. The area is known for tourist and the main strip is filled with restaurants and shops of all types. Everything you need is in easy walking distance; we didn’t get on a bus or call an Uber during the stay. Surfing is one of the main reasons tourist visit Jaco. During our stay, the waves would get up-to 10ft tall. The language barrier was non-existent because most everyone there is fluent in English or knew enough to get by.

Our Jaco trip began by catching the bus from the 7-10 Bus Station in San Jose. The tickets were $5 per person and the trip was two hours long. We meet a passenger on the bus that spoke English and we had our first English speaking conversation while in Costa Rica. He was an older man and we were skeptical of his motives at first, he looked like he might’ve asked us for money or tried to sell us something at any moment. However, he turned out to be friendly and gave us some helpful tips about the area.

 

Our room was right on the main strip, one block away from the beach. Each morning we walked to the beach and found a different spot to hang the hammock. We never hung it in the same spot twice, but one of our favorite spots was on the north end of the beach, which was a more secluded area surrounded by large boulders in the water.

 

Lose dogs roamed all over the town and beach. They all seemed very friendly but kept a respectable distance. At first, we thought the all were strays, but they looked much healthier than normal strays. We finally learned that it is very common for pet owners to allow their dogs to roam free and the dogs would just come home when they were hungry. It seemed like a perfect life for a dog. Come and go as you please and spend the majority of the day on the roaming the beach.

 

There was no use looking at the weather app while in Jaco. Each day, and hour, it would say the same thing: high of 84, low of 81, and a 50% chance of rain. It rained at least once every day. Sometimes it was just a light sprinkle that lasted 3 hours or a heavy downpour lasting a couple minutes.

 

Although most days were pretty cloudy, we spent each sunset out on the beach. A couple nights we lucked out and had a beautiful view. We stayed near the north end of the beach and it wasn’t until our last night in Jaco that we discovered that the south side had a much prettier view of the sunset.

 

There were multiple tents set up on the beach advertising local surfing lessons. We decided to make the most of being tourists and took surfing lessons from one of the local guides. The best spot for surfing lessons was on the south side of the beach, the waves are much calmer and great for beginners. This was a great experience and lasting memory. Tim and I were both able to stand up as we rode the waves in. Tim did a much better job than me and stood up on almost every wave. I kept putting my font foot in the wrong spot making me lose balance and tumbling over. But regardless, we both had a great time.

 

While surfing, the guide pointed out a local lookout spot that you could see from the beach. It was an old abandon building, probably a restaurant or hotel but no one know for sure, that had a beautiful view of Jaco. The hike up the Mountain was paved for the most part and a lot easier than I expected. We felt completely immersed in the rain forest. Tim eagerly kept his eyes open for monkeys, but we had no luck. The building itself was very unique. It had three tiers and the top and second tire were completely open. The bottom tier was sectioned off into what looked like six individual rooms; each one had a spot for a balcony and bathroom.

 

One of Jaco’s main attractions, besides the beach itself, was the Jaco Walk. This was a brand new shopping plaza area filled will upper-class restaurants, stores, and coffee shops. We explored this plaza almost once every day mainly so Claire could use the bathroom. Our favorite trip to the Jaco Walk was when we went to the Puddle Fish Brewery. We struck up a conversation with one of the brewers and a couple at the bar from Settle, Washington. The wife was a Spanish teacher and had just ended a school trip in Costa Rica, she stayed an extra week after and her husband met her there. The beer, food, atmosphere, and company were great.

 

We really liked Jaco and would defiantly consider going back if we had the opportunity.

 

 

Heredia, Costa Rica

Our troubles all started when we stepped off the plane and realized we were no longer in America. Okay, I’m being overdramatic, but we did have a rude awakening coming to a Spanish speaking country without knowing any Spanish. English was the second language listed on all of the signs in the airport (weird, right?) and the further we went into the airport the less English there was. None of the guards at our apartment building spoke English and trying to tell them our room number was quite difficult. The guard finally asked “something something Español?” and we were able to tell him “no!” Thankfully the Uber driver could read our room number and then we showed our IDs and were good to go! All of the guards knew who we were after that interaction.

Once we hid in our room for a little bit trying to regain our confidence to step out into the non-English speaking world, we decided it was time to get food. We had only eaten granola bars and cheese-its all day. We walked down to a little shopping plaza pretty close to our building. There was a subway, a chicken restaurant similar to KFC, a convenience store and other little shops. We decided to get some food from the convenience store so we didn’t have to try to order off a menu. We bought two pre-prepared meals with rice, beans, meat, and some veggies, a container of eggs, bread, and milk. We learned that eggs do not come in packages of a dozen but groups of 5. Also, Costa Rica has cold and warm options for milk. The cold option has a shorter life while the warm milk has a longer life. We decided to stick with the cold milk for now; maybe later on we will try the warm milk. One adventure at a time. The cashier knew right away that we were not local. I think my “Hi” gave it away. The first thing she asked was, “Español?” thankfully she was very nice and showed us the total on the screen instead of trying to tell us.

Our goal for this week was to become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, like being in a store where no one speaks English. We were very thankful that Tim’s phone had data and Google Translate, we are not sure how we would have navigated our way around without it. We focused on the small wins during this time. Going a little further on each walk, visiting Wal-Mart, getting on the bus, and exploring a new area each day. We never had any expectations of where the day would take us but it somehow always turned out great.

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When we finally had the courage to ride the bus, we rode it to the last stop. It happened to be a very popular shopping/sightseeing spot in downtown San Jose. We spent the day walking up and down the streets and viewing the stores and restaurants. There was a small park area filled with pigeons. Many of the locals were selling bags of food to feed to them. Tim and I sat and watched a little boy trying to catch the pigeons, he was actually successful a couple of times. After the park, we went to a small restaurant on one of the side streets. This was the first time we were brave enough to order off a menu. Thankfully it had pictures. Tim had a very traditional meal with rice, beans, and some meat. I thought I had ordered a cheese quesadilla, but it turned out to be just a plain rice cake.

The area had two large malls. Yes, apparently malls are still quite popular in Costa Rica. We stumbled upon the first mall during a long walk. It had two floors and was a traditional mall layout. The second mall was brand new and pretty difficult to describe. The layout was very futuristic and had just as much outside space as it did inside. The food court was in the center of the mall, open to the outside and covered by a dome-like ceiling. On the outside, the dome ceiling was covered with grass and it looked like it was a perfect spot for a music venue. It was a very unique space.

This week was a great success. We were able to experience the local culture and step out of our comfort zones. This time helped prepare us for the rest of our stay in Costa Rica.