Costa Rica, Osa to Nicoya - a tale of 2 peninsulas

Published: January 27th 2015
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It's siesta time at Playa Guiones on the Nicoya Peninsula. The cool of early morning has made way for a baking midday sun and everyone but the hardiest surfers has shrunk into the cool provided by the sea almond trees which border the beach.

In the past two weeks we have seen both Costa Rican Pacific peninsulas; firstly the Osa on the southern coast, close to the border with Panamá, and then the Nicoya, a long strip of land which stretches north from central Costa Rica, encompassing Guanacaste Province, and on to the Nicaragua border.

Both are wonderful places, brimming with wildlife, cool people and amazing scenery, but starkly contrasting. Osa is wet, green and verdant with tropical evergreen forest and an abundance of birds, insects, amphibians and mammals. Nicoya is hot and dusty with stunning coastal scenery, monkeys, birds and wide open beaches with fantastic surf.

Drake Bay was our destination at Osa and much of the peninsula is protected by Corcovado National Park.... it is biologically "intense"!

Drake Bay is a place of legend. As it goes, in 1579 Francis Drake captured the Spanish galleon Señora de la Concepción and it's 80 pounds of gold and 160 tons of silver, as he plundered his way up and down the coast, as you do....did... he needed to offload some silver (he had spare), to replace with the recently liberated gold. So, according to some, he chose remote Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula to bury the booty.... perhaps on Isla Caño....... or perhaps he didn't...

But it must be somewhere...

At Drake Bay we went horse riding and floating on the Rio Claro, took a boat trip to the park where we walked in primary rainforest, snorkeled San Josecito, and walked up a stream in the dark of night to see how the nocturnals do it. There were so many creatures to observe and as always, the camera just can't capture them. We saw squirrel monkeys, howlers and white eyed capuchins, scarlet macaws, green leaf frogs, baby humming birds, a tapir, raptors and a morey eel.

On 19 January we left Drake Bay to come to Nicoya. This involved a 35 minute flight in a single engine plane to San Jose airport, where we hired a little Daihatsu 4x4, for the drive to Punta Arenas, a car ferry across the gulf of Nicoya, and a drive to Santa Teresa on the sea. The flight was beautiful, along the Pacific Coast over some of the places we had visited - we picked out Dominical and Manuel Antonio.

And so to Nicoya in the dry tropics. We stayed in Santa Teresa a couple of nights, high above the action, with a stunning view of the surf and the sunset. Then we moved south to Mal Pais which borders Cabo Blanco National Park, and where we shared each morning with howler monkeys. They make the most increadible sounds, from throats which expand to a massive size. If you haven't heard one, they sound like a big cat growling, but so loud. Apparently they are the loudest land animal and can be heard from 3kms away..... and Christina is right, they have the saddest faces....

While we were staying at Mal Pais, we took a drive across the steep Star Mountain road and around the southern coast of Nicoya to funky Montezuma, and its 65metre waterfall, which we shared with some Ticos enjoying a Saturday picnic. On the way back we stopped at some beautiful beaches with pelicans diving on schools of fish.

Costa Rica continues to delight at every turn. Yesterday we drove north from Mal Pais along the coast to Nosara and Guiones beach. The drive reminded me of the north coast of New South Wales in the 1970s, river crossings, dusty dirt roads, lots of scenic headlands and undiscovered beaches, and the chance that just round the next bend, if you're lucky, you might just find the perfect wave.....

We will spend four nights here before heading north through Guanacaste toward Nicaragua. I am keen to check out Santa Rosa on the way, reputed to be Central America's best kite surfing location.....

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