From The Clouds To The Beach

Published: August 23rd 2010
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After breakfast at the hotel's restaurant, we were picked up by a shuttle bus that would take us to the famous sleazy beach-side town of Jaco. The drive was about two and a half hours and as we descended lower in elevation, the humidity and stickiness started to set in. Riding along with us was an American woman from San Francisco, her British boyfriend, and two backpackers from Australia and Florida. The Floridian definitely wins the prize for most annoying traveler. For the duration of the ride, he continuously told stories of all the great adventures and great places he has experienced in his life. If there was a picture perfect example of a travel bragger, this guy would have been it. Before we hit the coast, our driver was kind enough to stop at a famous bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. This is a popular quick stop for tourists as river crocodiles can be seen from the bridge. We walked across the bridge and sure enough spotted a group of crocodiles just relaxing along the banks. One very large crocodile that was in the middle of the river seemed to be posing for us tourists. He opened his mouth wide showing his sharp teeth and just stayed in that position for a few minutes. It was as if he knew we all wanted to get a good photo!

We continued to drive along the coast and before long we were eventually dropped off in front of our hotel in Jaco, the Hotel Poseidon. Jaco is Costa Rica's party town. Due to it's location of being the closest beach to San Jose as well as a top surfing destination, the town is usually crowded with young people looking for a good time. This naturally brings more seedier elements like drug pushers and prostitutes. Immediately after getting off the shuttle bus, the humidity just hit me like a ton of bricks. After the cool air of Monteverde, I was just not ready for all this humidity. We dropped off our bags in our rooms before relaxing in the open air hotel restaurant for some drinks and lunch. To my pleasant surprise, this restaurant actually served Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper! After lunch, Shea and I walked down to the nearby beach where the stifling humidity set in. We hadn't even walked for a few minutes when I just felt like I was going to pass out. This was easily the most humid weather I had ever experienced. Thankfully the beach was very close to the hotel. After walking along the beach for a bit, we decided to walk into town and see what Jaco had to offer. Our first experience walking along Jaco's major street was horrible. The combination of humidity, heat, and the sounds of passing traffic was way too much to handle. We didn't get very far before we retreated to the cool confines of our air-conditioned room. After resting and napping in our room for a few hours, Shea and I ventured back out to enjoy the beach. The next few hours were spent enjoying the warm waters, rubbing the black volcanic sand on our bodies, and playing with some of the beach's resident dogs. The humidity of Jaco seemed to just suck the life out of us today. Brent again showed us his great ability to make friends in any situation. He had befriended a bunch of guys from Philadelphia who were also staying at our hotel as well as a local surf instructor named Josh. After dinner in the hotel's restaurant and a quick dip in
River CrocodilesRiver CrocodilesRiver Crocodiles

Looking down from the Rio Tarcoles
the pool, we retired early back to our room.

The next morning was another early wake up call as we were picked up for a private transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park. It was only Shea and I on this excursion as Brent was going try surfing with some guys from Philadelphia that we had met at the hotel yesterday. The drive south along the coast took about an hour and we were dropped off right in front of the entrance to the park. Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica's most visited national park and one of it's smallest. It is famous for it's magnificent coastal scenery as well as it's diversity of wildlife. We immediately joined a guide that was leading a few others visitors through the park. Hiking along the trail, the forest's humidity quickly set in. After just a few minutes, we were already sweating profusely and getting attacked by mosquitos. The forest was very thick and lush and was busy with the sounds of animals and insects going about their daily business. Every few minutes, our guide would stop and point out some animals that he had spotted high up in the forest canopy. His eagle
River CrocodilesRiver CrocodilesRiver Crocodiles

Seen from a bridge above the Rio Tarcoles
eyes allowed him to spot things that nobody else would have even noticed. With the help of his binoculars, we were able to spot bats, sloths, and monkeys. Eventually, the hiking trail lead us to Playa Manuel Antonio. We took a quick break from the hike and admired the beauty of the park's most popular beach. The waters of this crescent shaped beach were very warm, calm, and a perfect turquoise color. It would have been a perfect spot to just lay around and relax for a few hours. Back on the hiking trail, our guide lead us through Playa Espadilla Sur and pointed out more birds, lizards, crabs, and we even spotted one of the strange Jesus Christ Lizards. This was another picture postcard Costa Rican beach with the forest practically coming right up to the beach. However, the waters here were much rougher than at Playa Manual Antonio. To my surprise, our guide lead us through the exit to the park. I had thought we were going to be given a quick tour and be left to explore the park at our leisure. We crossed a stream where we saw a crocodile and walked along the public beach, Playa Espadilla Norte. Our guide brought us to a restaurant where we were given drinks, fruit, and lunch. After our lunch, Shea and I walked back into the park and relaxed at Playa Espadilla Sur. I wanted to go for a swim but the waves were crashing so violently that I was just content with just going up to my waist. It would have been a much better idea to hike back to Playa Manuel Antonio to enjoy it's calmer waters. However due to time constraints, we had to cut it short and hike back to catch our ride back to Jaco. Manuel Antonio National Park would have been a perfect place to spend an entire day. I feel like I didn't get to fully enjoy it as we were somewhat rushed through the park. The cost of $85 per person for this excursion was a complete rip-off. We definitely would have been better off taking a taxi and exploring the park at our leisure for far less than we paid. On our way back to Jaco, I requested that our guide take us to a spot overlooking Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica's most well-known surfing mecca for a quick photo op. The remainder of the day was spent relaxing back in the room and strolling in and out of the shops along Jaco's main street. Dinner tonight was at one of the local restaurants along the main drag. The humidity has sucked so much energy from me that I wasn't even in the mood to eat much.

The next day started off slowly before we finally decided to look into renting some ATV's just after lunch. We walked over to a nearby ATV rental shop where we signed up for a 2 hour ride through the hills of Jaco. The ATV's that we were given were in great condition and practically brand new. After a quick orientation on how to operate them, we were quickly riding through the streets of Jaco. We drove along the main highway for a bit before cutting off onto an unpaved road into the hills. This part of the ride was very dusty as the ATV's kicked up so much dust and every now and then a random rock would go flying through the air. By the time we reached our first stop, a random bar in the middle of nowhere, we were all covered in a layer of dust and dirt. From here, we backtracked the same way we came and continued back on the main highway. We cut off again onto another unpaved trail but this trail was much steeper and muddier. Eventually this trail brought us to the top of the hills with awesome views of the Pacific Ocean and the town of Jaco. We rested for a bit here and soaked in all the scenery before making our way back down the hill and returning to Jaco. We arrived just in time back at the ATV rental shop as a heavy downpour began falling. We were all covered in dust and dirt but thankfully our hotel was only footsteps away. For dinner tonight, we ventured over to a small hamburger joint nearby. The place was very laid back and also served as a hostel for budget travellers. Brent and the other guys from Philadelphia met up with us here and we all enjoyed some great American style burgers. Not much went on again tonight. We just hung around the hotel and in Brent's room with Josh where we watched the Celtics vs Cavaliers game.

Our last day in Costa Rica began with pretty much no clue as to how to spend it. We had pretty much done all the main activities and there wasn't much else to explore in this very small town. We had spent the morning shopping for some last minute trinkets and souvenirs when we overheard the Philadelphia guys talking about zip-lining. Since we had already gone in Monteverde, I didn't really give it much thought but both Shea and Brent thought it was a great idea to go again. I figured since there wasn't really anything else to do, we might as well do it again. The 3 of us along with the Philadelphia guys all crammed into a mini-van and were taken to Canopy Vista Los Suenos. After getting outfitted, we all boarded this wagon and were pulled uphill by a tractor. Just like in Monteverde, we were given a quick crash course on the basics of zip-lining. Zip-lining from platform to platform was just as enjoyable as it was in Monteverde. I was actually able to see the surrounding forest as there was no mist as in Monteverde. The staff was very friendly and professional and actually talked about some of
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A sloth in the trees
the foliage we saw here in the forest. The final zip-line that brought you to the bottom of the hill and was the longest and fastest of all the lines. At the end, we were given some fresh fruit to enjoy. The main difference between zip-lining here and in Monteverde was the humidity. It was downright hot, hot, hot! In Monteverde, we had fog, and mist and the weather was generally cool but here the humidity was just stifling. Back in town for our final night, we ventured over to Los Amigos for dinner, a local sports bar known locally for it's huge outdoor big-screen TV. Dinner was just okay and afterwards we just hung around the hotel watching the big soccer match for the local team Saprissa.

The morning, we were all definitely ready to get home. It had been a long and active 9 days. Jaco was a fun place to be despite it's seedier elements. There was a lot of thing to do in the surrounding areas but unless you're here for nightlife, Jaco probably isn't the best place to stay. Josh had arranged for one of his friends to take us all the way
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A sloth in the trees
to the San Jose airport instead of taking of the hotel's shuttles. It was a quick ride to San Jose where we said our goodbyes to Josh and checked in for our flight to Cancun on Mexicana. Once we arrived in Cancun, it was a total nightmare. The international arrivals area was jammed packed with people and many of us were concerned about missing our connecting flights. Thankfully, they pulled those of us with connecting flights out of the line to skip the immigration process and directed us straight to the terminal. We arrived back to a drizzly and chilly Los Angeles at around 11pm where we were picked up by Tracy. It was a great 9 days in Costa Rica. However, unless somebody else planned a trip and invited me, I don't think I would plan a return trip for myself.

Additional photos below
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Playa Espadilla NortePlaya Espadilla Norte
Playa Espadilla Norte

Just outside Manuel Antonio National Park
Playa Espadilla SurPlaya Espadilla Sur
Playa Espadilla Sur

Taking a break to enjoy the scenery

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