While we’re currently settled in at a small boutique hotel in Jaco doing our first Workaway, read on to hear about our adventures and travels as we went all the way down to the south pacific coast of Costa Rica for some more remote adventures! We saw some great scenery and wildlife and we really enjoyed getting on a boat again. Read Part I if you want to know how we got started in Costa Rica.
Pacific Coast: Playa Dominical & Uvita
May 5 – We quickly packed up at Playa Samara and headed south off the Nicoya Peninsula to Jaco for a few things. We visited the hotel we will be volunteering at for a month and its owners, as well as retrieved our new credit card and ate lunch. We choose to do a workaway and stay in Jaco for about a month so we could get grounded, help out, get to know a CR community, save some money and get better at surfing. We started on May 18th! After our stop in Jaco, which is mid-Pacific coast we drove a few more hours to Dominical. Our hotel, Villas Alturas, was beautiful and by far the best place we have stayed. With A/C, a full kitchen, big living room, comfortable king size bed, pool overlooking the ocean and complimentary breakfast we felt like we were on a nice, true vacation (instead of a year of travel, they’re different). We quickly unpacked and went straight to the pool for some cocktails (happy Cinco de Mayo!), swimming, the sunset (off the clouds) and spotting toucans. We spotted fireflies outside our our room before heading to bed. We woke after a restful, cool nights sleep and headed to breakfast. Jenny wanted to purchase the bed and ship it home because she slept so well in it. I spotted two scarlet macaws flying in front of the ocean view before breakfast. It was going to be a good day. After breakfast we ventured to a hiking trail that led to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. The 4km trail was very hot and humid, but we focused on the swimming at the end with every step we took. We distracted ourselves by discussing what we have learned about each other so far on our trip (you know, just a casual relationship therapy session in the middle of the jungle). We had a good talk and made it to the waterfall which was the most beautiful falls we have seen. We instantly swam around with a few other people at the falls, we jumped off the falls (I did the high jump), and we walked through the showering water. It was a peaceful place. The crowd cleared out and we had the falls to ourselves for a while before eating lunch and heading out. Playa Uvita had been on our list since we started thinking about visiting Costa Rica. Why? We can’t quite remember, but we think it was found on the map as a unique shape (a whale tail) and then looked at the beautiful pictures that came from the area and thought “Yep, we need to go there.” The vision came real as we went to the national park at low tide and walked ourselves out to the whale tail. The rocky area was more unique and interesting than beautiful, but on our walk back we could see beach that seemed to stretch forever. The hills behind the beach were lush jungle and spotted with vacation properties, and the shores were pristine and gorgeous. We spent the rest of the day boogie boarding at Playa Uvita (where a local told us there were dangerous sting rays, so we calmly left the water after that!), eating fish tacos from a food cart, and cooking dinner and playing Sequence until we passed out from another adventurous day. Alturas Animal Sanctuary was recently established, the owner of the hotel actually purchased an existing sanctuary that was losing money and going to close; we’re so glad he did! This was a really excellent sanctuary with a fantastic guide / animal caretakr, Mike. He has been working in sanctuaries since he was 24, and he’s been working with the animals in Costa Rica for 4-5 years. Here’s what we saw and some of the info we jotted down:
- Scarlet macaws- coming back in numbers. 3 large green parrot species ( red, yellow spot and all green). Used to be pets or injured (dogs, cars, BB guns). Mate for life, often one dies then the other “stops eating and fades away”
- Baby coatimundis: so cute!
- Kinkajou (sleeping)
- Full grown coatimundi – playful and outliving average. Been on animal planet and nat geo
- Hawk and another bird, a vulture type, odd couple that now hang out together
- Parakeets: most commonly caught and kept illegally. No indigenous animals can be kept as pets. Just released 20, have 14 again
- Monkeys: spider were tied to a stick for 16 years. Capuchins same thing. Squirrel monkeys found in Golfito: they live in troops of 200+ because they have such tight bonds with friends at a young age
- Sweet young female porcupine, found as a baby
- Anteater- so cute. Extremely strong arms to rip open logs for food. Saw him in the garden with the raccoon babies
- Sloth. They had a baby sloth, but we didn’t see it; they poop once a week, and the young one hadn’t gone in 10 days, so the biologists were concerned
Since we didn’t have much planned, we decided to head back for a second hike to our favorite waterfall. We’re really glad we did, it’s just such a beautiful place! Jenny decided that on Saturday she was going to do some volunteering for a local pet shelter after we saw their rescued puppies a couple days before while eating fish tacos. D.A.W.G. (Domestic Animal Welfare Group) She volunteered for three hours at the rescue and literally held and played with 7 to 12 puppies and dogs the entire time. She rinsed some in the hose to cool them off and they didn’t like that much. It’s a good thing we don’t live here because she would have adopted the three black lab puppies in a heartbeat (Wilma, Betty and Bam Bam — named after the Flinstones). They are still up for adoption so someone in Costa Rica should give them a good home.
Pavones and Drake Bay
Driving down the coast to southern Costa Rica. Listening to a TED Radio Hour pod cast. I just narrowly miss a large iguana with our compact 4×4 as my co-pilot (Jenny) is feeding me leftover blackened mahi mahi from last nights tasty dinner. I then see the proverbial frog crossing the road, and as he dodges two cars (mine included) he makes it to the other side to live another level, err, day. Thoughts from the road
On May 10 we again loaded our Jimny and headed further south, this time to a location very near to the Panama border: Pavones. After yet another dirt road (getting so sick of them) we ended up at our place. Not exactly what we were hoping for, and it didn’t help that the reception gal/ maybe owner was a total dud. But, we’ll make the most of it, and we’re keeping our heads focused on going surfing or SUPing the next day. Pavones is known to have one of the longest surf breaks in the world. Then the surf is really big, a wave can be ridden for over 2 minutes! Even if the waves were that big, we couldn’t have done that with our limited skills, so we settled on surfing a small break with some rented boards. The surfing here was so-so for us, it was rocky, crowded and I ended up dinging my board and had to pay for a repair. The next day, however, was better. We moved lodging locations to a SUP/Surf school for a night, and got to go out SUPing! Not only did we do a peaceful tour of the bay on our own, I received an informal lesson in riding waves on a SUP from the owner. He was an excellent teacher, and I was able to catch my first few waves via SUP. I’d love to try that again another day. We were pretty tired in the afternoon so we just relaxed and went for a nice beach walk before calling it a night.
The next morning we set out on another adventure: getting to Drake Bay. First, I had to pick up Jenny who was 30 minutes ahead of me, but on foot running, with the loaded up car to head to Sierpe. Sierpe is a small town that’s on a river where we left our car in storage and hopped on a boat that took us out to Drake Bay.The air was hot and muggy, the water a deep green with patchy clouds in the sky. While we are hot and sticky, the fresh breeze and motion of the boat feels good. The boat ride started out calm and comfortable, but once we hit the mouth, the ocean was a rockin’ and rollin’! After a half hour of heavy waves, we had to try to get off – an adventure all it’s own. The process was simple, but tough: the boat backed up to the shore when there was a small break in the waves (if possible) and a couple strong employees held the boat while we timed the waves to get off before another set rolled in. The same process, but in reverse, was used to get us on to the boat for our upcoming adventures in the area! Arrived to our cabin on the Osa peninsula, Pirate Cove. We met a nice and nearly retired couple from Alabama (and all over, he worked for the government). Went swimming for an hour and caught our first real waves body surfing! Super fun and exhausting. After dinner we chatted with our new friends for a few hours before retiring to the room.
On May 14 our 5:05am alarm woke us fora day of adventure on the Osa peninsula: a guided tour of Corcovado National Park. One of the largest in Costa Rica, it holds an impressive amount of wildlife, of which we saw plenty. The park was a little over an hour away via boat, and without docks the boarding and debarking scenes were a little hectic (as mentioned earlier). We had to time the wave sets right, back in, and hustle on/off quickly before the next set came in. Once on land we switched from sandals to shoes and headed out into the jungle. The four hour tour started great, seeing some spider monkeys and a large tapir relaxing in a cooling mud pit. The air was again hot and muggy, but seeing the wildlife made it all worth it. Here’s a run down:
- Spider monkeys
- Very large tapir
- Tropical bird eating snake
- Squirrel monkeys
- Great roadside hawk, who follows the monkeys and eats insects that they stir up
- Giant lady bugs
- Great tirramo with 4 chicks
- Red tailed squirrel
- Anteater – way up in the trees. So cool!
- Collared pecari
- Howler monkeys
After returning we coffee’d up then hit the beach, even though thunder and lightning were near. We swam in the ocean and watched the storm on either side of us. After body surfing the rain picked up and we headed back in for showers. After resting, we went out to look at the sunset. And let us tell you, the sunset combined with the afternoon storm did not disappoint! No tours the next day, but something “interesting” did happen. I was in down mood most of the day, not exactly sure why; maybe it was my body preparing for the stomach bug I eventually got :/. After breakfast we went/ran into the Drake Bay town, took a beach walk. Then, after lunch we had a terrible time kayaking: first the waves were too big to get off shore easily, then my kayak started to take on water and eventually sank! We had to try towing it in, but it filled up with too much water and was gone. I held on to Jenny’s kayak and we paddled back into shore, hoping we wouldn’t become shark bait and turn a bad day worse! May 16 was a fun day in which we went on a snorkeling tour to the reefs of Caño Island (No pictures since we didn’t take our phones on this adventure). On the way there, however, I started to have an upset stomach. The boat ride was about an hour, and we arrived at the national park on the island. It was very remote, wild and jungly. We then set out for our first of three snorkeling locations. We saw many fish, and this was the first time we’d had a guide for snorkeling. Walter, our guide, was able to tell us what fish we were seeing right on the spot. One of my favorites was the [can’t remember now, shoot]. The parrot fish are always a hit with the kids, and that was the case with our group too. After our first location we went to a second where Jenny and I were lucky enough to see a turtle! A Pacific Sea Turtle that was swimming below us. The water conditions weren’t great because of the recent stormy weather overnight, so the visibility wasn’t the best, and as such we were the only ones who could see the turtle before it swam away. A quick rest on the beach for some snacks and water, then we loaded aboard the boat again to head to the third location. While the third location was a dud (we were cold, the water was deeper and murky so it was hard to see much of anything new), we did get to see a group of spotted dolphins playing in the water on our way there, how cool! The baby dolphins were even jumping out of the water. My upset stomach kept me near the facilities and my bread dinner was not a highlight of our trip; Jenny did a great job taking care of me, though! After our getaway down south we traveled back north to Jaco – our home for the next 3-4 weeks. We’ll share about our experiences in Jaco and our Workaway next time! Until then, keep adventuring ~Will & Jenny