For the final day of our Costa Rican adventure, we check out of our rainforest resort (Lapaz Waterfall Gardens), have an amazing breakfast at a local farm (Corso Lecheria), take a drive through the beautiful countryside, and return to the San Jose Airport for our flight home.
For our third day in Costa Rica we decided to leave rainforest the interior of the country and head west on a road trip towards the Pacific Coast. This not only rewarded us with a fun beach day, but it also gave us a great excuse to get out of the resort area and explore the rest what the country had to offer. After an early rise, we grabbed some sunscreen, a few towels, and hopped in our rental car for a cruise through Central America.
Itinerary for Day 3
Wake up around five thirty and admire the bright, tropical skies.
Skip breakfast, in the sake of time, and hope to find something along the way.
Hop in the rental car and head southwest from our hotel at the La Paz Waterfall Resort (about an hour north of San Jose)
Attempt to find a ATM / cash machine at a couple gas station and stores.
Fail at finding an ATM while slowly realizing that they aren’t very widespread in Costa Rica compared to Europe or the U.S. Oops.
Grab some oatmeal cookies and yogurt for breakfast at a small grocery store. They weren’t aware of any ATM’s nearby, but they did take Visa.
After some bumpy surface roads (quite barron of ATM’s I might add) we suddenly found ourselves at the entrance to the toll highway. To our relief and surprise, they happily took credit cards. Pretty cool, considering most tolls in the U.S. won’t even do that. They’ll also take American, although I would recommend avoiding that. We did that once at another toll, and realized later that the conversion the clerk gave us was waaay off. Probably an accident, but we learned our lesson a paid more attention on subsequent tolls.
Continue to drive through the mountains and towards the Pacific coast. In terms of general direction, the largest town near where we were head was the popular beach town of Jaco, although our actual goal was a white sand beach called Playa Blanca, 30 minutes north of Jaco.
Find some glorious ATM’s at a strip mall not too far from our destination and withdrawal some Costa Rican Colones. Finally, success for the unprepared travelers!
Grab some snacks and sandwiches lunch from the Supermarket at the strip mall for our upcoming beach picnic.
Arrive at the small parking lot at Playa Mantas This was a beautiful grey sand beach with calm waters, due to it’s cove shape. It wasn’t, however, our ultimate destination. By parking here, we were able to do a short walk and a slight climb over an embankment. This lead us to Playa Blanca, which is otherwise inaccessible, due to a resort blocking it from road access. Fret not though, all Costa Rican beaches are public land, so once you’ve made it over the embankment you’re all set to relax and enjoy the Costa Rican breeze. For detailed instructions on visiting yourself, check out this blog post that we found and used to get there ourselves.
Say hello to the friendly “security guard”. We knew in advance that we would need to pay to park here, although unofficially (around $3-$5 USD from what we read). I’ve read reports that people had to pay upon arrival, but we were told that there was no payment required, but we may “tip when we left” if we desired. Wink, wink.
Have an amazing Costa Rican Pacific coast beach picnic and afternoon of relaxation.
Tip our friendly security specialist $2,000 colones (which was around $4 USD at the time) on the way out. Seriously, though – he was quite friendly. I don’t want to know what happens if you don’t tip him though…
Head back in the direction of San Jose.
Stop for dinner at Soda el Guacimo, outside the town of Tarcoles, on the way home. Soda’s are small, family owned restaurants with delicious traditional Costa Rican food at great prices (because this is what the locals actually eat). This particular soda was had an open air layout (as many sodas do), friendly staff, delicious food and an amazing view. Here’s their Faceook page.
Dine on some tasty food. I had casado de bistek (beef) and Sara had casado con pollo (chicken). Casados are a traditional Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and often a protein as well.
Drive back home to our hotel for a nightcap of Cafe Rica (Costa Rican coffee liquor)
Today we decided to spend the entire day soaking up what the immediate area surrounding our rainforest resort had to offer, and save our driving adventures for the following day.
Itinerary for Day 2
Wake up around six and admire the bright, tropical skies.
Order a traditional Costa Rican breakfast consisting of Gallo Pinto (rice mixed with black beans), natilla (sour cream), eggs, fried plantain, tortilla and Mantequilla cheese (we saw this cheese paired with a lot of dishes and it’s pretty amazing).
Do a rainforest waterfall hike.
Dodge a mid-afternoon storm by grabbing some lunch we had a slighlty fancier than usual version of casados – a traditional Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, often a protein as well (in our case, beef). It was very good, but we still had a visit to a local soda (small, family owned restaurants serving traditional dishes for super reasonable prices) where we could get the authentic experience of a Costa Rican meal with the locals.
Make friends with some monkeys, hummingbirds, butterflies, and cattle.
Get an amazing massage at our hotel.
Do a nighttime visit with some Costa Rican frogs and toads, including some poisonous frogs. Do a nighttime visit with some Costa Rican frogs and toads, including some poisonous frogs. Frogs shown: Tiger Frog, Red Eyed Tree Frog, Green and Black Poison Dart Frog, Poisonous Blue Jeans Frog.
Take an evening flight out of Baltimore, bound for Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica (connection in ATL).
Arrive in San Jose the next morning around 11AM
Pick up our rental car.
Sharpen up our Central American driving skills by cruising through downtown San Jose
Drive about an hour north from San Jose towards LaPaz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge Resort
Navigate through an afternoon rain forest downpour. This happened every day around 12:30PM. The following morning we would awaken to a perfect reset of bright sun and clear blue skies. We quickly learned to plan our outdoor activities between 6AM and Noon, followed by storm watching in the afternoons.
Arrive at the Peace Lodge hotel.
Lounge on the balcony and try to absorb the fact that we made it to Costa Rica.
Head out for a fancy Costa Rican dinner.
Get some much needed sleep and prepare for our upcoming day of rain forest exploration.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we do a rainforest waterfall hike and see how Sara does face to face with poisonous frog (spoiler alert: they become best friends).