When I found out that I could get a $180 round-trip ticket from LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica, I hit the confirm button as if my life depended on it. It wasn’t going to be some fantastical 11 day trek through the jungle, or along the clear blue waters of the eastern Caribbean coast; instead, it would be a 4 day, 4 night stay with 4 stops along the way.
I was about to chase some waves.
I was traveling to meet up with a group of friends- eight people in all- who, if given the choice, would sleep in the water on top of their surf broads. I’d never traveled in a group before, and so I was a little hesitant knowing that too many people in a foreign country together is a potential disaster. Add this to the fact that I don’t like surfing, and you’ve got yourself an instant adventure!
In any case, I kept going back to the $180 round trip ticket, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for the opportunity to visit the heart of Central America. I traveled in late October, which was probably the main reason why my ticket was so cheap. Hurricane season is considered June – November; therefore, finding a travel time that is very close to these book-end months is key to grabbing a great deal.
I flew into San Jose on a Friday night (stop 1), and because my friends were all on the south western coast at Playa Drake (a really, really far drive from San Jose), I spent the night by the airport and waited for a friend to come pick me up in the morning in a rental car. With the poor road conditions (aka: there really are no roads in most of Costa Rica), it’s not very safe to drive, especially at night. If you do plan on renting a car and driving a good amount while in Costa Rica, I would highly recommend being a very, very cautious driver. One wrong turn and you may find yourself in a ditch that will not be forgiving.
The next morning I was up and about early, excited about meeting up with my friends and getting myself to the beach as soon as possible. Once I arrived at Playa Drake (stop 2), I stood in awe of the picturesque view of the coastline. I never knew that the posters in art stores depicting an endless beach disappearing into the jungle were accurate, true life scenes- until that moment. I stood on the white sands of her beaches, breathing in the fresh air from the jungle that surrounded me from the North, the East and the South- content. After a long flight, and an even longer drive, Playa Drake had welcomed me with open arms.
We spent that day and night on the beach exploring, and before I knew it, we were headed even further south to Playa Pavones. It had started to rain very heavily, and for several hours we were struggling to get from point A to point B. The rental car was a small SUV; however, its power was no match for Mother Nature’s consistent tears. At this point in the trip, I had literally spent more time in a car than I had on land. I was anxious to get to Pavones- to say the least.When we finally made it to Playa Pavones (stop 3), I was once again taken aback by the scenery. I didn’t think a place could impress me more than Playa Drake, but I instantly fell in love with Pavones and the remoteness of it all. Playa Drake was somewhat close to a town, where you could walk to the market or the bars or along the streets that were lined with shops. Not in Pavones. There was one hotel, one restaurant and one dirt path that led straight to the ocean. Aside from the constant rain, Pavones was a true gem.
If you find yourself in Pavones, take advantage of the horseback rides that pick up right outside of the one hotel in town. For very little money, they’ll take you up into the mountains where you’ll experience a view like no other. You might also get as lucky as I did while walking on the beach and stumble upon turtles hatching. I watched about 30 of them begin a journey that literally meant life or death. I could have stayed for weeks; but alas, the wave chasers were at it again.
By the next afternoon I was back in a car again, headed for another beach town where the waves were supposed to be much better than they were in Pavones. I attributed the lack of waves to the storm- my company attributed it to the area. Easy for them to say- they had 14 days, while I was down to 1.
Despite my pleas to stay in one spot for more than 24 hours, we were headed north again- this time towards the San Jose airport (my final stop- stop 4). While a bulk of my experience in Costa Rica was had by car, to this day I don’t regret a single minute of it. Any chance you have to explore this amazing, real-life mirage should be gladly accepted, even if it has to be crammed into 4 days and 4 nights with 4 stops along the way.