The Nicoya Peninsula
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Mike and I have heard nothing but great things about the Nicoya Peninsula and eagerly head in that direction for our first night in Costa Rica. We’re stopped at a routine Police checkpoint and both agree the female officer is Eva Mendes‘ twin sister, complete with a pistol shoved down the front of her pants. I hand over my passport as well as my heart, though my Spanish doesn’t seem to convey my feelings very well. Tamarindo is very touristy and developed, with fast food joints and expensive clothing stores lining the main street. It’s obvious very quickly how expensive everything in Costa Rica is, very similar to prices in the US or Canada, which comes as a huge slap in the face after the amazingly cheap countries I’ve just been to.
When I goto sleep there is only one other tent in the whole campground, and I think I’m dreaming when about fifty people rock up after midnight and have a huge party while setting up their tents, complete with a car stereo at full volume. It turns out a whole village has made the trek to the beach for the weekend and they intend to party pretty hard while here.
We spend a few nights here, partly because I’m still feeling sick and party because Mike lost his debit card a few days back and is trying to have money wired to the local bank, with little luck. It’s an extremely beautiful place, if not a little busy for my liking.
A 4×4-only dirt track winds down the west coast of the peninsula, possibly called the ‘Monkey Trail’ and is highly recommended by all. We wind our way down to Playa Sámara and quickly realize we’ve found a slice of paradise. The campground is a very laid-back, Rastafarian affair right on the beach and wandering around the town which has one of everything we need and nothing we don’t is great. At night we go to a little community center full of locals to watch a movie sitting on bean-bags & eating popcorn.
It would be easy to stay here for weeks.
We continue south and spend a couple of nights in the Malpais / Santa Teresa area. Here, a beachside road strings together a couple of small towns that have been overrun by surfers riding the powerful swell on the seemingly endless sandy beach. We catch up with Jamie who we met in Nicaragua who has been living in Costa Rica for six months teaching English. She’s been having an awesome time living the local life, which you can read about on her blog: http://rubiatica.blogspot.com/
At the very southern end of the peninsula lies The Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica’s oldest protected wilderness area setup in 1963. We pay $10 USD each for entry and set out on a two hour hike to the beach at the southern tip. Walking through the dense jungle and enormous trees we walk right by a family of howler monkeys and spot a couple of brightly colored birds and giant butterflies. The beach is really peaceful and we both take catnaps in the warm shady area.
We move around to Montezuma, a very popular spot on the coast. It’s a very Rastafarian place and we are offered drugs twice each on the three minute walk to the grocery store. Neither of us quite likes the vibe here, although nothing bad happens.
We catch up with Jamie again the next day and walk twenty minutes to the amazing Montezuma Waterfalls, where we swim and jump off a low rock. Using Jamie’s local knowledge we walk around and up higher to another waterfall and series of swimming pools which are almost deserted. This second fall turns out to be perfect for jumping off and we all jump multiple times from the 10 meter (35 feet) height before lying around in the sun enjoying the total relaxation.
We move on and hop the ferry across to Puntarenas an the mainland, excited for our next Costa Rican adventure.