October 19, 2020

Venturing out in Costa Rica

by Peter "abuelito" Lewis



“Dirt roads bring good people; paved roads bring all kinds of people” or so went the traveling mantra of the 1970’s. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate paved roads more and more. It is remarkable to note that Nosara is JUST NOW actually receiving asphalt on its main road!

Since our first visit in 1990 I figure I’ve logged more miles (kilometers) driving in Costa Rica than in my whole lifetime in the USA. Surfers, of course, focus primarily on visiting the coastline, but I’ve found that journeying out into the rest of the country reveals many treasures.

The legendary visitor friendliness of Costa Rica most assuredly extends to all corners of this charming nation, from volcanoes, national parks and nature preserves, to sleepy cowboy towns and end of the road beach and mountain hideaways.

What is the best way to get around and see the country these days? If you are the truly adventurous type, renting a vehicle and self-driving is very popular, and gives you the sense of being the first to discover the places you visit. It is very personal that way, but it is important to note that this is not your home country, and road conditions, directional signs, and traffic behavior are a different animal here.

The main goal of Costa Rica driving is to Get Out of the City! For the inexperienced, traffic in San Jose is beyond horrendous. Once you get free of the traffic snarl you can pretty much amble along at a country-road pace. It is a beautiful scenic country with countless must-stop moments along the way – like a family of sloths crossing the road at glacial speed, quaint roadside fruit stands, or those irresistible natural thatch-woven reindeer for sale along the road at Christmas time.

Some of your greatest memories can result from road trips. I remember one such trip taken while showing my parents the country. On our way to Tamarindo we encountered a funeral procession whereupon an entire village population of men, women, children, elderly, dogs, horses, etc. marched along singing and carrying a casket through the countryside, oblivious to the world around them. Not knowing how to react or proceed, we slowed our pace and became a part of it all.

Those who remember the Tempisque Ferry have many a story to tell. Prior to the opening of the Puente La Amistad de Taiwan (Taiwan Friendship bridge) in 2003, the car ferry linked the mainland with the Nicoya Peninsula via a 30-minute sail across the Gulf of Nicoya, shaving an additional 2-3 hours from the drive on the Pan American Highway. Problem was – if you drove up to the ferry launch just as it was leaving, you sat there waiting for 2 hours for the ferry to complete it’s trek to the other side, unload, and return. On one such trip we were the last car to drive onto the last ferry of the day at midnight. As the hatch closed and the diesel engines began to churn we heard a horn sounding in the distance and watched as a bus roared around the bend and approached the loading platform. We were ordered off the ferry and the bus was allowed passage!

Another way to see some of the country’s noteworthy attractions is to hire a private driver. There are several excellent Costa Rica guide books available which can be great resources in your planning process. At Olas Verdes we are delighted to assist you in making tour arrangements as a planned part of your overall itinerary. If you prefer to drive, we can arrange your rent-a-car reservation.

A vacation in Costa Rica is an experience that happens before, during, and after your visit. You’ll find that your memories through photos and shared stories will last a lifetime. We urge you to venture out and see this wonderful country!

Cattle in Guanacaste
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