Paradise found – Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

First, let me set your expectations as ours were set.  Anytime we’ve asked where to visit in Costa Rica, Ticos and foreigners alike practically beg us to go to the Osa peninsula in the southwest of the country.  A number of friends had also done trekking trips in Corcovado National Park on the peninsula, and said it was some of the best hiking they had every done.  The stage is now set.

We headed to Carate, the nearest village to the park. Our first mission was to find secure parking for the hike since we just can’t leave our beloved Vida any old place. We pulled into the Lookout Inn hoping to get some advice for the price of two cold beers. Our thirst for cold beer has never led us astray. We had the pleasure of meeting the owners/operators who kindly offered us a parking space for 3 days.  They also suggested that we have a look around their property.  The main guest area of the inn is perched on a hill in a lush tropical setting.  You’re first struck by the view of the ocean and peninsula, but then start to notice all of the wildlife (humming birds, iguanas, parrots, etc.).  We also took a walk up their ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at the end of which we came across a Tapir.  Now, I had no knowledge of Tapirs before this very moment.  Consider what would pop out if an elephant and pig could mate. We camped out that evening on the beach close to the inn.  George also took a guided tour around the gardens looking for frogs.  Predictably, I passed on this one.

The next day we set off on the 22km hike to the Sirena ranger station where we would spend 2 nights. Your hike must be timed with the tides because there is one beach section that can’t be crossed during hide tide. The day started off with rain, but considering this is a hot beach hike, rain is not such a bad thing. The downside of the rain is fewer critter sightings, but we more than made up for this later.  George carried the big pack with lion’s share of our food for 3 days.  I felt a little guilty that he had to lug all that weight, but also took notice that he was hiking slower than usual.  The heavy canned food was acting like a George anchor, and I could actually keep up with him (I didn’t really feel guilty after that).  After 3 river crossings we finally made it to the station and were shown our bunks.  I had several blisters and cuts from the hike.  Luckily Dr. Ionkov was around to clean, treat and bandage me up.

The following day we did some shorter hikes around the station.  We saw lots of monkeys, a family of anteaters, another eyelash viper, a tapir and a boa constrictor.  That evening, we tried to eat up the heavy canned food and planned to eat tuna for breakfast.  There is nothing appetizing about canned tuna at 5 am, let me tell you.

On the way out of the park, I relied heavily on my early warning system for snakes (G walked ahead of me tapping his hiking pole).  We came across 5 snakes and came away bite free.  That’s a check for the early warning system.  The hike out was much hotter.  At one point I was completely overheated, so Dr. Ionkov stepped in to wash my face and force me to hike in my sports bra.  The shirt I had chosen to hike in wasn’t breathable, so it felt like my own personal hot box.  I didn’t look so pretty the rest of the way out, but I made it on my own two feet.

The beach hiking in the heat is definitely a slog, but the pristine beaches and bustling jungle more than make up for it.



Puerto Jimenez, Osa Peninsula

On the way to Corcovado National Park we stopped at Puerto Jimenez to buy park permits and get trail information.  After we got everything squared in town we decided to set camp at one of the local beaches for the night.  We woke up to paradise like jungle.  Here are the pictures from a quick five minute walk on the beach.  Amazing…

Update:  After we came back from Corcovado we came back to the same beach.  The first night here was awesome so we decided to sleep at the same spot again.  The next morning turned out that we were sleeping fifty meters from a fantastic hotel (Perla De Osa) on the beach that has a super cool bar on the first floor with wifi, cold showers and amazing fresh fruit juices …  Yes, we stayed for two more nights :).  Also added some more pictures.


Manuel Antonio National Park

We are slowly making our way South to the Osa peninsula and the biggest and most remote park in the country – Corcovado.  Two days ago we drove from San Jose to Jaco.  Jaco is the favorite beach party town for all folks from the capital.  The town is nothing special but has a pretty cool beach and some awesome waves if you are into surfing. On the way to Jaco the road crossed the Rio Grande de Tarcoles.  The river is coming down from a small national park and is nothing special if it wasn’t for the fifty 2 to 4 meter crocodiles that hang out under the bridge.

After Jaco we drove south about 75km to a small town called Manuel Antonio and the adjacent Manuel Antonio National Park.  Teresa read in the guide book that the park is really popular with tourists and is heavy visited so we decided to check it out.  Usually we stay away from such places but this time we said what the heck …

We came in town via a long curvy road covered with little hotels crammed in the thick jungle.  We drove to the park entrance and found a convenient parking lot ten meters from the beach.  We talked to the guard and he said it is ok to park for the night free of charge (success).

This morning we got up around 6:30am, and made a quick breakfast on the tailgate and precooked dinner.  Yesterday evening it poured for four hours straight so we decided to try to precook dinner for tonight in the morning.  Around 9am we headed to the park.

I thought the park was awesome.  We saw way more wild life than in any of the other parks we have visited so far in Costa Rica. Plenty of monkeys and iguanas. We also spotted a yellow eyelash viper and a sloth (na Bulgarski tova e ‘lenivec’).  I wanted to see a sloth for a long time so this was cool.  Another really fantastic thing about this park were the beaches.  Lots of them and all of them were paradise like. The not so cool part about the park was that it was indeed really crowded.  So much so that the guides, we did not take one, were unbelievably paranoid that we were sneaking in their groups.  One of the guides came to explain that ‘it is not cool’ to do that.  It is impossible to walk even 10 meters without bumping into a group of 10 people staring at something.  I think if we have to do this park again we will not take guides again.  There is plenty to see on your own.


What’s in a name

We are a traveling trio.  There is the Bulgarian, the Canadian, and our reliable Toyota Tacoma pickup.  We very quickly named our tent Taj, as in Ta Mahal, because we learned the value of sleeping off the ground. We’ve been procrastinating naming the taco though.  We frequently give her (yes, it’s a her), appreciate taps much like you would a horse – at least that’s what I’ve read.  We’ve been test-driving some options.  There was “Tony the truck” which did not communicate the fact that the taco is a lady.  We tried “Ellie”, short for elephant.  That was a little too close to a certain niece, and I don’t really think the taco epitomizes any elephant characteristics.  We then tried “Gandalf…the grey”.  That didn’t last long, and yes we are geeks.  Going back to the drawing board, we tried listing qualities of the truck.  Reliable, easy going, adventurous – she certainly doesn’t mind getting her feet dirty.  That led nowhere. Finally, we ran into some inspiration in the form of a dog on the beach in Costa Rica.  Drum role please…”Pura Vida”, Vida for short.  Pure life or full of life – a Tico saying.  Perfect.