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.
Before heading in the direction of Bahia de Salinas (the best kitesurfing spot in Costa Rica, known as the 8th windiest place in the world), I implored George to find somewhere we could sleep. He tracked down a few kite schools online thinking that they could at least point us in the direction of a nice camping spot. We had just missed the season though, so the kite schools were quiet. This led us to arbitrarily choose dirt roads to drive down. After some backtracking and stops to ask locals for directions, we finally found a nice beach spot to camp out. The truck was in need of some serious organization and we needed a few easy days to get back into the swing of things (because travelling is just so hard J). We loved the spot, but the damn water was treacherous (jellyfish!). At low tide, the beach was plastered with the stupid things. On the way out, we ran across about twenty monkeys making their way across the still arid landscape – rainy season hadn’t hit this part of the coast yet. It seems always to be the case that the amazing wildlife sightings are serendipity, happening nowhere near the national parks that you pay to get into.
Our final stop in El Salvador was (conveniently close to the border with Honduras). We stayed at La Tortuga Verde which I would describe as designer camping – cabins with an open air feel (we slept in Taj of course). The hotel is known for their turtle hatchery. Unfortunately in El Salvador, the locals collect turtle eggs from the beach and eat them. There doesn’t seem to be any organized government effort to prevent this, so the hotel owner purchases the eggs from locals for $0.25 a pop, so they can hatch. He buys thousands of eggs a year. The beach was lovely and there were apparently great surfing spots near buy. I did read to be on the look out for jelly fish though, which can really throw a wrench into your wave frolicking. We were only planning to stay for a night, but hung around for several days enjoying the hammocks.
The next morning we woke up by the broken squeaking sounds of an army trumpet. It turned out we slept right next to a army/navy base in San Blas. The sound of the trumpet was the call for all the `armigos` to go exercising in the morning. Teresa and I were still really anxious to get going so the early awakening was welcome. We quickly grabbed a coffee and parted ways with our new friends from Japan, France and Utah and headed to Puerto Vallarta.
I did not have any expectations about Puerto Vallarta. I had heard a lot from friends about the resort but still the only thing I remembered was that there wasn’t enough wind for kiting. After a few wrong turns (thanks to quite a few incorrect traffic signs …) and a few hours of driving we made it to the resort. It took us some time to find a campsite.
Hot showers with good water pressure … Yes! Time to wash the ferry ride off …
We spent the next morning exploring downtown. It is a beautiful, moderate sized, yet not crowded resort. Judging by the number of clubs in the downtown area it is probably not the same during spring break. The resort has a long pedestrian only street by the water. It reminded me a bit of Varna. There was lots of interesting art around town. Also there were a few abandoned large hotels in the middle of the resort. We later found out that those buildings were damaged in a large earthquake in 1995. The same earthquake took down the top of the Roman Catholic Church (wikipedia). You can see the new artistic top of the church in the pictures below.