NICOYA PENINSULA | Costa Rica
The Nicoya Peninsula is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. We visited three beautiful and different towns on the peninsula - Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, and Montezuma. Tamarindo was our main destination and where we spent most of our time.
Tamarindo is the most developed town on the peninsula and is a tropical paradise. It’s a popular tourist and surfer destination, called the “Cancun” of Costa Rica! A lot of friends from home mentioned having been there too. It’s a great place for surfing, sunning, fishing, shopping, and eating, but a little pricier than we liked. We spent three nights at the Pura Vida Mini Hostel ($45/night) and met a lot of new friends, including some huge iguanas that call the property home. I did yoga every morning at Ser Om Yoga, walking distance from the hostel (the hardest classes I’ve ever done!), and we spent the afternoons at the beach surfing and hanging out. Ron took a surf lesson the first day and rented a board ($10/day) the rest of our time in Tamarindo. One afternoon he surfed with two other guys from the hostel, Kyle and Grigory. At our hostel there was a large covered deck with a pool table, bean bag chairs, and rocking chairs where we hung out and played cards at night with other guests from all over the world! Dutch, Canadians, Russians, you name it. Kyle, a guy from Victoria, British Columbia (the same guy Ron surfed with) was awesome! He ended up traveling with us for the next week to Santa Teresa, Montezuma and then La Fortuna, our next destination!
Ron, Kyle, and I planned to leave Tamarindo and head south along the peninsula coast to Santa Teresa and Montezuma for a few days and then head north east (inland) to La Fortuna, slowly making our way across the country. Like most things in Costa Rica, the cost of a bus ticket is much more expensive than any other country so we stopped into a local car rental company to find out the cost of renting a car and returning it in La Fortuna. The smallest and cheapest car rental (Suzuki with no 4x4) ended up being about the same price as a bus ticket! The wheels resembled those of a golf cart and the bottom of the car only sat a few inches above the road. We rented “Snowflake” for three days, planning to return it in La Fortuna, but left out some small details when talking to the employee… driving the coast to Santa Teresa and Montezuma first. Little did we know the roads along the coast would be almost non-existent, include steep hills, river crossings, and are not recommended without 4X4. We picked up Snowflake the next day and the three of us left Tamarindo at 11AM. The scenic drive to Santa Teresa should take about four hours, but took us eight. It ended up being one of the craziest days of the trip!
Snowflake was definitely the little engine that could! We drove along the beautiful beach, through farmland, stopped for cows and horses to cross the road, and laughed at what we’d gotten ourselves into. The first ten minutes of the drive was pavement, but the roads quickly turned to gravel and dirt for the remaining hours. We were in the middle of nowhere the entire drive. The hills were so steep that sometimes we struggled to make it to the top! Although it’s the dry season, our biggest challenge was the river crossings that the maps didn’t show. It's impossible to drive through without knowing the exact path to take as the ground is solid in some places and soft in others.
The first river was the smallest. We stood outside the car looking at the thirty foot wide gap we had to cross, and decided to wait until another car showed up to watch their route before attempting it ourselves. We barley made it and got stuck driving up the river bank on the other side! After a few minutes of elbow grease, the guys were able to push it out. We were back on the road thinking it was smooth sailing from here on out, but we couldn't have been more wrong!
We pulled up to the second river and parked next to a hand painted sign that read “Crocodiles. No Swim” while we debated if Snowflake could make it across. At this point we hadn’t seen a car in thirty minutes, so we weren’t hopeful someone would drive through and show us the way. This is when Erickson, a twenty-two year old Costa Rican college student/part time mechanic comes into the story. He was walking down the road a few minutes beforehand, saw us driving, and knew we were about to need a lot of help. He grew up in the area and had crossed it many times. He thought our Matchbox car could make it, but offered to drive us across because he knew where the car was likely to get stuck without 4X4. We happily agreed and all piled in with nervous grins. Once safely across, we were hopeful that hardest part was over (again). But no! Erickson warned us about the last and largest obstacle ten minutes down the road. This river crossing has many crocodiles, is about one hundred feet wide, and is over two feet deep in some areas. The other option was to backtrack four hours to a different highway. After much discussion, our best plan was for Erickson to ride with us, drive us across the last river, and for us to pay for a taxi to pick him up and return him home.
With Erikson in the drivers seat, Ron next to him, and Kyle and I in the back we pulled up to the third river. We could see rain clouds nearby, hear Howler monkeys in the trees, dusk was approaching, and apparently the crocs come out at night. It was time for the challenge of Snowflake’s life! To top off the outrageous situation, Erikson decided he was going to drive in reverse to prevent the wake pushing water up into the engine and possibly cracking the block! Without hesitation Erickson drove the three of us in reverse through the river! We high-fived, laughed, and thanked him over and over! Before parting ways, Erickson’s only other request was for Kyle to arm wrestle him on the hood of the car! Unfortunately, the photos and my recount of the day don’t do it justice!
Finally! Around 8PM somehow we arrived in Santa Teresa. It was a very tiny, funky beach town! There’s one main road, great surf, beautiful people, and quaint eateries. The night we arrived happened to be an important soccer game - Costa Rica vs. Mexico; so we had dinner in a lively outdoor sports bar with excited Costa Rican fans. We only spent one day here and wish we’d stayed a little longer!
Montezuma is another small beach town south of Santa Teresa. It's known for it's great surf break and waterfalls. We spent one day here and hiked to view three waterfalls. Because it's the dry season the waterfalls were smaller than expected, but still beautiful! The next day we set out on our adventure to La Fortuna. Hefners out!
Kyle, Ron, me, and Snowflake
Pura Vida Mini Hostel. Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
One of many wild iguanas at the hostel.
Happy Birthday to Ron's mom from Tamarindo!
Kyle, Ron, and Grigory. Ron gave them tips from his surf lessons.
Ron and Kyle.
I love this photo!
Ready to leave Tamarindo!
Beaches along the way.
The first river.
Kyle, Ron, and I.
Can't believe Snowflake made it to the top of this hill!
So many different views in one day.
At the second river.
Erikson driving us through the second river.
The third river! It's hard to see, but the road on the other side is 100' downstream. It wasn't possible to drive directly through.
Erikson explaining he'll drive in reverse.
We made it!!
The arm wrestle challenge.
Nearing Santa Teresa at sunset.
Santa Teresa beach.
The Bakery. One of the best breakfasts we've had on the trip!
Visited the costal park in Santa Teresa.
A monkey we found when we were leaving the park.
This guy tried to steal our breakfast!
Waterfalls in Montezuma.
Kyle climbing for a better view.
Looking over the ledge!
"No Robaras" - No robbers allowed.