Friday, August 16, 2019

Costa Rica Adventure: Day 10 - Nicoya Waterfalls

It has been a while since we went waterfall chasing so this morning we packed ourselves up and headed out in search of two waterfalls about thirty minutes outside of Samara. One waterfall is called Belen and the other is La Roca. Both are only about five minutes from each other so it made sense to do both at the same time. We head off in search of the Belen waterfall first as it is the better known of the two. From the main road we travelled about 2km down a dirt road passing many local homes. We eventually found a hand painted sign and drove further down the hill to find a muddy parking lot. Supposedly locals take money in the high season to park and access the falls but since we were in the low season there was nobody around. From the makeshift parking area we followed the muddy hill down to the waterfall. Since it had been raining quite a bit recently the water was completely brown and pretty rough. In the dry season the water is much clearer and calmer allowing for swimming. For us we just looked around, climbed the rocks and took the drone out for a flight. We then piled back in the car, returned to the main road and retraced our route in order to find La Roca restaurant  Like most Costa Rica restaurants this place is very basic and open air but offers great food and drinks at a reasonable price. Finding these places provides a much more authentic experience than sticking to tourist restaurants only. The other bonus La Roca provides is the view. This restaurant is perched on the side of a hill overlooking the valley. It was a cloudy day and we could still see for miles across the rolling hills. After having a few drinks La Roca restaurant iwas also the starting point for the next waterfall that the locals also call “La Roca” waterfall. This is yet another location you won’t find on Google maps. Actually, that isn’t true anymore as Anthony added an entry for it to help future travelers. There is a path next to La Roca restaurant that leads down the hill into the jungle. After a good 15 minutes of walking down you are greeted with the first waterfall. There are actually three waterfalls that you can continue climbing to. We climbed to the top of the first waterfall but couldn’t figure out where the next waterfall was or how to even get to it. By this point we were all getting hot and tired anyway so decided to retreat back to the car for the return journey to Samara.

Once back in Samara we headed back to the house to cook up some lunch (pasta again!). While lunch was being prepared by Shannon the kids took advantage of the pool as the always do when given the chance. Anthony was also more than happy to join in after lunch as well in order to cool off.

Since we were in our last full day in Samara there was still one more beach on the list we wanted to explore. This final beach is about 10 minutes away by car and involves no hiking! You can just park on the side of the road and the beach is right there. The beach is called Playa Carrillo and is lined with palm trees. Much like Samara the water is calmer than other beaches making it safe for swimming and playing in the waves. This is exactly what we did until we all got tired. At that point we headed back to the house once again knowing that was our last beach experience while in Costa Rica.

One final activity of the day was to head out to a typical Costa Rica soda for dinner. We hadn’t yet done this so we’re excited to try it out. Sodas are basic restaurants that are generally family run and serve typical Costa Rican dishes like Casados. We attended Soda La Perla hich was open air, the dishes were done outside right next to us, the kitchen was just a stovetop in the corner and we could see their living room from where we were seated. The great thing is that the food was pretty good. It goes to show that you don’t need fancy decor and high priced entrees in order to experience good food. Oh, and also Anthony wanted a beer so had to go next door to the “super” and buy his own to bring back to the Soda. Overall it was a fun evening and a wonderful experience.

To finish off our last night in Samara we hung out in our outdoor living space at our house, played some cards and finished off the tub of ice cream we had picked up a couple of days before.

Yes, you heard right, it is our final day in Samara. Tomorrow we are off to our final destination in Costa Rica. Good bye laid back beach town and hello cloud forest of Monteverde. This means we’ve got another travel day ahead of us tomorrow. We’re probably looking at a three hour drive give or take but it is back into the mountains on questionable roads so it should be an interesting day.

That’s all for now. Adios!

Belen Waterfall

Belen from above

View from La Roca

La Roca waterfall

Carrillo Beach

These shoes are getting lots of use

Soda La Perla

Costa Rica Adventure: Day 9 - Playa Izquierda

As the title suggests the main goal of today was to try to locate and find Playa Izquierda. Unlike most other beaches this beach is not as easy to find. It isn’t listed on any map, travel books do not mention it and there is no road that takes you there. What we were able to figure out was pieced together by reading some random travel blogs and asking the locals. Since there is no road to this beach it is only accessible by foot through mostly undeveloped jungle. It is mostly undeveloped because many years ago the entire area was going to be developed but the government never approved the plan. What was left behind is a labyrinth of old access roads and drainage ditches that nature has slowly taken over again. So we were able to vaguely figure out where an access point from an actual road should be so that is where we started our trek into the unknown. We were told there would be a handwritten sign to guide us and sure enough there was. Right off the bat however we had second thoughts due to the trail access being extremely muddy but we stubbornly persevered. After a little bit of walking the trail did improve and we found ourselves on one of the old access roads we heard about. There were no trail markers or any sort of signage so we were really left on our own with only the compasses and GPS on our phone to guide us. At times the path were were on also forked in multiple directions so we just kept making educated guesses on the direction to take. The two things we learnt about these trails was that there was a lookout high up on the bluff that provided amazing views and that there were a series of concrete steps that would take you the last few steps down the hillside to the beach. First up was the lookout which meant we kept taking trails that went up. Sure enough we eventually made it to the top and were rewarded as promised with some amazing views. The lookout we found was awesome but Anthony still is not convinced it is the same one mentioned by others since it didn’t quite look the same. Time was ticking however and we still had a beach and the elusive concrete steps to find. This time we knew we had to work our way down the hillside and follow the sound of the ocean. Amazingly our intuition paid off and the concrete stairs that were covered in moss and disintegrating in parts were found. The actual beach isn’t anything special but it was definitely secluded as it is protected by towering bluffs on both sides. Also, you need to time your arrival appropriately as the beach doesn’t even exist at high tide. By now we had already spent an hour or so getting to the beach so it was time to head back. Anthony is not one for retracing his steps so he managed to find an alternate trail through the jungle that “felt like” it was going in the right direction. Luckily Google Maps helped and we cold at least see our little blue dot moving in the right direction towards the nearest road. Sure enough after some further hiking, avoiding private property and jumping over a small creek we popped back out on a road and were then able to navigate ourselves back to the car. The hike was a lot of fun and we got to see some amazing scenery but the only bummer was the lack of wildlife. Then one common theme we heard about were all the monkeys that hung out in the jungle we hiked through but during our time there we didn’t see or hear any.

Lunchtime was now almost upon us so we made the quick drive back to our house, cooked up some leftover pasta for lunch and then spent a few hours playing in the pool and having a few rounds of Ziggity.

Our final task of the day was to head back into Samara to do some shopping from local artists, partake in a few happy hour drinks and finally enjoy another dinner on the beach. We mixed it up for dinner and went to Gusto’s Beach Restaurant for some Italian choices. Shannon and Anthony had a huge salad and the kids went with pasta and pizza. The restaurant was a little more touristy than we have been used to but the food was good and the views were too.

The hike begins



Returning back to car

Approximate hike. Red ‘X’ is when Shannon 
pulled out the compass

Happy hour!

There is always a dog around 



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Costa Rica Adventure: Day 8 - Dolphins and Whales

Today’s Costa Rica Adventure entry is going going to be a little short since we didn’t really get up to much. We also happen to be at the halfway mark of our vacation as well so being a little less active will hopefully mean some energy can be saved up for the second half since there is still a lot of adventures to come.

What we did end up doing today was booking a boat tour that included searching for dolphins and whales plus some time to snorkel near the reef. We were picked up at 8:00 am and taken to the beach where we boarded our boat along with three other people. We then headed about 1km out into the ocean in search of some sea life. At first we couldn’t find much but then a pod of dolphins appeared and swam around our boat jumping out of the water every so often. The we also saw the spray of water in the distance so sped off to investigate. We were then greeted by a mother and baby humpback whale breaching at the surface before going back under water again. Next, we traveled back towards the shore to do some snorkelling near the reef and Isla Chora. This part of the excursion was a little bit of a let down since there really wasn’t any sea life to observe. It was nice to jump in the water but that was about it. With that the tour was over and the boat dropped us off at the centre of Samara. The funny thing is we were supposed to have transportation to and from the boat but there was no van waiting for us. Luckily, our house wasn’t too far away so we chose to just walk back and make some lunch. We ended up not taking any pictures during the boat tour so there isn’t anything to show from it.

We had thought about possibly going back to Samara beach in the afternoon but everyone was really tired so we opted instead to stay at the house, use the pool, shower and have a nap.

For dinner tonight we decided to return to the Flying Taco for dinner and their happy hour specials. We got half off some appetizers and dessert plus cheap beer. We also participated in a few games of ping pong before calling it a night.

That is all we got up to today. Hopefully the energy levels are back up tomorrow since we have more hiking and another secret beach to discover. Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

Only photo from the boat
(maybe some on GoPro)

Ping Pong at the Flying Taco

Rare to find a cat

Full moon over Samara beach

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Costa Rica Adventure: Day 7 - Beach Trio

We are now very well settled in Samara so today we decided in go in search of some hidden beaches. The Nicoya peninsula has so many beautiful beaches it is hard to decide on which ones to visit. We decided to go in search of a few that were near Samara.

First up was Playa Barrigona  This beach is only a few kilometres north of Samara but the most direct route requires a river crossing which can be quite dangerous in the rainy season. We opted to take the longer inland route which avoided driving through a river. I also read that the final road to the beach can become a muddy potholed mess but when we went it actually was’t that bad. This secluded crescent shaped beach is so beautiful that even Mel Gibson built a huge resort next to it. He actually tried to buy the beach too but Costa Rica law ensures all beaches remain public. The beauty of this beach is that there is nothing there. No stores, not food, no one trying to sell something. It is just you, the beach, the ocean and the green hillsides behind you. After spending a few hours playing in the water and walking along the beach it was time to move on.

Next up was Playa Barca Quebrado. This beach is even less visited than Barrigona but is very nice as well. The beach here is rocky instead of sand but the views are still just as impressive. This was only a quick visit so by now lunch time was nearing so we started our drive along the bumpy dirt road back to Samara.

Once back in Samara we headed back to our house to make some lunch. On the menu today was macaroni and cheese. Anthony and the girls also enjoyed some pool time while Shannon made lunch.

With lunch out of the way it was time to visit our third and final beach of the day. This final beach Samara beach so very close to us. We easily found a spot to set up on the sand and then immediately ran into the ocean to play in the waves.  Both girls lasted the longest and were in the water for hours jumping over and under the waves. As is quite common in Costa Rica we then found a couple of dogs on the beach who were quite amused every time Avery or Hannah threw some sand into the air.

All good things must eventually come to an end and sure enough the sun started to set so we retreated to a nearby beachfront restaurant for dinner. We’re loving the rainy season as it means there are way less people which also means getting prime beachfront seating at a restaurant is super easy. Drinks were ordered first. Fruit smoothies for the girls, one was “con leche” and the other was “con agua”. An iced coffee for Shannon and the drink special of the day for Anthony which just happened to be a Cuba Libre.

After dinner everyone was yet again tired from another day in the sun so back to the house we went and soon enough everyone was in bed for the night.

Playa Barrigona

Even “Elmo” deserves some down time
Aw, aren’t they the cutest

Loving the roads here
Playa Barco Quebrado
Silly selfie
Aw, aren’t they the cutest

Monday, August 12, 2019

Costa Rica Adventure: Day 6 - Samara

Today was our first full day in Samara and after the previous four full days of adventure we chose to make it a little more relaxed. We still got up early (5:30 am) since that seems to be the norm in Costa Rica. After getting ready we then proceeded to make breakfast in our AirBnB from the groceries we picked up the day before. We’re trying to buy local instead of relying on imported North American brands which are more expensive. We ended up finding eggs, cheese from Monteverde, yogurt and bread. We also picked up some Lizano Salsa. Costa Ricans put this on everything and it is amazing. We’re definitely going to bring some home.

Enough about food, let’s move on.

We also decided to leave the car behind today so planned to walk to town along the beach. The walk to the beach from our house was only about 10 minutes. It was great to finally dip our feet in the ocean as we walked towards the centre of town. Anthony even brought out the drone to capture some cool shots from above only to later find out he forgot to put the memory card back in. 🤦‍♂️ Once we arrived to small central area of Samara we did a few boring tasks like getting more cash from the ATM and booking a snorkelling tour for later in the week. By then it was close enough to lunch so we stopped at Bohemia Cafe for some iced drinks and paninis. We chose this cafe because they advertised having gluten free bread but they ended up being out.  Still, everyone, other than Anthony, raved about the paninis. After lunch we started our return walk back to the house but this time along the Main Street instead. Along the way we checked out a few shops, got some ice cream and picked up some more groceries to make lunch and dinner.

We stayed at the house for the rest of the day and played in the pool or simply relaxed. We then cooked up some dinner, dined outside and played some cards to end the night.

It looks like it will be even warmer tomorrow which will most likely mean more time in the water. Sounds good to me!

Samara Beach

Lots of dogs to greet

A girl and her swing

Beer o’clock

Sausage, mashed potato & grilled cheese

Outdoor dining

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Costa Rica Adventure: Day 5 - Beach Bound

The rural valley of Bijagua is not only a perfect location to experience some authentic Costa Rica but it also happens to be a great place to stop over when traveling between the La Fortuna area and the Pacific coast. We were able to split a four hour journey in half while still being able to experience another part of the country.

Prior to driving to the beach town of Samara however we wanted to continue exploring what Bijagua has to offer.

Before even getting to that we need to stop and discuss the rain. Overnight in Bijagua we experienced the most intense rainfall that continued all night and into the morning. Even the owner of the B&B commented on how it never usually rains so heavily that much. Lucky us! While it was a lot of rain it really didn’t affect our plans too much.

To start our day we went on a tour of the farm and visited their rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens. We also got to milk their cow. We’ve never milked this many cows in our lives before! 

After the tour we sat down to a delicious farm to table breakfast of eggs, cheese, tomato and toast. I even got to have fresh cows milk which was an interesting experience. Then it was time for us to pack up yet again and check out. We weren’t in a big hurry to leave however, so after all the other guests left we took the opportunity to chat with the owners while our daughters played together. Eventually, we did leave but just up the dirt road to Heliconias Lodge which has an amazing rainforest hike with hanging bridges on the edge of Tenorio national park. Remember the rain? Well we weren’t spared from the rain during our hike but we were prepared and the thick rainforest canopy helped to shelter us from the worst of the rain. The hike itself was stunning plus we had the entire place to ourself. Due to its remote location this area doesn’t see a lot of visitors anyway plus I’m sure the rain helped to keep anyone else away as well. The pictures don’t do the experience justice as there is something magical about walking through a rainforest on a side of a mountain that is in the clouds.

The time finally arrived to leave Bijagua and start our journey out of the mountains and down to the Pacific coastal town of Samara. As soon as me began our trip the rain tapered off and after about 40 minutes the temperature rose from 22 degrees up to 32 degrees! After 2.5 hours of driving we finally arrived in Samara and went directly to our AirBnb which will be our home for the next 6 days.

Sitting on our casitas balcony watching the rain

The bunny liked Shannon’s hood

Made some new friends

Tenorio valley
Hanging bridge hike