Coasting to Costa Rica

May 12, 2015 — And then I found myself in Costa Rica. It wasn’t a long-planned vacation. Wasn’t a wrong turn at Albuquerque. It was a relatively sudden business trip with a little free time wrapped around it. Honestly, I’d never really considered Costa Rica as a place I needed to go. But I’d unravel if I ever said no to travel, so with only minimal planning, we coasted to Costa Rica.

And, man, did it turn into a week full of firsts for me.

My first time in Central America. My first time drinking from a machete’d coconut straight from the tree. My first time seeing toucans, monkeys, coatis, iguanas, a tarantula, and a quetzal in the wild. My first time sleeping with a gecko in my bed. My first time in a rainforest the name of which didn’t end in cafe. My first time on a zip line. Third time at a volcano, though.

Because of the business constraints of the trip and the infrastructure constraints of the country, I couldn’t do the place like I usually do a place: with one giant, ludicrous road trip. But we did drive a lot. Not because Costa Rica is big. It’s only about the size of West Virginia. But a lot of the roads outside of the general area of San Jose are…bad. Terrible, really. Our one big jaunt, a 200-mile trek from the end of the Nicoya Peninsula to San Jose by way of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, took some 12 hours of strut-busting, axle-bashing, spine-jittering unpaved roads. We might as well have been in a horse and buggy.

Still, I’ll be able to pull quite a few OTIS posts from this trip (Diquis spheres, Monteverde, Poas Volcano, the National Museum of San Jose), but I thought I’d throw down some general pictures first because that’s what I do. I report back to you.

The first thing we did after landing in San Jose was jump on a tiny little plane for Mal Pais, on the Nicoya Peninsula, where we had a beach house for the weekend. It was terrifyingly claustrophobic (I could've reached out and covered the pilot's eyes), but the ride was way smoother than the average jumbo jet flight. Also, that's my wife in the above photo, who wouldn't let me go to Costa Rica without her, work be damned.

At one point we were walking along the beach late at night and heard what sounded like a constant waterfall of pebbles. We turned on the flashlight apps of our phones and discovered it was the tiny claw scrabblings of thousands of hermit crabs. This poor, confused guy was my favorite.

In Mal Pais, our backyard was overrun by iguanas, the town by wild horses and the beach by owner dogs. Heck, even the squirrels were exotic.

And then there was the day we found an actual Halloween Crab in the surf. I'm so ready for Autumn.

I'll write about our adventures in this place at some point, but if you're impatient, Google "Monteverde Cloud Forest."

Saw this guy while walking the path in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. When I yelled, "Tarantua!" at the top of my lungs, it was out of sheer glee. I love these things.

Man, did we want to see some wild monkeys. However,  didn't see any monkeys in the hinterlands of Mal Pais, and none in any of the rain forests we visited. It took a random highway lined with trees to finally see them way up in the branches.

Poas Volcano, which smelled like sulpher and steamed with activity.

One of the many Diquis spheres we saw, and the number one thing I wanted to see in Costa Rica.

A coati. Like a racoon, but with a longer tail and snout. Also you can tell the difference by its Spanish accent.

But my biggest lesson from my visit to Costa Rica is that we really need to bring van art back.