TRAVEL UPDATE – COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS
At the beginning of March, we received a warning from the US State Department to either come home now or shelter in place. Barbie and I liked the odds of sheltering in place (in Monteverde, Costa Rica) as opposed to returning back to the United States. Looking back, so glad we pulled the trigger on that proposition considering the awful state of preparedness in the USA to properly deal with this pandemic. Who would have thought a Central American country would out-execute the USA in keeping its citizens safe?
Most travelers heading to Costa Rica would normally pencil down about 2 nights in Monteverde to hike around the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest and then move onto the next destination. The self quarantine rules in Costa Rica were put into place a day prior to our arrival in Monteverde. Our initially planned 7 night Airbnb stay in Monteverde was extended to 14 nights, then extended to 28 nights and finally extended to 3 1/2 months. We could have not asked for a safer place to stay, high up in the mountains, with the most awesome view overlooking a sweeping valley. To top it off, the house balcony was perfectly positioned to enjoy amazing sunsets every night. It was almost like the travel gods were looking over our shoulders during this worldwide crisis and placed us in one of the top places in the world to self-quarantine…… in the thick of nature, far away from other humans. Barbie, being my little Jungle Cat and wildlife lover that she is, really appreciated being surrounded by all sorts of wildlife right outside our house. It was a real trip seeing the white faced monkeys swing by for Barbie’s banana & fresh fruit buffet that she prepared daily exclusively for them.
Check out the pictures below of our Airbnb and all of Barbie’s friends that hung out with us during the self-quarantine.
Prior to the more stringent rules put into place to combat the Covid-19 virus, we fortunately had three (3) weeks to explore other parts of Costa Rica. However, we needed to scrap the remaining 2 months of our planned itinerary and hunker down in Monterverde until travel restrictions were lifted. We had to cancel our time planned along the Pacific coast, Guanacaste Province. We intended to visit the beaches of Tamarindo, Samara, Nosara and Santa Teresa and then make our way to Tortuguero, Manuel Antonio, Uvita and the Osa Peninsula but the virus stopped us in our tracks. I guess it will have to wait for a return visit to Costa Rica.
COSTA RICA –
Only slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia, Costa Rica is blessed with mountains, beaches, rainforests and cloud forests. There are a ton of places to explore, and one of the best ways to do it, is with a rental car. Renting a car in Costa Rica has the potential to create a very unique trip for independent travelers. We were able to dictate the course of the day without being confined to shuttle times or bus schedules. We were able to seek out little-known places that many tourists would normally miss and craft our own adventure from scratch. We were able to change our plans if something came up. And, who doesn’t like controlling the radio and listening to the Dead while leisurely cruising around this beautiful country.
JACO BEACH –
Jaco is the most developed beach towns in Costa Rica and also the closest to the capital city of San Jose. It is known for having some of the best waves in the country which is the big draw for surfers. Jaco Beach is probably the biggest party beach town in Costa Rica. Nighttime in Jaco was always busy, with plenty of lively bars and clubs. If it’s the lady’s of the night that you are after, Jaco will serve you well. The heart of the action is the Cocal Casino, which is hooker central and is thronged with voluptuous Ticas with butts that would make Kim Kardashian feel just ordinary.
PUERTO VIEJO DE TALAMANCA –
Puerto Viejo is one of those areas that has that ‘end of the road’ feeling. The beach road skirting the ocean from Puerto Viejo to the end of the road in Manzanillo fits the mold of this ‘end of the road’ feeling perfectly. In all our travels around the globe, we are drawn to these type of places as they always offer the most beautiful surroundings and isolated serenity.
During our five years of travels we have been on many roads that encapsulate this ‘end of the road’ feeling. To name just a few:
1) In Kauai, the road from Hanalei to Ke’e Beach.
2) In Golden Bay, New Zealand, the road from Tata Beach to Wharariki Beach
3) In the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand, the road to Otama Beach
4) In Tasmania, Australia, the road from Binalong Bay to Bay of Fires
Set along the Caribbean Sea in southeastern Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo is a laid back beach town with a distinctly Caribbean feel, where the jungle meets the ocean. It’s home to residents of Afro-Caribbean descent and many Rastafarians with the most laid back attitude. Puerto Viejo offers a unique culture that can be found only in this part of Costa Rica. The area is definitely rough around the edges and attracts tons of older hippies, weed smoking Rastas and tons of barefeet backpackers who use their bicycles to shuffle between some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches: Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva, Manzanillo.
If you are looking to forget about the hustle and bustle of the city and free yourself of stress, Puerto Viejo is the perfect place to disconnect and surround yourself with nature, beaches, howler monkeys, sloths and all sorts of other wildlife. It’s a unique place if you are open to assimilate into the local culture and are able to get a bit native and put aside the normal creature comforts from home. The reward for going native is….. peace, calmness and a chilled out state of mind. Puerto Viejo also makes a great stop if you are looking to cross the the border to Panama’s gorgeous Bocas del Toro archipelago.
LA FORTUNA/ ARENAL VOLCANO –
It was our second visit to La Fortuna. We rarely visit the same place twice, so that should tell you that it’s a special place. La Fortuna town offers wide open space surrounded by nature with a small authentic town center. It had a strong local flavor which nicely accommodated the mix of locals and tourists. We were coming from Caribbean coast beaches and La Fortuna’s more westernized feel and cooler temperatures was a good transition from the rough around the edges backpacker town feel of Puerto Viejo.
La Fortuna is surrounded by natural hot springs, lush jungle and roaring white water rivers. It’s most iconic sight, Arenal Volcano is an awesome backdrop in the area. It seemed like no matter what activity we were doing in La Fortuna, there was the Volcano. We would walk right outside the supermarket, cafe or pharmacy and there it is, Arenal Volcano magically towering over us.
All these natural wonders is the recipe to make it the adventure capital of Costa Rica. It has a very similar adventure resort town feel as Queenstown, New Zealand. There are tons of tours to choose from but our strategy in La Fortuna was to hunker down and stay away from other humans due to the Corona (Covid-19) Virus. We opted for all the outdoor activities that provided open space with distances away from other travelers. One of the things that irritated me about La Fortuna was being charged for all the walks/hikes and natural hot springs. Most other countries do not charge to partake in these sort of activities. New Zealand, which has many similarities to Costa Rica never charged money to visit their many natural wonders.
It took us about 3 hours driving our rental SUV around scenic Lake Arenal to get to Monteverde. The drive was beautiful and the last hour, from the town of Tilaran where we made a pitstop for lunch and then proceeded onto Monteverde on a bumpy ass, winding gravel/rocky road. One of the things Monteverde lacks is a decent road to get there. The last hour drive was probably the most gritty white knuckle drive we have done during the five (5) years driving in countries around the world. And, this includes some hairy drives in Morocco and New Zealand. Just another wacky driving experience on our RTW journey.
The main reason Monteverde is on the “must see” list is because of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We spent about 6 weeks in Monteverde when most tourists only spend a day or two. Reason being, we hunkered down hiding from the dreaded Corona Virus. We were fortunate to be holed up in a fantastic Airbnb on a farm, high up in the mountains with all sorts of wildlife surrounding us. It had the most perfect view and it served as the perfect self quarantine retreat.
GUANACASTE BEACHES – (Tamarindo, Samara, Nosara, Santa Teresa)
We had planned on visiting Costa Rica’s most popular beaches along the Pacific Coast but unfortunately the Covid-19 Virus stopped us in our tracks as the government closed down the beaches in an effort to halt the spread of this pain in the ass virus.
SAN JOSE –
San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica. The place is a dump and probably one of the most unsafe cities we have visited on our RTW. It was fine walking around during the daytime but I would not suggest walking anywhere at night. The city was nice to see but it is a big ‘pass’ on any trip to Costa Rica. It was really surprising as the rest of Costa Rica is so damn, green, beautiful and traveler friendly. We opted to overnight in the nearby town of San Isidro, in an Airbnb located on a beautiful coffee plantation prior to embarking on our Costa Rican roadtrip.
FOOD IN COSTA RICA –
Costa Rican cuisine isn’t one that we were entirely thrilled about given the fact that we have just recently consumed an inordinate amount of rice and beans during our stay in Mexico….. and it’s basically coming out of our asses.
Some of the best meals we had in Costa Rica were in Puerto Viejo. The Caribbean flavors in this area were a little more exciting than the rest of the country. In Puerto Viejo, there were tons of places to eat with some real good Caribbean food on tap. Gallo Pinto (coconut rice) is ubiquitous, and is the staple side dish on all the plate lunches which also included Carribean chicken and fresh seafood. The big refreshing icy cold drink, not usually on the menu but available on request is called Agua de Sapo. It basically is water, ginger, cinnamon, lime and cane sugar. It was so refreshing in the sweltering heat.
I was a fan of the Costa Rican staple dish called Casado. However, Barbie no so much. Casado is similar to a Hawaiian plate lunch but it includes healthier sides than the white rice, cabbage and macaroni salad on a typical Hawaiian plate lunch. The Casado meal consists of rice, black beans, plantains, small salad, tortilla and a choice of one meat dish. I love eating all my food together and Barbie always eats each item separately. For some strange reason, the Casado dish by far and away tastes the best when you just mix all the shit that’s on the plate and the flavors somehow miraculously blend perfectly. A very caveman style of eating but damn, it really tastes incredible all together.
As shitty as this virus thing was, the experience offered us many lessons especially during the many weeks we were self quarantined and hunkered down in the jungles of Monteverde. Living in the thick of nature and in the jungles of Costa Rica taught me more than I could ever learn in a city. I learned about myself, my habits, nature, animals, what matters and what is just not important.
So, what did we do for over 3 months holed up in Monterverde? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, and we loved every single day. We just went with the flow and did not plan anything. The time allowed us to be lazy, to relax and slow down. Simply living in the now and enjoying every single moment. I loved not shaving for days as appearance really means nothing. We loved buying the most tasty fruit and veggies from street sellers who just picked the stuff straight from their farms.
No matter where we were, wildlife was always around. The beauty was always all around us. All we had to do was stop, open our eyes and look up high in all the trees where the animals are living. We loved waking up to the jungle noises and being able to recognize which wild animal was the one making the noise. It all kept Barbie really happy and she loved feeding all these little creatures in the wild being the Jungle Cat she is.
If you would like to see more videos from our Round the World journey, visit our Youtube site: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UC-s9u5FuLvber3U-1n4CDYw/videos