Costa Rica Trip, Day 14 – Our Final Day

Our final full day in Costa Rica dawned sunny and bright. We had breakfast in the restaurant upstairs and enjoyed the gorgeous view.


Our view at breakfast

We decided we would go back to Playa Hermosa for the day. On the way, we stopped at a little grocery store to get some drinks and snacks. Outside, we saw the truck delivering Bimbo, so I had to snap a picture of it. I thought it was funny that basically the only bread ever offered at meals was sliced white Bimbo bread. I guess the artisan bread craze hasn’t made it’s way down here yet.


You gotta admit, the bear is cute.

We picked out a nice spot at the beach and set up our tent. We noticed strange flashes in the water and figured it must be fish jumping. I wondered what would make them do that – could there be a shark or something out there?


We went in the water, which was nice and calm compared to Ocotal and Conchal. We relaxed and enjoyed the gorgeous day and the water, when suddenly, I felt an unpleasant sting on my leg. It felt a bit like brushing against the sharp edge of sedge grass. I reached down to wipe it away, whatever it was, but the stinging continued.



It didn’t dawn on me right away that it was a jellyfish. If I’d ever been stung by one before, I have no memory of it. Dave got stung later, and as the tide receded we noticed dead jellies on the sand.

Well, boo hoo! That made us not want to go in the water anymore, which stunk. We also had to move our tent, because not long after we got there, some guys with a chainsaw decided they were going to cut up a tree that had fallen on the beach near us.


Our shell collection

We relaxed on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, and then, after a quick, nervous dip in the water, it was time to go.

For dinner, we went to the soda where we’d first met the little dog called Negro, and ordered casados to go. As we were waiting for the food, we noticed there was some kind of Christmas-themed dance party happening in the park across the road. Kids were jumping around and dancing vigorously to Feliz Navidad and Dominic the Donkey. It was strange to be reminded that it was December and that Christmas was only a few weeks away!

We ate our casados on the balcony of our hotel while we looked out over the dark landscape. The sky was shimmering with thousands of unfamiliar stars. The nightjar began singing in the road below us, and fireworks burst off in the distance.

Our time in Costa Rica had come to an end, but what a time it was. Learning about new places, a different culture, wildly different plants and animals and meeting lots of kind and helpful people made it a trip to remember.

Pura vida!

Costa Rica Trip, Day 13 – Playa Ocotal

Playa Ocotal was the most interesting beach we visited in Costa Rica.

The surf was very strong while we were there, so we didn’t go in the ocean much. The beach itself had dark gray sand and there was a lot of rocks at the surface, which was kind of scary considering how rough the waves were.

There were a lot of tidal pools, and places to walk around and see fish and crabs and things. We saw a couple of iguanas – one was in a little cave in the rocks, and several others were just jauntily walking around the beach like they owned the place.

One of the tidal pools was quite large, and we swam in it more than we went in the actual ocean, because it was very calm and warm. Dave got some bread from the lunch we’d packed and using little bits of it we were able to attract a bunch of fish.

In late afternoon, when the tide had come in more, we saw people coming in with wetsuits, flippers and snorkels. I’m sure there was a lot to see with all the rock formations beneath the water, but I wonder how people don’t get smashed up against them with such a strong surf?

As we were leaving the beach at the end of the day, two young women approached us and asked for a ride back to Playas del Coco. They spoke to us in English, so I began talking to them. Soon, they admitted that their English wasn’t very good and they couldn’t understand what I was saying. We found out they were from Spain and they were spending two months in Costa Rica! Lucky them!

For dinner that night we went to a taco stand that we’d seen in a little shopping center in town. It was called Chorotacos and the tacos were SO good! They had a vegetarian one which was chickpeas with roasted tomatoes and roasted red pepper salsa. Dave got a meaty one, which he said was really good too. I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re in Playas del Coco and need a quick dinner!

One full day in Costa Rica was ahead of us… would we go back to Playa Hermosa or would we try a new beach?


Costa Rica Trip, Day 11 – Playa Conchal

When researching places to visit in Costa Rica, we came across Playa Conchal. A beach made of shells! This video , from the travel blog My Tan Feet, also got us interested in checking it out. Since the video was taken, there’s been some major beach erosion, so we were not able to drive onto Playa Brasilito as they do in the video (jump to 2:19).

Instead, we had to leave our rental car, Blue, parked on what I perceived to be a sand bank, and then walk the rest of the way to Playa Conchal. Only people with SUVs could really drive all the way there, or extremely brave souls who weren’t concerned about getting their car stuck in sand.


Look at brave little Blue chilling there on the sand! That gray car had driven to Playa Conchal and died right there on the way back. I think it may have killed the engine driving through the water. 

After parking the car, we gathered up all our stuff – cooler, tent, towels, bags of sunscreen and snacks, and headed off to walk across Playa Brasilito to Playa Conchal. It was strange to me that Playa Brasilito was basically just a road to get to Conchal.


Maybe this is why nobody wanted to swim here. (Rip currents!)

After walking across Brasilito, we entered a wooded area and the road narrowed and went up over a little hill,  and there we were in Conchal. Immediately locals began approaching us to sell us drinks or to rent us shade tents. I’m sure they looked at me and thought “Damn, this whitey is going to need some shade!”

We fended off their offers and made our way onto the beach. There were a lot more people here than at Hermosa. There’s a Westin Resort too, so there was an area set up with lounge chairs and tents for the guests. We found a somewhat secluded spot beneath some trees and set up our tent.


Cooler – check. Tent – check. Sexy man with snacks – check. 

Cautiously, we removed our shoes. How would walking on billions of shell fragments feel? Not bad, it turns out! The shell pieces are worn very smooth. It’s not as soft as walking on sand, but not as jagged and uncomfortable as one would imagine.

The water at Playa Conchal is that gorgeous turquoise color everyone imagines when they think of beach resort vacations. I really don’t know how Conchal could be covered with shells and have turquoise water while right next door Brasilito is just regular old sand and regular blue/gray ocean water color.


After a little while we noticed the tide was creeping closer and closer to our tent, until finally a wave nearly washed it out. We quickly dragged it higher up the beach and deeper into the trees. Which made our view even more interesting…


All through the day, locals kept stopping by to ask if we would like to buy pipa fria (chilled coconut), pottery, flutes, jewelry, and even massages. A guy came by to try to entice us to rent out his jet skis, and another offered a boat ride. We declined all of them. We just wanted to chill on the beach and not spend any money!


It wasn’t really this dark in real life, but I had to apply a filter to this image so that my glaring white thighs wouldn’t blind anyone.  

The waves were rougher than we had expected, perhaps that was due to Otto still swirling about offshore, I don’t know. We examined handfuls of shells to see if we could find any intact ones. We didn’t, but the small, worn out pieces were pretty neat to look at and try to figure out what they once were.

We decided to wrap it up around 3:30 or so – even though Playa Conchal is only 20 miles away from Playas del Coco, it takes over an hour to get from one place to the other. When we got back to Hotel Chantel and took a shower, we found tiny pieces of seashells stuck EVERYWHERE on our bodies. It was possibly even worse than trying to get sand off your body.

For dinner that evening, we wanted to go to an Italian restaurant. As we didn’t have GPS or cell service, I’d taken to using Waze at the hotel and then screen-shotting the route so we could still find our way. Well, in this case, it did not help. It was like the place didn’t even exist. We figured out later that it wasn’t open that night.

Instead, we ended up going to to one of the sports bars that’s in Playas del Coco. It was called Zi Lounge and it was good. It was relatively quiet and our waitress was attentive. We really weren’t impressed with Playas del Coco in general. There was a lot of American influence – lots of ex-pats and lots of sports bars with loud music and loud American TV. After we ate dinner, we just drove back to the hotel, up in the quiet hills, and relaxed by ourselves.

Introvert life!

Next up: We take a day off from the beach and go spelunking instead!

Costa Rica Trip, Day 10 – Playa Hermosa

The next morning, we ate Cheerios on our balcony and gawked at the view. This area reminded me a lot of the Southern California coast – except way less developed. Maybe this is what Southern California looked like 50 years ago.


The view from our balcony.

We saw all kinds of fun things from this balcony. Dogs wandering happily on their own. Dogs wandering with people in tow. Cats running from dogs. Retired Americans out for their morning constitutionals. We even saw a flock of bright green parrots! At night we saw a strange, fox-like animal which we never figured out what it actually was. We also saw (and heard) a nightjar.

The hotel has a restaurant on top, so we also overheard conversations from the diners and waitstaff. One night, after the guests had departed, we overheard one waiter laughing with another because a drunk woman had written on her receipt “I love Puerto Rico!”

To save money and time, we bought a styrofoam cooler to take to the beach with us. Thanks to our hotel kitchen, we were able to make our own ice, and we took sandwiches and lots of drinks to the beach with us every day.

Another thing we did (months before our trip) was buy a little pop-up sun tent. We weren’t sure how hot it would be, or what kind of shade options we would find on the beaches. In case you haven’t noticed, I am extremely fair skinned, and I do not like being hot. We were really glad we brought it because even though there were trees on the beaches, the tent provided more sun protection, and gave us some privacy too.


Won’t you come in for some iced tea?

Playa Hermosa, as the name suggests, is a beautiful beach. The sand is fine and soft and clean. When we were there it was pretty quiet, with most of the other people simply out for walks. Only a few people came by trying to sell things, but after we declined, they left us alone. We probably interacted with more dogs than people, now that I think of it!

We returned to the hotel to shower and change before heading into Playas del Coco for dinner. We found a lebanese restaurant called Le Coq, so I wanted to eat there based on the name alone. We got wraps – Dave got a chicken one and I got falafel. It was so good!


Late afternoon view… I could have watched the view all day!

Next up – Playa Conchal – the beach that’s made of shells!

Costa Rica Trip, Day 9 – Getting to Playas del Coco

In the morning, we had our final breakfast at Hotel Tangara. By this time I was going to weep if I had to eat another banana, but fortunately they switched up the fruit so we got to have pineapple and papaya instead.

We drove in the rain most of the way back to Ruta 1. This meant we didn’t get to see the spectacular views of Lake Arenal that I had hoped we would. It took us about 3 hours to get from La Fortuna to Playas del Coco. We found Hotel Chantel without too much difficulty. It is situated on the side of a very steep hill, which we were impressed our rental car was able to climb.

We originally planned to stay at a different hotel, but after a week of eating every meal at restaurants, we decided we had to find a place with a kitchen, so that we could eat in once in a while, and so I could actually take leftovers home. Hotel Chantel did not disappoint – the kitchen was spacious and stocked with all the service wear and cookware we needed!

For lunch, we drove down into Playas del Coco and found a soda (that’s what Costa Ricans call little Mom and Pop restaurants) where we could get some casados. Of course there was a little dog hanging around looking for scraps. There was a woman outside the restaurant who was selling pinchos, so Dave bought one to give to the dog. He was such a sweet pup, he would eat one piece and wag his tail and then look up shyly, and then Dave would give him another piece. He was so grateful that he followed us to the beach afterwards.

We weren’t impressed with the beach itself. It was small and dirty and noisy. So we ended up going to other beaches for all our beach days, which of course I will tell you about in upcoming posts!

That evening, we watched the sun set at Playa Hermosa, which was just north of Playas del Coco, and where we would spend most of the next day.


This might be my favorite picture of the whole trip!



Check back tomorrow for a review of Playa Hermosa! (Aren’t you impressed that I’ve been posting every day for the last several days!?)