Adventure Vacation in Costa Rica

An Overland Now Guest Post by Elliot Haas

Just a few weeks ago I was able to visit, and briefly travel by motorcycle with my Dad (Tad), and Gaila, in Costa Rica. It was an amazing time just being there, but of course they went out of their way to make my visit an especially fun time, so I wanted to share some of the highlights from my adventure.

This post will serve as a image gallery/trip-summary, but also a review of Tad and Gaila’s admirable ‘adventure lifestyle’, which I was lucky enough to get a small taste of while visiting.

Some of my favorite photos are in the gallery below:

…followed by more trip details!

The majority of our trip was spent along the western coastline, first in Jaco and then in Manuel Antonio. We also made it inland to the well-known Arenal Volcano.

As you can see in the pictures, Costa Rica is filled with a variety of natural attractions including Beaches, Mountains, Volcanoes, and Rain forests;  plus the climate was perfect, hovering between 60-80 degrees the whole time.

 

Trip Outline

(2/19/2013)

Denver Intl. ⇒ LAX ⇒ San Jose, Costa Rica

After arriving at the small San Jose airport, we first had to stop and pickup some moto vest reflectors before heading out of the city. Safety first!

We hit the road (and gravel) through mountains and out to the coast, making it to the first stop in Jaco, Costa Rica right around sunset-time on the first evening.

Jaco Beach

The beach at Jaco is well known as a surf spot, but it’s an all-around fun town for anyone.

We found an awesome Sushi Dinner the first night, and spent a couple of days just lounging by the beach and catching up. Also, got my first dose of some REAL pineapple, much better than the pineapple available in US.

Before leaving, we stopped by the grocery store for some raw chicken, which was taken to feed the alligators from the bridge, located just outside of town. (A super memorable experience!)  Then we rode via Motorcycle south to Manuel Antonio, a fun but brief 1-2 hr. ride along the coast.

 

Manuel Antonio Favorite

Our second stop was at an amazing location, with outstanding accommodations. Manuel Antonio is the city I would consider a “must see” when visiting Costa Rica.  We were able to hike in the nearby Rain forest, then hang by the Beach after having lunch in town.

The final night in Manuel Antonio was a blast because Gaila decided to sign us up for a Snorkeling excursion, plus an authentic Costa Rican dinner on the boat as we watched yet another gorgeous sunset.

( The next morning, we began our journey heading northbound up to the town of La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano )

 

La Fortuna

 I woke up and went for a walk towards the volcano on the first day, which looked amazing in the early-morning sunlight with a donut-like cloud around it’s peak, as you can see in one of the images in the gallery.

Out of all the towns we visited, La Fortuna was the only one to directly advertise to “tourists”, but it certainly wasn’t anything too aggressive.

The town had a cool festival, which appeared to serve as an active ‘town hub’, but with a mysterious event schedule.  (We wanted to see the Bull Fights, but missed those; although we did catch a glimpse of some energetic Costa Rican Ladies at Aerobics Night!)

 

Arenal Volcano

The volcano itself is no longer active, although it has been recently.

We hiked up to, and then down a few hundred steps to an amazing waterfall near the volcano – Pura Vida! The place we stayed at was great, with cozy ‘cabinas’,  and friendly hosts. We even went on a chocolate tour, which certainly made everyone happy!

After spending a few days near the volcano, we decided to spend our final night up at Gary’s B&B in the mountains.  It was about an hour-long jaunt up the twisty mountain roads, one of my final rides on the motorcycle.

Angel Valley B&B

6km north of San Ramon, about an hour away from San Jose Airport.  Looking out over the Tillaron mountains in the San Juan Valley. Angel Valley B&B is truly an amazing spot.

It was a real treat to have homemade pizzas, cooked from a super cool Outdoor Pizza Oven , along with Craft Beers at Gary’s Bed-n-Breakfast.  A perfect evening to wrap up an amazing trip!

San Jose, Costa Rica ⇒ Guatemala City ⇒ LAX ⇒ DIA

(Returned home 3/1/2013)

 

Some Other Trip ‘Favorites’

Favorite Day

Snorkel Day in Manuel Antonio.  Great food on the boat plus an amazing sunset to top it off.

Favorite Stay

Gary’s place at Angel Valley B&B – a unique motorcycle-friendly spot!

Biggest Surprise

Mostly just the disorganized traffic, and overall lack of traffic signs.  There seemed to always be something new and interesting around every new corner, especially in the mountains just outside of San Jose where we were riding the first day.

Favorite Meal

Gary’s place gets another favorite on the list with his Homemade pizza oven all-you-can-eat dinner – a delightful feast on the last night.

Best Tourist Attraction

The rain forest at Manuel Antonio was great, even though we chose not to do the guided tour. Plenty of animals to see from the hiking trails, plus great views overlooking both the coast and rain forest canopy.

 

Traveling by motorcycle is a great way to go, specifically because you can actually smell the wildlife and roam off the beaten path much more easily.

I can specifically recall visiting my Dad, and Gaila, up in Seattle about 2 years ago, when the ideas for this ‘overland’ adventure were being tossed around the dinner table, so it’s a pleasure to see them acting on their ideas and making things happen!

Also, considering Gaila learned how to ride a motorcycle just months before leaving on the trip, she is an incredible rider with a great sense of awareness after riding so much over the past year.  I will also note that the BMW F800GS my dad’s riding is quite an impressive machine;  It seems to provide a good blend of both capability and dependability for long trips.

 

A Few Adventure Travel Observations

  • Can’t forget to point out the impressive universal ‘motorcyclist culture’, which we ran into a few times.  These are consistently friendly groups of riders that can be found anywhere in the world, according to Tad and Gaila.

  • When it comes to actually going on adventures, it really just boils down to having that “screw it, why not?” mentality to get out and DO it. This was something my dad and Gaila pointed out while I was talking with them about some lessons they’ve learned along the way.

  • I was also reminded that Bi-lingual individuals have a major advantage in society.  Thankfully Gaila’s Spanish is super solid for us to go-to when needed!

  • Also, this trip reminded me that Technology Breaks are a good thing!

After getting the chance to be a part of it all, I came to realize that I sincerely admire the courage that my dad and Gaila have.  Not many people are brave enough to confidently navigate through various countries, especially by motorcycle.  Not to mention- I was able to hear about all of the cool things they’ve been doing, like volunteering in Guatemala.

I wish them the best of luck the rest of the way, and am excited to hear some of their latest stories, as they make their way back up through Mexico and the southern US.  (Hopefully they’ll stop up in Colorado to see me, too!)

I’d be happy to respond to any specific questions or comments regarding the trip, in the designated area below on this page –  or if you’d like to get in touch directly:

 

Contact by email here, or find me on Twitter @HaasTech.

 

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One Comment

  1. Tad

    Elliot, thank you so much for the great post!! So much for me to learn about the layout techniques you used. Terrific words with insight and perspective. Thank you!!!!! Dad

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