Letting Go in Costa Rica

2020 has been so unbelievably wild that we decided to dive straight into 2021 - quite literally, as you can see in the picture above - without any fears or trepidations. So we used our flight credits we were given back by American Airlines last May for our trip to Paris that did not get off the ground and booked our tickets to San Jose, Costa Rica!

After a very short and enjoyable flight from Miami (a non-stop 2 hour 20 minute flight), we landed in San Jose and straight away proceeded to pick up our rental car. We used Vamos car rental service, and we absolutely loved it! If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica and doing a research on car rental agencies, you are undoubtedly hugging your head in despair and wondering if renting a car there is such a great idea after all. Well, we loved Vamos. They picked us up at the airport, took us to their office just around the corner from the airport, provided us with all the paperwork - and were 100% professional and transparent all the way through. They even provide you with a smartphone with a local SIM card and navigation system - which was a huge plus. I really don't think we would have made it anywhere without that phone, to be honest with you. :).

A note for fellow travelers: if you rent a car in Costa Rica just go ahead and get the full deal insurance they offer (like we did), as things can get complicated otherwise on pick up and you may end up feeling frustrated on your first day of the trip.

Anyways, after we got into our 4X4 (oh yes, a 4X4 is an absolute MUST in Costa Rica), we plugged in the address of our rental home and hit the road! On the way to Jaco (pronounced Haa-co - something I realized a few days into our trip :), we stopped at the internationally famous Crocodile Bridge. They have a local restaurant there (I wasn't the biggest fan of the buffet food there, but if you are super-hungry, it will do the trick) and a few vendors selling colorful towels and clothes. The bridge and the crocodiles are a fun excursion, but - bear in mind that the guys selling stuff there are pretty aggressive as far as their selling techniques go (for example, we somehow got talked into buying two crocodile teeth necklaces lol). So, if you don't like being pressured or if haggling is not your thing, be prepared :).

Our home away from home which we booked through Homeexchange.com was a 4-hour drive from San Jose, between the towns of Uvita and Dominical, on the beautiful Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The drive was fabulous, especially as we reached the Pacific coast by Jaco and took a turn down south, taking in the unforgettable multicolored sunset over the ocean. However, the sun sank behind the horizon pretty quickly (it being early January), and we suddenly realized that we would be arriving at our location in the dark. As we were approaching what looked like our final destination, it also started to rain (of course!) and we took 3 wrong turns up the mountain. Which also meant that we had to back up and head back down the mountain. What a great first introduction to Costa Rican mountain roads (which are, by the way, mostly unpaved) it was! When we finally made it to our house and Chris revved our 4X4 up the final 90 degree hill, our kids were all wide-eyed and super-excited. The whole scenario got even more surreal, when I read out the instructions sent to us by our host:

"Look for the key inside the statue by the door, under the flower pot."

At which point our 8-year-old son Max declared, his eyes glittering with anticipation, that he felt like he was playing the Indiana Jones video game. Ahh, this was the best praise a parent in the 21st century can receive - that real life is just as exciting as a video game!

After relaxing in our new abode, we all peacefully fell asleep, dreaming of the adventures the next 8 days would bring.

Waking up in Costa Rica

The next morning we woke up to the strange, unfamiliar sounds of the jungle. I tiptoed out of the bedroom only to find our 11-year-old son, Liam, sitting up on the couch, wide-eyed. And I couldn't blame him! Had Chris and I not traveled to Belize many moons back, I would have also been terrified. But we did travel to Belize, and I knew that the "blood-chilling" sounds outside were just howler monkeys. Even though they did sound like an army of King Kong's out the window :). Anyway, you can watch the video below and see (and hear) for yourselves!

Playa Ventanas

On our first morning, we got out of the house relatively late and headed out to eat at a restaurant that would become our absolute favorite during our stay in Uvita and to where we would come back two more times - Sibu. The food there was absolutely fabulous - fresh, colorful and yummy!