So hello again coconuttians. I am sure that you all thought I had abandoned you, but quite the contrary is true. I have been anxiously waiting to write about the road trip to Mal Pais that we took a few weeks ago.
Our 2 VIVs – Very Important Vacationers, Marina and Chelsey return to this blog to enjoy the journey with us as we all take the maiden voyage of the first REFUGIO DEL SOL CAR TOUR. This is a new service offered at REFUGIO DEL SOL and is a terrific way to see the countryside and visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. (Shameless Personal Self Promotional Attempt #25 )
You might remember Marina and Chelsey from my last in the Why I moved to Costa Rica series of blogs entitled simply “Part 2″ when we took them to Tamarindo on our very first REFUGIO DEL SOL ATV TOUR. Another excellent service that we have began offering at REFUGIO DEL SOL (Shameless Personal Self Promotional Attempt #26 ) These lucky vacationers had a great time on that trip so they were understandably pumped to go to Mal Pais via Car with none other than REFUGIO DEL SOL’s very own Activities Coordinator – Joshua De La Flores at the helm.. So with our trusty Map of Costa Rica in hand we all pile into the rental car and away we go.
There are two ways to get to Mal Pais according to our map – one way is to go North East to the coast of Gulf of Nicoya and then follow the road along the coast in an Eastern Direction, THEN South to the Tip of the Peninsula. The other route to Mal Pais is line straight down the Pacific Poast of the Peninsula. The difference between these routes you ask? Most people choose to take the first option because the majority of the drive is on what is considered in lamens terms a “REAL” Road. These roads are represented by a solid red line on the map. It basically means that there is a “Defined” road whether dirt or paved. (Let’s just iterate that “Defined” Roads mean differnt things to different people!) Most people DO NOT take the second option to get to Mal Pais because it is considered a “country road” on the map, meaning you’ll be lucky if there is even a road there PERIOD…(Let’s take a musical interlude here and listen to one of my favorite songs on the topic.) “Country Roads” are represented on the map by a purple dotted line. Now I don’t know about you, but when I look at a dotted line, I notice that there are spaces missing. In Costa Rica, these missing spaces could litereally represent almost anything; traversing a river (or 10), dodging cattle, fallen trees, monkey crossing - you know, your usual jungle road hazzards. So needless to say, this way is a more let’s say CHALLENGING route. Since this is a Joshua De La Flores lead tour – there really is no question about which road we will take….Is there? I think our VIV Marina said it best when she called it “The Secret Beach Road” so from here forward that is also what we will call the route to our destination.
We head toward Samara which is already a familiar trek for us, but none of us have been further south. Our first attraction once we passed Samara, we come upon Playa Carillo. I was impressed with this beach, it would be the perfect place for a BBQ, family reunion, volleyball, camping you name it. I have also been told that a big party is held there every year after the rainy season ends to welcome in the summer season. It is a really flat, long beach that sort of reminds me of a family park back in the states.
Once we pass Playa Carillo, we know we are coming up to the turn that will put us on the Secret Beach Road but we don’t know exactly where it is. So we made a turn that LOOKED like it might be the road, but upon further inspection, this is what we saw. Wrong way wouldn’t you say? As we start to back out, I notice another sign that says- 1000 colones por paseo – Gringo Translation; $2 Bucks to Pass. Have we discovered a hidden entrance to the ellusive Secret Beach Road? I must confess, I felt a little bit like Indiana Jones at this point and the theme song began playing in my head. Just then, a young boy came out of the home and I asked him (In Spanglish) if this was the road to Mal Pais and assured us it was. I would like to add to the authenticity of the storty by telling you that the boy was also accompanied by a ferocious guard dog. GRRRRRR. We paid the boy the 1000 colones and he let us pass. Personally, I love this boy’s spunk. Here he is, living in a house that just happens to have access to a secret beach road so he figures, hey – I should try these people up to see if they’ll pay to drive on property that isn’t even mine!!! This is entrepreneurialism at its finest folks. Bravo young Tico, Bravo.
As we say farewell to our young gate keeper, we enter……. the Secret Beach Road. (Duh Duh Duh) After a dry riverbed or two, the road started to even out and although it was bumpy, we knew that we were going the right way. We pass Playa Camaronal and come upon a Golf Course and Spa Resort – not typical for a country road in Costa Rica! Just after the Golf Course, we start driving up a very steep hillside where we are greeted with a spectacular view of Punta Islita ,a tiny little beach town nestled in a valley cove just past Camoronal. As we admire our surroundings, we begin to notice something different about the road we are driving on …. – it’s PAVED!!! What’s going on here – pavement on the Secret Beach Road? The pavement takes us in front of this amazing looking hotel property called Hotel Punta Islita – which I have since learned happens to be one of the top 25 5-star resorts in the world. This place was NICE. I would love to stay there someday for sure. (hint hint Josh) As we travel to the end of the town, we stop to take a photo of this pretty little church. As we are taking photos with the car stopped in the middle of the road, a man comes out from his house accross the street and started talking to us. I tell him where we are from and that I write this blog and about the Why I moved to Costa Rica series and the man says “You must know Kelly Patterson then, with the Voice of Nosara Newspaper.” WHAWHAWHAAAT????? Do I know Kelly Patterson??? I exclaimed. She’s only the FOUNDER of the Nosara Coconut Telegraph.(WAY SMALL WORLD) We learn that he is an artist by the name of We find out his name is Joseph Kaknes and he is a local artist. He lives in this little house selling his work and I will tell you he has quite the sweet little spot there in Islita. But since the sun was almost set by this point, we said goodbye to Joe and started trucking up the next big hillside where we saw one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. In my opinion, Sunset view made the entire trip worth the ride. This photo doesn’t even come close to doing it justice but I’ll show you anyway. You have to go check this place out for yourself. (NOW do you see why I moved to Costa Rica?)
Now here is the point in the story where the trip gets interesting. Sun is set and we are in Punta Islita, which is only about 1/4 of the way down the secret beach road. We have no clue where we are going and all we have going for us is our Costa Rican Map. We continue to follow signs for the cities and beaches on the map and we seemed to be going the right way. However, once we arrived at a large dry river bed we seemed to be a standstill. We couldn’t tell where the road was on the other side of the river bed or which direction to go. It was just too dark outside. Just as we were trying to figure out which way to go, out of nowhere comes this van with surfboards on top. Cha Ching! Now this is what I am talking about – Follow the Surfers!!! They drove accross that river bed and went straight over to the road on the other side – so obviously we were going to let them lead the way – just like Rudolph.
We follow the van for a ways and come to what is the most interesting part of the “Secret Beach Road.” A portion of the drive actually takes place on the beach itself – super cool yes, but you can’t cross the beach during high tide and we have no clue when tide occured that day. Once we make the turn we can instantly tell that we are driving on the beach. That’s right ON THE BEACH, following some van of surfers and having NO CLUE how close we are to the ocean waves. IT WAS SUPER COOL! I would like to take this opportunity to thank that Van of Surfers – We could not have been more blessed to have run into you guys at EXACTLY the moment we did or we might have never gotten to the beach. SURFERS RULE
After the beach, it is just a short distance to Mal Pais, and basically when you enter the area you come to Santa Teresa first, then Playa Carmen and then Mal Pais. You can’t really even tell that you are in one place verses the other because it is all one strip of road that you drive along the coast. There are a LOT of hotels, inns and hostels – one right after the other – and restaurants – a LOT of Restaurants. We had reserved a room at Luz De Vida hotel right on the beach in Santa Teresa. The four of us split a two level bungalow with a loft double bed and 2 singles downstairs. Once we arrived, we ate and crashed after our long journey.
The next day we went to the beach just straight out about 100 meters from our room. You know when you are in a big place when they need to give you roadmap signs to get places. This place was really well kept with sidewalks leading you wherever you needed to go. (Even though we did actually got lost a few times getting back to our room.) They had a really big pool, a nice restaurant and bar, massage huts along the path to the beach and best yet, they had hammocks at the end of the beach that faced the ocean so I could lay comfortably and watch Josh surf. Why, here is a picture of me enjoying my hammock now – and what is that beautiful cocktail in my hand???? A rum smoothie from the Luz De Vida Restaurant of course!! -EEEEXXXXCCCCEEELLLLEEENNNT. I will tell you a little secret, even though the beach and the pool were absoulutely wonderful; I really just wanted to lay around in the air conditioning and watch 90210 reruns!!!! I mean, 90210 Dylan, Brandon, Brenda - you all know what I am talking about!!!
We spent the rest of the day in the pool soaking up the rays. Then it was time for LUNCH!!!! We drove up and down the strip to choose between the many places to eat and where did we stop??? Of course it would be a place called Rancho Burger. We passed it the night before and it was packed – and we figure we could go for a nice burger so we ventured in. SOOOOO glad we did too, the food was excellent. I got a Schnitzel – mainly because when you see that word on a menu in Costa Rica you gotta know what it is right??? It was a breaded chicken breast and MAN was it good. (Pictured Left) And Josh, got the Rancho Burger also Great.(Pictured Right)
OOOhhh MUY RICO. Gringo Translation: MMMMMM YUMMY!!!!
After Lunch, it was time to head home – so we started our trek back, this time it would be during the day so we could see where we were going. Except this time, when we arrived at the beach portion of the trail, we discovered it was High tide and we’d need to find another way around or wait it out. Of course, we found another way because we are extremely impatient people. It wasn’t difficult, the path was designated on the map and we just followed city and beach names until we bypassed the beach portion of the road. (Although, driving on the beach is definitely my preferred method – ALWAYS.)
The rest of the way home reminded me very much of my home state of Virginia (not to be mistaken for WEST Virginia.) Lots of mountains and dirt roads - yup that about sums up where I am from. It was really a spectacular drive. Every new hill that we crested led to another amazing view of a cove or beach. It was truly exceptional. We even got to stop again at Punta Islita (our favorite view point thus far) to take some photos during the day .
We made it back to Nosara all in one peace with another successful Refugio Del Sol tour under our belt. Mal Pais is definitely a destination that we will travel to again if only to view the scenic drive.
Stay tuned for the next in the series of Why I moved to Costa Rica then why don’t you just move to Costa Rica too????