On the morning our exploration of Costa Rica’s coastal towns would begin, I learned something: Priscila has a tremendous fear of flying. And to start our adventure proper, we would be flying Sansa Air from San José to Liberia on a short commuter flight. She seemed enthused about the flight beforehand but did disclose that she was, in fact, terrified of planes. So much so that she had previously downloaded an app for her iPhone filled with helpful tips on how to deal with flying. Tips such as, “The pilot has a family and wouldn’t be in the cockpit unless it was safe” and “flying is statistically safer than driving.”
After takeoff, I cracked a few going-down-in-flames jokes right up until the moment Priscila nearly crushed all the bones in my hand, cutting off my circulation because of turbulence. Then I knew her fear, though she clearly did not know my pain. It was then that I also realized that statistically, I had a greater chance of dying from Priscila choking the life out of me for cracking flying jokes mid-air than by plummeting to earth in a fiery heap of metal.
The trip was great, though; the pilot and copilot taking the two of us (the sole passengers) to our destination as if we were on a privately chartered plane. The aerial view of Costa Rica, which we could plainly see since we had a nearly 360 degree view through the windows, is so utterly beautiful. Especially during rainy season when everything is extra green and lush. After a smooth landing, we both noted something unusual on the tarmac in Liberia: a US Coastguard plane but stranger than that was the United States Homeland Security plane (photo below). Weird.
Ready to begin our adventure and to make sure that we started this trip off on the right foot, I did what any smart traveler would do and left my cellphone on the plane. I would realize this no less than fifteen minutes later as I went to call the person who was picking us up from the airport. By this time, the plane that flew us to Liberia was already on the way back to San José. I’ve been told (and this is actually entirely accurate) that this was “a total Scott move.” While I still haven’t heard the end of it, we did, in that moment, manage to coordinate our pickup at the airport.*
(Side note: the flight through Sansa was $87 per person and took about 35 minutes. A taxi driver offered to drive the 3.5 hour-long trip for $280. Yeah, no thanks.)
Finally on our way, we hop in the car for a roughly twenty- to thirty-minute drive to Playas del Coco. We grabbed a little desayuno at Soda Los Pelones (delicious!!) before heading up to where we would stay for the night, Hotel Chantel.
Hotel Chantel? Fan. Tastic. An eleven-room hotel with a massive penthouse suite taking up the entire upper floor, a rooftop patio and a beautiful pool: these are the simple details. There are no words to describe the view, though. Looking out at the town of Playas del Coco below, nestled beneath the trees all the way to the bay enclosed by mountains, “wondrous” is a good starting point for descriptive language. Miniature boats dotting the big blue expanse of water, small and large islands protruding out like prehistoric land masses. Just fantastic.
While Hotel Chantel is currently undergoing renovations, none of this impacted our stay in any way. Anita, the owner, was so incredibly kind and gracious to us during our stay, even driving us around the area (including to Playa Ocotal) to show us some amazing vistas the following morning. It’s always nice when you stay somewhere and feel like you’ve made a new friend.
After getting situated at the hotel, we went into town to walk around and get a personal feel and soak up any impressions. Down by the ocean, there’s a well-maintained boardwalk, bars and restaurants running along just behind it. The beach itself is beautiful. Brownish, grayish sand. The town feels authentic in that, while there’s most definitely a tourism side to it, it’s not invasive. You can enjoy the essence of Costa Rican culture in what seems like a semi-sleepy village. Altogether a very cozy, comfortable place that feels very safe.
Just so we’re clear, I think it would be best if I go ahead and disclose this. The following sentence will likely be making an appearance in every article in this series:
After walking around for a bit, we decided to stop in at a local bar.
That said, after a while, we found ourselves standing outside a local drinking establishment and decided to go in. Zi Lounge was the name of the place: a very large, open air bar. A futbol game (between Saprissa and La Liga) was all over the multiple screens and the local Tico crowd was enthusiastically enjoying it. In fact, every one in every bar in town seemed to be enjoying it as the entire street erupted when there was a GGGOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!!
We drank a couple of these:
Which led to visits here:
We then decided to venture out. And honestly, we didn’t get very far before we found ourselves in another bar. Coconutz. It wasn’t our fault, though. They were practically right next to each other. And this bar gave us another look into the town: here the crowd seemed to be mostly comprised of expats and tourists, some older, some younger. Football, not futbol, was on the televisions here. What Priscila and I found particularly great about this place was the massive pool hall in the back. We played a game of pool, swung on the swings (yes, swings), and talked about our plans.
It’s worth noting that no matter where we went, the people were friendly, from the bar patrons, to the people on the street, to the vendors selling their handcrafted wares. And since Priscila is nearly perfectly fluent in Spanish (her native tongue is Portuguese, being from Brazil), every interaction with Ticos was excellent.
Eventually, it was time to call it a day. We walked to the Auto Mercado (the local supermarket) to get a few items to snack on later in the evening and caught a taxi out of town to settle in for the night. Day two of this trip was now complete.
Desayuno (breakfast): $6 a plate
Beers: $2 – $2.50, non-happy hour prices
Bread, ham, cheese, chips, bottled water from the supermarket: $20 (This was pretty expensive based on the quantity purchased.)
Note that even though I didn’t take many photos of the hotel as it’s currently under renovation, I highly recommend following up with Hotel Chantel on Facebook. The suite we stayed in was absolutely perfect, with wonderful decor, a supremely comfortable bed, and a heavenly, heavenly shower.
*Sansa Regional was awesome in the way they handled my phone situation, getting in touch with the pilot as they were either preparing for takeoff on the tarmac or already in the air. Since they wouldn’t be coming back that day, they would bring the phone back the following morning and I could come back to the airport to pick it up. The staff on the ground was incredibly friendly and helpful throughout.