My girlfriend (Katie) and I recently went on a trip to Costa Rica for vacation. The goal was to get a rental car and to drive around the countryside from town to town. We also thought that it would be a good idea to not rent a GPS… hence the title “How to Get Lost in Costa Rica.”
We traveled to Costa Rica during the rainy season in November, which really isn’t all that bad if you’re planning to spend some time in the rain forests. The worst part about the rainy season is that the sun sets around 5:10pm every day.
After landing in Liberia, Costa Rica, we planned to have plenty of daylight to hop in our sweet ride and drive to Bijagua where our Bed & Breakfast was located. However, we didn’t plan to spend an extra hour at the airport waiting in line to get through customs. To make things worse, the assholes in front of us complained the whole time about how miserable they were and that they should have gone to Florida instead… “Yea honey, I hear that Destin has wayyy better volcanoes, monkeys, and culture. They even have Walmarts too!” Well, that’s how I interpreted their conversation.
Due to our late departure from the airport, we raced the sunset to Bijagua. We made a quick pitstop at a small market to pick up some fresh bananas and an avocado. Hands down the best bananas I’ve ever had. In fact, they were so good that I was no longer paying attention to where we were driving. Our B&B was supposed to be on the outskirts of the town, but we couldn’t find it. Eventually we stopped at a shop in Bijagua to get directions around 4:45 pm; it was starting to get dark and the rain was coming down hard. With my limited knowledge of Spanish, I took a few things away from our quick conversation: we would have to drive 8 kilometers down a very dangerous road. Challenge accepted.
Our rental car was a 2010 Toyota Corolla. The road we had to travel was only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles (according to the locals). As we began heading down this muddy, rocky road it got completely dark outside. We quickly realized that it was going to take a very long time to drive 8 kilometers down this treacherous road. For the first 4kms (which took nearly 30 minutes) we didn’t see another car. The Corolla struggled up every hill and over every rock. I began to lose hope. Eventually we were going down a massive hill and came upon a group of people trying to free their bus from the muddy ditch on the side of the hill. After they got the bus unstuck they confirmed that we were almost to an area that had a few restaurants and lodging. This was reassuring, considering we had yet to pass any restaurants or hotels along the roadside.
After an hour, we were surprised to see a few lights beginning to appear through the dense rain. As the lights grew closer we saw a restaurant to our left and an information center to our right (which appeared to be closed). Was this the whole “town” that we were told about? I parked the car in front of the open-air restaurant to run in and ask for directions. Two elderly women were working at the restaurant and did not speak any English. I pulled out our National Geographic Adventure map and two other maps that we had printed from Google to see if they could help. After a quick discussion they told us that they were best friends with the family who operated the B&B and that they drink cervezas together all the time! They also told us that we were heading in the wrong direction. So they pinpointed our destination on the map and directed us to turn around and head back down the road we had just come from. I thought to myself, “Oh no, Katie is going to murder me!”
Following their directions we were able to make it back to Bijagua. It was another long hour of repeatedly bottoming out in the rental car, but we were back to civilization. Instead of continuing on to our B&B, we stopped for dinner. Suppressing our hangry-ness was very important. Katie was coming back to life! We hit the road again to complete this journey. After 5 minutes on the road (the same road that we took from the airport earlier that day) we saw a massive glowing sign. We both screamed the name of our B&B as we read it out loud. We drove by it earlier that day! Seriously?? That damn banana..
The next morning at breakfast our Dutch B&B owner spent a few minutes trying to convince us that we shouldn’t drive our own car to the national park, as it would be too dangerous and we wouldn’t make it down there without 4-wheel drive. It was the same dang road that we took the previous night! That dutchman had no clue what a stubborn man like myself is capable of when hangry. However, it all worked out just fine. Instead of risking it again we met another couple at breakfast and decided to spend the whole day with them. We carpooled to the park in their 4×4, hiked together, and shared a meal. The woman was from Arizona and the man was actually from Costa Rica. He spent the day teaching me about surfing, birds, and his life growing up in such an amazing country. She fell in love with the country and decided to care for local orphans! How neat is that?
Long story short, I’m a bit too stubborn. We could have broken the car that night and would have been totally screwed, for hours. If we had a GPS and arrived safely and on time, I probably would have tried the road the next morning and completely missed out on meeting two amazing humans! Don’t be scared to get lost, guys! I think we’ll close with a Bob Marley quote, “Though the road has been rocky, it sure feels good to me.”
We would love to hear your story of getting lost and finding something amazing! Either e-mail us with an idea or share an Instagram with the hashtag tryhardclub.