We knew we had all day to make the 5.5 hour trip from Monterrey to the coast, so we took our time this morning. We enjoyed a breakfast of fresh pineapple, papaya and bananas. As we ate, we soaked in the last moments of our beautiful view during a rain shower that started light and then turned quite heavy. Still, no sign of the volcano; in fact, today was the least visible it had been the whole time we were there.
We took our time packing, tidying up, and then loaded all our stuff back into the car. I made sure I had our routes loaded on both the Google Maps and Waze apps. Then we headed off for four nights on the coast.
#ProTip: if you’re travelling in Costa Rica, I’d highly recommend having both the Google Maps and Waze apps downloaded and available for offline use on your phone. Google maps allows you to save points of interest on the map so that you can see everything you have marked (Waze may do this, but I couldn’t figure out how to see the places that I had marked as “favourites” on the map overview). There have been times when Google maps has absolutely no idea where something is (this is part of the reason why we couldn’t find the restaurant on our first night in Monterrey), and then sometimes Waze doesn’t seem able to reroute itself. Waze, however, has the option to set it to avoid dirt roads (not an option with Google maps), and this made for a nicer drive from San Jose to Monterrey. I only came with Google Maps downloaded, but we’ve made good use of both. Each has its pros and cons. Thankfully, so far, it seems that when one fails us, the other can get us where we’re going.
The start of the drive was easy. We even stopped back at the gas station/coffee hut that we visited on the first day to refuel the car with gas and ourselves with coffee.
Things got a little crazy in San Ramon. The roads were blocked off, and it took a little bit of effort to navigate around it (both apps wanted to turn us around to take the original route). Then there was a super long wait to turn left onto the highway out of there but, eventually, we were on track again, that is until we tried to get onto Ruta 27 (highway 27).
The on-ramp was blocked off from the roundabout. We drove around and around and tried some different roads to no avail. Finally, we stopped to ask the guy manning the barricade for information. He laughed at us as he’d seen us go by several times. We understood enough to know it was closed but not how to get around it to our destination. We figured it was closed for an accident or something, so we made our way to the next on-ramp only to find the same thing. We tried one more time at a different on-ramp and that was when we could see that the lanes in both directions on the highway were all travelling in one direction, and not the direction we needed to go.
We called the host at the Airbnb we had booked and she informed us that sometimes, on a Sunday, they close it one direction until about 5:30 pm to accommodate all the traffic headed back to the city after the weekend. She kindly offered that if we wanted to stay somewhere else, so we wouldn’t have to drive so late, that she would refund our stay for the night.
We had already planned to stop in Jaco at the PuddleFish Brewery, so we decided we’d find a place to stay there for the night.
We decided to connect with data to see if Google and/or Waze would update the route based on traffic. Sure enough, they both did, and we set off on our detour route. The road was one lane in each direction with lots of switch-back turns, and it seemed to take us over a mountain or large hill. We ended up behind the slowest, “special event”, bus. There were a couple of kids in the back, and initially, we got a kick out of returning their waves, but after many slow kilometres, it grew old (I don’t mind driving slow, but this was real slow).
The bus finally turned off in a different direction, and we began to travel at the speed limit again. We didn’t have far to go and then we were at an on-ramp to the 27 again. I was hopeful that our navigation apps knew that the road was not blocked this far along but, unfortunately, that was not the case. We arrived at the on-ramp to find another blockade, but this time cars were starting to line up. It was about 6:20 pm by this point, so we figured it would be opening soon, as one of the previous blockade attendants had told us the highway would reopen at 6:30 pm. One by one, the cars ahead of us turned around and left until we were first in line. My friend went up to ask when it would reopen, and it sounded like it would be another 20 minutes. We contemplated detouring again, but it looked like it would take us so far off course that it would be faster to wait for the highway to reopen.
It hadn’t been 20 minutes yet when we heard sirens and saw a fleet of police vehicles travelling down the highway in the direction we needed to go. It seemed that was the signal the blockade attendants were waiting for, and we were allowed to pass.
There was still a lot of traffic going in the opposite direction, and we drove past a sea of headlights. We got behind a speed abiding driver, and it would have been okay, except we had someone right on our rear bumper. Eventually, a second lane opens up, and we got ahead of the mildly slow driver, and all the speed demons managed to whiz by before the passing lane ended. It was then that we got behind the excessively slow driver. Any time headlights approached, and the oncoming traffic was nearly bumper-to-bumper the entire time, they slowed to a crawl and even came to a complete stop at one point. Even the previous pokey driver caught up to us. It was beginning to seem like we’d never get to Jaco!
Finally, they turned off (2 km from our destination), and we made our way to PuddleFish. It is located in a modern, open-air area with several other eateries around. We had a bit of difficulty finding it, and when we got to where we thought it was, we were told that the brewery had moved and it was now Graffiti Restro Cafe + Winebar but they still served Puddle Fish beer.
We sat down and ordered a beer each; I had the Bikini Bingo Blond, and it was very easy to drink. I logged onto their wifi and got to work finding a place close by to stay. I found the Hotel Villa Creole it had two beds, was well rated and was advertised as 50% off. So I booked it, and then we could relax and enjoy our meal and beer. I ordered the vegetarian lasagna; it came with a tasty salad, and I scarfed it all down.
After dinner, we walked over to the only pharmacy open past 10 pm to see if we could find the solution packets for Neti Pot (to help with my friend’s sinus infection), but no luck. As usual, the person at the pharmacy who helped us was very helpful and suggested somewhere we could try in the morning.
We picked up our car and navigated to the hotel. I’d rate it 10/10 strictly because we were greeted, very politely, by the resident dog as soon as we got out of the car. The person who checked us in was very informative. The room is spacious; our beds are offset in different corners of the unit, so it’s a bit more private. It also has a kitchen and a little sofa. We did see a lizard in the room, but it was a cute little guy, and I could think of worse critters to share our room with.
There are lots of tourists in Jaco, and we both agreed that we miss our quiet little house in the country. Tomorrow we will try to get an early start on our way our next Airbnb. Now it’s time for sleep!