Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Waiting at a road construction near Quepos, Costa Rica

After having spent a lovely vacation during Thanksgiving week in Costa Rica with my wife Jill I came back two weeks later by bicycle. Entering from the North from Nicaragua I rode to the town of Liberia for the first night and then stayed close to the Pacific Coast to avoid the high mountains in the center of the country. (The capital San Jose is already higher than 1000m ASL; the real killer, however, is the pass that follows, Cerro de la Muerte: It reaches an altitude of over 3400m ASL, making it the highest point of the Panamerican Highway. I couldn’t have done this in a reasonable amount of time with my heavy load…)

I stayed one night in El Roble (near Puntarenas); here I stopped in the evening at a pizzeria which had wireless Internet. The owner of the pizza place was so amazed about my bike and project that he called his buddy, who showed up with camera for a photo shoot. They planned to write a newspaper article about my story. The huge pizza was courtesy of the house; not only that, the brother of the family invited me to stay at his home for the night. So there I went meeting with the Baretto family, his wife and three boys.

Staying with the Baretto family who invited me into their home overnight in El Roble, Costa Rica

In the morning I rode right along the Pacific, the first time actually since I arrived by ferry in Mazatlan, Mexico several thousand km earlier. Unlike in the previous days, it was already very hot at 7:30am in the morning; the proximity of the Ocean doesn’t allow for the air to cool off at night. My next destination was Quepos, where Jill and I had also made a rest stop on our drive back to the San Jose airport. It was fun to ride along the roads where we had already driven with the rental car just a few weeks ago.

Riding along the Pacific Ocean, Bahia Caldera near Puntarenas, Costa Rica

In Quepos I checked into a small room and took a local bus to the tourist destination Manuel Antonio. Unfortunately it was already dark and it started raining heavily when I got there, so I didn’t see much of the beautiful beach there. Back in Quepos I woke up the next morning to thunderstorms and rain. It was my Birthday. So I decided to take it easy and have a breakfast buffet at the best local hotel, overlooking the Ocean from the 3rd floor restaurant. Eventually it stopped raining and cleared, so I continued by bike around 11am. The brandnew road goes straight through the palm plantations in this area. One can see the occasional truck load of palm nuts headed for the refinery.

Truck loads of Palm Nuts headed for processing into Palm Oil

My dad has a former school friend who moved to Costa Rica a few years ago and built a high-end resort. So I had this vague idea that I might stop by for a visit. As it happened, his place Cristal Ballena is located about 70 km from Quepos, an ideal distance for this half day. It was pure coincidence that it worked out to be my birthday, but it was a very fitting ambience for my special day. The resort is located on a 500 ft hill top between the Ocean and the rain-forest covered mountains in the back.

Pool after sunset at Cristal Ballena on evening of my Birthday

The hill made for a strenuous effort pushing up, but the views from up there are truly stunning. Check out their website to get a feel for this wonderful place, pool, restaurant and all. The Steiner family greeted me warmly and hosted me for the evening. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and some good conversation, including a philosophical parallel between the big projects of Panamerican Peaks and building a Costa Rica resort!

Saying Good-Bye the next morning after my stay at Cristal Ballena

The Good-Bye on the next morning came all too soon – I would have liked to stay there for an extra rest day. But I needed to keep going to reach Panama City on time a week later. After spending another night in Neily I crossed the border to Panama on December 18. I felt at home in Costa Rica and will always remember the way how locals greet each other: Pura Vida!

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