People often ask about renting a car vs taking shuttles and other local transportation options. If you are a bus rider…that is, by far, the cheapest way to go. You can take a bus from Tamarindo to San Jose for less than $6.00USD. It takes 6 hours and leaves at odd hours, but if cheap is your prerogative, it is the way to go. Be aware you are going to be packed like a sardine onto a bus making numerous stops….but it’s cheap.
Shuttles are available everywhere and for many purposes. You have shuttles for tours, shuttles for visa runs, shuttles to get from one part of Costa Rica to another, and shuttles from the airport. A shared shuttle to Tamarindo from Liberia airport is about $20-25 per person. A shared shuttle means you have to wait until all of the pre-registered guests have landed and made it through customs before the shuttle will head to town. MOST of the time, the maximum wait is 45 minutes as most of the planes in Liberia land within a short window of time. Many times, you will leave almost immediately from clearing baggage claim and customs. A private shuttle can be reserved for up to 6 people for $90-100 USD.
However, if renting a car is your preference, expect to fork out some bucks. That is, if you get the agency’s recommended local insurance. The cost is almost double the daily rate just for the insurance. Once having paid over $1K for the rental car for the week, you will be best prepared if you have experience driving in NYC, LA, DC or Miami (or the Autobahn). Driving in Costa Rica not only requires defensive driving skills, but OFFENSIVE driving skills. Hesitation will kill you…or the other guy…or the critter in the road. Typical scenes while driving in Costa Rica include: People driving cars towards you on the other side; towards you on your side; passing you on the left; passing you on your right; stopping suddenly with emergency lights on to pick-up someone, drop someone off, talk to someone, text someone, or just because; turning in front of you from the other lane, your lane, the emergency area, or out of nowhere. There are also NUMEROUS motorcycles on the road who will also do all of the above in addition to: carrying a child in front; carrying one child in front and one on back; carrying a dog, groceries in their lap, surfboard, or a ladder; standing up; with helmets above their eyebrows; with no helmets (driver or child); helmets on their elbow (practical for that elbow road rash everyone hates); without mirrors on the bike; without lights on the bike (yes, even at night); and my favorites -also while texting or talking on the phone. When we originally moved here, the cyclists’ attire – or lack of, is what amused me. Forget that. Barefoot, shirtless, helmetless or not, Costa Rican motorcyclists are scary. Oh yeah, and for most of them, the speed limit is either just a number or a goal. They are either going like gangbusters or moving slower than I walk. Just my opinion. Drive at your own risk, and be very careful. Finally, for goodness sake, make sure you’re not in an accident with a local unless you have a local witness in your favor. Ticos always win.
The weather is definitely a-changing. The rains are here and we get rain almost daily now. The rain is not so bad that it ruins your plans. From May to September, it’s like living in Florida. During this time, we usually just have a quick morning shower, a quick afternoon shower, or an evening storm, and the temps are much more tolerable now. However, we do get the occasional downpour, but the weather tends to clear rather quickly. One of our guests last week (who’s from the DC area and has been here many times before), compared driving from the mountains to the beach in a Costa Rica storm akin to driving in Baton Rouge, La. The rain was a complete wall of darkness. The kind of rain that you can’t see the road in front of your car. On top of that, most of the roads throughout the country are 2 lane roads (filled with motorcyclists and Tico drivers..and horses, dogs, cows, etc).
In conjunction with the rains, everything is greening-up again and the animals are enjoying it. My dog (who apparently is half goat) is thrilled he has grass to eat again. The other animals are also migrating again (moving to areas with grass now…and we’ve witnessed the movement of monkeys, birds, and wandering horses, cows and goats. We witnessed a goat with a wooden triangle collar (used for keeping them from getting out of the fence (an apparent fail)) walking up the road the other day…. But not only the animals are on the move. Someone once described May in Tamarindo as “bug month”. Did not sound appealing. Had me not looking forward to May..along with the realization that “scorpions come inside the houses before the rains”. But we have not had too many scorpions as of yet (knock on wood). What we DO have are frogs. No…not just little toads..but FROGS. These are slimy-looking frogs that are the size of your fist. What we cannot figure out is how they are getting INSIDE. We have had one in the dog’s water bowl, one on the wall in the kitchen, and last night, one in the pantry. Other than that, what we’ve experienced, as of late, are little brown beetles everywhere and granddaddy longlegs. I can handle these.
Again, living in Costa Rica is about the vibe. The natives are friendly, helpful, pleasant and happy people. The expats here (for the most part) are chill, unselfish, unpretentious and friendly. The rest of the people here are tourists and visitors and are in “vacation mode”. These people tend to be mostly happy, relieved and excited (and often inebriated). Just the other day, while watching my daughter’s 3rd surf lesson, a group of 7 men walked onto the beach and put their stuff down close to me. These guys were obviously on vacation (usually obvious by the color of their skin….or lack of, their wristbands and Costa Rica t-shirts and hats). They had a cooler, towels and plenty of beverages. Next thing, I am listening to ABBA..(yes ABBA!) followed by Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell”. This group of SEVEN MIDDLE -AGED MEN are dancing, laughing, jerking their arms oddly, MOONWALKING and having a grand time. My first thought was “WHAT THE HELL?” Then I realized “WHY THE HELL NOT?” As we all come to realize, “LIFE IS SHORT. ENJOY. LAUGH MORE. RELAX MORE. We should all be spending our days making memories..