Our guest bloggers Jan and Marieke left their small country Belgium on the 2nd of July to explore a small piece of this big world for 6 months. After visiting South East Asia for 3,5 months they flew to Central America to explore Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. Jan and Marieke had 1 month to discover Costa Rica. So they chose to drive 12 days with a 4×4 with roof top tent on their road trip trough Costa Rica.
After hours of sitting on buses and planes, they were ready for the ultimate freedom. Edventure organized this adventurous road trip for Marieke and Jan.
At 10 am sharp we were picked up at our hostel in San José by an Uber that brought us to the car rental. After a smooth 45 min drive we were welcomed by Victor and Andres.
When we saw all the cars over there our hearts begin to pump at high speed. The car we rented, a Suzuki Jimny, was all set up and shining in the sun. We received an explanation about all the equipment and the roof top tent. Victor also showed us how to use the 4×4. While sipping from our coffee in the office (an old school bus) we discussed our route together and after a few signatures we were ready to leave. Our adventure in the 4×4 with roof top tent through Costa Rica is about to begin!
The first minutes driving this car was very exciting. I had never drove a car like this before. But thanks to the explanation of Victor and Andres we were quickly used to this monster on 4 wheels. The trucks we passed on the highway suddenly didn’t feel that big anymore.
When we arrived at 13.00 in Puntarenas, we heard the Paquera ferry was closed because they were working. Instead we took the 14.30 Playa Naranjo ferry.
Plenty of time left for an empanada and some fruits they sell near the boat. After finding the “boleteria” where they sell the tickets we were ready to board. To be sure to have a spot on the ferry you better arrive 1 hour in advance.
It´s here that we noticed that it is almost impossible to drive to the coast without a descent car. The roads are not in good condition but a perfect excuse to put on the 4X4. We passed Paquera and drove to Cobano were we had dinner in an Asian place right across the Supermercado and filled the car with gas. Tip: always check the gas level because there are not so much gas stations on the coastline.
Another 13 kilometers and we arrived in Mal Pais. For our first night we preferred to stay in camping Elimar. The camping site is close to the beach and has everything you need. Drinking water, a kitchen, Wi-Fi, toilets and showers. Only 6000 Colones for 2 persons. After a busy day full of new experiences, we decided to make it a day and pull out our roof top tent. ABC easy as 123…
After waking up from the sound of the ocean we had breakfast and searched for a place where we could park the car close to the beach. Just make sure you don’t cross the line of trees, and watch out for the coconuts, they could easily smash your window!
After playing around in the powerful Pacific Ocean we made a snack using the kitchen equipment that is included in the car. Freedom at its best.
While driving to Coyote we saw the weather changing. So we decided to go directly to camping Veraneras. We found this spot on iOverlander. A beautiful laidback camping with a bar, restaurant and all the other utilities you need. We were just in time to cook some pasta and roll out our tent before the rain started. A good book and the sound of raindrops on the tent is a perfect combination to fall asleep like a baby.
When we woke up the sun was out again, lovely! While eating breakfast we even saw some monkeys passing by. Because of the rain the road was very muddy, but our car had absolutely no problem with that.
We decided to drive to Playa Islita where we found a great viewpoint and resort. The rooms are out of budget for us (450 USD) but the drinks and food are fair and totally worth it. Try the fresh juices and Patacones. While eating our delicious snack we were spoiled again now with 2 big parrots above us.
After answering some emails, the sky was getting very dark so we took the car and started driving to Samara. Our predictions were right, it started raining once we were in our jeep. Not just some raindrops, but the kind of rain that makes you completely wet in 3 seconds. Arriving in Samara we checked the camping Los Cocos but it was like camping in a lake so we searched for a place where we could sleep inside for one night. If this happens to you or you feel like sleeping in a bed, we highly recommend the place La Dolce vita. An amazing, affordable place on the beach.
The breakfast at La Dolce Vita tastes like the name of the hotel, sweet life. Afterwards we drove to Junquillal. There is a big road, but we followed the app maps.me, which is not always the best option as we soon realized. Just follow the main road, much more relaxing and challenging enough.
Stopover in Playa Ostional
Thousands of turtles come to this the beach to lay their eggs. Turtles nest at Ostional year round, but peak time is during rainy season. It was the last day of this 4-day period so we would only see a few instead of hundreds but we still gave it a go. It was a great experience! Try to plan your trip so you arrive on the perfect day.
It was already dark when we left Ostional, but the road in good shape, so we arrived around 19.30. It took us a while to find the camping Los Malinches but the owner saw us searching in the neighborhood and was kind enough to show us the way. The camping site is basic but has everything you need, including WiFi.
Stopover in Playa Avellanas
We heard good things about Playa Avellanas so we wanted to check it out. This beach is only 15 min away from Junquillal. At first sight there’s nothing much to do, but when you reach the beach you will definitely decide to hang around. You can also have a nice lunch at Lola, a bar on the beach. See it yourself!
After a few days at lonely camping’s and beaches it was nice to see this vibrant town. To be honest it is a bit touristic but the place is big enough for everybody. We decided to camp at Eco Camping Hostel for 8000 Colones for 2 persons, but it had the extras the previous campsites didn’t have.
Sometimes you like being at a place, because of the nice hostel, because of the atmosphere at that exact moment, because of the weather or because of an other reason. I suggest when that happens to you stay for as long as you feel like. That’s what we did, we camped for another 2 nights at the Eco Camping Hostel.
On the second day we visited Playa Ventanas and Playa Carbon. We took a bus to Matapalo and there we asked for a cab. The bus was 1500pp and the taxi was 5000 for 4 people. The sand of Playa Carbon is really really black and when you arrive chances are you have the beach for yourself. We walked back, which is about 7km. It’s long walk but if you time it right you get the most beautiful sunset.
Oh and if you want to spend a little bit more money on a nice dinner, go to Las Pangas. Amazing food on a perfect location.
After 3 nights in Tamarindo it was time to move to Rincon de la Vieja. First stop was Liberia where we stopped to do some groceries and fill up the thank. After a quick lunch we moved on to Rincon de la Vieja Mountain Lodge. The road to the lodge has some amazing nature like we haven’t seen before here in Costa Rica. Probably we took the wrong road again thanks to maps.me, but this time it turned out to be doable with 4×4.
The lodge is a bit pricy (20 dollars for the first night and 10 for the second) but the toilets and showers are clean, and there is a swimming pool. They also offer horse rides for 35 dollars.
National Park Rincon de la Vieja
The Las Pailas entrance of the park is only a 5 minutes drive away from the lodge. When arriving you can choose between a big tour (10 km) which includes the Cangreja waterfall and a small tour (4 km). The entrance price remains the same, it’s 15 dollars per person. We chose the small tour, so we would have plenty of time to enjoy the hot springs. If you look up during the walk, chances are that you will spot some monkeys!
Off we go, to the next destination
The hot springs are a perfect place to relax after the hike. They are a bit pricy (20 dollars per person) but you get several hot springs with different temperatures and you can even get a mud bath. We left around 3 pm to drive to Rio celeste. A local advised us to take the road through Bagaces where we had lunch. We set up our tent at the Posada La Amistad camping place where we payed 5 dollars per person. The place has a nice atmosphere with a delicious restaurant. After a while it started to rain, and it didn’t stop until the next day. Good excuse to just hang out in the restaurant and read a book
Although it was still raining, we decided to go visit Rio celeste. The entrance is 10 dollars per person. Because of the rain, we didn’t see the celestial blue, but still it looked beautiful. If it rains be prepared for a lot of mud.
After a nice dinner at the restaurant and a semi hot shower we decided to call it an early night.
The road to Arenal is most of the time excellent and after a while we already saw the enormous volcano rising on the skyline. We still had some hours of light left, so we went to El Castillo because we wanted to see the lake close by and enjoy the sunset.
While visiting El Castillo we stumbled upon a very nice camping spot right next to the lake. There were some other tents over there, so we decided to spend the night over there. You can find this wild camping spot on iOverlander. If you are looking for a small, cosy restaurant, go to La Ventanita. They have lovely local food!
Because of the weather of the last days, we wanted a hot shower so we found this lovely place on AirBnB called bed and breakfast Mussaenda. The place has a super big jacuzzi and a nice swimming pool, both with a view on the Volcano.
After resting for a while and leaving the tent to dry a little bit in the sun we went visiting the free hot springs. Really nice place, but really crowded (probably because it was weekend). Try to go there during a weekday.
After a nice diner in the center of La Fortuna our journey had come to an end. The next day we returned the car to Nomad America. This has been an amazing experience and we would highly recommend this to people who want to see a lot of things and are not afraid of some adventure.
We had an unforgettable experience and can recommend it to anyone who is not afraid of some adventure,
wants to go off the beaten track and absolute freedom.
We found the combination of a 4×4 with roof top tent the perfect way to discover Costa Rica for a part of our trip. Like this you can see a lot in a short time!
Do you also want to plan a road trip with a 4×4 with roof tent in Costa Rica?
How does camping and staying in lodges before or after sounds to you?
Take a look at our building blocks to see how you can combine this trip
and contact Lisa, Marlou or Linda from Edventure!