Costa Rica! Arriving in San Jose

We got home late New Year’s night after traveling for our son’s wedding, and it was bitterly cold. Below zero, cold. The kind of cold that overworks your central heating and causes it to blow the fuse and plunges the house into colder than ideal settings. The kind of cold that once you get the heat back up and running has already caused damage to a certain water pipe on an outside wall of the basement, and with the heat comes the thaw, and with the thaw comes the deluge.

As we rushed to turn the water off and grabbed the shop vac and every towel in the house, Doug looked at me and said, “You know, somewhere warm sounds really good right now.”

Thus, came the search for a destination and a suitable time to break away. Costa Rica beckoned. It lies close enough to home to make a short 5-day break realistic, even falling in our same time zone, so there’s no jet lag. It is blessedly close enough to the equator so when we are mid winter, they enjoy the dry season and the luxury of sunshine. Perfect.

Our youngest stayed with his oldest brother (can you believe he wasn’t interested in going? GASP!!!) so we decided, with just the two of us going, we’d wing it. Nothing but airplane tickets, a rental car, and a whole list of potential destinations we knew we couldn’t see in such a short time.

We told a fellow airplane passenger (he had been to Costa Rica several times) our plans and he looked at us with open mouthed incredulity. “You’re going to drive?” he asked.

Yup. Because we are a bit crazy like that.

The traffic in San Jose is, well, let’s just say no one could possibly fall asleep at the wheel. Those stripes that indicate lanes in the U.S. of A must have some other meaning here. Who needs lanes anyway? Why waste space? A three lane highway may have three, four, or even five cars across, some cutting sideways against all the lanes to get to a turn off, and for a little extra excitement, the motorcycles zip past, between, and across wherever and whenever they wish. The only reason any vehicle survives (or person, for that matter) is that the traffic creeps by at an easy walking pace.


An hour and a half later we almost reached the outskirts of the city (maybe ten miles?) and decided to stop at a little restaurant. As we later found to be typical of eateries throughout the country, the restaurant was open to the air. To my surprise, it was downright chilly. Enough so that Doug ran out to retrieve my raincoat from the car to keep me from shivering in misery. Note to self: just because it is tropical, don’t assume it will always be warm. Pack another sweater next time.

A variety of tropical plants decorated the surroundings, and the menu was filled with local dishes–a veritable feast for the plane wearied souls.

A typical Costa Rican menu includes: pintos–a rice mixed with black beans, served for all three meals and often served with fried eggs, maduros (fried ripe plantains, very tasty), white rice with a side of black beans, pollo (chicken), fish, carne (translates as meat, but here it means some form of beef or steak), and a variety of pork dishes. Soups are common for evening meals, salads are often without dressing so ask for oil and vinegar. Each menu will include a variety of fresh squeezed (or pureed) fruit juices mixed with water or milk. My mouth waters just to think about it.

Upon our server’s recommendation, we headed to a small local hotel. Casa Hotel 69, a very respectable establishment tucked between a music bar and a hostel. Make sure they have parking available, if you want to stay there. The neighborhood isn’t the best for unattended vehicles, as is the case for most of downtown San Jose. The hotel does have a few private parking spots inside a locked garage.

The hotel itself is a Spanish delight. Arched doorways and high ceilings, decorated with fine local artwork and musical instruments. The covered patio serves as a breakfast nook and is filled with flourishing jungle plants. The gurgle of a central fountain hides any outside noise that may make it through the thick walls. The hosts are friendly and accommodating. The rooms are simple, immaculate, and comfortable. A breakfast of fruit, bread and coffee comes with the room, but a heartier meal is available for an additional price.


Tomorrow we leave the city and head to the mountains. Join me as we somehow stretch a forty-five mile trek over two and a half hours of driving!

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