Overlanding Costa Rica – Life On The Road


I don’t fully appreciate what I experience on this trip.  I don’t recognize each of the small wonders I encounter or many of the moments that pass.  Days filled with stories I’d usually remember and recount as “big-fish” for years to come, have become normalized by so much time on the road.  And while I slightly loathe the time we spend out of the moment taking pictures, I am grateful for the ability to look back.

In retrospect, I can finally digest how immensely lucky I was; how lucky I am.  I’ll admit these rose-colored recollections have a way of forgetting aggravations, but annoyances like sweltering heat or dirty bathrooms are no match for the fairy tale we’re living.

Costa Rica was a small piece of this larger than life journey.  Two to three months that brought us a thousand vacation’s worth of memories.  Normalized days of a very un-normal life.


Chunks of pork smothered in onions, peppers and marinade sit atop halved potatoes.  The dutch oven sits in a shallow hole in the sand and I leave my hammock periodically to adjust the coals.  Three hours in and the sky looks heavy, so we secure the awning, put the dutch oven on the stove and replenish our drinks.  After a two beer downpour we set the table.  Sunscreen, sandy-bottomed koozies, sporks and plates surrounded by camping chairs and dripping bathing suits.  The pork is ready, the sky starts to clear.  A full-bellied sunset with friends.

I miss falling asleep to the waves…waking to the glow of the sun.

Loud as they crash, soft as they leave; over and over the song plays as the kettle spills over fresh ground beans.  Jenna doesn’t move, but I know she’s awake and waiting.  The cups are full and I tear open our daily packet of coconut cookies.  As she climbs down from our loft bed I open the camper door, turning up our morning melody.

Coffee with a view leads to a “solo stroll” and I return to our beachfront breakfast.  Avocado, beans, tortilla and a fried egg; I could eat this every day.  We say good morning to our friends/neighbors, check the calendar and decide on a beach walk and spear fishing.  The tattered limes from breakfast have just enough left to wet the first beers of the day.

Cerveza is a food group when you live on the beach. 

Costa Rican Hospitality

After failing to catch dinner we return to camp and watch as a Land Rover with roof-top tent combs the shore.  Another overlander? “Hey, wait!”

The rig belongs to a Costa Rican couple looking for a place to camp.  We scoot a little closer and guide them in, remembering the time some asshole wouldn’t share the last camp spot in Yellowstone.  Jorge and Karol would be our first example of the huge 4×4 community here and, more importantly, our introduction to Costa Rican hospitality.

We share sunset drinks and a communal breakfast while getting to know our new friends, and Jorge suggests his favorite beach for our next camp spot.  During our three hour caravan south we stop on the side of the road and Jorge runs into a store.  Somehow he remembered that Mitch and Taylor needed a new battery terminal end. 🙂

As we approach the beach, our rigs duck under low hanging branches and meander through the trees until they clear to a beautiful isthmus.  Only now do we learn that Jorge isn’t staying.  He has to work in the morning, back in San Jose, over four hours away and it’s almost dark.  Turns out our huge detour down the coast was a personal escort to our camp spot; can’t say I’d do the same back home.

When we were planning to fly home, he also offered to store our vehicle and provide transportation.  Just today we received a message from Jorge offering kind words and congratulations on our recent climb of Pisco.  All this for some beach bumming strangers.

I continue to learn so much from the people we meet on the road.


On some unknown day of the week, Mitch, Taylor, Jenna and I decide it’s finally time.  Tequila-time that is.  We’ve missed Mexico’s agave goodness for too long and we’re willing to splurge on the Costa Rican cost of such liquors.  The walk from our free beach-front camp along the shore reaches a tiny collection of tiendas, and a perusal of prices leaves us with Cuervo, ice, oranges, soda water and limes.

Conversations become lively as our ice cubes dance in the tart liquid of round one.  The counter is left sticky with the residue of mis-aimed pours from round two.  Round three, or was it four?, and we do our best to hold our cups above the waves.  Floating, happy and free.  Time is ours…

I remember when it wasn’t.

Udderly Amazing

After a detour to the local brewery, a quick game of pool, a stop into our favorite Costa Rican bakery and some free camping on the shores of Lake Arenal, we take a beautiful drive into the rolling hills of Costa Rica.

We’re looking for a finca, a farm, a property of some sort and the directions are unclear.  We barrel down back roads stopping to ask locals within our settling dust and finally find the rickety bridge leading to camp.  The owner opens the electric fence and we drive across a rolling green field.  Parking brake, engine off, sun visor up, dash-cam down and we step onto our new lawn.  The river rolls by our home on wheels, bending as it reaches a jungle green hillside.  We’re surrounded by the sound of a slow battle; rocks shaping the current only to be molded and moved by the untiring flow.  Horses watch as we pop our respective “tents” and set out our camp chairs; someone steps in shit.

This beautiful piece of land and its friendly owners would turn out to be one of our favorite camp spots.  A personal tour of their operations, milking cows, riding mules, collecting eggs and fresh made cheese.  The stormy night featuring a yelling figure in the dark and a cramped camper game of Yahtzee.  Fishing, beers and meals with our friends topped off with a dip in the pools downstream.

These experiences cannot be bought, cannot be curated.  A one-time deal, paid for with luck and added to our list of overland memories.  

Each of these stories happened within a 2 week period.  I can’t remember two weeks of my life that included so much…cool shit, for lack of a better description.  Yet nearly every day on the road loads up our minds with these moments.  New encounters, freedom of choice and meaningful memories that we so often take for granted.

When we’re asked how’s life on the road, we usually say “great!”  Somehow that answer just doesn’t do it justice.

Untold Stories in Costa Rica – *A man stops by with his daughter one night, talks for hours and offers to guard our camp in exchange for rum.  *We look for ways to sneak into a high-end resort…and fail  *Mitch and I go spearfishing and he snags his first within 15 seconds.  *Jenna and Taylor make Guatemalan enchiladas while drunk and cover the entire camper in beets.  *Free hotel room to wait out a hurricane while monkeys dance along the power lines.  *Four gringos take over the local hot springs.

By |2017-11-08T09:51:24-06:00August 10th, 2017|Central America, Costa Rica, The Trip|2 Comments


  1. bernard September 25, 2017 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    We’re finishing up Costa Rica now and we totally love this story. You’ve put into words what I can not explain about Costa Rica and it’s beauty. Thanks, keep them coming and hope to meet up with you all somewhere in South America.

    • Jenna September 26, 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for reading! Costa Rica is a special place. 🙂 Hope to see you down here in SA! Safe travels.

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