Getting Stuck in Costa Rica On My Birthday – Road Trip Nightmare
Beware if you are planning to take a road trip through Costa Rica. There are some crazy roads all over but especially driving from Tamarindo to Santa Teresa. Check out my one week itinerary for some ideas also!
I know I can be overzealous with my travel goals just like any other aspiring world traveler who is dying to get off of the beaten path.
So much is true for my road trip through Costa Rica. The road trip was planned to celebrate my birthday in fact. Of course, of all the days in Costa Rica, we faced our craziest day on the road on my actual birthday. Murphy’s Law.
I did my fair share of research investigating what the roads conditions are like, watching YouTube vlogs of other travelers who are just as crazy as me, and so on.
But, no matter how much you research… there is always going to be something that goes wrong!
Our plan was simple: Travel from Tamarindo, Costa Rica to Santa Teresa. We thought it would be an easy 4 hour journey… nope.
This is how it really went down:
Okay. Just kidding. I don’t know how it feels to get kicked in the nuts (I don’t have those parts). My boyfriend did all the driving and he assured me this is the best interpretation of how the trip felt. All I know is that it SUCKED. I sat stuck in Costa Rica feeling overly ambitious.
For nearly three hours it was smooth sailing. The sun was shining, hardly any clouds in the sky, windows down and good music bumping as we glided across the roads admiring Costa Rica’s towns and country side.
The roads were perfect. Smooth like butter, windy enough to keep it fun and straight forward enough to keep it simple. We couldn’t have asked for a better day on the road for a four hour trip.
Then we hit the road closure.
It all went downhill (yes, I’m foreshadowing) once we got to Playa Naranjo.
I know very little Spanish meanwhile my boyfriend knew even less than I. We managed to understand from the construction worker that the road was closed due to construction and wasn’t set to open for another hour and some change. There was no other way around for us and I’ll remind you, we were already like 3 hours into our 4 hour trip.
The only *brief* silver lining here is that the Playa Naranjo Ferry was across the street so we were able to enjoy our hour wait overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya.
I say brief because as we sat in what became a long line of drivers waiting for the road to reopen it began to rain.
The start of the rainfall was only setting the scene for the nightmare to really begin. If only I knew that then.
We began to pass along the road with all the other cars. I was eager to find out why in the world it was closed for an entire hour. Curiosity killed the cat. Me. I’m the cat.
I, at least, felt like dying because the next few hours were torture.
The rain grew heavy the further along we drove.
The roads were partially paved while craters for “potholes” and huge rocks pertruded out off of the surface.
We complained but quickly wished the roads were poorly paved again because the unpaved muddy roads we were later dealt were even worse to drive on in the slippery conditions.
Suddenly we were traversing through mountains with mud filled roads in the pouring rain. Less than 30 minutes into our driving two cars crash into a ditch. At. the. same. damn. time. I was like, “What the-Central American-fuck?”
We drove even slower having witnessed that choas. All the other cars still sped along; anxious to finally be driving after waiting an hour in the heat and anxious to get off this God forsaken mountain top I reasoned.
We pressed forward through the roads, sometimes paved and sometimes not. Cautiously sliding down the muddy unpaved hills for roads and barely making it back up as we climbed in altitude again.
About 1 1/2 hours into our drive we reach another road closure.
With the little Spanish I knew I asked the construction worker how long the wait might be. She told me she had no idea – shrugging repeatedly prompting us to just continue to wait in line with the others. We even saw a Range Rover police car driving back and forth (seeing a cop car driving around Costa Rica during our road trip was rare). To see this cop car raised unanswered questions for me.
This closure lasted another hour.
We sat behind a truck filled with people in the back and I imagined this being everyday life for them. How it took them an unknown amount of hours each day during this construction just to get maybe 30 miles.
Once we were allowed to pass we prayed that would be the last closure and that we’d finally make it off of the mountain.
Passing through we saw much of the same poor driving conditions as before minus the mud and road closures. We began climbing down altitude into the next town.
Praise God there weren’t any car crashes for us – we had a rental car with shaky insurance!!! Bring on tough traveling conditions. I’m up for a little challenge and change of plans. Literally our only worry was the rental car!
The rain began to clear the further from the mountain and the closer into town we got – we learned that Costa Rica is funny like that.
Anyway, the nightmare didn’t end there.
We drove for another hour, maybe, of mostly poor roads. It seemed that for some reason Google Maps took us almost entirely on back roads.
Driving through a small community we reached a road that was flooded by a stream. We can see the road dipping down and disappearing beneath the water and then reappear again. We had no idea how deep the water was where the road had disappeared or why on earth Google maps would give us the most screwed up driving option imaginable.
It was close to dusk now and we just sat there thinking if it were worth it or not. We’d have to turn back another few miles or try our luck with this water covered road. But luck hadn’t been much on our side all day.
God must’ve been finally giving us a break because soon enough a cyclist came riding along and didn’t hesitate to ride through the stream. We still hesitated for a moment and the finally said “Fuck it.”
So, there we were. Pass yet another road block on our way from Tamarindo to Santa Teresa.
We made it a long ways at that point but the journey STILL wasn’t over. Lord.
Sun had set and we were so close yet so far from our accommodation.
Thanks to our off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment planning we weren’t even sure if our point of contact would be at our Airbnb to let us in as we had just booked the room literally right before we got on the road! There was poor connection for most of the drive too!
Driving along more back roads in the pitch black dark presented yet another challenge for us. The roads were horrible – more potholes and massive rocks everywhere for significant distances. We had to drive really slow or risk breaking something – like suspension, tire, pistons, the wheel, idk car stuff.
Anyway, we made it to Santa Teresa ya’ll (which I found to be worth the insane drive). We pulled up in front of the Airbnb and our guy came out minutes later.
Thank. The. LORD.
Unfortunately, my birthday was spent anxiously driving through Costa Rica roads and being stuck on a mountaintop for hours plus driving through running the risk of crashing.
Then again… I would say it wasn’t so unfortunate. It was an adventure. It was a trying time to grow through a crazy experience abroad. It was thrilling. These are all the things I live for in life.
So maybe it was just the kind of birthday I needed.