San Jose to Guanacaste
The day began with a visit to the National Museum where we learned about pre-Columbian peoples and viewed an exhibition of beautiful paintings by contemporary artist-environmentalist Gerardo Valerio. We then returned to the Central Market downtown to explore further its offerings before checking out of our hotel and hitting the road for Guanacaste, which lies in the northwest of Costa Rica.
Our route out of San Jose took us first west through Escazu, a former coffee region now undergoing suburban development, and Oratina, an important fruit-producing region. Fruit and vegetable stands offering mangos, pineapple, plantains, avocados and water squash line the road. We then turned north on to the Pan American Highway and very quickly observed a dramatic change in vegetation typical of a tropical dry forest. Teak plantations, grazing cattle and dry rice fields permeate the landscape, and our guide tells us that pineapple fields have recently made an appearance as well.
Guanacaste is the land of Costa Rican cowboys – its history of cattle production is about 200 years, and the region is one of the most deforested regions in Costa Rica as a result. After some time we again turned west and traversed the Nicoya Peninsula, crossing the Rio Tempisque, to arrive in Tamarindo — on the westernmost part of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. En route it rained heavily, and a flooded, unpaved road gave us a bit of an adventure, but we finally reached our hotel, Cabinas Las Olas, around 7:00 PM where we were fed well and housed in very comfortable cottages.