Península de Osa

One of the best parts of living in Costa Rica for a year has been having the ability to see a lot of the country. That and fresh mangos. The last place on our list was the Osa Peninsula, and we checked that off over the 4th of July weekend.

We stayed in a cabin that we found on AirBnB just outside of Rincón on the shore of the Golfo Dulce. This was an amazing spot to chill out and Penny and Theda had a great time splashing around in the water.

Our first full day on the peninsula was pretty mellow. After driving into Puerto Jiménez to explore, arrange some tours, and grab some lunch, we found ourselves back at the cabin by mid-afternoon. Rather than twiddle our thumbs until dinner, Emily had the great idea to drive to Drake Bay. We still had plenty of daylight left, so we all hopped in the car and hit the road. Luckily for us, it hadn’t rained much, so the several water crossings in our path weren’t *too* scary. We didn’t film the trip, but to see the basic idea of what we did you can check out this video.

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We made it to Drake Bay!

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Bayorama

Our first tour the next day was at Rancho Raices de Osa, a cacao farm in Cañaza about 15 minutes north of Puerto Jiménez. The farm is run by German (pronounced Herman) and the tour was facilitated by his English-speaking daughter, Vanessa. Emily and I were the only ones on the tour and it was a wonderful experience. The leisurely tour had us wandering along a path and learning about the many other plants growing on the farm. Some of these are to exhibit various types of native plants, including poisonous ones and others with medicinal qualities. The tour ended up at a really spectacular rancho in the middle of the property where we ate some delicious food prepared by German’s wife, tasted chocolate, and learned the process of making chocolate. We also tried white pineapple for the first time – they’re super sweet, take a long time to grow, and don’t travel well, so you probably won’t find them in your local supermarket.

Later that day, we headed into Puerto Jiménez for a sunset kayak tour. We hopped in a double kayak and our guide, Enoch, took us on a trip up and down part of the Rio Plantanares, then out onto the ocean to kayak back into the gulf to see the sunset and wrap up the tour.


On our way home, we stopped at a bridge over the Rio Tarcoles that has signs that read, “Crocodiles in their natural habitat.” We’d crossed this bridge many times, but never before got out to look. I’m glad we did, since it was totally awesome.

First we spotted a smaller crocodile:

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A small crocodile by its lonesome

Then another, much larger one:

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Crocodile number two.

Then we crossed the bridge and saw this:

 

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since we moved down here. This was likely our last trip exploring Costa Rica. We will miss many things about living here, but we’re looking forward to the adventures ahead on our six-week journey home!

Importing Calvin to Costa Rica

On Monday, Emily and I went to Alajuela to begin the process of importing Calvin, our Subaru Forester. Why are we doing this? It’s the law. Unlike perpetual tourism, which is alive and well in Costa Rica, there are no loopholes for bringing a vehicle into the country. When you bring your car in, you have 90 days on your temporary import permit. The car either leaves the country before that, or you import it. If we were to keep it in the country illegally, we’d run into huge problems if we got into an accident or pulled over. If we made it through the year without any incidents, we’d have trouble at the border on the way out of the country. Rock and a hard place.

So, (mostly) law-abiding and risk-intolerant as we are, we decided to import our car. Lucky for us, our realtor’s dad has imported a few cars and provided us with very detailed instructions. I can’t emphasize this enough — we went from having no idea of where to start to knowing exactly who to call and where to take the car to get things going, as well as what to expect throughout the process. Thanks Bob!

The steps are:

  1. Import the car (pay money)
  2. Inspection (more money)
  3. Registration, title, insurance (again, money)

Luckily, the customs agent we chose, Mario, can take care of all of these steps. We had some trouble finding the customs agent’s office, but with a phone call and some walking around we made it to our meeting. The language barrier was tricky, but luckily Mario’s sister was visiting from New Jersey and translated for us. We had previously looked up our car on the AutoValor website to get an idea of what we’d be paying. However, that seems to be only an estimate, because the amount we’re actually paying is less than we expected.

After the meeting, we left Calvin behind and Mario drove us to a nearby bus terminal so we could get back to Atenas. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right bus terminal. We asked for directions from the friendly agent and headed toward downtown Alajuela. The next bus terminal we found wasn’t the right one either, so we asked for directions again. After repeating this process a couple more times, we finally found ourselves sitting on the bus to Atenas, sweaty and relieved to be heading home. Since we’re car-free for at least a week, we’re very lucky to be in Atenas. Our house is close to the center of town, and it’s a very walkable city.

Later that afternoon, we walked over to the bank to transfer money to Mario’s account to cover the import tax and his fee. We waited in line for a while, making our way through the rows of chairs until we got to speak to a teller. He told us we could use our debit card for the transaction, but the fee would be pretty high. We opted to spend a couple days pulling money out of ATMs. After acquire the rather large amount of cash (sort of scary), I was able to make the deposit so the ball is now officially rolling.

I’ll update this post as the situation develops. If you have happened across this blog because you’re looking for information on importing your car to Costa Rica, please feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Update 1/18/2016:

This update is long overdue. Essentially, everything worked out perfectly once we transferred the money to Mario. After a couple weeks, we had our car back. Along with it were the new plates and three stickers for the windshield — one is just a sticker version of the license plate, the other two indicate that our Marchamo (road tax) and Riteve (inspection) are up to date.

A couple notes here — because we imported our car in November, we paid Marchamo for 2015, then had to almost immediately pay Marchamo for 2016 in December. If you have the option of planning the timing of your vehicle import, I’d suggest doing it in January.

By the luck of the draw, we got a license plate ending in 1, so we had to have our vehicle inspected again two months after the import inspection. This isn’t such a big deal — the inspection only costs about 10,000 colones ($20 US), and they only performed the safety inspection since it had passed the emissions test in November. It seems like a much more thorough inspection process than I’ve ever been through in the US — they check over just about everything — lights, turn signals, wipers, seat belts, steering, suspension, and brakes. It’s sort of fun being in the car for the suspension test, which bounces the vehicle around at different frequencies and amplitudes.

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All the window stickers

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We are OFFICIAL! Or our car is, anyway.

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