What is it about a road trip in a 4x4 vehicle that makes travel so gratifying? We think it's the ability to traverse terrain and go places no one else has. It's the adventure aspect of a four-wheel drive vehicle that makes it so exciting. We spent the night in David, Panama after leaving Boquete and before heading over the border into Costa Rica. With a renewed zeal of camping our way back to the United States, we got up early to head to the border. Crossing the border was as expected... more searches and inconveniences, although less than when we entered. We downloaded a great app called iOverlander, which shows gas stations, restaurants, hardware stores and of course campgrounds all over the world. It's an app that allows people to upload information on things they find while overlanding across the world. We found what sounded like the perfect place near Drake Bay, Costa Rica called San Josecito Beach. San Josecito, Costa Rica in the Oso Peninsula is a secluded beach with no infrastructure deep in the wild and only accessible by 4x4. Here we could take in some sun on the beach, relax in our tent, and enjoy Costa Rica in solitude.
On The Way To San Josecito Beach
San Josecito, Costa Rica In The Oso Peninsula
Once getting to the crossroads of Highway 245 to the dirt road to San Josecito Beach. The Oso Peninsula is a wild jungle area that is home to Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay and many other Costa Rican National Parks. It holds half of the species of animals in Costa Rica and San Josecito Beach sounded like the perfect place to camp and take in the scenery. We read a blurb on iOverlander that said; "The beach is nice and sandy, because of the cove is quiet and waves not to aggressive. Road to get here is pretty bad 4x4 a must if you want to get out especially the last 500mt rolling down to the beach. Also on the way from Drake Bay few deep river crossing. On the way in few spots you can also camp on the side of the road, area look pretty quiet feels safe. Good sunset beach."» more details.
This sounded perfect to us and was worth the adventure and distance to get there. The road wasn't as bad as we had seen in Costa Rica, and the scenery was breathtaking. The green hills, large mature trees and humid jungle was enough to get us excited. The day was beautiful until we got almost 2/3 of the way into the peninsula when the skies opened up and it began to pour. We had to cross many little streams and small rivers to get through the peninsula, some with bridges and some without. We finally go to one that seemed impassable and at the time seemed to be a raging river 4 times the size of anything we had already crossed and 10 times as deep.
River Crossing in the Oso
We got to a river only about 20 minutes from Drake Bay around 2pm after a long day of driving on paved and dirt roads when we arrived at the last river we were to cross, with another truck waiting to cross. The Toyota Tacoma style pickup was smaller and lower than our Jeep Grand Cherokee and the back was full of villagers who were on their way home to Playa Colorada on Drake Bay. They had the same look on their faces as I did. Despair. There was no way we were going to cross this river. With little options of places to hunker down for the night in such a remote place, we felt it better to head back to a little restaurant with a thatched roof we say a few minutes back on the trail.
Rancho Al Mar - Waiting out the storm
We arrived at Rancho Al Mar Restaurant and "hotel" and ordered up some food. We sat there deciding what we were going to do. We were so close to our destination and with the daylight hours waning and rain still coming down in bucket loads, we were running out of time. We asked the lady making our food how long after it stops raining should we wait to cross the river to which she stated, "a couple of hours". The rain was light when we got our meal of pork chops, rice and beans (called pico de gallo in Costa Rica) and figured we would sit and wait a while before trying to cross the river. They had a small dog that looked a lot like our dog Buddha who had died the year before in Roatan whose name was Churro. He had a very similar disposition and liked to cuddle around your midsection just like Buddha. It was nice to play with him while waiting for the river to die down. The people and food at Rancho Al Mar were great and we liked hanging out.
Crossing The River
So the rain let up and we waited almost 2 hours before heading to the river to cross it like the woman at Rancho Al Mar suggested. We made it to the river to find the same Toyota and another small truck waiting to cross still. The river looked less raging, however still daunting in its size and rapids. I would estimate it at around 50 to 75 feet across and how deep it actually was, is anyone's guess. There was a man wading across it to gauge the depth and it looked like came up to his mid-thigh where we has crossing. No guarantee if it had huge rocks, holes or logs buried below the surface. We sat there for another 15 minutes scratching our heads and finally decided to just go for it. I handed the camera to Shelly and thought if we were going to be swept downstream, we might as well film it.
It was already around 4:30pm and we needed to get to at least Drake Bay which was so close at this point. We hopped in the Jeep, put in low 4, and began to enter the water. Forward progression was the key in this kind of situation and going really slow allows the river to get traction and begin to take you with it. So I pretty much floored it in low and watched the water slowly creep over the hood before it subsided and we made it to the other side. Here's a video of it on the way and back. Notice how much more shallow the water is on the way back.
San Josecito Beach
Getting To Drake Bay and On to San Josecito
We made it!!!! A little smoke from the exhaust from the Jeep sucking water in through its intake, some white knuckles, embedded fingernails in the steering wheel, and almost peeing my pants was all the damage... so we thought. We chugged along into Drake bay around sunset and was amazed at how beautiful this part of Costa Rica is. Driving through Playa Colorado, we stopped for a minute to make sure where we were going and as we were heading outside of town to San Josecito, we saw the Toyota full of people coming arriving. I guess I blazed the path and they saw it was possible. The rest of the road, soaked from the recent rain was muddy and difficult to traverse. However, we made it to San Josecito just after sunset and quickly pitched the tent in what little light we had left.
We sat in our chairs cracked a beer and at some food we had in the dark after trying to set up the generator and finding out it wasn't running. We hadn't run it since Honduras and we had to take out the spark plug, clean it off, and repeatedly pull the cord to get it going. It was all worth it. We settled in and sipped our beers to some spectacular stars in the sky with very little light pollution to the sounds of waves lapping against the shore. It was perfect!!! Until.....
Waking Up In San Josecito
At around 5am in the morning, we woke up to the sun beginning to bake the tent. We noticed something odd. We were itchy. Really itchy. All over! We soon realized that this beach had sand flies. Small little flies, smaller than a speck of pepper, that bite you all over and the welts turn to festering pustules after you itch them to oblivion. It was awful! How did they get in? These flies are so small they can fit through mesh on the tents... and did. We were covered on any skin outside our sheets. We couldn't see them but, we knew they were there. Forget San Josecito, the serene beach, how long it took us to get there, crossing raging rivers, starry skies at night, and any other idyllic thoughts of secluded beach life. This was too much! The beach was infested with them and it would make staying impossible to enjoy. We later found out this is the season for them. So don't go in middle to late June in San Josecito. It's miserable! We had the tent down and packed up within an hour and heading back to the Pan American Highway to our next destination. There was no way we were staying there and even though we drove through hell to get there, we were done!
Change In Perspective
Change In Perspective
Disappointed in our trip to San Josecito? Not really. We loved the drive there, the thrill of getting across the river, eating at Rancho al Mar and meeting Churro the dog, sipping beer under the stars, and everything in between. I was unfortunate about the sand fly infestation, however it was meant to be. We were meant to head back for whatever the reason. We are firm believers in this. Sometimes what we want to do and what is meant to be are two very different things. We have to have faith that for whatever the reason, we needed to head back and out of the San Josecito, Costa Rica in the Oso Peninsula. We loved it anyway and had an amazing experience.
Many times when we change the way we look at problems or inconveniences as simply "meant to be", the bitter pill is easily swallowed. We can't be so fixed in our own desires and needs and we must trust that no matter what path life takes us, it is the right one for some reasons yet revealed to us. This is how you begin to change your perspective. By realizing that what happens to you in life is only 10% of experience, the other 90% is how you look at it.
Have you ever had an experience that was a huge let down and later turned into a blessing in disguise? Share it with us by commenting below. We'd love to hear from you.