I was inside the house working on my computer, two fans noisily spinning the hot, humid air – one pointed on me, one on the computer, neither doing much to cool the temperature. Kris suddenly appeared at the screened window. In a low voice, he hissed, “Come out here. Now!” In a fluid motion, I was out of my chair as I swiped my camera from the tabletop and started moving toward the door. I had no clue what it was I was racing toward, but I had learned early on that the nature in Costa Rica was almost always photo worthy.
I waded a few steps into the water, cooling the soles of my feet from the already hot sand, then hopped onto the side of the boat and swung my legs in, careful to keep my balance without spilling my Bloody Mary. It wasn’t quite noon and a little later than we had planned on leaving; but no one watches the clock in Zancudo. Tides are more important than time – and the tide was low, which was precisely why we were not boarding the boat at the dock. When all eight of us were on board, we set off for the day’s adventure of boating in Zancudo, Costa Rica: zipping across the bay, lunch on “Lobster Island” and a leisurely ride back to Zancudo through The Trocha.
Our remote and off-the-beaten-path location of Zancudo, Costa Rica implies a sense of isolation. The single, unnamed dirt road runs parallel to the six-mile stretch of Playa Zancudo and ends at the point. It is easy to feel secluded and cut off from the rest of the world, but, in reality, there are several day trip destinations. The weekday taxi boat can quickly get us to Golfito, the closest hub for necessities (like a pharmacy and bank) not available in Zancudo. With a private boat hire, we can cruise across the Golfo Dulce to the Osa Peninsula, which boasts a dense tropical forest full of monkeys and other wildlife. There is even a daily bus (albeit an early one that leaves at 5:30am) that can take us to Paso Canoas, a lively Costa Rica-Panama border town. And, if just a different beach is what we are after, there is Pavones, Costa Rica, just 10 miles south of Zancudo.
We stood on the side of a dusty road on the Osa Peninsula, using our hands to shade our eyes from the morning sun as we peered into a dark, leafy tree. I looked in the direction Juan Carlos was pointing, straining to see the sloth wrapped around a branch. I could only see a shadowy mass resembling a tree knot. We crept into the edge of the forest, searching for a better angle and a spot where Juan Carlos could set up his tripod and spotting scope. Through it, I could clearly see that the tree knot was, in fact, a small, furry sloth – and I could hardly believe that I was actually seeing one in the wild. It lazily turned its face toward us –half-interested/half-amused at the humans below – and then stretched before slumping back into the crook of the limb and dozing off again.
It was during our housesit in the Netherlands that we made Zancudo, Costa Rica our next destination. We made the decision before we considered how we would get there…before we learned just how off-the-beaten-path Zancudo, Costa Rica is. Thankfully, we had some guidance on getting to Zancudo, but our trip wasn’t without a few gasps and flubs.
From the Netherlands, we traveled from Amsterdam to Iceland (and enjoyed a chilly stopover). We continued on from Iceland to Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C. (where a friend housed and entertained us for a couple of days). We left D.C. from Reagan International and flew to Miami for a quick overnight. The following day, we boarded a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica. That was the easy part.
Off-the-beaten-path seems to be the latest travel buzz-phrase. Escaping the crowds, finding hidden gems and discovering untouched paradises are as trendy as owning a GoPro. Try as we might, we were beginning to lose hope that such places still existed. Every city we visit – even the ones that aren’t in American travel guidebooks – seems to have a paddle-wielding tour guide. Likewise, it hasn’t been uncommon to find even the smallest villages with their own tourist offices stocked with colorful maps and options for an array of excursions. Then we found Zancudo, Costa Rica.