We’ve finally taken ourselves and the babies on a day trip to the beach. The beaches in Costa Rica have very diverse characteristics–some have black sand, while others have white; a few are rocky, while others are smooth; some have huge waves and are scattered with surfers, while others have only tiny waves, and are favorited by families. We settled on traveling to Jaco Beach, since it is the popular destination for families in the Central Valley.
There is a direct bus that goes from San José to Jaco, and it conveniently passes through Atenas. As we loaded on the over-filled bus, a generous young lady gave up her seat so I could sit down with the baby. My husband had to stand for the duration of the almost two hour trip, alongside several other standing passengers. We took turns holding H, who was not happy with the situation. The girl next to me was so helpful and sweet. She shared cookies with our son to distract him from the uncomfortable journey and even held the baby for most of the ride.
The bus stopped very briefly in Jaco, with no word of announcement, and no passengers departing. This couldn’t be it, we thought, so we stayed on the bus. This is how we ended up at Playa Hermosa, about ten minutes past Jaco Beach. We were fortunate to make this minor error, however, because Playa Hermosa really lives up to it’s name, “Beautiful Beach.” This spot has dark sand wrapped with palm trees and the warmest water you could imagine for an ocean. The view was breath-taking. What a relief it was to finally set our eyes on the blue water as we stood in the hot, balmy air.
Our son, as you can imagine, was squealing with joy. He had been repeating the phrase, “Go to the beach? See dolphins? Really soon!” since the previous day. I think the minute I took to slather him in sunblock literally pained him. He was sprinting towards the waves in a breath, sporting only his favorite Charlie Banana® (it has robots on it!). He and his daddy had the time of their lives in the waves, while Baby P and I wandered along the shallow coast, snapping pictures of their felicity.
Playa Hermosa is a great place to bring kids. The break of the waves is quite far from the shore, so there is an expanse of toddler-height water to play in. The little waves finally sweep onto the beach, carrying lots of tiny sand crabs. It reminded me of all the fun I used to have digging for these interesting creatures as a child. The only downfall to this beach is that the dark grey sand, heated by the mid-day sun, is SCORCHING HOT! I had flip flops on, and they gave me no relief. I had to run (with baby in the carrier) to a big piece of drift wood, no doubt left out for this very purpose. I stood there for several minutes, unwilling to touch the sizzling sand again. It was like I was stuck in an unlucky game of chess–any direction I went was “check mate.” My husband was better shoed than I, so he attempted to carry me–well, the entire family–across the remaining stretch of devil-hot sand. As the four of us trudged along on two feet (and yes, people were watching and laughing) our squished baby girl started to cry. At this sound, I wiggled down from my knight, and ran–screaming curses–to the disappointingly hot parking lot. I threw my flip flops down and stood on them, begging for the burning sensation to pass.
Once the pain subsided and we got the kids dressed, we walked to the nearby street and climbed into a cold taxi. What relief! Since we still had a desire to see the popular city of Jaco, we asked the driver to drop us off at a nice pizza restaurant. He brought us to a Pizza Hut (um…bummer). Luckily, we happened to notice a real pizzeria a few blocks away, called Restaurant y Pizzeria El Barco, so we redirected our driver. While we were placing our order, our waiter noticed our toddler struggling to keep his eyes open. He lined up two chairs, and covered them with cloth napkins to create a safe place for a siesta. How thoughtful. They also turned on cartoons for him to watch, while we ate THE BEST PIZZA I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE.
Next, we grabbed a chocolate ice cream and two café frios from a little shop next to the amazing pizzeria. Our son had not taken a nap in the previous restaurant (with the best pizza in the world, did I mention?), so he was pretty crabby. We decided to end our day on a sweet note, and find a bus station.
A short taxi ride brought us to the station de autobus, and we tried to prepare ourselves for another nightmare ride with two overly-warm babies. A taxi driver approached us and offered us a ride back home for $30. We knew this trip could easily cost upwards of $80, so we took the offer. On the much shorter way home (maybe 45 minutes) our driver gave me the best Spanish lesson I’ve received yet in Costa Rica! I was so surprised that I could piece enough together from my recent studies to carry on the full and meandering conversation! We chatted about our families, histories, likes and dislikes, and more, while the baby and toddler nodded off.
While we had an absolutely lovely day at the beach, my husband and I agreed that this was our first–and last–trip to the coast by bus. We’ll hire a car next time, and avoid the trouble with the children. If we were going without kids, we most definitely would take the bus again, as it is so economical ($4 one-way, each), and the fellow passengers are always polite. Alas, life is a little more complicated (and simultaneously wonderful) when you add kids to the mix. So, here is my advice on going to the beach in Costa Rica with young children: bring chairs, a big blanket, an umbrella, plenty to drink and PROTECTIVE SHOES!