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This past May, I left the country for the first time for a much-needed vacation. My (then) partner Daniela and I headed to Costa Rica to soak in some rays and live that “Pura Vida” life (translated to “the simple life”). Instead of simply going to Costa Rica to have a siesta on the sand, we reached out to our friends at Nomad America to set us up with a trick classic Land Cruiser so we could scratch those hard-to-reach places. We were fortunate we did, as the best places we experienced were well off the beaten path and the Cruiser was our ticket to ride.

When we pulled into Nomad America’s compound, owner Fabio Perrone happily greeted us and led us through a rusty steel door in a residential neighborhood just north of San José to reveal a fenced-off yard packed with 50+ self-sufficient overland adventure vehicles ready to take off into the jungle. Fabio’s office was a beautifully converted school bus with hardwood floors, big-screen TVs for optimal map viewing, and multiple desks. It was our kind of place — the passion and enthusiasm were apparent.

Fabio presented us with our vehicle — a fully set up diesel Toyota “Troopy” 70 series. The Nomad Team took us through all of the vehicle’s features: 4X4, rooftop tent, awning, shower tank, travel cooler, trusty Coleman grill and utensils, google phone for GPS and communication, surfboard, aaaaand… a machete. More than likely for jungle clearing. Definitely not for self-defense. It was everything we’d need for ten days of roaming around the pacific coast of Central America.

Our first destination was a town south of Quepos called Manuel Antonio, a touristy beach town with all the fixings: zip lines, surf lessons, Buffalo wings, and a bar built around a drug smuggler’s airplane perched atop a 500-foot ocean bluff. We stayed across the street at a hotel called Salina. It’s what would happen if a co-working space, an ex-pat bar, and MTV’s Spring Break bought a retirement community and turned into a hip place to lay your head.

That’s right, the majority of Costa Rica doesn’t have street names or standard addresses...I get the feeling most people like it that way.

We spent days searching for off-the-beaten-path beaches and breaks in the rain. It was the rainy season and though it’s typically nice during the day and rainy during the evening, we hit a less than ideal stretch of weather. Despite this, we found some truly amazing untouched beaches after-hours driving on unmapped palm forest roads. Surrounded by families three-up on motorbikes, Hiluxes belching crude smoke, Jimnys (Suzuki Samurai’s) creeping around unpaved roads, and stray dogs snacking on roadkill lizards, it was a hoot driving what essentially amounts to a pedestrian tank.

We went north to Montezuma, a small beach town on the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. The former fishing village is a destination for surfers and tourists from around the world who come to visit its many waterfalls, surfing spots, and to experience an authentic slice of Costa Rican life. There’s a beautiful little downtown with a store, a bar, a few “Sodas” (local eateries serving typical CR fare), and a brewery. The unforgiving rain rendered our rooftop tent unusable, so we decided to stay in a local studio Airbnb. If you ever find yourself there, eat and drink at Clandestina, it’s a wonderful tucked away gem at the top of the hill just outside of town. I’d tell you the address but Costa Rica doesn’t have them. That’s right, the majority of Costa Rica doesn’t have street names or standard addresses. I get the feeling most people like it that way.

Just outside of San José is Alajuela, an affluent neighborhood with plenty of modern amenities, great food, and a contagious hum of activity. We spent our last night here, getting boujee and grazing on the fine food at alTAPAS, a Spanish Tapas restaurant. But in my mind, it was all grounded by the fact that we still had to throw our toilet paper in the trash. Most of the sewer systems in the small country couldn’t handle processing butt wipes so you gotta toss it in the bin. It gave every experience a sense of humility, no matter how classy.

Reflecting on the plane ride home, I was already planning my next visit to this beautiful country. Nomad America provided us with the proper tools to be able to see Costa Rica in our own way but ten days on the central coast only showed us that there’s still so much more to see.

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