Uvita was one of my favourite towns we visited in Costa Rica. Was it the location? In the middle of Quepos and Sierpe, the places we had visited previously and had next on our plans, and situated less than an hour from each. Was is the beautiful beaches, and very interesting places where we went into tunnels as the tide came in, and with it a very powerful display of the strengtrh of the inrushing water? Was it because Carol and I had our first attempt at body boarding, having great fun in the process? Maybe it was the proximity to local attractions such as Reptilandia, Nauyaca Waterfalls, Uvita waterfall and the local ‘swimming hole’. Perhaps it was our unusual accommodation and crazy but lovely host ‘French Greg’ or perhaps it was due to meeting again up with our Canadian friends we had first met in Cahuita, and sharing some of these experiences with them, and of course visiting their fantastic property high up in the toucan-filled mountains. Of course we loved it because of all these factors, and we leave Uvita behind with nothing but happy memories of our time there.
We had left Quepos bang on the latest checkout time of 11am, and the accommodation we had booked in Uvita had a check-in time of 1pm. With the two places being around 3/4 of an hour apart, we had some time to kill. Armed with a car and an insatiable thirst for adventure, we knew we’d have no trouble using our time wisely.
We ‘popped in’ to Dominical, a wonderful surfing community on the Pacific Coast. We briefly parked up on the beach and watched some huge waves, but at this time the beach was completely empty, not a surfer in sight!
Next onto Parque Reptilandia, having acquired a real taste for seeing wildlife in this wonderful country, we thought we’d see a few new animals that weren’t normally resident in Costa Rica. Ok we know, it’s cheating. These animals are in captivity, which is always a dilemma for us. On the one hand these animals would have a better life if left in the wild in the various parts of the world they come from, on the other hand you’re helping to support research into animal behaviour, breeding and habitat and how their conditions can be improved globally.
It turned out to be a very interesting visit. We were treated, if that’s the right word, and actually I’m sure it isn’t, to the snakes having their weekly feed of live mice. Well, they were all alive for a few seconds anyway, before being ‘tonged’ into the snake’s dens, usually actually being placed on the snakes to ensure a swift but I’m sure not painless end. One snake was a bit sleepy, so he was slow to notice it was food time. Once he awoke though he showed amazing speed. The mouse scarpered and darted all over the enclosure, but a hungry snake can be lightning fast, and it was not long at all before the mouse was caught, and dinner was served. I took some pictures but they are a little gory, Carol couldn’t watch the feeding so we haven’t included them.
We also saw a crocodile, very similar to the wild ones we had previously seen on the River Tarcoles, a water monitor lizard like the ones we saw on a previous visit to Thailand at Lumpini Park in Bangkok, and we saw things we had never seen before, such as an anaconda, a 30ft python and a Komodo Dragon. Also on display were some tortoises, both ordinary and giant ones. Carol got a great action shot of the smaller tortoises ‘at play’.
Another highlight of this visit was meeting Roel de Pleeker, the man in charge of feeding the snakes, and a former guide in Corcovado. He graciously gave us much of his time helping us to plan our forthcoming visit to Corcovado with tips on guides and tours.
Onto our accommodation in Uvita, Osa de Rio, a small home with just a few rooms and a shared kitchen. We were met by our host, the incredibly French Greg. Of course his accent was an instant giveaway, but within 2 minutes of meeting him he had shown us the path down to the riverside where there was “a fantastic spot to sit down in the evening with a glass of wine” and in his tour of the property he seemed to focus on where the absolutely enormous, but classy wine glasses were kept. I said “Greg, we met you 5 minutes ago and you haven’t stopped talking about wine, you must be French!” “Mais oui!” he replied. In my best scoolboy French, I introduced my myself “Je m’appelle Nigel”. “Je m’appelle Gregoire, enchante” Greg was right, the river was spectacular!
Shortly after our wine-based induction tour, the heavens opened. Rainy season had hit Costa Rica slightly ahead of schedule, the rain was torrential, on this occasion very long lasting, and it was spectacular. We slept every night under a typical Costa Rican tin roof, and next to a very fast flowing river. The heavy rain beating down on the roof added to the wonderful sounds we drifted off to. We had the entire upstairs area to ourselves which meant we really were at one with nature; watching birds from our balcony and being joined at night by some rather large bugs. The property was purpose made and the downstairs bedroom was made out of a converted shipping container. It certainly was a unique property but one we did enjoy; however it would be a lot more spectacular in dry season without the dampness and rain we endured.
Greg had also told us on our first day there that the area was home to a lot of snakes. “This morning it was a boa” another day he had spotted a 4 metre snake lying just under the huge boulder that was in the front garden. In Costa Rica, and probably everywhere else in the world, the size of a snake generally is completely irrelevant to the threat it potentially poses to human life. Larger ones such as pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas are non-venomous, and the venomous ones, such as the yellow eyelash pit viper and the fer-de-lance, are highly venomous from birth, even when they are only a few centimetres long and not much thicker than a shoelace. – For that reason we were very cautious about checking our shoes, watching our step and walking with a torch at night. Luckily (or unluckily) we didn’t see any.
During our time there (3 days extended to 5 days) Greg was a big feature of our day, always popping by with a hello and checking everything was ok. He was also fantastically sarcastic. One evening we asked Greg’s help in phoning for a pizza for delivery, nobody wanted to go out in this weather. With rain water pouring off the roof, and the nearby river flowing fuller and faster than ever we assumed from our balcony viewpoint that it was still raining.
“What rain?” said Greg, accompanied by another Gallic shrug. “I see no rain” And he was right! It had stopped raining, the water still finding its way off the roof coupled with the sounds of the rushing river had deceived us. We saw many a gallic shrug, and at one point after some other guests had left with a few complaints about some very minor things, he excitedly exclaimed to us “That’s it! I am shut” “The entire hotel is now yours, I do not care anymore” . It transpired that the hotel was actually up for sale. At $299,000 or 270,000 euros in case anyone’s interested. Having spent 11 years in Costa Rica and having achieved his dream, his heart was now elsewhere, the pursuit of his new dream of selling up, spending the proceeds on a boat and spreading his Frenchness all over the oceans of the world. I liked ‘French Greg’, I hope his dreams come true and I wish him Bon Voyage.
Greg had recommended some local spots worth a visit, namely Uvita Falls and a spot further downstream known as the swimming hole. “It is a wonderful spot, you must take wine” We took him up on his recommendations; firstly driving no more than 500 metres to the swimming hole. It would have been possible to walk there, traipsing through the river either downstream to the swimming hole or upstream to Uvita waterfall. “I have a seventy year old aunt with a replacement hip, and she managed it OK” he had told us.
Anyway, given Carol’s knee and the scare of snakes previously mentioned, we decided to reduce the risk and we drove. The correct place was easy to spot, as there were several cars and quad bikes parked up in a road in the forest. It was a Sunday, which in Costa Rica means family day. Boy how the Costa Ricans love their weekends! We had been to several places on weekdays when we were literally the only people there, revisited on a weekend and found the places to have sometimes several hundred more people. A five minute or so walk through the forest and we were soon at the water’s edge. French Greg was right, it was a beautiful spot, and yes, we should have brought wine. There was a very small waterfall here, a few famillies playing in the fairly strong current, and lots of beautifully coloured water. We swam upstream and down, and sometimes we just stood, and admired the beautiful scenery all around us.
As it was still early in the day we also visited Uvita waterfall just a few hundred metres from us. It cost something like $3 dollars/ 1800 colones to park here, or an entry fee, or both. Whatever, it was great value for money. It’s not the biggest waterfall you will ever see, standing at around 6 metres high, the volume of water isn’t hugely impressive, but it has several reaons for making it worth a visit. It has a natural slide and a pool at the bottom you can dive into and swim. With some hesitation I decided to try the natural slide; I had seen a video of Kevin doing it recently and he had assured me it was safe. Up I climbed to realise I had an audience; oh well can’t back out now!!! Below are pictures of the waterfall but you can find the actual video here on YouTube. I also dived into the water with some encouragement from some younger people below – video of that here. This isn’t sight-seeing, this is sight-doing! I took advantage of all the opportunities available.
We had chosen to come to Uvita mainly to meet up with Kevin and Bo, and we visited the far more impressive Nauyaca Waterfalls with them. The falls themselves were far more of a tourist attraction than Catarata Uvita, and the journey there was quite expensive. $32 each for a 4×4 trailer ride taking around 30 minutes from the base to high up in the hills where the two-part waterfalls were visible. We could have paid a $10 entry fee and hiked up, but that would have taken its toll on Carol’s knee, not to mention everyone else’s health in soaring temperatures, so it was money well spent. The first stop was to view some impressive Waterfalls, although we couldn’t swim there for obvious reasons.
A path led down to the 2nd waterfall area where we could swim. Trying to swim against the rushing waterfall was very tough, but if you used your brain and swam around the edge, it was much easier. So we did! It was cold but really refreshing on a very hot day.
We had made our plans to visit Nauyaca Waterfalls together the previous day, after Kevin had kindly come to pick us up and we all went to a local craft market and had lunch together. Afterwards they took us to their magnificent rental property high up in the mountains just a few miles away. It had to be like that, there is absolutely no way our two wheel drive family car would have made it up the steep muddy and rocky tracks to their house. Kevin had rented a rugged 4×4, which was absolutely essential to get anywhere in this area. Our car had struggled with the rough tracks leading to Osa de Rio, but at least that track was flat. Ish…
Sophia swam in their lovely pool, while we met and chatted with the American owner, Darryl over a beer whilst admiring the magnificent view over the Whale’s Tail, another very popular spot on the Costa Ballena.
Darryl had a great story. His dream was to sail around the world with his wife. They sold up, they bought the yacht. On their very first trip they found themselves hit by a hurricane. They survived to tell their story, but his wife, extremely frightened by the whole affair declared she was never setting foot on a boat ever again. To the best of my knowledge she has kept her word on that one, so Darryl had to find a new dream. They bought a beautiful proprty in Costa Rica, well, properties actually, and named the estate “Shelter from the Storm“
At one point on another day we had made arrangements to meet up with Kevin and Bo, but they were delayed by having a snake on their pathway preventing their access to their home!
It rained that day, very heavily, but it didn’t prevent our enjoyment of the day, the company or the view. In a brief dry spell we also had a few toucans come and visit us.
The other place Kevin and Bo took us was Playa Ventanas, a beach with a couple of differences. Firstly the caves, tunnels from the beach to the open sea. Our visit had been timed to coincide with the incoming tide. Kevin and I ventured into the caves as the water rushed in. It easily knocked me off my feet. You could see a wave coming, and brace yourself for impact, then the water would hit a narrower part of the tunnel and make the water rise far higher than you were expecting. I had never felt such power from onrushing water. This was a great and exhilarating experience, but it was a shortlived one. A lifeguard came and spoke to us and warned that due to recent incidents here where people had been injured, the tunnels were now off-limits at this particular time tide-wise.
The other difference was this was a great beach for another activity, body boarding or boogie boarding. Carol had her first attempt at this playtime/sport here, and took to it very well. She was joined by Kevin and Bo in the water whilst I sat with all our belongings, protecting them from theft, which sadly is something you have to take precautions for here, whether the risk be from humans, or in this case the most likely suspects, the capuchin monkeys that were playing in the trees just above us.
One other lovely highlight was a sunset on the beach at Uvita; Kevin had previously shown us a ‘secret entrance’ to the beach which meant you didn’t have to pay. It wasn’t so secret as when we headed down at sunset everyone was using it. We made it just in time to catch the sun setting with a spectacular orange sky.
Our time in Uvita was brought to a lovely close with a meal out with Kevin, Bo and Sophia at Los Laureles restaurant. The menu here catered for people of all languages, presented visually on an iPad. In general I hadn’t found Costa Rica to be hugely technically advanced. not everywhere took payment by card, and the wifi was often slow/temperamental, but here was noticeably different. Technically advanced, and far more importantly the food when served, looked exactly like it had on the menu! It tasted good too.
Kevin and Bo had told us that when they visited Corcovado, they had left a lot of their baggage with a friend. Drake Bay is a bit different to most Costa Rican towns, similar to Tortuguero in as much as you travelled by water, not much in the way of roads here, and the ‘wet landings’ meant it was a good idea to travel as lightly as possible. We ended up leaving half of our baggage with Kevin and Bo who had kindly agreed to do us that favour and we headed of to Sierpe to catch the boat to Drake Bay.
Our verdict: Uvita is one of, if not THE best town on the Pacific Coast, I would recomment it to anyone.