border crossings, beach wanders & ziplines near playa hermosa, costa rica

Saturday, January 7, 2023: After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, we left San Juan del Sur and headed to the Costa Rican border at Peñas Blancas.

Crossing the border was no fun at all. A Saturday and the holidays made for a very long and slow-moving line. We had to turn in our rental car at Alamo in Nicaragua and then lugged all our belongings quite a distance to the Alamo office going into Costa Rica. Alamo Jack directed us to the long line of people and guessed it could be an hour and half to get through. Alex and I got into line to hold our place while Mike signed all the paperwork with Alamo Jack. We only moved a few yards in about 20 minutes.


Crossing the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas

Luckily when Alamo Jack found out that we were in our 60s (I’d have thought it would be obvious!), he pulled us out of the line and drove us to the front of the line because “Costa Rica is nice to people in their 60s!”  Because Alex wasn’t in his 60s, yet he was part of our family group, he was allowed to go through with us. What started as a seeming nightmare turned into a rather decent experience.

Entering Costa Rica

We drove on modern highways with hardly any traffic until we got to Liberia. Alex commented right away that he thought Costa Rica was too much like America. Between the familiar fast food restaurants and other American-styled businesses, he wasn’t impressed. I felt like we’d crossed into a more upscale and organized world than what we found in Nicaragua. But Alex was right: I wasn’t crazy about the American influences.

Between Liberia and Playa Hermosa, we stopped for lunch at an open air restaurant, La Choza de Laurel, which obviously catered to tourists. The food was rather blah, but we were happy to eat it after the stressful border crossing.

Playa Hermosa

We checked into Hotel Velero in Playa Hermosa. Once again, this was a place recommended by Mike’s friend Carol and her husband Carlos in Costa Rica. They didn’t steer us wrong. We promptly changed into bathing suits and spent the afternoon relaxing at the beach and the poolside. After a while, Alex and I ordered mojitos from the bar while we sat poolside. I read some of Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica by Jack Ewing, which is about Costa Rican wildlife, ecotourism, ecological preservation, and wildlife corridors in the country.

At sunset, we took a walk down the beach and then walked uphill to Ginger Restaurant Bar, which serves Asian-inspired tapas in a tree house setting. I was sweating after the walk uphill and, irritatingly, never stopped sweating through the entire meal. 😦

The food was delicious and the atmosphere charming.  We enjoyed a rather expensive meal:

  • Thai Green Curry Chicken in Crispy Wontons: filled with creamy Thai green curry chicken with coconut milk.
  • Ginger’s Ahi Tuna (signature dish): Pickled ginger slaw, tropical salsa, citrus mayonnaise & crispy flour tortillas.
  • Thai Red Curry Beef on Crispy Plantains: Served on plantain fritters, topped with spicy chili and onion pickle.
  • Firecracker Shrimp: Jumbo Shrimp, honey lime, chili, hoisin sauce.

After our delectable meal, we made our way downhill to Hotel Velero, where we relaxed and psyched ourselves up for our morning ziplining adventure at Diamante Eco Adventure Park.

Diamante Eco Adventure Park

Sunday, January 8: We enjoyed a lovely beach-side breakfast at El Velero, then took off for our drive to Diamante Eco Adventure Park, located in Guanacaste. We had a ziplining tour arranged there. It was the first time I’d ever done ziplining, and though it was terrifying, it was also thrilling. It took a while for the operators to hook us up with the necessary gear.

IMG_7270Diamante Photos 2

Alex, me and Mike all geared up for ziplining

We took four separate ziplines. The first one wasn’t too scary. The other upright ziplines were not too scary at all either, except when we came screeching to a halt at each platform.

On the second zipline we returned back across to a lower point with views of the ocean behind us.

Diamante’s oceanfront location offers the longest dual line in the country. It features a nearly a mile long line (1,360 meters (4,461 feet) long), Superman-style, with great ocean views. It is 80 stories high at its peak and it reaches a maximum speed of 60mph. Diamante uses state-of-the-art carbon lines and an automatic braking system so guests never have to touch the lines.

A van drove us up and up a series of switchbacks to the top of a mountain, the highest point in the park, to do the “Superman,” the aforementioned super high, long and fast zipline, on which you lie flat, belly-down and go headfirst like a torpedo, and nearly as fast as one. I didn’t stop screaming until I was over halfway to the finish!

We obviously couldn’t take our cameras or phones, so we had to purchase the photos from Diamante. I took a short video of someone else doing one of the ziplines because we couldn’t film ourselves. You can see more of our ziplining in the video below.

Later in the day, we got by email the photos of the Aerial Adventure. My face at the start of the Superman zipline shows I was pretty unsure about what I was about to do. I was not relaxed, not at all!

At the end of our four ziplines, we also did a Quick Jump: a freefall down a 30-foot tower somewhat like a bungee jump but a lot less scary. You can see that in the video below.

We perused the fabulous gift shop at Diamante where we bought tee shirts, hats, stickers and various other souvenirs, including chocolate bars. In the outdoor dining area, we enjoyed cold drinks; Alex had an Imperial beer, while Mike and I had fruit juices.

Back to Playa Hermosa

We drove back to the hotel along the curvy coastal roads. In town, we stopped at Ginger to take pictures of the tree house restaurant and we found a large lizard (maybe a gecko?) in the parking lot. He makes an appearance in the video below.


Ginger Restaurant during the day

Back at the hotel, we put on bathing suits and walked from one end of Playa Hermosa to the other. It was such a beautiful beach with boats bobbing in the harbor, palm trees fringing the sand, and rocky promontories at either end.

We went out to dinner at Bocelli Ristorante Pizzeria.  A poster of Charlie Chaplin in Le Dictateur watched over us. We shared a delicious pizza with some blackened thing on it, but I don’t remember what it was.

In the evening, there was a saxophonist playing Stevie Wonder by the pool: “You can feel it all over…🎶” Mike made his famous whiskey and Ginger Ale and we sat on the balcony and listened to the music.


poolside music at Hotel Velero

Monday, January 9: Mike and I got up early and took a walk on the beach and then met Alex, where we enjoyed French toast at a beach-side table for breakfast. We checked out of the hotel and took Alex to the airport in Liberia, from which he would fly home. We saw him off through security, but not before we stood in line a while to pay the Exit Tax. When we got to the front of the line and Alex handed over his passport, the woman said, “You’re American? You don’t need to pay an Exit Tax.” I wish some signs had told us that before we wasted time standing in that infernal line.

Here is a video which shows more of the action during our ziplining adventure.

After leaving Alex, we headed through Liberia where we drove around awhile looking in vain for the giant bull, El Toro, that I’d read about. We never found the bull, so we finally headed out of town to our next destination, Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin near Parque Nacional Volcán Rincón de la Vieja.