December 31, 2016, Category: Costa Rica

My brother and his Costa Rican wife direct us to the “two best beaches in Costa Rica.” Read on to find out where. Watch out for the howler monkeys!

Day 3: Flamingo and Conchal

In December of 2012, Sandi and I went to Costa Rica. It has taken a few years, but I'm finally taking the time to edit my journal entries, post the blogs, and upload the pictures. Click the pictures to expand them. Click here to jump to the beginning with a link to every day.

Up for an early start, we were waiting at the kitchen door when it opened for the day. The traditional Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto (rice, beans, onions, and bell peppers) and plenty of fresh fruit was more than I’d expected considering our inexpensive bed and breakfast room rate. Our cook didn’t speak English and we no Spanish, but we managed to answer her questions about what we wanted to eat through an impromptu game of charades. We ate on an open balcony in sunshine and wearing shorts and a tanktops. Pretty much how I’d pictured a vacation in Costa Rica.

Ryan had given us a list of his favorite places, and today we planned to visit his two favorite beaches. Conchal and Flamingo were near the town of Brasilito, about 20 miles from Tamarindo by paved road, but shorter along the coast. We could have rented a motorcycle and ridden up the dirt road that followed the beach, but not with all our stuff. We took the car.

We weren’t sure exactly where to go. I had maps and an explanation from my brother, but it would take some poking around to find the right places. We tried Flamingo first. Through Brasilito, up the 180, and left when we hit the ocean. A few people were in the water, but I thought, there is no way this is his favorite beach. We drove until we found Flamingo Beach Road, a dirt road along a gorgeous sandy beach bordered by palm trees.

“Can we drive on this road?” It looked like a private drive for the rich and famous.

Sandi shrugged.

“Guess somebody will throw us out if we can’t,” I said.

We drove past locals selling jewelry, and I knew we were good. There weren’t many people out that early, but the weather was perfect. Bright sunshine, warm air, birds singing—everything was pristine. Waves rolled, crashed, and water spilled up onto the sand.

We parked, and Sandi bought jewelry from the locals. Then we bared our feet and walked through sand that wasn’t too wet or too dry. Everything about the beach was perfect. We took turns swimming and body surfing while one of us guarded my camera gear. I should have left it locked in our car so we could both swim, but I was paranoid it might get stolen.

After several hours, we loaded up for beach number two. On Google maps, the Brasilito Beachfront road appeared to go right to Conchel, and I followed it until we hit a wash. I considered parking, but based on what Ry had told me I figured we were on the wrong road. The GPS made it look like we could drive right up to the beach from the south, so we drove to Matapalo and turned north on a dusty backroad. I wondered if it was a private road, but I kept my mouth shut and acted like I knew what I was doing before Sandi insisted we turn around. Occasionally we passed a farm or shack, but it felt remote. Not many people, scattered trees, several fields, and lots of birds.

Sandi screamed and pointed straight up. “Monkeys!”

Above us, twentyish howler monkeys were walking on the power lines. We stopped, watched them walk past, then drove forward to get close again. One large monkey kept an eye on us the entire time—growling once in a while to let us know he was in charge. We took pictures and followed them to the coolest monkey tree in the world. A storybook monkey tree. Taller than anything else in the jungle, and huge! Vines and branches wound up, around, and through each other. The monkeys filed into the tree and spread out. Some lounged on branches for a nap, others swung on vines and chased each other as they jumped from limb to limb. The big fella sat and watched us. No nap or fun for him. The others chattered and squawked, but no roaring like we’d heard at zoos.



Further down the road, the jungle thickened. An anteater dashed across the road, but it vanished into the thick green when it reached the other side. The road ended, and we parked near several other vehicles. It didn’t feel like a parking lot. No vendors, some garbage here and there, a house, and people were outside doing laundry. But, we could hear waves. We were close.

“I guess we walk from here,” I told Sandi.

“How do I let you talk me into stuff like this?”

We followed a jungle path until it opened to the Pacific Ocean. Kids were playing soccer in the sand.

I looked at Sandi. “Is this the place Ry talked about?”

She had no clue.

The reason Ry loved this beach was because of all the seashells. He’d told us they covered the beach. That if you grabbed the sand and picked it up, you could see it wasn’t sand but thousands of tiny shells. That waves came in and rustled the shells like wind chimes.

It was a gorgeous beach, and we found shells. But it wasn’t exactly what Ry had explained. It was an awesome place to meet friends and play soccer. Quiet, secluded, gorgeous. We explored for a couple hours, then decided to follow a dirt road south along the coast. Maybe I could get all the way back to Tamarindo.

“This road looks pretty rough,” Sandi said.

“No problem. We’ve got four-wheel drive.”

Sandi was right, it did look rough. But if I admitted that she’d insist I turn around. So I pretended I knew what I was doing, and she let me keep going. I half expected the road to end because where could a neglected road like this possibly lead?

We rounded a corner and found a quaint, little hotel next to a rocky beach. A handful of elderly people lounged in hammocks, and we parked by the water. The area reminded me of Oregon and Washington beaches if they were tropical and covered with sand and palm trees. Rock formations, cool places to hike, and tide pools. But we felt like we were intruding so didn’t stay long.

We continued down the rough road until we looked down a steep, rocky hill. I acted like I was going to go down it, and Sandi opened the door and climbed out of the car.

“Not with me you aren’t!”

I never intended on driving down it, but I had to fake disappointment.

“Really sweetie? Come on, it’ll be fine. We have a 4 wheel drive… Okay, fine, if you want to turn around, we’ll turn around. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”

It was early evening when we got back to Tamarindo. We walked to a wildlife refuge where they conducted trips to see turtles. The tour was expensive and no guarantees, but we considered it. Then, once I’d grilled the guy with questions, he confessed that we had no chance of seeing turtles this time of year.

“But it’ll still be a nice boat ride.”

I thanked him for his honesty, but we passed. We spent the evening on the beach like we had the night before.

Before bed, I messaged Ryan about Conchal. He said we should have driven across the wash where I’d stopped. We hadn’t seen the part he was talking about.

“You want the northern end, not the southern end,” he said. “If you aren’t comfortable driving across the wash, park and walk. It’s not far. You gotta go back.”

Although we wanted to get an early start on our long drive to Montezuma in the morning, we decided to take Ry’s advice and try Conchal again.

(Maps from Google may not show our exact route.)

Click here to continue to Day 4

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One thought on “Day 3: Flamingo and Conchal

  • By grandmahenke - Reply

    Dang, I left my whole remark in the place where you put your email address. All I said was you make me want an adventure so I guess it’s time to shine up the motor home and head to lands unknown. I don’t think they can match Costa Rica’s beauty or the monkey tree, though. You make it sound like paradise.

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