Costa RicaCosta Rica

Nicoya Peninsula Day 1: Liberia to Cabuya

Destination: Montezuma

There was no traffic on the road, so the bus ride from Liberia to Puntarenas took just two hours. As luck would have it, I somehow missed my stop and ended up eight miles past the city's center. I hailed a cab and backtracked to the boardwalk where I introduced myself to Vincent, who would be the photographer for our trip.

From the boardwalk we watched two ferries depart from the coastal city of Puntarenas heading west to the Nicoya Peninsula: one to the town of Naranjo to the north, and the other to Paquera to the south. I bought our tickets to Paquera from a booth that shared a roof with a local bakery, located just across from the three-tiered ferry.

While the beach towns of Montezuma, Santa Teresa, and Mal Pais are the true gems of Costa Rica's southern Nicoya Peninsula, the boat ride there is also quite a treat. The last occasion I'd ridden the ferry was during a December sunset.

People were partying, dancing, and drinking throughout the hour-long journey, making time fly by. Today, the trip was a bit more laid back but no less scenic. The ship left its dock with a loud toot of the horn, right on schedule. Our captain must have been tickled as each and every passenger on board jumped up in surprise, and then giggled at each other for looking silly.

Throughout the journey, pelicans and seagulls soared nearly within arm's length of the deck. Tugboats and buoys bobbed about the water below us. The day couldn't have been brighter, and the water sparkled under the hot sun like a million diamonds. Cool breezes kept the temperatures down. Pelican Island, a sloped green rock named after the hundreds of resident pelicans that nest there, seemed to float by. Locals informed us that on the island, at certain times of year, adorable baby pelicans nearly outnumber the adults.

About an hour after departure, the boat docked and everyone rushed the exits to disembark. We headed out along the only road leading west toward Cabuya, a tiny town just a few minutes south of Montezuma. Albeit a bit curvy, the road was smoothly paved and superior to many nearby.

To arrive at our hotel, we first had to drive through Cobano, a hub connecting the area's most popular destinations. Driving past baby cows, countless twisting trees, and a number of horses, time passed quickly. Strangler figs encountered along the way gave the impression that we were on an African safari. Locally known as matapalos, these trees are composed of hundreds of bamboo-like poles wound tightly together. The name is derived from the fact that they notoriously latch onto other trees, blocking light from their host-plant until it suffocates and dies, and then rooting down in its place.

About two hours after leaving Paquera, we arrived at the American-run Cabo Blanco Hotel and Resort in Cabuya. There, brightly painted rooms come with air conditioning and firm beds -- which my sore back deeply appreciated. By now it was getting hot, and I couldn't wait to cannonball into the pool.

"First things first," my stomach growled. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was nearly 3:00 p.m. We decided to lunch at the town's only bakery, called Panaderia. They serve sandwiches, meat plates, salads, and sushi. I ordered an incredible chicken dish accompanied with a white mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. We topped it off with a brownie and a toast to Barack Obama, the new President of the United States, who was inaugurated just this morning.

By the time the two of us had finished our late lunch, sunset was approaching. Vincent found a sand bar, or more accurately put, a "rock bar," inundated with seabirds. While the sun set, we watched feeding birds and playful dogs and took a few photographs. Vincent and I returned to the hotel, and I stuck my toes in the sand as I watched the last bit of sun disappear over the Pacific.

Nicoya Peninsula Day 1: Liberia to Cabuya in Pictures