Costa Rica: Day 3 – The Waiver Road

It goes without saying that one day of complete relaxation was essential before embarking on more adventures. Though we didn’t realize that our plan to see Santa Rosa National Park would be one. This park, near Liberia on the Pan-American Highway, offered some trails, a historic Hacienda, and an illicit runway built by Oliver North in training the Contras (or something). Honestly, it sounded like a snoozer compared to the other parks Costa Rica offered. Until we got there.

This park is also the gateway to the one road to Playa Naranjo, which is an access point for Witch’s Rock, a world-class surfing destination. The guide book mentions that it’s a 4WD road. We think, So? Well, the National Parks people require you to sign a waiver –– with your passport number –– that says something like “I understand that this road is in sh*t condition, and that if my car gets broken or stuck by this road, no one will come help me.” We ask the guy if our diesel 4WD Kia Sportage will make it; he just shrugs.

But how bad can it be, right?

So we find the tanquitos,

do the nature trail,

we look through the hacienda,

we climb the stairs to the monument overlooking Guanacaste.

And we don’t feel we’ve gotten our $20 worth. That’s when some red-blooded American-ness kicks in and we decide to take a peek at the Waiver Road.

There’s a giant sign in Spanish & English that the road is in bad condition, blah blah blah. We creep onto it anyway. And about 5 minutes down the road my knuckles are white, my jaw is clenched, and my head hurts from bouncing all over the place. A couple of times we get out to take a look at what’s down the hill or around the corner.

How far can we push the Sportage was the first question. Until I started thinking about how I’m not willing to push our compact SUV over any rocks or ruts, how I didn’t feel like hiking back up the hill to the park to figure out how to get home if we break an axle, how I would much rather take a stinking 30-minute ferry ride to Witch’s Rock than endure any of that. Then the question became: how long could I stand it before I decided that my dream vacation was no longer fun?

About halfway down the road (an hour or so later), we pull of to take a hike to a Mirador. It’s an easy 10-15 minute hike to the lookout, where you look over Naranjo Beach to get a taste for what’s at the end of the devil road. And it looks so far away (see first image in this post). Looking at the time, and knowing the sun goes down at 6, (and thinking that the park closes at 4, which it doesn’t), we decide there isn’t enough time to get to the beach to enjoy it before having to turn around.

It’s my responsibility to live with the fact that we never finished our drive to Naranjo Beach, “the most beautiful beach of Guanacaste.” (If they don’t want us on that road, by the way, why tell us such things?)
For the record: if we ever go back to Costa Rica with other people, I’m willing go give it a shot.

That night we ate dinner in Playas del Coco, at Papagayo Steakhouse (/Seafood /Restaurant /Bar). While the food and service was good, I could not (and still cannot) get over the fact that they hung dried cow udders as decorative flower planters. Ew.

Check out more photos from our day at Parque Nacional Santa Rosa here.

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