Friday 3/24- Saturday 3/25: Last morning at the beach, El Avión and travel home!

Days 14 and 15 in Costa Rica: Friday 3/24- Saturday 3/25

The day I always semi-dread throughout my entire vacation had arrived: the last day.

I was up nice and early- before 6, I think. I spent a good 45 minutes packing up my backpack, re-rolling my clothes in the packing cubes, and attempting to make my “too much stuff” fit back into my bags in the same way it came down. Ha.

Ivan helped the boys organize their suitcases, and by 7:30 a.m. we were in the car on the way to the beach!

Early morning at the beach:

Heading out before 7:30 a.m.!
drive to the beach

My parents decided to stay behind at the Airbnb. They wanted more time to pack in a relaxed fashion and shower, etc. before check out at 11.

The four of us, however, just wanted more time at the beach!

The beach towels the Airbnb lent us for the week… Costa Rica/ Pura Vida!

I’m so happy we made it work to squeeze in one last morning at the beach. This was a beautiful, special morning that I think I may always remember!

The beach was essentially EMPTY, besides just a small handful of people.

It was early, but…. near the equator, so we didn’t want to take any chances and put our sunscreen on! Asher being silly with a goofy face. lol.

Before the boys hit the water, I convinced them to take one last picture with me at the beach. 🙂

I love these!! So precious. ❤

I just sat on my towel for a little bit alone while the boys and Ivan got in the water. It was really warm out, but not quite yet “hot” like it would be soon enough. Just so pleasant! And the beach being so empty… what a treat!! This was like my dream morning at the beach, honestly.

After a bit I decided to take a walk down the beach. I love to walk on the beach, and this is one of my favorite things to do whenever we go to Florida. But with how hot it had been in Manuel Antonio, I did way more swimming and much less beach walking on this trip.

Side story: Notice in the pictures how empty the beach is, right? Well, as I was sitting on my towel, a young American sounding couple showed up on the beach, too. I didn’t pay much attention, just glanced over my shoulder at them. Well, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed them lingering there, so I turned to see them spreading out their towels…. literally less than 6 feet from our towels! I couldn’t believe it! Seriously, we have this huge, open beach, and you are going to sit 5 feet from me?? Mind blown. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything… I mean, of course they are free to sit wherever they want… but jeesh!

It didn’t matter that much anyway, because I was about to go for a walk and then wanted to swim, but it just struck me as so odd. They just sat there, drinking their morning coffee and chatting, apparently not finding it weird that they parked themselves inches from the only other people on the beach. Haha. I would just personally never do that, especially when the entire beach was empty!

I guess on the plus side, our stuff was not fully unattended while I stepped away…

Pictures from my walk. It was low tide, so the beach was very wide.

After my walk, we all swam and floated in the ocean for another hour or so before we had to go. The waves were calm that morning, and I spent a long time just diving under the water, swimming around and floating on my back looking up at the blue sky. Felt amazing.

We got back to the Airbnb by about 10:00, allowing us exactly one hour to shower and pack up any remaining items!

The Airbnb host had said we could leave our luggage there until later, but we had to be out of the apartment by 11 so they could start cleaning. It was a pretty big place, so it would take a while to clean before the next guests would arrive mid-afternoon.

Seeing as our flight wasn’t until after 10 p.m., we were in no rush to drive back to San Jose and turn in the rental car. So our plan was to check out, leave all our bags there, and then go get a leisurely lunch before finally heading for the airport and San Jose.

All packed up and ready to go…. not ready to say goodbye to our beautiful place, though!!

Isn’t this a cute family pic?!

Lunch at El Avion

Just up the street was a restaurant called El Avion that is kind of a tourist hot spot. The restaurant is built around the remains of a C-123 Cold War relic plane that was abandoned at the San Jose Airport in the 1980s. It was part of the Reagen era Iran-Contra Affair and has quite the history! Read more about it here. Eventually the remains were purchased by the owner of this restaurant and shipped by ferry out to Manuel Antonio and reassembled as part of the restaurant decor. Pretty interesting!

I had for sure wanted to come here during our stay in Manuel Antonio, but we were busy (or at the beach!) most other days at lunch, and by our later dinnertime, it was usually well past dark. I wanted to come during daylight hours to enjoy the ocean views! Since we had time to kill on Friday anyway, this worked out perfectly.

It was also not busy around 11:30 a.m. when we arrived. Most evenings when we drove by it looked pretty packed.
Fantastic views! Excellent for our last lunch in Costa Rica, to soak up the ocean…

Here are some photos of the inside of the plane! It’s been turned into a bar, basically. People bring stickers from all over the world and plaster them inside. (The plane bar wasn’t open during the day- we just walked around to check it out.)

Even saw several stickers or signs representing Milwaukee!

The artist who carved all of this wooden art was sitting at a table in the entrance, working… it was super cool. I spent a while chatting with him. He didn’t seem to speak English and my Dad had a bunch of questions for him, so I translated. Apparently, he only started doing art like this 5-6 years ago! He had a whole other life of careers before that, but just somehow tried carving and found he had serious talent! The whole restaurant was full of his carvings.

Isn’t this amazing?

Here is a good shot of the front of the airplane. I guess I didn’t really a get a shot that captured the rest of the plane, but it’s all there!

The food was really good (Ivan and I split a burger) and we got apple pie a la mode for dessert to share, too. Figured my next meal would be an airport meal, so might as well get something tasty now. haha.

Loved the views!!

After a long lunch, we returned to the Airbnb to pick up our luggage and load the car.

I attempted to protest leaving by planting myself in a hammock.

You can’t make me leave.

Asher didn’t seem to want to go, either. Dangling his feet in the pool one…last….time….

Ivan bought him an ice cream for the road, I guess…

A long journey home….

1) Manuel Antonio –> San Jose

The first leg of our multi-leg journey home was the drive back to San Jose. This was just over 3 hours or so. It was mostly uneventful, but not really the most pleasant drive, in my opinion, because the entire route is a single lane road each way. (There don’t really seem to be big 3-4 lane highways in Costa Rica.) There was quite a lot of traffic, and the speeds people (or big, slow trucks) were driving seemed to vary wildly.

We were constantly either having to pass people (or multiple people at once! 😬) on the curvy roads, or were being passed by crazy people on motorcycles. Ivan (our driver) did not seem bothered by all the passing, but I was not a huge fan. Just made the ride feel a little chaotic.

If I had been driving, I probably would have never passed anyone, and it would have taken us 5 1/2 hours to get to the airport. 😂

Anyway, we made it in one piece through the first leg of our journey home. (Manuel Antonio –> San Jose)

2) Turn in Rental Car

Turning in the rental car was quick and easy (at an off site office). No issues at all. We arrived by around 5 p.m., and they immediately drove us to the airport terminal via shuttle van.

We used Vamos Rent-A-Car. Seemed to work out great! I would recommend them. The only negative was the price… $2,500 for a 2 week SUV rental with full insurance! OOF. Definitely the most expensive rental car we’ve ever had. However, I had read a million horror stories about people getting quoted one price online in advance (with other companies) only to arrive in Costa Rica and be told they would have to pay additional required insurance- that would cost 2-3x what they were quoted!

Vamos Rent-A-Car seemed to have a 5 star rating for full transparency on the pricing- what you are quoted is what you pay. So yes, we were quoted a rather high price, but this included the FULL insurance (highly recommended in Costa Rica with the many dirt roads, rocks/gravel and just generally higher likelihood of a flat tire or other issue). The peace of mind was worth it to me (though we also could have chosen partial insurance and used our credit card policy to fill in the gap).

The price difference wasn’t that much though, and in the partial insurance scenario, had anything happened to the car, we would have been responsible for fixing it/ paying upfront, and then the credit card company would have reimbursed us later (hopefully). The thought of potentially wasting a day or more of my vacation (plus the stress) of trying to sort out getting our car fixed after a fender bender, a broken window or flat tire sounded… very bad to me. So we opted for the full insurance.

Fortunately, nothing did happen and we returned our car unscathed! 🙂

3) Wait many hours at the San Jose Airport!

We were suuuuuper early to the airport, given that our flight was at 10:50 p.m. But we really had nowhere else to go with all of our luggage, anyway. We got checked in and through security and then basically just sat around for a few hours. I worked on blog posts, the kids played Chess on their phones and we got some pizza slices from an airport restaurant for dinner.

I liked this big frog at one of the gates!

4) San Jose –> JFK Internationl Airport/ NYC

Started boarding right around 10 p.m.

It already felt like a very long day since I woke up at 5:45 a.m, and I was tired. I was hopeful I would just fall right to sleep on the plane.. and I did! The flight was over 4 hours long and I would say I slept for most all of it! YES! (On the way down on the overnight flight I slept very poorly.)

Arrived to NYC! Not really, obviously, just passing through…

This was our only real bump in the road. We were supposed to have a short (almost too short) layover of just 1.5 hours. Really not long enough, when you have to allow time for immigration! Fortunately though, I guess, our flight to Chicago was delayed by what ended up being almost 2.5 hours. Also, our gate changed at least 3 times… so we would get settled at the new gate, and then they’d announce that the gate changed again! Argh. Oh well, it wasn’t a big deal really… just a lot of extra walking around the airport lugging our big backpacks.

Honestly, it worked out in our favor though, because there was a big snowstorm occurring in the Midwest right at that time! Had we taken off and landed “on time”, we would have not only landed in the snow, but we would have had to drive home in a bunch of snow, too. With the delays, the timing worked out that by the time we arrived to Chicago, the snow was basically tapering off already.

Waiting in NYC at JFK

5) NYC –> O’Hare in Chicago

Hello Big Apple!! Glimpse of Manhattan as we took off.
Asher doing a little homework packet.

Since I slept so well on the first flight, I was feeling pretty good. I read my book for quite a while on the second flight and then did take even another cat nap, too.

We arrived to Chicago a little after 11 a.m., Central Standard Time.

6) O’Hare Airport –> Off-Site Parking Lot

We then had to walk way through the airport to the Shuttle area where we were able to call for a shuttle to the off-site hotel where we had left our van. After walking out of the airport into obnoxiously cold temperatures (really, this is the worst part about living in Wisconsin… after any warm weather trip, it’s just BRUTAL coming home to the cold!!! 😩), we hopped a quick 5 minute shuttle to the Hilton parking lot and grabbed our van.

7) Chicago –> Milwaukee

By the time we got into town near my parent’s house, it was probably after 1 p.m. on Saturday- a full ~24 hours since we had left the Airbnb the day before and set out for the airport! Felt like a very long haul!

We stopped somewhere for lunch and spent a little time just sort of debriefing and re-hashing the whole trip in general. Is it just me or is it always so surreal when you travel to think, “Gosh, just 24 hours ago I was eating lunch down near the Equator…. and now I’m in a restaurant way up in Wisconsin!”

The general consensus from everyone seemed to be: THIS TRIP WAS AMAZING. I felt so happy and relieved that everything worked out, literally, quite perfectly. I would be hard pressed to think of anything that I would want to change! The boys loved it, Ivan loved it, my parents loved it, the hotels were great, the weather was beautiful, no one got sick or injured, no one broke into our car, the tours we did were fabulous… and since I did all of the planning, this was all great news for me, too. 🙂 Would have been a huge bummer if no one liked the trip or it was a total bust. Haha.

8) Milwaukee area –> HOME

Our final final leg of the trip was to home! We dropped my parents off at their house and then hit the road right away for another hour to home.

We had gotten over 7 inches of snow earlier that morning, and when we pulled up to our house, we found that our neighbors had plowed out our driveway! How wonderful! I think we got home around 5 p.m.

Impressively, we unloaded the car and somehow had the energy to basically unpack everything immediately and put it away! I was also excited that we’d still have Sunday free for laundry and grocery shopping before returning to work on Monday. I don’t always schedule a buffer day (we sometimes prefer to just vacation right up until the last possible second!) but with the long trip and overnight flights, I knew we were going to need some recovery time before going back to work and school.

And that, my friends, is a wrap on possibly one of the most epic vacations I have ever taken in my life. ADVENTURE, nature, beauty, culture, wildlife, beaches, mountains, volcanoes, rivers, rainforests… I feel like we really experienced it all.

Pura Vida! If anyone is planning to visit Costa Rica and has any specific questions, please reach out! I’d be more than happy to share any tips or advice that I can!

Thanks for reading along! I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Friday 3/24- Saturday 3/25: Last morning at the beach, El Avión and travel home!”

  1. Wow! What an epic trip.

    I also hate the last day; I always feel like I’m on the verge of tears, especially since you wait/plan/prep for sooooo long and then it feels like it’s over so quickly. But what incredible memories for everyone.

    That beach story was hilarious. That would have irked me, but I wouldn’t have said anything. But I know a few people in my family/life that WOULD have said something – haha.


  2. I didn’t realize that it was like a Asian to US kind of long trip way home. Hahahaha…. I always dragged on my way home when it’s long as the fun is over and just want to magically get back home. Overall, what an amazing trip. Oh yes that couple at the beach seems odd. I would shave had the exact thought. Why?!


    1. Well, it’s really not THAT far, but when you add on the distance from where we were staying in Costa Rica to the airport, plus the late night flight meaning we arrived extra early, then the delay in New York, plus our house is a couple hours from the airport too… it all added up to a long journey!


  3. Did you wear shorts back home? To the snow and cold?! Wow! That’s tough.

    The end of vacation is kind of bittersweet. I mean, I like to be at home, but still. You were at the beach! And now you’re not. Whomp whomp.

    What a fabulous trip, though. I really enjoyed reading these recaps and I’m sad they’re over!


    1. I wore shorts/tank for the drive from Manuel Antonio to the airport in San Jose, but then I packed a pair of pants and my fleece in one of our personal item bags and changed once we were through security and settled at our gate! There was air conditioning there, obviously, so I was fine in the warmer clothes and then I definitely needed them once we got home! The boys opted to stay in their shorts and just wear their sweatshirts…. their choice… haha.


  4. This was so fun to read! Glad you had an awesome trip! I’d love a summary of your itinerary with links all the places you stayed (I didn’t see those in the individual posts but maybe it’s somewhere else??)….. you’re inspiring me to plan a Costa Rica trip!!


  5. Holy. Cow. Kae. I haven’t commented on all the trip posts but… this trip was EPIC. Kudos to you for putting it together, and for your family for not killing each other during the trip. It seems as though you had together and apart time and that is key! I just… wow. Amazing! Thank you for sharing all the details – I’ve loved living vicariously through you. 🙂


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