From Heredia to Arenal, stopping for hot beignets in San Ramon

One thing I like about renting a car in Costa Rica is that they’ll deliver it to your door, even if your door is way the hell up the mountain.

We headed past the airport and towards the road to San Ramon, taking only two or three wrong turns before we got it right. At one point I pulled into a gas station and asked a taxi driver the way. Follow me, he said, I’ll show you where to turn. He did, pointing out his window to an unmarked onramp that did indeed lead us to the San Ramon road (which is also the road to Puntarenas).

Driving the main arteries around the capital city of San Jose is a bit nerve wracking but once you’re on your way things settle down a bit. Just keep an eye out for big trucks edging into your lane or yahoos passing on a curve and coming straight at you. Forget rappelling down waterfalls or surfing croc-infested rivermouths. Driving is by far the most extreme sport in Costa Rica.

Stephen and Kathleen Duplantier' photo by David Webster Smith

Stephen and Kathleen Duplantier; photo by David Webster Smith

Around noon we stopped at Stephen and Kathleen Duplantier’s house near the village of Los Angeles de Sur, above San Ramon and on the road to Arenal. I’ve profiled the Duplantiers in my book and on my site, and we’ve kept in touch. In fact I’d seen them just days earlier in San Francisco when we met at the café in the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Both their daughters live in the Bay Area.

The Duplantiers are originally from Albita Springs, near New Orleans, and Steve is quite a cook. I’d told him not to go to any trouble, that we’d just stop in for a cafecito, but I’m glad he ignored my instructions.

He served us arugula from his own organic garden, garnished with strips of seared tuna. Homemade bread on the side, and then for dessert he presented us with a bowl a piping-hot beignets, the better-than-a-donut from New Orleans, with vanilla-infused cream for dipping.

Casa Amanecer B & B near San Ramon

Casa Amanecer B & B near San Ramon

The company was as good as the food. Besides Stephen and Kathleen, Christopher Panzer and Luisa Valdez were at the table. Chris and Luisa met while building houses for Habitat for Humanity here in Costa Rica. Stephen pointed out that just as Costa Rica has historically been a meeting place of animal species and cultures from both North and South America, Luisa, who is Peruvian, and Chris, who is from the U.S., met in the middle and their two kids were born here  on the isthmus, the land bridge between two continents.

This year they opened a B&B in the hills above San Ramon that’s already been featured in a glossy Costa Rican magazine for its architecture, a little bit modern, a touch of Costa Rica traditional, as sustainably constructed as possible. Next time I’m in the area I’ll be checking out Casa Amanecer (House of dawn) to see what this bi-continental and bi-cultural couple has created.