Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica – Our Experience

about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica caught us completely off guard. We ended up enduring an absolutely crazy and dangerous adventure to try to make it home after the storm struck. Get ready for cemeteries, missing fishermen, a $200 bill at a gas station, speeding to a ferry and more!

Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica – Bad Decisions

My sweet dad really wanted to come visit Thomas and me for a few days, which we always enjoy, so at the end of September, he flew from Boston to Costa Rica for ten days. Little did we know Tropical Storm Nate was also heading our way.

A few days after my dad’s arrival we all headed to the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast with plans to spend four nights in Santa Teresa. To be honest, we weren’t totally impressed with Santa Teresa so we decided to take a day trip to Montezuma on our last full day there.

We fell absolutely in love with Montezuma and decided spontaneously to spend an extra night on the Nicoya Peninsula in Montezuma. We had no idea a storm was coming or we would have left to head back home to San Jose as scheduled. I know that sounds crazy, but it seems like nobody in Costa Rica was aware. Everyone we talked to was completely caught off guard as well.

Anyway, we spent the night of the storm in a hotel which seemed like it was going to fall apart at any minute. Most places in Montezuma were closed due to the lack of tourists in the fall months, so we took one of the only places we could get. The crazy winds, huge trees outside our hotel, and the insane amount of mosquitos made for an interesting night of very little sleep.

Montezuma costa Rica

We still did not know that this was a tropical storm. It had for sure been windy and there was A LOT of rain, but we are from places where wind storms are somewhat common. We also were fortunate enough to be in an area that somehow did not get hit badly by the storm. If we had been in a different area I don’t think that hotel would have survived!

Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica – Cemetery Visit

On the morning after the storm, we got up early and drove to Cabuya cemetery (its a cemetery near Montezuma on an island you can only access during low tide) for a quick visit before hitting the road. There was a lot of flooding and downed trees on the narrow dirt road to Cabuya, but we made it.

When we arrived there was a small group gathered looking out into the ocean. Thomas noticed there was one woman crying and he said, “I don’t know if we should be going out here. It looks like we may be interrupting a funeral.” We watched the group for a few minutes and when they continued to stare out into the ocean we decided to just begin our walk out to the cemetery. They were dressed in normal t-shirt and shorts, so it didn’t seem like it was likely a funeral.

Cabuya Costa Rica

Visiting the cemetery on a gray day with crazy winds was eerie (as you can see in this picture). When we finished exploring the cemetery and made our way back across the strip of land to our car Thomas said, “I think they may have lost someone at sea.” More of the village had gathered by this time. Kids were running around playing while everyone else looked out into the ocean and talked with nervous looks on their faces. I got a chill when Thomas said that. The juxtaposition of a group hoping for someone to return from the sea while standing next to the cemetery they would likely be buried in was too much for me.

Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica – Things are about to get crazy

After visiting the cemetery we returned to our hotel to slowly pack up our stuff before making the six-hour drive home. There are two options to get to San Jose from Montezuma. One option is to drive the entire way which takes about six hours. Our other option was to take a ferry across the hook of Costa Rica and then drive the rest of the way. This cuts the journey down to about five hours, but we didn’t think we would make the next ferry and didn’t want to wait for the later one. We planned to just make the six-hour drive and take our time.

Montezuma to San Jose during tropical storm Nate in Costa Rica

My dad decided to hop in the shower as Thomas and I leisurely drank coffee outside. As we were sitting there Thomas got a text message from a friend which said, “Good thing you guys came back yesterday. I don’t know if you’ve seen the news, but we are in a state of emergency. All schools are closed and most of the roads are impassable due to the storm.” Thomas started laughing nervously as he read this out loud to me. That was the moment we went into adrenaline overdrive.

Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica – Race to the ferry

We rushed to pack our bags and determined if we left right then we might just get lucky enough to make the ferry. We figured that would be our only hope of making it home. Many of the roads in the longer route are unpaved or not well maintained. We figured there was no chance they would be passable.  


About halfway through our drive to the ferry, Thomas stated we really needed to stop for gas. He pulled over at a gas station and my dad offered to pay with his credit card. I thought we would still be able to make it to the ferry until the gas station attendant nervously stated that he accidentally charged my dad’s card with 220,000 colones (about $440) instead of 22,000 colones (about $44). I figured all chances of us making the ferry were gone at this point as Thomas and my dad got out of the car to try and sort it out.

After about five minutes we left again with the money hopefully recredited to my dad’s account. We somehow made to the ferry and were the second to last car to be allowed to board. It was a close one, but we did it!

puntarenas ferry

We found seats on the ferry and relaxed, thinking we were on our way back to San Jose. All of the roads from the ferry back to the city are highways, so we figured it would be fine.  My biggest concern at this point was that I was feeling a bit seasick from all the big waves.

Little did we know, it would be another 27 hours, countless roadways, sleeping in a car, and more, before we were safely back to our apartment.

Head on over to the next part of our crazy store here.


Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica caught us completely off guard. Get ready for cemeteries, missing fishermen, a $200 bill at a gas station, and more!Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica caught us completely off guard. Get ready for cemeteries, missing fishermen, a $200 bill at a gas station, and more!

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