A May 2006 trip
to Costa Rica by coloradowanderer
Quote: Active volcano, secluded beaches, homestay with a Tico family, and volunteering to save sea turtles are just a few of my adventures.
Volunteer with a turtle rescue program or attended Spanish school and live with a Tico family to really experience the people.
Bring rain gear, insect repellent, and warm clothes for mountain areas.
At borders, get rid of old currency and only change enough dollars to last one day. The exchange rate is always lower at borders.
The coffee shop in the lobby closes at 9pm. Other than leaving the hotel in a taxi, which is not the best option in a big city for a single woman after dark. Luckily, the elegant, candlelit dining room on the 17th floor is open until 11pm. The sounds of the casino next door were barely audible over the piano man, Guillermo. As the only diner, I had the full attention of the waiters and the spectacular view to myself. The menu offers high end appetizers and full dinners. I chose the Caesar salad and crab stuffed mushrooms over a full entree. Great conversation and a light meal sent me off to my comfy bed with a strong "Pura Vida" feel.
After the best night of sleep I had in weeks, I headed downstairs for the complimentary breakfast buffet. What a spread! Piles of fresh fruit, quiche, breakfast meats, breads, an omelette station and rices and beans, of course.
A quick visit to the hot tub and sauna and reluctantly I was on my way. The comfort and relaxation were worth the price. This is a great hotel for honeymooners and anyone wanting to start, or end, their visit to Costa Rica in luxury.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 26, 2006
Holiday Inn Aurola
5th Ave. and 5th Street
San Jose, Costa Rica
This is a decent, safe hostel for budget travelers passing through San Jose.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 26, 2006
San Jose, Costa Rica
Hotel | "Finca Las Tilapias"
A rickety wooden bridge over a koi pond leads to simple cabins. The variety of birds take over Chito's music and make a perfect back drop for the environment while rocking on the porch. Cabins have 2 or 3 beds, clean showers and local TV. A peaceful night sleep for a reasonable price. If you're lucky, take a canoe ride through the canal to see sloths, a boar, and more.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 28, 2006
Las Tilapias De Chito (Chito's Lodge)
North of the Plaza
Siquirres, Costa Rica
Hotel | "Adventure Inn"
The indoor, raised, cobalt blue Jacuzzi is surrounded by stone statues and is filled with extremely hot water. For my last night I treated myself to a few farewell piña coladas, a fine meal and good conversation with the staff.
Rates are out of my usual price range, comparable to high end hotels in San Jose, but a truly nice way to say adios to Costa Rica.www.adventure-inn.com
Adventure Inn Hotel
San Jose, Costa Rica
The little boat docked right up to the island next to the one of two restaurants on the island. A dirt path leads to the karaoke bar and a sign for the turtle volunteers. The office provides a meeting space, book exchange, and an air-conditioned office to use the computer and watch informative videos. I was lead to a little pink house and introduced to my house mother Irma. She showed me to my private room with a double bed and mosquito net. The house has small holes to the outside, no screens on the wide wooden windows, but all modern conveniences are inside. Laundry is provided, cable TV, clean cold shower, and microwave. Irma served cold lemonade and cookies while we chatted totally in Spanish. A young volunteer arrived to give me a tour of the island. We walked on the dirt paths while he pointed out the school, small stores called pulperias, clinic, and exotic plants. He provided a history of the 400 person island. Everyone knows one another and welcomes volunteers to their home. One hotel offers all meals and a room for $20 and one other place offers high class accommodations. During fishing season, cabins on the canals, camping, and tours are available. Volunteers can stay for a week minimum, to months, and visitors donate $3 to walk with guides on night patrol. Four shifts are staggered from 8pm until 4am covering miles of beach during the night. After a home cooked meal, my house mother walked me to the hatchery and beach volunteer office. First night volunteers are assigned the 8pm to midnight shift. Usually a video is shown and instructions are explained before the first walk. That did not happen for me so I set out with one bilingual guide, one Spanish speaking guide, and two dogs. Within 10 minutes the dogs stood behind a leatherback that was just starting to sweep her flippers to dig a hole. I listened to instructions and we waited for 45 minutes before she started to nest. With a plastic glove I stuck my arm into a hole almost up to my shoulder when the eggs started to plop and transferred them to a plastic bag. I learned the next day at the "turtle talk", the fluid dripping on me was protective against bacteria for the eggs. During hatching, turtles go into a trance providing the guides the opportunity to check the tag and measure the mother. With a red flash light, they showed her "crying" and explained the release of salt through tears. We bagged up the 112 eggs and trudged to the "vivero", a 24-hour guarded hatchery.
After a short break, we walked the beach until bright white flashlights shined ahead. White lights mean poachers and we sat down to radio back to the office to call the Coast Guard. Before the rescue program started 6 years ago, turtle carcasses littered the beach, eggs were gathered for sale and meat was grilled in the jungle. Now a few poachers have joined in the protection effort and earn money every night instead of only when eggs could be found. Only one or two baby turtles from each 1,000 will survive to return to the beach and nest in 20 to 30 years. Protection is crucial as is boycotting restaurants that sell turtle eggs or meat.
My house mother was very welcoming and cooked delicious meals always with rice and beans and fresh fruit. She made my favorite juice drink, guanabana, and other tasty concoctions. Conversing completely in Spanish greatly improved my skills.
Activities during the day, like canal tours, surfing lessons, or relaxing on the beach, are up to volunteers. Bring lots of insect repellent and water for patrolling the beach. Walking for 4 hours on sandy terrain requires good physical condition. The best time to visit is early July when leatherbacks are still nesting, tortugitas are hatching, and green turtles mate on top of the water sometimes wash up on the beach. Get off the beaten trail and help save sea turtles. http://www.costaricaturtles.com
Buses depart for different regions at different terminals. For the Caribbean coast head to Terminal Caribe. The window that says Puerto Viejo is not the same as the beach town Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Buy tickets from the Sixaola counter, or if the timing is off head to Limon for frequent buses to PV. These buses also go to Sixaola, the border with Panama.
A close, recommended taxi ride from the Terminal Caribe, buses depart for Monteverde and La Fortuna. Between these two remote areas, travel is accomplished by Jeep-boat-Jeep or Bus-boat-Bus. The easiest way to the southern Pacific coast is an a mini van, avoiding a trip back to San Jose.
From either boarder, luxury, air-conditioned Nica or Tica buses wait for travelers walking across. The price is under $10 for a relaxing ride to San Jose.
Renting a car would provide the best carefree way to see Costa Rica, stopping at fruit stands and scenic overlooks. Beware that roads are not in great condition in remote areas and hectic in cities.
Once in small cities and beach towns, bikes are a major mode of transportation. Daily and weekly rentals are very reasonable and provide access to remote beaches.
Boats are the only option to get to remote areas on the coast. These rides show a glimpse of local life on the river. As always when traveling, keep an eye on your belongings and buy small locks ahead of time. My backpack was always locked and my sight at all times. I traveled alone and had no problems.