After two days at sea, we were ready to reach our first port, Port of Limon, Costa Rica. This is where Christopher Columbus first saw Costa Rica, meaning beautiful coast. Since our excursion we booked with the cruise line was not until the afternoon, we decided to take a taxi around the area in the morning. For only $50, our taxi driver drove us around for 3 hours. Our first stop was the city of Limon, not a tourist-friendly stop. The city is very dirty, with litter all over the streets. I was afraid to get out of the cab because of the turkey vultures. They were all over the streets eating garbage. My husband did want to try some authentic Costa Rican coffee, so our taxi driver took us to a small store. The coffee was very, very strong, and sugar was added without him ordering it. The taxi driver informed us that Costa Ricans like sugar in their coffee and some coffee you buy by the pound will have the sugar added, so you should check the ingredients.
We then headed out of town to the local beaches. (If you plan on visiting Costa Rica for their beaches, the Atlantic Coast is NOT the place to be. The northern Pacific Coast has the white-sand beaches.) This was another place I was afraid to get out of the taxi because of the turkey vultures. Again, they were all over the beaches, eating trash. The sand looked like dirt, not a place I would sunbathe.
Our next stop was a banana plantation. It was very interesting to see how the bananas were grown, picked, and packaged. Most of it is done by hand. People pick bunches off the tree and then are hooked on some kind of pulley system that is pulled by hand by a person to the main packaging area. Then the bananas are inspected by hand, packed, and ready to ship. You will have a whole new outlook on what goes into growing a banana.
As we were leaving the banana plantation, a Costa Rican was standing by the road with a sloth. The sloth is one of the animals you will find in the jungle. This animal has very long claws, and I screamed when he put the animal right up to our window. My husband was brave enough to touch it. The animal is very docile.
We were headed back to the ship when I spotted something black in the trees. We stopped and noticed that they were howler monkeys. This is another animal indigenous to the Costa Rican jungle. There were about two dozen monkeys hanging and swinging from the trees. The taxi driver told us that we were very lucky to come across them on a major road.
It was afternoon, and we were headed for our trip down the Tortuguero Canal. This canal system runs along the coast. The tour guide explained the ecosystem of the rain forest. We were on small boat, taking a leisurely ride through the canals. We saw all kinds of wildlife: howler and spider monkeys, alligators, birds, and iguanas. Again, the monkeys put on a great performance, hanging and swinging from the trees. The boat driver told us that we lucked out spotting the monkeys, because the morning tour was unsuccessful. The boat trip lasted over 2 hours. We reached the end of our trip and were greeted by the locals playing their music.
In all, we saw most of the major sights on this side of the coast without taking a 4-hour trip. If I would come back to Costa Rica, I would stay on the northern Pacific side. They have nice beaches and are very close to the active volcano and rain forest.