Written by nmagann on 17 Jan, 2012
What a way to begin a much-needed rest. The flights land into Liberia late in the evening and of course, mine was late. For the first time, I didn't have accommodations arranged. Contrary to what I had read, the cost of a…Read More
What a way to begin a much-needed rest. The flights land into Liberia late in the evening and of course, mine was late. For the first time, I didn't have accommodations arranged. Contrary to what I had read, the cost of a taxi into the center of town was a whopping $20, if I knew where I was going. I talked to someone at the information booth about hostels and she said the bus outside would drop me off in front of Mussmoni but it would be a 45 minute wait. I waited, boarded the bus and told him where I wanted to be dropped off. Fortunately, I had spoken to a security guard previously about my plans and he came over to translate my unacceptable Spanish. Less than 30 minutes later and 50 cents less, I got off the bus across from Mussmoni.The place looked liked a single story donut shop. Figuring there must be something in the back, I inquired as to whether there was a place to sleep. Apparently not, so she motioned with her hand the direction and number of blocks to where I could find some accommodations. My bag feels really heavy right about now and I have been "traveling" for over 12 hours now.After passing on three places for various reasons, I wound up crashing at Posada del Tope. It was a tiny room with a twin side bed and no windows, but a very high tin ceiling. I was just on the other side of the office were the television obviously played to keep the office guy awake.As I began to drift off to sleep I heard what sounded like fingernails quickly scraping on something like tin. It wasn't a super high sound, but it was unnerving. I heard it several times. It now sounded as if something was being chased by something making an equally scary sound. I realized the sound was coming from above my head and that something was running across the tin roof. The scratch sound indicated it couldn't be a human being running from the law or similar. Now I am assured there not just a tin roof over my head but thin pieces of tin with edges that could possible fall onto my head with critter atop. Something could crawl through the overlapping edges to find comfort with me while escaping eluding its predator.Fine, I accept my fate, now get it the whole scenario over with so I can go to sleep. Eventually I did just that.In the morning I was going to try to catch a bus to the hot springs so I had no time to look around and was going to pay for another night. I requested another room due to the noise above. The clerk agreed but walked outside with me across the street and pointed to the roof. There sat a large iguana sun bathing. His attempts to get warm at night was what I had heard. Nonetheless, my night of the iguana was over.Close
Written by AssafW on 07 Nov, 2008
You can't visit La Fortuna, the city at the foot of Mt. Arenal, an active Volcano without going up to see the volcano itself. Arenal isn't just called "active", it actually has lava rolling down the side of it!To find a guide, my wife…Read More
You can't visit La Fortuna, the city at the foot of Mt. Arenal, an active Volcano without going up to see the volcano itself. Arenal isn't just called "active", it actually has lava rolling down the side of it!To find a guide, my wife and I walked down the busy tourist trap main st. in La Fortuna and signed up with the sketchiest pseudo-professional "tour guide" who approached us. Sketchyness is calculated as butchered english phrases x $ discounted during today's "special" / teeth. Our new "friend" said he'd even pick us up (right before sundown) at our hotel - we were sold.Overall, things went as advertised and it ended up being on of the highlights of our trip to Costa Rica. Armed with only flashlights, we were led through the jungle and up a rocky mountain side in pitch dark conditions. After a half hour walk or so, we made it to the 1992 lava flow area. Turns out that 1992 was the last time this volcano erupted and lava flowed down to where we were standing - scary stuff. Our tour guide finally found his favorite set of craggy rocks for us to sit on and watch the lava flow. It was fascinating. While the lava was understandably very far away and there wasn't much of it to be seen that night, just hearing the rumbling of the volcano and seeing some red/yellow/orange roll down the side of the mountain was an experience unlike anything I've ever seen. Its a must see if you're in Costa Rica.Close
Written by travelswithkids on 17 Aug, 2008
Arenal Volcano looms over the town of La Fortuna. It is an active volcano, and the only one in Costa Rica that is producing visible lava currently. You can only see it at night, glowing red on the mountainside.You aren't allowed to get…Read More
Arenal Volcano looms over the town of La Fortuna. It is an active volcano, and the only one in Costa Rica that is producing visible lava currently. You can only see it at night, glowing red on the mountainside.You aren't allowed to get very close to the lava in the volcano national park for safety reasons, but you can see it from a distance. You best bet for lava viewing is to stay at one of the hotels on the side of the volcano where the lava is currently flowing. This is currently the north side, and hotels with good lava views that were recommended to us by others staying there include the Observatory Lodge and Linda Vista Del Norte. There are others also.However, we weren't staying at such a hotel. Our hotel had views of the volcano, but not the lava area. So we took the advice of others and drove around to the dam of Lake Arenal and parked to watch the lava. We were there at a fairly rainy time of year, so the top is often shrowded in clouds. We made the 15 minute drive 3 nights in a row to try to see the lava, and on our 3rd night we got to see it flowing and shooting into the air. (The first night, we didn't really have much hope since it was very rainy.) The clouds would part to give you a view for a few minutes, then close back in, then blow off again a little later. There were several other cars at the dam each night hoping for a glimpse also.Driving at night wasn't too bad. The road to the dam is pretty good. But don't go too fast! We came around a corner at Tabacon Springs resort once to see a full-size coach bus across the whole road, trying to turn around.If you don't have a car, various tour agencies in town will take you out there in a bus, park for an hour, then bring you back. No guarantees or anything of course, but if gives you a chance to see the lava. Staying at the lava-view hotels is a good idea because that way you can just hang out in your room, or at dinner, for as long as you want while watching for the clouds to clear away.Close
Written by RoBoNC on 29 Mar, 2008
After landing in San Jose, we proceeded to Immigration and Customs, where I received my first stamp in my passport. After acquiring our bags, we hailed a taxicab to our hotel, the Costa Rica Marriott. The ride from the airport to the hotel…Read More
After landing in San Jose, we proceeded to Immigration and Customs, where I received my first stamp in my passport. After acquiring our bags, we hailed a taxicab to our hotel, the Costa Rica Marriott. The ride from the airport to the hotel was only about five miles, but I was holding my breath the entire time. Driving laws are merely guidelines in this country. While we were driving down the Autopista General Canas, the main road from the airport to the hotel, I noticed that drivers didn’t care that there were only two lanes on the highway. Two lanes quickly became four as drivers made their own lanes. It didn’t faze our taxi driver at all because he drove just as aggressive as the others and refused to allow anyone in front of him. I also realized that crosswalks are more of a decoration. A pedestrian was walking across the street and instead of slowing down, our taxi driver sped up. I don’t know if he was trying to hit him, but it made the pedestrian realize that the crosswalk wasn’t a safety zone. Charlie, my roommate, had spent six months in Costa Rica studying at the university and he lived with a family while he was there. After a few hours at the hotel, we were met by one of the people who he lived with as well as his girlfriend. They decided to give us a night on the town and show us around San Jose. I was wondering why they kept taking us to all the prostitution areas. She would point out girls on the street corners while asking me what I think of them. I realized that they believe sex rules everything in America. While prostitution may be legal in Costa Rica, it is not legal in the US, except in Nevada and Rhode Island. Because of the legalization of prostitution in the country, the sex tourism industry is just as popular as the ecotourism. I thanked them for showing us this side of Costa Rica, but I had other ideas in mind for my trip. The next day, we were invited to their house for dinner. I was given a couple of rules before our visit. If I was offered a gift, I was to not refuse it, as it could be taken as a sign of disrespect. The second rule was that I needed to be careful about what I said. Specifically, saying that something looked nice in their house, such as a picture. The reason is that they would try to give it to me. I was given a tour of the house while we waited for the children to get home from school. The children came home wearing their school uniforms and we made our introductions. Although, I don't speak Spanish, the children were able to communicate with me a little in English. The parents and I tried our best to communicate with each other, but everything was pretty much lost in translation. Before we sat down to dinner, I noticed some very odd while I was in the living room. I was watching the Cosby Show in English with Spanish subtitles. I felt that it was odd that I was in Central America, but yet most of the stations on TV were in English. Only a few stations were broadcasted in Spanish. I wonder if they try to learn English just so that they can watch TV without having to read it. As we sat down to eat, I noticed something else that was a little odd. I was so excited to try some authentic Central American cuisine, but instead we were having fried chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes. The food was excellent; it just wasn't what I was expecting. The family was trying so much to impress me and make me feel at home, that they went out of their way to make me something that they thought I eat back at home. While at dinner, the father gave me a shirt as a gift. He owned a store in town that sells odds and end items. Costa Rica is a developing country with 18% of its citizens living below the poverty line and GDP per capita of $12,500. For him to give me a shirt when every dollar he makes is needed to feed his family, it was the ultimate act of kindness. The next morning, the two oldest kids picked us up from the hotel for a day at the beach. We piled into the back of their Toyota Tercel and prepared for the long drive to the Pacific coast. It probably would have been shorter, but we stopped every five minutes so that he could use the pay phone. He had to make a call to his family, and while we take cell phones for granted, they are a luxury in this part of the world. After he was able to make contact, we were now on our way. At the town of Puntarenas, we had to use the ferry to cross the Gulf of Nicoya. The one hour ferry ride gave us beautiful views of the many different islands scattered in the gulf. After docking on the other side, we crossed the Nicoya Peninsula on our way to the beach. Playa Hermosa, located in the province of Guanacaste, is translated into “beautiful beach.” It was exactly that. The beach had fine white sand with warm blue pristine waters. The four hour trip was well worth it. On the way back to San Jose, we began to discuss our different cultures and the stereotypes that Hispanics hold of Americans. They view Americans as greedy people who only want to make a dollar. While they don’t hold that view of everyone, that is the perception that they get from American television. Corporate greed and the demise of Fortune 500 companies such as Enron only add to their view of Americans. I brought up the race issue that faces America with regards to white and black. Believing that America is the only country that grapples with issues regarding race, I was sorely mistaking. They told me that Costa Ricans deal with race issues just as Americans, except theirs are with the Nicaraguans. I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a Costa Rican or a Nicaraguan but they can spot them in a crowd and are viewed as lazy and stupid. They told me that you can tell a Nicaraguan by the way they talk. They chop the ends of their words off making them sound stupid. Who knows what Nicaraguans think of Costa Ricans?Aside from the hot springs, rainforests, and beaches, this trip was a chance to experience a culture outside of my own. I was able to explore places not listed in Frommers and was able to talk candid about subjects that affect us both. The wonderful generosity and hospitality that I was shown on my trip gave me a different perspective on Hispanic culture. Close
Written by ripplefan2 on 09 Jul, 2007
While I was staying at the Costa Rica Backpackers House in San Jose, I decided to go for a gingerly walk through the city. While walking around, I found a small outdoor market near the government buildings. I was looking for some true Costa Rican…Read More
While I was staying at the Costa Rica Backpackers House in San Jose, I decided to go for a gingerly walk through the city. While walking around, I found a small outdoor market near the government buildings. I was looking for some true Costa Rican coffee for my mother (she is a true coffee fan) and here was my paradise. For the length of a football field, there were dozens of vendors selling all local trinkets and some of the weirdest things I have ever seen. Upon walking into the market, I immediately found what it was that I was looking for; a bag a pure Costa Rican coffee in a brown burlap sack with the Costa Rican flag printed right on it. The price was great, at only $4, but like any other street market, prices are only suggested and everything is negotiable. I ended up getting the coffee for $3 and then proceeded on through the market. Other things I came across were hand made souvenirs made from things like trees and coconuts from around the land. There were also guitars (which cost me a mere $28 for a handmade guitar and a case), drums, clothing, and accessories and a plethora of Costa Rican pride things. And one of the greatest things about this little market was the people. Everyone was very helpful and all told you the best places to go and the coolest things to see. One guy told me to come back that night for the fire-spinner’s celebration. Up and down the entire street were tons of people spinning what seemed like giant jump ropes, but they were covered in flames and lighting up the streets. As the evening went on, fireworks from all over the city shot up into the sky, illuminating the streets and awing the people. But, I digress. The market was a great place to hit up and totally worth a stop when you make your way down there. Be careful though, because there are two markets; one near the north part of the city and the other near the Coca Cola Bus Station. The one near the Coca Cola Bus Station is crime ridden and you are almost guaranteed to get pick pocketed there. So beware. This one is much more tourist friendly and the products are of a better quality. And don’t forget to ask a Tico for some advice on what to do, they love helping out. Enjoy! Close
Written by sevillan0 on 04 Aug, 2006
Our trip to Costa Rica very memorable. We arrived in San Jose and from there traveled by small plane to Arenal. Then we took a car to the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort and Spa. This is a beautiful hotel located at the base of a…Read More
Our trip to Costa Rica very memorable. We arrived in San Jose and from there traveled by small plane to Arenal. Then we took a car to the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort and Spa. This is a beautiful hotel located at the base of a volcano, people are very friendly and service is excellent. After we checked in we took a dip in the hot springs which consist of many pools surrounded by the forest, what a sight! We also used the spa which does a wonderful job.The next day we went horseback riding up the Arenal Volcano. We departed from a private farm in front of the Arenal Paraíso hotel this adventure takes from 2 and a half to 3 and the whole tour is done completely in the slopes of the Arenal volcano not on conventional roads but on a mountain trail that has been in use for many years ago by the local farmers of the region. We went across rivers and beautiful landscape to admire the Arenal volcano from a real close perspective. During the trip we arrived at view point from where we could clearly see the dry lava from past eruptions. The next day we went to the Caño Negro wildlife reserve. These amazing wetlands are located in the northern zone of Costa Rica close to the small village of Los Chiles in the Province of Alajuela. Caño Negro is mainly conformed by the Caño Negro Lagoon and the Rio Frio. According to our guide this is is one of the most important biological areas of the country (4th on earth). Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge was declared "Wild Life Area of International Importance" in 1991. The whole tour is made on a boat and you get to see many species of animals such as birds, as well as the emerald basilisk, iguanas, river turtles, caimans, jaguars, ocelots, giant anteaters, monkeys, and many others. The whole tour took almost the whole day. The next day we left for Monteverde. In order to get there you need to take a jeep, but be warned that the roads are unpaved and its very rough riding along steep cliffs. Monteverde is a very small town with not really a lot of things to do. We stayed at the Hotel El Establo, this was a very good hotel with a beautiful view of the rain forest perched on the hills of a mountain. The rooms are clean and the people are friendly. At night we took a nature tour and hiked along different paths with only a flash light provided by the tour guide. The next day we went to the Monteverde Cloud forest reserve. At the entrance you will find a Hummingbird sanctuary housing hundreds of hummingbirds which you can feed by holding a feeding bottle containing sugar water. Once inside the reserve You will hike through the well-marked-trails, waterfalls, rivers, and the observation area of the park. If you are lucky, like we were, you might spot a Quetzal,one of the most beautiful birds in the world. You will also see an amazing variety of flora and fauna in this tour and breathe some of the cleanest air in the world. In the afternoon we took a canopy tour which consists of sliding from tree to tree while you are on a harness attached to a metal wire. This is an amazing experience and its a must!! You will be about 200 feet in the air with the forest below you and the sky above you.The next day we left for San Jose and arrived at our next hotel, the Xandari Resort. This is the place to relax if you want to relax. It has a wonderful spa, nature trails, and plantations surrounding it. All the food served at the restaurant is home grown and you can tell by the fresh taste. The next day we left for San Andres Island in Colombia. If you want more information about San Andres see my other journal.Overall Costa Rica was a wonderful experience but I believe you will enjoy it more if you are a nature lover, but everyone can agree on the beauty of the country.Close
Written by Shady Ady on 26 Jul, 2006
Approaching two weeks now I have been living and working like a true Costa Rican and I'm not 100% sure it's the life for me, although there is no denying the outstanding beauty on offer here! Just like Poland, it was a case of ‘de…Read More
Approaching two weeks now I have been living and working like a true Costa Rican and I'm not 100% sure it's the life for me, although there is no denying the outstanding beauty on offer here! Just like Poland, it was a case of ‘de ja vu’ upon arriving into the capital San Jose, as the only songs to be heard blaring through the radio was a mega-mix of James Blunt, Robbie Williams, TATU and a nice selection of Christmas songs! I have to admit that I was always a fan of James Blunt, but after 2 weeks of virtually nothing but him, I am slowly being driven towards insanity!From first impressions there seems to be a lot of American influence here, including unhealthy fast food outlets on every other corner and a ridiculous amount of runners fighting their way through the congested city traffic. Also, all dressed as though participating in the ‘Tour de France’, cycling a is a favourite past time, with our bus driver determined to try and hit as many as possible upon leaving the capital.My home for the 3 weeks I'm here is a 4-hour drive outside of San Jose in the middle of the cloud rainforest. It might sound idyllic to wake up every morning surrounded by dense virgin rainforest, clouds and humming birds on your doorstep, but this is where the dream ends. So far the only other wildlife encountered has been insects that would fit straight in to a Stephen King horror story (okay, I might be exaggerating a little there!). As it's currently rainy season the majority of these beats try and seek solace in my tiny abode. So far, amongst others, I have had to deal with spiders the size of a grown mans hand and toads as big as a small baby!The previous night on a midnight toilet dash I also had the pleasure of coming face to face with a scorpion, which I had rudely awoken. The scorpion was a full 6 inches in length. Having been informed in recent years that such a length is monstrous, you can only imagine what I was dealing with here! Now the only previous knowledge of scorpions were the wise words of Michaela Strachan who had led me to believe that all scorpions are venomous. Not wanting to meet an early end and also wanting to get back to sleep I decided to take the appropriate action.Legs shaking (pathetic I know!), I donned my trainers and chose my weapon of destruction, a can of Lynx (Axe) anti perspirant and a lighter. I really don't know what the scorpion was more afraid of, death, or being faced by a pot-bellied, man-breasted male, wearing nothing but trainers and a pair of 'too tight for a body like that' boxer briefs. Unfortunately the anti perspirant/ lighter combination wasn't as effective as I hoped, instead doing nothing more than coating the now very angry scorpion with the scent of Africa. In the end I resorted to the tried and tested old-fashioned shoe-on-head technique. I later learnt that this poor scorpion was one of the least venomous on the planet. I'd hate to think how I will act if faced with any of the snakes or tarantulas that roam the local vicinity.For those of you who weren't aware, for the duration of my time here I will be learning new skills in the art of coffee production. If you were like me and pictured coffee picking, surrounded by technicolour butterflies and swinging monkeys as a dream paradise, then you are sorely mistaken. Humans aren't the only species that love and adore coffee. Ants also have the same addiction, building their nests at the base of the coffee bushes. Sadly these nests are not always easily identified and upon feeling the first tiny bite on your ankle it is already too late as by this time your foot is already covered by hundreds and hundreds of fuming, biting ants. At the time of writing this, my lower legs currently resemble an adolescent boy with a bad case of acne. Not at all attractive, especially against the backdrop of pale white skin!!Although ant bites are indeed painful, it's the humble caterpillar that holds the position of making me squeal like a girl the most. It seems the more garish the colour, the more irrative they are to the touch, and so far all the times I have had the misfortune of accidentally touching one, it's as though my hand has been smothered in stinging nettles.While not lowering my life-expectancy picking coffee, I have been spending my time bonding with a neighbouring Costa Rican family. As they don't speak English and I don't speak Spanish then conversation has been slightly limited, but this hasn't been a problem. Upon arrival the mother welcomed us and made sure we had a good supply of food to eat, even offering us some fresh pork chops. It turned out that these fresh pork chops were in fact so fresh that they were still alive. If it wasn't enough to see my meat alive, seeing it take a huge mouthful of a fresh steaming turd certainly put me off having any. I have never been tempted to turn vegetarian before, but seeing your future meat scoffing a big pile of pig poo has certainly convinced me!!Free time has also seen many international sporting events taking place with the neighbours children. One such competition involved a makeshift game of baseball with a ping-pong ball and table tennis bat with their 7-year-old son. Ina game full of controversy and cheating, I lost out to a home run knocked into the adjourning barbed wire enclosed field. In his moment of glory the 7 year old then ordered me to go and fetch it. Not wanting to offend my new neighbours I happily obliged crawling under the fence. Half way through fear shot through my body as my head was now adjacent to a snake hole. This caused me to jerk upwards entangling myself on the barbed wire. To make matters worse I inadvertently put my foot in an ant's nest and before I knew it my left leg was covered in these wretched black devils. I lost a perfectly good t-shirt in the following few seconds to the barbed wire, not to mention a fair bit of skin as well!My luck has been even worse when using public transport on offer, although I have my lack of Spanish to blame for that. On one journey back from San Isidro, the nearest 'city' (smaller than Hinckley, the town I grew up in!) to offer any of the basic essentials to sustain life I had a complete nightmare. After first getting shouted at by a lady for sitting in her seat, not to mention the faces she was pulling that even a professional gurner would be proud of, I was then pushed to the back of the bus and made to stand. To draw even more attention my way, as the bus pulled off towards my destination I decided to take hold of the string as not to fall. Unfortunately this string was in fact the bell to stop the bus. After 30 seconds of holding this, oblivious to the looks being thrown in my direction, I realized my mistake thanks to a sharp prod to the ribs from an elderly gentleman sitting down to my right. This was followed by a few choice words in Spanish.I corrected my mistake by grabbing hold of the correct rope handle, wrapping it around my hand as tight as possible. In my hastiness I wrapped it a little too tight, as when the bus stopped to let people alight, they couldn't get pass me as I had somehow managed to get my hand stuck in the rope. Cue a few more words from the lovely elderly gentleman and an outburst of laughter from everyone around me.If this wasn't already the bus journey from hell, I was then accidentally pushed into a seat containing a mother and young baby pressing my pert ass onto the baby's head. As you can imagine this didn't go down to well so of course I apologized. Instead of sayiny the Spanish for 'I'm sorry', I instead said 'Excuse me' as though I expected the mother and her baby to make way for my butt! Hence even more looks of pure filth and disgust.The Costa Ricans are an unbelievably friendly group of people, waving to everyone they pass, but after this journey I have a feeling some people might brake this tradition with me.Close
Written by coloradowanderer on 28 Jun, 2006
Getting to the tiny island is an adventure in itself. Bus from San Jose to Siquirres, change station and make it on time to a bus to Cano Blanco, then hop on a boat to the island. After missing the first bus, I ended up…Read More
Getting to the tiny island is an adventure in itself. Bus from San Jose to Siquirres, change station and make it on time to a bus to Cano Blanco, then hop on a boat to the island. After missing the first bus, I ended up in an expensive taxi, but the information was worth it. The drive is on a mostly bumpy, rocky road surrounded by corporate banana trees. Miles of hanging pesticide filled blue bags that protect the fruit from bugs. Cars and buses often stop for bananas crossing the road on automatic pulleys. Closer to Cano Blanco, rolling farm lands cover the distance and one outdoor cantina that was jammin mid-day. After an hour and a half drive, the friendly driver and I were well acquainted. Folks are extremely friendly here and full of stories. Since my timing was off, I missed the public boat so the driver deposited me into a private boat of a friend. He turned out to be the cousin of my house mother on the island, who are both friends of Chito Loco in Siquirres. Small place indeed.
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
Written by NancyK P on 10 May, 2006
Before I left Connecticut I announced that if I could just see a quetzal bird I would die happy. Now that I've accomplished that, I need a new goal. I actually saw five quetzals.Let's back up. Years of dreaming about spectacular electric blue Morpho butterflies…Read More
Before I left Connecticut I announced that if I could just see a quetzal bird I would die happy. Now that I've accomplished that, I need a new goal. I actually saw five quetzals.Let's back up. Years of dreaming about spectacular electric blue Morpho butterflies and brightly colored toucans with fat yellow beaks was coming true. We were going to Costa Rica for 9 days. So who knew about poisonous snakes? Lots of poisonous, scary deadly reptiles? Ugh. And then top that off with big, hairy tarantulas with orange knees. Orange knees? We almost bagged the trip. If we had known about the critters earlier we might never have gone. What a mistake that would have been.Tarantulas first. We never had one in our room, though we did hear of someone who did. Never looked under the bed. We heard conflicting stories on whether tarantulas are poisonous. Tarantulas are the selling point on night hikes. Go to bed early and you won't see tarantulas. In the lovely butterfly exhibits don't look at the insect trays and you'll avoid huge, ugly spiders entirely.Now about those snakes. We did see four poisonous vipers. One was a little closer than I cared for but a much braver hiker offered to walk between me and said snake, it was bright green, well hidden in sun, and dappled with fresh green leaves. I hope when I see the first little garter snake in my garden in Connecticut or even a more formidable, entirely non-poisonous black snake, this summer, I will quietly walk away instead of making a complete ninny of myself by screaming.The best advice is to stay on the path, keep your eyes open and do not walk in any leaves. Did I follow this eminently sensible advice? Nooo. Well, the guide whipped right off the trail and into the leaves in hot pursuit of a howler monkey. The monkey was cool and my heart stopped pounding quite soon upon returning to the trail.After the close encounters with the snakes and spiders we drove through miles and miles of steep washboard roads, well roadish gravel affairs anyway, to get to Monteverde to see the Cloud Forest.Up at a distinctly unfriendly hour even before the sun pulled up into the horizon to meet our guide. Francisco was a quite unexceptional fellow who clearly didn't know enough for his job. We were spoiled by Marvin, the guide who sang to birds in their own language and howled back to monkeys in a most convincing fashion at the Rainforest Tram. But off we went with Francisco. Parked our rental 4 wheel drive jeep and noticed that about 30 people were frozen in silence with their heads tilted back. I whispered, "What's everyone looking at?" with a pounding heart. "Quetzals eating the fruit," he said. I turned to my husband and said, "Notice how calm I am?" Then with shaking hands I set up the camera. Some quick shots and then just dumbfounded admiration. These birds are emerald green, with bright red chests and engaging faces. But what sets them apart from other showy tropical birds are the tails. Long and graceful the male's tail is twice as long as the body. It flutters with extraordinary grace as it soars and flashes the girls. That morning's babes were supremely indifferent but the humans were stunned by his soaring and dipping performance.Quetzals were sacred to Mayas and their kings wore the elegant luminous feathers as their headdresses.Spotting a quetzal is an unforgettable experience and we felt blessed to see them. And it wasn't luck. Quetzals love a type of small avocado but there weren't any at that time of year so they settled for second best and gathered in the fruit ladened trees over the parking lot.Costa Rica is the land of serendipity. As I struggled up the skirt of the Arenal Volcano I spotted something lavender. Lots of something lavender. Orchids. Orchids everywhere. Wow. They seem to be growing out of the lava rocks. Their graceful petals sway in the brisk wind. Next wonder: We are so high that we are actually looking down into a vulture’s nest. It was a mama vulture with fluffy, innocent white baby vultures. One lifts its angelic wing and we all sigh in wonder. Meanwhile the volcano belches burps and groans like a dyspeptic grandfather. A chatty volcano is not to be ignored or forgotten. Beside a busy road we glace up to a big tree just beginning to leaf out. It is home to six spider monkeys including two babies. The mother monkeys seem to be teaching the little ones how to stretch over to the branch with the most succulent fresh leaves. An amazing surprise.We bravely agree to go on one of Costa Rica’s famous night hikes. We arrive at the Children’s Cloud Forest at dusk. The sunset is brilliant orange, then plum and finally indigo. Darkness settles in and the forest grows quiet except for the chirping insects. Why am I doing this? Ah, we stop and the guide shines his light on a branch and we spot a fluffy white bird, one leg neatly pulled under its body, its eyes shut tight. The light doesn’t disturb its sleep. Who knew that birds sleep on branches at night? Then I remember, duh, that chickens roost at night. They’re birds too. Next we see two little green birds sound asleep. The guide worries a hollow log beside the trail with his foot. I step back, way back, with another hiker. Why didn’t I bring my boots? I have hiking boots. I could have brought them. So next the guide pokes a stick into the hollow log, dislodging a hairy tarantula complete with orange knees. One quick glimpse is sufficient for me. As we walk back to the pool of light where the little office awaits our return, the guide flashes his light on the window frame. Yikes there is the distinctive profile of a scorpion.Later in our trip we pull over at the end of a noisy bridge. We walk the narrow path as the trucks whiz by. Later we learn that someone was killed on that swaying bridge and now it is forbidden to cross on foot. Heedless of safety we race along our little track. Ah, at last. We peer over the vibrating bridge. A clutch of scary crocodiles are basking in the sunlight under the careful eyes of iguana, vultures and great blue herons. Quite a multicultural bunch. The vultures are hoping the crocs will spill some of their raw chicken that is tossed over the bridge so they can feast upon flesh. Guess they are always too full to contemplate tough human hides. They are huge and so ugly and so fascinating to watch. We look at them a long time. Then we notice the floating logs coming to join their relatives.We return to our car and are greeted by a raggedy police officer, perhaps 17 years old. A quick transaction and we’re out $10.As we drive around hairpin turns toward Alejuela to the airport we go through dry, inhospitable ground. And then we round a bend and are treated to the sight of blooming yellow trees, lots and lots of them. And they are brilliant against the rich lapis sky.Costa Rica challenges its visitors. The dreadful roads, eerie howling monkeys, deadly snakes, scorpions, spiders, crocodiles. But it offers a visitor the opportunity to see an unsanitized nature. I love the natural world but I didn’t really mean vipers. But they are part of the authentic natural world not the Disney version. And so I found a smidgen of courage within me and am the richer for it.Close
Written by Philly_Girl on 26 Aug, 2005
My husband and I were not new to the "driving-in-foreign-countries-adventure" club, after having driven a tin can on wheels (the fabulous Twingo!) in Rhodes, Greece in 1998 and out-honking drivers in Israel in 1999. But driving a car in Costa Rica really took the…Read More
My husband and I were not new to the "driving-in-foreign-countries-adventure" club, after having driven a tin can on wheels (the fabulous Twingo!) in Rhodes, Greece in 1998 and out-honking drivers in Israel in 1999. But driving a car in Costa Rica really took the foreign driving experience to a new level—you might call it the GIANT potholes level.
I had read online that while in Costa Rica one should rent a 4-wheel drive (SUV) because the roads could be "rough from time to time" so that's what hubby and I did--for a mere $450 plus gas for a week. We took off from the San Jose airport with a map and trunk full of hiking and swimming gear, and headed for our first stop, Arenal Volcano and Observatory Lodge.
About 15 minutes outside San Jose, we realized that driving in Costa Rica would not be the same as driving in the US when we started noticing an increased frequency of potholes--maybe every 100 yards or so, then every 50 yards or so, then 25... we had no idea what was ahead. By the time we reached the road up to Arenal Volcano, we were going 2-3 mph and zigzagging across the road. We circumvented potholes that could easily swallow our entire SUV. Cars were literally turned sideways on the roads, trying to find the path with the fewest potholes.
Another thing we soon noticed about Costa Rica was that many of the bridges were labeled with Despacio. "El puente en mal estado". Not being fluent in Spanish (or anywhere close) it took us a few of these signs to fully understand what the warning was: Go slowly. Bridge is in bad shape. Fantastic! But we watched the cars ahead of us plunging ahead over rickety structures and we just held our breath and did the same. A couple times during the week, we saw where the locals (Ticos) ahead of us would drive through the river instead of taking the bridge, and we did the same. Thank goodness for the 4-wheel-drive!
After we left the Arenal area, the pothole situation improved slightly, though we never were able to go over 45 mph during our visit. But the nice thing about driving that slowly is you really have a chance to see the countryside and the occasional Coati (see photo, they were so cute!) and of course monkeys. And, when you finally do arrive at your destination, you have a ready-made conversation to talk about with your fellow travelers!
We drove to the beaches of northern Costa Rica (through Liberia and the Guanacaste region) to Playa Grande, where we had hoped to observe a sea turtle nesting, though unfortunately we were not successful. We did manage to see a volunteer digging out a baby sea turtle just breaking out of its shell, which was pretty incredible. Then from northern Costa Rica we drove down to Manuel Antonio (a solid 6+ hour drive) for some relaxing time at Si Como No hotel (see journal description for more info). Finally, it was time to return to the airport, and we carefully navigated a narrow, winding mountain pass filled with small trucks transporting coffee back to the Pan American Highway and finally back to Xandari Resort near San Jose.
Driving in Costa Rica is challenging, but it does give you the freedom to go where you want at your own pace. We enjoyed the experience, and will probably rent a car again the next time we return to Costa Rica.
Remember, if you see a Tico avoid a bridge while in Costa Rica, we recommend you do the same! Pura Vida.Close