Costa Rica

Green IguanaWe just got back from Costa Rica late Sunday night. We left New York on a snowy March 18th and were briefly delayed to de-ice the wings. Four hours later we were in San Jose, met our San Jose guide, who gave us a brief tour orientation while being driven to and dropped at the hotel. After an easy four and a half hour flight, we weren’t too tired, but there wasn’t much to do at the first hotel. We simply hung out in the back yard, overlooking coffee fields with San Jose in the distance, excited about our upcoming week and a half of adventure.

The next day our naturalist guide and driver arrived. We were to visit Sarapiqui, Arenal Volcano & Tamarindo Beach, with a plane ride back to San Jose for the last night.

Jungle and FallsOur first stop was the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and was our first taste of the local bird-life, plant-life, butterfly-life and food. La Paz is just a couple years old and has trails that go past five waterfalls. It also has an enclosed butterfly garden (boasted as the world’s largest) and an unenclosed hummingbird garden. It was raining, of course. It is a rainforest after all. We hiked up and down trails that at points had metal staircases hung from the side of the ravines. We saw so many different kinds of birds, it is hard to name them all, and were happy at the end to sample the food at the buffet-style cafeteria.

It was clear from the beginning that Karla, our guide, and Mauricio, our driver knew each other well. They kept up a sibling-like banter that was half biting, half joking, but always funny and light-hearted. By the end of the second day, Karla had our girls coming up with schemes for tricking Mauricio or getting him back for the day’s antics. They were overall good guides. Karla was clearly very well versed in the geology, biodiversity, history and cultural makeup of Costa Rica. And Mauricio was quick to stop the van at any interesting animal or plant life we passed (including coatimundi, Blue Morpho butterflies and the ubiquitous Impatiens, or “China” flowers that lined the roadways.)

Blue Jean FrogOur next two nights were in Sarapiqui. The La Quinta of Sarapiqui hotel was in a jungle area tucked between pineapple farms. The property was small, but had a few trails around a frog garden, butterfly aviary, fruit garden and a couple of fish ponds. We saw lots of tiny “blue jean” frogs: little strawberry, poison-dart frogs only as big as your thumbnail. We did some fishing but the fish were too smart to get caught.

CoatimundiThe following day, we toured La Selva Biological Station, which is an international research station. Sloths were too shy to appear but we saw just about everything else you could hope to see: coati, bats, lizards, howlers, capuchins, tiger rat snakes, pit vipers, peccaries, poisonous caterpillars, all sorts of birds. We also went on a river raft tour on the last day and saw a lot more creatures and stopped for a snack at a 90-year old farmer’s home near a fork in the river.

Mount Arenal VolcanoNext day, on to Arenal Volcano. We saw shiny, smokey black stuff sliding down the volcano on our first day there, but no fire-show. We stayed at a hotel called Montana de Fuego at the base of the volcano, but the mountain was covered with fog for the rest of the trip. We visited a really nice, secluded hot springs & had some of our better meals there. I have to say I was a bit nervous staying so close to an active volcano and was glad when it was time to leave!

JaguarWe had some excitement on the drive out to the Pacific coast. Josie was bitten by a capuchin monkey at the jaguar rehab center. The facility houses animals that were taken from illegal traders and that were injured in the wild. The capuchin was formerly kept as a domestic pet under rather cruel conditions. Josie is healing well. Emergency services are pretty good in CR, when you can find them.

Tamarindo Beach was nice, but very smoky from the sugar cane farms (they have to burn the field to remove spines from the stalks before cutting them down, since it is mostly done by hand). There is a huge surfer community at the beach, mostly Coloradoans on vacation & Californian drifters. Our hotel had a beautiful new pool across the street that we found after two days which was a great find, but frustrating not to have learned of it earlier.

We stayed our last night at Xandari Plantation in Alajuela–Very Nice! It is part of a coffee plantation with a river & jungle hiking trails to explore. After our scare earlier in the week, you’d be surprised to hear Brett was already planning a Christmas trip back there! I brought back some coffee.