Travelers: Samuel and Mary W.
Travel Dates: June 14-29, 2014
Destinations Visited: San Jose, Arenal, Monteverde, Samara
Reflections from our two week trip to Costa Rica.
DAY 1 — San Jose
Just wanted to let everyone know we have arrived in San Jose for our trip in Costa Rica. Everything went smoothly, just finished our first Tico dinner at a small street diner were only locals eat. No one spoke English. Food was great! Ticos are very friendly. Weather is perfect, around 70 degrees.
Life is good! Too bad we are only here for the night. San Jose looks very interesting.
DAY 2 — La Fortuna
Sitting on the back porch of our room in La Fortuna, at the base or Arenal Volcano, which is starring me in the face, all I can say is OMG! I am a 55 year old man who never thought he would use that phrase, but nothing else describes the emotion I am feeling now. Costa Rica is everything and more than what you have heard.
The drive from San Jose, just about 70 miles, took about three hours. Long, but well worth it. The country is beautiful. The stories you hear about the winding roads and potholes, all true. Loved it! Found a Sloth on the road. Thought it was dead. No! It was just a Sloth and just moving very slow!
We are staying at the Volcano Lodge. What an amazing resort. We are not in the rain forest yet, but this place has more foliage and tropical diversity than I have ever seen in my life! The day was beautiful and then all of a sudden there was a torrential down pour. If this happened in Phoenix, life as we know it would come to a standstill. But, 2 hours later, it’s over. Like it never happened. Amazing place.
Well, as I’m writing this I am enjoying my Father’s Day gift, a bottle of 12 year old Jameson. Can it get any better than this? Maybe it can. We have two more weeks here! Tomorrow we go see Uncle Bernie. About a 45 mile drive, that should take about 2 hours. This time we are renting a car and driving ourselves. Should be fun! Will update you tomorrow night upon our return.
DAY 3 — La Fortuna
Day 3 trending just like the previous days, Amazing! Today we rented a car and drove about 50 miles to Aunt Sunshine and Uncle Bernie’s place in Tilaran. First time in our world travels that we ever actually…….drove……As I stated yesterday, the roads are all narrow, and very curvy. Check that: extremely curvy and narrow. A little nerve racking, but we made the 4 hour round trip safely. The Hudson’s home is beyond words. It sits atop a 5 acre mountain top vista that has a commanding view of Lake Arenal and the volcano of the same name. We were able to spend 3 or 4 hours with Uncle Bernie catching up and having lunch. On site the Hudson’s grow some astonishing tasty fruits and nuts. We were able to sample several of them. It was a great time! Would have loved to stay longer but making the return drive at night scared the crap out of us.
Tomorrow we are off for a four hour hike and guided tour of the Arenal Volcano.
DAY 4 — La Fortuna
Well, the highlight of the day was supposed to be our guided hike up the Arenal Volcano. You know what they say about the best laid plans. Today, they didn’t work out as well as we would have liked. This is our 3rd day in La Fortuna. Because of the cloud cover, we have yet to see more that 80% of the Volcano, and never the top cone, even though the volcano is directly behind our hotel and in clear view of our rear patio. Well today we trekked up as far as they will let you hike (the volcano is still active), to get the premium view. It was cloudy when we started and only got worse as it started to rain and even more clouds rolled in. Bottom line, standing in the best place possible, the best we could do was a view of the bottom 5%. Oh, well. We did get to trek up the lava flow and walk through some pretty wicked jungle.
Earlier in the day we toured the town and drank the best fresh fruit drink we have ever had. The rest of the day was spent luxuriating in the hot spring only steps in front of our room and drinking some Costa Rican style sangria. All and all, another spectacular day!
Tomorrow we will be doing a jungle horseback ride to two spectacular waterfalls. We will let you know how it goes.
DAY 5 — La Fortuna
Today started off as another day in paradise. We found a hidden river and man-made waterfalls on the hotel grounds. Apparently they think it is no big deal as they never told us it was here. Oh well, we have pictures. It was beautiful. The majority of the day was spent trekking to the La Fortuna waterfall. Started off with a 45 minute spirited horseback ride through some beautiful jungle/forest. These horses loved to run and actually responded to the rider’s commands. These were not common trail horses. During the ride we stopped to eat some wild guava fruit. Very sweet and tasty. Then we had about an hour hike down to the falls. I have never been this close to such a far falling and powerful stream of water. We were brave enough to get into the fringes of the holding pool, but nowhere near brave enough to go out and swim in it. That water was just too fearsome looking. The hard part was the hour trek back up to the horses.
Anyway, we are off to Monteverde / the rainforest tomorrow for three days.
DAY 6 — Monteverde
We have arrived at our new hotel in Monteverde. Very nice hotel. However, be careful when you ask for a room with a view! Our view of the Cloud Forest is simply majestic. On the other hand, it is way up a hill. Our legs are killing us since our trek to the La Fortuna Falls.
Anyway, the ride up to the Cloud Forest was even more treacherous than the ride to La Fortuna. We were in a 10 person shuttle bus. The road deteriorated to very steep and narrow potted dirt roads for about 30 miles. Considering huge tour buses share the same road, you can guess how nerve-racking the ride was. With that said, as with everything else in CR, the end more than justified the means. Monteverde is gorgeous.
DAY 7 — Monteverde
Today was a pretty relaxed day. Took our clothes to get laundered. It is amazing how many clothes you go through when it is humid and rains everyday. The town is only about a mile away but it’s is a steep downhill walk. Legs are getting buff. When in town we had lunch at a Soda (CR diner) and watched Costa Rica wins its second World Cup futball game! The town literally went bonkers! Everybody ran into the streets yelling and screaming in joy and waving their Costa Rican flags. If they had a car, and many did, they jumped in it and bam!, an instantaneous flag waving, horn blowing, singing, parade around the town center. Everybody joined in including the police, taxis, buses and delivery drivers. It lasted at least an hour! It was amazing to see and to be a part of. Can’t wait for the next game.
We then went on a triple tour of a coffee, sugar cane, and coco (chocolate) plantation. Great tour. Learned a lot, tasted everything. Tomorrow we go on our night biodiversity tour. They say 90% of the jungle life is nocturnal. Should be a blast!
DAY 8 — Monteverde
Today, or should I say tonight, was highlighted by a 2 hour night time wildlife tour of the cloud forest. The tour was as advertised. We saw an assortment of wildlife in their natural habitat. These included snakes, small leopard type cats, sloths, porcupines, tarantulas, and several other life forms. Earlier in the day we had taken a tour of a wildlife conservatory where all the animals were safely behind glass. The night tour was totally different. Here you were face to face with the animals, on their turf and nothing protecting you. In this environment you could really feel their power, even something as small as a tarantula. It was amazing that the guide could even find the animals with only a flashlight in the pitch of night.
DAY 9 — Samara
Bummer, the trip is more than half over! Mary says I shouldn’t think like this, but I can’t help it. This is way too much fun.
We left The Cloud Forest today (Monteverde) and arrived in the Pacific coast city of Samara. Very small as cities go, but it appears to have everything you need. The highlight of the day: We were joined by Maggie and Don, Mary’s sister and brother-in-law. We are all staying in a 6 room hotel right on the beach. It is about a ten minute walk to town with tons of stuff to do in between. Today we watched the U.S. just barely miss winning their second World Cup game. Ended up in a tie. Oh well, better than a loss. We had some great seafood and drinks while watching the game at a beachfront bar. Can life get better than this? After checking out the town we chilled in the hotel pool, dodging falling mangoes from the overhanging mango tree, and drinking wine and eating pizza.
DAY 10 — Samara
Today, Samara beach had two highlights. First we all took a very nice three hour kayak guided tour up and down a local river that eventually fed into the Pacific Ocean. The weather was overcast. There was no rain, and very little sun, so the trip was perfect. We had two to a kayak so we could share the load and listen to the explanation from the guide as we paddled. Great tour, saw and leaned a lot. However, before we left for the tour, we purchased this freshly caught Red Snapper from a local fisherman. Don’t know exactly how much it weighed, but we are guessing well over ten pounds.
After taking a nap after our kayaking, Maggie and Mary prepared the fish for grilling and prepared all the side dishes in our small kitchenettes. Don grilled the fish, and I (Sam) helped eat the whole meal. Everything was perfect. There was so much fish left over we will have another whole fish taco dinner tomorrow night.
Tomorrow, Costa Rica plays their third World Cup game and we all plan on watching it at one of the seaside bar/restaurants near our hotel. Should be another hell of a day!
DAY 11 — Samara
Today was very mellow. Walked the 10 minute beach walk to town and watched the third Costa Rican futbal game in crowed wild and crazy bar. Tie game, everybody was ecstatic. Rest of the day we chilled on the beach, did some boogie boarding, played some spades and drank a little wine by the pool. The clouds kept the temperature down, making it another great day.
Tomorrow we are going on a 4 hour fishing expedition right off the coast. Maybe we will catch our own dinner. Keep your fingers crossed.
DAY 12 — Samara
I am writing this a day late because we did not get back to our hotel until about 1:00 in the morning. The day was jammed packed. First we went on a four hour fishing trip with a local fisherman in a typical small Tico motorized fishing boat. Mary caught the biggest fish of the day. It was about an eight pound tuna. In total we caught about 16 fish; only three were big enough to keep. They will be our dinner tonight. On the fishing trip we saw schools of dolphins, and some large sea turtles. The weather was perfect, warm and no rain, with very calm seas. The fishing was the type none of us, even Don, had ever done. It was hand fishing the bottom. You simply lower a weighted heavy line from a hand spool, wait for a hit, and haul it up by hand. No reel! Great morning!
That night we went to a beach called Camaronal. It was about an hour from Samara. This is one of the beaches known worldwide for large sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. It took our guide about four hours, but we finally found a mother in the mist of delivery. The mother had already dug about a 2-3 foot deep, and about a 2 foot round hole, to bury her eggs. While only using a red light, otherwise it was completely pitch black; we watched the mother deliver 36 eggs. Apparently she must have been young as the average delivery is 70 to 110 eggs. This all occurred on a turtle conservatory under the watchful and measuring eye a private / government sponsored wildlife refuge organization. They even allowed Mary to hold one of the eggs as they documented it. After the mother delivered the eggs, she covered and concealed them as best she could and simply walked back into the water never to see them again. Fortunately, the conservatory immediately dug up the eggs and will protect them from animal and human predators in their hatchery. It was an amazing experience.
DAY 13 — Samara
Compared to yesterday, today will be nothing but a relaxing recovery day. We went and watched the U.S. lose to Germany in the World Cup. The rest of the day was spent poolside / beach side reading and drinking something cool. Tomorrow we do our last activity: 12 treetop zip lines.
DAY 14-15 — Samara / San Jose
I guess all good things have to come to an end. Today was our final real vacation day as the next two days will basically be travel days. However, today was another great day. As you can tell from the picture, today we spent a thrilling day at the Wingnut Zip line tour. This was basically across the street and up a hill from our beach hotel. The tour consisted of ten varying length zip lines and one free fall repel. The weather was perfect, cool and no Mosquitos. All ten lines were great, taking us through some stunning Costa Rican forests. Half way through we stopped and were served some awesome fresh pineapple, watermelon, juice and local cookies. As usual the Ticos who guided and looked after us were great and everybody had a great time. The tour lasted almost three hours.
After the zip line Maggie, Don, Mary and I all had a relaxing lunch in town. Maggie then took a surfing lesson and actually got up. Maggie and Mary then went and enjoyed a one-hour message, while Don and I relaxed on the beach.
We concluded the day in style by enjoying a lavish seafood dinner at one of the nearby beach restaurants. Costa Rica has been everything and more that we expected or ever could have asked for.
As the say in Costa Rica: Pura Vida! (The Pure Life!)