Costa Rica – The Real Deal

11-19 The trip to Costa Rica

After much planning, the day of our first trip and experience outside the U.S. was finally here. Our amazing friends Jake and Ariann watched our little beast (Lucy ((Loose Goose)) Lenfert). The flight to Costa Rica went very smooth, we were worried about our short 50min layover times in Dallas, but everything was fine. In fact on all of our flights there and back, we walked off one plane and right onto another with no delays.

When we got to the San Jose Airport we were on the lookout for our hotel shuttle driver who was supposed to meet us with a sign (another first for us). Unfortunately we never saw him and instead got to barter and deal with swarms of drivers trying to get us into their cars. After a good wait, we finally saw our shuttle. We were staying close to the airport and it was about 10pm when we got to our hotel. The ride was very interesting, it was dark, the roads were very bumpy, the houses all had bars and fences covering every inch of them, and we wizzed past kids on bikes holding kids on handlebars as well as packs of roaming dogs. Fortunately our hotel was a little oasis from what we saw on the way in. Lots of trees, nice facilities, and friendly staff. Hotel Brilla Sol was the name.

11-20 Welcome to the Jungle

The next morning we were on our way toward La Fortuna and Volcano Arenal. We decided to go with shuttle service for our transportation rather than renting a vehicle. On our first ride toward Arenal we knew we made the right choice. The roads were hilly and narrow, and traffic laws seem to be pretty loose.  We saw some interesting country along the way, and sunny versions of our ride to the airport the night before. The weather started showing it’s whimsical nature being sunny, rainy or cloudy depending on the minute. Along the way we managed to see a 3 toed sloth. Very cool. We learned that the leaves of certain trees are like drugs to them and make them drunk, and they climb down every 3 weeks or so to poop.

We made it to La Fortuna and dropped off some of our shuttlemates and could see the base of the volcano. Our driver informed us that we were staying on the other side of it, and so the drive continued. We took a turn onto a dirt road and about 9km or 5ish miles later our shuttle van climbed up to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The lodge had a really nice setup with balconies overlooking the Volcano (which we sort of saw) and Lake Arenal. There were also free guided tours around the Lodge grounds and several trails to roam around on. One of the highlights, and a place we frequented was the restaurant at the lodge. It had huge windows, served good food, drinks, and snacks, and had an amazing (included) breakfast buffet.

Our room was about 1/4 mile down the hill we came up on, which after the 8th time walking it, really seemed like a stretch. We had eaten dinner, seen some humming birds, went for a brief walk around the grounds, and went to the hot tub , so by the time we got back to our room we were ready to snooze.

11-21 Let the Rains Begin

We woke up hungry and had the amazing buffet breakfast to look forward too. Only 1/4 mile uphill in the pouring rain was going to slow us down.  We were planning to do a guided hike at 8:30 in the morning, and after breakfast we had a little time to kill before the hike started. We went over to La Horminga (the aunt); a trail we decided not to go down yesterday because it was getting dark. On the way to the trailhead we saw 2 Toucans. Being in the rainforest was amazing to us, we’ve never seen so much dense plant life. Cassandra also spotted some spider monkeys off the trail and we got a glimpse of them before they took off down into a valley.

On our guided hike we learned all about the first major eruption of Arenal and how it everything in the region changed afterward. Edwardo, our guide also pointed out an eyelash viper (snake), showed us a cool kind of flower that looks just like a bird’s head, and climbed a tree to pick some mandarins for us to eat. After hiking around in the pouring rain for hours, Cassandra truly discovered the value of a poncho (which she hadn’t worn, thinking her jacket was waterproof). We spent the rest of the day staying dry, eating food, and just relaxing.

11-22 Arenal Dia Tres – A different kind of hiking

We started the day with a nice surprise. No Rain! We hiked up for breakfast, stuffed our faces, and got ready for our first real hike. Cerro Chato was the trail and we were about to get rocked. It was a 4hr difficult hike, pretty much straight up a washed out mud and roots climb. We climbed and climbed through the rain and ended up seeing some cool bugs, butterflies and a frog. By the time we got to the top it hadn’t cleared off so instead of overlooking a lagoon, we saw dense fog. After hurrying down the trail we got back and dried off. We headed to the restaurant for nachos and beers and then it was hot tub time. While at the tub we met a couple who live in Boulder, CO and an unrelated guy who lives in Genesee, CO.

11-23 On the Road to Monteverde

Our journey to Monteverde was interesting. Part van, part boat, part van on rough roads. We passed a large charter bus on a winding mountain dirt road that had broken down. We however didn’t break down and made it to the Monteverde Villa Lodge just fine. The owners of the hotel were very nice and our room was pretty sweet as well. We went to a butterfly garden and a frog pond and saw some pretty awesome stuff. Later that night we did a night hike (guided of course) and got to see coatis some birds and a big tarantula.

11-24 Monteverde Thanksgiving

We went into the national park for our holiday celebrations. Unfortunately it was more rain and not many animals. We ended up pretty tired after more rain hiking, so we headed back to hang out in our room for a while. According to our travel books one of the best restaurants in town was Trio. I had an amazing fish taco and we shared a sweet ice cream desert with mango, star fruit, and butter rum.

11-25 Manuel Antonio

We woke up to a sight we had forgotten all about… The SUN!!  It was however still raining, but hey, we take what we can get. We enjoyed our home cooked breakfast prepared by the hotel lodge owners. We hopped on our shuttle and after a few rough patches, we hit the highway to Manuel Antonio. We drove the Quepos, a town just to the north, and then saw a slew of hotels and restaurants on the road from Quepos to Manuel Antonio. We stayed at the Hotel Verde Mar which was the closest hotel to Manuel Antonio with beach access. When we got in, the sun was still out and it had stopped raining. We decided to head straight to the beach. We walked south down the beach toward the national park. The beach was crowded, but got less crowded the further we walked. Eventually we got to the end and that’s where we saw our first monkeys (monos). They were capuchins. We grabbed a little bite at a touristy restaurant called it an early night.

11-26 National Parking

The Manuel Antonio National Park opens at 7a.m. and that’s when we got there. Before we got into the park we saw a 3 toed sloth up in a tree.  Some tour guides tried to solicit us but we opted to explore the park on our own. The outcome was pretty great. We headed into the park and down the the beach where hundreds of crabs scuttled away or popped into their shells as we passed. We found the first hike that we wanted to try which involved climbing up a hill, and wrapping around a peninsula. I don’t know the scientific names for all the animals we saw but here’s a little list. 1. Large Rodent 2. Red Headed Woodpecker 3. Large Grey Bird w/Red Eyes 4. Lizards 5. A Capuchin 6. An Iguana 7. Another 2 Sloths. We continued exploring the park and had a good time doing it.

We headed into town and bought some food and some beers, and rum & coke in a can and headed back to our hotel to sauce up. After having our drinks we headed back out the the beach. We decided to rent a couple boogie boards and catch some waves. Neither of us are really ocean savvy, but we caught a few good waves and rode them all the way in to the beach.

We wanted to try some of the many rave-reviewed restaurants on the road to Quepos. I had specifically wanted to try a place cleverly named Ronny’s Place. For $2 we were able to ride the bus to the base of a dirt road that lead to Ronny’s. It was about a 1/4 mile walk up to the restaurant, and it went pretty quick. The sun had unfortunately just set when we got there, and that was one of the big benefits of Ronny’s Place. Fortunately another benefit was that the food was delicious. I had a fish kabob that was amazing and Cassandra had a burrito that also looked really good. After dinner came the scary part; walking down the hill in the dark. Thankfully it was pretty uneventful.

11-27 The Big Breakfast

We woke up with an urge for some coffee and some food. We headed into town and found a hostel that served up a big breakfast for 1800 colones or $3.60. The meal came on 2 plates and had papaya, pineapple, bananas and pancakes. And on plate 2, rice and beans, scrambled eggs and 2 slices of bread. Throw in all the coffee you can drink and it was an amazing deal. After breakfast we headed to the beach where we encountered about 4 iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks and the sand. After spending the day at the beach and having another go at boogie boarding we decided to give another sunset dinner a try.

We headed up to Barba Roja and got some great seats with a great ocean view. It was really a great place. We had a good meal with some good appetizers and desert to really drag out the sunset as much as possible.

11-28 Last Day

We had the big breakfast again and headed to the beach. As we walked north toward the less populated areas we saw about 50 capuchin’s swinging and jumping throughout the trees. It was a pretty great way to end our trip. We caught our shuttle back to the a restaurant near the Hotel Brilla Sol as they wouldn’t drop us off directly at our hotel.  This was fine with us because we needed to eat again anyway. We had a pretty great meal but afterward there was a little dispute on the bill. Our bill showed a 9000.00 charge which is $18, but our credit card receipt showed a 9,000 charge which had us a little spoofed because of the comma location. We struggled to express our concern to the restaurant owner who had waited on us and spoke very little english. So eventually we figured our bank wouldn’t let us buy an $18,000 meal and it all worked out fine.

We got to our hotel after waiting through some crazy traffic and called it a night.

11-29 Homeward Bound

We got up, rode to the airport, payed our exit taxes to leave the country and were on a plane. From the plane window we could see the land and the ocean and at one point while over Nicaragua we looked out and saw a perfect cone shaped volcano with a little puff of smoke rolling out of it. On the Dallas to Denver section we got back around CO Springs and saw the sun setting over the mountains. It was good to be home.

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