Happy 2015 to all my readers!! I spent the first part of the new year on the second half of my “staycation”, traveling around Costa Rica with my parents. They arrived in the afternoon of 30 December and we got ourselves ready to head to the “wilderness” of Costa Rica. (Disclaimer, lots of photos ahead!)
Prior to going to Tortuguero I had been warned by many Ticos (Costa Ricans) and expats that the area is very remote and is a bit difficult as a tourist. As our trip got closer and I saw that the weather report was saying non-stop rain, I started to get a little worried. But what to do? The vacation is already planned!
On 31 December, my birthday!, we had a very early wake up. Since we decided to fly to Tortuguero (best decision ever) we had to head to the airport to catch the 5:50am flight. It was an easy flight from San José to Limón and a really rough flight from Limón to Tortuguero. The weather was not great and the tiny plane was getting thrown around pretty good. But, we made it safely and after a short boat ride arrived at La Baula Lodge. I quickly realized that I had nothing to fear. Tortuguero didn’t look much different from anywhere else I had been in Costa Rica, wifi, TVs, etc. Just more wildlife!
Getting close to Tortuguero
Riding in the water taxi
We did some exploring in the town of Tortuguero later that day. Where we had delicious lunch at the Budda Café. In the evening we joined up with a “Night Walk” where we hoped to see some cool nocturnal creatures. The walk was a little disappointing on the “creature” count, but we did see a Red-Eyed Tree frog, so that was pretty cool. The following morning we saw our first sloth, in the tree near our hotel room.
Toucan hanging out near the sloth
After breakfast we joined our new friends from the night walk, a lovely Swedish family, and set off on a boat tour of the Tortuguero park canals.
Iguana catching some sun
Pam & Ken on the boat
Pam checking out the caiman
The cutest bug I have ever seen!
In the afternoon we went on a walking tour of the park, where we saw a few more things. The coolest of which was a golden-orb weaving spider catching her prey and eating it in the web!
Nocturnal casque headed lizard
The next day we were awoken by the howler monkeys. We had seen them before but this time they were really close. They spent most of the day hanging around the hotel grounds and so did we. Here’s the cute family.
Momma with baby
Drying off after a big rainstorm
Pam watching the monkeys play
Baby boa on the dining patio
On 3 January we headed to Arenal Volcano. It was a long drive getting out of the Tortuguero area, but once we got on the highway things were better. The road which is very well used by tourists and locals alike, the only way to get to Tortuguero by land, is horrible. The cars have to avoid giant holes and other cars. It is not something I’d sign up for again, so glad we only had to do it once.
For the second part of our trip we were staying at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, right at the base of the (now dormant) volcano. We had a lovely room, with a great view of the lake. We joined a hike around the property on our first morning there and got rained on a little. Then we got to experience some serious rain storms later in the day (and for our whole stay). I have honestly never seen anything like it. It was pretty awesome, but difficult to describe. You’ll just have to take my word!
View of the lake and volcano from the lodge
We went to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. It was cool to walk suspended above and within the canopy. It started raining when we were about 1km toward the end of the hike, and we made it indoors just before the storm hit. During the whole trip we really lucked out on missing the crazy weather when we were outdoors.
The following day we did a chocolate tour at a place called Rainforest Chocolate Tour. It was really interesting and interactive. By far one of the best tours I have ever done (I’m doing a different chocolate tour next weekend so I’m excited to compare them). Not only did we learn all about how chocolate is made in the traditional ways, but we got to help make our own chocolate! After preparing the dark chocolate (which was made into both a hot drink and a melted variety) we then got to add different flavors (with seconds, thirds and fourths). It was cool to put together different flavors and see how they tasted.
How to get to the bean
Ken helping crush the beans
Not the best picture, but I was helping make the chocolate, sugar and cinnamon mixture
All the different things for mixing into the chocolate, and our two wonderful guides
One of my creations: chocolate, peanuts, sea salt and vanilla
The next day we returned to San José. But before we could do that something awesome happened. On our walk to breakfast, I spotted a small yellow eyelash pit viper on the trail. I had been looking for one the whole trip. It was the perfect parting gift!
Can you see its cute eyelashes?
I showed the parents around Santa Ana (it is very small) and introduced them to my favorite Costa Rican food, chifrijo. They loved it! I also took them to Rincon Cubano where we all ordered the Patacon Burger (a hamburger with a fried green plantain for the bun). We also did a “highlights tour” of San José. and then it was time to say goodbye.
Enjoying our chifrijo!
It was another great holiday, and good staycation!! Perfect refresher for the last few months of the school year.