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Jane's trip to Costa Rica

Hello everyone! Here is where I will be writing about all my travels in Costa Rica for the next 5 weeks. Hope you all enjoy the craziness and I apologize for all spelling mistakes and typos in advance, I know most of this will be rushed. Please feel free to leave a comment for me, you know I'll always reply. Enjoy!

Diary Entries

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Location: NYC, USA

Time flies when you're having fun...and here I am back in NYC, trying to remember as much as I can about my travels with the girls and all the experiences that I've tried so hard to capture during my time in Costa Rica so that I can write about it...I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how to sum it all up. It was truly an amazing trip, I had such a great time, met some great people, saw some crazy's been great. The past 10 days flew, the girls came on the 17th and from San Jose we went to La Fortuna, Monteverde and then Manuel Antonio. We rented a 4X4 Suzuki Grand Vitara and experienced some of the worst roads we've ever seen, and hopefully will ever see again. We had a great time, saw and did a lot, I'm gonna start from the beginning and just go through each location that we visited...(I will upload pics onto Yorkphoto or one of those websites and will share them with everyone in a few days)

La Fortuna 6/18 - 6/20
The trip from San Jose to La Fortuna took about 4 hours. We arrived around 1-2pm on Sunday, checked into our was really nice, right in town with a nice pool and a view of the Arenal volcano. This volcano is actually one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, it's really pretty amazing. Although the whole time we were there, the top of the volcano was covered with clouds, so we never saw the very top, but it was still really beautiful. So on Sunday, around 3:30, we arranged for a tour to the volcano and the hot springs near by. We were taken on a short hike through the mountains around the volcano, which was pretty interesting...we saw a toucan, some monkeys, and a sloth (but it wasn't moving much, just a mass of hair in the trees). The hike took us up to a lookout point, from which we were able to get a great view of the volcano and as it got dark out, we could see the bright red lava flowing down from the top of the volcano. We were about 3 km from the volcano, the closest you're allowed to get to it b/c it is pretty dangerous and we were told that the lava that we saw was flowing down the side of the volcano at about 125 km an was ridiculous! Anyway, after this, we headed to the Tabacon hot springs, which was a great way to relax after the hike. We soaked for as long as we could until we were about overheating, then had a nice dinner and headed back to the hostel. We were pretty exhausted after this day and passed out shortly after getting back to the hotel (not like there was much going on in La Fortuna anyway)...
The next day, we got up, had some breakfast at the restaurant across the street and hung out by the pool for a while. Then we decided to check out the waterfalls we've been hearing/reading about. Of course, getting to the waterfalls required another hike, a very steep walk downhill actually, great workout. As we started walking down this path (if you can call it that) it started pouring raining on us, but we kept going and waited it out a bit under Katie's poncho (we placed it over our heads like a tarp). The waterfall was absolutely gorgeous - it was enormous and had some beautiful swimming holes around to take a dip and hang out. We chilled out here for a while, until a crown of rowdy teenagers showed up and spoiled our peace, so we decided to head back up the path, another fun hike. The rest of the day was spent around our hostel - we went out to dinner, then hung out at the hostel, had some Imperials and finally headed to bed. The next morning, we were off to Monteverde...took us another 4 hours or so, but the ride was really scenic, we went around Lake Arenal and past the volcano, then up some really ridiculous roads into the Tilaran mountains, and finally up a steep gravel road up to Monteverde.

Monteverde 6/20 - 6/23
We checked into our hotel in Monteverde, which was really nice -a short distance away from the center of town, on a hilltop with an amazing view. We had a little cabin to ourselves with a really nice balcony with rocking chairs, it was the perfect way to enjoy the wildlife and nature Monteverde had to offer (as well as the bugs!) We didn't do much on our first day there, just hung out, went out to dinner, went to the supermarket and picked up some snacks, beer, cheese and wine. We spent the night on our balcony with a few drinks, watching some crazy lightening storm in the distance, it was great.
The next day, Katie, Jessica and Lisa decided to do an ATV tour, but I stayed back, I've done it before and even though I definitely enjoyed it, I wasn't into it this time around. So I just hung out, went to town, sat in a coffee shop and just relaxed for a while. When the girls returned, we were off to the Cheese factory. Monteverde is known for their cheese. Brief history overview of Monteverde, from what I can remember: In the 1950s a group of Quakers decided to leave the US to avoid the draft and chose Costa Rica since their Army had been abolished. They arrived in the Tilaran Mountains, which at that time was just a jungle and started farming, they named their community Monteverde (which means "Green Mountain"). As their farm expanded, they started making cheese, built a cheese factory, which eventually grew to be a very profitable business. At this time, Monteverde cheese factory provides cheese for all of Costa Rica and most of Nicaragua. So, the cheese lovers that we are, we had to go check this out. They also had some amazing ice cream there, it was delicious. We had a brief tour around the factory and ate A LOT of cheese, then bought some more cheese to take back to the hotel with us. The cheese there really is great and very fresh. So when we got back to our hotel, what did we do? Oh yeah, we had some more cheese and the end of the day we all swore that we couldn't look at another piece of cheese, but that didn't last long. That night, we had a nice long dinner at a restaurant in town, hung out and then went to bed...We had been going to bed pretty early every night so far because we did so much during the day that we were beat by the time it got dark out (which is at around 6pm in Costa Rica), so 9pm felt like it was sooo late.
The next day we did a Canopy Tour, which is basically a series of really long ziplines going from one tree to the next, and you just zip through the trees at ridiculous heights from one platform to the next. The canopy tour was amazing! We had such a great time; some of them were so long we couldn't even see the other platform. We zipped through the trees at crazy speed and basically had to break by pulling down on the zipline with one hand. There was also this Tarzan-type swing – a rope that hung from a really tall tree and you basically had to stand on a platform, about 25 feet up from the ground with your harness attached to this rope and then step off the platform, you drop for a few seconds until you started swinging like a pendulum back and forth and eventually these two guys on the ground catch you by your feet and get you down. It was the scariest thing by far, scarier than skydiving, I can’t even believe that we did it, but we did…there are pictures. Anyway, the whole experience was just awesome, we loved it. Afterwards, Jessica and I took a walk over these really long hanging bridges that they had in this area, it was a short hike from one bridge to the next, with a total of about 8 bridges. It was pretty unbelievable though, we were basically walking over the trees and the jungle, just looking down on everything, we couldn’t even see the ground.
After the Canopy Tour, we went to the actual Monteverde Cloud Reserve. It’s a forest reserve, very high up in the mountains, really dense, with lots of wildlife. We had a guide come with us and he did a great job explaining about all the plants and the wildlife in the area. Monteverde has a lot of different types of birds and we were able to see a few in there. As we were walking, we saw a huge hairy tarantula right in the middle of the trail, it was crazy. Of course, we took tons of pictures and then left it alone. As we were halfway done with the hike, we reached these really nice waterfalls, and it started pouring. There was thunder and lightening and everything else and we were stuck in the dark forest, so we pretty much just walked back out at this point, we were absolutely soaking wet by the end of it. It pretty much poured that entire night, we went out to dinner at the restaurant that was in our hotel. We had a great meal, some wine, some more cheese, and then went to bed. The next morning, we were up and out, on our way to Manuel Antonio. Another long ride, about 5 hrs long, some more gravel roads up and down the side of a steep mountain, had some great views though, at one point we were actually driving through a cloud, it was amazing.

Manuel Antonio 6/23 – 6/27
By the time we got to Manuel Antonio, it was about 3-4pm and raining lightly. Manuel Antonio is a really nice beach town, on the Pacific coast with a very small, but dense rainforest right on the beach. It’s also the most visited place in CR, so it was much more touristy than any place I’ve seen in CR, but since we came during the low season, there weren’t that many people there. When we got there, we headed to the beach and had some lunch and a few drinks, then Katie and I took a quick dip in the ocean and then in the pool. Later on we all went out to dinner, we ate at this place called La Cantina, it was a BBQ place with amazing seafood, we had a wonderful dinner and some sangria and then headed to this other bar/restaurant, El Avion. It’s actually in an old airplane, I don’t remember the story with the plane, but I’m pretty sure that it was shot down in Nicaragua and then bought out by Costa Rica…and now it’s a bar/restaurant…yeah weird.. Anyway, we hung out there, had some drinks and then headed back. The next day was spent at the beach, we really enjoyed the warm water and the sun since Monteverde was really cold and rainy. That night we ate dinner at this other great restaurant – El Gato Negro, another delicious dinner and some vino. From there, we headed to a local disco that we heard about (since it was Saturday night, the whole town was talking about this party, so we had to check it out). This was the most random disco ever – it was held at a beachfront bar/restaurant, pretty much in the sand, with a huge sound and light system, smoke machine and all! They were playing everything from reggae to hip hop to reggaeton, to salsa, meringue, cumbia, and some pop. It was PACKED with people – all ages, from all over, locals and tourists…the whole town really was there. We hung out at one of the tables by the beach and had a little party of our own, met a few characters, Katie and I danced some meringue, I liked it, as random as it was. After a while, we walked back to our hotel and passed out.
The next day we went on an early morning hike into the rainforest. We saw some crazy animals in this park – lots of sloths, monkeys, a snake (boa constrictor), spiders, lizards, iguanas, some insects, some very colorful crabs, it was crazy. Our guide was unbelievable – he would spot a little grasshopper like 20 ft away and point his telescope to it so we could see, we had an eye for all kinds of stuff. It was absolutely astonishing. We loved this hike – it was our favorite so far, even though it was also the hottest, since we were practically on the beach and it was very hot, humid and sunny. After the hike, we had some lunch and spent the rest of the day on the beach. For dinner, we headed to this restaurant with beautiful ocean views and saw a gorgeous sunset…the dinner was so-so, the sangria was great though. After dinner, we attempted to go out, which was difficult considering it was Sunday night in a very Catholic country. So we stumbled upon this one place, met some very interesting/shady characters, had a few drinks and then decided to call it a night. We were off to go white water rafting the next day.
We got up early again on Monday morning and got picked up to go white water rafting, we didn’t really know what to expect since the closest we’ve ever come to white water rafting was floating down the Delaware river with a cooler of beers. We had breakfast and then piled into this enormous truck, with the rafts on the roof and headed down to the Naranjo River. We were told that we’d be rafting on Class 3, 4 and 5 rapids today, we didn’t really know what that meant, but we knew that we should probably be a little nervous. We got a briefing on some rowing techniques and safety precautions, like what to do if the raft flips over or if you fall out, etc and then we were off. It was us 4, plus this other guy, and our guide, Brad (a dreaded hippie from Ohio). We all had to sit on the side of the raft and row - we put the guy who we didn’t know, his name was actually Michael as we learned later, and Lisa up front, I sat behind Lisa on the right side, and Katie and Jessica were behind Michael and we followed Brad’s instructions as he shouted commands at us…when we first started rowing, he told me I wasn’t actually rowing, just putting my ore in the water and pretending to row, so I really had to put my back into it. Anyway, as we got going, the rapids got ridiculous at some points, we were getting soaked, almost fell out a few times, we had to jump down from the edge onto the floor of the raft at times and at one point, we actually got stuck in a “hole,” which is basically a point where a big rock causes the water to flow from two different directions into one big hole and we got stuck in it. No matter what we did, we were getting hit with water from both sides, our raft was full with water and we almost flipped over – everyone on the left had to slide over to the right side and stay there. It was ridiculous, I thought Brad was just messing with us, but he actually really couldn’t get us out, so we had to have someone come up onto the shore with a rope and throw the rope to us to get us out. It was awesome though, we loved it! That white water rafting trip was unbelievable! We had the best time, my whole body still hurts from it.
After the rafting trip, we parked our asses on the beach for a while and then got a few bogie boards and bogie boarded in the nice waves as the high tide started to come in during the later afternoon. It was a very active, but very fun day. That night we went out to dinner and then went to Quepos, a town that’s a bit bigger than Manuel Antonio about 5 km away. We went to this one bar because our guide from the white water rafting trip, Brad, said that he might be playing in a band there later. But as we got there, there was no band, just a random bar with a foosball table and a stuffed hog in the corner, so we stayed and partied there for the night. It was a great night, we met some more interesting characters, including the owner of the bar, a Vietnam vet named Bud, who decided to treat us to a smoked trout at about 1:00 am, which I thought was delicious at the time. It was a messy, but a fun night for sure.
The next day, we hung out on the beach for a few hours and then headed back to San Jose – another 4 hr trip and we were back in the same hotel where we had all met up 11 days earlier prior to this little adventure. The best part of this ride was going over this one bridge and we stopped and got out of the car and looked below the bridge and saw tons of crocodiles – they were just everywhere! Huge ones! It was really scary and pretty gross, I loved it!
And I guess that’s about it, we had a very long and hectic travel day today, but we made it home safely in one piece. I will upload pics soon and will send them out, there are TONS of pictures, many of them are of wildlife and nature, sunsets, etc, really great pictures.
I had a great time in CR, I would highly recommend visiting this beautiful country to anyone who’s up for an adventure and I would totally go back again, I’m sure I will one day again.

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