Monday, January 06, 2003

Costa Rica

We went to Costa Rica for a vacation in December 2002 - January 2003. Tanis' parents joined us for the later part of the trip. We planned the trip through They were really good - we would recommend them for visits to Costa Rica or any other Central American country. Costa Ricans are Spanish speaking and having a guide for most of the trip really made our vacation more enjoyable.

The first big event on our trip was a two day rafting trip down the Pacuare River over New Year's. We had excellent guides - many of them had competed in International River Rafting competitions. There were 2 rafts with tourists, 1 provisioning raft and 1 emergency kayak. I'll never forget the guide in our raft - he geniunely liked his job and was constantly saying "for reals!". Obviously his english wasn't as strong as his rafting skills. Anyway, the scenery was absolutely amazing. And towards the end of the tour, we were allowed to jump out of the raft and float down a narrow river gorge (the water was slow moving at this point). Unforgetable.

After the rafting trip, we did a 4 in one day tour that included the Sarapique River, Butterfly Farm, Volcan Poas (see picture) and some really big waterfalls (see other picture). It was another really good tour. It took all day and the only compliant I have is about Costa Rican roads - they are not straight. A day spent in winding, jolting bus can cause some stomach upset.

Next we met up with Tanis' parents in San Jose. I would recommend Hotel Bougainvillea With San Jose as a base, we made a number of trips including a visit to a coffee plantation and a gondola trip through the rainforest.

Tanis' Dad got a little ill at about this point. It could have been the fresh fruit juice he drank at Cafe Brit, the steak he ate for dinner, or too much bad water. We would recommend bringing a prescription for antibiotics to remedy discomfort from reactions of this sort. The next leg of our trip was a half-day trip in a private van on a very bumpy road followed by a boat trip up river. Not the most enjoyable if you're feeling poorly.

But the day of travelling got us to the northeast coast of Costa Rica (Caribbean side) - an area called Tortuguero. During certain times of the year, turtles nest on the beach in the area. Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time and didn't see any turtles. But we did take a boat tour and saw all sorts of wildlife - caimans, Jesus Christ lizards (they walk on the water!), monkeys and a lot of birds. There was a few others on the tour with us and one fellow in particular made an impression. He was obviously a keen bird-watcher and he kept thanking the birds for "their beautiful flight". We stayed at Tortuga Lodge. Another good choice.

Next was a short flight back to San Jose to get on another van for a trip to Volcan Arenal. The weather didn't cooperate and we didn't get the opportunity to see the top of the volcano. But we could definitely hear it rumbling! We stayed at Arenal Lodge We really liked this hotel - very relaxing. While in the area, we hiked at the base of the volcano and then spent the evening at Tabacon hot springs

From Arenal we went directly to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and stayed at Monteverde Lodge. While in the area, we hiked the cloud forest and caught sight of the illusive Quetzal, a very colorful bird native to the area. We also took a tour of the cloud forest on some zip lines.

At this stage, we were starting to wind down our vacation. We were ready for something a little bit more relaxing. So after Monteverde we went on to the southwest coast of Costa Rica (Pacific side) - to an area near Manuel Antonio national park. From here we went on afternoon sailing trip and watched dolphins and birds feeding on flying fish.

I would go back to Costa Rica for a vacation anytime.