Archive for May, 2009

Península de Nicoya

allie and jill 

Photo by Suzanne Delaney

After nearly eight months away from home we have to admit we were pretty excited to see some familiar faces.  Our friends Sue, Jill and Allie came to visit us in Sámara beach.  Located along the 130km of coastline that stretches across the Nicoya Peninsula, Sámara is just one of the many beaches that together make up Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destination.  We stayed up on the hillside in a jungle lodge overlooking themono ocean where we would watch monkeys swing through the trees just outside our rooms.  And when we weren’t hanging out on the beach, watching Sue and Allie’s surf lessons, hiking waterfalls or exploring the town we could be found relaxing poolside up at the lodge.  Evenings were spent watching thunderstorms light up the sky from our balconies (rainy season has finally arrived in Central America), dining at excellent beach-side restaurants and dancing salsa or mingling with other travelers at the open-air nightspots.  Unfortunately, the time flew by and before we knew it the girls were heading home and we were on our way to Montezuma beach.

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Playa Sámara

samara beach

Sámara Beach by Suzanne Delaney

beach

salsa

Bienvenidos a Costa Rica

border

The border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas is busy and slow.  We arrived in the morning and lined up alongside hundreds of Nicaraguan migrant workers.  Two and a half hours spent waiting in line to leave Nicaragua and another three waiting to enter Costa Rica was complicated by a power outage.  And every so often the guard monitoring the line would rearrange its positioning and a mad dash to the new front of the line would leave Carlos and I standing in a cloud of dust further back than we had been just minutes before, our frustrations building.  Our lengthiest border crossing to date, we finally made it across around 4 p.m., nearly 6 hours after we first arrived in Peñas Blancas.

San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur sunset

San Juan del Sur at sunset

Nicaragua’s main beach resort at San Juan del Sur pales in comparison to the resort areas in Mexico, but that’s one of the reasons we love it.  From $2500/week beach houses overlooking the ocean to simple $10/night rooms such as ours, there’s something here for every type of traveler.  Located just minutes from some of the finest surfing beaches in the country, it attracts a steady stream of backpackers and vacationers.  The beach is beautiful and in the evenings the sunset lights up the sky in magnificent reds and oranges before disappearing behind the cliffs that frame this picturesque bay.  In fact, San Juan del Sur recently became a popular cruise ship destination when many of Mexico’s beaches were bypassed due to the swine flu outbreak. 

San Juan del Sur beachIt’s impossible to pass up a beautiful dinner overlooking the ocean.  We spent an evening at restaurante El Timón, known to be one of the best in San Juan del Sur, and enjoyed a delicious meal of grilled whole red snapper, seafood rice and lobster tail with fresh veggies.  Que rico!

Here are a couple more pictures of the sunset on our last night in San Juan:

San Juan del Sur sunset 008

San Juan del Sur sunset 012

 

 

 

 

 

And one of us:

San Juan del Sur sunset 013

Isla de Ometepe

Isla Ometepe

Bouncing down bumpy dirt roads past fields of banana trees and palms, a giant volcano looming overhead and the silhouette of another in the distance, parrots chattering as they dart from branch to branch and the sound of waves crashing against the shore.  This only begins to describe the experience of visiting Ometepe Island.  Formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe is a kind of fantasy-land where the pace of life slows to a near halt and things appear as you imagine they might have many years ago. 

It’s the first place in several months that had me awake before 6:30 a.m. and reaching for my running shoes.  After a perfect night of being lulled to sleep by the rustling of palm leaves in the cool night breeze, my early morning jog on the beach led me past makeshift lakeside laundry stations where women and children were hard at work scrubbing their clothes against the smooth rocks.  We watched each other as I passed, exchanging a wave or a  friendly “Buenas Dias”, though it was pretty clear the sight of me out jogging was just as strange to them as their washing clothes in the lake was to me.

pupsAs mid-day approaches the temperature on the island climbs quickly.  Instead of cooling off in the lake we hiked for several kilometers past small coastal settlements, farms and forests.  We passed boys on bicycles carrying giant bunches of plantains, pick-up trucks jam packed with people and small homes built of concrete and aluminum, most with outhouses.  Life on the island is like nothing I’ve ever known and though Ometepe sees it’s share of visitors these days you’d never know it, especially if you stay outside of it’s two major settlements, on the beach at Santo Domingo as we did.

Las Isletas

Isletas

Las Isletas are small islands just offshore from Granada in the Lago de Nicaragua.  Numbering into the hundreds and easily reached by motorboat from Granada, the isletas are seperated by narrow channels and rich with vegetation and wildlife, particulary egrets, herons and cranes.  Formed some 10,000 years by an erupting Volcán Mombacho, today many are inhabited by Nicaragua’s super-wealthy.  We spotted a ‘for sale’ sign and it seems the going rate for a small island in the lake is around $250,000.

Volcán Masaya

masaya

We visited the Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya on a day trip from Granada.  Located just off the main highway that links Granada with Managua, it’s a short ride from town and any Managua bound bus will drop you just outside the entrance.  From there it’s an additional 6km to reach the summit of the volcano and the Plaza de Oviedo which overlooks Cráter Santiago.  Emiting giant clouds of smoke and smelling strongly of sulfur, this very active crater is the park’s main attraction.  It’s believed that during pre-hispanic times Cráter Santiago was the site of human sacrifices to the goddess of fire.