Archive for the 'Costa Rica' Category

Tortuguero

Tortuguero

Tortuguero is a remote village wedged between the ocean and the canals of the Parque Nacional Tortuguero.  Located in the rainiest of all Costa Rican rain forests, half the adventure of visiting Tortuguero is traveling there.  From the closest town it’s just over an hour’s drive along an unpaved, potholed road that eventually dead-ends.  From there, it’s another hour’s travel time by lancha, or motorboat, through the canals. 

Tortuguero is a small place, only one main strip of boardwalk lined with a few shops, cabinas and restaurants connected to several muddy paths that lead further into the village.  There are no cars and driving is impossible.  It rains off and on all day and night; and not just a sprinkle here and there, when it rains it pours, followed by an hour or two of clear skies and then another downpour.  At times, everything floods.  In between the storms it’s hot and muggy and bug repellant is a necessity. 

Tortuguero’s residents hardly seem to notice the rain, no one rushes to escape it and there aren’t umbrellas popping up everywhere at the first drop.  Instead, it’s just nature’s way of providing relief from the heat and humidity.  We woke up at 5 a.m. the morning of our canal tour to find the rain had already begun.  Throughout the morning we all struggled to keep dry during some of the strongest downpours while our guide hardly seemed bothered. 

Rain or no rain, which is pretty much how it went, off and on for just over three hours, our tour on the aquatic trails through the national park turned out to be pretty amazing.  Referred to as the ‘mini-Amazon,’ because of its diverse plant and animal life, Tortuguero is one of the top destinations in all of Costa Rica to spot wildlife.  During our three hours out on the water we saw monkeys, iguanas, toucans, several species of birds and fish, sloths, and a small caiman.

San José

San jose

View over rooftops in San José, Costa Rica

We passed through Costa Rica’s capital city quickly, hanging around just long enough to grab a quick bite at Taco Bell, get some sleep between buses and snap this photo from our room at the hostel.

Volcán Arenal

Volcán Arenal

Volcán Arenal, located 15km west of the town of La Fortuna, is Costa Rica’s most active volcano and has been producing ash columns, explosions and lava streams almost daily since 1968.  Climbing the volcano is prohibited, but several hiking trails lead through old lava flows and tropical rain forests around its base in what is now known as the Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal.  While hiking these trails it’s possible to view the volcano from several angles and to hear rumblings, explosions and the sounds of rocks being expelled down the mountainside as well as to spot birds and other wildlife. 

We got an early start, hoping to squeeze in all of our hikes before the afternoon rains set in.  Unfortunately, the rain camVolcán Arenal 069e early, around mid-morning, and caught us by surprise.  It started pouring down and within minutes the trail became nothing more than a muddy river.  We had only one small umbrella between the two of us and it was broken in a few spots after having been crammed in the bottom of my bag for the past six months.  Our hike ended soon after with the two of us drenched from head to toe, our running shoes soaked through and covered in mud.

La Catarata de Fortuna

la catarata de fortuna

Located 7km outside of La Fortuna, the 70m high Catarata de Fortuna, or La Fortuna waterfall, makes for a perfect day trip from town.  The hike to the falls, through pastureland and papaya trees, is all uphill.  The heat can be sweltering but a dip in the cool, clear waters is all it takes to cool off.

lauracarlos

La Fortuna

la fortuna

After departing Montezuma we headed inland to the north central region of Costa Rica taking the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya and stopping over in San Ramon before settling in the former farming town of La Fortuna.  In addition to being a great base from which to explore some of the country’s natural wonders, it’s also given us a greater insight into Costa Rican culture and lifestyle .  Enjoying the highest standard of living in all of Central America, Ticos take pride in the idea that in comparison to their neighbors they are not poor, illiterate or plagued by political instability.  In fact, the central valley surrounding San José is  dependent upon a workforce that’s young, educated and increasingly bilingual.  Traveling through the country these differences are apparent.  Streets and neighborhoods are kept clean, wildlife is protected and preserved and beggars are few; nearly non-existent outside of the capital city and rarely, if ever, children.  And despite the fact that it’s the most expensive country for travelers in Central America, Costa Rica remains one of the most popular destinations in the region.

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.

Playa Sámara

samara beach

Sámara Beach by Suzanne Delaney

beach

salsa