On our last day in Costa Rica the taxi picked us up at 4:00 AM. We got to the airport at 4:30. When we got there we stood in line for about 15 to pay for our airport tax of $29 each. (everyone pays this). We could have prepaid the tax for $3.00 extra at the hotel in San Jose, but they were out of forms. After we filled out the form, we got in line to check in. My line was long as I had a soccer team in front of me that had several large boxes to check in. After check in, I had to go into another line to check my passport. After that, there was one more line to get through security. The line went fast. They didn’t check for liquids at this point. However, right before you boarded the plane, they checked your suitcase for liquids. The airport is not huge, so it wasn’t too far to the gate. When they called our zone we walked outside to get onto a bus that took us to our plane. More than one bus was filled to get people to it. Everyone boarded orderly and the plane left on time. I didn’t get home until 12:30 AM. I had arranged for the Super Shuttle to take me home. The ride is $35 and well worth it. I was lucky to be the first dropped off. I was glad to be home and very happy that I had made many good friends along the way. I was also glad that I didn't have to use any of the Imodium that the travel clinic recommend I take with me.
Marcella Vernon runs a small homestay in San Jose. Her house is fenced in and has an intercom to ring when visitors come. When we arrived, she met us at the gate and showed us her large front yard with peacocks. She has a beautiful two story home decorated in traditional Costa Rican motif including a brightly painted cart. She houses individuals as well as groups; some people stay with her and others with people in the neighborhood. She also books tours. Dinner is available for $10 each. We still had fruit left over from the market, so we passed on dinner. Later that evening, she took us to the market across the street. It was comparable to any grocery store in the US. She bought a few things to pack for breakfast for our trip to the airport. She also arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 4:00 AM the next morning and told us it would be 15,000 colones (about $28.00 US). We had to consolidate our bags so we only had the 2 carry ons. We went to sleep at 9:00 PM so that we could be up at 3:30 AM. Homestay is a good option if you are not interested in a pool. It is a good way to get immersed into the culture and to learn a little Spanish. I highly recommend it. If you want more information about Marcella's Homestay, please contact me at email@example.com.
After we checked in at our hotel in Dominical, we asked if there was a way we could get a taxi to drive to a waterfall. We arranged for one to pick us up at 2:30. The taxi was prompt and he took us about 5 miles to the waterfalls. It was in a very desolate place, with no sign, but fortunately, there was another taxi there. We asked the taxi driver to show us exactly where it was. He took it down a very unkept path, where I stumbled and fell. Luckily it was a soft fall with no injuries. It is a good thing that it was a short walk.
It wasn't much of a falls, so we took pictures and left. The driver dropped us off at the beach. There were a lot more vendors right on the beach than there were at Manual Antonio. Dominical is a lot smaller than Manual Antonio and there wasn't much business; however, the prices were about the same.
After shopping, we soaked up the sun on the white sand beach. We found a couple of empty chairs with an umbrella. There were a fair number of people on the beach; many of them were surfers and much younger than us. Again, the waves were big, yet gentle. We didn’t stay too long as we wanted to get back to the hotel before dark. As we walked down the wobbly road, we passed several restaurants. They were all small and very rustic looking. I noticed a dog hanging around the tables at one of them. After passing about five restaurants, we decided to eat at our hotel.
It was probably about a mile to our hotel. When we got there, we enjoyed a walk around the grounds. There were several beautiful flowers. We cleaned up and got ready for dinner. Our coconut shrimp was delicious.
When we got back into the room, we saw a gecko on the wall. We asked housekeeping to get it out, but they said there was nothing they could do and that they won’t hurt us. We went to the pool and talked till about 11:00. By that time we were really tired and tried to forget about the gecko. I slept with a hat on and a sheet over my mouth. I woke up about 6:00 and Jan was already up. I don’t think she slept much. I was still tired and slept for another hour. We ate and walked around the grounds more.
We were being picked up at 11:20 for our ride back to San Jose. The driver was on time. He already had two other people in the van. I asked them where they stayed, and they said "High up the hill; so high the van couldn’t get us." A jeep had to bring them down to meet the van. They had toucans and macaws on their property.
I was happy to be on my way back to San Jose. Unfortunately, we didn’t take a ride straight to San Jose. We had to pick up someone in Jaco, so we went the long way around. We were the last ones to be dropped off and didn’t get back to our place until 5:00. Graciously, our driver dropped us off at the house where we were staying. More tomorrow about our homestay with Marcella Bell.
On day 10 of our Costa Rica trip we were not being picked up until noon to go to Dominical, about 40 miles South of Manual Antonio. We decided to take it easy and just hang around the pool and our room. We first tried the fruit we bought at the market. A purple fruit tasted a lot like a pear. The long sleeves, filled with seeds and fruit, were tasty. There are so many different types of fruits, I can’t mention them all.
After breakfast we sat by the pool. As soon as I was going to sit down, I noticed a large iguana. It was bigger than any I’d seen so far. It wasn’t afraid of me, but it wasn’t coming at me either. I took a few pictures and left it alone. It seemed to like to be in the sun. I still needed to pack up my bags so I didn’t stay too long. After packing up, we dragged our bags down a huge hill to the reception area. We waited a long time before the van picked us up. It only took us up the hill to Manual Antonio and dropped us off at a hotel.
The Interbus picked us up and then the Grayline took us to Dominical, small village on the coast. I recommend that you check the company schedules before you book the trip. Even though Gray Line and Interbus cost the same, the schedules are much different. Since we had about 45 minutes to wait, we went to the restaurant across the street, Avion. Part of it was an old plane. Again, it overlooked the ocean. The food was delicious and the wait staff was very fast. We ate quickly and got back in time for the bus. Our trip was about 45 minutes. The roads were good until we got into Dominical. The van drove up a side road which was very rocky. I thought we were going into the outback. As we entered the city, we saw only a few small restaurants. There were not many hotels and the roads were very bumpy. About one mile up the road was our hotel, Villa Rio Mars. More to come tomorrow about our stay in Dominical.
On our next day in Costa Rica, we went white water rafting. We went to the office around 7:00 AM and found some brochures describing the different rafting options. The owner was at the desk and said he would have his secretary call us when she got in around 7:20. In the meantime, he showed us the toucans that were right outside his windows. It was a treat to see these magical birds. They sat on his window ledge as he worked. When Dorit got in, she arranged for a rafting company to pick us up at 8:30. We were off to our next adventure. I had been rafting twice before, so I knew what to expect. We drove about 45 minutes to our rafting spot. The walk from the van to the river was treacherous. I hoped things would get better as we got on the river. When we got to the edge of the river, the guide gave us a huge speech on all the safety things we needed to know in case we tipped over. It could have scared you out of the trip, but I had been rafting before, so I wasn’t freaked out.
We got into the river and #3 rapids came quickly. Soon we were at a #4 rapid. There were huge boulders in the rapids and the guide had to get out of the raft to maneuver around them. I couldn’t wait to see what was ahead: a couple of fairly calm rapids and then another big one. At one point I thought our raft was going to tip, but our guide helped maneuver us without tipping. We usually stopped after we got through large rapids to wait for the other raft that was with us. Only one tip by the other raft and nothing scary. It was definitely the highlight of the trip.
After rafting, our driver set up a picnic of pineapple, cookies, juice, and plantain chips. It was a good way to end the exhilarating experience. When we got back to the shop, they had pictures for us. One of our crew was a photographer and kayaked around us to get good pictures. I’m glad I documented that I had made it through the rough waters. The other couple that was on the trip with us, had been sailing for two years. They started out from San Francisco with another couple and took their time in the Pacific Ocean. They invited us to see their boat at the marina. Before we went, we had lunch and did a little shopping.
There was a lot of security at the marina in Quepos. We finally got security to let us on the boardwalk to get to their boat, but they were not home. It’s hard to believe that you could live on a sailboat for two years. We decided to stop at the Marina Bar for a quick drink to cool down. As we were leaving, we noticed they were blowing up a huge movietron for a 6:00 movie. We thought we might stay for the movie, but then decided we didn’t have time.
It was 3:30 and we walked through the farmer’s market outside the marina. We bought a bunch of different fruits to try at breakfast. Walking back to our hotel after the market, we found a fabulous bakery. People were standing in line for the fresh bread and rolls. We couldn’t pass this up. We had a raspberry Danish that was fabulous. Then off to our hotel.
We didn’t get back until 4:00, so we thought we’d missed the monkeys, but when I went for a swim, the monkeys came out. One was poking through the banana trees. I wasn’t sure he would show his face, but it wasn’t long before he started strutting on the edge of the pool. He picked a banana and started eating it. Pretty soon, he was hanging off the side of the pool, in the water. Then came another one, also strutting his stuff and taking over the show. They were out about 10 minutes and then went back into the trees.
After the monkey show, we decided to get ready for dinner. We tried to take the bus, but there wasn’t one that stopped. We ended up taking a taxi to Barb Rosa. It was a restaurant at the top of the hill in Manual Antonio, overlooking the ocean. We barely sat down when the sun was going down. I had a salad and Jan had an eggplant sandwich. The food was very good. Our guide told us that we could drink the water in San Jose, Tamarindo, Monteverde, and Arenal. I was very careful at first to only drink bottled water, but everyone was drinking tap water, so it seemed safe. I drank the water in Costa Rica at most places and didn’t have any trouble. However, there were a few people that did get sick. After dinner, we took a taxi back to our hotel. The next day we were being picked up at 12:20 PM to go to our next place.
On day eight of our trip we headed for Manual Antonio. It is South of San Jose on the Pacific Coast and known for bodysurfing, beaches, state park, and restaurants.
We were very surprised that there was a super highway going there. We passed a couple of toll booths on the way. We took the Gray Line but could have also taken the Interbus. Both charged $49 to get there. There is also a public bus, but it makes a lot more stops. There was only one other couple on the bus with us. The driver, didn’t speak English very well, but enough to get by. When he took us to our hotel, Manual Antonio Estates, I negotiated a ride with him to the State Park. He had to take the other couple to a hotel near the park, so it wasn’t much out of his way. I was so happy that he waited for us to drop off our bags and get a few things before we went to the park.
When we got to the park, we bought an entrance ticket for $10.00. Right away we were approached by park guides to see if they could give us a tour of the park. Because of our previous experience, we knew we probably wouldn’t see much unless we had a guide. We paid $20 each for the guide and started our trek. It was noon and very hot. Thank heavens we had shade from all the trees. Our guide had a telescope so we could get a good view of all the wildlife. The trek was only about 45 minutes, but we saw a lot: squirrel and white faced monkeys, bats, sloths, iguanas, and several birds. At the end of the tour, there was a changing room and then beach #1. We were so hot; we got into our suits and went for a dip. Right after getting out of the water a group of about ten white faced monkeys came out. It was a real treat. We were told that the main beach was #3 and that we could rent two chairs and umbrellas for $6.00. We walked about a mile and came to the beach. It was a beautiful beach with large waves and lots of surfers. We found a couple of chairs on the edge of the beach and sat down. In about a minute someone came to us and asked if we wanted to rent the chairs. We gave them $6.00 and they were on their way. Next we had very persistent vendors selling jewelry and pottery stop by.
We finally got back into the water. Even though the waves were huge, they were gentle. It is a good place to body or boogie board surf. We watched a beautiful sunset: deep oranges turned into dreamsicle oranges, then sherbet and dreamy pinks. After the show we visited a variety of vendors across the street from the beach. Then, time to decide which restaurant to visit. We saw one very nice restaurant on the beach and some smaller ones a little further up. There are a lot of very nice restaurants between Manual Antonio and Quepos. We didn't know enough about them, so we decided to only have a snack.
The city bus stops at the beach and takes you down the hill to the city of Quepos. Even though our hotel’s name is Manual Antonio Estates, it is really in Quepos. The bus is only about a $1 to our stop, but since it is dark, we opt for a taxi. The taxi was about $7.00 to our hotel. When we got back, we spent a little time on the patio. The neighbors were out and clued us in on when the monkeys come out at our hotel, usually around 3:00 pm. We made plans to white water raft the next day. However, we don’t have reservations, so we know we have to get up early to make them.
Costa Rica has been voted the happiest country in the world. They have a very stable political system and no army. The average temperature is 76 to 81 degrees. Who wouldn't be happy? They have no fighting and great weather.
Today we are headed back to San Jose. Our first stop is a cart factory. The Costa Ricans are very meticulous painters and the carts are colorfully painted. They make trays with the same color combinations.
After the cart factory tour we stopped in Zarcero to visit a church and topiary garden. The shrubs were sculptured into elephants, dinosaurs, birds, and other whimsical forms. There were many flowers among the shrubs. After Zarcero, we stopped in Grecia at another church and park. Of course there was time for POPs ice cream.
Before we went back to our hotel, we toured the city of San Jose. We stopped at the National Theater, which was a highlight. It is one of the places they entertain presidents and dignitaries when they are in town. I was glad to be back to better roads. The guide reminded us that there is 95% literacy in Costa Rica. The three biggest industries are software development, tourism, and pharmaceuticals. The three biggest crops are coffee, bananas, and pineapple. We also saw a lot of sugar cane. Temperature changes go by elevation. It was a lot cooler in San Jose than in Manual Antonio. We arrived back at the Wyndham in San Jose. For dinner we were served wine and a buffet.
On day five of our Costa Rica tour, we set off on a river cruise to Cano Negro. We got to the river before 9:00 so that we could be the first ones on the river. Our boat captain had eagle eyes and found so many neat things. We saw the best crocodile, white faced monkeys, a lot of white storks and numerous other birds. We took a little longer ride and hit the Nicaragua border. After the ride, we went to town to a souvenir shop and restaurant. It was a small town, but had a lot of shops, supermarket, and veterinarian. Some people hit the spa when we got back, but we opted for the pool. It was a beautiful pool and we needed to take advantage of it. Some of our group hiked around Arenal Volcano. They came back with some good pictures of birds, snakes, and insects. The change of pace to a hike was nice for those that like a little more exercise. Tonight we had a buffet with a lot of good choices. Every meal usually has rice and beans. I really like the taste of it. It is much different than Mexican Rice. Also, a popular item on the menu is plantains. They look a lot like a banana when they are raw, but they must be cooked to eat. They are usually served for breakfast or in a dessert. The salads have heart of palm in them. Again, the heart has to be boiled before it can be eaten and it is very tasty. It is made into soup as well. Tres Leches is a very popular dessert. It is a white cake and is usually made with three different kinds of milk. It is one of my favorite Costa Rican desserts.
On day five in Costa Rica, we started the day with a visit to a tree nursery and learned about Monteverde’s reforestation efforts. We planted a tree to commemorate Collette’s donations to the nursery. Then we began another bus ride to Lake Arenal. On our way, we saw breathtaking views of the Arenal Volcano. The bus got to the lake and we all boarded a boat for an ecological boat ride. We saw crocs, birds, blue herons, bats, turtles, howler monkeys, and the beautiful Arenal Volcano. After the boat ride, we stopped for lunch at a local town. Some people took a cab to the hot springs in Tabacon. There are quite a few hot springs in the area. After lunch we settled into the Mountain Paradise Hotel. It was a fabulous hotel with a bathroom we could have danced in. The patio had a whirlpool which faced the volcano. The pool had a swim up bar which also faced the volcano. We went for a quick drink at the pool and then went to a cooking demo. After the demo we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I had the best sea bass. It is one of the popular fish choices in Costa Rica.
On our next day in Tamarindo, we walked the beach and shopped the local markets. Surfers were out riding the waves. The warm, rolling waves splashed over our feet. The beaches have white sand and long skinny shells, but it is forbidden to take them. There were a variety of shops lining the main area. You can also get some deals from the locals on the beach selling bird whistles and jewelry. However, we spent most of our time at the pool. We were enjoying the ocean view in the hotel beach yard when the local iguana wanted to make friends. It was fairly big, but kept its distance. The iguana climbed up the tree and then came down for a closer look. Soon it was time to take our catamaran/snorkel cruise so we lost track of iggy. We took a small boat from the beach to a catamaran about 5 minutes away. The catamaran held about 100 people. There wasn't much shade unless you sat down by the bar. It was much too stuffy for me in that area, so I enjoyed the sun. The water was a little choppy but the scenery was nice. We went out about 45 minutes and then began to snorkel. I saw several small fish, but was a little disappointed in the size and number of fish I saw. We were out for about an hour and could go to the beach if we wanted. When we got back on the boat, we had chips, salsa, and a few other snacks. As we sailed back, we saw the rich oranges of the sunset. That night we went to a local restaurant and heard a local singer. The food was marginal, but the singer was great. We passed a lot of people and restaurants on our way to dinner. We also noticed a casino across from our restaurant. We didn’t see anyone dancing, but I’m sure you could have found a dance spot. We went to bed early because we knew we had to get up early the next day to take the bus to Monteverde.