Costa RicaNovember 4, 2008 - November 9, 2008
Photos are here
Since a bunch of my other ideas for trips this year (Alaska, Russia, Iceland) hadn't panned out for one reason or another I decided to meet up with a bunch of friends in Costa Rica on their way back from Peru (and Machu Picchu!).
It was just a quick 6-day trip for me, but a quite busy 6 days! The first day we spent a lot of it driving from the San Jose airport to Hotel Silencio Del Campo. Very cute private cabins and the hotel has it's own hot-spring (which we made use of that night). This was actually my first time in a hot-spring, and it was fantastic! Of course the nearby bar was nice, but so was the glow of the volcano (look closely). I guess my (mostly) new friends helped make it enjoyable as well. :P
The next day wasn't one for sleeping in! We had to get up, eat a nice breakfast (including many fresh fruits) and then head off for some zip-lining! After getting out harness/helmets/glove/etc we took a nice tram ride up to the top of the mountain where we had two "training zip-lines". After those it was the point of no return! I was actually pretty surprised about how long some of the zip-lines were, with the longest being 750m! Anyhow it was a blast and there were tons of great views the whole way!
On the way back the van stopped at the side of the road so we could gawk at a local coati. Once back and refreshed we headed into town for some shopping/exploring while waiting for the other two guys who went whitewater rafting instead of zip-lining.
When our group was whole again we headed over to Eco Termales Hot Springs for drinks, hot-springs, drinks, dinner, drinks, hot-springs (in roughly that order). These hot-springs were amazing and fun was had by all!!
Again no time for sleeping in the next day; we were taking a taxi, boat, horse, taxi from Arenal to Monteverde! Well, most of us were. Instead Babs and Sandy chose to sleep in, go for massages and then taxi, boat, taxi to catch up with us (and they had rave reviews of the spa at fancy Tabacon). The horseback riding was super fun! The last time I'd been on a horse was a tour of Yosemite valley. Much like those horses, these ones were very well trained and could just walk the course with little-to-no intervention from the rider. But where they differed was that this trail was wide enough for many horses to ride abreast and the guides let us spread out. Thus a bunch of us could gallop ahead and the wait for the others to catch up. Galloping is fun!! Made friends with a family from Vancouver as well -- kids are cute!
That night was going to be Matt's last night with us (as he had to head home earlier). Thus we headed out to a local bar for some cervezas.. It was a pretty quiet night at the local bar, but we still had fun and even ripped it up a little on the dance floor. Go crazy tourists!!
As the zip-lining was so fun, most of the group decided to go again in Monteverde, however Lisa and I said phooey to that and went on a coffee plantation tour instead! Don Juan was the name of the place, and there we learnt about the life-cycle and processing of coffee beans. In fact, we even got to meet Don Juan himself! Also got to ride in a ox-cart for bit, while entertaining I can't really imagine it as a pleasant way to travel for anything more than a few feet (yet they used to make week-long travels in them). The best part of the tour was hanging out in the cafe afterwards sampling the various dark/light roasts. Mmmm...
The rest of the afternoon consisted of wandering around town, more coffee, writing postcards, a serpentarium and some hot-tubbing. We debated over getting a tour of the serpentarium and decided to get one in the end. It was a great idea! Without the tour we wouldn't have noticed many things about the snakes.. and in fact our guide let us hold some animals as well! That evening, after another fine dinner at the hotel, we checked out the Bat Jungle. This was a very cool event! The tour was very informative, though getting to see the bats and play with (annoy?) them with flashlights was great. So what did I really learn that day? When visiting museums/attractions get the guided tours! You'll learn more and it'll be much more memorable then blindly walking through yourself!
Our last real day consisted of a guided tour (w00t!) of the Cloud Forest. This served to cement my faith in tours. If we had done the trail on our own we would have been done in about 1/2 an hour and missed all the interesting information. Instead we spent over 2 hours there, learned a ton of information and saw some animals (a viper, walking-stick, almost a quetzal). I really enjoyed the ficus that envelops other trees!
We also went to the hummingbird viewing area (basically a nearby building with lots of hummingbird feeders). They're quite colourful and interesting to watch. They're also really hard to get good pictures of with a crappy point-and-shoot camera. :P But here's one anyhow.
The Frog Museum was next on our list. We were going to wait until it was dark (as the frogs are more active then), but due to boredom we ended up going there earlier (around 3 or 4pm I think). Once again we got the tour and learned a lot. Also it turned out to be quite difficult to find the little frogs amidst all the leaves and such; yet another reason for a guide! The tour lasted an hour or so and then as we were about to leave it started to pour. After tooling around the gift shop a bit waiting for the rain to let up we just went back into the exhibit as it was starting to get dark already. We then spent a ton of time revisiting each frog exhibit and taking tons of pictures of them!
The next day was a bumpy ride back to San Jose then some waiting until our flights. The airport did have one cool thing where you could trade any pin you had for a Costa Rican flag pin. Fun for me and good advertising for them!
While it was a short trip I had a blast and am super happy I went!