Last year for our annual vacation we decided to go to Costa Rica, yay! It turned out to be an awesome trip and boy. The feeling of going to foreign land without knowing a word of the language was really unique and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience. This was a 10 day trip and as usual with all my vacations, it did not feel long enough. We reached San José (CR) on 25th Dec 2010 by the early morning flight. Loaded with all the information that I could find in all the tourist guides, thought I was well ready for the hinterland of the tourist world. But, as soon as we landed, we were swindled by a cab driver and he charged us $10 more than the fare. And I immediately felt comfortable, kinda felt at home. The character of Costa Rica is very similar to India. Foreign tourists get swindled, roads are bad and the country doesn’t have freakin’ postal addresses! They survive by mentioning distance from landmarks.
Our first destination was Tortuguero on the eastern side of Costa Rica. It is a small village on the Caribbean side which is mostly popular for the turtles during nesting season. Yet, we decided to visit even in the off-season due to recommendation from my friend. I’m really glad we did so. Rainy season really doesn’t define the kind of weather we experienced there. It rains like crazy and it is relentless. In the dry season in Tortuguero, it rains for about 23 days in a month! Tortuguero is also called as the Venice of Costa Rica. There are no roads leading up to the area and one needs to travel by waterways in small boats to reach the place. There is a wonderful variety of flora and fauna. We saw beautiful birds like toucan and wonderful butterflies like the clear-winged satyr. But the most unique species that we saw was the red poison-dart frog. It is a tiny and really beautiful frog.
Next we moved to Monteverde. It is aptly called the biological hot-spot of the country. The kind of diversity in plant and animal life in Monteverde is really unique. There are also lot of adventure activities. We did some zip-lining provided by Sky adventures. It was fun and povided some adrenaline rush. We did some birding tours searching for the ultimate prize. It is a magnificent bird called as resplendent Quetzal. Although we could not see the bird properly, we were still lucky enough to see some part of the bird through some leaves. Finding the bird in Dec in Monteverde is extremely rare. We checked out other places like the butterfly garden and hummingbird garden. But, my favorite tour was the night tour at the ecological sanctuary. We saw some really cool wildlife like tarantulas, sleeping toucans and the Olinga.
Next on our list was Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park. We encountered our best weather of the trip at this place. Finally, we could do some hiking and birding without being worried by the weather. We stayed at the Hacienda Guachipelin resort. Although we got very good recommendation for this resort, we did not find it worth the money spent. It seemed like any typical resort where North-American travelers a.k.a “gringos” go for splurging their money. The national park is really beautiful with variety of unique animals. The hiking trails in this park can boast about some really beautiful locations. We did a trail which primarily had two waterfalls as points of attraction. The La Cangreja waterfall was my favorite and I got some opportunity for doing some good photography and took a quick dip. We also some boiling mud pots and other volcanic activity. At the end of the day, we decided to take a refreshing mud bath. The idea is to apply mud on your body and let it dry and then take a dip in warm water springs to wash it off. Although, we would not do it again but, for the first time, it was certainly a unique experience.
Last stop of our trip was as La Fortuna near the Arenal volcano. We did some local naturalist guided tours at the base of the volcano but constant bad weather deprived us from having a good look at the volcano itself. Although a trip was fairly unproductive, it was fun hiking so close to a volcano. So we decided to do a day tour nearby at the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge. This turned out to be really good decision. All the nature lovers visiting Arenal should not miss this trip. We saw some amazing wildlife like the white faced Capuchins, proboscis bats, three toad sloth and some cool birds like roadside hawks, roseate spoonbills etc. It turned out to be a day well spent. We cooled out in the evening at Baldi hot springs. It is just a big resort with warm mineral water springs which provide for some relaxation opportunity.
We met some interesting people and learnt some Spanish along the way. The Costa Rican Spanish has its own flavor due it its distinct culture. The general populace is warm and friendly and we liked them. There are two words which endears you to any locals you meet, “Pura Vida”, which literally means pure life!