A Travellerspoint blog

Costa Rica

Glamping in the Jungle

Tami Lodge and Quetzal National Park

rain 50 °F
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29 April 2021

Well, when you're in a rainforest...it rains!! And true to it's name, it rained all night long...HARD. We woke to, you guessed it, more rain. We were very sad to pack up and leave our lovely house in EO but it was on to a new adventure: Quetzal National Park and Tami Lodge in Providencia de Dota.

As I mentioned before, our neighbors Charlie and Gail highly recommended the Quetzal National Park. They had been there on an OAT Tour and really thought it was a highlight of the trip. It only took a little food and wine to convince us we should add this stop to our trip.

With a little research, we found Tami Lodge, a ten bungalow glamping site located in Providencia, a small town of 250, set in lush valley area, in the canton of Dota. Sounds a little "other worldly" doesn't it??? It was.

WAZE estimated our trip from Esterillos Oeste, to be about three hours but what WAZE didn't know, that we did (info from our accommodations) was that the last 10 miles (or so) would be slow going, as it is a pretty rough road. Also, what it didn't take into account was rain and more rain and fog and more rain heading straight up into the mountains of central Costa Rica. As we ascended the winding two lane roadway (of course, with the obligatory tractor trailers, trucks, motorcycles, etc) the temperatures began to drop. Starting at about 85-90, when we finally arrived temps leveled off at 50(ish).

The highway up was "interesting" but the road off the highway into Providencia was an adventure. Dirt, gravel, mud, pot holes..and of course, rain made the 10 miles drive, a one hour bob and weave.

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After about an hour, with the help of small hand painted signs, we reached the end of the road...and Tami Lodge. Not really sure that we were at the right place.... but the sign said "Reception" - must be it. Being a little early, we checked with the man at the desk...of course we can check in.

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This was our first meeting with Juan. BUT - before checking in - wash hands and take temp and please wait behind the rope for social distancing. Juan is the GO TO guy at Tami Lodge and Santos Tours: manager, tour booker, baggage porter, historian and we were to learn later - the chef at the Lodges Restaurant: Cascades del Savegre.

When registration was complete, Juan (and his son Gustavo) walked the 50m up the dirt road. we drove.... to drop off luggage. It was then a short but steep walk down the cement sidewalk to our "Deluxe Bungalow. At Tami, there are two deluxe bungalows - each with one tent which has a queen bed plus a twin. The other eight accommodations are in four bungalows (2 tents to each bungalow). All have private showers (hot water) and toilet....and all have a stunning view of the valley below. This camp is right above the great Savegre River which served as the soundtrack to our whole trip. Oh and I forgot to mention: the shower has two walls that are one way glass - full view of the valley below.

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Jim and I quickly changed from our 90degree clothing to more appropriate rainy 50 degree attire - hiking shoes and all!!! We drove the car back down to the lodge/car park and found Juan to see our options for tours for the next two days. The Quetzal Tour was a must - kinda why we came here😏 and we decided on the Biocoffee Adventure (sure, why not).

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The bungalows have a battery powered light but no electricity. Fortunately, the Lodge has power stripes and WIFI so for us, it was an early dinner, charge phones and kindles, and then back to the bungalow to enjoy the view but not before taking the short hike down to the waterfall on the Savegre River.

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30 April 2021

Up with the sun and off to breakfast and our Biocoffee Adventure. Not really sure what to expect but we're excited to learn about coffee and coffee growing here in Costa Rica.

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Johan met us outside the lodge and we followed him back up "the road" to the local Green Communities Coffee Plantation at the experimental farm. This community group is small and staffed mostly by volunteers (who aren't there because of Covid 😯}. Johan had us climbing down the side of the hill to see where and how the coffee, at this project, grows. He talked to us, not only about the natural fertilizers and their green growing techniques, but also about the history of coffee in Costa Rica and specifically the Providencia area. This young man, with the dark, waist length hair, is passionate about coffee and the Green future of his country. I was impressed with the fact that he doesn't just "talk the talk" , he "walks the walk". He put himself through university by picking coffee beans, a job mostly held today, by Nicaraguans.

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Back down the hill and next door to Tami lodge is a local Providencia Coffee Mill that processes the locally grown coffee beans. Hard hats on, we walked down and through the buildings. The growing season is over, so we didn't get to see the process in action but Johan enthusiastically guided us through and we got to ask questions of the owner, Estaban.

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After our time in our outdoor classroom, we headed back to the lodge for a little taste testing. We blind tasted (smelled, slurped, drank) three different coffees. The only thing we knew were that one was a mass produced (not Green) coffee, one locally grown (sustainable but not really green) and the coffee grown and roasted by Green Communities Coffee. Neither Jim nor I like the mass produced coffee and we were split on the other two but we definitely tasted the difference.

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I think we both walked away with a whole new appreciation for coffee and what it takes to grow and produce good coffee.

Nap time, lead to dinner time and we headed to Cascades del Savegre (pretty much the only restaurant) for dinner. Starting with homemade soup, then a nice green salad, we selected our choice from their nicely scripted menu. The menu selection included three different preparations from the following proteins : chicken, pork, trout (local), beef, pasta and vegetarian.
(Sorry Nan, no food pics🤔)

Posted by pjburke 16:44 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Off to the Beach

Esterillos Oeste

sunny 84 °F
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26 April 2021

House on the Hill

Finally with the bug gone, I had a "relatively" good night sleep. Our time in the mountains has come to an end and we're heading to the beach but not before a quick stop to see Dr. Carolina (who takes a quick peak and says all looks good) and again breakfast at the Orchid Cafe.

Our adventure today will take us to a more populated area. Until this time, our wanderings took us on mostly quiet roads and into quiet towns. Down the mountain on a very winding road brought us to the Costa Rican version of a highway - Highway #1!! Remember, Costa Rica is a little smaller than West Virginia (sq miles) but without our infrastructure. This main road is two lanes ...just two lanes - one going north and the other south with an occasional passing lane on a hill.

The drive south was really not bad. So far on this trip we hadn't encountered the "horrible" roads and/or the "terrible" drivers we'd read so much about.

Three hours from start to finish and we'd arrived ...at the beach.

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Our Airbnb house was a real find. I was hunting around the website and found a reduced price for what looked like an awesome place. The reviews were excellent - so we booked it. SOOOOOO glad we did. We contacted the owner when we got to town. She was able to let us in early. So after unloading our "stuff" we headed down the hill and lunch at a small restaurant - Tropezon/ Pizza Express/Chinese Food. Pizza and burger was great and as we were leaving we noticed the Chinese food area was open and a young man was cooking in a huge wok. I wandered over to see what was up.... Ronnie insisted that I take a sample of what he was cooking. Oh, we will be back for some of his stir fry!!!!

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Back to the house.....It's gorgeous!! 2 BR/ 2 BA - on two floors with two terraces, beautiful gardens and a private pool. It doesn't have A/C but with fans in every room and also stand up fans - not needed.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/32980616

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27 April 2021

Not sure if was pure exhaustion but I slept GREAT!!!!

Our main terrace is in the back of the house off the living room/kitchen area. Sitting out there in the early morning light with a cup of coffee was incredibly peaceful. The terrace looks out into the jungle and even though there are houses on either side - I can't see anyone nor hear anyone - only the birds.

At this point in our trip we have reservations for the three days following our stay here in EO but after that.....up in the air. So, our goal today is take a road trip and investigate some of the little towns to the south. Our neighbor (Annie) back in Santa Elena, suggested Matapalo about an hour south of us. After some local fresh fruit (the mangos here are huge and awesome and cheap) for breakfast and we headed south.

Matapalo though nice was a little TOO quiet. Onward, down to Dominical. This town could be a maybe but we'd have to do a little more investigating on properties available and then our third stop was down to Uvita. For us Uvita, was a NO - didn't have the right "feel".

Late afternoon and it was time to head back to EO. We'd been told to try and avoid driving at night and we found out why. We hit weather....I mean - real weather. Rain falling straight down and so hard I could barely see the road. Rain does not stop Costa Ricans - there were people walking and riding bikes along the road (that I could barely see to being with) and believe me - there is not bike lanes - barely a shoulder. I was praying I made it back without hitting anyone. Learned my lesson - try and plan a little better!!!

28 April 2021

Played local for our last day in EO. Breakfast at Rancho Coral (small cafe attached to a small hotel on the beach) - one of the best breakfast burritos I've ever had. Then, north a bit, to check out Jaco. Jaco is a large, very touristy town - again a nope for us.

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Dinner our last night here in EO was the highly recommended Restaurant Los Almondros. Our host gave it a "must do" for dining. This very unassuming business did not fail to deliver. Very beachy, very casual.....VERY GOOD!!! The service was awesome - thank you Leo!! This little place might be one of the reasons we come back to Esterillos Oeste.

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A decision was also made tonight as to where we would go after Tami Lodge (our next stop) - Manuel Antonio. We knew we wanted to go to the National Park there and it got good reviews for activities. We found "The Falls at Manuel Antonio" and made reservations.

Tomorrow we'll be heading back into the mountains - to find more Quetzals. This area (Los Quetzals National Park) was recommended to us by our SB neighbors Gail and Charlie... Adventure is Out There!!!!

Posted by pjburke 18:20 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Plants and Animals ...if you call Chocolate a Plant!!!

Animals in ways I've never experienced

sunny
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24 April 2021

The Santa Elena/Monteverde area is famous for it's nature. There really is more to do than look at birds (which is an awesome thing to do - BTW). Some people come to this area for the hanging bridges and extensive zip lines. We are taking on a more esoteric activity today...CHOCOLATE.

Costa Rica is famous for it's chocolate and we wanted to find out why. There are three different tours in the area: coffee/chocolate, coffee/sugarcane/chocolate or just chocolate. We opted for just chocolate, at Cabure (a small artisan shop - www.cabure.net)

The small hillside shop/restaurant sits on the 2nd floor with a view of the valley. There were only four of on this tour but it would also be our first IASW (It's a small world) contact. Lucy and Julia, two young ladies from Sunderland, UK joined us. It just so happens Jim and I have good friends (Mike and Liz Oliver) also from Sunderland.

The tour was actually more of a master's class on chocolate. Our guide (sorry - I didn't get his name) was the Chocolate Master!! A US expat from Massachusetts, who has been in CR for over 30 years, was our guide and his passion for chocolate was infectious. A few interesting facts about chocolate/cacao: first came from what is now Ecuador. Before it made it's way to Central America, it was a drink and not hardened (like bars) until the late 1800's and currently most cacao pods/beans are grown in West Africa and Indonesia.

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We witnessed (and tasted) the chocolate making process from roasting, to grinding and then to tempering. Cabure doesn't use any preservatives in their chocolate and after a taste comparison, I would say they've hit the mark. Truthfully, it was a very interesting tour and of course, we couldn't help buying a few heavenly chocolate treats.

Before our adventure continued today, we made reservations on Airbnb "Experiences" to take a Traditional Bread/Empanada Making Class for tomorrow. Yum ...an activity that you can eat😁

One of the recommended activities in this area is a Night Jungle Tour. Again, we booked with Three Brothers Tours. If we couldn't see anything in the jungle during the day, we definitely would need a guide at night. Mauricio (oldest of the three brothers) picked us up about 530pm and we made our way a short distance outside town to a private reserve "Santamaria's". We wandered the jungle, searching in the dark for creatures. We came across a tree frog, a rainbow beaked toucan (sleeping in a tree), a sloth (WAY UP in a tree) and assorted fleeting animals. Walking in the dark in the jungle was an adventure unto itself.

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NOTE: if you are at all squeamish about bugs......
EXIT RIGHT NOW!!!!

With our jungle adventure behind us, it was time to read a bit and then dream about freshly baked bread. Or so I thought. While reading, I felt a bug (of some sort) crawl into my ear. Yup - you read that right. I was like ....OMG!!! I could feel it. I made Jim (who was sleeping) get up and try flushing it out ...no luck. Tried again - no luck. Unsure what to do, I googled "what to do if you get a bug in your ear". The most common answer was ....if you can't flush it, get some type of oil and put it in the ear to smother the bug🐛....(still gives me the creeps just writing this 😫) So..that is what we did...I could feel it thrash two or three times inside my ear and then nothing....KILLED IT. But now what???? I googled the medical clinics in town and found two but I would have to wait till morning. Just the thought of it inside my ear made for a rather sleepless night BUT......finally.....sleep...kind of........

25 April 2021

To say that I had one of the worst, restless nights of sleep in my life would be putting it mildly. I could feel a fullness in my ear, so I know it was still in there.

Google said that there was a 24hour clinic within a 5 minute walk - so off we go DOWN the hill. Well, I guess there used to be one but it was closed. By the time we walked back UP the hill into Santa Elena the Farmacia (pharmacy) was open and we went in for a recommendation. The nice clerk gave us two cards. Not sure where either of these clinics were exactly so it was back to pick up our car and made our way to the 1st clinic. Called the contact number and found out Dr. Hernandez was out of town til Tuesday but they did recommend the 2nd doctor. Now, driving out to the other side of town - we did found that clinic and called Dr. Carolina. She could be there in fifteen minutes. And..within fifteen minutes she arrived. Young woman who looked to be about fifteen years old herself.

We entered the small three room clinic and started with basics - wash hands, take temperature, BP and then..she looked in my ear. Oh yeah - there was something in there. First step to get this little "bugger" out was some type of drops into my ear. I think it was probably hydrogen peroxide (it bubbled) to cleanse the area....and then flushing with sterile saline...once, twice - the third time was the trick...out it came. It was much bigger than I expected and it was indeed dead!!!! (obviously not as big as it looks here in the picture -it was maybe 3/4" long - big enough)
During this whole process, I was thankful that Jim's Spanish skills had improved during our time here. He was able to communicate to both the first service and then Dr. Carolina.

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In all the time we've traveled, this was a first!!!! After paying our $70 bill and with a prescription in hand for eardrops and an appointment to return tomorrow so that she can check the ear....we were off.

Now we wanted food. We decided on our local favorite the Orchid Café.

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Fortunately, we had a fun activity planned for the afternoon - took my thoughts away from BUGS!!

Driving south out of town, traffic was very light on this sunny Sunday afternoon. WAZE is the app of the day here for navigation and it brought us right to our turn, which we would have most definitely missed on our own. Down a gravel road/driveway until we reached the end and the smiling faces of Yolanda and her daughter Carolina.

What a great afternoon. 18 year old Caroline's English skills where perfect. She served as translator between her Mom and us. Jim's Spanish again came in handy too. Me?? I tried!!!

The first thing we did was get our bread mix started so that it could rise. We learned that it was a family recipe with influences from grandmothers on both sides of the family. Milk, butter, sugar, salt, cheese, flour - different from most recipes we were familiar with. Then came the empanadas - mix, roll out and fill. This is where the fun happened..poor Jim - all thumbs. His tasted good but weren't so pretty. 😂 The ladies were enjoying his efforts. While cooking the empanadas, time came to knead the bread- I got to do the hard work.

When all was done, we were rewarded for our efforts and even got to take some with us.

After our traumatic morning, our afternoon more than made up for it. Traveling to Monteverede/Santa Elena area - we would highly recommend a stop here.

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Posted by pjburke 17:12 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (2)

Santa Elena and Monteverde

Up in the Clouds!!

sunny 70 °F
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22 April 2021

Santa Elena and Monteverde

Rain and Howler monkeys were all that we heard.... all night. The volcano was mostly obscured and since we didn't have to check out til noon - we took our time.

We retraced some of the route we took getting up to Arenal until just about where we reached the small town of Puerta Nueva. A left turn took us up, up and up some more. At we went up, the condition of the roads went, down, down, down: some dirt road, some not, some 2ish lanes...some not. It was an interesting ride to say the least.

We arrived safely into Santa Elena, a small town in the mountains near Monteverde. Having made better time than we thought we would, we stopped for a late lunch at a soda (diner/cafe): Restaurant La Soda Coati. As we entered, we were directed back outside to wash our hands before we entered. (Never had that happen in the US!!) The menu was written on a white board and there was quite a selection. Panini and quesadilla were our selections - a little different but very delicious.

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Our home for four nights will be an Airbnb apartment right near the center of town: Opa's House owned and run by Silvio and his family. Some of the reviews described it in the middle of town but still feels like the countryside - we'll see.

As we pulled into a gated driveway right off the main street, we were greeted by a lovely green space - pool included. Though we can still hear a bit of street noise - we see nothing but jungle hillside. Opa's is exactly as described by in the listing.

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We've decided on three or four nights at each of our stops rather than running from place to place. This is how we like to travel - it's not for everyone but it works for us. We then get a "feel" for the location and even get to meet some of the locals.

Getting settled took no time at all. We wandered through the little town, checking out the location of the supermercado (grocery), tourist office etc. The main square area is on a flat mesa type area with roads leading in and out that wind up and down the near by hills - like a little, tiny SFO ...sort of😉.

One of the tours we wanted to take was to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. All the reviews we'd read really encourage people to take a guided tour - unless one is especially adept at finding small birds and animals in the midst of heavy jungled forests. Not the case with us😏. So from a recommendation from www.mytanfeet.com, we booked with www.threebrotherstours.com a 0730 tour with a 0700 pick up.

NOTE: Jim found the www.mytanfeet.com website when we started planning our trip. It has been our "go to" so far. We were able to get a discount for our rental car, along with a few other perks from Adobe car rental. I was reading about the Monteverde area and came upon their recommendation for www.threebrotherstours.com.

With an early morning start, we had a quiet evening in our studio. After, checking out Santa Elena - I think all our evenings are going to be rather quiet. With just a fraction of the number of tourists they normally have, Santa Elena rolls the sidewalks up quite early.

23 April 2021

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve.

Up before the alarm and out in front by 0700, we were greeted by Ehlbert - one of the "three brothers" and we were off up the hill. The road up the Preserve made the ride up from Arenal look as smooth as glass. It did appear that workers were attempting to do some road work but with the number and depth of the pot holes we encountered - they have job security.

If you go to the Preserve on your own, you have to park in the parking lot. The charge is $5 per person (not per car). With that charge you are shuttled (round trip) up the hill to the entrance. Being with a guide, we were brought right up to the main gate - no shuttle necessary. Also, when booking a guide, check to see if the entrance fee ($25) in included or not - most are not but we did know this.

Arriving at the main gate, our temperature was taken before we entered. We paid our entrance fee and given a wrist band that would allow us to come back to Preserve any time before 4pm. With some scoop from one of the other guides, our first stop would be up one of the trails to where a quetzal female and a nest was reported to be. We found her quite easily. The coloring of the female quetzal is not as brilliant as the male. Not being camera shy, we got a few photos of the female and waited a bit to see if the male would arrive - he did not😢. Our time in the park was very special. We felt like we had it all to ourselves. Ehlbert told us that during a normal tourist season, the Preserve caps their numbers at 800. Right now, they are lucky to see 50. The whole time we were there, we saw less than 10 people. This is likely to get smaller with the new Level 4 Travel Advisory since recently most of their tourists have come from the USA.

Our three hours in the forest flew by (lolol)...We saw a tarantula, many different birds and finally - we saw it!!!!!! - the Male Resplendent Quetzal and not to be out done - his mate was right there with him. They were quite a ways away and our pictures are with a scope and my cell but much better than I could have done.

Below are pics from our hike through the forest. I do have to make an apology to all birders out there. While I do really appreciate their beauty - some will just be know to me as LBB's - little brown/blue birds and not their names😊.

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Posted by pjburke 16:51 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Our last day in Arenal

But not before a culinary adventure!!

rain 77 °F
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21 April 2021

Arenal Observatory Lodge

Well.....we don't mind hiking in the rain but horseback riding...not so much. Went to sleep to the soft and sometimes hard drumming of the rain...and woke up to the same with the guttural howling of the "Howler" monkeys.

Note: I do have to say that, rather unexpectedly, the WIFI here is excellent. Not only have I been able to download photos, post of this blog but my Mom's caregiver popped up with a video chat on Whatsapp so that we could say HI to Mom. It was a pleasant surprise.

We decided to take a drive over to La Fortuna...just to check it out. Only about a half hour drive but a world away. I'm sure it's a lovely town but we're so happy we decided to stay at AOL. We drove in, circled the crowded streets, got a little lost...and drove right back out in search of a place for lunch.

I told my navigator (Jim, of course), that it was his job to find a place. My job was to keep my eyes on the the road - especially important here in CR.

He saw a small sign, had me turn around and we headed onto to a rather narrow side road. We kept driving - narrow road, narrower road, one lane bridge, dirt road. My thought: "Did we miss it?" Nope - keep driving!! There was a T in the road at the end of a VERY steep incline....????? Where??? About 50m (150ft) to our right stood Jalapas. We pulled into the small parking lot next to a small building - windows - floor to ceiling, looking out over the rolling hills of the Costa Rican countryside. OMG!!!

I've been told that we should rename our blog "All they do is eat and drink". Well, today that would be so appropriate.

Checking with the one person inside - just to make sure it was open, we were guided to a "table with a view". Within minutes, another car pulled in - it was the owner, Luis.

It was the beginning of a lunch we will not soon forget. We started with a surprise from the owner - Chicharrones and Cassava (sautéed in garlic). Jim and I shared two small apps: Ceviche and Calamari. On to lunch - Gallos de Carne Asada (Beef Tacos) and Hearts of Palm Salad which was totally different than we expected. It was more like a risotto. We knew now that we would not need dinner😊 and just as we got up to leave Luis came out with a sweet treat - Tres Leches Cake. This surprisingly light dessert was the perfect way to end one of the best lunches we've had in a long time. Check out the pics 😁

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During our time at Jalapas, we had the chance to talk with Luis and he filled us in on the background of this lovely little cafe . Building started about 18 months ago and was finished...of course, right before COVID hit. It's only been fully open for five months. He said that they are doing "ok". It is really out of the way and tends to be a bit of a locals place. I would encourage anyone who gets to the La Fortuna area - make the trek (really not that difficult). You will not forget it.

The drive back to AOL was in and out of raindrops but after this lunch there was no way our spirits would be dampened ☔

It was our last afternoon at AOL and we wanted to make sure we experienced the, much talked about, view from "The Nest" - 150 steps up in a rather narrow observation tower. We were told the views were amazing...of course, the minute we reached the last step...the clouds moved in and it started to rain.....no pour!!! It was still amazing!!

Time to pack up, as we will be leaving tomorrow. On to a new adventure - the Monteverde area of Costa Rica which is famous for it's Cloud Forest, the Butterfly Garden and we're hoping to see the Resplendent Quetzal (though sightings area rare - we've got our fingers crossed)🤞

Posted by pjburke 21:31 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Off to the Mountains!!

Arenal Volcano

semi-overcast 85 °F
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19 April 2021

LIberia, Costa Rica

Last night was a quiet one. I worked on the previous posting and once the anticipated rain started we sat outside enjoying the cool(ish) moist air...and a nice cold beer. Of course, once it stopped raining - it was back to the AC.

This morning, the fun began. We repacked our bags. After really only 24 hours - we didn't need a lot of repacking. I think there was only one other guest last night so we had the dining area to ourselves for breakfast. Costa Rican pancakes are really quite good.

Adobe rental agent (Jorge) and our rental, a nice 2020 Hyundai Tucson, arrived just about 0930. After a quick inspection of the car and signing appropriate paperwork, we packed up and were on our way. I was a little nervous about driving in CR but I thought...after driving in Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Bosnia and from Belgium to Portugal - CR can't be that bad.

First stop - Kolbi store to buy a SIM card for my cell. Verizon charges $10 per day on their international plan. We paid $45 for a month with Kolbi. Also since we didn't rent the GPS with Adobe ($7per day) we are using WAZE and/or Google Maps hooked right into the car's nav system. Not sure about Google Maps but WAZE is free and we're using WhatsApp, email and/or Messenger to stay in touch. It's all quite easy.

SIM card in and we headed south into the mountains. We'll be staying at the Arenal Observatory Lodge (AOL) for three nights. It's the only hotel in the Arenal Volcano National Park and was highly recommended by my cousin Carolyn.

As you might or might not know - we don't usually splurge on accommodations. We like clean, comfortable, local places but since our 30th was last year and our three month European trip didn't happen - for obvious reasons. We did splurge a little at AOL. We opted for the Smithsonian Room with a direct view of the volcano.

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Again - I digress. Back to my first driving experience in Costa Rico. After the first couple of miles - it was easy peasy. We were on the CR version of a freeway for about a half hour and then on to local roads. I was glad that we had WAZE. Signage is pretty much nonexistent as far as street signs. There was the occasional arrow pointing to a town but we could have gotten lost very easily.

I really thought it was going to take us longer than it did. There was hardly any traffic on the road. Making a left on to one road we were taken aback. There in front of us, glimmering in the bright sunlight was Lake Arenal. We really didn't think we were that close. We pulled over and also got our first glimpse of the volcano.

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We decided to stop for lunch along the way and noticed a sign for Le Bistro. Pulling in, it looked very promising. Walking through the restaurant to their outdoor dining area we came face to face with a beautiful, full length view of Lake Arenal. With the sun out, feeling the gentle breeze....we couldn't ask for more.

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Lunch finished and clouds rolling in - we were off. About thirty minutes down the road we found the sign for our turn off to AOL. Oh, if I didn't mention - we did opt for 4 wheel drive on our rental vehicle. We didn't think we would need it for our trip to Arenal but I was glad that we had it just in case. The 2Km drive up to the lodge had more than it's share of vehicle swallowing pot holes but once we go to the lodge - all that changed.

The manicured grounds, lush foliage and beautiful view was so much to take in - a jungle paradise.

Checking in, we we're given wrist bands that allowed us access to the amenities (pool, spa, hiking trails) and identified us as guests in the dining room. After settling in our room #29, we we off for a short hike/walk. It wasn't difficult but just walking along the paths felt like an adventure.

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Dinner was a pleasant surprise. Ceviche, local cream of pumpkin soup - not exotic but very tasty.

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Off to bed for our first night in the jungle, no AC but none needed as we have a screen door to our room and a ceiling fan. With the noises of the jungle in our ears - sleep came very quickly :-)

20 April 2021

Arenal Observatory Lodge

OMG - the best night sleep I have had in a very long time - 9 hours!!!!

Before breakfast we found ourselves on our porch searching for wildlife - again they do not disappoint!!!

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We signed up for the free guided nature walk at 0800, so it was breakfast at 0700. Opting for the Tica Breakfast (eggs, rice and beans, queso, fried plantains) - it did not disappoint. We think Rice and Beans is probably the Costa Rican National dish - and we've had it a few times on the trip so far. The rice and beans here at AOL are so far the best!!! I think they mixed fresh cilantro in and it made all the difference...yum.

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At 0800, we met Didier for our walk. We were the only guests that opted for his early morning trek. Our one hour walk ended up being over 90 minutes. Didier took time to show us some of the hidden gems of the local jungle. He also educated us on the local Costa Rican tribes - his, the Maleku.

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After lunch, we were off to explore some of the other trails. It was an easy hike and we had the jungle all to ourselves!!

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20210420_132403.jpg Jim waiting for the rain to end.....

We did make it back just as the rain started.....and it was a good thing. It rained through Happy Hour and Dinner and into the night.

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Horseback riding is on the schedule for tomorrow but we can wait til morning to make our final decision. We haven't been given much hope - looks like a system is coming in.....Fingers crossed!!!

Posted by pjburke 16:47 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Vaccinated and Traveling - off to Costa Rica

We took the leap

semi-overcast 88 °F
View 2021 Costa Rica on pjburke's travel map.

It seems a little redundant to say that this has been a helluva year...but it has. I'm starting this blog by saying that we know not everyone agrees that it's time to start traveling. We respect your opinions - we really do but we have to ask that you respect ours.

Jim and I talked long and hard about traveling - to do it or not ..... we've decided to travel. We have been diligent in our research and found that Costa Rica is a country that we are comfortable with their precautions. Please know that we have been vaccinated, are still wearing our masks, washing our hands and staying clear of large gatherings - pretty much the same things we have been doing for the last year.

With that said - I hope that you will enjoy this trip with us!!!

18 April 2021

Liberia, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country that has been on our radar for years - now that we're here, we're not sure why we hadn't made the leap before now....well - we've leapt!!

The trip itself has actually been a pretty easy one. We left yesterday - Tucson-Houston-Liberia Both legs between 2 1/2 and 3 hours - the long part was the layover in Houston. With the recommendation of a good friend who has spent a lot of time in Costa Rica (thank you Jerry), we decided to start and end in Liberia and not San Jose. In fact, we don't have plans to go to San Jose at all. I'm sure there are some uniquely Costa Rican cultural sites but large cites, right now, are not where we want to be.

We arrived late, flying across a very dark landscape dotted with just a few smatterings of city lights. As the plane was descending - my thoughts were "where the heck is the airport??" and then, within seconds, runway lights and we landed. This airport makes Tucson (or Rochester) look like Houston. The terminal itself is quite modern - jetway and all. Down the escalator to Passport Control, it was apparent that we were the only flight (and our flight was not full at all). The frequent signs alerted arriving passengers to what information we would need to provide Immigration: current passport, hotel information, departure information (which they never asked for) and a QR code which verified that we were insured medically for $50K per person and also for $2K to cover quarantine accommodations in the unlikely event that we test positive when we go to leave and need to quarantine for 14 days. (I'm not going to go into the insurance process but if anyone has questions - get in touch with me - it was much easier that I thought it would be).

The Immigration Officer sent us on our way with a smile and "Adios - Enjoy your trip" :-) Bags arrived shortly and a quick scan (no questions) at Customs and we headed out the main doors to find Emmanuel from Hotel Villa Hermosa (Liberia). Even though his mask hid his face, his smiling eyes made us feel immediately comfortable. His Dad, Carlos, was waiting in their van at the curb and within minutes - we were on way.

LIB Airport is a short, fifteen minute drive to our guesthouse....and that was with a short tour of downtown Liberia added in. Saturday night and Liberia looked like Saddlebrooke - barely a soul in site - except for a young lady on a corner - but I'll let you use your imagination.

We pulled into the Hotel compound, got checked in, procured two very cold beers and Manuel lead us to our room. Our room has a double and a twin - is simple and clean and (lololo) the same colors that my living room used to be. We have AC, a frig, TV (all Spanish channels) and really good WIFI. We talked with Emmanuel a little bit and found that most of their guests come in during the week for business (as they are close to the city center). It was time for bed with anticipation of what Liberia would be like in the daylight.

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...a fairly restful sleep and we're up for our first full day in Costa Rica. We had actually planned for a quiet day (not picking up our car until Monday morning) and are glad we did. The flight wasn't hard but after not flying for more than a year - it took the wind out of our sails a bit.
Breakfast is included in our stay and Emmanuel's Mom Heidi is in charge of the kitchen. They have an extensive selection: four or five different Tico dishes (all with the famous Costa Rican rice and beans), pancakes, a couple American dishes and even a Veg dish - and of course, fresh fruit and Costa Rican coffee. Great way to start the day.
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Anticipating some afternoon storms, we took off after breakfast and walked into the city center (about 3 miles RT). The town reminded Jim of small towns in Peru from back in the 1970's. Most of the roads (not all) were paved with some one-way - others - two way but with not real rhyme nor reason. Being Sunday morning in this very Christian country - not much was open (except for a couple supermarkets) but the two churches we passed we're doing a booming business. At the large Catholic Church, there was a line to get in. It appeared people were social distancing and also stopping to sanitize their hands before entering.

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With the heat starting to wilt us, we headed back. The AC in our room was a welcome relief. Combine heat and a little jet lag and it was time for an early siesta.

Waking 1pmish...we were a bit peckish but was we walked out - we were greeted with a darkening sky...so instead of walking downtown again to eat - we headed across the road to Pizzeria Hermano Castillo. Can you really go wrong with pizza - even in Costa Rica??. For about $10 USD, we even have leftovers.

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Tomorrow our rental car is being delivered to us here at the hotel and we will be taking off for the Arenal/La Fortuna area - the adventure will officially begin...stay tune!!!

Posted by pjburke 01:23 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged #liberia Comments (3)

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