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Our Costa Rica Vacation

Day 1

We arrived at the Logan Airport one hour early (3:40 AM!). We were told that our bag which was checked in 2 days ago was waiting for us in Boston. We packed another bag just in case… So glad we did cause it seemed our bag was more anxious to go than we were and somehow made its way to Atlanta… Oh the dreaded bag… When we reached Atlanta, they said that the bag is flying with us to Costa Rica. What a relief. Short lived though, because when we reached CR there was only the one bag we checked. Oh well enough about the bag already. The warm breeze greeted us when we landed. The open airport is really nice too.

There were some minor snafus at the rental car counter but I am not going to bore you with all that. SH** happens, deal with it. I was determined to make the most of this trip. So we got into the car and set the GPS to our hotel in La Fortuna, close to the Arenal Volcano. The guide book had said that the locals drive like crazy people. They weren’t kidding! I was just glad that Gagan was driving. And GPS really helped us. I don’t know what we would have done without it. So if you’re going to Costa Rica, spend the extra $8/day for the GPS. It’s so worth it. Well at least so far so good. It’s only day 1.

The roads here are unnamed but there are still signs every now and then so even if you don’t have a GPS its straight forward. It’s funny when the GPS would show the name of the road as “Unpaved Road” or just “Road” 🙂

We were late in leaving so by the time we reached it was getting dark and navigating otherwise would have been impossible. There whole highway was so picturesque and the meandering hairpin turns were dangerous but breathtaking! It started to rain on the way so that slowed us down a bit but we had our eye on the prize so we kept going. Towards the end of our journey, the fog was so thick that it was impossible to see let alone drive. Check it out…

Did I tell you that Gagan loves fruits? When we had gone to Guatemala several years ago, one of the joys of traveling there was trying all sorts of tropical fruits. Here on the roadside we noticed some vendors selling Guavas so we had to stop. I grew up in India where we had a Guava tree in our backyard! After haggling he finally settled for about $1 a pound. Later we stopped for some mangoes too.

When we finally reached our hotel, we were in for a surprise. We were prepared for a very modest hotel since we reserved at the last minute and couldn’t find many reviews. But boy! “Volcano Lodge”, was almost like a resort.

It’s late at night but I’ll take some photos tomorrow and post. I can’t believe Delta cut our trip short by 2 days! I am so mad. Since we only have a day here in Arenal and my bathing suit is in the bag which didnt make it, I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy the hot springs here 😦 But lets move on shall we?

We had a nice quiet dinner at a restaurant within our hotel/resort and retired early. It had been a long day.

BTW all throughout our drive we saw signs for Queso Palmito (still need to figure out what kind of cheese that is). Gagan wanted to stop at every little shop on the way. I had to literally force him to continue driving.

Day 2
Well it’s the end of Day 2 and I am tired! But what a day. Our day started out with a stroll in the Volcano Lodge gardens. Gorgeous! We enjoyed a nice relaxing breakfast (yummy) in their restaurant. I stopped by their office to download my emails and did a quick check on PR just to make sure that it’s still up 😉 just kidding.

One of the things La Fortuna is known for is Arenal Volcano. It’s an active volcano! At night they say that you can see the lava coming out of it! We weren’t fortunate enough to see that but we did get to see the cone of the volcano from a distance and smoke coming out of it. It was a beautiful sunny day!

Lava Rocks

Both of us were in mood for some hiking so we headed for a hike towards the famous hanging bridges. They have created something so spectacular here. It’s about 1.3 mile long hike deep in the rain forest here and they’ve created a series of suspension bridges which are scary but breathtaking throughout the hike. We saw several lizards and a poisonous snake too! All this sounds very cool but I admit I was a little scared.

We began our journey to Monteverde, home of the Cloud Forest Reserve. We were told that the road to Monteverde is all dirt roads and what would normally take 1.5 hours took us more than 4! But the first part of the drive was really pretty because it was all around the Lake Arenal.

All along the drive there were really cute coffee shops and restaurants. We stopped at one of them called Café Macademia which had a view to die for and the best sandwich and iced coffee ever! We also sampled some macadamia nuts there, of course. I had the best macadamia nut brownie which I am definitely going to make once we get back home.

View from the Cafe

The Frommer’s guide guy wasn’t kidding when he was talking about dirt roads. Oh boy! Let me just say that there is not a part of my body which isn’t hurting. Glad for the 4 W drive!

We got here around 5:00 PM. Too late for the cloud forest, so we just explored the town a little bit, did a bit of souvenir shopping, got dinner at this really great restaurant “Flor De Vida” which was highly recommended in the guide book.

It had quite a few vegetarian choices. The food was delicious! And I got so many ideas for cooking back home. We had Pumpkin and Almond Soup, Polenta with vegetables and a mixed plate of veggies with rice and beans, a quiche and a salad. Here I also discovered Salsa Lizano which I just had to bring back 2 bottles of!!! It was this dark green/brownish sauce which I am guessing had tamarind, tomatoes and some veggies. Very chutney like. So delicious, the next few days I doused everything with it.

And of course no vacation is ever complete without a visit to a grocery store 😉

And guess what? When we got back to the hotel we found that Delta had actually delivered our lost bag! YAY!!!!!! We celebrated with some hot tea and now we’re ready to call it a night. Tomorrow we wake up early to explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve!

Day 3

Monteverde

We didn’t realize how cold and windy the nights get here in the rain forest. So all night long we could hear the wind swishing. It was scary actually. Thank God for the ear plugs I always carry with me. We couldn’t get ourselves up as early as we had planned but still made it in time for a guided tour of the famous Cloud Forest Reserve here in Monteverde. And boy what a great experience. Up until today I had only read about the rain forests in books or seen on TV but nothing compares to seeing it in person. Its nature at it’s best. Hiring a guide for a
couple hours was a very sensible thing to do because we wouldn’t have figured out half the things ourselves otherwise. Plus he was a local who answered quite a few of our questions.

For example Queso Palmito had nothing to do with hearts of palm (Palmito). The name Palmito for queso is only because its texture resembles that of Palmito.

Carlos, our guide pointed out various types of orchids, bromeliads, different types of trees, A tarantula, A monkey, hummingbirds, a FALCON! And we even got to see Quetzal! The endangered bird species here in Costa Rica.






Check out this prehistoric fern! Well it’s not really pre historic… But its so big, that’s what they are called sometimes.

If you ever get a chance to go see a rainforest, don’t miss it. Its an experience I’ll never forget. The photos don’t do any justice to what it actually is.

After the rainforest, we went to see a local coffee plantation. We had some really nice java there and got a complete tour from germination to roasting.

Most of the coffee they produce is for export. They are not fond of coffee themselves that much. And when they do drink coffee its very mild and very sweet.

It’s a laborious process and the workers get paid next to nothing. A regular cup of java takes anywhere from 30-40 beans and each coffee bean goes through a series of steps before it lands in our coffee. We were pretty toured out by the end of the coffee plantation so we decided to drive into town and just walk around a bit. There is a lot more to do and see in Monteverde but each tour will cost you an upwards of $20/person! There is no such thing as a day pass to include everything in it, but you have a choice. While in town we entered a souvenir shop and guess what I spotted?

A fabric section!!

Yes the whole second floor was fabric, little bit of yarn, needlepoint thread, craft paper, ribbons and what not. The fabric selection was very limited but I still managed to find this lovely crinkled/burn out cotton. I bought two meters. Should this be a skirt or a blouse?

GASOLINA
Oh I almost forgot…. We were running low on gas so we asked around and found that there is only one place we could find gas in Monteverde and after having driven past it 4 times already we finally found it. Guess how they filled our tank? He brought a big bucket of petrol, made a funnel with an empty coke bottle top and poured it in!!! He also charged us a hefty sum of $5/gallon!!! But at least we had gas so we were grateful.

We ended our night with dinner at this lovely pizzeria/pasta place called Tramontia. Ironically this was the best Pizza and Pasta we’d ever had. All in all a great day!

Tomorrow we are headed to Manuel Antonio which is compared to Cancun. A beach town, it’s also famous for white face monkeys who target your food and backpacks so it’ll be interesting. Me… I am looking forward to some warm weather and spa!

On the way to Manuel Antonio if we’re lucky we’ll see some crocodiles. Carlos told us about this, so we’re going to try. Costa Rica has proved to be like no other vacation we’ve ever taken. The people are so friendly and the whole country is so ecologically preserved. Its pretty amazing actually.

Day 4

There was nothing much left to do in Monteverde for us so we decided to head out for Manuel Antonio right after breakfast. We had a 4 hour drive ahead of us of which 1/3 was on the bumpy, unpaved roads. So we strapped ourselves in our car and headed out. We hadn’t even gone 10 miles when I spotted such a lovely view of the Nicoya gulf that we had to stop for some shots.

Even though the road was bumpy we still love it. On our way we even saw an iguana cross the road! It was a little scary. Imagine a mountain road and this creature jumps in front of you. You can’t really brake and you can’t run over it too. Anyway, we made it. After leaving Monteverde the roads were pretty nice actually.

On our way we spotted a guy selling coconuts. Did you know that coconut water (not milk) is good for your stomach? In India the coconut sellers are seen everywhere in summer. So we were pretty psyched to see them here too.

Along the route we stopped several times for fruits and more fruits. Costa Rica is a fruit lovers paradise. Sadly though Costa Ricans don’t like fruit. Carlos said that the government is encouraging people here to eat more of them because there are an increasing number of cases with intenstinal cancer because of high consumption of beef and pork. Oh well…

Oh, almost forgot to tell you about the crocodiles. Just like Carlos said, as we were passing Tarcoles, we went over a bridge where quite a few people we hanging out on the bridge. Carlos had said, it’s where you can see crocodiles. We stopped and sure enough, there were so many. From a distance you can’t really see them because they look like part of sand, and they weren’t moving! But it was quite something.

Because we stopped so often, we didn’t reach our hotel until 3:30 which was too late for anything so we decided to just hang out in our hotel which is also a mini resort. There is mini theatre too in the resort which was pretty cool. I decided to pamper myself in the hotel spa  since this was the end of our trip it was ok to just chill and not think about anything. We enjoyed the nice sunset and the lovely views of the pacific from our hotel room and called it a night.

Day 5

Our last day in Costa Rica. Tomorrow we have to leave the hotel at 8:00 to catch our flight back to Boston. I had heard about the zip line canopy tours but was too scared to try it. Today I thought, what the heck. Lets do it. And boy!! Was I right or what? It was so much fun. I want to do it all over again. Basically they tie a harness around your waist and using pulleys you zip from one platform to another almost like a monkey. There were 12 of these and the longest among them was 450 meters long! The only way to brake is by pressing down on the line
with your right hand. In the first line I was so nervous that I was braking all the way through. Realized later that it was a very bad thing to do, cause I didn’t make it to the platform. But I was close so I pulled myself up to the platform. Not fun. After that I zipped right through, shouting and screaming and enjoying my way from one line to another. Its really very safe though and all the guides and instructors are there to help even if you get stuck. Its one of the most fun and adventurous thing I’ve done so far.

We hit the beach a little later. Sadly were too late for the Manuel Antonio National Park but the beach was nice. Unlike the beaches I’ve been to in the States, the water here is WARM! So warm, its almost like 80 degrees. Felt so great. But other than that, I didn’t see anything which I haven’t seen before. The bathroom was a different story though. But we won’t get into that ok?
There was one thing I would have loved to do was parasailing but next time perhaps. I got brave after the zip line canopy tour. So now I want to try all sorts of things 

Ok its 10 PM. Time to pack for the next day. We’ll leave for San Jose CR (4 hr drive) at 8:00 in time for our 2:00 PM flight back to Boston.

Day 6

Hey guess what? Waking up really early has its perks. While enjoying my morning coffee on the balcony ouside my room I heard some rustling in the trees and that could only mean one thing. That’s right! MONKEYS! And so many of them. They were happily swinging from one tree to another and looked so happy. What a sight. Mesmerizing. Photo was hard because they move so quickly. But did manage to take one shot. Check it out!

Drive to the airport was uneventful. As before we stopped several times at road side fruit stands.

And you know my favorite is the way they sell slices of partially ripe mango in plastic bags with a slice of lemon and some salt. Delicioso! Gagan was having a field day with all this.

He loves trying new things and I think I am starting to like it too. But one thing is certain. When we get back both of us need to go on a crash diet. We ate way more than we should’ve 😉

Ok here comes the scary part. We were only half hour away from the airport but still in the mountains. As we were about to take the turn, IT WAS CLOSED due to construction. No worries, we had the GPS , so we moved forward. Only… the GPS wanted us to turn around the go the same way. There was a truck and a car in front of us so we started to follow them ignorning the GPS. After almost 5 miles I saw some signs to turn left on a dirt road and the GPS was showing the same way, but the cars in front of us were going straight ahead. Time to make a decision… We took the left. And all the cars behind us followed us too!! After a couple of miles things worked out, we were going the right way. But boy what a scare. GPS was SO WORTH IT!

I am now sitting in the plane back home to Boston writing up my experiences in Costa Rica to share with you all. I can’t wait to get back home and upload the photos to re-live the short and sweet vacation. My only gripe? It was over way too soon. I could have easily spent a week more. Maybe more! And another… I wish I spoke Spanish. Most of the people thought that we were locals so they started speaking to us in Spanish. I am sure it would have been even more enjoyable had we been able to speak Spanish. No worries, I am going back and learning to speak Spanish. I just have to!

The gentleman sitting next to us goes to CR and Panama several times a year. He says Panama is even more beautiful and a lot cheaper. So I guess that’s where we are going next  We noticed that CR was not really cheaper than the States. In fact in some cases it was even more. Even the countryside things were expensive. And the weirdest thing is that they accept USD as well as COLONES (local currency). The accountants must have a field day with this 😉 Taxes are super high 17%!!!! Nevertheless, being able to rent a car and drive around the country, being able to find food we liked, getting by without any Spanish, enjoying the many wonders of nature ; the rain forest, the wild life (did I mention that we saw a poisonous snake on the way to the canopy tour?), and the breathtaking sunsets was worth every penny!
Thanks for reading and following along with me in this adventure. It was a pleasure to share my vacation with you. On a sad note, I lost my knitting in one of the hotels but oddly enough I didn’t think much of it. Except its yet another sign that I should be sewing more than knitting. Just have to finish up the yarn and the projects and then I am done. For now that is. Oh well..

As much fun as I’ve had in Costa Rica, it’s good to be back home. Even though there is a mound of snow in our driveway. But being able to sleep in your own bed and coming home beats everything in the world!

My apologies to all PR members if they tried to get in touch with me and didn’t get an answer. I will try to get to my emails and messages as soon as I can.

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