Costa Rica days 7 & 8: Arenal Volcano and back to San Jose

On Friday we explored the Arenal Volcano region after enjoying the Costa Rica typical breakfast at our resort. During breakfast, it started raining. We knew to expect rain so we had jackets, ponchos and umbrellas. We started off the rainy day by visiting La Fortuna waterfall, a private waterfall that has lovely walking trails, an overlook, and 500 well maintained steps down to the bottom of the waterfall. It was raining so my photos are limited, but I did get a short video at the bottom with my GoPro.

When we first started our waterfall visit, you could see it from the top despite the rain. It rained the whole time we climbed down the steps to the bottom, and most of the way back up. It was done raining by the time we got back up, but the waterfall view was then blocked by fog.

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Bottom of the La Fortuna waterfall

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There’s a waterfall back there somewhere

After the waterfall we headed to the Arenal Volcano National Park. As we parked, there was an Agouti in the parking lot – they kinda look like large guinea pigs.

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Then we walked down the gravel road to the Volcano overlook and during the walk saw tons of birds, including Toucans! It was quite exciting. We still need to figure out what some of these birds are, but one is definitely a Toucan.

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After the overlook walk, Carl and I headed out on the volcano hiking trails so that we could walk out on a section of rock created by a lava flow in 1992. We got a great view of Arenal lake and almost saw the top of the volcano.

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On our way back to the car we went by a GIGANTIC tree that is supposed to be over 200 years old. It’s so big I thought it should definitely be older than that.

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During our trip we saw numerous Brahman cows which must be well adapted to the climate given their prevalence. They are very wrinkly and kind of ugly though and I finally got a photo of them.

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For lunch we headed into La Fortuna and stopped at a little cafe that had good drink specials. After that we walked around the church and little town square.

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For dinner that night we went to a place called Lava Lounge right off the town square.

The next morning we headed to breakfast and saw a two toed sloth just above the resort dining hall.

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We took a stroll around the resort grounds, checking out the pools and hot springs in daylight.

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Carl and I took an exciting zip line trip, photos and videos to come. It was just at the back of the resort where there is a valley and river and some really long zip lines.

After that we headed to San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica. We stopped at the little town of Zarcero which has a cute church that maintains an elaborate topiary garden on its grounds. We also had another typical Costa Rican meal for lunch there.

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After an adventure in finding our reserved hotel, realizing it had no AC, then finding a new hotel, and finally finding a gas station and returning our rental car, we had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant and finished the night with some Christmas photos.

It was a lovely trip!

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Costa Rica days 5 & 6: Quepos to Jaco to Arenal Volcano

On Wednesday we packed up all of our stuff for our last ride down the crazy hill that our condo was located on and headed to the beach town of Jaco, about an hour drive north. During the trip we pulled over to take a look at Playa Hermosa, a black volcanic sand beach with huge waves.

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After checking into our condo we walked around Jaco for a bit, checked out the beach, and then had lunch at the Tacobar.

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The condo courtyard

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Playa Jaco

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Tacobar has swings you can sit on along the bar, and a salad bar for extra taco fixings

During a later afternoon walk, Carl and I finally saw some Macaws! There were 6 of them sitting in a tree near the beach until Carl got too close and scared them off. They sure do squawk a lot!

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We also found a microbrewery in Jaco called Puddle Fish. We later went to the attached restaurant, Side Street for dinner.

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On our way to dinner we went through the town park and took in the Christmas lights. Dinner at Side Street was good, but they were out of many menu items and almost all of their house brewed beer due to some holiday party they hosted the night before. Needless to say, Carl was disappointed.

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On Thursday we left Jaco after picking up some pastries from a local Panaderia and headed north again, this time towards La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. On our way we paused at the Crocodile bridge, a place where many crocodiles apparently hang out. This fearless white bird just stood in the middle of them until one came too close and it would flutter to a new spot about 10 feet away.crblogjacotoarenal-8

We stopped for a short nature walk at Carara National Park. Immediately after I stopped for this photo of me and an anteater statue Carl pointed out a live one! It took some patience to get a photo of him through the trees in the light, but eventually I did.

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Anteater! Furrier and cuter than I expected.

The next part of our trip was quite an adventure. We were using a combination of offline Google maps and Maps.Me for GPS navigation and both sent us on a very rough back road towards Arenal Volcano. We got some lovely views up in the mountains.

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The road turned to gravel at some point, and had some very steep inclines. Eventually, not too far past the photo below, we came to a section that our rental car absolutely could not make it up due to the incline and ruts in the road. We had to turn around and head back to a more established route, no thanks to Google or Maps.Me.

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After driving most of the daylight away we finally arrived at the Arenal Paraiso Resort & Spa just in time to watch the sunset. We kept our fingers crossed that the top of the volcano would show itself, but the cloud cover would not go away. Our cabin did have a nice little porch with a view of the volcano. The resort has hot springs on site so we made sure to take advantage of that amenity in the evening.

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Costa Rica days 3 & 4: Day trips around Quepos

On Monday we headed south from Quepos to Dominical and Uvita to check out the beaches. We first stopped at Dominical, navigating the extremely rough dirt road to check out the beach where the river Rio Baru meets the ocean. It had good surfing waves.

We then drove down to Uvita to visit Ballena Marine National Park and walked along the expansive beach to Isla Ballena, a small little sand bar type island only accessible during low tide. During low tide when the sandbar and connecting sand bridge is visible, it’s shaped like a whale’s tail – hence the word Ballena! Well, they also say that whales migrate past this beach in the winter, so maybe that’s also a contributing factor.

After taking a dip in the calm waters sheltered by the sandbar, we made the long walk back to the car, during which we spotted many sanddollars on the beach. Afterwards we went to Dominical for lunch, stopping at the rather disappointing Patron’s Bar and Grill.

We then drove back south to take a quick stroll at Playa Hermosa before returning to view the sunset from our porch once again.

We dined at Emilio’s Cafe which had delicious food, good service and a live jazz band. We topped the night off with some awkward family photos on the porch.

On Tuesday we drove north to Rainmaker, a rainforest conservation project. We took the self guided river walk and suspension bridge canopy tour. The tour was more strenuous than it sounded, but we saw many waterfalls, little pools you can swim in, and the suspension bridges were pretty awesome. After climbing many stairs on the tour, we enjoyed local craft beer Perro Vida, brewed on site. It was quite good. A hummingbird visited us while we were hanging out.

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We then headed back down south to Playa Espadilla, which is the beach just outside Manuel Antonio Park. We had lunch at Marlin Grill, another disappointing lunch spot but at least that had a view of the beach. After lunch we headed to the beach for some lounging under a beach umbrella and strolling down the beach.

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The tide was coming in right before sunset, so we packed up and headed back to El Avion for a drink at the bar while viewing a particularly lovely sunset. For dinner we went to the Marina and tried Z Gastropoda, where the food was good, souls vide chicken was on the menu, and my kale salad was missing kale.

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Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica days 1 & 2

Early Saturday morning we boarded our flight from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica. After an hour delay, we were on our way. After arriving in San Jose, we picked up our luggage and rental car and hit the road to Quepos. After some exciting driving getting out of San Jose, we were on the toll road for a while before stopping for lunch at a roadside stand selling authentic Costa Rica food – we all had rice & black beans, plantains, and either meat or fried cheese.

Upon arriving in Quepos we met the manager of the AirBnB property I booked and took a truly terrifying drive up a steep and curvy hillside to our house with an awesome view.

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Rental house up a steep hill

 

We settled in, hit up a local supermarket, and then had birthday dinner for Mom at La Luna at GAIA Hotel & Reserve. The food was good and I imagine that the view would have been good if it weren’t dark outside.

Sunday we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park for hiking, beach time, and to meet the monkeys. The hiking trails were well maintained with a ton of steps. We saw a ton of wildlife at the park: white faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, three toed sloths (including a mamma with a baby), leaf cutter ants, iguanas and other lizards, coatimundi, and agouti. The white faced monkeys were particularly numerous and excited about people, we definitely saw people feed them when they shouldn’t!

Beach at Manuel Antonio Park

Beach at Manuel Antonio park

Viewing the fish trap built by natives a long time ago to catch fish at low tide

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Squirrel monkey

Coatimundi (similar to a raccoon)

Iguana

Leaf cutter ants

We stopped for lunch at El Avion and enjoyed a great view and good food next to an old airplane converted into a bar.

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Carl enjoying some seafood curry

After that we went on a bike canopy tour… which basically is a little carriage hanging from a cable amongst the trees and you use a throttle to go fast / slow down. The bike part is simply that there are bike pedals that you can put your feet on but don’t do anything. It was pretty fun to slowly move amongst the trees, even if only one of us saw a sloth. I did see a vulture with a red head.

We watched a lovely sunset from our porch and then eventually headed back down to Quepos for dinner at Runaway Grill in the marina area.

Our porch view