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Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #5 – June 2014


Glass-winged Butterfly

Glass-winged Butterfly

This trip would turn out to be one of definite possibilities. I flew to La Fortuna using my frequent flyer miles as I simply could not afford to buy a ticket. I had lost my job in February, and was only able to find part time work. Things were getting really boring, not to mention discouraging, and I did not know which way to jump. I was spending endless hours every day looking for a job, and quickly realized that for someone who had 40 years of experience in various aspects of office management, I may possibly have a shot at getting a job that paid up to $10 an hour. Houston has a lot of jobs, but employers are wanting to hire well-experienced people for inexperienced salaries. They get around offering benefits by working you only 29 hours per week. But I did not care what it paid, I just needed a job. I submitted at least a dozen resumes every week with no response. To pass the time, I was building bird houses—a hobby I had taken up one year earlier. It was fun! I found out that I had a knack to use a miter saw and all the other tools necessary. It was a great relief but there was no fortune to be made  in building bird houses. I needed to get away, as cheaply as possible. By using my miles, the plane fare ended up costing me taxes only of something like $25. I got a 20% discount at The Hotel Arenal Green; I rented a car at Europcar for $18/day (that included insurance!). And for my spending money, I sold my plasma for $50/week (2 donations weekly). So, scrimping and saving every penny I was off. And who would know that I would hit gold on this trip.

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

As soon as I walked into The Hotel Arenal Green, I met the new hotel manager, Alex. And our eyes met. Ever have that moment when you see someone and your stomach jumps? “Oh…my….God. Don’t look at him,” I kept telling myself. “Don’t be crazy; you don’t even know who this guy is.” Okay, so that lasted all of a minute. During my 10-day stay Alex took me to a festival in the nearby town of El Tanque and introduced me to some of the Tico culture. It was much fun! So, yet another friendship was born. (I quickly realized that the Tico people are quick to make friends, and Alex was just one of many friends I would soon make.)

I spent the next 10 days re-visiting the same sights and adventures as I had on previous trips. Here’s a quick recap of those beautiful places (you can read more on the other pages of my blogs):

Ecocentro Danaus: I saw this bird that had the strangest behavior ever. It stayed close to the ground, jumping from one plant’s trunk to another and making this extremely loud “clicking” sound. When he finally sat still long enough, I was able to get these photos.

Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus

Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus

You can see in the first photo his neck area looks common enough. But in the second photo

White-collared Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus in La Fortuna

White-collared Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus in La Fortuna

he has “bristled” his feathers. It turns out that the White-collared Manakin does this whenever a female is in the area. Needless to say, this absolutely made my day. (It doesn’t take much to please me. One fantastic photo a day keeps me happy.)

 

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also got numerous photos of the Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog for the first time.

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

Arenal Ecozoo in El Castillo featuring the Butterfly Conservatory: After browsing the Mariposas in the four screened areas, I set out to walk the trail leading down to the river. Shortly I saw this Brown Jay.

 

Brown Jay at El Castillo Butterfly Conservatory

Brown Jay at El Castillo Butterfly Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great find for this wonderful day! I also saw a couple woodpeckers, but could not see through the dense foliage good enough to identify them.

 

 

 

 

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

 

 

Canon Negro River Float: As always, this river trip is totally amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal sightings included the Capuchin,

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the Black-handed Spider Monkey

 

Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers (first time sightings)

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swallows that were picture perfect

Swallows at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

 

 

 

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anhingas

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great White Egret

Jesus Christ Lizards

Jesus Christ Lizard (male)

Jesus Christ Lizard (male)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caiman

Caiman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

 

Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

 

 

Iguanas

 

(You can book this tour through the Canoa Adventura group at The Hotel Arenal Green.)

 

 

 

Night walk at the Arenal Oasis Lodge (this was a new activity): Something I had never done before was to take a night walk in Costa Rica. I am a scaredy cat when it comes to the dark. But Alex encouraged me to go, so off I went. It was at the Arenal Oasis Lodge just around the corner from The Hotel Arenal Green. I was so glad I went! We saw the

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog, Cane Frog, icky spiders, and a wonderful snake! I love snakes! I convinced the tour guide to let me handle the little feller for everyone to touch. Needless to say, it MADE MY DAY!

 

 

 

 

One of the best friendships I had made in La Fortuna was with the daughter of the owner at The Hotel Arenal Green, Monica.

Monica Lopez and Cindi Rogers

Monica Lopez and Cindi Rogers

 

In order for me to get together with Monica, I needed to drive to Guapiles where her husband had secured a job working in the agriculture arena on a pineapple plantation. (He graduated from the university earlier in the year.) It’s a five-hour bus ride from Guapiles to La Fortuna which is unpleasant with a five-year-old, so if I wanted to see Monica, I would have to drive there. No problem. Off I went. As luck would have it, it would be a full day of rain. Argh…… But it was well worth it.
Monica had arranged to visit a local farm that was run by the ladies living within a small community. Their desire is to get their farm on the tourist route so they can educate the rest of world as to how industrious and cooperative the Tico people are. The problem is that Guapiles is rather out-of-the-way for the usual tourist. They were reaching out to Monica (with her hotel/tourist experience and her degree in Tourism to help them.) In turn, Monica wanted to pick my brain regarding marketing issues (I worked for a business-to-business marketing firm for 16 years and had learned a little about how to research and market.)

Costa Rica women growing pineapple

Costa Rica women growing pineapple

The ladies grow all their own food. Their massive garden consisted of plantains, bananas, yucca, various herbs, corn, cocoa and so much more that I honestly cannot remember everything.

Bananas

Bananas

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We even got to see some of the local Poison Dart Frogs and their resident goat that provided them with fertilizer and milk.

Eating sugarcane

Eating sugarcane

 

A tour of the ladies’ farm included eating sugarcane straight off the stalk and tasting all sorts of fruits and veggies. To end the tour they prepared a complete Tico meal of fried yucca, rice and beans, slaw and hamburger. It was absolutely delicious!

 

 

 

 

It was a wonderful day full of new adventures and visiting a side of Costa Rica I had not yet been. It was a great way to end another wonderful vacation.

 

 

Returning to Houston I quickly found out that I had left a wonderful friend in La Fortuna. Alex was calling me daily, texting me, and wanting me to return. “Okay, but you have to find me some work there as I must work and I need an income of some sort.” “No problem,” was his answer.

And so the plans of making a three-month trial visit was underway. But this time there would be work intermingled with the fun. Right? Stayed tuned…..

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers


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Craftori

Hotel Arenal Green – La Fortuna, Costa Rica


Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

My most favorite hotel to stay at is the Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna. It’s located on the road leading to the cataratas which is about one mile from town on the road leading to San Jose.

The place is absolutely quaint. On the property there are six spacious cabins, each with a patio/porch. Inside you find a sink, apartment-size refrigerator and coffee pot. The bathroom is really nice with a full-size shower and lots of hot water. Some cabins have one bed, some with two and then the villa cabin with three beds and able to fit four, if needed. The villa cabin has a really huge patio complete with full-size refrigerator, bar and bar stools, cook top, coffee pot, microwave, sink and hammocks. All cabins have air conditioning, flat-screen color TV with cable and Wi-Fi. And don’t forget, the water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. But if you prefer, you can buy bottled water at the grocery store for a mere fraction of what it will cost you at the restaurant.

If you walk to the back of the property, there is a large cabin that is rented to those diehard travelers who want to “Get back to nature.” It’s a lovely cabin but with no air conditioning or lights. You do have a shower, but it’s outside. Don’t worry, it’s private.

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

There is also a massage hut complete with outdoor shower. It sits at the top of the bank to the river. Listening to the babbling river is so relaxing.

The maid, Blanca, is a true gem. She doesn’t speak a lick of English, but she is always ready and willing to help. She is the cook for breakfast, serving up delicious plantains, scrambled eggs and Gallo Pinto. Breakfast is included in the price of the room. (No other meals are served in the restaurant—breakfast only, as is the case for many of the hotels/cabins there.)

Blue-gray Tanager and Red-legged Honeycreeper (male) at the Cataratas Cabinas

Blue-gray Tanager and Red-legged Honeycreeper (male) at the Cataratas Cabinas

In the early mornings, be sure to walk across the street to the next property. Felix (owner) puts out plantains for the birds. It’s such a peaceful sight to see the awesome birds: Blue Gray Tanagers, Cherrie’s Tanager, Hoffman’s Woodpecker, Parakeets, Red-legged Honeycreepers, Chacalacas and Orenpendola Montezuma, to name a few.

In the afternoon, there is a Keel-billed Toucan

Keel-billed Toucan at Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Keel-billed Toucan at Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

and a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan at The Arenal Green Hotel in La Fortuna

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan at The Arenal Green Hotel in La Fortuna

who perches in the tree directly across from the cabins. Also, a Hoffman’s Woodpecker

Photo taken at Arenal Green Hotel, La Fortuna

Hoffman’s Woodpecker

is in the tree on the other side of the fence. And don’t miss the two Iguanas snoozing in the trees, too.

View of the cabins

Hotel Arenal Green

When you return from your activities, sit on the patio of your cabin and enjoy an Imperial beer. You can buy it in the hotel for $2. Or, if you prefer, pick up a six-pack at the grocery store. Remember, there is a refrigerator in each of the cabins, so save a few bucks and get the staples you need. Cheese and crackers are great to munch on with your beer.

A side note regarding currency: Every place in La Fortuna accepts American money. Currently, the exchange rate is about 500:1. They will give you the current exchange rate which varies from store-to-store and day-to-day. They will give you change in Colones, so you might want to learn how to count it. It’s so simple. If something costs 500 Colones, just multiple it times 2 and move the decimal point to the left 3 places.

500 Colones X 2 = 1,000

Move the decimal to the left 3 places. This equals $1.00 USD.

Do NOT exchange your money at the airport. The exchange rate there is totally stupid. If you really feel you need to have Colones, do the exchange at the bank in town or even at your hotel. Again, they accept USD everywhere in La Fortuna and at virtually all stores country-wide. Do NOT bring any bills over $20 unless you get it exchanged at the bank. The country has been hit with counterfeit $50s, so it’s not unusual if they won’t accept the bill.

Room Rates: During the low season (May and June and again September through November), single occupancy is $45; double occupancy is $65; triple occupancy is $85; and quadruple is $105. Prefer the villa? It’s priced between $125-$165 depending upon number of occupants.

During high season (January through April, July and August and again during the month of December), single occupancy is $65; double occupancy is $85; triple occupancy is $105; and quadruple is $125. The villa is $135-$175.

Prices include up to two children under the age of six sharing a standard room with the parents. Children 6-11 years pay $10 each that includes breakfast and taxes.

For all occupants, breakfast of scrambled eggs, plantains, sausage/bacon and Pinto Gallo is included in the room price along with taxes. This is a cost-savings of an estimated $8 per person for breakfast and 13% for taxes that you would pay elsewhere for both the room and food costs.

If you need assistance with booking a tour or just to simply find out where to go and what to do, the front desk person is knowledgeable and most helpful.

They have a spacious parking area behind the reception area. You can get laundry service whenever you need it. They have a security guard who walks the property throughout the night, not that I have ever been afraid as crime is very low in La Fortuna. They are having many illegals coming from Nicaragua to work, and so the security guard is simply a safeguard.

If you aren’t renting a car at the airport, they will pick you up.

They accept Visa and MasterCard.

I rate this hotel a GREAT VALUE stay.

Phone: 506.2479.8585 or 506.2479.8383

Fax: 506.2479.8383

Email: info@arenalgreen.com

Hotel Arenal Green is located 1 km south and 1 km west from La Fortuna on the way to the cataratas. It is about a three-hour drive from San Jose Airport. (I highly recommend getting a GPS in order to get around in Costa Rica. They rent for $10/day.)

GPS Coordinates: N10.45736; W84.65128

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers


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Craftori

Serious Business in Costa Rica – August 2014


Jesus Christ at Carlos Lodge in La Fortuna

Jesus Christ at Carlos Lodge in La Fortuna

Having spent the last two months constantly in touch with both Alex and Monica regarding a return trip to La Fortuna, I had decided that I would return for three months. But this would be a more in-depth visit and I would spend my time providing comprehensive photographs and data offer the hotel properties tools to market their services (websites, blogs, photography).

Before I could make this trip, I had to resolve the issue of care for my dogs. I would have to either find someone who would stay at my house to care for them and the two cats, find someone who wanted them at their house or “something.” With funds becoming slimmer all the time, I needed to make this move pretty quick. I knew I could only stay three months on a passport—which was fine as I could not bear to be away from my “kids” for any longer. I lucked out and my friend, Danielle, offered to keep the dogs at her house. Now came the nitty-gritty: plane fare. United wanted $950 roundtrip for last-minute reservations. That’s it….. I cannot afford this trip. Two days later I got a spam email advertising low fares on Spirit. Oooo-kayy…. Sometimes spam has it’s qualities. $364 roundtrip. So what’s the catch? Nothing, it seemed. I could go as early as NOW for this price. So let’s go!!

On August 28 I left Houston at a decent time, 6:15 p.m. But…. no direct flights were to be had with Spirit. You flew to New Orleans, then on to Fort Lauderdale, and finally to San Jose. Arrival time would be midnight. Ugh. No problem…. Alex and his friend Alberto met me with open arms. We would drive as far as Quesada City (one-hour drive from the airport, it is one of the region’s main trading and business centers) and stay with a friend, Judy, before traveling on to La Fortuna.

While at Judy’s house over the next two days, I had the opportunity to meet the neighbor, Leo.

Leo - Quesada City

Leo – Quesada City

He is such a sweet man. He and Alex escorted me all over the area to sight birds—birds I had not yet seen before. There were literally hordes of Green Parakettes flying all over, squawking obnoxiously. One really large tree was full of Green Parrots.

Parrot in Quesada City

Parrot in Quesada City

I had never seen such a sight. Totally amazing. While I was trying to focus on the Parrots, Leo was grabbing at me to make me look behind me. Not 15’ up in a tree was a….. SLOTH!!! OMG!

Sloth at Quesada City

Sloth at Quesada City

I have photographed Sloths in the park, along the road, but have never been so close. No way was it possible that this creature was sleeping right outside my bedroom window. This was the first sighting; no one knew he was there prior to now.

Bus to La Fortuna

Bus to La Fortuna

On Thursday, we thumbed a ride with a friend into town where we boarded a bus to La Fortuna.  About 1-1/2 hours later we arrived in the town I knew so well, “My home away from home.” Stopping at the grocery store to grab a six-pack of Imperial, we got a cab to take us to our first stop, Miradas Arenal, a hotel about 10 km outside of La Fortuna on the way to the volcano where Alex is employed. (This is the actual address if you were to send mail. There are no actual street addresses in most of Costa Rica. It can drive you nuts so you absolutely MUST have a GPS to navigate. In the GPS, you don’t enter a street address. Instead, you enter the name of the place you are going.)

Carlos Lodge hill

Carlos Lodge hill

Ending up at the Carlos Lodge (where we will stay for the next week), I found myself in this huge cabin, on a property recently purchased by the owner (Coque) of the Miradas Arenal. The property is undergoing renovations: painting, flooring, electrical, etc. So it’s just me and Alex. Ever see “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson? This was the first thought that came to mind when we got here in the total darkness. It was so dark, I didn’t know there were 11 other cabins up the lane.

Settling in I needed to shower. OMG!! WHERE is the hot water? Did they unplug it for renovations? Lordy. What a chill. The temperature drops several degrees as you head north/northwest out of La Fortuna and there was a little chill in the air. Add to that an iced cold shower. “Buggers!” Nevertheless, slept with the windows open. What a wonderful breeze. Snuggled under the blanket. Amazing. What a relief from the Houston weather.

The next morning I am absolutely starved. Realizing I hadn’t had anything since lunch on Thursday, I trek down the hill to the little restaurant (abandoned) thinking the kitchen would be stocked with food. I thought wrong. However, there were tea bags and ice cubes, a “must have” for a true Texan. Also found some coffee, so I was set. Shortly thereafter Coque’ arrived with eggs, bread and sausage. Daily nourishment followed by compiling a grocery list, for sure. Later today Coque’ is taking us into town to the Farmer’s Market. It’s a place where the local farmers bring their home-grown veggies and fruits. Open only on Friday, it is “the” place to shop. We were able to get homemade sour cream (sold in a little plastic bag), freshly grated white cheese, vegetables (broccoli crown was $1.00) and a chicken hen which was very expensive–$6.00. Since most of the people here grow their own fruits, chickens (eggs) and with plantain, banana, avocado, etc., trees in every yard, you only need to buy a few items to survive. You can buy a really large pineapple for $1.25; bananas are 10 cents/lb. And eggs are sold by the weight and are almost always brown. The growing season in Costa Rica is 365 days a year (although avocados do have a definite growing season; they are imported from Mexico for $1.00 the rest of the year). The temperature varies only slightly, and the sun-up/sun-down times varies by maybe 15 minutes. Sun-up is 5:30’ish, sun-down is 5:30’ish. (One could become a creature of habit here.) Even the “dry” season is rainy, just not as frequently or as heavy. So with a shower virtually every day along with very rich soil, it’s a farmer’s paradise.

Moving on to my first day adventure as a new-born writer, blogger, for-hire photographer, “idea-giver,” I find myself sitting here writing.

Until later………

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers
 

Craftori


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