Costa Rica Hideaway

Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #2 – November 2010


It didn’t take but a few months before I had an itch to return to La Fortuna. In November of 2010 my son, Miles, and I took the first flight of the day back to the land God created with me in mind.

Unlike the first time we drove from San Jose to La Fortuna, the trip was so much easier. There was no dense fog, no crazy drivers and absolutely no stress involved. The previous three-hour trip was now only two hours.

Photo of the pool with the Arenal volcano in the background

Arenal Lodge

Photo of the room at Arenal Lodge, La Fortuna

Arenal Lodge

We stayed at the Arenal Lodge (on the way to the volcano, just over the bridge of Arenal Lake). It was so beautiful. The room was very spacious with two queen beds and a sitting area complete with refrigerator and coffee pot. The floors, walls and ceiling were of wood. Patio doors and windows made up the back wall that led to a huge patio with several recliners and table. It over-looked the hotel pool out to the pasture with the volcano in the distance.

The first morning, at breakfast was amazing. We were sitting in the beautiful dining room looking out the windows when I spied my first encounter of a multitude of birds eating fruit on the bird feeder. OMG! I grabbed my camera and out the door I remained for at least an hour, taking a multitude of photos. Finally, Miles brought my breakfast out to me to eat on the patio.

Our breakfast buddy at the Arenal Hotel in La Fortuna

Blue-gold Macaw

We were sitting there when the hotel’s resident Blue and Gold Macaws flew overhead and then landed on the patio. One of the little guys was very precocious. He came over to our table and attempted to steal our plantains. Miles picked up his plate and turned away. The Macaw was having none of that! He reached out and grabbed Miles’ arm with his beak and pinched him until he gave in. The Macaw won. He had his breakfast.

We headed out to El Castillo, not far from the main road to visit Arenal Eco Zoo which is a snake conservatory. (When  you get to the guard house [east of the lake], turn towards the volcano. Pass the park entrance, cross the little bridge and you will see a sign on the right for the conservatory. Turn right and follow the road to El Castillo. When in the town, turn left and the conservatory is on the right.) Even though it was only a few miles from the hotel, it took about 30 minutes to get there. Once again we had to drive down the horrid road that also leads to the Sky Trek ziplining tour we had taken on our first visit. The secondary roads in Costa Rica are not paved. Instead, they are made of rather large rocks. You can only drive about 10-15 MPH on these roads. The rocks are tossed up by your tires, hitting the underneath side of the car. So you need to go slow enough to hopefully not damage something. Also, once the rocks are thrown up, they leave holes in the road. So you are constantly driving “all over” the road in an attempt not to hit potholes.

At the snake conservatory we met an intriguing guide. As is the norm, many of the people there speak fluent English. He asked where we were from and what we did for a living. Miles piped up and told him that I volunteered at the Houston Zoo. That opened up a door for an amazing adventure of which I had never dreamed. Miles Snake 4698 CrpSMThe guide started opening the snake exhibits and  handed snake after snake to us to hold. I don’t know, but maybe he thought since I worked at the zoo I would naturally love snakes. Before that moment, I was terrified of snakes. If I saw one in the yard, it would be dead in a matter of minutes. For the next hour we handled more snakes than you could shake a fist at. It was totally awesome! This experience caused me to get my docent certification at the Houston Zoo to handle snakes which I do every time I work there. I am still afraid of snakes when I encounter one in the yard, but I do not run for the shovel anymore. Every time I return to La Fortuna, I always visit the conservatory.

Holding onto a Bermese Python

Holding onto a Bermese Python

Our next visit was to the Hanging Bridges.

Hanging bridges

Hanging bridges

(Coming from La Fortuna, cross the bridge at the lake and immediately turn right. Go up the hill and you will come to the entrance.) The hike takes you up and around the park on brick-paved stones. You must go slowly, constantly observing the side of the hill and into the forest. If you walk too fast you will miss snakes, birds, leafcutter ants and all sorts of little creatures. There are 16 bridges to cross. Each one is named for the adventure to come. For example, the Tarantula bridge takes to the area where there are a multitude of tiny holes in the side of the hill. If you peer into the hole, you will see hairy legs. Yes, tarantulas. They have assured me they are not venomous. But still, I do not pester them. Another bridge takes you over the tree tops. You can see for miles. In the tree tops do not miss the butterflies! You can walk down to a small waterfall at one point.

Hanging Bridges waterfall

Hanging Bridges waterfall

The entire hike takes about two hours, providing you are taking your time.

Hiking is in my blood. I cannot hike “forever,” but I do love to walk. We decided to visit the Arenal National park and volcano. (The part entrance is down the road across from the guard building.) How often is it that you are offered the opportunity to get “up close and personal” with an active volcano?  We hiked up to the base, as close as permitted, to see what it was like. Yup, there was a huge sign that said, “Do not come any closer or you DIE!” Cindi Miles Arenal Volcano 5146CrpSmOkay, close enough for me!

Warning sign

Warning sign

In the forest, they have a tree that is touted as being one of the largest in the country. The photo shows Miles standing at the base of the tree.

Super huge tree!

Super huge tree!

Looks huge enough to me! We didn’t see any birds except the White-throated Magpie-Jay in the parking lot.

Bird White-Throated Magpie-Jay at Arenal Park

Bird White-Throated Magpie-Jay at Arenal Park

Immediately following this hike we relaxed at the Lava Lounge in La Fortuna.

A favorite place to kick back and have an Imperial

Lava Lounge

It has become a favorite place to kick back and relax.

From there we visited Proyecto Asis located in Ciudad Quesada. It is a refuge for rescued wildlife. When we arrived the door was shut so I knocked. A guide opened the door, I asked if we could tour the park, and he motioned us in. I did not realize they were closed—I just thought you had to knock to get in. No worries: he hooked us up with one of the caretakers and we got a private tour. There were habitats for injured, abandoned and confiscated animals. We got to play with the raccoons,

Playing with the raccoons

Playing with the raccoons

feed the baby Kinkajous,

Feeding the baby

Feeding the baby

pet the rescued sloth and listen to the amazing stories of how the animals got there.

Especially of interest was the sloth and her baby.

Proyecto Asis

2-toed Sloth

She was found hanging from an electrical wire. She had apparently climbed the electrical pole to claim it as her home. She must have slipped and ended up dangling with her arm over the live wire. Someone noticed her, alerted the center, and they were able to get her down. They had to amputate the arm, but she appeared to be okay. One month later, much to everyone’s surprise, she gave birth. They did not know she was pregnant, or how she managed to hold on to the fetus with all the electrical current that invaded her body. But mama and baby were fine.

They also confiscate animals that are in people’s homes illegally. One such animal is the monkey.

Confiscated monkey

Confiscated monkey

People buy or sometimes steal them from the mother to have as a pet. But after a few months, the monkey becomes uncontrollable and they either confine them to a much-to-small cage or set them free. This is a problem since they do not know how to fend for themselves and will surely die in the wild.

At the center, the animal is cared for and will hopefully be returned to its natural surroundings. In some cases, the animals must live at the center forever.

Proyecto Asis is a non-profit organization. They welcome volunteers to help care for, feed and build habitats. Check out their website if you have a desire to make a difference.

No trip would be complete without visiting the cataratas in La Fortuna.

La Fortuna Cataratas

La Fortuna Cataratas

(From downtown it’s about 1 mile to the road leading to the waterfall. Turn right, go to the dead end. There you are!) I had absolutely NO idea how physically taxing this hike was going to be. I looked down the hill, into the forest, and could see nothing but steps. “Hummm… how far was it to the cataratas? Couldn’t be that far. Think I’ll count the steps as I go.” HA! The steps are bricks placed at uneven positions. Some are a three-inch drop; some are 10”; you may have to step out farther to reach the next brick. Every step of the way you must look at your feet or you will stumble. At one point you hold onto a rope and make a hairpin turn while kinda jumping down to the next level. Finally, about 400 steps down, you see the cataratas. What a site! Unlike the small cataratas at The Hanging Bridges, this was a site to behold. We spent about an hour at the cataratas not only to absorb the beauty, but also to soak our extremely tortured calf muscles. When we reached the bottom, my legs were shaking worse than I had ever imagined. I really did not think I could walk even one step farther. After soaking in the cold, cold water of the river,

Soaking in the La Fortuna Cataratas river

Soaking in the La Fortuna Cataratas river

I thought I was ready to ascend all those steps. Lord a mercy! I think I got maybe 50 steps up when I was gasping for breath. Miles had lagged behind and decided he would run up the steps. He caught up with me, and he was not much better off. It took quite a while before I finally reached the top. Needless to say, for the next few days I bathed in Ben Gay and moaned each and every time I had to walk.

During our week in La Fortuna we visited every butterfly habitat we could find. Unknown to us, there were a lot of other adventures of which we were not aware. Oh….. this means that yet another trip needed to be planned for next year.

Before heading to San Jose, we decided to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Vera Blanca.

La Paz

La Paz

We had heard about the beautiful cataratas there, and wanted to see another work of God’s beauty before leaving. To get there, you take a different route out of La Fortuna and we were told it was only about an hour drive. After we got through various small towns, we turned off onto a road that would become the drive from hell. At first we thought it was so awesome to see the road below us and all the hairpin turns. It didn’t take long when we realized there was absolutely no other traffic—coming or going. Suddenly we hit a place where the road seemed to drop with the pavement reaching out over the side with no earth under it. Screech to a halt! Heart throbbing. Panic attack. What happened to the road? Oh, man. We got as close to the inner side of the road as possible and drove so slowly so we could actually see every pebble in the road. This one-hour drive took us three hours. Nerve wracked, we finally passed two vehicles. We felt a little better. Shortly thereafter we sited the majestic La Paz cataratas directly in front of us. Praise the Lord! We had made it.  What we were NOT told is that the road was hit hard by an earthquake earlier in the year. Ah, mystery solved. The road wasn’t even open to thru traffic, yet there were no signs posted. “Just another adventure successfully completed.”

Photo of Miles in front of the waterfall at La Paz

La Paz Cataratas

We ended our vacation in San Jose. I wanted to visit the zoo yet another time. I was able to makes a donation while there that really helped me feel like I could maybe make a difference. Again, we stayed at the Don Carlos Hotel (see previous blog for details).

And back to Houston, we came. This time with so many more memories and hopes to return sooner than later.

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 

If you are interested in visiting this wonderful country, or if you would simply like more information, please don’t hesitate to bookmark my blog for continuous updates and additions to my travels and explorations. Or you can always email me privately. If you decide to visit La Fortuna, let me know and perhaps we can meet up so I can give you a tour of the town.

Craftori

//

Final stay of My First Visit to Costa Rica – March 2010


Scarlet Macaw at the San Jose Zoo

Scarlet Macaw at the San Jose Zoo

The last day of our fantastic vacation was in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city. It was quite unlike the little, quaint towns we passed and stayed in the previous days. It is a bustling metropolis. Terribly crowded. Unbelievable traffic. Noise. Diesel. Not relaxing at all. But then, you must have a central hub to make everything else what it is.

We stayed at the Don Carlos Hotel. A lovely mansion converted to a hotel. It is located in the Barrio; not a particularly upscale part of town. I chose this hotel only because it is located within walking distance to the San  Jose zoo. And I might mention at this point that I am a volunteer at the Houston Zoo as a docent. My love for animals will be even  more obvious as I post photos and tales of my encounters with the wildlife in this amazing country.

We had less than 24 hours in which to explore, on a very small scale. We visited the zoo and Jade Museum (which was less than a block from the Don Carlos).

I would like to spend just a little space on the zoo. It is very, very small. You can tour it within 30 minutes. While the habitats and exhibits were very clean, they were rather small. The lion and lioness looked as though they do not receive adequate food as they were very thin. It appears to be a struggling refuge. The entrance fee was 60 cents. They are run by Fundazoo, an institution receiving funds from only the entrance fee and private donations. The government was trying to close the zoo and either release the animals or sending them to another refuge.  The problem, of course, like many zoos, they house animals that were rescued which need constant care or the advantage of a permanent, safe home–they cannot be released into the wild. This is of the upmost concern. But due to contractual technicalities, the zoo will remain open for at least another 10 years. In order for them to remain open and care for these animals, the Fundazoo organization must have funds. If you feel so inclined, you can visit their site and donate. Here is an article written by CNN.

While in San Jose, we had the opportunity to visit the Jade Museum. It is located just down the street from the Don Carlos Hotel. While a very small museum, it houses the history of the people of Costa Rica, displaying their works of art, not only statues but also a lot of jewelry. It is worth the few dollars for the entrance fee.

And so our journey comes to end. For the time being. Unknown to us at the time, we would re-visit Costa Rica many times to come.

Stay tuned for our second, third, fourth, fifth trips to the land of nature.

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 

If you are interested in visiting this wonderful country, or if you would simply like more information, please don’t hesitate to bookmark my blog for continuous updates and additions to my travels and explorations. Or you can always email me privately. If you decide to visit La Fortuna, let me know and perhaps we can meet up so I can give you a tour of the town.

Craftori


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Second part of My First Visit to Costa Rica – March 2010


After having all the thrills we could imagine from zip lining in La Fortuna, we took out to Manuel Antonio.

Photo taken from downtown La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano

But before we got into the car, for the first time since arriving in La Fortuna, the clouds parted and we actually got to see the very top of the Arenal volcano….for all of 5 minutes. It was something Becca really wanted to see, and she got her wish.

The drive to Manuel Antonio was long… 5 hours long. At least the drive was through exquisite countryside. Lots of really huge trees, banana plantations, coconut groves, acres and acres of tropical plants that they export to the states.

Did you know that pineapples grow from the tops of another pineapple that was set flat on the ground? From there it grows into a plant only a few feet tall. I did not know that. I always thought they grew at the top of a pineapple tree. They take one year from the time of planting until they are ready to harvest again. In Costa Rica you would buy an extremely large pineapple for 75 cents. Bananas were 10 for $1.

After a couple hours we hit the Pacific coast passing some breath-taking sights like the coast line. It was strewn with boulders jetting out of the water. The shoreline is densely populated with forest growth.

Pacific coast

Pacific coast

We finally arrived at Manuel Antonio and stayed at Tres Banderas Hotel. It’s run by a Russian who migrated to the states and then to Costa Rica. That first night he invited everyone to sit in the hot tub with him and drink beer. Only problem was that the hot tub was an ice tub. He said it was too hot to sit in hot water. He was so totally right! We thought we’d die from the heat and humidity. At one point we walked up a very steep hill to get to a recommended Soda for lunch. By the time we got there (walk must have been all of 3 minutes), I was beet red in the face. I thought I’d die.

I just want to warn you about the cicada. At least during March they sing “all the time.” It is an ear-deafening sound. It’s like they are trying to drown out the next guy. Had it not been for the room having air conditioning, there was no way on God’s green earth that you would have been able to sleep. So keep that in mind when booking a room in Manuel Antonio: you need a/c.

The next morning we drove the one mile to the park entrance. They only let in a certain amount of visitors at a time so we got there early.

It was about a one-mile hike through the forest to the beach. On the way we spied our first three-toed sloth.

Three-toed Sloth at Manuel Antonio park

Three-toed Sloth at Manuel Antonio park

The beach was beautiful. The kids made friends with some other Americans and enjoyed a short visit. We headed back to the exit stopping along the way at a more secluded beach. The sight was breathtaking. Making it to the water’s edge was a true feat. The sand is volcanic black sand and hotter than coals. But Miles made his way to the water for a dunk while Becca sunbathed. I just sat there and took photo after photo.

The kids enjoying the beach at Manuel Antonio

The kids enjoying the beach at Manuel Antonio

When we got back to the parking lot we were greeted by a family of Capuchin monkeys hanging out in the trees above the cars. It was out first exposure to real live monkeys that weren’t in a zoo. At that point we were all happy campers. Capuchin1405Sm

And so we headed back to San Jose the next morning. The drive was only about 2 hours on a two-lane highway.

Leaving there was like bidding farewell to a dream trip as we would spend the final day in a bustling city that reminded us of New York.

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 

If you are interested in visiting this wonderful country, or if you would simply like more information, please don’t hesitate to bookmark my blog for continuous updates and additions to my travels and explorations. Or you can always email me privately. If you decide to visit La Fortuna, let me know and perhaps we can meet up so I can give you a tour of the town.

Craftori

//

My first visit to La Fortuna – March 2010


Arenal Lake 8535

In March of 2010, I had an urge to visit Costa Rica. My son, Miles, my daughter, Becca, and I embarked on the most beautiful trip we’ve ever taken.

I don’t know why, but we chose La Fortuna as our first stop. Yes, I did a ton of research on the internet for three months prior to our visit. La Fortuna called out to me. And so it was to be, the first of many trips.

When our plane was backing off the tarmac in Houston, I started crying: tears of joy, of course. My daughter asked me what was wrong. I simply told her that this was a dream I thought would never come true. Especially since the plane was delayed in leaving the gate because of ………. yes, because of my son. It appeared that his passport looked suspicious. He had previously spilled water on the cover and it was not only faded, but a piece of paper had become stuck to the front. After the gate agent called security and her manager, after much questioning, they decided Miles could go to Costa Rica. However, they did say that if Costa Rica didn’t like his passport they would send him back on the next plane. A little nerve wracking, to say the least. When he finally boarded, he sits down. We are backing out. He says, very casually, “I sure do hope our bags got reloaded onto the plane because I saw them taking them off.” No, I did not slap him upside the head, but the thought occurred to me. He was 31 at the time so a little old to be slapping around.

Four hours later we landed in San Jose. Passport? Yes, the immigration officer looked at and said, “Did you spill something on it? You’re good to go. Enjoy your visit.” So much for that!

The drive from San Jose through San Ramon was awesome. Of course, with new surroundings, everything greener than green, you would expect awesome.

We made our way through the quaint city of San Ramon and began “The Nightmare of Nightmares!” Winding roads, narrow, hilly, people walking on the road, dense fog, cars coming at you around a curve in your lane while passing, cars passing you on a steep hill around a hill. I was sitting in the backseat with my feet firmly planted, holding onto the front seat with both hands, elbows locked, tears in my eyes. I was actually praying, kinda. I was gasping so much I never did finish even one prayer. Poor Miles, he was reaching into the backseat trying to get his muscle relaxers out of his bag but every few seconds there was another hair-pin curve to maneuver. Luckily, he never got to the pills.

About halfway through the trip we sited our first waterfall. It was a tiny trickle down the side of the hill, but it was a taste of what was to come.

Three hours later we arrived in La Fortuna. It was about 5:00 and getting dark!?! What?? It’s only 5:00. Okay, must be because it’s winter, right? Little did we know that sunrise is about 5:30 and sunset is 5:30 all year round. Okay, we’ll have to be up at the crack of dawn and waste no time in getting started. Thank goodness we are all early risers.

Our first night we spent at Los Lagos Hotel.

Los Lagos Hotel

Los Lagos Hotel

Bringing the horses in at Los Lagos

Horses at Los Lagos

Beautiful campus. It’s located on the road going towards the Arenal volcano. (I’ll post more about this property later.)

The first activity we had decided to try was zip lining. I had researched it on the net, and decided on Sky Trek, Sky Tram. After taking the tram up the hill, they dressed us with helmets, rain coats, gloves and seated us in a harness. We took a couple practice zips to make sure it was something we really, really wanted to do. I have a photo of Miles zipping with his tongue hanging out. What does that tell you?

The first zip was way, way, way, way across to the other side. As I recall, it was one-half mile long. You reached 50 miles an hour and you were 650 feet in the air. Miles was like a little kid–first in line. All the other people went. And then there were two: Becca and me. Uh, “Becca, you go ahead.” “No mom, you go first.” It was a standoff. Would either one of us go? I needed to be the brave parent and show my daughter I was brave. argh……. Okay, so I went. OMG! What a visual! All  you could see was Lake Arenal with the clouds over it. So beautiful. So amazing. So scary!! I held my breath for as long as I could. As I recall, it took an ENTIRE minute to get to the other side. “What if I stopped halfway? Just don’t think about it.” Well, it was awesome. I made it just fine. But Becca, well, I could barely see her coming across in a totally strange position. It looked like she had a second head stuck on the side of her head and two additional legs in a V shape coming from her arm. What in the world? The guide had to ride piggyback with her or she wasn’t coming. It was a little late to back out as she would have been left at the platform alone. Funniest site I had ever seen. From that point on (nine more lines to zip), she was on her own. She butched up and had the best time ever.

By no means is this the end to the story. But from here, I will blog about all of the adventures we had while in our maiden trip to a land of nature.

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 

If you are interested in visiting this wonderful country, or if you would simply like more information, please don’t hesitate to bookmark my blog for continuous updates and additions to my travels and explorations. Or you can always email me privately. If you decide to visit La Fortuna, let me know and perhaps we can meet up so I can give you a tour of the town.


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Craftori

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