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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

Serious Business in Costa Rica – September 1-4


Having stayed a week in La Fortuna with the low season in full swing, Alex and I headed back to Quesada City for 10 days. Alex needs to attend to personal business in San Jose, and I need to play catch-up on my blogs and marketing research for Coque and Tatiana at the Miradas Hotel.

The day before we left, Coque erected the sign for the new hotel–Gecko Rustic Hotel. Gecko Sign 9416 It looks rather stunning, don’t you think? He also put signs on the road leading to the hotel. Within the next two months the newly-refurbished Gecko Rustic Lodge would get its facelift and be in business, just in time for the high season. But in the meantime, Alex is not needed so we head back to Quesada City.

Taking the bus to Quesada City is about a 1-1/2 hour ride from La Fortuna. The cost is $ 1,350 Colones ($2.70 USD). The busses are just like the Grayhound busses in the US, but without air conditioning. Here it’s called “fresh air conditioning!” And no, they don’t have people getting on with goats and chickens. HA HA!

I was excited to be back at Judy’s house where the newcomer Sloth had made its home last week. Did you know Sloths only come down out of the tree top one time weekly to go to the bathroom? And then they bury it deep so as not to attract predators. Often you will see that their fur is a greenish color. Yup, that’s mold. They are in the rain every day and with their fur so dense, it never dries. Poor things! Makes you want to scratch, huh?

Sloth at Quesada City

Sloth at Quesada City

Judy greeted us with fresh coffee and fried yucca.

Making fresh coffee

Making fresh coffee

Fried Yucca

Fried Yucca

I have been here only one week and already pawing-at-the-trough to bake. But very few places have ovens. The homes only have propane countertop burners much like you’d have on a camping trip. Only recently have they been installing a complete range. Therefore, a lot of the women do not know how to bake. However, Judy has an electric range and oven and I was so excited to bake something. The first thing I had to do was to figure out how to improvise some of the ingredients. Unless you go to a mega supermarket, you cannot find things like chocolate chips, brown sugar or walnuts. You can either improvise by making your own brown sugar (add molasses to granulated sugar), buy candy bars and chip them up and chose Macadamia nuts instead of walnuts. Or, you take the plunge and travel extra distances to the mega stores. Even then, they certainly do not stock the large array of products like we are so accustomed to having in the US. But I did find a ready-made graham cracker crust for a cheese cake. YES! That is certainly an item on my To-Do list.

The dairy products are so different here. The sour cream is sold in a two-cup plastic bag and is rather liquid. If you put it into a cold refrigerator, it will solidify. Cream cheese is sold the same way—in a small plastic bag. However, I did find it in a tub in Quesada City. Butter is more yellow than yellow can get. Since this country is a dairy farmer’s dream, you can usually stop at a farm and purchase these items fresh. Or you can visit one of the many Farmer’s Markets and get all you need. They don’t seem to have the health department requirements here so if you buy fresh, here will be no expiration date on the package.

PHOTO

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

So back to the cookies. They came out very well, much to my surprise. I fully expected them to be a flop. Thank goodness. I was so ready for something sweet to eat. Next feat will be a Texas Sheet Cake. That should surely please everyone.

While I was busy baking and making chicken soup for lunch, Alex was in the backyard preparing the soil for planting a garden. Not sure what he will plant, but I bet he’ll have lots of vegetables. Be sure to check back often for updates on our progress with the Farmer Joe stories.

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 


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Craftori

SOLO TRIP – MAY 2012


Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

Preparing to take a trip away from home is always a burden as I have three dogs and two cats. It’s difficult for someone to come over daily to check on the critters, especially in Houston since the traffic is frequently lousy. But I have a friend who offered to take charge and make daily visits to the house. The dogs have a doggy door to go in-and-out whenever they need, I just needed someone to ensure they were okay. So with that burden relieved, I was once again set to make what was my third trip to Costa Rica—but this time I would go alone.

There was a great amount of fear inside of me planning this trip. I am not all that adventurous alone. And with the driving fiasco the kids and I ran into on the previous trip, I was mortified, to say the least. But it would turn out to be a really wonderful trip.

View of the cabins

Hotel Arenal Green

The first worrisome hurdle to jump over was finding a hotel, one where I could feel comfortable, safe and was affordable. I wanted something close to town but yet out in the country where it was quiet and I could soak up the nature. (La Fortuna only has a couple thousand people, so I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s huge metropolis.) Searching endlessly on the internet, I stumbled upon the Hotel Arenal Green. It’s located on the road leading to the cataratas, about one mile outside of La Fortuna coming from San Jose.

The rates at that time for May 2012 were $40 for a single cabin. I COULD AFFORD THAT! I didn’t know what to expect for that rate, but it said it had air conditioning and that was my main requirement. And since I already knew where the cataratas was located, I felt reasonably comfortable.

And so I was off for a week of solo adventure.

The goal for this trip was to do everything I had not done before. What were those things? I had no idea. Last time Miles and I visited the butterfly conservatory and serpentarium in El Castillo (Arenal Ecozoo), La Paz, La Fortuna cataratas, our usual hangout – Lava Lounge and Proyecto Asis wildlife refuge. So I was going to wing it.

The drive to La Fortuna was totally uneventful. In fact, the drive took me only a little over two hours (it can be anywhere between two-and-a-half to three hours). When I arrived at the Arenal Green I was greeted by Monica Lopez, daughter to the owner, and Anna, the activities director. They were most welcoming, and I started to feel at home pretty quick.

Since I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do other than visit the usual previous butterfly farms, etc., I turned to Anna to make suggestions. She told me about a boat ride at the Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge bordering Nicaragua. She said you could possibly see the Capuchin, Howler and Black-handed monkeys, birds, Caiman and other wildlife. An all-day event that included transportation and lunch would be $65. It seemed to be a little more than what I really wanted to spend, but hey, I was here to see what I hadn’t seen before. “So make me that reservation, Anna!”

The next morning the tour group Canoa Aventura picked me up at 7:30. There were six other people in the van, and we set off for a couple hour drive to Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge.

Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge

Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge

The tour guide was so informative. She spent the entire trip talking about the wildlife, educating us about birds, sloths, etc. We were toodling down the road when the driver stopped. He had spied a sloth in a tree (unfortunately it was too far away so we couldn’t see if it was a two- or three-toed). We all got to gawk and take photos. We also spotted Bare-throated Tiger Herons,

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

various marsh birds, and then the biggest surprise ever! We pulled into a little soda that was situated at a bridge at the top of the river’s bank. In the tree that reached from the bank up to the top of the building were dozens of the largest Iguanas you have ever seen! Totally unbelievable. I never imagined that Iguanas would live in the top of trees.

Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

It turns out that the females had it all figured out. They basked in the sun while the males stayed on the ground protecting the eggs. And all they did was sleep. Until recently, the people ate the Iguanas; it was a major meat source. They say it tastes like chicken (but then, so does alligator). Hence the term, “Chicken of the Trees.” But since the country has become very aware of preservation and sustainablility, it is now illegal to kill an Iguanas. Good move, dudes.

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

Arriving at the boat dock, we were treated to brunch: pastries, juice and coffee. We were all pawing at the trough to board the boat, so off we went. We didn’t get two minutes away from the dock when someone spotted a monkey on the bank in the trees. It turned out to be a Howler monkey family. Costa Rican Howlers are black with a little brown spotting of hair on the belly.

 

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Included with this family was a baby that was orange (appeared to be less than one-year-old, according to the tour guide).(PHOTO The guide informed us that due to in-breeding their babies can be this color. If this monkey were to breed, it did not necessarily affect the coloring of its offspring. And the reason for so much in-breeding is due to the fact that the monkeys cannot cross the river to get to the other monkeys. “Monkey see, monkey do.”

 

 

 

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Floating along we saw Anhingas, various small birds,

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed Bats and plenty of Caiman.

Caiman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

There really weren’t a lot of any one particular species of animal. Unfortunately we did not see the Capuchin or Black-handed Spider monkeys. It was May and a fair amount of birds had migrated north for the summer and the river was very low as the rainy season had not yet started. Migration and rain had a lot to do with the park’s population of wildlife. The sightings were sparse, to say the least. But, hey, at least I got to see a Sloth and Howler monkey on this trip. You can’t have everything all the time. Guess this means I’ll have to start planning another trip for next year, huh? Yup, good excuse. We got back to the dock in time for lunch. And then the drive back. It was a good day, and everyone was tired and ready to grab an Imperial back at the camp.

The Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge trip is a MUST SEE.

A visit to the Arenal Adventura Park that is located towards the volcano was recommended. At this time it was newly opened and was still being stocked with exotics and the habitats were under construction. I felt the entrance fee of $30 was rather steep. Although I enjoyed the personal tour through the small serpetarium and frog habitat, it did not make a marked impression on me. The interesting items were the Red-eyed Tree Frog eggs and the Leaf Cutter Ants.

The Leaf Cutter Ants are amazing. They carry large amounts of leaves to their nest making 1,000 cuts per seconds with their jaws. The largest nest recorded spans one-quarter acre.

Brown Siporeta Butterfly

Brown Siporeta Butterfly

A return visit to Arenal Ecozoo in El Castillo beckoned me. I must absolutely take that horrid road that turns off from the main road leading to the volcano, directly across from the little Police station. No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without at least one jaw-jarring road trip. It couldn’t be more than two miles from the cut-off to the next turn to get to El Castillo, but it takes about 20 minutes as you cannot drive any faster than 5kmh. The road is …. what they call “gravel,” but what I call “boulders.” (Grin) The rocks are not tiny by any means; they are good-sized rocks. If a rock becomes displaced, a rather gaping hole is left. And, of course, with the rock protruding up several inches, it makes for the most bumpy road you have ever driven. I had a water bottle setting in the glove compartment. By the time I got there, the bottle had jumped out onto the seat, busted open and drenched my iPhone. So much for that.

But in any event, I made my way to the Ecozoo Butterfly Conservatory. This is one amazing place. They have four butterfly exhibits, each housing a different species. The most intriguing was the Glasswing Butterfly.

Greta - Glasswing Butterfly

Greta – Glasswing Butterfly

When I first entered the enclosure, I thought it was empty. But then I saw something fly by. Upon a closer look I saw this magnificent small butterfly that was translucent. Never had I heard of such a thing. (PHOTO) The four hours I spent snapping photo after photo was the best event yet. For only $11 I felt I had hit gold. This place is an absolute MUST SEE. (Remember, this trip happened in May which is butterfly season. So be sure to check the calendar before going.)

On the way back to the Hotel Arenal Green I spotted a butterfly farm right before entering La Fortuna (located just past the Mega Super, on your way to the volcano, on the left, next to the Sky Trek office). Entrance fee was $6 and it, too, had four enclosures. The varieties were, again, amazing. You walk in and just about got hit in the face by the butterflies. For $6 it was a true value. And it’s located so close! They also had a habitat for frogs, but I only saw one Blue Jean Frog. Again, make sure it’s butterfly season as this place will not tell you they have no butterflies, and they will take your money anyhow.

Waterfall Cataratas 5421

La Fortuna Cataratas

After thinking about it quite awhile, the decision to get more than just a little exercise by descending and climbing the steps to the La Fortuna Cataratas turned out to be a true experience. (Entrance fee is $6.) Going down the steps was a little more digestible this time. Not only was I better prepared mentally, I figured out that I needed to rest occasionally. So getting to the bottom was more pleasant. (PHOTO) After spending about one-half-hour sitting at the waterfall’s edge, it was time to get back to the top. It looked like rain. Up I go. All of a sudden the sky opened up its over-abundant supply of water and drenched me in a matter of seconds. I quickly grabbed a cheap plastic poncho I had in my backpack and wrapped it around my camera. There was no way I could afford to lose yet another expensive part of my happiness. Losing the cell phone was enough disaster for one day. Making my way back to the top, the rain just wouldn’t quit. I finally dashed to the car and drove the 1km back to the Hotel Arenal Green. It rained the rest of the day into the night with winds gusting severely. It hit the roof of my cabin so hard I literally could not hear the TV. I later found out they had a tropical storm. It sure did make for great sleeping!

Parrot at Cataratas Cabins in La Fortuna

Parrot at Cataratas Cabins in La Fortuna

The next morning came the sunshine, 5:30 a.m., as usual. “Up and at ‘em!” The birds were chirping and there was motion all about. It’s a great place to be for early risers. If you like to sleep in, I suggest you simply go to bed early as it’s dark by 5:30 p.m. That, in itself, will get you 12 hours of sleep.

TIME TO HIKE! Yes! I read about a hiking trail that would take you to view the Arenal Volcano slide that happened in the 1960s. (It’s located on the road that takes you past the Arenal National Park. Go to the end of the road where you would turn right to enter Arenal Observatory Lodge. On the left is a place to park.) For the entrance fee of $10 you get a little hand-drawn map showing the two trails. The lady said the self-guided round trip hike was about one-and-one-half-hours. Right off the bat you have to cross this dilapidated bridge. (Maybe they’re saving up the entrance fee to replace the bridge? Ummm…the ladies collecting the fee could possibly just simply be sitting there to collect money for themselves. An answer I would never know.) That should have been my first clue as to we what lay ahead. Within a few minutes I was faced with these steps leading up the hill that were knee-high. Man! I’d have to literally lift my legs with my hands, placing one foot on the stop while grabbing for something to pull myself up. How many of these steps are there? Looking up I could see maybe six steps. Okay, no problem. Hi Ho! Well! What I did NOT see was that the steps turned a corner and there, in front of me, was another set of steps. I ascended this next set of steps only to turn yet another corner. At this point I thought maybe I should throw in the towel. I looked down and realized that to descend would mean I’d have to sit down, kinda jump to the next step and hopefully not fall forward on my face. Lord. It cannot be that much further up, can it? And so I continue, hiking my ass up step after step. I had no idea how high up I was, but it certainly was a long way up. I actually tried to count the steps. After 33 I wasn’t sure that I was counting correctly—I had lost count due to my exhaustion and frustration. Finally I reached the top and sat on the bench with a sign that educated you about the lava flow. I look out across the way and stared; I squinted. Exactly where are these large boulders they spoke of that came from the bowels of this famous volcano? I couldn’t see anything. It was all grown over from the last 40 years. Okay. Well, that was a disappointment. Let’s go home. I’m tired and I need to pee.

While the trek up the hill was an adventure, coming down was another story. I was so relieved to see the exit sign pointing in another direction other than that of the entrance. It was smooth sailing. Along the way I spotted a family of Howlers and a Great Curassow. That made my day even though it was way too dark to photograph.

And then I turned the dreaded corner. The trail ended. In front of me was dense forest; to the right was the same; to the left was a steep climb down—no “steps”—but boulders. Large boulders stacked on top of each other. How in the world are you supposed to descend this? Oh, man, I freaked out. Was I going the right way? Should I turn around and go back the way I came? This one-and-one-half-hour hike had already hit over two hours. I packed my camera equipment on my back, secured the laces on my shoes, and started the descent—the descent from hell. Sitting on my butt, I reached my legs out a far as I could to position my foot on the next rock so I wouldn’t fall into the crevice. I dare say my pants were worn thin by the end of the descent. It must have taken me a good half hour to get to the bottom—it was a LONG way down. Once I got to the bottom I spotted the dilapidated bridge and breathed the biggest sigh of relief ever. This is a wonderful adventure if you like to hike a new area. But there is literally no view to be had.

I love to eat at various restaurants with my favorite being the “Just Good Food” soda that serves absolutely amazing hamburgers (try the Texas burger—it’s the best!) The soda was purchased by a New Jersey tourist earlier in the year. The original owner was ready to retire, and Mike’s inquiry was a deal waiting to be consummated. To find this quaint place, as you are coming into town on the road from San Jose, cross the bridge through the first intersection. In that first block of buildings, near the next corner at the main street, on the right is “Just Good Food.” I ate there several times during my visits over the next two years. (UPDATE: As of 2014 the restaurant is closed. I understand they had a fire and it’s under renovation.)

Another great restaurant is located across the street, on the corner from the bank, directly across from the park. This full-service restaurant  serves an excellent chicken breast in a cream sauce, topped with sliced avacado. It is to die for! The food is a little more pricy but well worth it.

As a side note: be sure to check the bottom of your restaurant tab. Some of the restaurants incorporate the tip into the total. I was unaware I was tipping a total of 30%! Yikes!!!

After a week of adventures, I was ready to head home. I’ll be back next year!

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

All photos are copy righted by Cindi L Rogers

 


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Craftori

Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #3 – May 2011


Passion Flower

My third trip to La Fortuna was going to be a solo trip. My daughter was busy with college and my son had already taken his vacation earlier in year. This was something that really scared me. Although I felt I knew the ins-and-outs of driving the roads, it was still going to be a challenge.

Upon arriving at the San Jose airport, I easily enough got on to the van to the car rental. I had decided to use Mapache Rent A Car again since we had a good experience with them previously. The people there are very nice and accommodating. So I took out for La Fortuna, arriving there in plenty time before dark, and I somehow managed to evade traffic on the long, winding roads.

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

The best decision I ever made was to spend my entire vacation at The Hotel Arenal Green. It’s on the road leading to the cataratas in La Fortuna. The rates were so affordable I couldn’t believe it could be that great. Much to my surprise it would be the place I have stayed every time I have returned. You couldn’t ask for a better place. The property is owned by German Lopez and at that time the manager was his daughter, Monica. They have six cabins, some with one bed, two beds and a family-sized cabin. Each cabin has its own private patio with a table and chairs. The cabins all have a mini bar with sink, nice-sized refrigerator and coffee pot. The bathrooms are spacious with a hair dryer, soap and shampoo. The property itself is very large. If you walk to the back of the property, there is an additional cabin that is for the die-hard traveler. It has no electricity. Nope, not for me! I need my a/c. There is also a hut situated on the river’s edge where you can get a massage complete with a shower under the trees.

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

The PVC pipe surrounding the shower is painted to look like bamboo. It’s really neat!

Bonding almost immediately with Monica, I felt at home. I don’t want to forget to introduce you to the maid, Blanca. Even though she doesn’t know a lick of English, she is such a sweet person. She makes your breakfast every morning that consists of the most wonderful plantains ever! You also get the usual “Typical Breakfast” that consists of Pinto Gallo (beans and rice seasoned with Cilantro), scrambled eggs, toast and bacon.

Since this was going to be my first solo trip, I was bound and determined to see and do everything possible. My primary goal was to visit every butterfly farm in the area. I had researched a few places on the internet, and so that’s where I started.

My first day in La Fortuna took me to Ecocentro Danaus, a little wildlife park just outside of La Fortuna , right before you enter El Tanque. (There are more directions and information about this place on my page, “Activities and Locations.”) This is a small private ecological reserve that I visit every time I come to La Fortuna . Hi-lights are the butterfly and frog exhibits, lake and garden. You’ll be sure to see the two-toed Sloth, many butterflies, Poison Dart Frogs, Boat-billed Herons at the lake and the White-collared Manakin, to name a few. On-site is the Maleku indigenous culture store displaying their hand-made crafts with a large variety of masks.

Maleku

Maleku

Walking through the park on your own, considering you will spend some time looking for the frogs and taking lots of photos, can take up to 1-1/2 hours.

The next day Monica arranged for me to take the river float trip in Canon Negro in Los Chilies. (Tour cost is $65.) It’s a reserve a few hours north of La Fortuna on the Nicaragua border (be sure to take your passport along if you go). The tour guide was wonderful. She educated us on all the animals, informed us of purchasing Costa Rican Rum, let us know that pineapples were only 75 cents and bananas were 10 for $1. Did you know Costa Rica is the major importer of pineapples to the US?

Jesus Christ lizard

Jesus Christ lizard

On the way there we spied a Jesus Christ lizard on a fence post. Interesting fact about this lizard is that it can skim across the water. He has webbed feet that allow him to stay afloat. Watch this superb video by National Geographic. It will surely amaze you!

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

When we arrived at Canon Negro park we enjoyed a complimentary brunch and then boarded a canopied tour boat. Some of the animal sightings included the Long-nosed bat, Howler monkeys, Tiger Herons, Anhinga-Anhinga (both male and female), Caiman, Red-eared Sliders, White-faced Capuchins, Black-handed Spider monkeys, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers and the Great White Egret.

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

Black-headed Trogan (male) at Canon Negro

Black-headed Trogan (male) at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Cayman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Tiger Heron at Canon Negro

Tiger Heron at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

T

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

The entire day’s events entailed 8 hours of nature and education. It’s a “must-do” for all visitors to Costa Rica.

On my previous trip we visited the serpentarium but did not make it further up the road in El Castillo to the Butterfly Conservatory. So on this day, since I was trying to visit more butterfly farms,  I spent several hours going through the four butterfly houses they had at the Arenal Eco Zoo. Considering it was May, there were more butterflies than one could imagine in any one spot. One house contained nothing but Glass Wing butterflies. I had never seen such a beautiful sight! At first I could not see the butterfly since you were looking “through” them.

Glass-wing Butterfly

Glass-wing Butterfly

This is a “must see” while in La Fortuna!

Anna, the tour assistant at The Hotel Arenal Green, turned me on to Arenal Natura Ecological Park that had recently opened. It is close to the volcano (down the road leading to Hotel Miradas Arenal). It is a small park and I felt it was a little pricy. But since they had recently opened, I’m sure they expanded their offerings by now. They had snakes, but you weren’t able to handle them–they were primarily venomous. A frog display, Caiman pond and trails to  hike. I will re-visit this park on my future trips and hope to see more for my money.

There is a butterfly farm right in La Fortuna on the road leading to the volcano (past the Super Christian supermarket). It’s on the left, next to the Sky Trek office where you will pay your entrance fee. At the time it was $6 and well worth it. Just remember, there is a butterfly season. If you go at any other time than in May/June, there may be no butterflies. Be sure to check it out before paying your entrance fee (2014 fee is now $11). They have 4 buildings, each one slam-packed with butterflies. It was definitely an awesome event. It, too, is a “must see” at the right time of the year.

Another trip to the La Fortuna Cataratas? Yup, why  not. I had survived the first torturous stair-climbing adventure in 2011. This time it would be better as I had been walking 3 miles everyday prior to my trip. The walk down the steps wasn’t quite as harrowing as the first. I figured out I needed to rest ….. frequently! While I had been walking a lot at home in Houston, the terrain is flat, so my legs weren’t accustomed to stairs. This time I made it down much easier; I rested and spent quite awhile gawking at the beauty before starting back up.

Majestic "Splash" at the bottom of the waterfall at La Fortuna

Cataratas La Fortuna

For the first time ever I got caught in a downpour. My camera equipment may not be the top of the line, but it’s all I have. And to think it would be ruined if I didn’t act super fast and protect it. I whipped out my plastic poncho from my bag in record time. Wrapped it around my equipment still in my hand and just stood there for friggin’ ever. The rain wasn’t going to stop. I couldn’t even see as the rain was blinding me. Okay, this was exciting. NOT! I decided I needed to make it to the top, no rest periods, just trucking on. It rained for another 1/2 hour. Everything was fine, equipment was dry. That was my first experience of the “rainy” season. Regardless of what people say about rainy vs. dry, any day, any where, you can have a rain storm. For all the times I’ve been there, there were only a few days where it rained for longer than 5  minutes, no matter what the season. So don’t let “rainy” vs. “dry” deter your vacation plans.

Hanging Bridges

Hanging Bridges

Another day, another adventure. The Hanging Bridges must be re-visited. I hoped to spy beautiful birds on this visit, and I was not disappointed. This lovely Mot-mot greeted me on the trail leading to the cataratas.

Rufous Motmot in La Fortuna

Rufous Motmot in La Fortuna

I also was followed by this curious White-nosed Coati on the trail. Looked like he was hungry, so I tossed him a little banana.

White-nosed Coati at Hanging Bridges

White-nosed Coati at Hanging Bridges

And so this ended yet another marvelous trip to the land God created for nature lovers. And yes, another trip is in the making. Next time I will be sure to visit Monteverde for a few days. I hear it’s amazing. Stay tuned!

Parting words of wisdom: Always check to ensure the butterfly habitat exhibits have butterflies. Again, it depends upon the time of year. Unfortunately, they won’t tell you upfront that there are only 3 butterflies in each garden. You’ll pay your money, and then get upset.

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers.

Craftori


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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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