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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

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

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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

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