Pure life! Welcome to Costa Rica, an amazing house of rainforests, volcanoes, beaches, big cities and small villages. The people here are warm and friendly and there is plenty of adventure for everyone. The culture is pleasant, the scenery is beautiful and the weather is right. This is a “green” country. People, especially a mixture of Spain and Indians, are called Ticans. The language is Spanish, although many people speak English. “Pura vida” is a Tican way of saying “enjoy life!”
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Although the culture of Costa Rica is known in many ways, it has enough unknown aspects to make it interesting. As we drove from the airport to our hotel in San Jose, we saw a cow grazing at the overpass and a horse trotting along the road.
We spent the first day at the Gran Hotel, a luxury accommodation in the 1930s. It is the only hotel in the country considered historic. There was a piano concert during lunch and dinner. Very chic! Our breakfast was typical of Tican: beans, rice, chorizo and cheese, with strong coffee. The staff was very friendly and helpful. Maître d ‘, Rudolpho, was especially kind. We visited the zoo, Musee Nacional and Butterfly Garden. While almost everyone we met was warm and friendly, hang up your purse and camera. Theft can be a problem. Mercado in the open air or at the market has clothes, books, souvenirs, wallets and much more. Great shopping! We chose Nuestre Tierra for lunch. Lunch was cerviche, a delicious mixture of shrimp and fish. The staff met us again with warmth. After an afternoon hike, dinner was at Hotel Robespierre, a wonderfully tender steak dish flavored with rosemary, thyme and sage.
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Cars could run only on alternate days, depending on the last digit of the table, odd or even. This reduces pollution and air traffic. We did not need a car because we went everywhere! Stay in areas where there are people and don’t defend yourself in less populated neighborhoods to avoid problems. City of San Jose is alive, but also crowded. Most shops are completely open to the street. Shopping is varied, just like in any big city. Throughout the city are sculptures of cows: cows dancing, chess cows, pink cows. It’s called the Cow Parade. It’s very moody!
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We visited a small museum National Theater to discover the history of Costa Rica. The first people wore a beautiful gold ornaments. We saw the exhibition of indigenous animals and much more. The square was great for people watching and feeding the pigeons. Everywhere there are stalls with fresh produce and small kiosks selling magazines, toys, snacks and the like. It creates a colorful urban scene! Parks provide a green area and quiet oasises. The mountains are always within sight. We went to the zoo, where we drew alligators, tropical birds, big cats, monkeys, snakes and flowering plants in vivid colors. Ponds and streams created a natural environment.
The Spanish influence is evident in the ornate wrought iron and decorative wood. The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica we found out more about this beautiful nation. There are dioramas of early natives, the Spanish cannons from the 16th century, burial customs, pottery, exhibits animals indigenous, colonial furniture, displays highlighting the coffee and sugar industries and painted Oxcart that are part of the culture.
After breakfast, fried yucky and sausage in tomato sauce which was very tasty, we left the city and went to the land of the two-lane highway with hundreds of other cars. In one of sodas or snack bars we stopped for lunch. It was quiet at the river and it was very pleasant. Most sodas are the sides open to catch the breeze. We enjoyed the ride, we saw mountains, forests and small villages. Each has a church, school, soccer field and soda. We stopped in the center of Do It Center in Ticani version Lowe’s or Home Depot. Check it was fun! There were children’s toys, kitchen utensils and appliances. It is a non-profit community organization. Our journey took us to the Pacific beach, to Playa Hermosa to the hotel, El Valero. Our hotel had a swimming pool, a private beach and al fresco dining. It was the opposite of San Jose because it was very small and quiet. It’s paradise! The small animal created some interesting scribble designs in the sand! We swam in the warm water and watched the brilliant red sunset. Because it’s close to the equator, it was dark by 7:00. The staff was very nice again. Dinner was delicious, Chateaubriand. It is made from beef, mustard, mushrooms and sherry. Our room was nice and the veranda captures the ocean breeze.
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Another hearty Tican breakfast of tortillas, cheese, beans and rice with strong coffee helped us start our day. We spent the morning snorkeling and swimming. We were practically alone on the beach! We saw some very nice fish and we found unusual shells. The water was very clean and warm. What a great way to start the day! We were curious about the Play del Coco, a seaside resort nearby. A short trip took us to a colorful and sleepy town. We shopped at the Mercado store (shoes, dresses, masks, CDs, etc.) and had a cold drink in the secret soda garden. One of the pubs was called Louisiana Restaurant and Bar. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is a Catholic church in the city. It is open to the public, there is a very nice church and a good place for a quiet moment. We enjoyed a long walk on the beach. On the way back we were shopping in a supermarket that was much smaller than an American supermarket, but we had Costa Rican food, so it was the most interesting.
Our dinner was tapas in Ginger near the beach: summer rolls, salmon caprese, Azteca soup and tuna Ahi. It was all wonderful! We sampled native liqueur, guaro. It’s made of sugar cane, very popular with the Ticans. It was very sweet and we didn’t care about the taste, although it was better in the mojito. Walk in the moonlight and it’s time for the night. I’m diving tomorrow!
Today was exciting because I went diving! Sea beasts were plentiful! We call many species of fish and sea turtles. The water was clear; the guides knew their site. I would love to do more on the next trip! This was my first flood in the Pacific. Greg sat on the deck and went on a tour. Then we drove to Playa Panama along a winding road that consisted of a small hotel and a beach. Great for really getting away! We arrived back at our hotel to find electricity. It seems to happen often and it’s anyone guessing when it will come back. We all made it and tonight was the BBQ Hotel. The food was obviously delicious. Many people from the community came and we met several Americans who now live in Playa Hermosa. We had some interesting conversations! We joked with the bartender! The day was good! We really love Coast Rica!
Now that we know the beach, we want to meet the volcano! Mt. Arenal is an active volcano in central Costa Rica. The roads were winding, narrow, hilly and gave us a beautiful view! We took photos, of course! We stopped at a combination of a German bakery / cafe / home craft workshop! German food in a Central American country was a turning point. As we ate our brother, the man on the horse trotted down the street and then back again. We don’t see it in Florida cities! We walked through a small market and then continued on our way. Lake Arenal is breathtaking! We noticed that the flowers are a combination of tropical and plants that we grow at home, which is quite exotic. We stopped for coffee in a small cafe overlooking the lake. The security gate at the entrance reminded us that there is a problem with crime if we are not careful. The trip to Arenal Park took us 6 hours, because the roads were unpaved and our stops. We watched the monkey run across the road. We spent the night at Mt. Arenal Observatory Lodge, with clear views of the volcano! We heard and felt the drone, and after dark we watched the red, glowing lava flowing from the mountain! It was an amazing experience! How often can you sit in bed and watch the volcano! The park has hiking, windsurfing, fishing, cycling and more. We traveled in the rainforest, an exciting experience! When we reached the waterfall, we washed in the pool to cool off. We saw hummingbirds and butterflies everywhere! The bar offers two special drinks, both of which burn in honor of the volcano! We’re going rafting tomorrow!
The rafting adventure was wonderful! We ran on three rivers with capable guides. Our guide, Tony, caught an attractive, albeit poisonous, little blue frog to show us. We jumped, jumped up and flew down the waters. After a thrilling rafting trip, we met for a delicious lunch at the Tican steakhouse. A chaise longue hanging from a tree caught our eye. A quick tour of the charming city of La Fortuna allows us to appreciate the culture of Costa Rica, especially the relaxed pace of life and the recognition of education in this country. We like colors, food, music, friendliness.
Santa Elena is a mountain town covered by a single very narrow, unpaved, winding road. At one point, streams, no railings, and a creek ran down the road. It was dark on the road. I didn’t know if we would get to the top. But Santa Elena is worth it all! It’s a great place to visit! We stayed at Finca Valverde’s. As soon as we followed the doorman along a long and serpentine path, we could settle into our hotel room in the middle of the rainforest.
We sat on the porch with coffee and watched kinkajous, toucans and other tropical birds. After breakfast was the Orchid Garden. It was heavenly! So many species! Colors, sizes and shapes varied. There were Chunches, a cafe / bookstore / laundry. It’s a great place with a large selection of books and lots of food! This is where we met Cindy, Texan, who loves life here and knows where to find something! There was a Serpentarium. It was full of snakes and lizards of all kinds. A tour of the Coffee / Sugar Cane plantation took place. We went to oxcart and at the end of the tour we made candies to take home. How often can we do that! So much work in one day! There were hotels, restaurants, shops, all with the taste of a small town. The city is very small, so walking is the best way to get around. At the end of the day, we were tired, but very happy that we saw and did so much. And we’re going to the cabin tomorrow!
Today’s breakfast was held at the Treehouse Hotel and Restaurant, whose roof grows a real tree! Tican coffee has become our favorite. It is strong and full of aroma. We ate abundantly since today was our Canopy Tour at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest in Selvatura Park. It was raining, but we were in the rainforest! There are trails and gardens to take up time while waiting for the zipper. The heavenly walk was exciting and gave us a wonderful view. The vegetation is huge! The feeling when we buttoned over the canopy is like flying! We looked down at the trees and flew between them from one platform to another. This was our first zipper and we fell in love with the experience! Great! I went on the Tarzan swing while Greg watched! What fun! We watched monkeys play in the trees. It was constantly raining, so we recommend hugging the ponchos for walks.
For dinner, we drove a short and steep distance to Chimera in Monteverde, where Cindye works in the evening. The views were beautiful. The food, tapas, was delicious! Mango sorbet was especially tasty. Also a very moderate price.
Hike for breakfast to the Treehouse, only to find that the coffee machine is broken! Oh no! Fortunately, Chunches and Cindye were available, so we had breakfast there and talked to our new friend.
The Monteverde cheese factory has many types of handmade cheeses. We bought some tasty looking Gouda. Several shops along the road were open, so we looked inside. In Santa Elena we visited a Fish Frog, full of tropical frogs and toads. It was a good time because it was raining again. The butterfly garden was nearby with dozens of delicate, beautiful colorful butterflies. Glasswing has transparent wings! Both attractions were fun! Unfortunately, it’s time to go back down the mountain. We had to say goodbye to Santa Elena and Cyndye! Back on the narrow, steep and serpentine road to San Jose again. On the way we stopped at a soda for lunch. A man was driving his small herd of cattle along the road around us. Very picturesque!
Back in the heart of San José, we stayed at the Gran Hotel again. We felt like old friends as the staff welcomed us. From our room we had a good place for street entertainers on the corner. We were opposite the Teatro Nacional Plaza and all the people. We had dinner at Le Monastere, a former convent perched high on a hill with fantastic views of the city lights at night! The food was delicious! The hotel staff highly recommended and it was worth getting there! A night walk through the city was great for the people who watched our last night here. There were some street performers and the music came from clubs.
Once we were at the airport, we found that most food courts only took cash and the ATMs were both out of order. After counting our change, we could each buy a drink and a bag of chips for lunch! Adios, Costa Rica! Prices for most places were moderate, facilities were modern, weather was good and people were great! We look forward to another visit!