December 2, 2020

Costa Rica (July 2018)

We have had Costa Rica on our list of places to visit for quite some time – now we made it with my son, David, and daughter, Michelle. David brought our grandson, Justin; Michelle brought our granddaughter, Claire. It’s been ages since we have all been together. So glad David and Michelle both wanted to go Costa Rica when we did.

The biggest problem was logistics, as flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, from Cleveland and Columbus are limited. Although, Pat and I had a direct flight from Charlotte, everyone else had two flights each way.

Costa Rica Locations (Tranquil Beach House and Casa Alquimia Artes are the AirBnBs)
I had rented a 4-wheel-drive SUV from Dollar at the San Jose airport. Nice big vehicle for the six of us. Note that most guidebooks recommend 4-wheel drive because of the lack of pavement in the rural areas – we certainly needed it on occasion!

The drive to our first AirBnB, (Tranquil Beach House) located on the Pacific Ocean, was mostly in the rain. With me driving, that meant a slow go. We made one stop on the way, near Jaco, at a Maxi Pauli, a grocery/miscellaneous store, to get some groceries and other supplies. We figured we would need to do breakfasts, at least.

As we got closer to the final destination, we texted Laura, the property manager, to meet us at the AirBnB. It was after dark when we all met at the home, down an unpaved road along the beach. Laura showed us around the property, we picked out our bedrooms, unloaded the car and settled in. All but our grandson, Justin, were in the main house, while he chose to sleep in a separate building behind the main house.

Sunday

The next morning, Sunday, we discovered we had been robbed while we were all asleep. David and Pat had gone to the beach early and found one of my notebooks laying near the beach along with a box of snack bars that had been in my backpack. They immediately returned to the house, where we discovered my backpack was missing. As most of our things were in our bedrooms, only the backpack had been stolen. Unfortunately, it had our Nikon D90 camera and and a smaller camera in it. There were also assorted cables, headphones, locks and other miscellaneous items that had been in the backpack.

David also found a large knife outside the kitchen window that appeared to have been used to separate the molding near the lock and get the door open.

We notified the property manager, but she was having problems with her phone and never got back to us that day. We thought we would need her to help us with the police, especially with our lack of Spanish. Sunday night Laura got back to us and agreed to go to the police with us on Monday.

Our Sunday was not wasted waiting for the response from Laura, the property manager. We headed out to find somewhere to eat and discovered a strip of restaurants and shops (Esterillos Town Center) about 2 miles from our place. Although several of the places were closed because it was Sunday, we went to Pizzeria Y Restaurante El Maná, where Pat had Pescado Ceviches and I had Camarones Ceviches.

Pescado Ceviches

We then drove to Quepos, further south along the coast. Along the way, David took us down a side road toward a place called the Rainmaker. However, because of the rain, the poor, unpaved road and the fact we had noticed on the sign that it closed in a few more minutes, we turned around and headed back to the AirBnB for some pool and beach time.

Monday

At 9:30 AM, after picking Laura up on the way, we arrived at the police station in Jaco. With Laura as our interpreter, I began filling in the paperwork and talking to one of the detectives. As there were several interruptions during the process, we didn’t leave until almost 11:00 AM. The detective indicated a police photographer would come out to the house to take pictures of the damage to the door frame, etc.

We waited around the house for a couple of hours, but the photographer never showed, so we decided to go back to Rainmaker. The rain had stopped and the day look good, so a rain forest seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, we had not read as much as we should have on their website and discovered they only accepted cash. Everyone contributed and we just came up with enough to cover our entrance fee that included lunch. We literally were out of cash, so no souvenirs of our visit. It had started raining as we approached the site, but it stopped as we finished lunch. However, even without a steady rain the rain forest was still extremely wet – go figure! The drive up to Rainmaker required us to test out the 4WD option on our SUV.

Lunch at Rainmaker
On the hike, saw a couple of “poison-dart” frogs (one was a very pretty black frog with a bright green pattern on its back). Another one was brown and was hard to see against the brown mud. Photos of these frogs didn’t turn out well. Since our cameras were stolen we resorted to cell phone photos.

We also crossed 6-8 canopy bridges, none of which seemed as sturdy as the ones we would cross later in the week.

With the problem of paying for the visit, the rain and wet conditions, the “old” canopy bridges and not seeing lots of animals, the hike was still well worth it. We would love to do it again.

On the way back to our house, we stopped at Estrella Town Center for ice cream. Then, not wanting to go back out once we were back home, we decided to have dinner while there. Most restaurants were closed, but we found a “Middle Eastern” restaurant, Selva Middle Eastern Restaurant And Bar.

Tuesday

This was moving day – leaving the beach house and heading to the mountains and our next AirBnB in Monteverde. Our first stop was the town of Jaco for shopping and snacks, after which we drove to Monteverde and Casa Aquimia Artes. The last road going into Monteverde was unpaved and very rough. At one point we were stopped for over 20 minutes while a crew was working above the road (they were afraid of rocks falling – or perhaps the shovel going over the edge).

Casa Aquima Artes was a very large house: Pat and I shared a bedroom and each of the other 4 had their own. Very spacious with a large dining area and a nice sitting area where we could look out and see various birds.

After we unpacked, David, Justin, Pat and I walked to a nearby Italian restaurant, Tramonti, to order a pizza for dinner. I picked out a bottle of red wine to take with us, but before I could purchase it, one of the waiters asked if we like Barolo wine and if we might like it with a price half the bottle I had chosen. When we said yes, he asked us to follow him to his car, where he opened the trunk and gave us 2 bottles. He also gave us his business card, indicating he was a wine distributor. What a deal! And the pizzas were very good.

Two for half the price of the first wine I picked
After late lunch/dinner, a Don Juan Tours‘ van picked us up for a Coffee and Chocolate Tour with a night nature walk. This was a really interesting tour with a good explanation of how chocolate is harvested and processed. We tasted the raw coating of the cacao seeds (I didn’t like it; everyone else seemed to). We also learned that cacao plants depend on a certain type of mosquito to help with pollination, who knew!. We then walked through the processing, including tasting the ground nibs, adding sugar, cayenne and water to the powdered nibs. Excellent!

After the chocolate portion, we were shown the process for coffee.

The last part of our tour was a walk through the farm and surrounding trees where we saw a sloth, high in a tree. Later we saw a porcupine in the trees (although to us it looked similar to a possum) and a frog.

As David mentioned, this tour was well worth the price of admission – something you can’t always say about some tours.

Wednesday

This morning we had a good breakfast, prepared by our hosts, Tarsicio and Marianela. I had forgot that breakfast was included with our reservation – always a pleasant surprise. Breakfast each morning included abundant fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple or watermelon), juice (mango, watermelon), coffee, toast, and scrambled eggs. Oh, also homemade fruit jams. Nice treat!

After breakfast, David drove us to Llano del Cortez to see waterfalls (as recommended by Tarsicio, who had also arranged our Chocolate and Coffee Tour). The road out of Monteverde was atrociously bad – unpaved, severely rough and so narrow that passing slow moving vehicles was nearly impossible. Once we arrived near the town of Llano del Cortez, we searched for a restaurant, but finding none nearby, we asked a coconut water vendor on the roadside, where we might find somewhere to eat. He recommended we drive into Bagaces and eat at Soda La Fuente. We did and were not disappointed.

After lunch, David, Justin and I went in search of a car charger for our phones, since the one I brought with me had been in the stolen backpack. Pat, Michelle and Claire went to the public square to see the activities being held there to celebrate taking Guanacaste Province from Nicaragua in 1824-1825. We had no luck finding a car charger, so we met up with the others and headed back to see the waterfalls.

We chose to access the waterfalls through the town of Llano del Cortez. All the signs seemed to indicate we were only a few hundred meters away, but the drive was considerably longer. After passing through some fields on a single-lane dirt road, we arrived at the town’s assembly point. After paying the entrance fee, a guide led us through the woods to the falls. The first waterfall we came to was disappointingly small and not particularly worth the money. However, the guide continued over another ridge and we arrived at a much larger and pretty waterfall, where there were many people enjoying being in the pool of water at the base of the falls. On our team, only Pat and Michelle took off their shoes and waded into the water.

We returned to the car and started back to Monteverde. After a short stop at the AirBnB, we went into town to have dinner at Taco Taco Taqueria. And returned to the house via a chocolate and coffee shop.

By the way, it started to rain as soon as we had got back to Monteverde.

Thursday

Today we went to a cloud forest, La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena , even though it was raining most of the time. We purchased cheap rain ponchos at the gift store and started out, picking the longest trail so we could see the most. Wrong decision! We got soaked even with the ponchos, which only made me sweat so much that I was wetter under the poncho. Let’s not talk about the mud, please.

 

After 4 hours on the hike, we went home to change clothes and put some of our dirty clothes in the washing machine. Not quite sure what to do with the muddy hiking shoes.

We also met a family from Belgium who were staying at the AirBnB through a mix-up caused by rental listing on 2 sites that didn’t get handled properly. We had been notified by the owner, who gave us a discount for letting the family stay. Since they had there own bedrooms and bathroom, we only saw them at breakfast. It was not a problem for any of us. The couple and their 12 year old daughter were fun to talk to.

Dinner tonight was at Cabure – Chocolatería & Restaurant, not far from the house.

Friday

After breakfast, Michelle and Tarsicio made reservations for us at Selvatura Adventure Park, primarily for zip lining. The only ones that were certain to go on the zip lines were Justin, Claire and Michelle. The other three of us weren’t sure what we would do until we actually got there to see what was available. At the last minute, I decided I would take the leap (so to speak) and go with the others. That left David and Pat to hike through the rain forest on a series of well-built canopy bridges, which was just fine with the,.

The first zip line turned out to be pretty benign and I felt good about doing the rest of them (9 or 10 in total with the last one being 1000 meters long). Before we got to the last line, there was something called the Tarzan Swing, where you swung off a platform, suspended on a rope. Michelle sat this one out (actually she stood it out at the bottom to watch us). Unfortunately, we had no cameras or phones as we had left all such items with David and Pat so we wouldn’t accidentally drop them from the zip lines). I was the last to go and had to be “pushed” off the platform, all the time looking forward, rather than down. Once off the platform, I enjoyed the swing at the end of the long rope.

Once we had completed the loop of zip lines, we met up with David and Pat and went to the Park’s restaurant for lunch.

Then back to the house. All but me went into town to shop for souvenirs.  When they returned, we played games and read until dinner time. For dinner, we walked to Tramonti, the Italian restaurant where we had carried out the pizza a couple of days before. Our waiter was the wine distributor.

Saturday

Today we are headed back to the San Jose airport for our return to the U.S.A. tomorrow. After dropping the car at Dollar, we checked in at the Courtyard by Marriott. We had arrive early, but were given our rooms.

After lunch at a Peruvian restaurant, across the street from the hotel, David, Justin, Pat and I got an Uber into downtown San Jose. We had the driver drop us at the Central Market. A couple of hours at the market and surrounding area was more than enough. It was crowded and noisy. We finally got an Uber to take us back to the hotel.

 

Dinner was across the street at a steak and wine restaurant.

We said our farewell to Michelle and Claire before going to bed, as their flight in the morning was very early. The rest of us don’t leave for the airport until almost Noon.

Sunday

We all flew back home today, with David and Justin on the same flight to Charlotte, then to Columbus.

This has been a fun trip with everyone!

Other photos…

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