Archive for March, 2011

Jaco beach, Costa Rica

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

On the way we stopped to look at Jaco and to see what the beach looks like. It was not the most exciting beach, full of people and the stones. I am glad we decided to stay in Tamarindo instead.

This is how the Jaco beach looks like, probably even a better version of it…

jaco-beach-costa-rica

Barra Honda National Park, Costa Rica

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Barra Honda National Park does not seem to advertise at all in Costa Rica. Even in Tamarindo, from where it only takes an hour and a half to get to the Park; no-one offers a tour and tourists don’t seem to know that Barra Honda Park exists!

The park is situated not far from Nicoya and it has one important advantage which I really appreciate after visiting many other parks – good roads! You will only need to drive on an unpaved road for a maximum of 5 km (even this unpaved road was not the worst I have seen), the rest of the journey is on a nice, fast and quite empty road and there are brown signs close to the park saying when to turn.

barra-honda-caverns-costa-rica

The Barra Honda National Park was absolutely amazing. The dry tropical jungle is home to many birds, butterflies and, of course, iguanas!  There are also 42 caverns in the park, only 19 of them have been explored and only three are open to the public.

You are obliged to have 2 guides with you in order to go to caverns. One of them will stay on top, while another will go down into the cave with you. Please, wear good shoes and the clothes you are not scared to lose, we got quite dirty. Surprisingly, the temperature in the cave always stays about 26C so don’t wear too much. How bizarre!

We were very lucky as one of our guides Jenny (she told us it is a normal Costa Rican name!) spoke a bit of English while the other, Saturno, knew nothing but, even so, with our basic Spanish we could understand most of the time what he was talking about. We were glad to hear that during the 20 years that Saturno has been working in the Park there have been no accidents involving tourists. In addition, every guide in Barra Honda has to have special first-aid training so while we were walking to the caves Saturno entertained us by showing different types of leaves and told us what each of them is used for. So, if you feel bad or about to faint, they will know what to do :).  I personally fell in love with a garlic plant. The leaves taste of garlic with a touch of spiciness; Costa Ricans actually use them for cooking and I want to too!!!

barra-honda-caves-costa-rica

The caves were astonishing; we were really impressed, and it is really easier to see than to explain.  It took us quite a long time to do the tour, which cost $26 (not bad as you have 2 guides just for you) so allow yourself at least 4 hours to spend in the park. I would also advise to come as early as possible,the park opens at 8am and the last tour starts at 2pm. Additionally, there is a nice picnic area in the Barra Honda National Park, where we, tired tourists, decided to have a break and have a melon. There were dozens of iguanas and some of them were impressively big … so we fed them with what was left from our melon! No waste at all!!!

How to get to Barra Honda Park by Car:

The Barra Honda National Park is 12 km away from the Tempisque Road (Hwy 21) and the drive is fairly easy. After you have crossed the Tempisque Bridge (a really nice and long bridge) continue for 15 km until you see a sign to your right to Barra Honda. You will pass through the village of Barra Honda from where it’s another 4 km to the park.

Alternatively, coming from the Tamarindo area, follow the road to Nicoya, then go straight at the Nicoya turn off, turn left for the Tempisque Bridge and after another couple of kilometers look for a sign to turn left again towards Barra Honda National Park.

How to eat jocotes

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Jocotes, which you can also call a Spanish Plum, is another exotic fruit of Costa Rica. These fruits are rather small (3-4 cm long) and green with a touch of redness. Costa Ricans eat them the way you could eat a plum (if they are ripe) or alternatively they also enjoy eating jocotes with salt or lime juice. Ripe jocotes are usually sweet but some may be a little acidic, especially not ripe ones.

Manuel Antonio Park, Costa Rica

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Manuel Antonio Park is famous for the best beaches in Costa Rica, and, surprisingly, it appeared to be true. Manuel Antonio Park has lovely beaches which must be the best, at least on the Pacific coast (I have seen so many beaches in Costa Rica that I can assure you it is correct).

Apart from the beaches Manuel Antonio Park is a great place for spotting animals. In order to actually see something in that jungle you should follow certain rules.

monkeys-in-manuel-antonio-park-costa-rica

Firstly, make sure you visit Manuel Antonio in the morning, as when it gets hot, many animals leave or hide. The park opens at 7am every day except Mondays when it is closed, and you should start your tour no later than 8am. We decided to arrive a day in advance in Quepos, a nearby town next to Manuel Antonio Park and checked in into a simple hotel / hostel room for $20 per night (including a parking spot!!!) and left it by 7am in order to start our tour as early as possible.

Secondly, you will pay a $10 entrance fee to the Manuel Antonio Park authority.

Thirdly, hire a tour guide with a scope, there are plenty of them waiting near the main entrance to Manuel Antonio Park. We were able to get our own guide (for 2 people!!!) for $20 pp. We realized later that we would not be able to spot or see anything without him and his experience, so do not try to save on this, as you will waste your time and money.manuel-antonio-park-costa-rica

The tour guide helped us to see a couple of tiny frogs, crabs, toucans, iguanas, some birds the name I cannot recall, monkeys and a couple of sloths including one which was actually moving like in a slow-motion picture!

More images of Costa Rica and Manuel Antonio Park you can find here…

Movie Time

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

There is a huge number of movies I have watched recently. Here is a long list of films and how much I liked them:

The King’s Speech (2010)  

The Fighter (2010) 

Toy Story 3 (2010) 

Winter’s bone (2010) 

Black Swan (2010)  

Salt (2010)  

Broken embraces (2009) 

Killers (2010) 

The Young Victoria (2009)  

The legend of guardians (2010)  

35 rums (2009)  

Everything is Illuminated (2005)  

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)  

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) 

Erin Brockovich (2000) 

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)  

Rosquilla banada – another typical Costa Rican food

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Anther typical food of Costa Rica is rosquilla banada. We had a chance to enjoy it only once so far. It reminded me of something between a donut and a Russian Easter cake. The red fondant it was covered with was sweet and crispy.

Our Trips to Monteverde

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

We made two trips to Monteverde. Yes, it is rather masochistic to twice drive 27 km on unpaved roads to Monteverde Park but we didn’t have enough time to explore everything during the first visit, particularly, the best zip-lines in Costa Rica, so we had to come back.

skywalk-monteverde-costa-ricaThe zip line, or canopy as they call it, is not a good option for the elderly or for someone who is not fit.  Especially for above mentioned people the sky-walk tour was created. What is good about it is the possibility to explore Monteverde Park and see what the tropical forest looks like. You will have to walk about an hour and a half in the forest and will cross  15 bridges along the way overlooking the rain forest.

sky-walk-monteverdeThe zip-lines as promised  were absolutely amazing; we arrived at 9.50, bought tickets ($45pp) and joined a 10am group. Perfect timing! The canopy tour went quickly and smoothly, the staff was very efficient and the zip-lines were long and fun to ride. The last zip-line was almost a 1 km long and is best done as a couple hooked together for added speed!!! We were astonished. Although, it was still not the end of the tour, we still needed some more adrenalin in our blood. So, the last part of the canopy tour in Monteverde was a tarzan swing which starts with jumping off a 8 metre high platform ! I was shaking for the next five minutes after doing that!

The Langosta Beach Club, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The Langosta Beach Club is situated on the road between Tamarindo and Langosta right on the beach. It positions itself as an upmarket restaurant which leans to French cuisine. We only went there in the late evening to get a desert and we were a little bit overwhelmed by the attention of the staff (maybe because not many people were in the restaurant?). We were not surprised though to feel all those mosquitoes around us :).

The average cost of a main course is around $20 which is a little bit more than dining in a casual restaurant in Tamarindo. It is also comforting that the Langosta Beach Club includes the 13% food tax, so you will only have the 10% obligatory service charge on top of your bill. As for deserts nothing can beat French crepes, they were amazing. I also liked the area with a pool and the ocean and stars view.

P.S. Do not forget to bring a torch with you; maybe it will help you to read the Langosta Beach Club menu. The waiter left us his one so we could choose what we wanted :).

You can find the Langosta Beach Club dinner menu here

Paddleboarding in Tamarindo

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Paddleboarding is something I have never tried before arriving in Costa Rica. I would describe it as something in-between surfing and kayaking. We decided to try it for the first time and go to the nearest island in the Tamarindo area.

We were given a board (the only difference from a surfing board is that a paddle board has a hole for your hand in the middle of it), a paddle and it included a guide, all for $35 pp. Ok, it was not easy, but not too difficult either especially if you decide not to stand up and keep close to the board. I think it is at least worth trying. Who knows maybe you fall in love with this sport?

You can also check out their web-site. They are called Paddlesurf

The tree of Guanacaste is a national tree of Costa Rica

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Apparently, the tree which I have been looking at outside of my window for the last couple of months is the national tree of Costa Rica. It is called a Guanacaste tree. It is mostly known for its large trunk and its expansive crown. Its wood is also commonly used in Costa Rica.

Interestingly enough, there is one more use of the Guanacaste tree – its seedpods. The seedpods are often used in the schools of Costa Rica to teach children how to count. Schoolchildren climb up the tree, get the seedpods and then learn basic mathematics. Why not? People also call the Guanacaste tree an “ear tree” because the seedpods resemble the shape of an ear. It looks like an ear, doesn’t it?