April 5th, 2011

There are at least five small supermarkets here in Tamarindo that I know of. All of them have similar prices, so getting snacks, drinks  or bathroom products is not a problem. The prices are rather higher than in the USA, except for some local fruits and veggies. If you are planning to stay in Tamarindo for a long period of time like we did I would definitely recommend visiting Automercado. It is a big supermarket about a kilometer away from Tamarindo and it has almost everything you need including the familiar western foods. It won’t be cheaper than buying in local supermarkets but there you will have a better choice of products.

April 4th, 2011

We were told the other day that there is a fiesta going on in Villarreal, the closest village to Tamarindo. It was a crime not to have a look so we popped to see what was going on. We were amazed again by how much Costa Ricans like to party and to have fun. The main street was full of people of every age: babies, endless children, youths, the middle-aged and the elderly. All of them were there to enjoy the show or the attractions, to talk and gossip, and later to dance.

The rodeo was a little bit pathetic, the poor bulls only wanted to throw the riders off their backs but didn’t care about the rest of young guys on the rodeo field who were trying to pursue the bull to attack and get some adrenalin for themselves.

There were a lot of snacks sold including corn on the cob, churros, rice and veggies, sausages and kebabs. There is no way you could be left hungry there!

At ten o’clock the party was just starting…



April 1st, 2011

There is a new friend of mine who I fed a couple of times on the balcony of the apartment in Tamarindo. Meet uraka.

Such a beautiful and curious bird which is, unfortunately, hated by all the locals. They have their reasons; as we were told, the uraka likes to try all the possible fruits and vegetables like mango, papaya and tomato but never finishes one fruit before going onto another. As a result, the fruit is damaged with no benefit for anyone.

Even so, I still enjoy looking at my uraka :).

 

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 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.

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 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…

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)  

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.

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!