Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

Gigantic Crocodiles in Carara Park, Costa Rica

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Driving South towards Jaco next to Carara Park we noticed a lot of people on the bridge staring at something. Parking right after the bridge we saw the following picture…

crocodiles-underneath-the-bridge-costa-ricaThe crocodiles were enormous. I was only happy to be on the bridge, otherwise I could have been a tasty dinner for these hungry crocs.

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.

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…

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!

Doka Coffee Tour

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Costa Rica is famous for its delicious coffee. Even though I don’t drink coffee I was interested in seeing the whole process of creating one of the world’s most famous drinks. Therefore, we went on a coffee tour of the Doka coffee plantation which is situated close to Poas volcano.

The tour lasted about an hour and cost $20 per person and, of course, included free samples of coffee. I think that the price was quite steep (for such a small tour) so you may want to arrange a group tour with a tour operator.  For example, I saw a reasonably economical ($92 per person) one day tour from San Jose, which included a Doka coffee tour, lunch and trips to Poas volcano and the La Paz waterfalls. Looking at the whole cost it made sense to do the tour, but, unfortunately, on the way, we already had been to La Paz ($35 entry) and had no reason to buy the tour.

Most of the quality coffee which is produced here, if not all of it, goes to Starbucks. It happens because, as we were told, they pay more :). Can’t blame them, I am still sure that Starbucks still makes a lot of profit.doka-coffee-plantation-costa-rica

The tour itself was quite good, the guide showed us all the processes that coffee goes through before it is packed into the shiny bags that we see. Apparently, coffee has no smell or even taste. The roasting process is the most important and it gives the familiar coffee smell. A difference f roasting time of one minute or even fifteen seconds can change the coffee flavor dramatically or even destroy it. A lot of large companies prefer to buy coffee in sacks before it is roasted in order to create the particular flavor they want.

Another interesting part was the production of decaffeinated coffee. The coffee beans are sent to Germany where they are put in huge machines which make them “sweat”.  That way the caffeine is being taken away. The decaffeinated coffee beans go back home.  Interesting fact: the plant in Germany decaffeinates for free and makes its profit from big companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi who buy the caffeine they produce…

My trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Monday, March 14th, 2011

La Paz Waterfall Gardens were an absolutely unique experience. I was concerned as the $35 entrance fee seemed quite steep but these were probably the best spent “tourist” dollars in Costa Rica. I could not stop being amazed, I was breathless, astonished.toucan

First of all, I saw thousands of metallic blue Morpho butterflies, which are one of the symbols of Costa Rica and which are extremely endangered. In La Paz they breed and fly all over the place and they are absolutely gorgeous. There is also a place where you can observe different stages of the butterfly’s life. I could not believe seeing with my own eyes how a butterfly appears from its chrysalis. It was magical.

Another symbol of Costa Rica, the toucan, can be found in La Paz as well. I found the toucan quite friendly; the keeper let the bird sit on my arm. I was surprised to find out that the bird had a strong but at the same time a tender grip. It was very touching. I could even touch the toucan’s feather while he was posing for the photos being taken.

Next to the toucans you can also see a white squirrel! Honestly, I didn’t even know that these existed…

My boyfriend was very keep on seeing a sloth and he finally had an opportunity to contemplate two of them at once in La Paz. I was the least impressed. These animals are rather ugly and lazy and I feel sorry for the way they were created being able to eat solely one type of a tree which does not give enough energy to these poor creatures.hummerbird-in-la-paz

There was also a place where hundreds of hummingbirds are being fed. These tiny birds are so active and absolutely wonderful and the colors of their feathers are phenomenal.

I found the waterfalls not so interesting after all those emotions I had earlier but it was a good refreshing walk after all.

You can spend the whole day there: cats, frogs, birds, butterflies, monkeys, a good lunch ($9), a typical Costa Rican house and even waterfalls. What else can you need to make your day unforgettable?fountain-in-la-paz

Leatherback Turtle nesting tour in Tamarindo

Friday, January 14th, 2011

We booked a leatherback turtles nesting tour in Tamarindo for $20 (plus 3$ if transport was necessary). You also have to pay  an extra $10 per person on  the tour if you see a turtle. They call it a park fee.

Let me start from the most important thing, namely the population of these turtles is in danger and continues to fall. If 20 years ago more than 150 leatherback turtles could be seen  nesting on Playa Grande near Tamarindo, than now the figure is around only 30 specimans. The main reasons are fishing nets, pollution and generally human beings. People used to simply take all the turtle eggs and eat them. The plastic bags in the ocean are eaten by the turtles which take them to be jelly fish and then die from poisoning.

There are a number of rangers and volunteers who come each year to help to raise the population. Although the fact is that only one turtle among 1000 eggs becomes an adult.

Tourists are also dangerous for the turtles. Despite the fact that turtles are in a condition of trance when nesting, they still can feel the vibration of people walking and see  people in front of them. Therefore, you are only allowed to stay out of the eyesight of the turtles.  This is not bad as the most interesting part is happening at the back. Camera flash-light disturbs the turtles, so no cameras at all are allowed now on the tour. Strangely enough, there were two people in our group who didn’t know about this rule and refused to have a tour without taking pictures, so they were refunded.

The tour starts with information about the turtles, rules and then continues with a small boat ride which takes you to the Playa Grande. Then there is a ten minute walk to a “parking point” where we are supposed to wait for a sign from a ranger that there is a turtle. Ok, that part of the “tour” was torturous. Four hours on the beach, looking at the stars and trying not to fall asleep. I regret for not taking a towel as many people simply slept on the beach!!!

I should mention that four hours is the maximum waiting time, if there is no turtle than you will be rebooked for another day. No refunds.

We were lucky (I could not face another night ) as a turtle finally came. One meter long, she was digging a hole with her back flippers?? and later put around sixty eggs in it. I was impressed by the speed of the turtle. Who says that turtles are slow should try to dig a hole and place there sixty eggs in thirty minutes!

So we were rewarded for our patience and saw the whole process.

It was the twenty eighth  turtle which came this season :).

Journey and first impressions of Costa Rica

Monday, January 10th, 2011

It wasn’t particularly difficult to get to Costa Rica but, unfortunately, it was painful enough. The journey London – Houston – Liberia on Continental airlines surprised with absence of any problems, delays or cancelations. Even a small misunderstanding at the immigration in Liberia was successfully resolved within a minute and I was welcomed to the sunny and warm country. The shuttle Liberia – Tamarindo was ordered prior the arrival and paid when arrived. The price was $18 one way or $3o return and it took about 50 minutes. So here I am in Tamarindo where I ought to spend next 3 months.

The apartment was in the middle of a day and night life of Tamarindo as expected; it is new, modern and spacious. It is definitely a good place to live for a couple of months; I think I always wanted to live somewhere with large windows and huge glass doors to a balcony.

I was fascinated by the absence of pavements in most places; people physically are walking on the edge of a road which seems to be an ordinary thing to do. It might be a challenge for a driver not to kill anyone in the night.

There are a couple of small supermarkets in Tamarindo, such as Las Olas and Super Combo. Although, we were in need for a lot of stuff, it was decided to have a look at the biggest one which is called the Auto Mercado and is situated about a kilometer up the main road.  I should mention that I was impressed by the high prices, 2,5 kilos of potatoes cost $10! It was the second most expensive item on my bill after a liter of extra virgin olive oil. Anyway, this is a price you pay for the possibility of having delicious fish and chips sometime soon.