A trip to Costa Rica

This Christmas we decided to push the boat out and take advantage of the extended break for a big trip! Costa Rica was our destination. We had a fabulous trip to this wonderful country, below a few highlights and a few hints if you are planning a trip yourself.

Rafting – La Fortuna

La Fortuna is brimming with companies which will take you rafting however we struggled to find someone who would allow our Holly (13) to do anything approaching grade 4 rapids. In the end (booked from the UK) we used Wave Expeditions. It took us well over an hour to reach our river but it was worth it with over 15km of continuous rapids with very little respite. All three of us ended up in the water (all very exciting) and one of the other boats in our group ended up capsized…. twice !!

Although clichéd we did find out first experience of rafting excellent fun and at times a proper challenge. As with most orgainsed ours we finished with a ‘traditional’ meal, however this one was the best of them all by a long way. We also experienced here some ‘proper’ rain with it coming down in stair-rods.

Hot springs and river – La Fortuna

Just up the road between La Fortuna and Arenal is a random bridge over a small river near the Tabacon Resort. The great thing is if you find somewhere to park and follow your nose is you end up in a series of gravel and rock pools with lovely hot volcanic water to lounge in! and all for free!

Original Canopy Zip Lines – Monteverde

Another clichéd activity, although originating in Costa Rica! We opted for the ‘original canopy tour’ apparently the first one ever, conceived originally for ecologists to explore the canopy. Again this activity was brilliant, commencing with a huge tarzan swing out over a valley and then a series of some 15 zip lines we spent a fantastic morning zooming through the forest, culminating in an 800m long zip line which started in a tunnel of trees before launching out into space across a large valley!! Also included if you want is a rapel to the forest floor and a climb back up, first up through the heart of the tree and then out on to a very exposed ladder!

We had seen several zip line companies on our way out too ‘original’ and found our trip to be much less busy, commercial and had a great feel to it.

Montezuma

Cath fell in love with Montezuma! This ex-hippie community on the south tip of the Nicoya peninsula is very remote and unspoilt with the rainforest tumbling down to the beach. The only downside is the dust kicked up by the various 4x4s and quadbikes on the gravel roads but away from these are amazing beaches and of course the warm ocean, great for swimming and surfing. A highlight for Beer lovers is a nearby microbrewery La Selva– served UK style on tap in the La Cascada ‘B’ Bar just across the bridge from the hotel Amor de Mar.

 

Night Tours

In Monteverde and Quepos / Manuel Antonio we went on organised guided night tours around the cloud and rain forest. With a guide we slowly mooched around trails which by day could be walked very quickly but with 10 pairs of eyes and the guides knowledge we spotted all sorts of creatutes: Snakes, Frogs, Sleeping birds (balls of fluff) spiders and larger mammals. Without the guide we just would not have seen what we saw!

La Paz Waterfalls

On the way from Poas to La Fortuna La Paz waterfall gardens are great. We arrived early and had the gardens to ourselves. Getting past the standard zoo like enclosures which contain various rescue animals which although interesting the highlights are the waterfalls themselves which are spectacular and the humming birds. We were given small plastic ‘flowers’ to hold which contained a nectar like solution and the wild birds queued up to feed from our hands – amazing. At the end of the waterfalls walk there is a café which serves the largest portions of yummy cake we have ever encountered!

Travel, Beds and Munchies

The food and drink at this establishment is fine but the real attraction is the bird table out back next to the terrace. As long as the local cat is not prowling there is an abundance and variety of wild birds attracted of all colours, shapes and sizes.

The food at this roadside Soda is excellent but they also have a fantastic terrace view looking out over lake Arenal with a bird table which again attracts lots of colourful wild birds.

Montezuma has its share of low end backpacker accommodation. We however were in the beautiful Hotel Amor de Mar. Great location fantastic breakfasts and comfortable rooms.

This place is very cool – an old american transport plane converted to a bar…..

  • Sloth’s and Monkeys

‘Have you seen a sloth yet’ was the standard conversation between travellers with kids. We were lucky enough to see a sloth on the first morning but then did not see one until down in Manuel Antonio when we saw a few. We spent days in the middle of the trip eyes peeled for the elusive sloth and were getting worried we might not get to see one.

Monkeys seemed to be everywhere and if you couldn’t see them you could certainly hear them!

  • Getting up early.

With darkness coming at 17.30 and a dose of jetlag we found going to bed early and  getting up early (by 7 most days) was rewarding with attractions and beaches being quieter and packing more into the available daylight.

  • Cars and Roads.

We took a chance and hired a ‘normal’ car not a 4×4 and travelled independently. We found the driving to be challenging but fine. There are a lot of gravel roads which vary in condition and at times have huuuge pot holes and are sometimes very steep. The roads into and around Monteverde and the Nicoya Peninsula are particularly challenging. We found however that out Toyota Yaris sedan (ie with a boot) was perfectly OK and although some more ground clearance would have been useful did not stop us. The roads in general do require care and concentration and in the towns requires very defensive driving with eyes in the back of your head to avoid small collisions of which we saw quite a few. (we didn’t take out the extra insurance).

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