A lovely sight greeted us as we landed in San Jose this Christmas day.
We soon settled in for dinner at Tierra Nuestra, which afforded us a nice introduction to traditional Costa Rican food.
We woke bright and early this morning, looking forward to a day of whitewater rafting. Coffee plantations, sugarcane factories, and volcanoes lay on the way to Turrialba Valley.
We spent today exploring sunny San Jose. We started at Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, a fortress turned museum which holds artifacts related to Costa Rica's geological, archaeological, religious, and modern history.
In the afternoon, Mama checked out the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) as the rest of us marched to Edificio Correos (the postal center of San Jose) so I could search for stamps for the postcards I had just purchased.
Tomorrow, it's off to Tortuego we go!
Day 4: Tortuguero
We awoke dark and early this morning, getting up at 4:00 AM to leave for Tortuguero, a village situated on a sand bar island on the eastern coast of Costa Rica.
We settled in for a delicious dinner after our tour, and are about to tuck ourselves in for an early night, before another day of adventure tomorrow!
Day 5: Santa Elena
Right after touching down at the small airport in Costa Rica's capital, we piled into a van that would take us to Monteverde, home to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. But not before a quick stop on the way! We spied Playa Doña Ana en route, and enjoyed lunch on the beach.
In the evening, we stepped into the town of Santa Elena searching for souvenirs and a place to eat. We came across Treehouse Restaurant & Cafe, which is in the "World's Top 10 Bizarre Restaurants"-- this eating joint is built around an ancient tree, so the whole restaurant is essentially a large treehouse!
Day 6: Monteverde
We started this morning at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve -- one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Costa Rica. There, our guide Oscar regaled us with a slew of fun facts about micro-orchids, mini-avocados, and more.
Day 7: Arenal
We started today with a hike in Volcán Arenal National Park, walking 5 kilometers over ash that was spewed by the still-active volcano in 1968 and 1992. A rewarding view awaited us at the end of our trek, and exciting wildlife greeted us at various points on our journey.
Satisfied after our meal, we took an arduous post-prandial stroll down 560 steep steps to Catarata Fortuna, a 75-meter waterfall located close to the town. The view was a spectacular one, worth the most strenuous 1.2 kilometers we've ever climbed!
In the early evening, we ventured back into La Fortuna for some brief souvenir browsing before heading back to our hotel.
We traveled for 3 hours by car, 45 minutes by plane, 15 minutes by boat, and 10 minutes on foot to Paloma Lodge, where Priya and I have the best window in the world.
Day 9: Isla del Caño
Our last full day in Costa Rica was a hectic one indeed! We started off the morning at 6:00, embarking on a motorboat tour of the mangroves along the Sierpe River. We “mangrovers” were able to spot a group of white-faced monkeys, a couple of crocodiles, a handful of baselisks, a pair of nesting macaws, and a boa constrictor on our trip, that was seven hours total in length.
We raced up from the beach back to our room to convene for afternoon horseback riding on the beach. The four of us galloped into the sunset, my horse Suaso enamored of the waves and constantly hungry (much like myself).
We got back from our equine adventures just in time for the first course of our meal before we left for a nighttime tour with Tracy, the Bug Lady of Osa. This incredible woman and her husband showed us all sorts of nighttime creatures in the forest that we never would have come close to noticing otherwise, such as the tailless -- scorpion, trap door spiders, and the famous red-eyed tree frog. Her anecdotes about the natural world along the way were eye-opening and awe-inspiring, and we couldn’t look at the forest the same way as we walked back to the hotel for dinner.
We just got back after another wonderful meal at La Paloma Lodge, our warm home for the past few days.
Day 11: Goodbyes
After a morning of taking in our surroundings (including a pair of endangered scarlet macaws flying across the sky) one last time, we hopped on a boat that would take us to our plane across the bay.
Our 45-minute flight to San Jose was scenic as ever, and helped us trace much of the Pacific coast of the country as we sped along.
We now sit at the airport in San Jose, hardly feeling ready to leave behind the treasures of this country, but feeling as "pura vida" as ever!