Costa Rica trip report
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Jul 10, 2012 4:18 AM Last Post By: hummingbird65
Jun 25, 2012 8:32 AM
Costa Rica trip reportI received a huge amount of help from this site and put it (I hope) to good use.
I visited La Fortuna, Puerto Viejo (Limon), Tortuguero and Drake Bay. I'm glad I did it in that order as, as wonderful as the other destinations were, the Osa Peninsula was the definite highlight. I had excellent weather - just one day where it rained all day, otherwise it was short, sharp showers or rain only in the afternoon or only in the morning and then only for a couple of hours. When it wasn't raining it was very warm and very humid - though cool enough to sleep well at night, even without air con. Prices sometimes surprised me - even after being told that it was one of the more expensive destinations in Central America I thought $30 for coconut shrimp (5 prawns) and one beer was high but that sort of gouging was by no means universal. In addition to the wildlife (amazing) and the landscapes (ditto) the highlight was how nice the people were - I was blown away by how warm, friendly and helpful everyone was. And not in a "give us your money" sense either but genuine kindness.
And, as my primary motivator was wildlife, over the course of my trip I saw: all four species of monkey, both types of sloth, caimans, crocodiles (big ones), snakes, lizards, turtles, bizarre insects, at least 100 bird species (including a bunch of raptors, my favourites), heaps of fish and, in Corcovado, two tapirs. I didn't get to photograph them all - the Macaws were always too fast for me, the morpho butterfly close their wings when they settle, the gorgeous passerine tanager was always facing the wrong direction but I saw them often.
I stayed at La Pradera. Pretty rooms in rows with little terraces set in gardens alive with humming birds and all with a view of the Arenal volcano. No activity except for a bit of smoking but I hiked the basalt on the first day there and saw (among other things) an agouti and toucans. Gorgeous view of the (artificial?) lake from where I walked and topped off with an evening in the Eco Thermales hot springs. Fabulous setting and a poolside bar serving margaritas - yum. The next day I travelled to Cano Negro (a highlight) where I saw howler monkeys (including a ‘blonde’ one with her baby), caiman, turtles, bats that looked like tree bark and lots of birds. The river was peaceful and beautiful - we passed no other boats and a breeze kept the heat in check. Lovely.
The next day I travelled – by shuttle – from La Fortuna to Puerto Viejo. Although it rained heavily the journey through the hills (mountains?) and all those coffee plantations and the huge number of rivers was really enjoyable, with just one change (at Siquirres).
I stayed at Cosita de Papito. I guess this was in Cocles rather than Puerto Viejo proper? Anyway, nice bar/restaurant, lovely staff and lovely little bungalows on stilts around a small lagoon, just across the road from a nice beach where I watched the surfers do their stuff. I visited Cahuita National Park and the Jaguar Rescue centre where I saw more howler monkeys, sloths (both kinds), more birds and (in the rescue centre) a margay and baby sloths. Puerto Viejo itself I was less enamoured of – it seemed like one of those towns (you’ll find them as far apart as a the Greek Islands and Thailand) which have been taken over, somewhat by ageing hippies and was consequently both quite western and a bit faded/seedy . . . but it had some nice restaurants (I had the excellent seafood platter at the restaurant across the road, on the beach side, from Lotus) and lots of useful facilities like an ATM, various supermarkets etc.
After two days here I got the shuttle to Moin and the 10:00 boat to Tortuguero (via the canals). Another highlight, the skipper’s mate was very entertaining and brilliant at pointing out all the animals to us. We saw huge crocodiles, howler and spider monkeys, pelicans, roseate spoonbills and lots of other things I’ve forgotten.
I stayed at Laguna Lodge. Like La Pradera it was rooms in rows set among pretty gardens, had two pools, lots of wildlife on the premises (including two huge, noisy courting herons) and – again – lovely staff. During my three days there I did two canal tours, one half day ‘hike’ in Tortuguero National Park, walked along the beach and spent a couple afternoons in the village (the purple painted ‘disco’ near the main dock does excellent – and cheap – cold beer). Wildlife haul: three types of monkey, sloths, water birds, turtles, eyelash vipers. Tortuguero also has a really nice ‘feel’ to it. It’s hard to describe exactly but I felt very comfortable there.
After three days I got the early morning flight to San Jose (Pavas/Tobias Bolanos) and a connecting flight to Drake Bay. I love, love, love small planes, always have. You can really ‘feel’ the flying and the view, because you’re only at 10,000 feet rather than 30,000, is stupendous. Particularly when you watch whales (humpbacks?) breaching the surface of the sea.
Who was it whom, on here, described the peninsula as a Garden of Eden? That’s such an apt description, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I stayed in Jinetes de Osa, which was beautifully situated and had an awesome view, from my room, though bird-filled almond and palm trees, over the bay. The staff were brilliant – funny, friendly and helpful (the dive master was a real raconteur) and even the other guests were lovely. I spent a day in Corcovado ( got a boat to Sirena and hiked the – very flat – trails around there). I saw all four species of monkey, two tapirs (which even the guide was excited about), some stunning birds and amazing lizards, snakes and insects. Another day I snorkelled out by Cano Island (you can land now, but not use the facilities) and saw all sorts of stunning fish, including rays and white tipped grey reef sharks and I also went horse riding, travelling in the hills above Drake Bay and riding to a beautiful waterfall. The rest of the time I just pottered. There was a beautiful beach a 20 minute hike over the headland and the town itself was sweet and relaxed. Leaving was a real wrench.
Jun 25, 2012 8:51 AM
1thanks, cybergal, for your great post. i remember your "conversations" here and it sounds like you had an excellent time and really got the flavor of costa rica. glad everything worked out for you.
Jun 25, 2012 8:55 AM
Jun 25, 2012 9:25 AM
Jun 25, 2012 10:03 AM
4Sounds excellent - glad that it turned out so well - and I can't believe you saw tapirs!! Wow.
The only thing I saw that you haven't mentioned were some poison dart frogs in the wild. Well one; the other was a glass frog - tiny like the poison dart ones but not brightly coloured, instead it's kind of see-through. Both were on the Osa Peninsula.
Jun 25, 2012 10:08 AM
5Great report Cybergal. I'm so happy you found the Osa Peninsula a Garden of Eden. Makes me proud to call it home.
Jun 25, 2012 10:12 AM
6I saw frogs, green ones and green and red ones but I don't know if they were the poisonous kind or not. I did see eyelash vipers and they're quite poisonous. And either a coral snake or a false coral snake (I couldn't remember the red and yellow 'rule').
I wouldn't say it if I didn't think it was true, Ballardo. It was like the Garden of Eden. Just with mangoes and pineapples instead of apples.
Jun 25, 2012 10:15 AM
Jun 29, 2012 12:15 PM
Jul 10, 2012 4:18 AM
9That is a lovely trip report. I hope we meet people like you when we visit Costa Rica in December!
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