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Costa Rica 2014 Part 5 and Final Thoughts

We were glad that during our final two nights in Costa Rica did not have any activities planned. Quite frankly I was exhausted, and in need of some serious vegging.

The interbus transfer from Arenal to Tamarindo certainly gave us a sense of what driving in Costa Rica is like. (Remember thus far we had been thoroughly spoilt by the safe, quick service of domestic air travel provided by Nature Air.) Our shuttle bus driver (spanish speaking) was polite and efficient and drove well. The bus was comfortable, had air conditioning and seat belts. I had read reviews of Interbus on TripAdvisor.

The one thing that one does miss from the air is that one doesn't get to really see the country (from the ground level!)


Views from the Interbus...







And then the countryside changed..






Tamarindo is a really small town, with a very youthful vibe.


Ocean views from the resort... (Tamarindo Diria Resort)




We used Xplore Costa Rica for our transit from the resort to the Liberia International Airport. We had a 7:55 am departure time. I had emailed the company prior to coming to Costa Rica, and had received some advice. We decided to visit their offices and book our transfer. We arranged to be collected outside of our Resort at 4:45am. I was very impressed with the service provided by Xplore Costa Rica. I can highly recommend their services.

In order to leave Costa Rica, you have to pay $29 departure tax per person prior to check in.

The Liberia International Airport is small, but modern.

Final thoughts about Costa Rica?

We had a fabulous time in Costa Rica. I was very impressed with Trip Masters. The entire trip went like clockwork. I was very impressed with Costa Rica. I definitely want to return. Costa Rica does tourism very well. Costa Rica has a lot to offer - honeymooners, nature lovers, families, adventure seekers!


 (Photo above taken by Kevin at Osa Peninsula.) Scarlet Macaws.


Costa Rica 2014 Part 4

See Costa Rica Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Our next adventure to La Fortuna/ Arenal area began with our transit from our Lodge to the Drake Bay airstrip. Our lodge organized the transfer, and the staff made sure that we were in the right place at the right time. Transfer consisted of a short boat trip from the lodge's inlet to Drake Bay for a wet landing. Then we put our shoes back on and were met by a mini bus with other tourists. We then drove through narrow, winding, bumping, pot-holed track to a river almost completely submerged by water. We disembarked from our mini bus and were met by a 4wd vehicle that forded the river, and took us to the landing strip.

Again we used Nature Air for the domestic flight from Drake Bay to La Fortuna airstrip.


Here we wait at the "terminal." Fortunately prior to this trip we had discovered the "One Bag" philosophy of travel. So luckily, none of these behemoths belonged to us!


Here our baggage is being loaded into our plane. 

While the airstrip and facilities were kind of crude by USA standards, I was terribly impressed with Nature Air's service. I didn't feel at all unsafe, or insecure. Given how slow, winding, and bumpy Costa Rica roads are, I do highly recommend this alternative approach. I think I felt safer in the air than being a passenger on the roads! And of course instead of taking 8 hours to get to one's destination, you can reach it in next to no time!

P1100915 We had beautiful views from the windows. This is a view of Cano Island.

Our flight to La Fortuna (Arenal) included a transfer at San Jose. Here we were again truly impressed with Nature Air's service - we were met by an employee as we disembarked our plane, and were escorted to the check in counter, through security, and to our gate. 


This is a photo of Kevin taking pictures through the window of the plane.


 Views from the air...


View of Arenal Volcano (partially obscured by cloud) from our approach to the La Fortuna airstrip.


Ironically the best views we had of the Arenal Volcano were from our hotel, Volcano Lodge and Spa.


We were extraordinarily fortunate to actually have views of the two peaks.


 We spent a total of 3 nights at this hotel. We found our rooms comfortable, the gardens (and bird life) beautiful, and the breakfasts tasty and filling. The hotel is some distance from La Fortuna (a small little town with a square, park, church and a number of tourist places, soda's and restaurants.) We were told by the front desk that a taxi one way into town would cost $11. So any trip into town and back would be $22 plus whatever you spent in town on food and what not. It actually turned out to be cheaper to simply eat a meal (usually after our siesta) at around 3/ 4pm than go into town. 

We had pre-booked two half day excursions while at Arenal - the first was a hike to the Arenal Volcano. Our guide met us at hotel reception at the agreed to time after a filling buffet breakfast. Our guide was bilingual, punctual and polite. We had no other guests so for the first excursion we had basically a private tour with Oscar, our guide. Our mini bus took us into the park (park fees and water were included.) We stopped off at the entrance to take advantage of the facilities as there are no restrooms on the hike to see the Arenal Volcano. The path was flat, and easy to navigate. We followed the path through mostly secondary forest, and areas where prior lava flows had occurred (but bamboo forests had started to claim it back.) We saw an amazing amount of critters, and beautiful plants, and flowers. We learned about prior volcanic eruptions, and were shown evidence of how lava flows, and boulders had impacted and altered the landscape.


I just had to have this photo of us "entering the zone of high volcanic risk". Very cool.


The only part that was not flat, was the last part which was the path we followed over dark volcano lava rocks to get to the viewing site.


This is the view from the site.

But there is more to this than simply a view of a volcano, provided you are prepared to take your time. One thing that I don't understand is how grumpy other tourists seemed to be, and how rushed they appeared. We took the time to admire the light on this spider web. 






and ...




And when we got back to our room this is what waited for us...


a Costa Rican Elephant!

The second excursion booked was a half day trip to the Hanging Bridges. Again we were met on time at reception. We had the same guide as the day before, and this time a full mini bus load full of other tourists. The excursion included the entrance fee into the park, and drinking water.

I am not really fond of heights which is why we didn't go zip lining. I think the hanging bridges experience is really not for anyone who is afraid of heights. Oddly enough I was not nervous.

This is a photo on our way to the park. Lake Arenal is a man made lake but it is beautiful.


 This is a photo of Kevin and I, and in the background is the volcano covered by clouds.







A better photo of the little frog taken by Kevin... (below.)


View from canopy...






Our hotel's gardens were very beautiful and we enjoyed taking in the colors, and watching the birds.


A hummingbird!

The next day our transfer (Interbus) picked us up on time as scheduled at reception and we made our way by shuttle to Tamarindo for our final couple of days in Costa Rica.


Costa Rica 2014 Part 3

See Costa Rica Part 1 and Part 2.

I have never been snorkeling before. Before we left for Costa Rica I managed to get a snorkeling mask with prescription lenses. So at least if I managed to put my head under the water, that at least I would be able to see. That was the plan. 

The second excursion we had planned was a trip to Cano Island, for some snorkeling.

We left after a great breakfast. The excursion was via boat, about a 45 minute trip.

In addition to those guests that would be snorkeling we had some guests that were scuba diving. I am rather intimidated by the whole idea of scuba diving. But it was fascinating to watch the divers get into their gear, and then back flip into the water from the boat. Then once our boat was in position it was our (the snorkelers) turn to get into the water. It was hilarious. We were provided fins, and snorkel gear (except for my mask) and float vests. For my first time I wanted to simply "float". It was hilarious trying to get off the boat, and into the water. Not very elegant. I then adjusted my mask, bit into my snorkel tube, and simply put my head under the water. It was MAGICAL! I could see! (Please remember that any time I go swimming I take off my glasses. So I really don't like swimming, especially in the sea, because I can't see anything. But with prescription lenses in my mask, I could see!) I could see very interesting rocks, and fish of all shapes and colors darting, and drifting around. The water was a beautiful blue. Clear and gorgeous. I could feel the ebb and flow of the tide/ current. I started to relax.

That was not a good idea. Because it was so beautiful, and I was so relaxed, I forgot a small little very important fact! You are not supposed to breathe through your nose. It tends to result in a suffocating, panicky feeling.

Not a nice feeling at all.

Since I was feeling so panicky (breathing is really not an optional activity) and I had drunk some of the Pacific, I immediately signaled Kevin, and our snorkel master. As I couldn't quite calm down, we signaled the boat which came over to collect us. (Not being able to stand, probably added to the general panic.)

Well, getting into the boat proved to be even more difficult, and awkward. I got the giggles. I really felt terribly sorry for our poor captain. He had to haul me out... I think he wished for a harpoon and a net! I have absolutely no upper body strength!

We waited for the rest of the snorkelers, who soon came over, and then we went to fetch the scuba divers. We made our way to the rangers station to rest up, and to fill up the tanks. We just sat on the beach and watched the sea (very calming.) Then it was time to go out again.

I decided that I wanted to try this again. I didn't want my first and only experience to finish on a negative note.

Again the scuba divers were dropped off first, and then it was the turn of the snorkelers. Again, a very inelegant jump off the boat (will I ever be graceful?) The captain made sure that my mask and snorkel tube was adjusted correctly, and Kevin and I were good to go.

Kevin had mounted his GoPro on his head, and he filmed the whole thing. (I was too busy concentrating on NOT breathing through my nose.) It was MAGICAL. We floated above a marvelous rock/ reef formation, whose edge just seemed to disappear into the blue. I just loved it.


We had a marvelous second swim. I was very proud of myself for facing my fears. It was most empowering. I am hooked. I can't wait for my next snorkeling adventure!

After we collected the rest of the snorkelers, and the scuba divers, we went back to ranger station. Our guides prepared a most amazing picnic, which we ate while watching the Pacific. The lodge provided towels, which was very useful.


The photo above is of the Ranger Station. There are no restrooms.


This is the view as we ate our picnic lunch.


 We had some monkey business before the weather started to turn.


Our guides packed up the picnic, and we were soon on board our boat and heading back to the lodge. We passed through some choppy seas, and some rain (but we were already wet) before getting to the coastline, and then to the Lodge's inlet.

What a satisfying day! We were exhausted, and really glad to get back to our beds for a siesta!

We had booked only 3 nights at the Aguila de Osa. I think this place deserves at least 5 nights. We were due to depart for our next adventure at La Fortuna/ Arenal the following day.

I absolutely loved the Osa Peninsula and our stay at the Aguila de Osa Lodge. I highly recommend this. This area is not developed, and is a little more challenging than the usual tourist places to get to. But it is amazing, and well worth the effort. I definitely plan a return visit!



Costa Rica 2014 Part 2

See Costa Rica 2014 Part 1.

After an incredible first day in Costa Rica, we woke early, had a scrumptious, filling breakfast, and were ready to depart for our first excursion at 6:45am. We boarded a boat with a number of other couples and made our way south hugging the coast line to the Corcovado National Park. We had a wet landing at the Ranger station, and made our way to it to sign in, and visit the bathrooms. 

Our guide's name was Tony.

We began the hike by crossing the river (about knee high) and took some time to dry off and put our shoes back on. Hiking shoes are really not needed, but ordinary running shoes came in handy. I wouldn't hike in sandals - too many creepy crawlies, and biting critters.

Tony told us that we would start the hike by walking along the beach.


It was slightly overcast, which made it only slightly cooler (or that is what we told ourselves.)


Here is our group hiking along the beach.


We found this beautiful orchid. Tony told us that it is only pollinated by one species of bats.


While hiking on the beach we saw ...


... Common Black/ Mangrove Hawk.


... heron.


 ... howler monkeys...

We went back to the Ranger station for a pit stop and our group changed into their swimsuits, we hiked to see the waterfall, and then had a swim in the smaller water fall pool.


There is the larger waterfall where swimming is not recommend.

There is a small crocodile in the pool directly upstream of our swimming pool.


This is where we swam.


After our swim we returned to the Ranger Station.


While we rested up there were hundreds and hundreds of hermit crabs...

like this one...


Our guide prepared a great picnic lunch which we ate at one of the picnic tables with this magnificent view...


After our picnic lunch, we made our way back to our boat for the trip back to the lodge. We were glad to get back, to shower and change and to have a much needed nap.


 After a delicious appetizer, and mixer, we had dinner, and were met for our night tour with the Bug Lady.

I had read great reviews about the Bug Lady Night Tours, and decided to give it a try. I had emailed Tracie before arriving in Costa Rica, and scheduled a night tour for the night of Friday, August 1st. We were met at 7:45 pm at the Lodge, and were taken for approximately 2.5 hours on a night tour into another world. We met all kinds of spiders, reptiles, frogs, and found a sleeping possum and hummingbird. It was a riveting 2.5 hours!



This photo (above) was taken by Kevin.


We were given head lights with both white and red lights.


 We got back to the Lodge around 10:30pm, and were glad to shower, and crawl into bed. Tomorrow we had an early wake up, and another adventure.

Costa Rica 2014 Part 1

We decided on the "spur" of the moment to visit Costa Rica. Thanks to Trip Masters we managed to select our itinerary and get it booked within 2 weeks before departure. we had a fun and intense two weeks researching and planning for our trip.

Why Costa Rica? Well we wanted to have a trip out of the USA, that did not involve a transatlantic flight, or massive jet lag. We wanted something a little exotic, and accessible. Everything we had read about Costa Rica seemed to fit those requirements. We were not disappointed.

Our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica flew via Dallas Fort Worth. We arrived 7pm on Wednesday night. I was very impressed with the airport at San Jose. It looked new, and modern. We caught a taxi to our hotel - Country Inn. (We found out the next day that the hotel offers complimentary shuttle to and from the airport.) Ah well. Taxi to Country Inn and Lodge cost us $12 (USD).

We spent a very comfortable night at the hotel (enormous room - large enough for an additional couple), and had to get up early to have breakfast, and be ready for the shuttle to transfer us back to the airport to catch our flight on Nature Air to the Osa Peninsula. This is us having our first breakfast in Costa Rica.


 And this is us on the tarmac at the airport waiting to take off. (Actually we are in the small plane behind this one...LOL)


Kevin does not like to fly. So we were not expecting to enjoy the flights in small planes. It turned out fine and it was quite a lot of fun taking photos from the plane. I was glad to have packed our cameras.

This is our pilots. Our experience with Nature Air the entire trip was extremely positive. We found the pilots and staff friendly, professional and efficient. This is a mode of transportation that really spoils you for the more usual land transportation (on bumpy, windy and slow Costa Rican roads.)


This is a view of San Jose after takeoff.


 We had such fun seeing Costa Rica from the air. We could see how mountainous it was, and everywhere the land was we could see rich verdant jungle and dirt winding tracks that looked completely impassible!


We also had amazing aerial views of the coastline.




We landed briefly at an airstrip for some passengers to disembark, and then we were on our way to the Palmar Sur airstrip.



From the Palmar Sur Airstrip we caught a taxi to Sierpe to meet our boat to take us to our lodge - the Aguila de Osa Lodge. We ran into a small problem - we spoke no Spanish, and our taxi driver  spoke no English. But he got us to Sierpe in plenty of time and even managed to get us to pose in front of this train engine. 



We had a slight confusion (due to our poor language skills) but eventually we were made to understand that we were at the correct place, and that the Captain would tell us when they were ready to load the boat. So we sat in the shade, by the river and watched the activities around us.


There were a number of small establishments where tourists could wait for their boat transports. Even Las Vegas!


Did I mention that it was hot? Super hot and humid. I felt as though I was slowly melting in my seat.


 This photo is of the Sierpe River. It is wide, muddy and flowing quickly.


 We were loaded into a boat with a number of other tourists who were catching the same boat transport not to our lodge but to Drake Bay and other lodges in the area.

It was an exhilarating boat ride down the winding river and out into the Pacific.

This is our first view of Cano Island (this photo we have come out of the Sierpe river mouth into the Pacific Ocean.)


After a short time on the Pacific our boat pulled into a private inlet, and the Lodge's landing area...

At last, we had arrived at our lodge.


We disembarked at our lodge, said goodbye to the other tourists, and we were met by Carlos. He escorted us to the dining room, where we were given a complimentary Daiquiri, and had lunch.

We were so glad to have arrived.


We had very comfortable rooms with two double beds, and an en suite bathroom. There was no air conditioning, but also no glass on the windows. We used the room fans quite a bit, to cool down (as well as numerous cold showers.) The photo above was the view from our room.


And this was the view of our room's front porch.

And this is a close up of the gorgeous door...


The gardens around the lodge were beautiful and exotic.



We could watch the boats coming and going.


This is the view from the dining room/ reception/ bar area.


We saw this beautiful moth.


Every evening at 6pm guests gathered in the dining room/ bar area for appetizers, and general chit chat. During this time Carlos would confirm the next day's activities. Dinner was served at 7pm, and guests were seated at different places each night to mingle with others and share the day's experience.

Just before the 6pm mingle we were called away by Robert one of the employees who had something special to show us.



It just kept getting better...


And better...



What a marvelous end to our first day in Costa Rica!