Posts Tagged With: Paradise

In Search of Wild Costa Rica

Clockwise from top left: Rain forest in Corcovado National Park; a tapir in the park; a cabin at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge; spying on a toucan at the lodge. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

By the end of our fourth day on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, we had seen, according to the tally kept by my 9-year-old, Sasha, dozens of species of animals. We had peered at leafcutter ants, army ants and zombie ants. We had been deafened by howler monkeys, beguiled by squirrel monkeys and strangely stirred by capuchin monkeys, whose feet bear an eerie resemblance to human hands. That afternoon, in the national park that covers a third of the peninsula, we had even spied two tapirs, endangered mammals that look like hornless rhinoceroses with long snouts.

To sample this extravaganza of biodiversity, we had risen early each morning of our vacation. So when our guide informed us that he would be taking us out at 4:30 a.m. to witness the rain forest waking up, I — the motivating force behind, and thus bearer of responsibility for, this trip — glanced apprehensively at my family and swallowed hard.

“We’ll be up!” I said brightly.

I had shepherded Sasha and my husband, Scott, to Osa in hopes of a tropical wildlife experience that was, in fact, wild. But as we crawled into our tent that night, the beaten path from which I had so resolutely steered clear was starting to look more inviting.

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Nito Paniagua, a guide, finds an anole lizard. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

Costa Rica, home to large tracts of untouched yet accessible rain forest, had seemed the obvious place to immerse ourselves in nature for a week in February. On Facebook, people responded with the Costa Rican phrase “pura vida!” (“pure life”) at the mere mention of the country. We had admired photographs of bright-colored birds, frogs and butterflies from the preserves near the capital, San José, which could be reached by direct flight from New York. The ubiquitous “canopy tours” through the treetops seemed a great way to indulge Sasha’s love of zip lining.

But as I researched where to go in the West Virginia-size country, I began to suspect that its popular ecotourist destinations might not quench my yearning for the untamed. On TripAdvisor, phrases like “well-developed” and the less-charitable “Disneyfied” arose in regard to the storied Monteverde Cloud Forest in the central highlands. Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific Coast, widely loved for its beaches and restaurants, was reportedly better for night life than wildlife.

The more people who can enjoy the rain forest without destroying it the better, of course: The 70,000 or so who visit a sliver of Monteverde each year help pay to preserve the rest of it. But the remote Osa Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific Ocean from Costa Rica’s southwestern corner, seemed to hold an increasingly rare chance to observe the rain forest in all its fecund, carbon-storing, oxygen-producing glory, without quite so much human company.

Mostly mentioned in travel guides as an alternative for those who had hit the other highlights, Osa did not rank on Lonely Planet’s list of “Top 10 Costa Rica Spots for First-Timers.” To get there requires a second flight or a seven-hour drive from San José. And while the draw is the 160-square-mile Corcovado National Park, accommodations there are limited to a few dozen bunks and a tent platform at the Sirena Ranger Station.

I mapped a tentative itinerary that would bring us to each of two jumping-off points to the park, Puerto Jiménez to the southeast, and Drake Bay to the northwest, both of which have several excellent lodging options. In between, we would stay one night in the park, perhaps the last refuge in the country, I read, of the sweet-looking Baird’s tapirs Sasha and I had fallen for while searching online for “Costa Rica animals.”

An email from a well-traveled friend sealed the deal: “Costa Rica is very touristy,” he wrote. “Osa is not.”

Our first stop, Bosque del Cabo, was a 40-minute ride by taxi from Puerto Jiménez, the biggest town on the peninsula with a population of 1,780. I had chosen one of the two cabins at Bosque just steps from the rain forest, at the edge of a large clearing planted with native trees and plants. A half-mile away from the main lodge area, these “garden cabinas” are reached by a trail through the forest that crosses high above a river over a suspension bridge.

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The author and her daughter in a tide pool near Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge.CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

“We ask that only guests that feel they will be comfortable with the walk and the increased isolation of these accommodations book into them,” the lodge’s website warns.

Any pangs I might have had about passing up the dozen or so bungalows with ocean views disappeared as soon as we found ourselves in the company of spider monkeys, swinging from branch to branch at eye level on our first pass over the bridge. The lodge staff member escorting us waited patiently, albeit with the amusement of a New Yorker watching tourists marvel at pigeons.

“Do you feed them?” I couldn’t help asking. He assured me they did not.

A few steps off the bridge, we stopped short with the odd sensation that the earth was shifting under our feet. The highway of leafcutter ants hauling their leaf-bits toward the entrance to their underground caverns was our first inkling, repeatedly confirmed over the next few days, that they were in charge there. (“Are there more ants in Costa Rica than there are humans in the world?” Sasha would ask. Answer: many more).

Bosque itself sits on 750 acres that encompass some primary-growth rain forest and large swaths of “jungle,” rain forest that has grown back on land that had once been cleared — in Bosque’s case, for cattle grazing. We would have virtually no chance of seeing a tapir on the hotel’s trails, the staff told us candidly (even in Corcovado, we were told, our chances were 50-50). But we spotted poison dart frogs, lizards and monkeys dozing in the sun. A wild pig called a peccary often visited the lodge’s modest pool, where we cooled off and sipped ginger lemonades.

The hotel also offered nature-oriented activities: One morning we rappelled 70 feet down a strangler fig tree, another we hiked down the empty beach to a waterfall, splashing in the tide pools that form in the reef formations along the way. On an evening wildlife tour, the hotel naturalist taught us the trick of holding our flashlights against our temples, revealing the reflection of thousands of spider eyes shining in the grass.

Dinner, served buffet-style with a bounty of delicious choices (panko-crusted eggplant, roasted hearts of palm, crispy chicken with figs) was eaten at communal tables. And if I needed validation on my destination choice, we found ourselves dining more than once with others who had firsthand knowledge of Costa Rica’s well-traveled spots.

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Capuchin monkeys near Drake Bay. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

“Osa is — crunchier,” said one civil rights lawyer from Washington, D.C., as Sasha and another girl her age excused themselves to look at the bats hanging from the bamboo light fixtures.

His wife, a judge, concurred about their desire for a less-processed experience.

“More what we had in mind when we thought about Costa Rica,” she said.

In our cabin, open on three sides, we felt less like observers than residents of the forest, along with monkeys playing in the trees directly above us and the leafcutter ants below. One late afternoon, a rainbow of toucans and scarlet macaws flew by a few feet away, on their way to the fruit trees in the clearing behind us.

Yet knowing that the trees had been planted to attract the birds undercut, just a bit, the pleasure of their proximity. Perhaps it was our own fault, too, for being diverted by rappelling adventures and poolside lemonades. But when we landed the next morning at the ranger station, the headquarters of Corcovado park, it quickly became apparent that there would be no distractions from the natural world. Other than lounging on the shaded porch of the low-slung ranger station, there was really was nothing to do but be in it.

Our guide, Nito Paniagua, who met us in Puerto Jiménez for the 15-minute charter flight, lost no time snagging us a spot on the tent platform at the station and heading out on a trail to the river.

The park has just started requiring tourists to be accompanied by a guide, but in any case we would have been lost without Nito’s six senses. He caught lizards and hung them from our ears, trained his scope on resplendent birds no one else could see and produced bats from furled-up leaves.

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Tent platform at the Sirena Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

“Look at the two species playing together,” he said at the trail’s entrance, pointing his viewing scope so we could see the howler and spider monkeys teasing each other in the branches above. “That’s so nice to see.”

Unlike the many hardy backpacker types who had walked 12 miles or more to camp at Sirena, we were not big hikers. But the walk down to the river where we ate lunch was not so much strenuous as it was intense. It took two hours only because we stopped every few steps for a new creature: the bird with the small heart, the carnivorous cricket, bright blue butterflies, the notorious fer-de-lance snake.

And because Nito had quickly divined that we were keen to see tapirs, he brought us to a spot where they are known to nap.

That we were lucky enough to see two of them through the trees from perhaps 50 feet away was one reason for the collective groan that night when Nito announced the 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

What else, we wondered, did we have to see that couldn’t wait until dawn?

In my grogginess I left the tent without my glasses and had to run back to get them while Scott, Sasha and Nito waited for me on the grass beyond the porch of the ranger station. We stopped to admire a spider web at the start of the dirt trail, then traipsed on toward the beach where Nito wanted us to watch the sky grow light.

That was when the tapir came crashing out of the forest right in front of us. My heart beating hard, I held my breath, wishing I could freeze the moment. Scott and Sasha, too, stood transfixed. For just a split second, the large, strange animal seemed to register our presence. Then the tapir lumbered away from us, down the trail, toward the river as we followed, until it veered off into the darkness.

map ny times

I didn’t know it until then, but this, more than anything, was what I had hoped we would find on the Osa Peninsula. It wasn’t like seeing an animal lured to a spot by human guile, or to where all the guides know it’s likely to go on its own. If I hadn’t forgotten my glasses, we might well have missed it.

It felt wild.

There was no shortage of moments like that in our short time at Sirena. Sasha’s favorite siting may have been the anteater carrying a baby on her back all the way up to the top of a tree, spied that morning after a breakfast of eggs and ham that was, like our dinner there the night before, plain but tasty. We all oohed over the baby hummingbirds in the nest Nito found, and the baby hawks the ranger showed us through his scope in between his other chores at the understaffed station.

Before we left, we walked one more trail, cooler and less dense than the one we had taken the previous day because the soaring tree canopies blocked the light others might use to grow. The logging and slash-and-burn agriculture that had prompted the formation of the park in 1975, Nito told us, had never reached here. As we stumbled into a clearing where one tree, an espavel, or wild cashew, towered some 150 feet above us, we stood again in silent awe. That tens of thousands of acres of such forest are destroyed each day worldwide seemed inconceivable.

Most life in the rain forest, Nito reminded us, lives in the canopy, and never descends to the forest floor. Speaking of untamed, no one even knows entirely what’s up there.

We might have been happy staying longer at Sirena had our tent been pitched on the lawn, rather than the platform, which was hot and crowded at night. (Nito was scheming to go in with other guides on tents with rain flaps that could be used on the lawn.) The ticks, albeit not disease carrying, were also not a plus, especially for Sasha, who pried five off her legs.

As it was, we were happy to get to our final Osa destination, La Paloma Lodge on Drake Bay, after an hourlong boat ride from Corcovado that afternoon. It felt good to take a hot shower and to enjoy the rain forest as a view from the hotel’s elegant dining room, set high on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean.

At night, Tracie Stice, a local naturalist universally known as the “bug lady,” showed us a scorpion (“Don’t sit down,” she suggested as we leaned against the stone wall) and gently pried open the well-camouflaged home of a “trap-door” spider so that we could see the creature promptly slam it shut again.

On our last day, we went on a decidedly human-manufactured, 13-zip-line canopy tour arranged for us, a highlight of the trip for Sasha. But when Scott asked her which leg of the trip she would eliminate, if she had to lose one, she couldn’t choose. Like her parents, she could have happily lived for decades in our first cabin. She wouldn’t give up zip lining.

“And I can’t take out Sirena,” she said. “Because that’s where we saw everything.”

By 

Pura Vida!

Don’t forget to check out our Cafe Press shop! $3 of every item purchased goes to Charities here in Costa Rica. Also check out our House for Saleand Rent listings as well!  If you are traveling and you want a cheap $4.99 a month and good VPN so you can watch hulu, your countries Netflix, and amazon click here. Good for travel or if you live here in Costa Rica. Don’t forget about our Amazon shop as well!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Costa Rica Ranked #1 vacation destination!

Selvatura Adventure Park, Monteverde Ronald Reyes/The Tico Times

Rain forests, volcanoes, world-class beaches, great weather, sloths, what’s not to like? A new global survey confirmed that tourists love Costa Rica, naming the country most recommended tourism destination in the world.

The Global Tourism Monitor Survey asked 23,000 globetrotters from 26 countries where they had traveled during the previous 12 months and which destination they would more recommend based on their experience there. The report, released Monday, ranked the top 65 most recommended destinations.

Austria came in second, followed by Israel, New Zealand and Italy.

Ukraine, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Tunisia were the five least recommended destinations, according to the survey conducted by BDRC Continental.

While Costa Rica placed atop the list of most recommended destination, no other Latin American country made the top 10.

Latin America and the Caribbean placed among the least popular regions with only 6 percent of respondents saying they were “seriously” planning to travel to the region. Europe ranked the highest among potential travelers with 43 percent planning to travel there, followed by 27 percent in the Asian Pacific. Only 4 percent said they planned to take their holiday in Africa or the Middle East.

Costa Rica received a record-breaking 2.4 million tourists during 2013, according to the Costa Rican Tourism Board.

Here’s the list of the top 10 most recommended destinations (with a three-way tie for 10th place):

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Austria
  3. Israel
  4. New Zealand
  5. Italy
  6. Japan
  7. Croatia
  8. USA
  9. Norway
  10. Canada
  11. Greece
  12. United Kingdom

…and the 10 least recommended:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Russia
  3. Albania
  4. Cambodia
  5. India
  6. Ukraine
  7. Malaysia
  8. China
  9. Indonesia
  10. Tunisia

Originally posted to the Tico Times

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Why do Gringos make things so difficult?

So I just read an article on the Costa Rica times and it got me to scratching my head. I am going to pull specific points that I want go go over and explain how I feel he made it harder on himself. I had this same issue and it was nothing to fix it. Easy and was done in 24hrs.

“I hate calling customer support in Costa Rica as it ends up being a complete waste of time and energy so I thought I would circumvent this nuisance by going to the office in Jaco and speaking to an actual person to explain my problem.

I think I decided to make my errand running day on the hottest day of summer at the beach, Checking the temperature it was 89 degrees but felt like 107.  After picking up a couple of packages at Aerocasillas I went by the Cable Tica office at about 12:30.  I expected it to be closed as it was lunch time but the sign on the door said “We will be back at 2:30″. I can normally kill 30 minutes to an hour but killing 2 hours is not all that easy.”

1st you may hate calling them, but you can do it from the comfort of your own home and you would not have had to stand out in the heat of the day and or kill time. Especially when you know it is going to feel like 107 outside! That is insanity. I don’t know about you, but I know that if they close for lunch, which mind you they all do why would you show up at 12:30? You expected it to be closed. So why go there? I’m confused by this. Again I know that most places that close for lunch I assume won’t open back up until 3pm. So you leave your house, you do an errand you could have done on the way home not on the way there an you arrive at lunch time when you knew they would be closed? You think it is their fault? So that was your 1st mistake here. You should have made it your 1st stop when they opened. Actually your 1st mistake was not calling customer service.

“The answer was one that most of us living in Costa Rica have received……that is not my job, here is the number of customer service.  I tried desperately to have her arrange a technician to come to my home……..the answer was no, there would be no thinking outside the box nor proactive client support.”

Well of course this was your answer. Its not a matter of them thinking outside of the box it is a matter of the way things are done. In the states you can’t just walk in and say I need a technician to come out to the house and they will send one. Just doesn’t happen. You call the customer service number. Again if we did do mistake #1 by not calling them in the 1st place this would not have been an issue.

“I wonder how people that do not speak Spanish get to the English menu on the customer support lines in Costa Rica. “Para ingles marque dos” – if you do not know Spanish how would you know to push 2 for English?”

Ok so you come to  a country and you expect it to be in English? ok another mistake. Here is the thing. I don’t have a lot of Spanish, but I knew a few things before i got here. If I made a call and I heard that I would have picked up Ignles and Dos, Which I think 99% of English speakers would know to press 2 for English from that. I know that on my cabletica its 9.

” I then went through explaining my problem in Spanish after which he said please hold and hung up on me.  YAY!!!!”

Yes because this never happens in the states at all when you call big companies. I can’t tell you how many times I would spend a ton of time on the phone with someone telling them my issue and they go, “Please Hold” and the call is disconnected.

“Can you please send someone out to my house to check the signal for more than 3 seconds?” I begged.

“No…let me tell you how to reset your modem.”

I hung up as I was not in my house nor did I want to hear her anymore.”

OH my god really? This is what they all do. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me in the states. It is part of their check list and it is what they have to do in order to go though it. Why did you call when you were not at your house and couldn’t do what she asked? Again you mistake not theirs.

“I returned home that evening and spoke to a friend of mine on Skype during which the call dropped about 6 times in a matter of 20 minutes. I asked him what can I do to get someone at my house. The answer although ridiculous I knew was true. When I called customer service I needed to unplug the modem and tell them that the lights were on but that there was no Internet.

This is Costa Rica, it is just one of the games you have to learn to play to adjust to life in the country. I still love it here but sometimes I need to vent.”

OK this isn’t ridiculous at all. I have had to do this in the states a number of times to have them come out.

This experience would have been no different in the states if the writer did this same thing. He would have went thought all the same stuff. So no Costa Rica is no different in this regard than anywhere else in the world!

Now let me tell you how I handled it when our got hit by lightning here and it wasn’t dead, but it was having issues. So I unplugged it and I called the customer service number and pressed 9 for English. Now I had to hang up and do this a couple times as it still gave me Spanish options, but that is ok I was in the comfort of my own home so no worries. I did get someone who spoke English. I than told them my problem and he said, “let me walk you though resting your modem” I did not move off my couch. I said I did it all and he said, “Ok we will send someone out”. I than said, “Can you send a new modem with him it seems the lights are all non-functioning so I think it should be replaced.” He than said, “Yes sir that is not a problem” Guess what the next day someone was here with a new modem and my issue was fixed!

Ok so why do we make things so hard on our selves? Really if you don’t know how things are done here and have been here more than 3 months you should know. If you don’t know maybe call a friend or ask someone on Facebook who has lived here. Check out one of the many Expats groups that have a ton of information on just about everything when it comes to living in Costa Rica. This guy was just looking to cause himself more problems than what was needed.

Have a great day!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Internet, Rants, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riu Palace Guanacaste Costa Rica

Rui Lobby

The lobby of the Hotel

RiU Lobby Riu Lobby

Let me start off by saying this is one of the best Lobbies I have ever seen. I have seen many. This hotel is just that a Palace. It is huge and so beautiful. It is a must see. It is also an all inclusive resort and you can’t beat that. Staying here is like going on a cruise ship and not being on the water. You will want for nothing at all hours of the day and night. There is food and drink everywhere.

Here take a look at the mini bar:

Mini-Bar

Not that is what I am talking about. Full bottles with single shot spouts. When you are empty they just replace them and you start all over again. Its going to be hard not to find a hard drink when you have a mini bar like this in your room.

So now that I have your interest. 🙂 Room rates vary from $320 to upwards of $800 a nigh. Keep in mind once there all your food, drink, and entertainment is included in the price. Really those are not bad prices.

So here are some pictures of the room we stayed in. It was an amazing room.

Riu Room Riu Room Riu Room Riu room Riu Room

It was a most comfortable room. Now the water in the room is not drinkable. So don’t drink it. They always make sure you have bottled water in your room. There is also free Wifi something every hotel should have in the room! So you can upload those pictures to your friends at all hours of the day and night. The shower was amazing. It had good water pressure and it just made you feel so good when you were done.

Now onto the most important aspect of the trip, THE FOOD!!!!! It was amazing. Now we were only there for a short trip and most of the restaurants require you to make a reservation. So we didn’t eat in those. There were a number of them. You have to make the reservation by 2 pm the day before your dinner. Now we did eat at the one restaurant you didn’t need a reservation. Again the food was amazing.  It was a buffet style and each night they had a different theme to the foods. Remember what I said about a cruise ship? Yes it is just like that. Here are some samples of the food that was presented one night.

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Shame on you if you leave this place hungry! This was all in just one night and I think I may have missed a few stations. There was a waitress who brought us our drinks and they were very attentive to our needs.

So the beach and the pool were very nice no doubt. We did not get in the water only because the pool area was so amazing and we were only there for 2 nights. They have 6 pools and there are pool bars in and outside of the pool itself. They have chairs and other items for the beach as well if you decide to be a beach bum instead of a pool bum like me. So here are pictures of the pool and beach area.

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So, my review wrap up is a great place to stay with amazing food, comfortable room, great pool and beach, and friendly attentive staff. So I give this place 4 1/2 seashells out of 5.

Just in cast you want to stay there, here is a link to their website:

Riu Hotels for Families with speacial activities

Pura Vida!

Don’t forget to check out our Cafe Press shop! $3 of every item purchased goes to Charities here in Costa Rica. Also check out our House for Saleand Rent listings as well!  If you are traveling and you want a cheap $4.99 a month and good VPN so you can watch hulu, your countries Netflix, and amazon click here. Good for travel or if you live here in Costa Rica. Don’t forget about our Amazon shop as well!

 

 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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