A nice place to go for a honeymoon
Helen and I recently got married. In this
part of the Northern hemisphere, getting married in late June is nice -
the weather isn't too hot and travel prices aren't insane. So
what do you do for a honeymoon? A few of my friends have done the
all inclusive thing
Helen and I aren't really that kind of people. A few friends
recommended Costa Rica so we decided to go for it!
Your plane (assuming you don't arrive by cruise ship) will land in San
Jose. There are no short cheap flight destinations from
Vancouver, so invariably we arrive after a long day of flying. I
booked us into the hotel Grano de Oro and both Helen and I were really
The hotel is based on a converted old home that now has 40 rooms and a
good sized restaurant. Just wandering around the old home with
all it's wings and courtyards was fun.
I don't know why, but I just like
. The more local the better. The guide books
seem a little down on San Jose as a destination, but as a first day in
the country, I found a wander around the markets to be a fun
experience. These markets a pretty similar to the Granville
Island, the market I like to shop in - a mix of produce, meat and
bakeries as well as a large selection of restaurants. We came
before any lunch rush so it we didn't have much hindrance to just
For lunch we found a local Soda and we about to point
and order from
the cabinets when the waitress presented us with English menus.
We don't speak any Spanish, but we didn't find much problem
communicating in San Jose (probably something to do with being in the
So what else is there to do? There is a nice walking street down
the middle of town which is lined with stores. (There was a good
supermarket for picking gifty items like coffee and alcohol without as
much mark up).
We stopped by the Teatro Nacional - a nice old
building with a spiffy interior. I was impressed with the coffee
machine in the cafe - it looked like a high end Italian model.
We stopped by the gold museum. They have
collection of small pieces from precolonization. There are some
"period" setups showing what villages might have been like. I was
impressed with there display on how the made the gold and the pieces
using very little technology.
And after that? Well, maybe there isn't much to do San
Jose. The next morning we got out of bed and drove out of town to
So the guide book says "be there before
10am when the clouds roll in". We weren't exactly slow getting up
there, but we did arrive at the crater at 9:45am. When we got
there, there was an ominous fog bank on the left side of the
crater. I took a few shorts and suddenly the fog bank broke free
and obscured the crater. I looked at Helen's watch - it was
9:58am. The guide book really wasn't kidding.
Our next destination was the hot spring area around the Arenal Volcano
(the closest town is La Fortuna). The rain started coming down
really hard so we skipped a visit to a waterfall garden (with the fog,
we couldn't see a thing), and just drove straight though. We
arrived at our hotel and walked down to the hot spring complex.
The hot spring complex is one of the most impressive hot springs I've
seen. It's more of a river than spring and it comes out hot - 41+
degrees Celsius. The whole area has been sculpted into bathing
pools (at various temperatures) and selected waterfalls to help pound
out those sore shoulders. To top it all off, the negative space
is filled with paths and gardens. The whole experience is quite
But you can't spend all day in a hot spring. We decided to go for
a walk up to the Volcano. Down a bit of a dirt road there is a
national park and it hosts a trail that allows you to walk around the
perimeter of the volcano for a few km. You a few signs that remind
you this volcano is active, but your goal is a lava field from the 1960
that wiped out a long trail of life. As we were walking along the
trail, we heard a fantastic rumble (like prolonged thunder) and looked
up to see a huge ash cloud emerging from the volcano. We walked a
When we finally got the lava field, I was
how life was colonizing the rocky field. Just a few meters up
from where we had lunch, there was an orchid blowing in the wind.
As far as the resort is concerned, nothing in this area happens without
a "tour". On our afternoon hike, we scouted out good volcano
viewing points and that night we decided to return to see if it was
clear enough to see the volcano and perhaps some glow. The
biggest glow was all of the car lights trying to find a place to
park. After a wave of cars settles down, you watch the volcano for
a while hoping to see an eruption without clouds in the way, and then
a bunch of car lights go on as people leave. It's frustrating,
but there are moments of reward.
Rara Avis is totally hyped by my guide
book. It's a park in the
mountains next to a national park. You ride up in this trailer
without suspension (hint: take the horses - you will hurt less after)
and then stay a few nights in a hotel without power with no way to dry
off - the humidity is just too high.
The ride up and walk to the hotel was
punishing - we
took a well deserved nap that afternoon. The meals are provided
and everyone eats together "family style" so you get a chance to talk
to the other guests about what they saw both here and in Costa
Rica. The food was hardy and quite good.
It really was the plants that I noticed
This place is thick with plants and plants growing on
plants. While most of the area around Rara Avis is second
growth (apparently cut down between 20 and 30 years ago), the forest
seems well established.
The diversity of shapes and designs really startled me. Probably
of the plants in a BC forest can be sited in a reasonably small book -
the biodiversity of the rain forest was by comparison off the
Just little details, how a plant has specialized to stand out to
pollinators or avoid competition really eye catching.
Insect life was also interesting to see.
comparison, BC insect life is solitary and slow - our ants don't move as
fast or mass in such numbers. Are butterflies and dragon flies
leisurely take breaks. Our non-winged insects just blend into the
background. Again, I was impressed.
While walking, I think everyone was secretly
for frogs. Because the rain forest is so moist, they really can
show up anywhere. Costa Rica has plenty of colourful frogs, but
the plainer frogs are still nice to find. There were no shortage
of snakes either and unlike BC, several were seriously poisonous.
Bird life is present, but with the canopy
to spot birds, let alone get a good picture of them. Similar for
larger animals - we did spot a sloth, but it was so high up and wrapped
in a tree limb they disappear into the leaves. Around the camp
you could often hear hummingbirds, but I think they had an unusual
density because of the feeders setup around the dining area.
Next destination - the Caribbean coast.
a short trip, we
knew we could do only one coast and I hoped the Caribbean would be more
different from our BC coastline. When Helen found out there was
lobster on the Caribbean side but not on the pacific side, our fate was
sealed. We drove from Rara Avis on a
pretty good highway and arrived around 9pm. Driving at night
wasn't as bad as I thought it might be.
We picked a small resort just south of Puerto Viejo (quiet) and the
next morning set off to explore town. There is quite a stunning
black beach just North of town and it made the already warm day that
We drove down the coast to near the panama
had dinner at a well reviewed restaurant - I think Helen enjoyed the
lobster but the Caribbean lobster doesn't have the large claws that our
Atlantic do so pace yourself accordingly.
The next day we took a short boat trip out to
Nacional Cahuita to go for some snorkeling and a walk in the
forest. The snorkeling was rough (I lost my underwater camera),
but the walk in the forest was nice. The Park is combination
marine reserve and point of land that sticks out into the Caribbean
Sea. We heard howler monkeys but had no luck getting close enough
to see them.
When we stopped in at the park entrance, they have a photo book of
wildlife seen in the park. I was quite surprised to see someone
had taken a picture of a ocelot in the park.
As much fun as it is to pay $65 a person for a walk in the forest, the
next day we decided to go for a walk reserva Nacional De Vida Silvestre
Gandoc-Manzanillo. The trail wasn't as good as Parque Nacional
Cahuita, but there were more nice look outs and we had no problem
spotting reptiles and snakes. (In fact it was a bit too easy to
spot snakes - kind of worrying.)
Funny enough, the best wild life sighting was coming back from
hiking - a three toed slot and it's baby were climbing up a tree near
to the road. They don't move very fast, so they had attracted
quite a crowd watching them.
Our last day was a drive back to San Jose and a bit of time in
town. I saw the perfect fruit stand on the highway but didn't
stop for it, hoping another good one would come along. Sadly the
best fruit stand was the first. We stopped at this one out of
frustration and discovered most of what they sold was foreign and way
too big for us to eat. It was a nice stop though.
We drove back to San Jose (you get better understanding of how high up
San Jose is by driving straight from the Ocean), checked back into our
hotel and did the last of out souvenir shopping (coffee for home, a
book, some snacks). Overall, I was really impressed with Costa
Rica. If the opportunity came up, I would certainly consider it
again as a destination.
Tags: Costa Rica(58), market(8), volcanism(7), bird(5), produce(5), plant(5)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Costa Rica
From: John Harvey Photo > Costa Rica
From: John Harvey Photo > Blogs for 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 > Costa Rica
Hi John, i just was to say how much I enjoy your pictures pf Costa Rica.
Our sons sent us on a 25th Anniversary surprise trip to Costa Rica and let me tell you for not doing much traveling, my husband and I had a great time. We drove from one side to the other and stayed in several places. At first my husband wasn't into driving in a new location but believe me I wasn't about to let this stop me from not seeing everything i could. It was one of the most exciting trips I ever went on. Next time I will drive and sedate my husband or maybe leave him home(ha-ha) We saw the beautiful butterflies, the Britt Plantation high in the mountains, many beautiful falls and the ocean with the black sand beaches. Most of all I loved our Tour to their National Park, Manuael of C.R., our tour guide was outstanding. We saw the Jesus Christ, water walking (top) lizard(several) the holar monkeys', the bats wrapped into the large tree leaves,while peaking out an us. and last but not least the three toed sloth; which just took my breath away. I watched them for several minutes and was astound by their appearance and behavior. I have several pictures and many beautiful memories. I also have a beautiful Kodak gallery album, that our son had made up for us as a gift. PS., hoping to go back there with my sons and family some day.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 at 07:35:21
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:32:52 Edit
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