Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Travel

Extreme Costa Rica: Highlights of Our First Four Days!

Lin and Larada at the La Paz waterfall, Costa Rica
Welcome to Costa Rica from Lin and me at the La Paz Waterfalls in the rain!

The travel blog posts for our Costa Rica trip will be highlights instead of daily journals. 

Day 1 – January 7, 2020

I was anxious to go Cost Rica! After months of anticipation, I spent a sleepless the night before our departure, too excited. I rose to the demands of the next day, and we had a lovely leisure travel day. We flew out of Albuquerque, NM, arriving in Houston, TX at 12:25 p.m. On the flight, I worked on a book project whose deadline was crunching me. A couple from Albuquerque accompanied us, so we had lunch and enjoyed ample time before our flight to San Jose at 5:25 p.m.

While we waited, Lin and I played a Cribbage hand to show our friends the game. We knew the Colorado contingency of our tour had the same flight to San Jose and wondered where they were. Right before boarding, they arrived at the gate. Again, I worked on the flight to San Jose.

When we arrived, we easily went through customs and were greeted by the organizer of our tour and our guide, Victoria and Enrique. They whisked us off to the hotel. When we arrived there, I thought Lin and I would stay there, but Victoria told us, “You’re going to my mom’s house!”

See, Victoria is my husband’s ex-wife, and she knew Lin and her mom wanted to see each other, so away we went and what a welcome we got. We spent the rest of the evening visiting.

Day 2 – January 8, 2020

I started the second day with an education on how a Costa Rican shower works, but Lin forgot to give me vital information, so the water stayed hot. I was quick in and out!

We started our day with a delicious breakfast, featuring an abundance of native fruit. Enrique picked us up, and we drove to the hotel to gather the rest of the group. We met our driver, William, who kept us safe throughout the trip and quickly became a major part of the group.

On our drove to the Waterfall Gardens, we had a Costa Rican serendipitous moment: we saw a traditional ox cart and driver who posed for pictures for us! The colorful cart and his pride fascinated me.

On our drive, Enrique shared his knowledge of the history of Costa Rica and some philosophical statements: “Time is not important. The weather is the same,” and “Let’s wait until the clouds of the day clear off.”

He noted  

  • Spain forgot them for three hundred years. They never had to fight for independence, but that left them “an abandon child.”
  • The coffee industry received its boost when the Pope okayed it.
  • Their last revolution was in 1948, and they have no army.
  • They have nine active volcanoes, and Volcano Poás is erupting now.
  • Thirty percent of Costa Rica is national parks which has preserved it and gave rise to the eco-tourism boom.
  • Enrique shared a Costa Rican term, “mejenga” which is an informal pick-up type soccer game.

Our next stop was a coffee plantation to relieve ourselves, grab a cup of rich Costa Rican coffee and learn about how coffee is grown and produced. Enrique, our guide, had wonderful stopping points throughout our tour, starting with this one.

The winding road reminded Enrique of a local sentiment: “You can see your own license plates.” We soon saw what he meant.

Our next stop, the Waterfall Gardens, is a wildlife refugee center where they rehabilitate animals and return them to the forest. We saw a variety of native animals like toucans, sloths and macaws, but the highlight for me was the blue Morpho butterflies. Some in our group gently place their finger next to the docent’s, and this stunning creature moved over. The enclosure where the butterflies live is a verdant rich garden.

Blue Morpho Butterfly
The Blue Morpho Butterfly

“As its common name implies, the blue morpho butterfly’s wings are bright blue, edged with black. The blue morpho is among the largest butterflies in the world, with wings spanning from five to eight inches. Their vivid, iridescent blue coloring is a result of the microscopic scales on the backs of their wings, which reflect light. The underside of the morpho’s wings, on the other hand, is a dull brown color with many eyespots, providing camouflage against predators such as birds and insects when its wings are closed. When the blue morpho flies, the contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the morpho is appearing and disappearing.”

https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/blue-butterfly

Being introduced to this butterfly early helped because we saw it in a variety of places.

After seeing animals, we had a delicious lunch of native food and again fruit was the focus for me. During lunch, the rain started—it ended up to be a wet afternoon. We continued through the refugee seeing white faced monkeys, scampering around and playing in their enclosures.

We saw another type of monkey that Enrique did a unique trick with; he had attached a mirror in his bird book, and he attracted one monkey over to him. The mirror fascinated the monkey.  Enrique told us about a time he did that with another monkey, and the monkey tried to turn the page in his book—how about that!

I am so sad because I took a picture of a jaguar there, but it didn’t come out. This regal creature curled up like my cat, stretched, arched his back and curl up again!

 From there, we hiked in the rain. Victoria told us to bring our rain ponchos, and I misunderstood her, thinking she was talking about the next day, but I bought one in the gift shop. It became a regular part of my daily backpack gear.

We saw the beautiful La Paz Waterfalls (Lin and my picture at the beginning), but I had to take a break, because being sick the last few months my stamina lagged. I loved how our newly formed group ignored the rain and participated!

 From there, we drove to Sarchi, the cradle of Costa Rican art craft. We visited an old ox cart factory and bought souvenirs because we had been advised this was a great place to purchase them.

Lin and I went a little overboard, buying two beautiful leather rockers and a replica of an ox cart. Lin had been anticipating the ox cart purchase for months.

The day ended with a lovely dinner in a roadside restaurant and back to the hotel to drop off the group. I had the first of many guanabana shakes with dinner. Guanabana is a delicious tropical fruit.

A tradition started on our ride back to the hotel—Greg started telling stories of accidents and near-miss events, and these stories continued for days.

Because of the wet day, Victoria and I brought group members’ tennis shoes back to her mom’s house and tried to dry them in the dryer. We overloaded the dryer so it stopped working, so, I dried mine and Lin’s with my blow dryer. Victoria dried some of the groups with a blow dryer, too!

Day 3 – January 9, 2020

 Again, my morning started off with shower excitement. This time I had a cold shower. It was at this point that Lin realized he forgot to tell me the key to showering—turning the knob all the way went to cold water. 

We ate another delicious breakfast, teeming with fruit. Afterwards we took pictures and loaded up the car and drove to Enrique’s house where his daughter fed us delicious homemade tamales. The rest of the group met us there, and we put our luggage in a second van which followed us whenever we changed lodging.

Then we took the Pan-American highway south. It was built during World War II to link the North American continent and was paved in the late 60’s. The highest point is in Costa Rica.

Enrique told us it was summer there now and the less rainy season–hard to believe after getting soaked the day before. He entertained us with a story that ended with “My great-grandfather told me, and he didn’t lie.”

We traveled through Cartago with Enrique sharing a story about how San Jose took being capitol away from Cartago. Lin flagged a “Pops” (pronounced Popes) whenever we passed one, and we were told it has the best ice cream in the world!

As we traveled, Greg continued relaying his stories of accidents: scuba, RV, motorcycle and snowboarding events. At one point after a motorcycle accident, a bystander asked, “Is he dead?”

After rising in elevator, we left the Pan-American highway and wove our way into the Savegre Valley on a dirt road, ending up at the Savegre Hotel, an oasis in the forest, for two nights.

From the sumptuous menu, I selected Trout Almandine for lunch, and then we took a long treacherous hike to waterfalls again—water and waterfalls are a major feature of Costa Rica. At various rocky spots, the men in the group helped me. After the hike, we met in the bar for refreshments, then a hilarious scene happened. We all got on our iPhones and AirDropped pictures to each other.

We had spacious rooms there, but it was cold, so Lin and I turned on our portable heater before we left for dinner. Dinner for me was grilled trout—delicious food. After dinner and social time, we returned to our room–talk about cold. The little heater didn’t do the job, so I slept in my warm-ups.

Day 4 – January 10, 2020

We were up at 4:45 a.m. to go on the quetzal bird watching tour—I first heard of this bird 40 years ago on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. In all my numerous trips there, I never saw one, so this excursion excited me more than any of the others.

Quetzal Bird
Quetzal Bird

We had a little problem with this excursion, but Enrique handled it. Melboni, our guide, joined us in our van and off we went to the first place, an avocado tree where the quetzal birds frequented.

I was so disappointed. I have cataracts and eye issues, so I never saw one with the naked eye, but our guide had a high-powered binocular where we could see them, and he could take photos on our iPhones.

So, the drill became: the guides for the different groups helped each other, and when a bird was sighted, they shared the location on a walkie-talkie. Then all the groups ran back and forth. It was hilarious to participate in and watch!

When we returned to the hotel, we ate, showered and packed. Enrique had gotten us an extra excursion, so we drove up the hill to Batsú which was a garden the hotel owner’s son made to attract birds. We saw hundreds of humming birds and many other birds.

Afterwards we ate lunch and left. We divided our group up with three people going in the luggage van because of the incline coming up. The Savagre Hotel was at 7100 feet and the main road went up to 9800 feet. We headed towards the Caribbean slope and Guapiles.

Ater we picked up our three travelers, we stopped for relief and refreshments. The camaraderie of the group started to solidify with people sharing their goodies. It rained for most of the four hour trip to Guapiles. We played twenty questions with a person sharing two truths and a lie, and that entertained us for miles.

When we arrived at the Hotel Suerre, we quickly went to our rooms to repack our bags because Enrique and William were going home with our big luggage while we went to Torteguero. Victoria had suggested we take only a backpack to Torteguero because we traveled there on a boat.

After turning over our big bags to Enrique and William, we ate a late dinner, showered and went to bed early—delighted with our trip so far and looking forward to our next adventure!

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you!


~ Take a look at my website, http://www.laradasbooks.com/

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

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