Pat and Carrie crossing the border into Costa Rica from Nicaragua with another backpacker.
After enjoying Granada and Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua we traveled south to Costa Rica. Once again, our experience with a taxi driver in Nicaragua left a lot to be desired, but we made it to the border without being too severely ripped off.
In Costa Rica we spent a week at the Flamingo Beach Resort in Flamingo Beach (clever name, huh?), a few days in the Santa Elena / Monteverde Area and a few days in the Volcan Arenal area. We spoiled ourselves at the Flamingo Beach resort, hiked in the rain forest and zip-lined through the canopy in Santa Elena / Monteverde, and watched in awe as Volcan Arenal spewed rocks and lava into the air.
All roads lead to Liberia. We went through this city 3 times while visiting Costa Rica. Liberia wasn’t bad for a hub city and had some really good Chinese food. We were shocked however when the bill for the meal came to over $4,000! Well, not really, the exchange rate was $517 colones to the dollar. Pat thought we hit the jackpot when he asked the ATM for $200US and got over $100,000 colones! We stayed at Hotel Liberia. A nice little hotel in downtown Liberia with a really cool kitten.
Jackpot! Woohoo! Look at all that dough. We laid it out on the bed and rolled around in it for a while.
A waiter at a diner in Liberia. He was wearing a t-shirt commemorating the 9/11 tragedy. We are still amazed at how much Central Americans like people from the USA.
All of that backpacking can really wear you out, so we treated ourselves to a week at a timeshare resort. We stayed at the very nice Flamingo Beach resort right on a beautiful beach on the Pacific ocean. Ok, the beach and ocean were nice, but what we really got excited about were hot showers, air conditioning, unlimited ice cubes and cable television. The pool even had a swim-up bar!
A huge iguana that inhabited the grounds of the resort.
A view of the Pacific ocean.
We celebrated one year (!) of retirement while at Flamingo Beach. In honor of the occasion we went out for a muy romantico dinner at Mar Y Sol. The food was great and the views were killer.
Here is Carrie (prior to a much needed haircut) digging into a wine-soaked pear and ice cream dessert. Yumm!!
The view from Mar Y Sol.
We enjoyed beautiful sunsets from our balcony almost every night.
After a week of being spoiled, we got back on the bus. Our next stop was the Santa Elena / Monteverde area. Beautiful! Our hosts, a brother and sister team, at Pension Santa Elena knew everything about the area. They could even recite the bus schedules by heart. The accommodations were very nice and Pension Santa Elena was the backpacker’s hub in the area.
We were told by the sister that we had to do the zip lines, so we went with Selvatura, put on the zipping gear and zipped through and over the canopy with the greatest of ease. What a thrill! There was also an attraction called the Tarzan Swing. It is part free-fall and part swing. All I can say is it is impossible not to scream and can I do it again?!
We spent one day hiking in the Monteverde Reserve. This is a very well maintained reserve with a suspension bridge in the canopy, a view from the continental divide, a waterfall and interesting insects, birds and animals.
A remote waterfall. Looks like a movie set, doesn’t it?
There were butterflies everywhere of all colors. Our favorites were the startling blue butterflies, but we weren’t fast enough to catch them with the camera!
Speaking of blue insects, we discovered blue ants in the Monteverde Reserve.
A howler monkey keeping an eye on us. It took us quite a while to get this photo because he insisted on posing in a most immodest position. Let’s just say; he is one big boy!
Kamakazi hummingbird! We visited a hummingbird park and witnessed some awesome aerobatics. These little daredevils zoomed so close to us that we swear we could feel their wings touch our ears. Two of them chased each other between Pat’s camera and his face. If this were the States, their licenses would be revoked!
Another must-see destination in Costa Rica is Volcan Arenal. The best way to get there from Santa Elena / Monteverde is the jeep-boat-jeep method. The wonderful folks at Pension Santa Elena made the arrangements and we were off. The boat portion of the jeep-boat-jeep trip to Volcan Arenal. A much cooler and much shorter way to travel than by local bus. Besides, the views of the volcano from the boat are great!
Fancy room at Los Lagos right at the base of Volcan Arenal. The room was expensive ($99 high season, $69 low season), but it included direct access to the volcano, natural thermal pool and jacuzzi, waterslides (!), crocodile, butterfly and frog farms and reasonably priced, very good restaurants. This is definitely worth the cash for one night if you plan to take a tour to the volcano and go to thermal pools anyway. We were able to keep watch all night for a clear view of the volcano from our room.
A view of Volcan arenal from our room.
After a short hike from Los Lagos we were able to get ourselves to the ‘Zone of High Volcanic Risk’. If Carrie’s mom asks, no, we didn’t continue hiking to the point where we could hear the rocks spewed from the volcano hitting the slope just in front of us. That would just be silly!
The business end of Volcan Arenal. During the day, the rocks hit the slope of the volcano and send puffs of dust into the air. At night, glowing red lava can be seen. We were fortunate that we saw the lava before the clouds moved in, but did not get any photos.
You’ll want to make sure that you pay your bill if you stay at Los Lagos. The collection department has a bit of an attitude.
We were bummed out that the frog exhibit was closed when we were there, but a complimentary toad came with the room.
These green lizards were all over the place. It was really cool to watch them run. They would get up on their hind legs and scoot way faster then you would expect. Look out Energizer bunny!