I may be one of few who is not overwhelmed with Costa Rica. I did not dislike the beautiful country. The beaches are grand. The people are delightful. The food is good. But, I have been to too many other places that are more “me.” I had hopes of sighting interesting critters in the jungle on “safari” treks. I spotted few.
The critters are there. I suspect too many tourists have been tromping through the jungle, following guides with telescopes, sending the animals deep into the bush in search of peace and quiet.
While husband Bob spent two weeks with his daughter Kellie who has a holiday home in Costa Rica, I toured – on my own but with pre-arranged transportation between destinations. I joined guided tours through parks and to noteworthy sights during my visit last January
The Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s most popular national park and where I joined my first guided hike. Groups like ours, all dutifully following a guide with a large telescope on a tripod, crowded the trails. Word spread quickly of a sighting. Instantly more guides, telescopes and tourists appeared.
Excitement was high at the sighting of a sloth hidden high in dense tree foliage. With the naked eye it was impossible to see anything but leaves. Those with gigantic zoom lenses (there were many) did manage to spot the creature. The rest of us relied on the guide’s telescope. Yet, even with high powered vision, all I could see was a tuft of fur.
This ritual was repeated time after time. The guide, with trained eyes and jungle experience, would spot a creature– various kinds of birds, lizards, sloths – camouflaged in the dense growth. Each of her followers then had a turn for a telescope view. And then, a keepsake photo with their cell phone camera which the guide placed, one by one, on the telescope.
It was steamy humid. I grew impatient and bored. I kept thinking of Africa where majestic creatures are often easy to spot. The tour ended on a beach where hundreds of monkeys frolicked. Monkeys may not be exotic, but they are fun and easy to see. I loved them.
More monkeys, iguanas, a rare lizard, all kind of birds, a deer – I saw them all on the grounds of the Posada Jungle Hotel adjacent to Manuel Antonio park where I spent four nights. This was better than a guided safari, and at my doorstep. The beach near the hotel was fabulous, for swimming and sunset viewing. I spent several evenings aiming for the perfect sunset shot while sipping a mojito.
Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano is a stunning sight. I was lucky. It is often hidden in clouds, but I saw it in all its glory. There have been no regular volcano eruptions since 2010. The surrounding region is popular for hiking and all sorts of rugged,extreme adventure. I opted for gentle adventure, a hanging bridge hike and another hike near the volcano.
Hanging bridges are common in the Costa Rican jungle. I was intrigued. It is exciting, even a tinge scary, to walk high above gorges on these structures which gently sway as you cross.
After the near-the-volcano hike, we set off to the Tobacon Hot Springs, a jungle wonderland of hot springs, pools, waterfalls, streams – all a bit kitschy, but crazy fun.
Birds were the star attraction during my relaxing boat tour of the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge near the Nicaraguan border. The guide entertained us with interesting facts about Costa Rica, as well as river wildlife, as we
drifted past lush rainforest and wetlands. In addition to the birds, we saw bats, a few crocodiles, a lizard… but nothing that thrilled me. I am spoiled. It’s hard to beat being up close and personal with mountain gorillas. (See previous post, “Gorillas in our Mist” Dec. 2015)
I was underwhelmed – and freezing – on the Monteverde Cloud Forest guided hike. This time it was cold and rainy. We learned a lot about various kinds of trees and vines, but – even with the telescope – spotted no exciting wildlife.
The van rides from one destination on my itinerary to the next were often long. The scenery, sometimes spectacular, and chatting with other passengers made the trips interesting. I met folks from the US, Canada, Scotland, England and Israel, including several young female backpackers en route to yoga retreats. Costa Rica is big with the yoga set. There were serious hikers and surfers. Costa Rica is also popular with surfers.
However, I did not come to Costa Rica to surf, nor to soothe my soul during a yoga retreat. Unfortunately I am too old for zip lining and canyoning. Spotting an illusive creature through a telescope did not thrill me. Granted, the beaches are super, but I do not need to travel so far for a fabulous beach
So, Costa Rica does not rank among my favorites, yet I am glad I experienced the country. And, tasted Costa Rican ceviche – a memorable culinary delight. Kellie shared her recipe. Click on photo top right.
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