Costa Rica January 2011
We flew from David, Panama to Alajuela, the international airport of San Jose, Costa Rica. I was required by the airline, in order to board the flight, to purchase an exit ticket out of Costa Rica, so bought a $165 return flight back to David. This is a not uncommon requirement but I have never had it enforced in the destination country. Despite being reassured that a refund was possible, it proved impossible, so eventually “ate” the ticket.
DRAKE BAY, OSA PENINSULA
We then caught an immediate flight to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, on the south Pacific coast. The only other accesses to here are by a riverboat or a long, difficult 4WD trip with many river crossings. We stayed in the DB Resort, at $130/night (not including any excursions), the most expensive accommodation I have ever paid for. We went on a great walk along the coast to a river seeing monkeys on the way and swam in the river.
CORCAVADO NATIONAL PARK
The highlight of the area is the Sirena section of Corcavado NP, supposedly with the highest biodiversity of any spot on earth. The one hour speed boat ride past great rock formations landed on the beach. Guides talked to each other on radios and we say a tapir, many kinds of monkeys, birds and lizards. Roberta went horse back riding and I took a 45 min boat to snorkel on Cano Island. With great visibility, I say white tipped reef sharks, a turtle and many fish. We kayaked up the river and I had great fun surf kayaking on a small break on the bay. There were lots of interesting people there, mostly Americans.
VOCAN POAS NP
After a flight back to Alajuela (pop. 175,000), we went up to PN Volcan Poas, Costa Rica’s busiest national park. With a crater 1.3km across and 300m deep, there were no views in the mist. The key here is to go before 10AM to beat the cloud and get a view. The tour went to a wonderful waterfall park with butterflies, birds, cats, snakes and spectacular scenery. We never did go to San Jose.
Roberta flew back home and I took the bus to Monteverde. Costa Rica is renowned for its undisturbed tracts of rainforest with 21% of the country in its natural state. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is renowned for its bird life. Again the naturalists communicate with each other so that everyone gets to see everything. Besides many other unusual birds, we saw 2 magnificent quetzals, the national bird of Guatemala and the name of their currency. With a bright red breast, impossibly long tail feathers and a bright lime green back and head (with an Iroquois cut), it was amazing to watch it eat avocados. It swallows five at a time, digests the fruit off the pit and then spits out all the pits at once. The guides had spotting scopes and we watched for half an hour. The quetzal moves up and down the mountains eating the 11 varieties of avocado that produce fruit in different seasons. one of the best things to do was a night walk – we say many sloths (one came down to within 3 feet), snakes, coatis and many spiders.
I then took the jeep-boat-jeep trip to Fortuna, famous for its very active volcano (inactive when I was there!). There was a very lame volcano tour and a visit to a hot springs with a death-defying slide. The speed attained was terrifying. Despite rave reviews from many, I found Fortuna disappointing.
TURRIALBA AND RIO REVENTAZON
I then took a long bus ride to Turrialba (pop27,000) SE of San Jose near the Caribbean coast to go white water rafting on the Rio Reventazon. Fed by a reservoir behind a dam at 1000m, the river has 65 km of rapids. Big rains had made the best trip into a class 5 so we had to settle for a less thrilling ride.
After another long bus ride back to Alajuela, I caught the plane to Belize (and despite being told I would need an exit flight, the airline said nothing and entered the country with no problems).