CR Part 5: Pura Vida

The trip to Samara started out well as we were surprised to find it actually took LESS time than originally planned – a first for the roads in Costa Rica. The beach town was very small and quaint again like Montezuma – a single road, perhaps a ½ mile, ¾ at best. We found our hotel easily, and were impressed as we walked through our little tree house hut. Below there were two hammocks and a bbq and breakfast area, and above our room was spacious and beautifully…and directly on the beach.

Montezuma Waterfall

Our Treehouse Hut was the one on the left, highly recommended this place!

The beach was incredible – soft sand and such a gentle slope it was almost hard to get to where you couldn’t touch. The waves were very gentle, and the water warm. The beach was not too busy at all, as it was still the off season and Samara is just starting to boom. Our first day was just spent relaxing on the beach – and finding our favorite restaurant.

Gusto's Restaurant

The view from Gusto's Restaurant

We had heard Gusto’s was good so we went there for dinner – and found it to be surprisingly good Italian food! I mean, better then almost every place back home! After talking to our waitress we found that it was owned and run by Italians. She informed us that where there is a beach, you will find Italians.

The next day giant plates of fresh fruit (watermelon, pineapple, papaya and banana – our typical breakfast for the entire two weeks!) were brought to our outdoor breakfast area under our tree house. We also had pancakes, eggs and toast – and then headed out for our kayak trip. There was a small island off the Samara beach, and we were told it was about a ½ hour trip there and a ½ hour trip back – and the island boasted a nice white sand beach. The trip out was fun and uneventful; we took some photos with our waterproof camera and talked. As we approached the island, we could see very turbulent waves…the island came to a tip right of the coast, and the waves were crashing from all three sides. We had been warned not to go the other way, as it was very rocky. So, we decided to go ahead through the waves. We were just cresting a big wave when a wave from another direction hit us, and it was unavoidable…we flipped. We were right off shore and could actually even touch so we were easily able to grab the boat and drag it onshore.

Kristi Boogie Boarding

Kristi showing how to ride the waves, that is ride them with the biggest smile!

Sadly….our camera had been sitting on Paolo’s lap. He threw on his scuba gear and went out to look for it, but being high tide and so many waves, it was a lost cause. I gathered some shells and rocks on the beach, and we decided to head back. We found another Italian place for lunch – but got our appetizer after our meal and decided that we would not be going back. We headed back and Paolo went to get a massage on the beach and I went and laid out in the sun. It started clouding over quick and before we knew it, it was pouring! Paolo was able to finish the massage though and I did some puzzles laying in the hammock. The sun peeked back out for a little bit, and we went back to the beach for boogie boarding and sunset. That night Paolo decided to try and climb a palm tree to get a coconut…he ended up with a bandaged hand and no coconut.

Kristi at sunset

Kristi walking along the beach at sunset and low tide

The next day was our final day at the beach and in Costa Rica. Paolo rented a surf board and spent the morning attempting to surf, since the waves were a bit bigger than the previous days (though still boring for experienced surfers). The sun was hot and it was near impossible to be out in it and not in the water. After a late lunch we decided to try boogie boarding again. It was absolute fun, though Paolo had to help me actually catch the waves…I couldn’t seem to quite get it on my own. I caught a good big one and was enjoying the ride when something happened and my board flipped…but being that this was the Samara beach when I got myself together and actually stood up, I was only in about waist deep water! We watched the sun set, and decided to go back to Gusto’s for our last dinner. The beach and candle light setting perfect for our last meal, and we knew the food would be good. We took a stroll down the beach after dinner and took some photos (yes, in the pitch black), and then headed back to pack up and head out the next morning. Samara was the perfect, relaxing, warm end to a whirlwind adventure honeymoon.


Until next time!

Posted in Costa Rica, Travel

CR Part 4: Beaches, Pools, and Waterfalls! Oh YES!

Montezuma Waterfall

The beautiful Montezuma waterfall

The drive to Montezuma was long, as it is very remote and quite near the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The ferry system is not very good in Costa Rica, so we had decided to drive around the top of the peninsula rather than wait in the ferry line for 3 hours and still risk missing it. We finally got into the small town of Montezuma at about 3:00, and checked in to our hotel and decided to head straight to the waterfalls that they are famous for. Our hotel was right across from the trail head. About, oh, 2 minutes in, the trail ended. I had heard that you would have to go through the river for part of it, so we started jumping the rocks of the shallow river. We did not see where the trail picked up again, so we went all the way to the falls this way (we discovered the trail on the other side of the river, just maybe 50 feet or so from where it originally left off – on our way back). The falls were beautiful, and the swimming pool below was perfect.

We hung out there for a while, and started asking about how to get to the other falls. Montezuma is a set of three falls, with three different swimming pools. However, since we didn’t know where the trail was, we were fairly lost as to how to get up to the next falls. Since it was already getting late (the sun sets around 5:00 or 5:30) we headed back. There was a note on our door from a couple we had met in Monteverde, suggesting we meet up for drinks.

Montezuma Waterfall

This and two beaches on either side was the town of Montezuma!

After heading into town (which was very, very tiny!) and doing some shopping we headed over to the nicest hotel in Montezuma to meet the other honeymooners for drinks. From there we went to a great restaurant on the beach where we had an awesome dinner of octopus, ceviche, filet mignon, and other unique seafood dishes. We decided to meet up again with the other couple to go up the waterfalls the next morning – and this time try and find the other pools and the falls you can jump from.

Montezuma Waterfall

Did you expect anything less from me?

We got to the first falls very easily with the trail this time, but continued past to try and get to the next falls. Not too far in, the trail seemed to end, and several people were coming back telling us it was a lost cause. Luckily, Paolo had Jake to explore with, so Brenna and I waited while they continued on to see if it was possible. They came back about ten minutes later telling us the trail picks back up, it was just a little difficult or scaling trees and cliffs of doom in the meantime to get to it. We decided to try, and made our way there. The trail ended at the pool of the first falls, which dropped into the second falls (the one to jump from!) and that pool let out into the first falls we had visited the day before. It was absolutely awesome and the water was warm and perfect after the less than ideal hike to get to it. We had the pool and the rope swing to ourselves for a bit, before a tico showed up and showed the boys where to jump from. After watching him, it wasn’t but about 30 seconds before Paolo made the leap – literally standing and jumping through the actual waterfall. People started showing up in droves now…so we headed back down to the other falls and to get some lunch.

That afternoon we decided to hit the beach and found a stray dog to hang out and play with. He was very sweet though stubborn; if you refused to throw his stick he would start digging holes all around you in the sand. He has been doing this for a while before realizing what he had found in Paolo – who could not refuse.
The next morning we got up early and packed up our stuff for our final destination – Samara.

Montezuma Hammock

Okay Samara lets see you top this. (Paolo in hammock)

Posted in Costa Rica, Travel

CR Part 3: Definitely not the dry season.

The drive to Arenal was beautiful

We arrived in Arenal (La Fortuna) and found our hotel about 20 min out of town. It was made up of beautiful cabins on acres of property, and is a working farm/ranch. The eggs, milk, bacon, etc they serve all come from the ranch, and the cabins are surrounded by beautiful gardens. We were greeted at reception with fresh squeezed juice and damp washcloths after the long drive. We let the receptionist know we would be staying for dinner (as it was already around 4:30, and we had had enough driving), and settled into our cabin. The bathroom was huge and spa like, with huge windows in the shower. The windows in the cabin didn´t close, but were rather just screens with shutters that closed.

We headed to dinner later, and were confused when they just pointed us to a far off corner. As we walked over, we saw the path lighted with candles and strewn with flower petals that led to a private table in a seperate area from the restaurant (all areas of the restaurant were completely open air). Our secluded table was lit only by candlelight, and the table was overflowing with flowers. We had a great first dinner and part way through, realized something was moving around the floor. We had brought a flashlight, and found that the rainforest leaf cutter ants were carrying our flower petals away!

Before jumping into La Fortuna Waterfall

The next day we hiked to the La Fortuna waterfalls. It was a short but steep hike down. Though it was cold enough that no one else was going in, we decided we are here only once, so after Paolo jumped in (and out very quickly) I got in waist deep, and out myself. We went to several lookouts and another swimming hole down stream. After that, we headed to the hanging bridges through the rainforest. We started off well spotting a monkey, but didn´t see much wildlife after that. We caught up with a tour group that pointed out a viper to us, but it was very small. We saw another very small greeen snake. It was an interesting view again of the rainforest though, and was fun to cross the moving bridges.

That night we headed to one of the MANY hot spring spas in the area. There were several pools, all very large, starting at about 97 degrees (the furthest downhill) up to about 107. We had a good traditional Tico dinner there, and went back in. By that time, we pretty much had the hot springs to ourselves.

One of the many pools of hotsprings we had to ourselves after dinner

The next day we had serval options of things that we wanted to do. After talking with the receptionist, we decided to head to Carrera Park which she said was about 2 hours away. It is famous for Macaws and Crocs. About an hour and a half into the drive, we knew it was NOT going to be a 2 hour drive, as we had just got over the mountains.

Drove 3 hours just to see this little dude

We decided to continue forward anyhow. After a couple times of getting a little turned around, we finally made it. The park was clsoing in an hour, so the guide said it probably wasn´t worth the $60 it was going to cost. Instead, he offered to take us to a nearby neighborhood were Macaws are often seen. Sure enough, we found a pair and watched them eat almonds and fly about for a bit. Then it was time to head back!

When we got back, we were dissapointed to find out our night tour on the ranch was cancelled (it was going to be a private tour with the ranch hand who was incredably knowledgable about the ranch and wildlife). Rain all day had made the rivers too high and the trees too heavy, it would be unsafe. Instead, we blogged! A lot of our drive had been on the other side of the mountains, so at least we escaped the rain. In hindsight, we wouldn´t have gone knowing how long it would take, but most of our other options for the day would have been rained out anyway.

You have to get up at 6 to see these guys, by 7 they are gone!

The next morning we got up early for breakfast and Paolo headed out to see if he could spot some Toucans. Sure enough, we had finally gotten up early enough to see them! While Paolo was searching for them he was lucky enough to have one fly down to a low tree and pose only a few feet from him. We saw two different kinds, and then headed to breakfast at the hotel restaurant, where we would see all kinds of colorful birds every morning, for bird lovers this place is a must. We also saw two sloths up in the trees on the ranch property. Then….it was time to head to Montezuma!

You didnt think there were elephants in Costa Rica did you?!


Posted in Costa Rica, Travel

CR Part 2: We survived the road to Monteverde

The next part of our trip was going deep into the rain forest of Monteverde. The plan was to drive from Manual Antonio and stop at the national park Carara along the way. I figure it was a 4 hour drive and if we left at 10 we could stop at the park for two hours and still get into Monteverde by 4. However after telling this to our guide that morning he said that the road to Monteverde is terrible and that I would not want to be driving on it at night. He also said that it would take more than 4 hours to get there and that we should leave immediately after breakfast.

Crocs in the Taracoles River

So we took the guides advice, had breakfast and left for the trip. Along the way we drove over the Taracoles river, which is notorious for having crocodiles. We stopped to see if we could see them. Of course they were there, big 10-12 foot crocs.  We saw about 10 of them just chilling on the bank, we took a few pictures from the safety of the bridge then hopped back in our car and continued on our trip.

In Costa Rica there are  places called soda’s, which are small family run, open air roadside restaurants. At first I thought people here really liked soda because I kept seeing signs saying “soda”. Each soda is slightly different but you can find the same type of food at most of them. So being in Costa Rica we thought, do as the Ticos do and stopped at our first of several sodas. The food was not bad, at this particular soda they were roasting large pieces of meat in a brick fireplace.

The road to Monteverde is not that bad, until you get to the last 30 km. The last bit is a very bumpy, winding and at times very steep dirt road. It took us 2 hours to do this stretch, also it doesn’t help when we don’t have any good maps and are confused by the directions we had printed out prior. The directions would often times tell us to go right when a sign for the city was pointing left. It was also not uncommon to come to a fork in the road and there are no signs anywhere in site. This seemed to be a common theme in Costa Rica, a lack of road signs, which makes getting around   difficult if you are not familiar with the area. A good rule of thumb was to not take the path least traveled on.

After a 5.5 hour drive we got to our hotel safely and before dark. Our place in the forest was a nice wood cabin, since they were full we ended up with a 3 bath, 3 bedroom cabin!

Arriving before dark meant that we had time for a night tour. We  headed to the trail head to get ready for the hike. Just to take note the weather that night was light rain and cloudy, something us Seattlelites are used to, the only difference it was in the mid 60’s so it was not that cold. We are very very glad that we brought rain jackets to keep us dry as being in a rain forest was very wet most days. The hike started at 530 which by that time was past sunset. Right away as we started we saw a bunch of animals going through the forest, the guide told us it was a pack of female and young coati’s, about 30 of them. These guys are day animals who were just looking for dinner before bed. They are part of the raccoon family, also at around the same time we had spotted two raccoons which to the north Americans are not that big of a deal but to others it was there first time seeing one in the wild.

Other animals we got to see on the night hike were; a beautiful, or gross depending on who you ask, orange and black tarantula, a bat eating a guava, a giant moth and other smaller insects. The tour like most the tours took about 2 hours. We headed home where I cooked us up some pasta in a ragu sauce.

Kristi and I standing on the continental divide

The next day we had booked another tour guide, but this time for the Monteverde cloud forest. The tour was to start at 730, so we got up early packed a lunch and headed into the cloud rain forest. It is considered a cloud rain forest due to the elevation and because there is a continental divide. We spent 3 hours hiking around the forest with the guide who was telling us about the plant life and the rain forest as there were not a whole lot of animals to be seen. We did learn alot about the rainforest, such as that a single large tree can have as much as 2 tons of extra growth on it…moss, fungus, other plants which themselves can hold 1 liter of water, and even other trees. It seems alot of the plants grow from the top of the trees downward. The extra weight also means that trees are constantly breaking, and you could see this throughout the forest.

A rare sighting of a queztal

One thing the tour guide mentioned was that we should see some hummingbirds since they would be attracted to Kristi’s jacket due to the bright red color. He was not joking, as there must have been 5-6 different hummingbirds all flying straight for Kristi then flying away once they realized she was not a flower. They were so close some touched her and we could hear and feel the vibration of the wings. After hiking around for about 2.5 hours and not seeing much our guide finally spotted the famous quetzal that the park is known for. After admiring the backside of the bird from a distance for a couple of minutes we headed to the hummingbird garden, where we could see 100’s of different hummingbirds within just a few feet. The cloud rain forest is home to around 10 different species.

This was the end of the tour so Kristi and I had some lunch then decided to hike some of the trails we did not do with the guide on our own. We hiked out to the continental divide, which had a very cool two sided look out. The two sides felt like they differed by about 10 degrees.  Along the way we spotted another tarantula, even though it was daylight and he was not supposed to be out of his home. It was a reminder that these animals were often all around us even though they couldn’t be seen. Hiking through the rain forest was beautiful, so many amazing trees and plants.

Kristi flying out over the forest

The next day was our last day in Monteverde and one of the things we wanted to do while there was to do a zip line tour. We booked the morning tour since we had to check out of the hotel by noon. The tour included 13 zip lines and one Tarzan swing, where Kristi really let out her Tarzan scream. The zip lines were a lot fun, they were faster than normal because it was raining. The final zip line was 1km long and we went in pairs. It was very awesome flying through and over the forest, it is not a tour to see any wildlife but something to do for fun, and a nice perspective of the forest as you are dangling over it. Some were extremely high, and it was very cool to do in the  morning mist.

After lunch we headed out towards the town La Fortuna, which is the closest town to the Arenal volcano, which was a 4 hour drive around the lake. The drive around the lake was very scenic. As we got closer to our destination we could see the base of the volcano, however the top was always covered by clouds the entire time we were there.


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CR Part 1: Monkeys on the Beach!

Ciao Tutti,

As most of you know Paolo and I have recently departed on our honeymoon. We chose the wonderful world of Costa Rica (despite our fears of spiders and snakes). We will be spending two weeks here traveling about the country visiting rainforests and beaches!

Just hanging out

We landed as scheduled (Nov 24th) in the town of Liberia and picked up our car rental (a Toyota Bego, a 4WD which came in handy later) and then got some lunch. I fed the stray dog some leftovers, not realizing it would be the first of hundreds I would see (not all that day, but CR is flooded with them). However, they all look relatively fed, and its hard to tell strays from the pets since they all run free.

Anyway we headed out for our 4 hour drive to Manual Antonio our first destination of 5. We ended up getting stuck in a traffic jam, the highway is one lane each way so when an accident occurs, it is shut down. For hours. Three, in our case. However, all was not lost on the drive as we saw two monkeys in trees, two Macaws flying and a rainbow.

Monkeys planning thier next heist

The next day we hit the national park at Manual Antonio. It was amazing. We saw about 4 sloths, three types of monkeys, and many other intesting bugs, birds, foliage, and etc with the help of a local guide. Once we got to the private beach in the park we realized that’s where the white faced monkeys (capuchin) hang out, going through peoples bags looking for food or bright colored objects they think is food. We got some great shots, and were able to lay on the beach watching them go through the trees and swimmers belongings. At the beach we also saw two large iguanas. The beach itself without the wildlife was fantastic, white sand warm water.

Relaxing on the beach while watching the monkeys

The next day we hit the park again during the day, followed by a massage, and headed into town for the night. The night life was lacking, but we caught the local schools putting on a sort of marhcing band Christmas concert, which was very fun to watch.

One of the Capuchins posing for us

The following morning we took a guided tour of the private rainforest of the hotel. We saw two poison dart frogs and the scent of a very large snake. The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and I found what he said about the tourism here very interesting. Yes, tourism leaves a negative imprint in the environment. However, if it weren’t for the tourism there wouldn’t be any forests left, it would all be farmland and banana trees, etc. Only in the last 20-30 years or so, they realized the money tourism brings, and have started rebuilding cleared forests. They have also started making forest corridors so the wildlife can move around, as the forest have become small and isolated, leading to inbreeding and other problems. Our hotel reserve was one of the these corridors, and since they and other hotels in the area started doing it, they had increaded the endagered squirrel monkey troops from just 5 to 7 in the last two years in the Manual Antonio area. We were lucky enough to see the squirrel monkeys both days in the park.

Sunsest on the beach in Manuel Antonio

Stay tuned for the next part of the adventure, The Road to Monteverde!


Posted in Costa Rica, Travel