Costa Rica Trip Part 2

When we last left our intrepid travelers they were finally on their way to Costa Rica after a loooooong delay.

We flew from Rochester to NY (JFK) and from there to Atlanta to catch a flight to Costa Rica. Just to add a final dig to the whole deal we were on the runway in line for take-off when the pilot informed us that we were getting out of line and going back to the gate. It seems that a passenger had noticed something dangling from one of the wings and it needed to be checked out by ground crews. Happily it turned out to be just a bit of excess rubber seal that had not been trimmed off. They fixed it up and gave us the A-OK. So it was back in line and we finally hit the air another hour late.

We arrived in San Jose just before mid-night Costa Rica time. (Costa Rica is in the central time zone and they don’t do daylight savings so they are in effect two hours earlier than we are in Rochester.) I can not tell you anything about the San Jose airport. It was just a blur. We filled out all our customs paperwork on the plane, we touched down, the terminal seemed dark and empty except around the knot of people from our flight, some more bag scanning, a customs guy checked our paperwork and quickly banged some stamps on our passports and we were flung out into the parking lot where we were swarmed by tour guides and cabbies. Fortunately we spotted Heather in the crowd (she seemed pretty happy to see us!) and we met up with the guys we had hired ahead of time to take us on a two and a half hour drive into the mountains to reach our hotel at the foot of the Arenal volcano.

Arenal is north of San Jose. Here is a link to a simple map of Costa Rica and here is a link to some information about the volcano on the website of our hotel the Arenal Springs Resort.

We didn’t get to see much of the countryside along the way – only what our bleary eyes could make out in the beam of our headlights as the road twisted and turned up into the mountains. By the time we reached the resort and started to check in, we had been traveling for better than twenty-four hours – lugging bags, killing time in airports, dozing on airplanes – but we had made it. We were finally in Costa Rica at the foot of a volcano surrounded by rain forest!

The rooms at Arenal are not in one building. There are bungalows scattered over the grounds. Guests can walk between the rooms and the main lobby and restaurant or they can take golf cart rides provided by the friendly staff. We walked unless it was raining.

Despite going to bed at like 3AM, I got up a little before 6, threw on some clothes, grabbed by camera bag, and headed out the door.

Tip: Costa Rica is near the equator. If you live closer to the poles like I do, you get used to the seasonal changes in the length of the day. During the winter in Rochester it may be dark by 5 or 5:30 but in the summer, especially with daylight savings time added in, it may stay light until 9 or better. In Costa Rica it is dark by 6:30 ish year round and the sun comes up 12 hours after it goes down.

It had rained off and on through the “night” and it was still overcast with a bit of a mist. The first thing I looked for was the volcano. Well, I could see the lower slopes at least. The peak was shrouded in thick clouds and would actually stay that way all three days we visited. It is the rainy season after all. The next thing I noticed – hummingbirds. There were hummingbirds everywhere you looked – buzzing around the flowers outside the room, stopping to eye anyone wearing colorful clothing, sitting in the tree branches – everywhere. Amazing.

I wandered around the grounds for a while snapping pics of the flowers and sometimes the volcano whenever there was a tear in the clouds. A stream ran under the road leading into the resort. I was very tempted to jump down into it, but it was covered in vegatation so thick that I could not see the water except where it passed under the road. Everything was wet from the rain and mist. I didn’t come dressed for a major expedition so I passed on it for now. I went back to the room and sat on the porch in a big rocking chair watching the hummingbirds and working on a crossword puzzle until the rest of the group was up and about.

Tip: Suppose you stay at a resort in the U.S. In your room you will find tons of printed materials describing the services and amenities of the hotel, schedules of activities, maps, and advertisements for local restaurants and businesses. Everything is spelled out for you so that you can operate pretty much independently. That is not the way it worked in Costa Rica. There were never printed materials anywhere. Things work on a word of mouth system here. If you want to know something, you need to ask. It is a very social kind of atmosphere. You quickly get used to striking up a conversation (depending on how good your Spanish is) with everyone you meet everywhere – hotel staff, taxi drivers, people on the street, shop owners. This is how things get done. We missed out on some things the first couple of days until we caught on.

Once we were all ready we headed up to the hotel restaurant for a free breakfast. This was a real breakfast – not just muffins and coffee. There was always a guy at a grill ready to cook eggs to order (we became buddies pretty quick), pancakes (these were just for tourists, I don’t think Ticos (Costa Ricans) quite understand pancakes), plenty of fresh fruit and juices, and several local type breakfast foods that tend to feature beans and rice.

The restaurant (like every one we ate at everywhere) has no walls so we could enjoy unobstructed views and breathe in the tropical breezes.

Tip: Everything I read before going on this trip warned about the bugs. They said to be sure to take gallons of the most powerful repellents allowable by law. Well, maybe it was the time of year or the places we happen to visit, but we never had a problem with bugs and never once did we apply any repellent. Buildings always are open to the air – no bugs. We hiked in the rain forest – no bugs. I can get bit by more mosquitoes and gnats in ten minutes on my deck then we did in a week in Costa Rica!

Well, this post is getting long so I think I’ll quit for now. Next up – a trip to a lava field, an exciting walk in the rain forest, and some more travel problems.



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8 Responses to “Costa Rica Trip Part 2”

  1. Cutthroat Stalker (Scott C) Says:

    Forest Rat,

    Sounds like a better start to your trip than the airport blues. No bugs. No walls. No annoying advertisements. A guy always at the grill. Where do I sign up?!

    Seriously, of all the places south of the border I would like to visit (I’ve done Mexico a couple of times), Costa Rica is at the top.

    The picture at the top is great – I love how the leading line of the water pours right into the frame.

    • forestrat Says:

      I’m not sure what the fishing is like down there. Might be something you should check out. Fly fishing for piranhas? Maybe they are further south.


  2. fencer Says:

    Hi forestrat,

    I’ve been lazy and not checking out the blogs I like… glad to see you’re having adventures!

    It’s so aggravating to fly these days… something to be avoided I find.

    Hummingbirds and no bugs… It sounds idyllic. Hope you get some great photos and have a wonderful time.


    • forestrat Says:

      Summer is a tough time to keep up with blogs. I find that I spend more time outdoors and traveling and have guests visit and the boy has soccer games etc. etc. Thanks for making by.

      We did have a wonderful time, but I have absolutely no photos to share which is a story that I’ll get to eventually.


  3. flandrumhill Says:

    Your very descriptive writing has made up for your lack of photographs.

    I really appreciated your explanation of sunrise and sunset times near the equator. I’d always wondered about that. Another thing I’ve wondered about Central America is the humidity. What was that like from a Northerner’s perspective? Moving south is a frequent topic of discussion in my household, as my three sons and husband are all avid scuba divers.

    Verbal exchanges are a warmer, friendlier method by which to share information, but you could easily find yourself in the dark if you don’t know the right questions to ask.

    • forestrat Says:

      The humidity was really high in the mountains. It rained a lot and was damp all the time. I was the rainy season and I hear it is much drier on the flip side of the year. We got soaked on a hike at the volcano and our clothes never dried for days – we finally had to pay for laundry service.

      Later we spent some time on the pacific coast and things were drier and sunnier there. It was more like being on the southern California coast.

      For a relatively small country there are some major differences in climate from one place to the next.


  4. flandrumhill Says:

    Thanks for describing the humidity forestrat. The idea of clothes not drying for days doesn’t sound too appealing.

    I think the major differences in climate you write of are also typical of the Caribbean islands. Some are almost desert-like and arid while others are green, lush and humid.

  5. lookingforbeauty Says:

    I’m glad to hear you are having adventures. Costa Rica sounds idyllic. One of these days, I may spring for a trip there. I bet it was visually wonderful.
    I’m hoping you will post some photos soon.

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