Category Archives: Costa Rica

Posts that relate to travel to Costa Rica

Meanwhile in the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Needless to say, after my backside took a wallop from galloping around the Costa Rican countryside yesterday, I figured that today should be a bit more relaxing.  At my hotel I had breakfast with a well-traveled Irishman, and after a half hour of exchanging traveler’s tales of horror we decided to leisurely stroll the 1.6 miles out of Monteverde to the Curi-Cancha wildlife refuge.

monteverdeI had decided yesterday to go to Curi-Cancha instead of the more famous Monteverde reserve namely because it is a bit smaller, quieter and got amazing reviews on tripadvisor.  Jerry, my breakfast mate, reinforced my decision when he told me yesterday he went to Monteverde and there were buses of people, including large groups of loud children and thus, no wildlife to be seen his entire visit.

We arrived to Curi-Cancha reserve shortly after 9am, paid the $14 entrance fee and discussed our trail options with the lovely woman working at the park office.  She helped map out a 3 hour walk through the reserve and off we set into the forest.

Map of Curi Cancha

Within 5 minutes Jerry proclaimed that this was already better than Monteverde because we saw a large Oropendola nest at the beginning of the trail followed by a very large rodent, an Agouti.

As we began navigating the well-marked trails, we saw several large curtain fig trees.  Curtain fig trees are amazing to look at, but they’re actually quite vicious when you learn that they are a parasitic tree. Fig trees germinate on top of another tree and then try to grow their roots to the ground. Once their roots hit the soil, the fig will grow vigorously, swallowing, strangling and then eventually killing the host tree.

Jerry and Fig tree at Curi-Cancha

We also saw some winged-friends this morning at Curi-Cancha… hummingbirds and blue butterflies fluttered around the tropical forest.

I was on the lookout for another Resplendant Quetzal after seeing three while in Panama, as well as toucans and sloths, but they all appeared to be hiding.  It probably didn’t help much that it started to rain while exploring Curi-Cancha but due to the heavy upper foliage of the rainforest, we pretty much remained dry on the forest floor.

Eventually we came to a viewpoint overlooking the Continental divide.  Continental divides are the point where the drainage either flows one way or the other to feed different oceans or seas.

Costa Rica Continental divide

I couldn’t help but think of my friend Sterling who 3000 miles or so northwest of me is on a mission to hike the entire US continental divide over the course of the next four-six months.

Sterling from Ride.Run.Rome on the US Continental Divide

We share a lot of the same philosophies on life and I find him to be a very expressive writer so I’m pretty excited that he decided to build a blog, Ride.Run.Roam, so we could follow his progress and travel with him along the trail and his long journey through his beautiful words.

Meanwhile back here in Monteverde haha… there was also some interesting floral species near the continental divide viewpoint.

Jerry and I finished up our hike just as it began to pour down rain.  We waited until it lightened up and began hiking back toward town when we were stuck in another downpour and ran to the Café Caburé for refuge.

Café Caburé just happened to be a chocolate and coffee shop as well as a restaurant, so I wasn’t too disappointed to be stuck here for a long while and had to order their infamous Chicken with mole sauce which was quite lovely and not too spicy.

While eating our leisurely lunch on the deck I spotted a female quetzal as well as other birds in the nearby tree… Jerry and I laughed at the irony as we ended up seeing more birds sitting there not trying then we did in our three or so hours in the cloud forest itself.

But sometimes that’s the way life goes, when you really aren’t looking for it the best things can happen, and I for one don’t mind a few lovely surprises.

//The I.A.

Horseback Riding Along Lake Arenal

My day started bright and early as I had to pack all my things again before my transport was to pick me up at 07:00 for the next leg of my journey.  Today, I was going to do something I haven’t done in years as part of my transportation between La Fortuna and Monteverde, Costa Rica.  I was going horseback riding along Lake Arenal.

After picking up my fellow German cowboys at another hostel in La Fortuna and a short 20 minute ride to Lake Arenal, we hopped on a boat taxi with all of our belongings and set off on the ripple-less lake into the mist.

Lake arenal
Lake arenal

Lake Arenal is actually an artificial lake and is actually part of a hydroelectric project that feeds 17% of the country’s electricity.  You never would have guessed that it was artificial however as it was huge (actually the largest lake in all of Costa Rica) and fit right into its surroundings.  After making it to shore, we were instructed to leave all our belongings… goodbye Passport, goodbye Money and goodbye everything I own in the boat as we walked up into the woods in the middle of nowhere with a Tico (Costa Rican Native) who eventually showed up on shore.

Lake arenal
Boat ferry across lake Arenal

I whispered to my German comrades…”What about our passports and things?” and they just kind of nodded in worried agreement, we all shrugged our shoulders and walked on, eventually turning the corner to see our saddled horses.

Lake arenal
Horses waiting near Lake Arenal

My older sister was the one who was always into horses, actually more like she was horse crazy when we were kids.  Models of horses, talking about horses, drawing pictures of horses.  She loved horses so much that one year for Christmas my parents bought us both proper horse riding lessons.

Lake arenal
On my horse

But riding horses in a circle during riding lessons, really wasn’t my thing…so I was pretty disinterested and I believe that was the last time I ever rode a horse.

But a few years later along came along my little brother who also was obsessed with horses.  I don’t think it can no longer be quantified the number of times he has watched Black Beauty or The Man From Snowy River.

Lake arenal
New German friends riding theirhorses

But then there’s me, if you follow my posts, I like driving everything (bicycles, quads, etc. etc. with let’s just call it a lot of ambition… and maybe I would have liked riding horses more too if they’d have let me practically kill myself at age 10 pushing the poor thing into a full gallop while I could barely hold on instead of “prim and proper riding” for show.

Lake arenal

And that my friends, is where today went from what I thought would be a lame trail ride…. to a galloping sojourn through the Costa Rican hills.  Now I’m 31, but I was still practically falling out of my saddle.

Lake arenal
Horses grazing

It all started when after about 5-10 minutes of leisurely (yawn) riding along the road, the guide starts whistling… to which the horses responded by trotting… and then after we picked up some of his horses that had been grazing along the side of the road.  Jose starts bellowing, “ARRIBA ARRIBA, VAMOS!” and off we went, riding like cowboys who just robbed a bank.

We didn’t run the entire time, sometimes we trotted and sometimes we walked… I mean, I needed a break from all that running!  My backside was taking quite the beating from repeatedly hitting the saddle while at full gallop.

…and of course, I felt sorry for my horse, the poor thing probably needs a horse chiropractor tonight from all that bouncing.

Lake arenal
He does not look happy with me.

After 2 hours of riding and my hindside having took a proper beating, we were finally finished with our 11 kilometer ride so we tied up our mounts and stiffly walked a short way down the road to have some of the fresh pineapple our guide had carried the entire way.

Lake arenal
Hawaiian pineapple post horse ride

Before getting picked up by another van (with our luggage magically inside) and heading off to Monteverde.

As for my horse, he spent the entire afternoon enjoying greener pastures although he’s now probably having nightmares about the horrible woman who drove him like I stole him and the law was after me.

Lake arenal//The I.A.


Cerro Chato, La Fortuna Waterfall & Arenal Hot Springs

After arriving in La Fortuna, Costa Rica late yesterday afternoon I was in a bit of a mad rush to plan something to do today.  I perused all the offered tours and while some looked interesting the thought of having to suffer through a tour and be one someone else’s schedule didn’t sound too appealing so I decided to do a few of the big hikes in La Fortuna and end my day with some hot springs.

I set off from town at about 9am for the Cerro Chato hike.  I walked the three miles from town to the trailhead, paid the $12! entrance fee and off I set, off to conquer another volcano.  Two volcanos in one week?  That’s a record for me.

The trail was fine up until the 1700 meter sign and then as you enter the jungle it became more and more difficult.

cerro chato
Cerro Chato trail in the rainforest

Finally after a 1 hour 20 minute push, I hit the summit, snapped some photos and then set off into the volcano cone.

cerro chato
Arenal Volcano and Cerro Chato Lagoon

My eye was on the green lagoon that lays in the cone, but little did I know that the trail was pure mud straight down and by the time I hit the lagoon, I looked like I had just competed in a Tough Mudder.  So, instead of peeling off my clothes down to my bathing suit, I just jumped right in and the water felt amazing.

The worst thing was, what comes up, must come down and after cleaning myself in the lagoon, I had to re-ascend the volcano cone to come down the trail.  So by the time the trail was finished, I was again muddy.

But… not to worry as 300 meters down the road and another $11 entry fee later, I arrived at La Fortuna waterfall.

cerro chato
La Fortuna Waterfall entrance

After descending 350 or so steps I again could jump in a beautiful blue water and swim under the mighty power of La Fortuna.

It was a beautiful falls and there were several small trails in the area leading off to shallower and calmer bathing pools, which were safer for children.

Unfortunately, I again had to re-ascend and by this time was quite tired, but grabbed lunch at the café at the top and then walked the 3 miles back to La Fortuna.

As soon as I ditched my wet and muddy hiking shoes, I grabbed my goPro and set off in a taxi for the free hot springs.  Taxi rates were $16 each way, but this is nothing compared to what you would have to pay at the huge hot spring resorts in La Fortuna.  There were several other people enjoying the river of hot springs when I arrived and I spent 1.5 hours in the warm river soaking my aching muscles.

The free hot springs were quite magical with hummingbird’s flitting around and as it began to get dark, you could also see fireflies along the banks of the river.  I had wished I had brought my other camera instead of the goPro but I didn’t want it to get wet and didn’t want to bring both as at the free hot springs there is no place to store your bag so was paranoid it may get stolen.

Starving again by the time I got back to La Fortuna, I headed to Soda Viquez for a Asado Casado.  Casado’s are Costa Rican tipico food and you pick the type of meat you want and the rest of the meal is standard with different selections of salads and sides.  I have to say this has been the best value meal I’ve had in Costa Rica with my casado and a coconut pineapple drink ringing in at $8.50 or so.  While still not cheap by Colombian or Ecuadorian standards, it’s not bad for what I’ve seen so far in Costa Rica.

cerro chato
Dinner at Soda Viquez

Today I swam in a lagoon in a volcano cone, under an enormous waterfall and then relaxed in a river of natural hot springs… Three completely different experiences and each amazing in its own way.

Tomorrow yet another adventure awaits and it’s not an activity I’ve done yet on my blog, any guesses about what it will be? 😉

//The I.A.