redfrogsjo9812Land of Enchancement

The 1998 holidays were our escape from a pretty rough year of work-work-work. We were on another trip arranged by our superstar travel agent, unfortunately it would be our last. She left the business for reasons we would never discover. Nonetheless, we were pampered by Alex and Carlito, our naturalist and driver, through plenty of Costa Rican potholes and breathtaking natural beauty. The National Park system covers 11% of the country, with an additional 16% protected by a combination of NGOs and private holdings. Our route took us from an active volcano, to a flood plain, to a cloud forest, to a climb in a rain forest and we finished it all off with a dip on a beach that is a safe harbor for endangered turtles. If you start at San Jose, you can follow along our trek

San Jose Del Costa Rica

We were greeted at a hectic International airport by our companions for the next 7 days, Alex and Carlito. We had taken a re-route on TACA to avail ourselves of a free upgrade and to avoid an overbooked flight, arriving only 25 minutes later. With a quick round of hellos and our luggage, we were off to spend the night at a lovely small hotel overlooking the city. The morning broke early and a bright sun filled our room. Soon we were on our way for another adventure. But first, the obligatory stop at a coffee plantation to taste the wares and see one of Costa Rica's main agricultural products. Click on the Photo Album below to tour the sights. Our next stop is Arenal Volcanic National Park

Arenal Volcanic National Park

Arenal Area MapOur guides started us off early that following morning on our way to Arenal Volcanic National Park. The weather did not cooperate as the clouds never lifted far enough to reveal a peek at this majestic volcano. However, Alex was just a fountain of knowledge on anything Costa Rican and we quickly bonded with our 2 local guides. Alex had this wonderful penchant for spotting wildlife along our travels. His eyes were darting all the time and he would capture the slightest movement that foretold a special creature was nearby. All of a sudden he would be gently telling Carlito to stop or turn around and we knew a small treat was awaiting us, once we threaded back through the potholes. We saw Sloths, Tucans, Iguanas, butterflies and on and on and on. The El Tucano Spa and Inn was an enjoyable hotel which tapped the warm water flow from the Volcano and transformed it into a world class spa. Our next journey would take us far north to a protected Bio-preserve and spectacular sights. Roam through the Photo Gallery below to get a glimpse and then continue on to Cano Negro.

Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge

Cano Negro MapThe road was bumpy, but was it worth it! This refuge protects one of the most important wetland regions in Costa Rica's territory with a wide range of migratory species and endangered species calling this home for part of the year. Cano Negro Lake-a shallow, seasonal, freshwater lake extending over 800 hectares-is a spill-off site for the adjacent Frio River and its tributary, the Monica River. The region is inhabited by a wide range of flora and fauna and natural communities, many of them unique and endangered. This makes the area important worldwide, since, combined with the wetland regions south of Nicaragua Lake, it is one of the most outstanding examples of wetlands in Mesoamerica. Alex was at his best on this trip. We hooked up with a river tour services and along with their knowledgeable guide, we had a fantastic running commentary of the sights around us. The pictures below are just a snapshot of what we experienced as nothing can replace actually being there. We then continued on to Zarcero.

Zarcero Topiary

Zarcero Map Nestled in the Cordillera de Tilaran is a small community that has a topiary park in front of the town church. The bushes are presented in a variety of shapes and it is an enjoyable and relaxing stop off between East and West Costa Rica. The caretaker is world-known, as Disneyworld attempted to lure him away form his homeland to care for their gardens. In the end he decided to stay with his community. A small victory for preservation of local cultures. Follow the Photo Gallery for some unusual creatures of vine and leave. Our next adventure is the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Once we had finished at Zarcero, the ride was down to the west coast and back up to Monteverde. We drove down the Pan-American highway and passed through a tropical dry rain forest, which was one of those " unclear on the concept" moments. However, as usual, Alex was able to explain it in detail and give us a greater appreciation for the variety that exists within Costa Rica.

We wound our way up the looming mountainside and slowly were enveloped in the mist of the cloud forest. Monteverde is a small community founded by Quakers with a mind towards preservation. We were treated to several hikes experiencing a wide range of wildlife and fauna. The walk through the cloud forest canopy was spectacular as you dangled over deep canyons on a suspended walkway, eye to eye with the top of this world. A tour through this Photo Gallery recaps some of our favorite moments. Our next hop is down to Tamarindo, for some sun and relaxation before heading home. The trek continues.

Tamarindo Ocean Resort

It was time to bid our new found friends goodbye as they dropped us off at the Hotel Pueblo Dorado in Tamarindo. After the wonderful accommodations we had experienced, this hotel was a bit of a step backwards. It looked like a Motel 6, and after we spent a few hours getting our reservation straight, we were ushered into a stark whitewashed room with a huge post-industrial cement cast of a pre-columbian artifact glaring at us from the wall. To top it off, the air conditioner rattled and hummed the night away, which would have not been too bad if the mattress was greater than 3 inches thick. It was definitely time for a new hotel.

The only glitch was that on New Years Eve, it is a difficult proposition to find another available hotel room in one of the country's most popular vacation destinations. It became my mission in life to find the Holy Grail. As luck would have it, the best hotel in Tamarindo had a room available after I trekked the entire beach looking for any accommodation that would take us out of the rattle trap we were caged in. Just as its name suggested we were on to a higher plane, El Jardin del Eden. It is run by 2 very accommodating Frenchmen, who made us feel at home and put us back on track for a relaxing close to our fabulous vacation.

We spent our time lazing on the beach, driving around the area to see the local life and relaxing in the tropical sun. One night we quietly hiked along the beach to catch the endangered Leatherback Turtle laying her eggs under the moonlight, guided by a group of scientists studying these marvelous creatures. Hopefully their discoveries will help preserve this species and many others as we race to overdevelop our world. This last set of pictures ends our magical voyage to Costa Rica and we encourage all to visit this special lan

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May our paths and errands meet...