Thursday, April 22, 2010

Costa Rica Trip Report

Ok so for those that don't know, my mom, although a gringa, was raised in Costa Rica because my grandpa had a farm/worked other odd jobs there. I went once as a kid when I was around 8 on a family trip, but other than that time I haven't been back. In that time my grandparents have passed away and the farm has been sold to an organization that now runs it the property as an ecotourism/research center as a rainforest reserve (my grandpa set aside a large portion of his land to preserve rather then to farm and even the portion he did farm has quickly been devoured by the "green monster" that is the rainforest.) So I was excited to go back and see Costa Rica with my mom as our tour guide.

First of all, I was super impressed with the country itself. I lived for over 2 years in Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer and although they may be close in distance, in terms of development, safety, healthcare, education, income, etc. they are two totally different countries. The roads in Costa Rica are paved and clean, people obey traffic laws and stay in their own obviously demarcated lanes. I love Guatemala and would encourage people to visit, but it is definitely a "3rd world/developing" country. Costa Rica may not be fully to the level that the U.S. is but it is at least pretty damn close.

Anyhoo, our itinerary consisted of arriving in San Jose, spending the night at a nice hotel there and then the next day we rented a car and headed off to Sarapiqui to visit my grandpa's old farm which is now The Tirimbina Rainforest Center. My mom couldn't understand why the car rental guy and the hotel front desk were giving her directions to go the "long way" to Sarapiqui when she wanted to go the short route, so we decided to wing it and we were able to navigate our way out of the capital and onto the route that my mom always took when she was growing up. Unfortunately they were doing massive road work on this "short cut" so the road was often unpaved. Then when we got like 2/3 of the way there we pass a sign that says road closed due to some earthquake. However we did see some cars coming up that road so at that point our choices were to head all the way back to San Jose and then start over taking the "long route" or just go for it and hope for the best. We ended up going for it and made it unscathed but with nerves frayed as the road was extremely treacherous with a couple of river crossings, huge potholes, slippery muddy spots, and huge embankments/cliffs on the side of the road with no guard rails to stop us.

Once we got there, we were impressed with what we found. The rooms were simple but nice, especially for being essentially in the middle of a rainforest. The showers were hot, they had internet access, and the food was very well done with a full bar.

We went on a couple of tours (the chocolate tour and a nighttime tour), had to cross the hanging bridge over the Sarapiqui river (I don't like heights but made it), and basically just had a good time hanging out with each other. We saw toucans, a monkey, lots of frogs, and these small, cute white bats.

We only spent a couple of days in the rainforest and then we headed back to San Jose (this time taking the recommended route) where we hopped on a puddle jumper plane and headed to the beach at Tamarindo. Tamarindo has exploded in the past decade - when my mom first went there was only one "real" hotel. Now there are lots and lots of hotels, fast food, car rental places. It is a gorgeous spot on the Pacific Ocean which is a big surfer hangout. We stayed at a more upscale hotel called the Capitan Suizo which is super duper eco friendly so it was almost like living in a zoo. Iguanas, monkeys, racoons, and lots of different birds all hung out by the pool. The hotel is on the outskirts of town at the end of the beach so we basically had the beach to ourselves where we could boogie board, lay by the pool, and again just relax. Which we did. My sister and her two kids met us there and we had fun just hanging out and relaxing. The only bad thing I can say about the trip was just that it was too short.

1 comment:

Memphis MOJO said...

Thanks for the report and the pics.