Costa Rica spans the isthmus of Latin America. Its major port/city on the east side of the country is Limon on the Caribbean Sea. The west side of the country is on the Pacific Ocean and has two large ports: Puerto Caldera, a major commercial shipping port, and Puntarenas where we docked.
We weren’t going to take a tour in Costa Rica. After three tours on three ports of call, we were just going to chill and hang out on the beach. Then we went to the meeting the Cruise Director does before each port where he talks about the country and what to see and do. The beach on the Pacific side of Costa Rica has black sand and murky water. He showed a photo of it and there weren’t any beach chairs or shade.
Several tours were still available. We signed up for a river cruise and had a great time. Actually, it was the best tour we took. I have learned that the quality of a tour is dependent on the quality of the guide. Throughout the cruise, we had a guide or two who seemed to be guessing about what we were seeing as we went along. This guide, Porfirio, knew his flora and fauna.
We started by taking a 1-1/2 hour bus ride into the center of the country. It was a beautiful drive up into the mountains, and we were in a comfortable bus, so the time passed quickly. We finally stopped at a small building with beautiful landscaping. This was our opportunity to stretch our legs and use the bathroom.
There was a variety of fruit laid out on a long table and water, iced tea and beer. For entertainment, there were two men playing a beautiful xylophone. I think it was made from teak wood. I haven’t seen or heard a xylophone since I was a young child in music class. I had my good camera and zeroed in on the keys. I took 48 photos and found three that were good – that’s the way it goes with photography.
After our snack, we boarded a large pontoon boat and started out. The point of the trip was not a leisurely float down a pretty river. No, we were on an intense search mission looking for Scarlet Macaws and any other wildlife. We saw white-faced monkeys, Scarlet Macaws, a lizard, a tiny red and black crab, egrets, hundreds of unidentified birds and a lot of crocodiles.
Scarlet Macaws mate for life. From what we saw, it seems like they roost very high up in the trees. We never saw them close enough to take a photo. They are on the endangered species list. Porfirio belongs to a group that works to protect them and help increase their numbers. This group made nesting boxes out of large, blue plastic trash cans. They didn’t do a count last year, but the year before they found 40 new Macaws.
Porfirio gave us a very long lecture about the cultivation and growth characteristics of bananas. I didn’t understand most of it, and most of what I did understand I have now forgotten. What I do remember is that there are more than 100 kinds of bananas. The purple flower on the end of the bunch of bananas has something to do with the growth cycle. On banana plantations, they put plastic bags over the cluster at a certain time to ripen them.
“Ugly bananas” – those with a dark spot(s) on the skin – are not exported because they know people won’t buy them. Costa Ricans know that the color of the skin is not necessarily an indication of the state of the banana within. Blemished bananas remain in Costa Rica and are used to eat, for baby food, animal feed and fertilizers.
Apparently, it is unusual to see more than a couple of crocodiles on a trip. On our trip, every crocodile and his cousin showed up. They were often hard to see. We were in a rain forest during the rainy season and the gray crocodiles were the same color as the gray muddy banks. This is due, in part, because they have a lot of mud on them. As you can see here, they do have a sinister smile. The first crocodile we saw was a baby. He looked like a strange lizard. The last crocodile was full grown and huge.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country and much more than the white sand beaches on the
Caribbean side. The interior is both beautiful and interesting. The terrain rises from sea level to 13,000 feet. Its rivers are quiet and calm like the one we were on, and wild and exciting for white water rafting.
The forests provide a variety of activities. Zip lining through the forest treetops is something Costa Rica is known for. The Rainforest Aerial Tram offers a ride above the treetops and past incredible waterfalls.
The Poas Volcano sits at 8,500 feet above sea level and is known for its geyser-like eruptions of gas and ash. We spoke with a couple who took the tour to the volcano. The day was overcast and rainy but they said when they got there the fog lifted and they were able to see it. Beautiful.
The Arenal volcano is one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. Lake Arenal is near there. The area is also know for its natural mineral hot springs.
I would say Costa Rica has more things to see and do than any of the other places where we stopped. If I had to pick one place to return to I’d pick Costa Rica, hands down. I could see many types of vacations in Costa Rica. From “laying around on the beach” to exploring the interesting interior, it would take quite a few trips before you would feel like you had seen it all.
Until next time,
Susan L Stewart