Monteverde/Santa Elena

Monteverde

In the cloud forest at 1200 to 1600 meters above sea level, Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde represents the wide ranging biodiversity of Costa Rica.  Within the misty forest there are hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, insects, birds and plants.  Just one example, of the 56 species of humming birds found throughout Latin America, 28 of them are represented here.  We’ve spent a week here and some portion of every day is shrouded in clouds, often with some rain showers and sometimes there’s some thunder and lightening to go along.  We stayed in the nearby village of Santa Elena at a super comfy placed called Pension Santa Elena.  It’s owned by a brother and sister team from Austin, Texas.  The town is quite small but has quite a bit of traffic with arriving and departing travelers and those going to or coming from day trips to different parts of the surrounding area. Continue reading

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Liberia & Nicoya Peninsula

Sight on our drive to Coco Beach

Liberia serves primarily as the gateway to the Nicoya Peninsula (photos).  It’s not a very big town but Costa Rica made the investment to build an international airport on the west side of Liberia along the road that leads to Nicoya.  The Pacific side of the peninsula is lined with beautiful beaches, many with very good surfing opportunities.  Playa Del Coco, a popular beach destination, is only about 30km from Liberia.

Sights of Coco BeachWe spent 3 nights in Liberia getting our bearings and planning our next moves in Costa Rica.  We stayed at a small but pleasant Hostel that is conveniently located near the bus station, the mercado and a supermarket, Maxi Bodega, which I believe is part of the Walmart empire.  Our hosts, two young men, one a native of Costa Rica (Jesus), the other a transplant from Indianapolis (Shawn), made us feel very welcome and comfortable.  Jesus is an artist and some of his paintings are hanging in the rooms of the hostel.  The day after our arrival, they were heading to Playa del Coco for a half day to enjoy the beach and invited us to go along so that we could check it out and see if we wanted to spend a few days there.  While there, we checked out some of the accommodations and booked a room for a subsequent visit. Continue reading

Border Crossing Into CR

We were ready to leave San Juan del Sur and move on to Costa Rica.  We boarded a bus in SJDS headed for Rivas, although we weren’t going all the way to Rivas.  We asked to be dropped at La Virgen, which is simply the intersection where the road to SJDS meets the Panamericana Highway.  From there we would flag down pretty much any southbound bus that would get us to the border city of Penas Blancas.

After waiting for a few minutes on the side of the road, a “collectivo” taxi stopped that had 2 seats available.  These taxis will collect passengers until they have a full load and give everybody a break by sharing the fare.  He offered to get us to the border for a little less than $5.00 so we took it.  Penas Blancas seems to exist only to serve the “needs” of those crossing the border with Costa Rica.  It’s more than a tad seedy, very busy and confusing.  When we exited the taxi, we were immediately handed 2 immigration forms and asked to pay $1 each which I think is a fee levied by Penas Blancas.  We then had to clear a checkpoint where our passport and immigration form were glanced at and asked to pay another $1 each for exit from Nicaragua.  As an aside, I would also mention that there were long lines of semi-trucks with trailers waiting on both sides of the border.  Apparently, the process for them to clear is quite time consuming.

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San Juan del Sur

a view of the beach and reastuarnts in San Juan Del Sur

From Ometepe, our next stop was San Juan del Sur (Photos), a beach town on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua.  This part of Nicaragua is only about 25 or 30km wide between the western shore of Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific coast.  Once we arrived back in San Jorge on the ferry from Ometepe, we needed to get a taxi for the short ride to Rivas to hop a bus to San Juan del Sur (SJDS).  Naturally, the taxi drivers began telling us how much better it would be if we would only allow them to drive us directly to SJDS rather than wait for that crowded, slow bus.  It was only noon and we were in no hurry so we kept telling them that we would wait for the bus.  One particularly persistent taxi driver kept following us and lowering his price.  I think he needed to return to SJDS and was just hoping to get someone to cover his gas cost.  When he got to $3 each for us we said, “Esta bien.  Vamos.”  (He did try to give himself a bonus when we arrived by fudging the exchange rate.  I was paying with Cordobas and he was calculating the exchange at about 26.5 vs 22.5.  Hey, a deal’s a deal.)

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Isla de Ometepe

Our view from the viewing point

We explained how we got to the island and a little about Finca El Porvenir.  In addition to the natural beauty of this island, there are petraglyphs located around various parts of the island but many are in the area of El Porvenir.  These stone carvings depicting humans, animals, birds and other geometrics shapes are courtesy of the Chorotega settlement dating back to around 300 B.C.  Here are some samples along with some other photos.  To locate on the map where we stayed, if you see the road crossing the isthmus right along the coast, take a right at Santa Cruz and El Porvenir is about 1.5km along that road.

Our guide Harold telling us about the rice fieldEl Porvenir is also the primary point at which to begin a hike up the Maderas volcano.  We were able to join a group that was setting out to hike to the top.  The group consisted of a local guide, 2 ladies from Germany and 1 lady from Holland.  Valerie and I weren’t prepared to hike to the top (about 5,000 feet elevation gain, we hadn’t prepared lunch and perhaps not quite fit enough) but the guide agreed to have us join them to the viewpoint, which is about halfway up.  He said that he could have someone bring us back down to El Porvenir.  The hike to the top is generally an 8 hour round trip.  To the viewpoint is a 3 to 4 hour round trip.

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