Off the beaten track on Costa Rica's Pacific coast
The lucky winners of our Times+ competition travelled to Cosata Rica on our Pacific Uncovered tour this November. James & Carole Anderson share their thoughts on an "unforgettable holiday".
We arrived in Costa Rica after a long flight but felt ready to go, all we had to do was meet our contact at the airport and be taken to our hotel for an overnight stay before setting off on our holiday.
The next morning, our hire car was delivered and we realised that, although the text was in English, the voice was Spanish, making it a little difficult to understand. Luckily Carole managed to navigate us through San José and when we reached a petrol station a friendly guy was able to find the English voice for us, so away we went to Tenorio Lodge.
Colourful water, howler monkeys and casado
Next morning we went into Tenorio National Park where we met our guide Alex, and set off to walk to the Rio Celeste. On the way Alex was able to show us the devastation caused when Hurricane Nate went through the forest last year. The Rio Celeste is truly an amazing sight: to stand and watch the water change colour in a specific spot is remarkable.
Our next stop was on the Pacific coast at Santa Teresa in the Hotel Manala which has very comfortable bungalows in an ideal location close to the beach and local restaurants. One afternoon, whilst enjoying the pool area, the owner came to tell us that a family of howler monkeys were in the trees above our heads: what a sight it was to see them leaping from tree to tree.
We sampled the traditional casado (commonly rice, beans, salad, tortilla and chicken or fish) in a local restaurant and enjoyed it so much we went back for lunch the following day. We decided to eat in the upstairs room, so ordered our food and were then somewhat amused when it turned up on a "Lazy Susan" and sat there for quite a while. We wondered if we were supposed to fetch the food ourselves, but just then the waiter came rushing upstairs and apologised for the delay in getting our meals. As he approached the lift it began to descend back to the kitchen, so he was trying to wrestle the tray off the lift and shouting for someone to send it back up… needless to say our meal that day was not quite as hot as the previous day!!
Getting close to Costa Rica's birdlife
Our next stay was at Macaw Lodge which was a wonderful place to see lots of birds around the ponds near the lodge. We had dinner in the lodge and the food was excellent, well presented and very inventive. If you stay in one of the chalets you will need a torch to navigate the walk to the lodge.
Next stop was San Gerardo de Dota at Trogon Lodge in the cloud forest. Once again the accommodation was first rate, the food was very good, with lots of choice - I would recommend the trout which was always on the menu. It was most welcome when returning to our room after dinner to find a hot water bottle in the bed, as it was quite chilly at night. There is a trail at the lodge which takes you to the waterfall, and the gardens are quite spectacular. The bar was fun with very good cocktails.
To the Osa Peninsula
From Trogon, our next journey was to Drake Bay via a river cruise and a hair-raising dash across the ocean. We were met on the beach by Emilio who took us to Tranquilo Lodge, where we had a bungalow up by the pool with a fabulous view over the bay, and right next door to the restaurant, where we had dinner each evening. Vladimir is an excellent chef, if a little over enthusiastic with his portion sizes.
On the night trip on our first evening we saw lots of insects and frogs, toads and an Eyelash Pit viper - luckily he was up a tree. On our trip to Corcovado National Park, we also managed to see a sloth, numerous toucans, and lots of monkeys, not to mention sharks in the bay (well we saw their fins), raccoons, and remarkably one of the guides managed to find a tapir in the undergrowth. It was difficult to get to but well worth the effort. On our way back to the boat after lunch our guide found a young caiman in a stream. He then proceeded to poke around in the water with a stick to see if he could find the mother, luckily she must have gone to the shops and we didn't see her.
I am coming now to what we believe to have been the highlight of our trip.
One evening after dinner we were taken to the Turtle Sanctuary where we assisted in helping baby turtles to make the journey to the sea. It was a wonderful experience;to see these little babies scuttling into the ocean, and I hope that they will return one day to complete the circle. Finally on our last evening at Tranquilo we were having dinner and were joined by a young couple from Canada called Ray and Catherine. As the evening progressed we noticed that Ray was getting progressively quieter until he suddenly got down on one knee and "popped the question"! We saw them both in tears and feared the worst, but he turned to us and told us: "she said yes!" What a wonderful end to an unforgettable holiday. All too soon we were back on the plane for the long flight home.
If anybody reading this is unsure about whether or not to visit Costa Rica I would urge you to go: some of the roads are not so good, San José can be crazy busy, but the wildlife is amazing; the food is so fresh, the plants are spectacular, and above all the people are just so nice and will go out of their way to help, so go on: make the trip, you won't regret it!