31/1/17. Pura vida (literally “pure life”) is an expression of the joy of being in Costa Rica and is seen everywhere in this country.
We are nearing the end of our side trip here and we have loved it! The wildlife is fabulous. The people are friendly. The climate is wonderful. The countryside is beautiful. Life is easy. Pura vida indeed!
We spent the first night in San Jose, the capital, before being taken to La Fortuna, near the Arenal volcano for 2 nights where we went on 2 tours. The first was an afternoon/early evening trip to the national park surrounding the volcano where we saw frogs, a sloth and many different plants before bathing (by moonlight) in a river heated to 35° by the geothermal activity. The next day we were taken about 100 km towards the Nicaraguan border where we had a boat trip on which we saw all sorts – including caiman, howler monkeys, iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards and many, many different birds.
On Thursday we transferred to Monteverde where the cloud forest is situated. This was much higher (5,000 ft) and, after a short bus ride followed by a trip across Lake Arenal, reached by another bus 20 km along a very steep and very bumpy “road” that reminded us of some trips we made in Papua New Guinea in 1984! There we went on a night hike, the main feature of which was the number of sleeping birds we saw, and the next morning a 3 hour hike through the cloud forest proper, the highlight of which was seeing 2 separate quetzals. These are very rare and colourful birds (total of 900 in the wild of which 300 are in Costa Rica).
At this point we should say that the only reason we saw more than 90% of the wildlife was that we went on guided tours. Without the guides we would have seen almost nothing! It was often extremely difficult to see anything with the naked eye (the guides generally had telescopes on tripods) even when we were told what to look for and where. We are not generally ones for using guided tours but this was money (generally $20 each) well spent.
Which brings us on to the cost. Costa Rica is not as cheap as you might expect! It is at a similar level, if not a bit more expensive, as the States. But it is worth it.
After 2 nights in Monteverde we moved again by minibus (initially with another couple but they were dropped off part way) to Manuel Antonio National Park where we have had 4 nights. This is the smallest park in the country and, probably, the most popular. Again we saw a lot of wildlife on the tour we took on Sunday but there were also a lot of people heading to the two main beaches which are in the park – and which are absolutely beautiful.