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Another Great Trip to CR!

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Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:22 PM
  #1
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Another Great Trip to CR!

We're back from our Costa Rica trip. We wanted to explore a new area that was known for having great wildlife, and several of you suggested the Sarapiqui area, so that's where we went. Wow, it did not disappoint! We also went to La Fortuna and ended our trip with a night at the Peace Lodge. We had a great time!
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:44 PM
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Day one started with a pretty uneventful flight. We got to the airport early and grabbed some breakfast tacos, went through security, and boarded the plane. As luck would have it, the flight was relatively empty. It was the kind of flight where you can really spread out and relax. My husband and I were the only ones on our row - hurrah! The trip was starting out great. We cruised over Belize, and I got to see the Blue Hole from the plane window. Wow, it's amazing and beautiful even from the air. I watched a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey, and before I know it I can see Costa Rica below us.

We touched down at the SJO airport, and our good luck continued. The lines at immigration were so short that we cruised through in less than 10 minutes and even beat our luggage to the carousel. There was the usual array of musicians playing cheesy American music - the first one we heard was a saxophone player playing "Do That to Me One More Time" - seems like we always hear retro American music at the airport! We grab our bags off the carousel and head to the screening area that's right before the exit. Right away my bag arouses suspicion. Everyone else is allowed to go ahead, but the inspector is curious about my bag and asks if I am carrying any fruit. I say no, but he thinks he spies something and politely asks to inspect my bag. He pulls out the bag of what he thinks are avocados only to find a nubby pair of black high-heeled mules. They kind of do look like avocados now that I think about it! I pass inspection, and he sends me on my way.

We have hired a driver from Selva Verde to pick us up, and he's waiting for us right outside the exit and holding up a sign with our names on it. He's very friendly, grabs the bags, and we jump in the van and are off. There's tons of traffic, and we actually see a man run across the highway. Glad we aren't driving at this point!

We pass the usual array of KFCs, Taco Bells, and McDonald's. It's always a bit of shock to see those in our vacation paradise. Eventually the hectic city gives way to beautiful views, trees covered with beautiful orange flowers, hydrangeas, some small waterfalls, and huge green plants with some of the biggest leaves I've ever seen. We pass Braulio Carillo national park and encounter some really misty, foggy weather as we wind along. After a couple of hours we land at Selva Verde and check in at the front desk. Right away we reserve the early morning birding tour for the next day. We're ready to see some wildlife!
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:54 PM
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Welcome back! Looking forward to more.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:54 PM
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Right away we love Selva Verde. They have a really neat system of elevated wooden walkways that allows you to stay out of the weather but still enjoy the views. I had heard that SV is located off a busy road, so I had requested a room towards the back of the property close to the river where it's more quiet. I'm excited to find that we're in the 40s block of rooms that are as close to the river as you can get. We go to our room, drop off our bags, and get ready to explore the trails and grounds. The room is pretty basic. It has two beds, a small desk, a small couch, and a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. Everything is beige - bedspread, walls, curtains, and the windows are screened rather than glass to allow airflow since we don't have a.c. Not fancy but definitely comfortable, and we can hear the rush of the river from our room.

We explore a few trails and right away see a green and black poison dart frog, then another, then another. They're everywhere! And strawberry/blue jeans dart frogs as well. We see tons of them, and I get some good photos. We also hear toucans around us and see one in flight. We are definitely going to like this place!
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:56 PM
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Thanks, Patty, I miss it already!
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 06:10 PM
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Do you know agood place to stay in La Fortuna?
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 06:23 PM
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As it starts getting dark, we trek back to the front desk to inquire about dinner options. We have two choices - the buffet upstairs or the downstairs open air restaurant by the river that has its own wood-fired pizza oven. I ask about what's on the buffet, and the receptionist says "meat" which seems a little vague, salad, rice, and lentils. This seems like a no brainer to us, and we go with the open air restaurant called La Terrazza. They have a great menu with a lot of choices. When we arrive we're the only ones there. I decide on the lemon tilapia with veggies, while my husband decides to order the sausage pizza. There's a man in full chef gear including the toque ready to make the pizza by hand. I'm surprised to see someone dressed like that in the jungle! We place our order with the waiter, but he advises us against ordering the sausage. We ask why, and he just says knowingly "Not tonight." Hmmm, how about the bacon pizza we ask? "Yes, good choice!" I also order a margarita, and my husband requests an Imperial. We're definitely not roughing it at this point. We watch the chef make the pizza crust, top it, and push it into the big oven. It comes out hot and bubbly and is really delicious. The tilapia is great too. We sit back, eat, and enjoy sitting so close to the river. At that point, the owner sees us and comes over to chat. She thanks us profusely for supporting the lodge and coming to stay there. It's obvious how much she cares about this place and the rainforest, and we love that.

Our waiter brings the check for us to sign and asks if we would like to see something neat. Of course we would! And he takes us to the little pond by the restaurant where we see our first red-eyed tree frogs - wow, they are gorgeous. You're not supposed to use any flash photography, but he holds a flashlight up so I can get a couple of pictures. What a neat little paradise this is.

After that little adventure, we walk back to our room. It's not creepy like some little hikes in CR since the walkways are elevated and lit - no snakes to worry about here. I go into the bathroom to get ready for bed and am amused to see that my Costa Rica hair has returned. I have good hair in the States, but put me in CR, and it's a bit of a disaster. The price a girl pays I guess. We lay down on one of the beds and manage to stay awake until 7:30 p.m. - a new low for us I think! Once we're cozy in bed it starts to rain. The perfect ending to a great day.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 06:46 PM
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Nancy, yes, there are several - check out the Lost Iguana, Nayara, and Silencio Del Campo. If you want fancy, the Springs Resort and Spa.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 07:05 PM
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Day 2 arrives, and it's still sprinkling a little bit. We're all set to go early morning birding with Alejandro at 6:00 a.m. As usual, the sun is up by 5:30. We head to the upstairs restaurant to meet and see that there's fresh coffee and little packages of cookies set out for the early risers who get up before breakfast. The coffee is great and perfect for a drizzly morning. By 6:20 the sun has come out, and Alejandro says we can begin our hike. The restaurant sets out fresh fruit for the birds and iguanas which can yield some great photo opportunities. At one of the stands, I see a huge iguana with a little blue jeans frog on his back! Alejandro says we may be able to spot some toucans if we cross the road, so we head out the front gate. The property next door has a rooster that crows and crows and crows. I'm very glad we have a room towards the back of the property - lol! Before we even cross the road, we see several toucans in the trees. Alejandro has a very nice scope that allows us to get a closer view and even take some pictures through it. We also see several aracaris that seem to always travel in a flock. We walk across the road to explore the garden on the other side. This is where the bungalow cabins are. They seem kind of isolated, but they have the benefit of having air conditioning. Despite that, I'm glad that we made the choice to get a river room and just hope that it cools off a little at night. Temps here are in the high 80s during the day. We ask Alejandro about more hikes and he says that after breakfast he'll lead a hike that goes across the river bridge into the reserve. We decide that we'll go for that hike too. It's low season so likely that we'll have Alejandro all to ourselves for that hike as well.

Breakfast is included in our package, and it's pretty good - a hearty buffet that consists of scrambled eggs, rice, beans, toast, delicious fresh pineapple, and some great fresh fruit juices. We see that there's a big tour group called Road Scholars that is staying here. Mostly older folks, but they're really friendly and fun to talk with. They're intrigued by how many trips we've taken to CR and want recommendation on all the good areas to see. We finish up and meet up with Alejandro again for our 8:30 hike in the rainforest reserve.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 07:23 PM
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Great reading up on your trip. Selva Verde is a great place, isn't it? Know what you mean about the poison dart frogs. At first I was thinking 'oh wow!' but after the 50th or so frog I was a little 'meh'. Looking forward to the rest of your trip report.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 07:32 PM
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tully, yes, we loved it there. Thanks for the recommendation. You were one of the reasons we chose it. And Rac recommended it, and I think colibri too although she warned me I'd have to live without a waterfall shower! That first little frog was such a thrill, but you're so right after seeing them everywhere they became a little passe - ho, hum another poison dart frog.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 08:18 PM
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8:30a.m. - Time for more hiking! Selva Verde used to allow guests to hike into the reserve on their own, but apparently a group of tourists got lost once and from then on, SV decided to require a guide to go with the guests. There's a big bridge that goes across the river and a locked gate so you can only get to the other side with your guide. After everything we've seen, I'm thinking we're going to have a successful hike with some nice sightings.

As we walk, we see a number of birds along the river, including kingfishers, tiger herons, and Montezuma oropendolas. The area is beautiful and full of colorful gingers and heliconias. Lots of bromeliads. As we walk along the path, we see something slither across it - a huge coral snake! I'm too slow to grab my camera, but it's still a big thrill to see it. It disappears quickly into the brush - I think more afraid of us than we are of it! Alejandro leads us over a small bridge where there's a tiny creek. He turns over a broad green leaf, and on the underside is a tiny glass frog, almost completely transparent, except for a covering of small spots. Next to it are three big circles of jelly-like eggs, and we can see little tadpoles wiggling inside! Al tells us that the frog is a male, and that he's the one that guards the eggs until they hatch. His camouflage is designed to mimic the eggs in the hopes that a predator will devour him instead of them and save the lives of the unhatched tadpoles. Al takes us a little further, and we see a huge tree, one that's at least 400 years old according to him, and he asks us to go inside the tree. We do, and when we look up, it has several long-nosed bats roosting inside. Lots of neat little discoveries so far!

We walk down by the river and are excited to hear the roar of some howler monkeys. The guide asks if we want to go find them, and heck yea, we do! We have to cross some slippery moss-covered rocks, and it's here that I discover my running shoes have no grip whatsoever. I take one step on the rock and my foot starts to sliiiiiide. Al manages to grab me and only one foot ends up in the river! It's all worth it because when I look up, there's a tree full of howler monkeys, including moms with babies on their backs. We stand and watch them for a long time. I never get tired of seeing them. They swing from tree to tree, eat, roar - lots of entertainment for us.

At this point, Al says it's time to head back for lunch, so we hike back over the bridge and back to the upstairs restaurant where the buffet is being served.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 10:15 AM
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Selva Verde only offers the buffet option for lunch. Today's menu is chicken lasagna, sweet and sour pork chops, potatoes, pasta salad, and cooked carrots for dessert. Pretty hearty, carby, and filling, not bad. We don't have a meal plan and aren't sure what to do, but there's no one to ask, so we just help ourselves. As we finish, a server brings out yummy tres leches cake for dessert. Definitely the best part of lunch!

We walk downstairs and encounter the Road Scholars group again. They see my husband's baseball cap and ask if we know any football scores, and we do since we've just arrived. We update them on all their teams, who won and lost, and they're pretty thrilled to get the info. that the Packers won. Selva Verde has wifi access in the dining area, but not in the rooms. We offer up our iPad for anymore score they may need to know. As we're chatting, a flock of aracaris comes to the feeding station that's set up outside the restaurant, and as we're watching them, 4 macaws fly right in front of us following the path of the river. They're very loud and RAWK, RAWK, RAWK as they go. They're very high up, so it's hard to see their coloration, but there's no mistaking that sound! This area is famous for green macaws.

We decide to head to the pool to check for toucans - that's a popular area for them to hang out, and we see several more black and green dart frogs as we go. They don't seem afraid of people at all, and we have to be careful as we walk not to step on them and crush them.

No toucans by the pool today, so we wander over to reception to ask about a night hike. They say that Alejandro would be happy to take us if we'd like to go. Since it gets dark so early, they tell us to come by around 6:30, and he'll take us across the bridge and into the reserve in the dark. Luckily we've packed a couple of flashlights with us. When we first started coming to CR, I was nervous to night hike, but now I know how fun it can be so I'm excited go see what's out there!
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 11:16 AM
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Welcome back, VG. Great report - looking forward for more, and the pictures, of course

We did not see any poison dart frogs when we went to CR (I guess the dry season is not their favorite), and I was sad about that. Next trip will be during a shoulder season.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 11:32 AM
  #15
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Great report, thus far. That pizza restaurant (and the memories of wildlife) makes a return visit for us very likely.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:57 PM
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Thank you, x! This is by far the most poison dart frogs we've ever seen. We saw a few in Tortuguero, but most places we go we're lucky to even see one.

RAC, you really helped point us in the right direction. Thanks for that!! And yes, the pizza spot beats the buffet by a long ways. And it's cheaper too. The pizzas were about $7-10 each and big enough to share if you got a salad. They had some swankier things like Chicken Marsala, veal, and some seafood, but that pizza is hard to beat. We were thrilled to have those options. They even had octopus which I haven't seen on a CR menu before.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 05:21 PM
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6:30 and it's night hike time. I'm thinking Alejandro may say, "Not you two again!" But of course he doesn't. Once again we're lucky enough to have him all to ourselves. I'm surprised that they don't supply flashlights since they usually do on a night time hike, but I have the trusty headlamp that I packed. They do have flashlights for sale in their gift shop if anyone wants one. And the gift shop is air conditioned! When we found that out, mr. vg teased me that I'd probably spend the entire trip in there! They also have ice cream bars. We never bought any, but I thought that would be a pretty cool thing to have in the jungle.

At 6:30 it's already been dark for about an hour. It's kind of eerie walking along in the dark, but fun eerie, kind of like a haunted house. We can hear loads of frogs, cicadas, and other little critters making noise all around us. It seems like the tiniest frogs are the loudest. As we start crossing the bridge, I have my headlamp in my hand, and I catch a glint of something on the other side. Eyes - big, big eyes! They're just sitting there in the dark peering back at me. I think they're going to retreat, but instead they start coming closer. I ask Alejandro what it is, and he says he can tell it's a mammal. A mammal??? As in puma or as in cute baby monkey? Just mammal at this point.

Alejandro walks in front, and as he does the eyes start coming towards us. Whatever it is is now on the bridge. We're sort of giddy with excitement and nervous with apprehension. I ask A. what we should do if something happens to him, and he tells us he has a cell phone in his pocket! Still can't tell what's ahead of us and then all of a sudden, the animal starts running towards us, and it turns out to be a kinkajou! We've never seen one of these in all of our trips to CR, so we're pretty happy to see it. It's a little freaked out by us though and just hovering on the wire right over our heads. It starts jumping back and fourth, to one side and then the other. Over and over and over. A. tells us to turn off our lights, and we do, hoping it will go on its way since it's clearly stressed out. We turn our lights back on, and it starts pooping! Sorry for that detail, but then we really wanted it to move on! Finally it runs off, and Alejandro says, "I was worried he was going to claw your face off." Really, you were?! We thought it was a cute little thing, but I guess if they're agitated they're unpredictable. We proceed ahead, happy to still have our faces!
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 05:44 PM
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Turns out the highlight of the hike was that kinkajou. We have a lot of fun hiking all the trails in the jungle, but mostly what we see are a lot of frogs and some amazing insects. A. tells us to watch out for bullet ants, and I'm glad we don't encounter any of those. We revisit that giant tree that we saw earlier, and it's decidedly more creepy at night. There are a lost of grasshoppers and cicadas around. Some look exactly like leaves. The camouflage is impressive. We come upon one bug that makes Alejandro light up, and he proclaims, "Peanut Head!" Seriously, that's the name of the bug, and it does look like a weird stick with a giant unshelled peanut on the end! A. plucks it off the tree its clinging to, and it's almost like he's pushed a button on a transformer - giant wings with eye spots pop out. Very cool! Seems like several things in CR have random English names. We also have encountered a plant called hot lips and a tree called a sexy palm. Peanut head is par for the course. After posing for photos, A. puts him carefully back on the tree and says we should head back for dinner. We stop by the little pond near the restaurant and see two more of those beautiful red-eyed tree frogs. Those are the best!

Given the choice between the buffet and La Terrazza, we go with our fave pizza joint. This time we order a salad to share, a margarita pizza, and a pasta dish. It's way too much food, but it's all good. We're not able to finish it all, and I wish we had a little frig in our room so we could bring the leftovers back. Hubs gets his usual Imperial, and I decide to try a drink called a Carribeno. It's made of mango juice, lime juice, and Malibu rum, and may be about the best thing I've ever tasted! Definitely thumbs up on the dinner. For a long time we're the only two people in the restaurant; eventually a family comes in to dine as we're finishing up. We have reserved an early morning birding tour at nearby La Selva for the morning. Have to be picked up at 5:20a.m. so we call it a night.

I was worried that the rooms might be hot and uncomfortable at night, but they really cool off nicely, and there are big ceiling fans overhead. The high temps in the 80s yield to the low 70s at night. We fall asleep listening to the sounds of the river.
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Oct 4th, 2012, 01:46 AM
  #19
 
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What a great trip report! VG, you have a wonderful
writing style. Great detail and feel like I'm there
with you. Looking forward to the rest.
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Oct 4th, 2012, 05:49 AM
  #20
 
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I so love reading about your adventures and agree with lover you pull me right in and again VG is the reason I am going to CR this Nov so thank you I am over the top excited to be going and look forward to reading more about your trip please..O)
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