When you’re required to leave Guatemala every 90 days the trips all but plan themselves.
We did a lot of adventuring in 10 days, here are some highlights:
First up: La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano, & Rio Celeste
La Fortuna is a small town best known for Arenal Volcano National Park. Volcan Arenal is huge, and while the internet says it’s dormant, people aren’t allowed to hike to the top anymore because of some recent (in the last few years) activity. That’s fine with this altitude-challenged traveler. The highlight of the trail through th epark was the GIANT tree. The roots started far above my head and were massive. The top of the tree was like another world, practically out of view. The sign said it’s 400 years old. While there are definitely older trees, it’s impressive because it survived the massive eruption in 1968 that destroyed a lot of land and killed 87 people.
Another day, another volcano national park. Tenedorio Volcano National Park is home to Rio Celeste, famous for a waterfall with perfectly blue water. After you “ooo and ahhh” at the waterfall and climb back up ALL of the steps, the trail continues. And the end of the trail is where the magic happens. The perfectly bright blue that makes Rio Celeste famous comes from a chemical reaction at the meeting point of 2 rivers. Basically, the acidity of the water changes when the rivers meet, enlarging the light reflecting particles in the water. The way the water flows, it’s just a perfect, seemingly static line where the color changes. Science-y magic!
On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 I saw a sloth in the wild for the first time. A sign that says Sloth Trail seems like a gimmick. How can you guarantee wild animals will read the sign? Warning: your neck may be sore from looking up and scanning the trees. A park ranger dude stopped his bike and basically said “follow me for some sloths.” He was not a serial killer and did in fact show us some sloths. I stood in awe and watched them chill/nosh/nap for a while. Costa Rica success!
Monteverde: The town in a cloud forest
The drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde is green. I think I’ve seen every shade of green there is. Even our roadside pee stop was beautifully picturesque.
For our first night we splurged on a “dining experience.” The San Lucas Dining Experience: 7 courses that represent Monteverde, seated in a glass pod in the treetops with an epic sunset view. Go check out their menu. I promise you will not be disappointed. Each course told a story with local ingredients. My crudité looked like a garden that “grew” when the waiter poured in water and I ate a Ficus sculpture made of potato, lamb in a coffee reduction, and fish with tropical water. The most beautiful meal I’ve ever eaten.
In cloud forests (bosque nuboso in Spanish), “the sky essentially comes down to the forest, enabling you to actually walk through the clouds.” Wet and green aren’t the most exciting descriptive words, but they really are the most accurate. Also a zillion different trees, mosses, ferns, vines, etc. There was one where the stem grew in a spiral at the top. One of the stems had been cut and there was a pink goo oozing from it. Did you know crabs live in cloud forests? New to me too!
On our night tour we power walked through the forest looking for animals. I learned a lot from our guide Donald, who was the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide I’ve ever had. Sloths have hollow bones. There are 700 species of tarantulas. They are blind and can feel the vibrations on the ground with the hairs on their bodies, that’s how they find food. Scorpions are a bright, electric blue under black light.
There are about 30,000 families growing coffee in Costa Rica, mostly in cooperatives. Café Monteverde is a sustainable coffee finca that prides itself on its efforts to take care of the environment and the community. On a tour we learned about their sustainable practices and their strong community ties.
History lesson: Goats discovered coffee beans in Ethiopia in the 9th century. Farmers were curious why their goats had so much energey and saw them eating coffee cherries. They tried to make a tea infusion, but it was gross, so they put the cherries in the fire. It smelled and tasted amazing. And now we have coffee.
The change from Cloud Forest to Tropical Jungle/Beach in a single afternoon is…a lot
I don’t generally love the beach, but when in Rome enjoy the tropical splendor. When you travel to picture-perfect beaches you become a beach person. It’s hard to dislike a beach that looks like a screensaver. That perfect, clear, aqua blue color you see in photos? It’s real. Imagine swimming in clear water, watching colorful birds soar over the jungle cliffs that surround the beach. There are worse ways to spend a day.
Gorgeous, vibrant, multi-colored sunsets over the ocean every night almost gets boring.
The main attraction in Manuel Antonio is Manuel Antonio Park, a nature preserve with a trail through the jungle, and occasionally along the beach. From a park ranger: “Don’t run away from the monkeys. If you do, you’ll have a bunch chasing you and you’ll likely end up on Youtube.” You’ve been warned.
Phew, we covered a lot of ground in 10 days.