We took an overnight flight and arrived early Saturday morning. We were staying in San José and explored the downtown city a little bit.
Apparently Florida is significant here.
We took the bus from San Jose to La Fortuna. One of the bus stops had a sofa sitting out across from the stop.
It was nice being able to see the countryside along the bus route.
Everything was very green. The rainy season ended a few weeks before we were there.
It was about a six hour trip (mostly on the bus) from San José. Plenty of pretty views as we wound through the hills.
Throughout the trip we saw quite a few cows appreciating the very green pastures everywhere.
One of the main stops was in a the town of Ciudad Quesada.
Halfway between Ciudad Quesada and La Fortuna the bus broke down going over a bump. We all had to get off while we waited for another one. Soon after, a parade of several dozen horses started trotting down the street towards us.
We didn't entirely figure out why everybody was riding their horse and meeting up at this soda in the middle of pretty much nowhere, but it kept us entertained for the ~1:30 we waited for the new bus. Oddly, some people driving through town were giving our bus group stranger looks than they gave the horses.
Monday we planned a hike up to Cerro Chato. A small crater lake next to the Arenal Volcano.
The hike started out relatively easy and on well-marked trails.
One of the breaks along the hike looked out towards La Fortuna.
Fortunately, it was a great day for a hike. There were quite a few rainstorms throughout our visit - most of them in the evenings.
A muddy and questionably stable bridge which wobbled as we crossed it. This was only the beginning of our muddy encounters.
Some parts of the hike seemed much more geared towards horses with steep steps and muddy areas. It was still pretty though.
As we got higher in elevation, we were surrounded by more and more of the very green forest.
Once we reached the top, the final section down to the crater was essentially a steep mud slide with the occasional step which hasn't been washed out.
Once at the base, the clouds and fog lifted and we could see across the lake. The tour group in front of us had brought their swimsuits to take a brief break in the lake.
And a few more pictures of the view on the hike down.
There were cow pastures along this hike, too.
Including this one who came over to take a drink while we were walking by.
That night, we did a Night Tour hike where we were guided through a privately maintained park and saw some critters.
Add a description…Some sleeping birds in the trees who apparently didn't mind bright lights waking them up from their sleep.
This flower looks like fireworks.
Saw several different kinds of frogs on the tour, although I quickly forgot their official names.
We saw a few different kinds of lizards hanging out on vines above streams, ready to drop and escape if there was trouble.
Also, several banana trees were growing along the path.
More frogs, this time feeling safest next to my shoe.
There was a large termites nest here. Giovanni demonstrated how to set your finger on the nest and attract some of them to it... and then snack on them. I passed on that opportunity though.
A baby frog on one of the leaves.
Of course, the tour wasn't complete without being able to see one of the classical green/blue, red-eyes frogs.
The red-eyed tree frog posed in front of a leaf for us.
On Tuesday we walked to a Chocolate tour on a young plantation.
We got a tour of some of the plants they utilize, like this vanilla vine.
And then our guide walked us through the processes that beans go through.
One of the first steps is fermenting the beans which kills off the germination in the bean. We opened one of the fruits and were able to taste the outer coating of the bean which had a sweet flavor.
Once they're dried, the beans can be skinned and lightly crushed into "nibs" which have the extremely strong chocolate taste.
They then let us crush the nibs into a powder where they mixed it with warm water for a very strong warm chocolate. We could concoct several different spoonful flavors by adding our own spices and toppings.
After the tiny bus seats and broken down bus to La Fortuna, we decided to take a different route to Monteverde. There's a large lake between the cities that we crossed by boat, and vans took us the rest of the way on either side.
The first part of the boat ride across the lake was very foggy.
But eventually it cleared up and were able to see the pretty colors around.
The second van ride was extremely bumpy. Very few roads in this area were paved, so the hilly rides were much bumpier and took much longer than they otherwise would have. But at least there were still good views.
The vans made a brief stop at a shop for snacks and to break up the bumpy, hour long ride.
On Wednesday we took a tour of a coffee plantation. We were able to see some of the young beans on the trees.
It's a seasonal job, but they said they're all still hand-picked into large baskets.
Some baby coffee tree sprouts.
This machine helped them separate the pieces of the coffee bean, once harvested.
Some of the beans waiting to be finished and then moved for drying.
The greenhouse where the beans are laid out to dry in the heat of the sun.
Inside, the floor was covered with an inch or two of beans. Workers would regularly rake them to move them around.
This machine would help sort the beans by their weights. Since smaller sizes will roast more quickly, they should be roasted separately to avoid batches tasting burnt.
The tour also had a segment on the cocoa bean. We were able to see the various stages of the bean and try a few samples.
The big roaster. It was still warm from them doing a batch right before our group arrived.
Our guide explained how the beans are roasted, and some of the different times required for the different flavors.
In addition to coffee and cocoa, we also learned about sugar cane. Here were able to taste it in it's raw stick form.
And then we were able extract the liquid and taste it as a drink.
At the end of the tour we were able to sample their coffees and some snacks. They had a very nice back patio which looked out over the plantation, forest, and soon-to-be sunset.
For dinner Wednesday, we found a restaurant on the second floor which had the tree top as the roof.
Thursday morning we went to a park along the forest which had hanging bridges across the rainforest canopy.
The trails between the bridges were well-maintained and it continued to be a very green experience.
There also happened to be a lot of hummingbirds hanging around the paths, like this green one.
Being high up on the bridges made it very easy to see the canopy. It's still green.
It was suggested that there were more trees visible from one of the bridges, than trees that exist in New Mexico...
Our shadows on the tree canopy below the bridge.
Walking out onto the sunny bridges from the covered forests was always a fun transition. Depending on how many others were on it, they could become very wobbly.
The bridge spans ranged from 150ft to 510ft across.
Everything continued to stay green and beautiful...
...from the bridge or from the path.
We went fairly early in the morning hoping to see some wildlife, but aside from the hummingbirds and this crossing the path, we didn't see much activity.
Looking down from the bridges could be a bit daunting. Their heights ranged from 36ft to 180ft.
Yes, still green paths and general prettiness.
Each bridge had a plaque at its entrance to tell us about them. They listed a capacity, but it's a good thing it wasn't too busy because I don't think anyone was actually paying attention.
Compared to our hike to Cerro Chato, it was nice having paths which were actually navigable.
While waiting to get started on a zip lining adventure, a large parrot flew by to wish us a good time.
Before each line, a plaque would let us know what we were getting ourselves into.
Some of the zip lines were shorter, crossing a bit further down the hill.
But regardless, they always had beautiful views of the surrounding valley and forest.
A few of the lines actually went completely across the valley, making for a very long run and 360º view.
One of the final zip line styles was the "superman".
While waiting, we were able to get some great views of the landscape. Sadly, it was very inconvenient to pull my camera out of my pocket with all the harnesses to take more pictures.
In addition to zip lines, they also had bungee jumping which they ran off these cables and down towards the valley. Unfortunately nobody was doing it while we were there to see.
A final look across the area from the lookout point.
On our way from Santa Elena to Manuel Antonio, we had a brief stopover at the Puntarenas bus station conveniently located across the street from the beach.
Once we made it to Manuel Antionio later that afternoon, we took a quick break for some beach time. Soon though, an incoming storm hurried us away.
Saturday morning we walked to the park right after it opened. The park is well-known for its animal diversity, trails, and beautiful beaches.
The park has three beaches. We came across this small, secluded one first.
We took a break here to have breakfast... of PB&Js.
The beach had quite a few crabs walking around the beach and rocks, like this sand crab.
It was a very nice time of day because the sun wasn't shining too strongly and it was still slightly cooler from the night before. Still way too humid, of course.
Another crab trying to be king of the rock.
A look from one of the coves.
Some of the trails wound around the outskirts where we would catch occasional glimpses of the ocean.
The map the park provided was fairly useless... trails not matching up and even the physical land outlines not making sense. Somehow though, we ended up here at the bottom of many flights of stairs looking out over this lagoon.
One of the more friendly animals of the park are the monkeys. This guy was feeling very photogenic when I was walking by.
He walked along the railings for a while, hopping back and forth trying to figure out if I was good or bad.
A view from one of the viewpoints at the far end of the park.
Another view from one of the other viewpoints in the park. There were about 6 specific platforms/viewpoints in the park.
The park has three beaches in total. One of them was closed because a crocodile was hanging out there. Interestingly, people weren't afraid to lay on the beach... they just avoided the water.
This monkey enjoyed people watching, hanging out over the trail just within reach of everybody passing by.
Another view from the park's viewpoints.
This was the far end of the closed beach, looking back.
Another view from the same location.
Raccoons were particularly interested in finding some scraps by the beach's picnic tables.
On Saturday afternoon, after the park, we went on a boat tour which would take us around the coastline of Manuel Antonio, provide snorkeling, and find some dolphins.
Heading out to ocean. Some storms were predicted for the afternoon and evening, but fortunately they stayed closer to land and didn't affect us on the boat.
At the end of the night, we were able to see some dolphins alongside the boat.
A look back from the boat towards Quepos.
After we passed the dolphins, they started being a bit more playful and jumping out of the water.
Another happy dolphin. It wasn't easy timing photos of them.
Sadly leaving the open sea...
...and arriving back to the marina.
Sunday night after spending a relaxing day with the beach we went to a restaurant themed around an old airplane. We went a bit early to catch the sunset. This was the view from our table.
The story is there were two covert airplanes being used for transporting by the United States. One of them was shot down and this one was abandoned at the airport before being bought and moved/transformed into a restaurant.
There are going to be a few of these pictures of the sun setting...
And finally the sun said good night.
Thankfully the great weather that evening made for some very pretty pictures and a very enjoyable dinner.
Last photo of the beautiful sunset.
The restaurant sign...
...and the plane at the entrance.
And, finish the night off with card games of Spoons. Or, in our case, Dull-Knives-Because-You-Can't-Find-Spoons-In-The-Kitchen.
Back in San José for a short night's sleep before the early morning flight we found a nearby place for dinner. Somebody there enjoyed The Shining. Redrum.