Parque Nactional de Tortuguero for wildlife; Uvita, Puerto Viejo and Playa Cahuita for relaxing on the beach; Manual Antonio and Cahuita for the monkeys; Cartago area with new friends, Miguel and Maria.
Banana Pancakes; Arroz con Pollo (rice, beans, chicken stirfry with peppers and cilantro, Casado con Pollo (rice, an incredible sauce on the chicken, salad)
Colones (425 Colones to 1 $USD)
Watching a giant green turtle move down the beach and into the water after laying her eggs in a torrential downpour; consistently seeing wildlife; the incredible, verdant hills surrounding the central plateau of Costa Rica; the mountains redefine lush vegetation; being in a bus when going through these very steep, lush mountains; being on Miguel's farm and listening to his love of Costa Rica and having him talk about sustainability, politics, land use and birds; seeing the cooperative farmland and agriculture methods in the area of the Irazu Volcan; the rich, black soils near Cartago; Many fincas (farms) have converted their land from lumber or monoculture methods to preservation and eco-tourism; being introduced to Dos Pinos ice cream (a farmers cooperative product); long stretches - 1.5 hours on a bus - of monoculture banana and African palm oil plantations; the wildlife of Parque Nactional de Tortuguero.
We had planned on 18 days in Costa Rica. However, Therese became sick and required some recuperaton time in San Jose resulting in 14 days of actually travel time. Originally, Corcovado Nacional Parque was considered, but we decided this was the type of place that would require at least a week to explore and travel to and from. Therefore we dropped Corcovado from our plans and concentrated on two loops. The kids wanted to see monkeys and hit the beach, so our first loop was to visit friends of friends in Cartago. We viewed Irazu and the farm lands of the area. Well worth the time. Also, our loop went through the Cerro del Meurte mountain cloud forest. Local people suggested this are rather than the crowds and cost of Monteverde, because the habitat is the same and the famous quetzal bird is more plentiful. We did not see a quetzal (go in Jan. – April season), but the landscape and hiking was fantastic. We stayed at 8500 feet and a comfortable A frame cabin. Next we went to Uvita, A small beach community to relax. Manuel antonio and the beach was next and did not disappoint. We went during the mid week to miss the crowds. On our way back to San Jose we traveled through a mountainous area I really loved north west of san jose The small villages of Atenas, san miguel and orotina are set high in the lush mountains of the cloud forest. Our second loop was to the Caribe side of Costa Rica to include Tortugeuro Park and some beach scene at Puerto Viejo. I highly recommend the boat ride from Cariari to Tortugeuro. At the Village, sign up for a night turtle tour. We went In July when turtles are in the peak of their nesting season. When leaving, the 3 hour canal ride to Puerto Limon is worth the extra money to further see the “Amazon-like” ecosystem. For beach life, we stayed in Puerto Viejo, but found ourselves traveling north to Cahuita nacional parquet for the incredible beach and abundant wildlife.
In the end, a unanimous decision to come back to costa rica was made. We would focus on a volunteer turtle project, hike Corcovado and explore the nicoya peninsula.