cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Beautiful Costa Rica

Costa Rica, Costa Rica
1 Kudo
Flag
Last month, I FINALLY visited Costa Rica! One of my closest friends since middle school has been living and teaching there for the last 12 months. She and I arranged a visit around her fall break. I arrived at the Liberia airport on Sunday afternoon. Meghan lives in Playas del Coco, which was just a 20 minute drive from the airport. She picked me up in her trusty GMC Jimmy, affectionately named “Bernie” (which ended up playing a pivotal role in my visit!) and took me to her beautiful condo just blocks from Coco beach. Her condo community has a beautiful pool, and is frequently visited by iguanas, geckos, birds and howler monkeys. Just sitting on her balcony was endlessly entertaining!
We unpacked my things and then went straight to the beach, and the water was a perfectly refreshing temperature. We hung out for a while, then came home to get ready for dinner with her friend from work. We met at The Lookout, which is Meghan’s favorite restaurant. They were getting ready to close for the slow season, so she wanted to fit in one last dinner. The food was fantastic, and they pride themselves on only serving beer brewed in Costa Rica – which was delicious! The view from the restaurant was also phenomenal – since it’s located on top of a hill, diners enjoy their food while gazing over the rugged Pacific coastline. We had a really nice time!
The next few days consisted of trips to various beaches around Coco – Hermosa, Buena, and Ocotal. I brought along some snorkeling gear which we put to good use. We spent several hours snorkeling and hanging out at Playa Buena, where we saw several parrot fish, puffer fish, tangs, and many others that we could not identify. The water was very clear, and the fish were vibrant colors, from blue to yellow to orange and everywhere in between. It was a lovely beach! We saw even MORE at Ocotal, including a trumpetfish, angelfish, schools of surgeonfish, and many others. This was such a special and memorable day, and it made me wish I had more opportunities to snorkel back at home. In between snorkeling, I had a nice massage on the beach from some folks who had set up tents and massage tables. Enjoying a massage with the waves crashing in the background and a cool breeze blowing was the epitome of relaxation.
As beautiful as the coast was, one of my goals was to get to the cloud rainforests in Monteverde. Meghan was kind enough to offer to drive us there, which turned out to be quite an adventure. We were expecting a rough ride on a gravel road, but unfortunately we turned a bit too soon, and ended up on a road that was at times very steep and completely washed out. Even Bernie’s 4-wheel drive was not enough for the worst of it, and we occasionally had to back up along a cliff edge so we could gain enough speed to get us over the longest hills. After about an hour of white-knuckling the road evened out a little bit, and we were both so happy to finally make it to Santa Elena. We stopped for a delicious Costa Rican casado at Sabor Tico and shook off our nerves, then went to check in at our awesome cabin. We stayed at Los Pinos, which is a beautiful series of cabins and gardens on the edge of town. I would highly recommend Los Pinos, and would absolutely stay there again. Our cabin was $88 for the night, and came with a fully equipped kitchen, bed, sunroom with a pullout (where I slept, until I woke up chilly in the early hours of the morning) and tropical landscaping all around. We saw an agouti in our garden as soon as we pulled up, heard many tropical birds, and once we set our things down we experienced a tropical downpour. The folks at the front desk were extremely helpful, and arranged a night hike for us with Hidden Valley, a small nature reserve in Monteverde. They also arranged a morning hike, which was in the Cloud Forest Reserve. Many of the preserves in this area are only open to exploration with a guide – you cannot enter on your own. This helps eliminate overuse/misuse of the parks.
The night hike was a lot of fun, and although the terrain was very flat and safe, the hike took about 2 hours. The guide was very thorough. He showed us leopard frogs, sleeping birds, 2 eyelash vipers, a kinkajou, and a morpho butterfly. He was communicating with other staff via walky talky, who were hiking around different parts of the trails to look for wildlife. It was a great introduction to the nocturnal wildlife in the forest. It would have been very interesting to do this hike again, but we were only there for 1 night.
Our morning hike was also fantastic. Our guide picked us up at 6:45 AM at Los Pinos and drove us up to the Reserve, which we were thankful for. His name was Mauricio and he was truly an exceptional guide. He was very knowledgeable, and had grown up nearby and had dedicated much of his life to protecting and celebrating the cloud rainforest. We arrived at the entrance and started our hike, where he gave us an introduction to the forest, the reason for the weather and the clouds (moisture rising from the Pacific and Caribbean!) and some general facts about the ecology. We learned a wealth of information about the different types of plants in the forest and how they depend upon each other, as well as native animals, for survival. As we walked through, Mauricio used his scope to show us several birds, tiny orchids, and some coati. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall, and then wrapped up our hike with a visit to the hummingbird garden, which was unbelievable! 14 species of hummingbird exist in this part of Costa Rica, and we must have seen at least 10 just there at the feeders. They were fearless, vibrant and abundant! While watching, Mauricio noticed another bird landing in a tree nearby, and set up his scope to show us. It was a cousin of the quetzal, the orange-bellied trogon. So cool!! This was definitely a highlight of my trip – the colorful birds, the unusual plants, the warm, wet rainforest. So wild!
On our way back to the hotel, Mauricio received a call from his friend, who had noticed a three-wattled bellbird on his farm. He sped over to the location and we pulled over. We could hear its strange call in the distance. As we approached, Mauricio set up his scope and we were able to take a look. It had 3 “wattles” or whiskers around its bill. What an unusual bird!
After our hike with Mauricio, Meghan and I stopped at Beso, a local coffee place that came highly recommended to us by several people. We decided to do one final hike before heading home. We went to Selvatura Park, where we hiked the 1.8 km hanging bridge loop. This was a good decision!! Here we were able to hike at our own pace, and enjoy the canopy view from the long, swaying bridges. Although we didn’t see many animals, we heard quite a few interesting birds and saw many flowers, and I regretted not bringing my binoculars. Next time!
We loaded up into Bernie and had an uneventful drive home, had a delicious dinner curtesy of Meghan’s boyfriend Diego, and watched the first presidential debate. The next day was my last day, which we spent at Playa Conchal with Diego and Meghan’s friend Cecilia. We hung out at the beach all day, cooked on the grill, and snorkeled. It was a fun and relaxing way to end my trip, which went by way too quickly! Flying out of Liberia went off without a hitch, although I will say that I am glad I brought some stomach medication because something did not sit right with me over the last few days of my trip! Of course this is just part of traveling, and thankfully I was prepared. I highly recommend bringing a round of antibiotics and Imodium when traveling! Anyway, I had plenty of time to kill at the airport because security was very quick, so I was able to buy a few remaining gifts, relax and chat with fellow flyers during my last few moments in Costa Rica. Liberia is a really nice airport to travel in and out of, because it is small, clean and safe. I truly can’t wait to visit again!
Story Details

Hotels

Los Pinos - Cabañas & Jardines
Los Pinos - Cabañas & Jardines
Really great place to stay near all of the fantastic sight seeing and nature :)

Points of interest

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
This is the place to go if you are an outdoorsy person. Here you can see hundreds of different species of plants, animals and more.
Selvatura Adventure Park
Selvatura Adventure Park
Awesome place to walk on hanging bridges, see birds and mammals native to central America.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Really unique and beautiful park, absolutely would recommend especially for nature lovers.
Ocotal Beach
Ocotal Beach
Beautiful dark sand beach, massage available, fantastic snorkeling and not too busy.

Restaurants

Beso Espresso & Roasters
Beso Espresso & Roasters
Really cute coffee shop, roast their own coffee, all coffee from Costa Rica. Definitely stop here if you're in Santa Elena.
Le Coq
Yum! Lebanese food in Costa Rica, so delicious and healthy!
The Lookout Restaurant
The Lookout Restaurant
Great view, delicious food and Costa Rican beer on tap!

On The Map

1 Comment

by h_preece

10-14-2016

I want to go there...it looks so pretty!