Saturday, April 4, 2015

Costa Rica: days 1-2 Poas, Catarata del Toro

Day 1:
We arrived at the airport before dawn. The ticket line was long, and SLOW, and the self-check kiosk wouldn't print Luke's ticket (traveling with a lap seat infant proved time after time after time to be a complete pain- even though we already had juni's ticket in hand). We "missed" our flight (not really, you see, we literally watched our plane sit on the tarmac due to delays, our seats empty beside my folks). Luckily, we found a new flight later that day, and the saint that helped us waived our re-booking fees (that would have cost TWICE as much as our original tickets). My parents ended up missing their next flight due to the delay, so we actually ended up on the final leg together, just later than planned, with many more hours spent in airports.

Juniper was an angel on the plane. ANGEL. He played with plastic bugs, ate snacks, watched airplanes take-off/ land and slept! Holding a sleeping toddler on a plane is a mental endurance challenge, but, there as no amount of sore butt/asleep legs/cramped arms that is worth an over-tired juni, on an over-packed night flight. We landed around 9pm, found our taxi, crammed ourselves in like clowns in a mini car and practiced our spanglish spanish with the driver. We arrived at the hotel and cannon-balled into the pool. We made it.

Day 2:
We awoke early to balmy air and chirping birds. Juni was mesmerized (birds! trees!). We played in the dirt, scavenged a very sour fruit off the ground, and watched troops of ants- all before breakfast. We packed into our rental suv, and raced the clouds to our first destination: Poas volcano.

Fresh strawberries purchased at a roadside stand, overlooking the strawberry fields.

Peering down into Poas volcano. The crater was filled with a smoldering milky-aqua water.

Our next stop was further down the road, a little off the beaten path: Catarata del Toro. The view from the top, peering down into the volcano crater- amazing, the perspective once down in the 'hole'- other worldly. We were enveloped by green and over-sized prehistoric-type jungle plants. Mist from the waterfall filled the air. We had the place to ourselves. It was by far, one of the coolest things I have ever done/seen.

Observant juni spotted a cool beetle.

Hummingbirds flitted about in the gardens.

We rolled into La Fortuna at sunset, ate casados tipicos at a local soda and chased a very overtired babe around the city park.

Where we stayed:
Trapp Family Country Inn - Alajuela
*very nice, close to the airport- a perfect start/end to a trip
Hotel Arenal Montechiari- La Fortuna
*clean, nice cabins overlooking Arenal, family friendly

Where we played:
Poas Volcano National Park
Catarata del Toro

Choose a car rental that delivers to your hotel! We went with Vamos rent-a-car and were very happy with the service. 

Get to the volcanos early for the best chance of a cloud-free view into the crater. 

Continue to days 3-5.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Costa Rica: days 3-5 La Fortuna

Start at the beginning days 1-2.

Day 3:
We soaked away the morning in the Arenal hot springs- a hot volcanic river flowing through the jungle.

A roadside soda served us lunch at the base of Arenal volcano. After fueling, we ventured to Arenal National Park, stopping in the road for a band of roaming coatis. A chorus of strange birds kept us company on our trek through the rainforest. Juni hiked a half mile, stopping to poke his fingers in mysterious holes.

Supper was patacones and burritos, and dessert eaten on our cabin porch in the moonlight.

Day 4:
Next stop was Ecocentro Danous, a tiny green oasis outside La Fortuna. With the help our our guide, we got a close up look at frogs, lizards, sloths, agoutis, birds, caimans... We got lucky and stumbled upon a sleepy sloth, napping on the forest floor.

We dipped our toes in the river at the base of La Fortuna waterfall, had a very authentic restaurant experience in town (complete with cats and dogs under the table- felt like home!) and had an ice-cream night cap in the park. We fell asleep to a raindrop lullaby.

Day 5:
We set out to drive the infamously treacherous roads around Lake Arenal, to our next destination, Santa Elena. The rain and mud foiled our plan to hike to Rio Celeste. We bumped and swerved and held our breath, as we slowly made our way through the mountains. Juni stomped in puddles at a local playground, as the neighboring church choir sang. My dad literally got out of the car, and kissed the road, when the dirt road turned back to pavement. Lunch at the quaint Cafe y Macadamia, overlooked lake Arenal. The iced tea and chocolate macadamia cookies were almost better than the view. Santa Elena was windy and mist from the cloud forest floated past our cabin. The sun set over the pacific ocean, just out of sight, from our new home on the hill.

Where we stayed:
Hotel Arenal Montechiari
Cabanas la Pradera
*rustic, affordable, family-run cabins on a beautiful property (with fantastic hosts)

Where we played:
Arenal free hot springs
Arenal National Park
Ecocentre Danous
La Fortuna Waterfall

Favorite eats:
Cafe y Macadamia

Skip the over-priced hot spring resorts and go to the local free springs! The entrance is just past Tabacon Resort (you can't miss it)- look for a yellow gate. We went during the day, parked along the road and it felt very safe. 

To the cloud forest days 6-7.