Friday, June 25, 2010

Final Stop Villa Lapas Costa Rica

Our final stop in Costa Rica was an all inclusive resort called Villa Lapas. It was on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. And most importantly it had air conditioning!!! The boys loved the fact that the bar tab was included and they took advantage of it.

We found a guide named Victor. He was not the best guide we had but he was very entertaining. We went to Carara State Park and did a river trip on the Tarcoles River. The Scarlet Macaws are found all over the place here. They are quite colorful and beautiful.

One night there was an earthquake. I was half asleep so I was not sure what was going on. It felt like someone was tilting the bed. Then it felt like someone lifted the bed. However I also had the worst asthma attack of my life that night. Bill knew I was dying so he put the pillow over his head. I went outside to the water cooler. But I had a really rough time. I completely forgot out my "dream" until Adam mentioned the next morning about the earthquake. Of course Bill, Bryan and Scott slept through it all.

Here is a frog found on the property.

Bill and I at the outdoor dining area.

The beach on the Pacific side.

The mangroves as seen from the boat!


At the top of the hill was a sanctuary that they were really proud of. We did not pay the $20 a person to go in.

Our napkins turned into birds.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stop 4 Monteverde Cloud Forest

Stop 4 was the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had to drive up and down mountains for about 25 km on dirt roads. The roads were not as bad as the road to Barfoot Park in Arizona. If it had been raining we would not have had fun. It started raining just as we got there, so we were lucky. At the top of the mountain, the small town of Santa Elena does have paved streets. We passed Santa Elena and went to the Trapp Family Lodge. This is the closest hotel to the Monteverde State Park. We had 2 beautiful big rooms. The food at the lodge was expensive but good. One night we ate in town, it was also expensive but good.

Monteverde state park was fabulous. It's at the top of the mountain and was not bad hiking at all. We had a guide named Jose Manual. He was very good. We actually got to see the Bell bird. The Resplendant Quaetzals are in the park and we had good look at both the males and females. This cute bird was taking a bath in a bromleaid at the hummingbird gardens. The hummingbird gardens had so many hummingbirds it was hard to keep track of them.

Wonderful views from the top of the mountain.

At Santa Elena Park, there were more paths and it's a beautiful park. The best thing was the fabulous empanadas that were sold in the visitors center. They were the best of the trip!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stop 3 Arenal Observatory Lodge

The third stop was Arenal Observatory Lodge. On the way from La Selva we passed a horrible wreck and were positive someone was killed. It looked like a car was passing something and was hit head on by an 18 wheeler. The 18 wheeler went off the road, hit a transformer, and was jackknived. When we got to Arenal we ran into James of James and Daphne. He said they came on the wreck before the emergency equipment got there and the guy was awake. That was a miracle. James had questions for Bill about birds they had seen.

This is the view from the lodge of the volcana, which erupted the day before we got there. The lodge was beautiful. I am missing some pictures, but when I find them I will post them. The boys said it was the nicest place they ever stayed. I can't say the same since the Hotel Scribe in Paris when I was 11 will never be topped. We had 3 bedrooms and a living room. OH MY. I was so in love with that place. It is $1727 a night now for just a one bedroom suite. They must have remodeled since we stayed there in 1965.

The food was overpriced and just ok. Was not the best we had. Breakfast was included and was very good. Fresh fruit, pancakes, eggs, etc.

This was below the lodge. We saw lots of monkeys. Our guide Christian was very good. At this spot we found a swam of army aunts. So a flock of anteaters was eating the insects that the ants stirred up. We were very lucky to see a lot of different birds because of the army aunts.

A view of the lake from the lodge.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Stop 2 - La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

The second stop on our whirlwind tour of Costa Rica was the La Selva Biological Station.

First it must be said that we could not have found ANY of our places without the help of the Garmin. It had all the hotels in it, so we were able to find our way from hotel to hotel. Bryan doubted it every time and pulled out the map, but each time we ended up right at the hotel! Eventhough we have Garmins, we did not buy the Costa Rican map, we just rented the Garmin with the car. That one had the rental car place already on it. We never would have found our way out of the airport or back to it with a map! We thought $9/day was steep for about the first 15 minutes, then decided it paid for itself.

The La Selva Biological Station is a research station in Costa Rica that a lot of scientists gather information on a lot of different topics from birds, to earthquakes, to snakes, flora. They have all kinds of electronic equipment there. But most importantly, they have a lot of study aboard students, both undergrad and graduate students. Scott was in heaven. He even went on a nature walk with one group after befriending the girls. He did get lost trying to find out cabin, but anyone that knows Scott is not surprised.

The food was typical Costa Rican dorm food. You had your card, and you stood in line. The food was ok, but there was a lot of fruit so we were happy.

The guy at the front desk was a riot. One time Bill and I had come back to the gift shop for cokes, then went on another trail. Bryan came in and asked them if they had seen his dad. So when we came back he told us that Bill's son was looking for us. I told him that we tried to lose him but it didn't work. Michael looked at us and said straight faced "but he was really scared". We all laughed.

Our rooms were typical dorm rooms, twin beds, but had a walk in closet. The building held 4 rooms and they had free laundry facilities. Since we were not students, we were away from the main buildings. Adam, Kevin and John were the other 2 rooms in our building. Then Daphne and James were in the next building.

The first day we went on a nature walk and met Daphne and James from Kansas. They heard us talking about a boat ride, so they signed up for it too. They are not birders per se, but enjoy nature, so they enjoyed the boat ride. They also saved us because Michael gave us horrible directions where to go pay and we had to find Daphne and James to lead us there.

This was from the boat.

Here is a Basilisk lizard, also known as the Jesus Christ lizard for being able to walk fast over water.

Some of the flora.

A bird we saw. The Slaty tailed trogan. You will notice my photography skills went south. The reason being, Bryan took the camera I was using. Unfortunately his camera quit working after a bad rain storm on Cerra Silencio. And since he is the better photographer, he got the good camera.

Here is a great curassow that was at the front gate when we walked in.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Costa Rica - First Stop

The first stop of our trip was an Eco-lodge called Rancho Naturalista. This is located in the Caribbean Lowlands. It has been owned since 1988 by a couple named the Erbs. Their daughter Lisa is now managing the day to day operations. They provide 3 fabulous meals a day with the best desserts. The flan one night was out of this world.

This is the main building. There are several guest rooms, the dining room and a living room located in here.

This is the view from the upper deck.
You can have hummingbirds like this sit on the railing. The backyard is full of bananas, cooked rice and watermelon for the birds to feed on. There are humming bird feeders everywhere. And most are on the level of the second level deck. You can sit in rocking chairs and watch the hummingbirds for hours.
This is the view from our room. It was at the top of the hill and the two rooms were in a building by themselves.
This is the view from the upper deck of the main house.

This is the steps to the hummingbird pools that are located by our rooms.

Another view of the surroundings.

Lisa's youngest son Cisco was the sweetest boy. He was around 12 and his aunt brought him a cupcake cookbook. He showed me all the cupcakes he liked. Lisa told me he loves to bake cakes.
Rancho was very peaceful. We were the only guests with our friends. It was the rainy season. We hiked up and down the mountain. Then the boys hiked a very treacherous mountain nearby. We could have stayed here longer.
The resident bird guide is Juan Carlos. He took us to many good birding spots in the area. He knows the birds, the bird calls and where the birds reside. We could not have found the number of birds that we did without his help.
The little town nearby had a mini supermarket. We did not find the food prices very cheap. Cokes were almost $2 a bottle anywhere. There is not any air conditioning so if you don't have a fan, you are very hot. The rooms are very spacious! And both of our rooms had 2 queen sized beds!
We highly recommend Rancho Naturalista to anyone that wants to sit and commune with nature.