"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

January 31, 2018

Jan. 31 - Puntarenas & Atenas, Costa Rica

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” ―Dagobert D. Runes

Our time at the Finca La Amistad Lodge came to an end...we really enjoyed practicing our Spanish with Janet and Isabelle. Maybe next year we'll be able to carry on a real conversation in Spanish. We drove down the west side of the volcanos and over to the coast to Puntarenas to check out the water. It's located on the Gulf of Nicoya...as close to the ocean as we're going to get on this trip. We enjoyed seeing the boats, adding another lighthouse to our list of lighthouses and eating lunch over looking the harbor. The weather was nice, the roads were great and it was nice to see a little bit more of the Costa Rican countryside.

The Puntarenas Lighthouse
Boats in the harbor in Puntarenas
Our next stop was Atenas, it sits at an elevation of 2300 feet above sea level and is known for having one of the best climates in the world. The views were incredible on the way up from the coast. I can see why so many expats from the US live in the area. The town is situated on the Central Valley's western edge, just 16 mile from Costa Rica's International Airport outside of San Jose. It made a great place for us to visit before flying home. The views from our hotel were breath taking...we could lay in bed and enjoy the views of the surrounding countryside. It was amazing.

The views along the road from Puntarenas to Atenas
Atenas is surrounded by mountains and coffee plantations and is known as a very prosperous agricultural center. The central park in the middle of town is a popular site to relax and people watch. The palm trees above the park are full of parrots and toucans. Cafes and shops are around the park offer popular Costa Rican cuisine and traditional Costa Rican clothing.

The square in Atenas
The Barons Resort
The view from our room
The view from our bed. We saw a lot of beautiful birds view here.
More views from our room
The view from the parking lot...looking towards Atenas
The full moon coming up over Atenas and San Jose

Jan. 30 - Rio Celeste Waterfall

"If you tiptoe into cold water, you're missing out on the rush of plunging in headfirst." —Simone Elkeles

As I said before the road from the lodge to the national park is more like a river bottom. We wound up the mountain very slowly, awarded with some amazing views of the countryside...not that Stan had a chance to take his eyes off the road to look around. The 3 1/2 miles took us over 30 minutes. You definitely need a four wheel drive vehicle in this area. 
Rio Celeste is located inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park, legend has it that it got its exceptional color after God finished painting the sky and dipped his paintbrush in the river. The more scientific explanation is that volcanic minerals produce the striking color. The river is born at a place called Los Teñideros, where two streams merge, causing a chemical reaction that is visible to visitors as the water changes from clear to an intense shade of blue. 

Because the park is at a high elevation, it hosts primary cloud forest as well as rainforest and is a critical habitat to various endangered species and home to an abundance of wildlife, such as white-faced monkeys, anteaters, tapirs, sloths, white-nosed coati (a raccoon-type animal) and a variety of exotic birds.
The hike started out on a well-maintained trail that led us through a scenic canopy of trees. We were told there are white-faced monkeys in the area but we didn’t see any. It could be they don’t like to come out and play in the rain. The trail soon turned into a muddy slippery mess as we approached the waterfall. Even before we descended the steps to the bottom of the falls we could see the dazzling pool of turquoise blue water. It almost looked like something out of a fairytale. We were told that the color is even more intense when there is less rain. 
Past the falls the trail continues to wind along the riverbank, taking us upstream. The further upriver we got...the steeper and muddier the trail became. We eventually reached the Los Teñideros where the color is generated. It's the confluence of the Buena Vista and Roble rivers. We're beginning to get use to playing in the rain, it seems to comes and goes during the day...everyday. 

Some of the roughest trails we've ever seen
The Los Teñideros  
Green Eyelash Viper - A guide pointed out this snake next to the trail...it's very deadly. 
We were just a little messy at the end of the hike. 
This is video show an aerial view of the Rio Celeste

Relaxing on our deck after a long hike
Janet and Stan on our deck. Janet runs the lodge and was so nice...all the Costa Ricans we met were extremely friendly. 

January 30, 2018

Jan. 29 - Our Horseback Adventure

“If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.” —Ecclesiastes 11:4

We enjoyed the Finca Amstad Lodge, breakfast and dinner were included and we sat in their outdoor kitchen with the other guests. We've met couples from Spain, France, Germany and Belgium, it's been fun trying to communicate and finding out where and what everyone was doing. 

It rained all night, so we decided to wait a day before hiking the Rio Celeste. Instead we decided to ride horses. Just getting to where the horses were was an adventure. The main roads in Costa Rica are pretty good, but the back roads in some areas are just a little better than driving in a river bottom. It took us 35 minutes to travel the 3 ½ miles to the entrance of Tenorio Volcano National Park (where we'll come tomorrow to hike), Wilson's house, where we were meeting for the horseback riding, was another mile or two down the road. Luckily the road improved somewhat after the park.

Believe it or not...this isn't the worst part of the road. Some places had large boulder in the middle of the road and other had huge pot holes.
The last time we rode horses was on a friends ranch close to Rockport. We rode through the pasture, a nice flat pasture. This time we road down steep roads...much of which only an ATV could maneuver. We were hoping to get to enjoy the wonderful views, see a few monkeys, toucans and sloths, but the rain returned and made it a little difficult to enjoy the ride. About 45 minutes into the ride and facing a steep, slippery embankment...we turned around and went back to the house.
The muddy, slippery trail
This picture isn't very good, but it shows part of the road where we decided to turn around. Can you see how steep it is?
Since we cut our ride short Wilson's wife gave us an informative tour of their sugarcane field and showed us how they make sugarcane honey (syrup). She also taught me how to make a tasty dessert, but I can't remember the name of it. The afternoon didn't go quite as we were expecting, but it was still a lot of fun.

Jenny cutting sugarcane
Squeezing the water out of the sugarcane
Making a little treat
Dessert and fresh sugarcane juice 

January 29, 2018

Jan. 28 - Bijagua, Costa Rica

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ―Maya Angelou

We moved on today to a new location, but we decided to check out the free hot springs just out of town first. We’ve really enjoyed the springs while we’ve been here, but these were a little different...we were actually in the creek. The first time either of us have been in a creek with crystal clear, warm water. It was very nice. 

Our second stop in Costa Rica is the small village of Bijagua, nestled in a lush valley between two dormant volcanoes, the Miravalles Volcano and the Tenorio Volcano. It’s most famous for being the gateway to the Rio Celeste Waterfall, located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The area is home to ecolodges and bed & breakfasts…no large resorts. This keeps the town peaceful, undeveloped and a great spot to connect with the local culture.

Although Bijagua is surrounded by rainforest the valley itself has acres of pastoral farmland with citrus groves and vegetable gardens and is known for its history of cheese making. So it’s a great place if you're a foodie looking for your next big thrill or an avid outdoorsman seeking out Costa Rica's best kept natural wonders. The virgin rainforest near Bijagua is home to tropical animal species like pumas, tapirs, sloths, anteaters, howler monkeys, coatis, giant butterflies and birds such as squawking green parrots, macaws, hummingbirds and toucans.

We're spending three nights at the Finca Amistad Cacao Lodge. It's on a cocoa plantation near Tenorio National Park and close to Bijagua. The lodge offers guests a various activities, such as horseback riding, hiking and tours of the plantation that explains the process of chocolate production. Each of the six accommodations has a terrace and is surrounded by gardens with a view of the mountains or the river. It’s a great place to relax, watch the birds and wildlife and will serve as a great base camp for visit in the area.

The free hot springs near La Fortuna
We don’t even see this in Texas...horses moving right down the middle of the road. 
Scenery on the way to Bijagua 
Finca Armistad Cocoa Plantation 
The lodge where we had our meals
Our cabana 
View from our deck 

January 28, 2018

Jan. 27 - Arenal Volcano

“Collect moments, not things.” —Author Unknown
Arenal Volcano makes a beautiful backdrop to the little village La Fortuna. It looms large and ominous over the pastured green hillsides that surround its base. At the moment it’s in a resting phase, but it still remains the country’s most active volcano as it has for the past 43 years.

The volcano formed 7,000 years ago from the adjacent (and now extinct) Chato Volcano, Arenal’s most recent eruptive period began in 1968 with an explosion that buried three small villages and left 87 people dead. It was active with almost daily effusion of smoke and lava until July 2010. The area that surrounds the volcano is home to a number of hot springs, thanks to the geothermal activity beneath Arenal. Arenal is the most famous volcano in Costa Rica, but it’s not the only one. The country hosts six active volcanoes and sixty dormant or extinct volcanoes within its borders.

There are quite a few places to hike around the volcano, The 1968 Trail, the Arenal Volcano National Park and Arenal Observatory Lodge. We decided to spend the day at the lodge since it offers a variety of trails through the tropical rainforest, primary and secondary forests, pasturelands and manicured gardens. In our five mile hike we had a chance to see three waterfalls, tons of flora, lots of tropical birds and even a snake. But we still haven't seen the top of Arenal Volcano or a monkey.

Lake Arenal from the lodge
Danta Waterfall
One of the hanging bridges we crossed on our hike
A view from along the trail
The dormant volcano Cerro Chato
Part of the trail near the second waterfall
A local family showed us where this waterfall was
The third waterfall we found today
Part of our hike was on roads through the resort grounds. This road is lined with Rainbow Eucalyptus trees.
The lodge has a large bird feeder near the deck. It was a lot of fun seeing all the different birds.
This is a White-faced Coati they related to the raccoon and we've seen them everywhere this week.
Costa Rica is very lush...there is something growing everywhere...even the fence post and rocks have something growing on them. Here are just a few of the things we saw today.
Trail map for Arenal Observatory Lodge
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