The Wonderful Costa Rica

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


Yes, I’ve been talking about this for a while now and I finally have the time to sit down and do this post justice.

Costa Rica, what a wonderful country.

We’ve been planning on going for the last 10 years. A few times we even had to cancel our flights after we had tickets, but this year we did it.

I hope that with this post I’ll be able to give you some good advice so one day you might be able to visit yourself.

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and the main hub for most tourists. It is a large and chaotic city. The city has some nice architecture but for me personally the only reason to be there is to sleep and move to the jungle.

The city has some museums (we didn’t see any). The gold museum and jade museum are the main ones.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn that was pretty much in the center of the city.

There was a park right across from the hotel (the travel guide mentioned the park was beautiful but best avoided at night as transvestites use it as their working grounds), needless to say we did not walk the park at night

During daylight San Jose looks like the large third world cities you see on tv.  Simply said noisy, fast  paced and a little dirty.

Traffic rules are suggestions, during the 2 weeks I spend in CR I never saw anyone stop for a stop sign. Roads will be used if convenient but even going over the curb is ok if it gets you through traffic faster. Pedestrians be warned.

What about crime?  That is of course a big one. Is there crime? Sure. I didn’t witness any crimes myself but the normal crime that comes with tourism can be expected in CR. Especially in San Jose where there are massive crowds, and tourists that are not familiar with the area are easy prey.

Pick pockets are known to ride the busses and walk closely behind you on crowded streets, so keep your valuables in a safe in the hotel. wear a money belt, make a copy of your passport and carry that with you instead of the real thing. Leave the real thing in your hotel safe.

Don’t flash expensive jewelry. Wear your backpack in front if possible and cameras around your neck. scooters flying by can easily snatch it of your shoulder if not worn properly so be warned.

There is plenty of police presence but they don’t serve in the same way as in the US. We saw a security guy with a shotgun in an appliance store. I found that a little strange but I’m sure it serves a purpose. The people in CR are really nice and many speak fluid english.

There are tons of little arts and crafts stores throughout the city, so shop around and compare prices. There definitely is a big relationship between the quality of the art you are buying and it’s price. A specialty in CR are the tribal masks made by the Boruca Tribe. You can buy them cheap  (60$) but the quality will be so so. If you really want a nice piece of art pay the price. Try to buy it from the artist himself if you can.

Boruca Masks Costa Rica

Boruca Masks Costa Rica

Courtesy of (these guys give you great advice on traveling CR and have tons of Youtube videos)

Also keep in mind that on Sundays the stores are closed so if your last day in CR is a Sunday, don’t put of the souvenir hunting because you’ll be stuck with what the airport has to offer. Coffee that is 5 times the price of that in a supermarket and a very limited selections of art that is at least 4 times as expensive.

More about the art we bought later.

San Jose

San Jose

The view from our hotel (not looking at the park) and an inside view of the lobby. They sold some art at the hotel that supports the local community and allegedly 100% of the revenue goes to the artist where in many stores the artist only gets 30%.



Some street shots from the hectic life in San Jose.

Fruit stand vendor Costa Rica

Fruit stand vendor Costa Rica

Butcher Shop San Jose CR

Butcher Shop San Jose CR

The next morning we were picked up and drove to La Fortuna.  I strongly recommend that you pre-arrange your transportation. Yes you can drive yourself but the way people drive is not the same way we drive in the USA. You won’t have to worry about finding your way and you will have the freedom to take the scenery in while you sit back and relax. La Fortuna,this is where they have the gorgeous Arenal Volcano (Credit to  : Part of the Pacific Ring Fire Circle, Costa Rica has over 200 identifiable volcanic formations dating back over 65 million years. Today, however, only 100 or so show any signs of volcanic activity, while just five are classified as active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes in Costa Rica lie in the northern part of the country and in the Central Highlands.) If you look up pictures or websites on CR you will for sure see a picture of the volcano. However here is what you might not find out. The Volcano is rarely seen as a whole. We only saw it once for an hour with maybe 2/3  of the volcano visible. The locals told us that most of the time only October and March are two months where you can see the volcano. Any other time it is sheer luck.

So if this is important to you, you might want to schedule your trip accordingly.

We spent 3 days in the Fortuna area.

There is so much to do in this area that you want to plan your activities.

One of the main things we noticed is that CR is no longer cheap. My wife had been to CR 15 years ago and CR was relatively cheap, today they know the american prices and going to dinner in CR is about the same as going to dinner as in the US. The cheapest trip during our stay was $25 for a night tour and this was on the hotel’s premises. So budget for what you really want to see and count on every trip to be at least $50 per person (Tip not included). The tours really hack into your budget. If you go for the white water rafting or more adventurous tours expect $100 per person. I would recommend to book the tours at your hotel. They all gave us honest advice and even contacted a guide for a private tour. I can tell you that this makes a big difference. These guides have been touring the forests for years and know all the hangouts and feed spots of the animals you would like to see.  Of course they are animals and there are no guarantees that you will see anything. As our guide said “I can guarantee you that you will see trees.”

So What did we do:

Day 1 we went to the hanging bridges. It was great and we had the guide to ourselves,(early December is the start of the tourist season and the parks won’t be so crowded) this was really nice. The paths were well maintained and the views were spectacular. We saw some amazing birds, a native wild pig called a Pecary, tarantulas, lots of insects and a group of spider and howler monkeys.

It sometimes is really hard to see things and having a good pair of binoculars is really a must.

Arenal Hanging Bridges

Arenal Hanging Bridges

This was one of my favorite birds that I saw while in Costa Rica. It is called a Broad Billed Mot Mot.

Broad Billed Mot Mot

Broad Billed Mot Mot

It’s hard to tell from this picture but the Mot Mot is a big bird. Gorgeous.

We returned to the hotel at 4 and at 5.30 we went on a night tour.

This night tour was one of my favorite tours during our trip.

It is so interesting to walk through the Jungle at night. Everything is different. The sounds, the smells, the paths. DON’T DO THIS ON YOUR OWN.

Darkness is when the snakes like to move and we saw plenty.

We did the Arenal Oasis night tour, this is a private resort that 30 years ago was farmland. The Rojas Bonilla Family decided to let the jungle grow back. And boy what a gorgeous jungle it has become. Instead of cutting the jungle and destroying the habitat for many species the family now gives day and night tours. It was so great to visit them.

So here you go:

You can also rent little cabins on their property.

Anyway, we did the night tour and our guide was Inti he runs the night tours. Inti is originally from Spain and as so many visitors he fell in love with CR and had to return. Inti is a great person and a great guide, so double thumbs up.

Arenal Oasis description:

Night Walk In The Forest

On this tour you have the opportunity to see the other face of the forest and experience that side of the nature that not everybody knows. This night walk starts just before dark and the main subjects are insects, reptiles and amphibious, nocturnal mammals, glowing fungi, spiders and more. Also one of the main attractions is the “Cantarrana” or “Frog Song”, where you learn about the amphibious history and some of the most popular nocturnal species like the glass frog, the red-eye tree frog, the bullfrog, the facemask frog and other jewel of the forest. This tour starts at 5:45 pm, at the refuge.

What we saw: Eyelash viper (scary but gorgeous), millipedes,tons of frogs and of course the red-eyed tree frog. we even saw a pair mating.

Red Eye Tree frog at Arenal Oasis

Red Eye Tree frog at Arenal Oasis

Don’t take my word for it. Here is someone else’s:

We returned t the hotel around 9, a quick jump into the Jacuzzi to relax and the next day we were up again at 5 am to go on a birdwatching tour. Hosted again at Arenal Oasis. Their Son Alex was our guide. (the tour was only supposed to last 2-3 hours, we were on the tour almost till noon. It is great to have guides who are just as excited as you are to spot the animals).

Thank you Alex. We saw so many gorgeous birds and Alex’s eagle eye spotted them faster than you could imagine.

We saw 3 species of Toucans, woodpeckers, tons of birds, an armadillo, squirrels, (my favorite) Poison Dart Frogs, and the rare Tayra.

Keel Billed Toucan

Keel Billed Toucan


( purchase this picture at

While we were walking around, a group of three Tayras walked out of the jungle. It was an amazing sight. Alex had only seen 3 of them in his life. We saw three at once. We observed them walking around for a good 15 minutes and then they ran back into the jungle.


Tayra during bird watching tour

After our bird watching tour we asked to be dropped off in the village, we ate at a local restaurant and explored the city. It is very easy to do on foot. The town square is full with stores and restaurants. We did take a taxi back to the hotel. It would be a one hour walk and that in itself would be ok but the roads are dangerous and I felt it was safer taking a taxi.

Back to the hot tub and the restaurant.


The next day we took a trip to  Cano Negro and the Rio Frio rivers.

This was close to the Nicaraguan border and seeing that there sometimes are small disputes between the countries, it is wise to do this trip in a group and to have your passport with you.

It took a two-hour drive to get to Cano Negro and boy what a trip it was. It is nice to see how some people really live in CR, you see how families go to work, how they interact …

We stopped at a restaurant for a quick break and all around the restaurant you could see hundreds of Iguanas in the trees. Gorgeous animals.

Costa Rica Iguana

Costa Rica Iguana

From here the trip turned bad for about an hour. There were no roads to the river and you are just bouncing around in the van, the guides call it the Costa Rican massage.

Once you arrive, you are given a treat and you get on the boat.

You will be on the river for about 2- 3 hours. It is gorgeous and one of the best opportunities to see 3 of the 4 species of monkeys CR has to offer. (Spider monkeys,Howler monkeys and White Faced monkeys.)

We saw all 3 of them plus a ball of fur high up in a tree that was a sloth.

Great trip and definitely recommended.

White Faced Monkey at Cano Negro

White Faced Monkey at Cano Negro

So these were all the dings we did just in the first 3 days of our trip to CR.

I’ve spent 2 hours on this post now and my book is calling me.

“Hey work on me for a change.”

I better answer that call.

I will post part 2 and part 3 of our trip soon.

For now I’m going to head back into my cave to complete my novel “Diablo Canyon”.

In the mean time feel free to peek over to Amazon and pick up my short story:”The Devil’s Whorehouse.”


San Jose:

Hotel: Holiday Inn San Jose-Aurola

5th Avenue and 5th Street , San Jose,Costa Rica 1-855-809-3505



Hotel: Arenal Manoa

Good food,Good Rooms,Nice Pools,Good Tours, Nice views and lots of wildlife around the hotel.


Hotel Arenal- Manoa

Tours we did:

  • Arenal Hanging Bridges
  • Arenal Oasis night tours
  • Cano Negro River Tour (whole day)
  • Arenal Oasis Bird Watching Tour

Thanks and see you soon

Chris Flemish


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