BootsnAll Travel Network

Days 654-666: Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, San Jose, La Fortuna, Monteverde, Liberia

Costa Rica was a remarkably pleasant place to travel. Nice folks, good food, and you can actually find all the cool critters on the tourism posters.


Just across the border from Panama on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo was our first stop in Costa Rica. We figured it would be touristy enough that we could catch the Super Bowl somewhere. So we were suprised that only two places in town had it on, and they were both hot as saunas and packed with sweaty gringos. Despite that, Puerto Viejo was a pretty relaxed town with a rasta vibe and a hot black sand beach.

We came to Costa Rica to see critters. So we shouldn’t have been too surprised when the critters came to see us in the hotel room. They’ve got really, really big spiders and whole lot roaches to keep you on your toes as you try to find the bathroom at night.

Local’s beach shack at Puerto Viejo.

Still stung by lack of red frogs at Red Frog Beach near Bocas del Toro, Panama we went on a muddy, mosquito-infested trail near the botanical gardens in Puerto Viejo and found a ton of really shy but cool frogs. Marc tried to catch a few to check them out closer and didn’t find out until the next day that the green ones are called “Poison Dart Frogs” for a reason. The skin of one frog is supposed to have enough toxins to kill about 7 people. Oops.

Turns out all the red frogs from Red Frog Beach have hopped on over to Puerto Viejo.

Look but don’t touch. This poison dart frog is the coolest amphibian we’ve seen.

Even closer to the border with Panama, the town of Manzanillo has a really nice coastal hiking trail.

All Marc needs is a drink in a pineapple with a tiny umbrella.

The first time you hear the howls of howler monkeys coming from every direction, it’s quite unnerving. Our first thoughts were: “What big, dangerous critters are there in this jungle?” Then you see them and relax a whole lot.

Hungry, hungry howler. They can’t howl with their mouths full.

Cool tropical plants.

Just down the road from Puerto Viejo is the even more relaxed town of Cahuita. This was probably our favorite place in Costa Rica! Cahuita National Park has a single trail that leaves right from town. This trail was really nice. On one side there were beautiful, white-sand beaches with turquoise water, and on the other side was thick jungle that was jam packed with awesome critters. We saw all sorts of cool animals, but seeing them and getting a good picture of them are two different things.

The white faced monkeys were easy to get pictures of because they came after you. While we were trying to have a peaceful chips and salsa break on the beach, a group of monkeys took a shine to our food and chased us off. Not to worry: we have a “no chips and salsa left behind” policy.

The low-light of Cahuita had to be the elderly European nudist couple that took over our vacated spot near the monkeys. Funny enough, the monkeys left them alone.

The sloths were awesome. What weird looking animals. Here’s a three-toed sloth having a snack.

Chewbacca’s relatives hanging out in Cahuita. This is a two-toed sloth.

A guy from Alaska pointed out this miracle of evolution. The bug looks just like a piece of bird crap sitting on a leaf until you bother it, and then it sticks out those two antennae. How did the guy from Alaska know to bother a piece of bird crap on a leaf?

The Eyelash Palm Pitviper was a beautiful, bright yellow snake. Marc got nice and close and was glad he didn’t look like a humming bird (the color is supposed to attract them).

This was probably our most difficult picture of the entire trip! Butterflies in general, and morphos in particular are very frustrating to photograph. We started calling them “Mo-fo”s after a while. It took a lot of stalking to find a morpho that didn’t bolt when we got close (this one was eating some fruit). The huge, blue wings flap very quickly and our camera is slow to respond. But we found out that waving a hand near the morpho could get it to open its wings in about the same amount of time as it takes the camera to respond to pressing the button. So Kelly would wave and Marc would press the button and eventually we got lucky. Stunningly beautiful insects!

Did we mention there were big spiders? This one was so big it was wearing leg warmers.

Lots of leaf cutter ants on parade. They like exposed toes too.

Some times you feel like a nut.

After a really brief stop in San Jose, we went to La Fortuna to check out some lava on the active Arenal Volcano. It wasn’t quite as active as the tourist posters showed. But we did see it spitting out red lava rocks after nightfall.

Volcan Arenal in the morning. You can tell this is not the side that the lava comes out because there are trees. The other side is barren.

The ride to Monteverde is pretty interesting. The first leg took us past Lake Arenal. Marc has decided that we’re going to retire there. Kelly was asleep and is unconvinced. The second leg from Tilaran to Monteverde is a mere 25 miles but takes more than two and half hours to traverse. We were incredulous that it could possibly take this long, and yet it did. We were none too surpised to see “Monteverde needs a highway!” bumper stickers on every cab in town.

The Monteverde cloud forest is pretty heavily hyped as a bird watchers paradise. In particular, the park is home to the Resplendent Quetzal – considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the world. We caught the first bus to the park at 6am since the early bird catches the, er, bird. The park didn’t open for another half hour, but while we were waiting the guy who cleans the fountain pointed out a female quetzal in a tree in the parking lot. While everyone was trying to look at it, a male quetzal (the more showy of the two, with rediculously long tail feathers) flew over our heads and we got a brief look at it in a tree before it took off. We should have quit then and saved the expensive park entry fee because that was pretty much the highlight of the park.

While we did see a few awesome humming birds and big, furry agoutis (a large rodent), we couldn’t get pictures of them. At least this cool UFO-looking bug sat still long enough.

The low-light of this park was the tick that found Marc’s shin quite tasty. Let it be known that using a lighter to get a tick off will do a good job of killing the tick and giving you a nice bald patch, but the tick won’t let go.

Near by is the Santa Elena reserve that was good and mossy like a cloud forest should be. The light through the trees and clouds was cool.

Kelly didn’t like that all the webs in the park were vacant. Where were the owners?

Marc holds evidence that aliens are already amongst us.

Odd centipede in Santa Elena.

The coolest critter we saw in Santa Elena was a “tayra”, which looked like a wolverine with a bad attitude.

We headed back down the mountains to the sizzling town of Liberia. This place was so hot that it was easy to figure out why there were plastic liners on the bed – because tourists sweat like pigs! This town was a pleasant enough place for Marc to be sicker than a dog. He would once again like to thank the inventor of Cipro and offer to take him/her out to a nice, hygenic dinner when we get back.

Speaking of food, the standard meal in Costa Rica is the casado (which also means married). It’s a big plate of rice, beans, eggs, and some combo of veggies, salad, fried plantains, and occasionally tortillas. The meaning of “tortilla” has changed as we headed north. In South America, it always meant omlette, much to Kelly’s disappointment. In Panama, it meant a fried corn hockey-puck. And finally, in Costa Rica, it turned into what we’ve always thought a corn tortilla should be. And they are goooood!

Costa Rica is famous for its coffee. And yet we had a hard time getting it. For example, at a bakery in Liberia, Marc asked the gal behind the counter if the espresso machine worked and she said yes. So he ordered a latte and was horrified to see her head for the Nescafe machine. He yelled enough that she stopped and made a latte by hand. But it was so bad that he might have prefered the Nescafe machine instead. Sigh.

The Lomas Burbudal biological reserve is close to Liberia but has almost no visitors. We were greeted by a lone ranger and an army of mosquitos. The only critters we saw a lot of were the adorable, but shy, white nose coati.

Our last day in Costa Rica happened to be day #666. So who could resist an appropriate self portrait to commemorate it?


12 Responses to “Days 654-666: Costa Rica”

  1. zcookes/Mom Says:

    The snake is DISGUSTING!!!

    And I ususally don’t get the creepy crawlies from snakes…

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. ¡Viejo Papá De la Inflamación! Says:

    Ese retrato del uno mismo le frecuentará por siempre compinche…

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. Sue Says:

    Awecome photos!

    I just realized (by going through your blog) that we were also in Peru around Christmas time! It would have been cool if we had run into each other. =)

    I am back in Seoul and Lee is currently in Manaus doing his Amazon jungle trip.

    Take care you guys!!

  6. Posted from Republic Of Korea Republic Of Korea
  7. Kirsten Walsh Says:

    I am so interested to read about Liberia. Am I reading that correctly? I have been there. I spent 7 week inbedded with the locals. Have fun!! I am on day 120-122 in my readings. I am LOVING IT! I do, however, check into where you are currently. Just can’t seem to wait! Kirsten

  8. Posted from United States United States
  9. JTR Says:

    OK, I’ll bite. How do you know the centipede you waw in Santa Elena was “old”?

    Nice 666 picture by the way…definitely frameworthy…


  10. JTR Says:


    But if you could help explain to me the anatomical difference between the two-toed and three-toed sloths, I would be much abliged…

  11. crazy aunt Says:

    am glad you like my humor…sick as it is

  12. Posted from United States United States
  13. crazy aunt Says:

    enough wif da spiders

  14. Posted from United States United States
  15. Dan Says:

    So now I know what bird crap sitting on a leaf looks like!

  16. Posted from United States United States
  17. Kirsten Walsh Says:

    Hi Kelly and Marc. I made it!! I am now caught up with your blog! I had to laugh. I had not read your entire blog before I responded to the Liberia entry. I bet you were a bit confused (or maybe not) but, I meant Liberia, Africa. Has it been too long? That is how that is spelt isn’t it? Anyway. The whole time I was catching up reading, I was trying to figure out why you would go to Costa Rica and then Africa. Anyway. I am excited to be able to finish your trip “Live”. Take it easy. Thanks for sharing. Kirsten

  18. Posted from United States United States
  19. alison (clarke) & mike black Says:

    Hi guys! I love living vicariously through your blogs!! And our 5yr old, Faline, loves looking at the pics w/ me. We went on a trip to Disney World in Feb. and that’s been the extent of our travelling, but it was unforgettable! Glad you are both well and we love the “666” pic!! Toooooo funny!!

  20. Posted from United States United States
  21. Casey Says:

    Careful with the ticks! Do not burn them, squish them, etc. because it can inject you with nasty infections living in the tick’s body. Look for special tick tweezers that spin. They will extract any tick in short order.

    Pura vida!

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