After an overnight (and mostly sleepLESS) flight, we arrived in Panama this morning for a short layover. We had free breakfast and a catnap in the lounge (thanks Priority Pass!) while Aly checked out her Costa Rica Wildlife guide before the next flight. After our quick, 1 hour flight to San Jose, we had arrived in Costa Rica. San Jose was a bit further from the area I initially wanted to explore, but the flight deal we found on Scott’s Cheap Flights was so good, we couldn’t pass it up. It also forced us to check out other areas of the country, and we loved every bit that we saw.
The weather was sunny and beautiful when we landed, despite it being the time of transition between rainy and dry season. We were actually told later in the trip, that there is less sun during this transition time, than during rainy season! We lucked out with sun on and off during our stay. We rented our car from a local company, Adobe, after a lot of research on this and finding a discount code on another site, My Tan Feet, that has a lot of good info on Costa Rica. The drive to our first stop of the trip was going to take about an hour, but we made a quick decision to take advantage of the gorgeous day, and headed straight for La Paz Waterfall & Gardens at the Peace Lodge.
Some notes on the driving in Costa Rica. It is. . . . .interesting. The roads to Vara Blanca are steep mountain roads, with a lot of switchbacks and sharp turns. With all of the rain in this area, the sides of the roads have been washed away, leaving about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lanes for driving. And the drivers here are NOT timid. There did not seem to be a “right of way” or taking turns, and no such as thing as a no passing zone either. the other thing we observed was a lack of sidewalks, and that a LOT of locals walk places, so there were many people just walking down the middle of the road, and they don’t often move over for cars (rather cars are expected to swerve around them). And, probably because it was a beautiful day, there were a ton of cyclists on the road! Personally, I think they are kind of crazy both to tackle the hills and to be on the same, NARROW road as the crazy drivers!
After around 1 hour, we made it to the La Paz Waterfall and Gardens. Yes, it is a touristy place, but it was also amazing! It is a wildlife refuge center (no zoos allowed in Costa Rica), and had a butterfly house, aviary, ocelots, pumas, frogs, sloths, and more. Aly was so excited to consult her wildlife guide and also to see a toucan!
After we explored the wildlife center, we ventured down the path to all of the waterfalls. The plus of being here at the end of rainy season is that the waterfalls are amazing right now. El Templo, La Magia Blanca, and La Paz waterfalls were huge. Aly was a champ doing all of the stairs up and down to all of the Falls and even soundly beat us back up!
We were all starving when we were done, so we headed to nearby Poasito town for lunch. This area of Costa Rica is know for it’s abundance of fresas (strawberries) and dairies. Our drive took us past many people selling strawberries at roadside stands, and beautiful pastures full of dairy cows. After our typical Costa Rican lunch (chicken, rice, empanadas, and of course, strawberries!) we drove to our nearby hotel for the night, the Poas Volcano Lodge. This quaint, beautiful hotel has just 12 rooms, each of which are slightly different. We got upgraded (yay for travel outside of high season) to a room with a lovely garden view and a shower that also overlooked the outdoors. Chris went to the front desk for help with a local SIM card we had purchased (the call center to register the card only spoke Spanish!) and after some downtime, we went to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner.
It was so tasty, and many of the ingredients were grown or made on the property–beef medallions with chimichurri sauce, pesto pasta, tomato soup, and strawberry salad–YUM! The best part was the passion fruit mousse that Aly chose for dessert, which we all fought over because it was the perfect combo of creamy, sweet, and tart. We jokingly asked the waiter if it was also on the breakfast menu, and he then asked the chef to hold one back for us for the next morning! Then it was back to our room to catch up on some sleep –they had placed hot water bottles in our beds to keep us warm while we were at dinner! — and dream of tomorrow’s adventures!