It’s been a long time coming for this post but I wanted to recap the adventures of the Costa Rica trip April 30th-May 4th this year. I went on this trip with my girlfriend (now fiance) Alriah, my buddy Bronson, Alriah’s roommates Gina and Catie, and Gina’s workout friend Jordan.
We flew into the Liberia airport on Saturday, April 29th. The Liberia airport is very close to the Pacific side and where we were staying, at an Airbnb in Playa Panama. When we landed, we quickly made it through customs which was so easy. Then, we stepped outside to try to find the shuttle to our Payless rental car pick-up which was about 5 miles from the airport. And then we were barraged by countless guys trying to sell their taxi services, super overwhelming and loud! They have so much competition in close proximity and they have to be loud to get the attention of the tourists. I was outside for a few seconds and quickly made my way back inside to tell the rest of the group it was a madhouse outside. We decided to just yell out that we were looking for the Payless shuttle. Everybody immediately pointed us in the right direction. These guys were loud but super helpful. It was good timing and the Payless shuttle pulled on up. We took the shuttle to the rental car place and were surpised that the $100 something quote that I got on the internet turned into over $400 total, more than triple what was expected, due to government taxes, fees, etc. Oh well. We had a good SUV to drive around during our stay and I still have no idea what the make and model was but it was a good drive. On our drive to our place for the next few days, we noticed that the surrounding land looked like a nuclear bomb went off, not lush and green as expected. We were there towards the end of the dry season and apparently this is normal, it just wasn’t pretty. When we got to the Airbnb, the property managers gave us the keys and the information on the house. They told us electricity in Costa Rica was really expensive so were were to use the A/C sparingly. We were so thirsty and saw some water bottles in the fridge. Alriah and Bronson quickly took a swig. I noticed the seals on the caps were broken. This water could have been from the tap, which isn’t really ideal for drinking. Fingers crossed they wouldn’t get sick. Now, the only event for the evening was to get groceries for the next few days. We searched for a grocery store and the closest one was a small convenience store in Playa Hermosa. We got some groceries, and quite a few water bottles…gotta stay hydrated! We then made spaghetti for dinner and got some shut-eye. The next morning, Alriah, Bronson, Catie, and I we went to the beach to check it out. Now, Gina and Jordan had not yet arrived. They were checking out other parts of Costa Rica. After some beach time, we went to pick them up later and then hung out at the community pool for the rest of the day. The community pool was really quiet and had a nice view from the mountainside.
The next few days were pretty chill and just relaxing. The main event on the Pacific side was the day we went to the sunset snorkeling cruise, which set sail out of Playas del Coco. When we got there we paid a guy $5 to watch our car. In Costa Rica, there are people with orange vests that will watch your car and in my opinion, this is way better than paying a meter which is a machine and machine’s don’t have feelings. I somehow accomplished the best parallel parking job of my entire life in a tight spot with this 7 passenger SUV. There was no adjustment necessary, just a straight shot into the spot. That’s the end of my bragging! When we were waiting for the cruise, we found a very large banyan tree with vines that were fun to climb.
When the entire group got there, we took some small boats to the cruise ship, and then took off. The guys were so hospitable and served us drinks and we just chilled on the hanging net. There was about an hour and a half to just hang out on the boat and look at the ocean. Here’s me and Bronson at the front of the boat looking over the edge.
When we made it to the snorkeling spot, we noticed that on the beach there were lots of capuchin monkeys. One of the guides took us over there on a small boat and we fed the little monkeys pineapples…inquisitive little fellers. Here’s me and Riah feeding the monkeys and checking out the funny expressions of the monkeys.
After some feeding action, we went back to the big boat and grabbed the snorkeling gear. When we all jumped in the water, we started swimming closer to the shallow area where the water was more clear and there were more fish to see. There weren’t really and reefs to explore but there was some grass, rocks, and shells at the bottom. I took pictures and filmed with my Olympus TG320 waterproof camera and Riah had the GoPro. We saw some cool fish, many puffers (even an orange one), some parrotfish, and major sergeant (a blue and yellow fish with black vertical stripes) which were the most colorful. It was a good time swimming around, searching for the schools of fish, and taking photos and videos. These are some of the best photos:
Here’s the compilation video: Costa Rica Snorkeling May 2017 – Pacific Side
The snorkeling I experienced on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica at the reefs in 2011 was more impressive. I still remember the fish were everywhere, 360 degree surround almost constantly and the variety was extremely diverse. I still remember the blue spotted damselfish schools. These little fish had dark blue bodies and light blue spots which looked like they had little LED lights in them and just shimmered with the light angles. The Pacific side was not like that previous experience but this was still pretty cool. The boat ride was really fun too. Here’s our group with the ship’s crew.
There was also a pretty legit sunset. Here’s me and Riah standing along the railing of the boat as we sailed back to shore. We love sunsets!
The other great thing about the Pacific side was some delicious food! There was supposed to be a really good pizza place in Plays del Coco that we drove to but the power was out in the entire town when we got there. We were hungry so went back to Playa Hermosa which was on our way back to where we were staying. We at at a place called Sandbar Grill. It was crazy because they were playing the Texas Tech vs. TCU baseball game, a game between Riah and I’s alma-maters all the way down in Costa Rica. I wanted to order my food in Spanish so I asked “Que e el pescador del dia?” to the waitress. This does not mean “What is the fish of the day?”, it means “What is the fisherman of the day”. She laughed and so did Gina and Catie, the Spanish speakers in our group. I then proceeded to order the typical Costa Rican dish instead which was really good. Fried sweet plantains are da bomb! We also ate at a place called Ginger which was an Asian/Latin fusion place which had many plate options that we all shared and enjoyed, so good and we went 2 rounds of table-round plates! When the girls were hanging out at the pool one day, me and Bronson decided to try to go fishing and we brought the goggles.
We went to a rock outcropping and fished from all the edges with no luck so we decided to go “goggling” with just our googles since we didn’t have snorkel masks and see what fish we could see. We put the backpack with the keys and money hidden at the higher portion of the rocky peninsula. We entered in an area that was sandy at the shore and then became rocky where there were some cool looking fish hugging the bottom. We took a lot of photos and got some good close-up shots. I’m not sure what these fish are so if you know how to ID them, please comment below.
After we had enough underwater swimming, we set back to get our stuff and noticed that the peninsula was almost engulfed in water. High tide rolled in and good thing we put the backpack at higher ground! Bronson was diligent and caught a feisty little crab…just had to catch something!
Me and Bronson still had an urge to catch some fish and on our way back to the vehicle, we had a shirtless fishing bum come up to us and offer to take us out to fish. We said we only had 2-3 hours and he didn’t even have bait ready to take us out in his boat. He then proceeded to say “well maybe you’re just not ready” in a surfer dude kinda way. Well we were ready, he just didn’t have the equipment ready to take us for a quick jaunt. We headed back to the vehicle where a nice old lady was watching our vehicle. She was pleaded to have the $10 we gave her and gave our vehicle a good watch. She asked what we were doing (I think) in Spanish and I tried to say we went swimming to look at fish underwater. I showered her a swimming motion and said “los pescados” which means fish and also said “los Colorados” which does not mean colorful. She was very confused.
Those were the main events from coast portion of our trip. After a few days at the Pacific coast, we packed up everything and headed inland to Volcano Arenal for our last full day in Costa Rica.
The journey to Volcano Arenal is about 3-4 hours and very scenic. About 1 hour plus of the drive is spent driving around the lake and to the east side of Lake Arenal. The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation and hills with the iconic Volcano Arenal which is the name-stay. We arrived at our charming hotel and placed our bags really quickly into the women’s room before going zip-lining and going on our nature hike. Me and Bronson’s room wasn’t ready. We brought little backpacks with PB^J sandwiches and we were back in the SUV with no name and it was about a 45 minute drive to Sky Adventures. Sky Adventures was a nicely run place and after we parked, we went up a path to a nice building where the guys gave us an orientation. They even set up me and Alriah’s GoPro on Alriah’s head with their equipment. After the informative orientation, we went up a gondola that took us to the peak of a mountain with a gorgeous view of Volcano Arenal and Lake Arenal.
The conditions were clear which is actually pretty rare to be able to see clearly in this cloud forest. After some great photo opportunities, we started zip-lining. The cable runs were super long over great expanses of forest. It was a cool feeling to glide and the views were spectacular. The guys running the show were funny and added to the experience. It was about 8 runs of zip-lining and we were at the base. We took a group photo with the zip-line guides and then it was time to eat.
We were famished! We had some time relax before the nature tour and it was much needed because it started raining and it was raining HARD! Also, the fog rolled in and you couldn’t see any of the distant mountains or forest. The food was good. I ordered the chicken curry meal which was a good fusion between Indian and Costa Rican food. Bronson and I had a couple local beers which were great!
After lunch, we were on to the nature hike. When we met our nature tour guide, Edwin, we knew that he loved nature and he would be very informative. We started on our way and trekked along the muddy trail. The conditions were clear to start off. To start off the nature hike, the facts were small and the critters described were small. However, these ants have incredible strength and can hold onto a leaf that is many times (maybe 50x-100x) heavier than themselves.
Next, Edwin showed us some wildlife that was a little bigger but still small. The eyelash viper was camouflaged in a tree right next to the trail. Thees guys are extremely poisonous, especially as a baby, which this one was.
We then came to a bridge and Edwin mentioned that he saw a howler monkey that morning, and that was the second time he has seen one in all his tour-guiding days. It was a rare sight. We kept walking, and low-and-behold we saw several howler monkeys, up close! This is a great photo that Riah took! Look at the dominance and frustration in this howler monkey’s face. He’s all howl and no bite by the way.
That was the alpha male. There was also a mother and baby monkey. Right after we crossed this second suspension bridge where the howler monkeys were, it started raining and it rained hard! We spent the rest of the hike getting drenched and fully experienced the rainforest. We then came to a waterfall that was rushing the cool water generated daily from the cloud forest.
When we made it back to the base, we took a group photo with our tour guide Edwin who was spitting out nature facts left and right. There are some other facts he mentioned but so many that there’s not space to write them all in this blog post. It was like we were living a real-life nature documentary.
We then went straight to the hotel to shower and dry off before dinner. The soft acidic rain drenching my hair for over an hour combined with the orange + ginger shampoo the hotel provided made my hair as soft has it has ever been in my life. I definitely took some of this shampoo and conditioner back home with me but it’s not the same without the soft acidic water of the rainforest. We went to get some yummy pizza at a local place and then swam at the pool to finish off the day. The next morning, we woke up to see an awesome sunrise and a clear condition view of the volcano. A great way to end the trip before we drove back to the airport to fly home.