Friday, August 9, 2013

Costa Rica

Trip Date: April 2010


This trip still ranks as one of my favourites to date!  I had an absolutely great time and definitely want to go back and see what else this country has to offer.  We stayed in the northwest part of the country along the Pacific Ocean in Guanacaste Province.  Our resort was located on Bahia de Culebra, or the Bay of Snakes.  Unlike other tropical destinations where the resorts almost feel like they're on top of each other, our resort was one of only two on the entire bay.  This made for an enormously long beach to explore and countless wildlife sightings because we were surround by jungle.


Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.  The country inhabits about 4.58 million people and the official language is Spanish.  The capital, and largest, city is San José , which has about 288,000 people.  The capital of Guanacaste Province, and the city we flew into, is Liberia, which inhabits roughly 63,000.  

Costa Rica as located in Central America
The resort we stayed in was the Occidental Allegro Papagayo
This was our building.  The resort was built on the side of a hill and each building was on its own level.
The pool and an observation tower that overlooked the bay
Iguanas were very common all over the resort
The resort was located on a black sand beach, which is volcanic in origin, as compared to white sand beaches, which are coral in origin
The resort as viewed from the beach
We spotted this Raccoon on the beach one evening
These White-Faced Monkeys were on the beach on numerous occasions throughout our stay
They were well accustomed to having their pictures taken.  I think they were mainly just looking for an easy meal.
This is a Ctenosaur, or Spiny-Tailed Iguana.  They were also very common in and around the resort.
We headed into Coco one afternoon for some shopping and sight-seeing
Coco Beach
Relaxing at the Lizard Lounge in Coco.  This place had the best nachos I have ever eaten!
We did two different off-resort tours this trip.  The first tour started in Palo Verde National Park, where we were able to see a variety of species of wildlife and learn about the different flora and fauna that is native to Costa Rica.  We also stopped in a couple of small towns along the way to get a glimpse at some cultural traditions that were being practised.

I spotted this Whiptail when we entered Palo Verde National Park
While we were in the park we took a boat tour along the Tempisque River
We were fortunate enough to see lots of wildlife including this sleeping Howler Monkey
There are five different Iguanas in this picture.  Can you spot them all?
Killer Bee Hive
This is a Basilisk, or Jesus Chris Lizard, because of its ability to run along the surface of water
Ctenosaur
This is just one of many Crocodiles we saw on our boat tour
video
A Crocodile along the Tempisque River

Hacienda el Viejo
This is where we stopped for lunch and sampled some sugar cane and its juices
The entire place was beautifully landscaped
Costa Rica is a very Catholic country and as such, Semana Santa, or the Holy Week, and Easter are very important holidays to the Costa Rican people.  We were very lucky to be there over the Easter holiday because we were able to experience some of the distinctive traditions that are unique to Costa Rican culture.  One such tradition is the Crocodile Capture.  In the small village of Ortega the men continue an age old tradition on Good Friday.  They must head out into the wilderness and capture the largest Crocodile they can find, using only their bare hands.  Once the croc is secured, it is put on display in the centre of town and then released the very next day.  

The 2010 edition of the captured Crocodile
Villagers from all of the surrounding communities swarm Ortega and suddenly the small village is transformed into a huge party with hundreds of people celebrating.  For some unknown reason, many of the villagers are constantly revving the engines of their vehicles or are ripping donuts on dirt bikes.  It is so loud in the village that it's almost impossible to hear yourself think!  It is really unbelievable to witness the sheer chaos that surrounds you, but it is also really amazing to be apart of, if only for a short time.  

The village of Ortega
Some of the dirt bike shenanigans!
video
This is what the entire town looked and sounded like

Another interesting tradition that is present in Costa Rica, and other Latin American countries, is the burning of a cloth and straw effigy of Judas, the apostle that betrayed Jesus.  The burning happens on the Saturday before Easter Sunday and usually takes place in the centre of town, or on a beach in the case of coastal communities.  In Guanacaste the tradition has turned into what's known as, "The Burning Soccer Ball Game", where the men use the burning head of Judas as a soccer ball for a match!  
One of many Judas effigies we saw during our time in Costa Rica
Here is another one on horseback being paraded through Coco
Back at the resort after a long, but eventful, day
The jungle across from the resort was on fire one afternoon.  We never did find out why it was burning though, hopefully it wasn't a Judas that caused this blaze!
A Ctenosaur on the beach
The monkeys are back!
Unfortunately this sign wasn't followed very closely.  We witnessed numerous tourists hand-feeding the monkeys food from the resort.  
Our second, and final, tour was also shaping up to be a great day.  We would be stopping at some beautiful beaches and the day would wrap up with some surfing lessons!

Christine and Rosemary waiting for the second tour to start
Flamingo Beach
Me and Jerry enjoying the ocean
The waves at Brasilito Beach were quite big.  We also had lunch at a beach-front restaurant here.
Chris and I were both really excited about the surfing part of the day.  We'd both wanted to learn how to surf for quite awhile and we jumped at the chance to learn in a small group.  Hopefully we'd catch a couple of waves before the day was through.  The lessons took place in Tamarindo, which is a popular surf spot in northern Costa Rica and with a sandy bottom it's a great place for beginners.  We spent about two hours in the water and loved every minute of it.  It's very addicting, especially when you stand up on your board for the first time.  It is definitely something I will be doing again!

Arenas Surf Shop in Tamarindo
Surfboards
Trying my best!
Chris catching a wave
Here's a two-minute compilation of us learning to surf.  Feel free to laugh at all the wipeouts...we certainly did!

Back at the resort, Christine had to try and figure out which seashells she wanted to keep!
Our bartenders were awesome to us throughout the week, so I thought I'd help them pour a few drinks on our last night!
I even helped clear a few tables!
I think they were quite appreciative of my assistance...or they were just laughing at me all night!!
Rosemary and Jerry enjoying our last night
I know I mentioned it previously, but I think I would really like to return to Costa Rica and stay longer than a week.  I would love to explore the Cloud Forests and some of the volcanoes there, and of course I would need to go surfing again!  There's also the famous Sea Turtle nesting grounds.  It would be pretty amazing to see all of the babies hatching in person.  Until next time...

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