Into Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Arenal volcano at nightBy Judy Berman

With minimal Spanish skills, we ventured into Costa Rica for its Cloud Forest, beaches and its active volcano. This is a favorite destination for eco-trekkers and surfers.

Our first test was after our plane stopped at a landing strip in Tambor, on Costa Rica’s west coast. Before the pilot would let us aboard, he weighed us. Groan! There were four of us, another man and the pilot. The plane was crop-duster-size, like the one that chased down Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”

We’d barely landed when the fifth passenger bolted from the plane, leaving his baggage and heading for the only car there. He tried to snag our ride. Good thing I’d called ahead.

Our driver, Gilberto, gave us a quick tour of his community and the school where he learned English. On our travels, he stopped and showed us a huge iguana sprawled across a tree limb high above the road. The iguana turned his head slowly, gazed steadily in our direction as if to acknowledge us, and then ignored us as we continued on our way to Montezuma, a village on the Pacific Coast.

Costa Rica - Green Iguana up a treeOur hotel, Amor de Mar, had a view of a tide pool bigger than some swimming pools. But no one ventured into it to swim other than a dark, moving mass of crabs. The hammocks beckoned, promising a blissful snooze. After lunch, we did just that.

By dinnertime, we took a leisurely stroll to an open-air restaurant. Food was cooked outside over a wood-burning grill. Dave, always the adventurous one, had shark. The rest of us had honey-glazed chicken. Our dinner was lit by candles, a fire and the stars.

The next day, after breakfast, we went horseback riding with Deanne Sharer, a Florida State University grad and former St. Petersburg resident. Her Catahoula, Leona, kept pace with us as we trotted thru the village, up into a wooded area and down onto the beach.

Her horses rested under shade trees while we scaled rocks to get to a waterfall and pool. At the top, Deanne sliced open fresh pineapple and speared a slice for each of us. The juice trickled down our faces, and I can’t remember having one sweeter than that – ever.

We stayed a day or two at our hotel before Mauricio drove us to Monteverde Lodge near the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had to wait in line for the ferryboat. It took 1½ hours to cross, another 2 hours on the road after that. The ride was torturous because it was over rocky road.

The highlight of our ride was when Mauricio spotted an iguana crossing the road and a black Toucan in a tree. The memories of that jarring ride just melted away when we got to the hotel, relaxed in its jacuzzi, and basked in the hotel’s first-class cuisine and service..

Costa Rica - Quetzal bird - Monteverde Cloud ForestThe next day, we toured the tropical forest. It was raining, but the forest’s canopy acted like a huge umbrella. One of the guides spotted a Quetzal, an exotic bird, the most beautiful in Central America. It has a green crown. Its top almost looks like a brush cut. Its chest is red. The males have long, green and blue tail feathers.

We heard monkeys, but I was the only to see one scramble down a tree. Hummingbirds were also fluttering about around the feeders. Our guide, an ex pat, apparently didn’t know the names of many of the plants and referred to them as “houseplants” or “in the family of.” We still chuckle about that.

Back at our lodge, seven white-nosed Coati foraged around the grounds for insects. They didn’t seem to be fazed by our presence. They walked up the hill and went by us like we weren’t there.

On the road again. This time a four hour ride to Arenal Lodge, a private reserve, about 5 miles from Arenal volcano – which is active.

Theoretically, our rooms and the dining area had an unobstructed view of the volcano. We heard rumbles and thought we saw orange flashes – indications of seismic activity. But, heavy, persistent cloud cover prevented us from seeing the cone-shaped volcano

During our 18-hour visit there, our thoughts were always on the volcano. I recall this was our only disappointment when we vacationed in Costa Rica that December.

Some day, I’d love to go back to have a clear view of the volcano, revisit the places we’d been, and again talk with the friendly people who live there.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video – Arenal Volcano Eruption at night  

Photo – Costa Rica – Arenal volcano at night  – taken April 7, 2006 by Scott Robinson (Clearly Ambiguous) from Rockville, MD, USA

Photo – Costa Rica – Quetzal bird – Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – A male Resplendent Quetzal photographed in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa  – taken Oct. 19, 2008 by Dick Bos

Photo – Costa Rica – Green Iguana up a tree – taken Feb. 17, 2013 by Charlesjsharp

    1. Thank you, Lilly. We did have a great time in Costa Rica. I only wish the photos were from my collection and not commons.wikimedia. But, thank heavens they have such great photos. 🙂

    1. It’s a photographer’s dream, Amy, especially one like you who loves nature. We tried to take a photo of the Quetzal, but were not savvy enough to realize that the way we did it focused on the branches rather than the bird. So the only photo of a Quetzal that I have from Costa Rica – other than the one above – is from a postcard that I bought when we were there.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Charles. I wish the trip had been just last week. The reason why it sounds so vivid is because I have journals that I kept this info in. Our trip actually happened in December 1999. All the places I mentioned and the woman who runs the horseback riding are still operating. I’d love to go back.

  1. They weighed you!!!? 😯 So if the overall weight was too heavy – who were they going reject!? Maybe they would have been polite and threw some luggage off instead! 😉

    I love the way that iguana looks so chilled on that branch, I wish I could do that. It looks like a good way to spend a sunny afternoon! 🙂 I’ve seen one in a zoo many years ago, and they have a habit of looking at everyone like that. I think they like to make you feel ‘you’ve been observed’!

    That fresh pineapple sounds wonderful! 🙂 I’ve given up buying pineapples, because even after ensuring it is ripe, they vary so much in sweetness, it just doesn’t seem worth wasting money on, to find they’re not. We really get ripped off here in England when it comes to buying fruit. I discovered that when I went to Spain, their fruit was like nothing I had ever tasted before. I think we are sent all the garbage fruit that’s been picked too early or is too old, because suppliers round the world know most of us in the UK are stupid enough to buy it! But if we are willing to pay really crazy outrageous prices – we can have the real fruit, the fruit the rest of the world gets to eat! 😐

    Your guide didn’t know the names of the plants? 😆 I would have wanted my money back! And what a pity you went all that way and didn’t get to see that volcano in it’s full fiery glory. If I ever go to Spain again I will have to seek out a volcano location – it’s something I’ve never seen. I’ll put it on my wish list along side the tall snowy mountain I’ve never seen either. You can tell I’m not much of a traveller can’t you? 😀

    1. Suzy, I believe the intent of the weighing was to make sure that the plane was balanced. When the pilot looked and realized he’d placed the two big guys on the same side, he just shook his head. 🙂

      We were rather amused by our guide. The names of the plants wasn’t an issue for us. We just wanted to see the birds and wildlife. But it was another guide who spotted the Quetzal. I’m glad we were there when he did. 😉

      If we were in Arenal longer than 18-rainy and cloud covered hours (that included sleeping overnight), we would have had a better opportunity to see the volcano. Hopefully, there will be another time. 🙂

  2. I’m always amazed by your vivid pictures and your specific, powerful writing, Judy. Your attitude is always open and generous, and your willingness to try again another time inspires me!

    1. Thank you for your very generous compliment. Marilyn, for years, I was hesitant to share my writing – unsure what the reception would be. I appreciate your support and encouragement.

    1. The photo and video of Arenal Volcano are just amazing. Wish I’d been there to see that. Costa Rica has much to offer, beautiful country, friendly people, and a wide range of plants, birds, and animal life.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Island Traveler, to you and your family.

    1. I can always count on Dave to try something unique and exotic. But he never met a bottle of Tabasco sauce that he didn’t love. 😉 I’m kind of boring. Depending on the restaurant, I always order the same type of dish.

      If you ever get the chance, visit Costa Rica. It was a very memorable and enjoyable trip.

      1. Okay, so now I love Dave. I’m a Tabasco girl. My breakfast diners always bring me a bottle of Tabasco, even before I order…

        note from earthrider to Tracy Lee Karner:
        Dave laughed when I read your comment. He’s happy to meet a kindred spirit.

  3. Consider yourself very lucky, my friend! I’ve seen a lot of movies with jungles and volcanos, and they’re always throwing beautiful women into the volcanos. You had a narrow escape, especially since you forgot to bring your asbestos bathing suit… : )

    If they’d thrown Dave in, he’da been OK, because of his long history or tabasco usage… : P

    Sounds like a great trip, Judy– thanks for sharing!!

    1. Gosh, Mark, I’d never considered the upside of not seeing the volcano in action. I thank you for the “beautiful women” mention. 🙂

      Now that Dave’s secret is out about his love affair with Tabasco sauce, he might have to up his game to a full-throttle, five-alarm jalepeno sauce. 😆

      Thanks. We did have a great time there.

  4. What an awesome trip. I love Costa Rica. I studied Spanish there for a few months when I was younger. A friend and I hitchhiked to Arenal. It’s a safe country but I don’t know that I’d do that today!

    1. You’re a lot more courageous than I am, Lisa. I’d be too worried about the wild animals I might encounter on my way to Arenal. We did see a coati from the car and the driver stopped so we could take photos. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief vacation there (about a week).

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