Friday, October 1, 2010

New Trip to Central America

Leaving on June 9th for 10 days in Costa Rica with my Scott, Amber and the grandkids, Kade and Madison. After that I will fly to Guatemala and make a large circle starting in Guatemala, then southern Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador before returning to Guatemala on August 18th for the flight home.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Flight and First Day in Costa Rica

June 9, 2010

We left BR at 3 am to go to the airport in NO. Luckily Jon agreed to take us to the airport. Our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica left at 6 am and after a 45 minute layover in Miami, arrived in San Jose at 11:30 am. Refusing to pay $25 for a cab to San Jose costs us an extra 1.5 hrs on the local bus. Due to improper planning by me mostly but that's part of backpacking. After getting on the local bus, we had about 4 hrs until we reached La Fortuna,   No air conditioning on the bus but windows down, cool rain outside and beautiful mountain scenery made the trip enjoyable. Kids slept some as we were all exhausted. The budget hotel was only a couple of blocks from downtown La Fortuna in a quiet neighborhood. A double room with private bath and triple room with private bath for only $50 total for both rooms a night. After checking in we headed out for our fist real meal of the day. ( Whopper at Airport Burger King was $8 by itself which we declined)

Seeing the lava flow at Arenal Volcano was one of the sights we came to La Fortuna to see. We hired a minivan to take us to the best location to view the lava. The top of the mountain is best viewed at night and when there is rain. There was a slight drizzle when the van picked us up and drove the 15 miles to the viewing spot. There were  other tour buses and vans but our guide took us to the best local spot which only had one other local van. We were rewarded with an hour of beautiful sights and sounds from the volcano. Red hot molten lava flowing down the mountain and the occasional rumbling of the volcanic gases releasing from the top. Back to the hotel at 8:30 pm and everyone exhausted.

Pictures include Kade and Madison at the NO airport waiting for there FIRST airplane experience, riding the local bus from San Jose to La Fortuna, eating their first typical Costa Rican meal (chicken, rice, beans, plantains and pasta salad) from a soda  (local family restaurant) and Arenal Volcano.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

La Fortuna Waterfall and Baldi Hot Springs

Thursday June 10, 2010

The La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the highlights of the area at 70 meters (224 feet). We took a taxi, after a little negotiation, to the waterfall which was about 3 miles away. The hike from the entrance to the waterfall was pretty steep but had concrete steps and railings. Unfortunately the steep 20 minute downhill hike would turn into a steep 30 minute climb. lol  The waterfall was spectacular and there were a few people swimming in the icy water. After a little reluctance, everyone finally took the plunge.   I got everyone to agree to walk back from the waterfall to the hotel to save the $6 taxi fare and experience hiking. It took a little over an hour to walk back to the hotel and luckily it was all downhill. Wonderful experience, especially since it began to rain as we started back to the hotel and rained continuously for the entire hike. We, of course, forgot our rain gear and umbrellas but we laughed and enjoyed the experience. I have always heard that you can get only so wet. Not really sure about that saying now though.

 After getting back to the hotel, we got dry and then made plans to go to Baldi Hot Springs to enjoy the 25 hot spring pools, numerous water slides and buffet. At $22 a person for the entire day plus a dinner buffet it seemed like a good way to end the day. If we had not forced the kids to leave they would have tried to spend the night there. The water slides were just too much fun.

For those who wonder why I post prices a lot, the reason is two-fold. First, to show that you can travel inexpensively and still have a great time and secondly, I plan on taking guided tours to various locations and want to give people an idea of the expenses.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Whitewate Rafting

Friday June 11, 2010

Today we went whitewater rafting. Hope to post pictures and more info after we get to Monteverde later today. We are going by jeep-boat-jeep, which means a taxi to Lake Arenal, then a ferry (pontoon boat) across the lake and then picked up by another taxi on the other side. A total of 2.5 hrs. Somewhat better than the 7-8 hr local bus around the lake.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

La Fortuna to Monteverde (Santa Elena)

Saturday June 12, 2010

We left Hotel Dorothy in La Fortuna for the jeep-boat-jeep ride to Monteverde. The ride really is a van-pontoon boat-taxi. The cost was $18 per person and only takes 2.5 hrs instead of the 8 hrs which the local bus takes to go around Lake Arenal. I have taken the local bus around before and the shorter version is much better even though more expensive. We are staying at the Vista Golfo and the kids love it because it has bunk beds, hammocks everywhere, many free computers with internet access and beautiful views of the Cloud Forest. Scott and Amber have a double bed with bathroom for $30 a night and me and the kids have a triple room with outside shared bathroom for $30 a night. With unlimited free coffee and free breakfast this is really a great deal. We go early in the morning to do the canopy zip line.

Pictures begin with the Hotel Dorothy in La Fortuna and go in sequence from our jeep-boat-jeep trip to the Cabinas Vista al Golfo in Santa Elena (Monteverde)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Canopy Zp Line

Sunday June 13, 2010

After being canceled due to the lightning, we were finally able to enjoy the Canopy Zip Line at Selvatura Park in Monteverde. The Zip Line consists of 16 tree to tree stations over a total of 3 miles with some at heights of over 100 feet ABOVE the tree canopy. Crazy high. Scott has always had a fear of heights but managed well. Kade, on the other hand, had some serious knee knocking going on. Madison rode with a guide most of the time because she was too light. She did get to ride alone on a couple. Amber did well but like Scott kept commenting on how high they were. The Tarzan Swing was waiting for us at the end. Jumping off a very high platform and swinging out over the jungle canopy. Worth a trip to Costa Rica by itself.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Monteverde to Quepos

Monday  June 14, 2010

The alarm was set for 3:30 am in order for us to catch the 3 hr local bus to Puntarenas and then switch to another local bus for 3 hrs to Quepos after a 30 minute layover. I woke up at 2:30 and could not get to sleep again and Scott had set his clock incorrectly and had everyone up at 3. Even with all the mass confusion of getting everything together and being unsure exactly what time it was, we made it to the bus in time. It was early, everyone was tired, the roads were rough and the bus stopped every 15 minutes for 3 hrs to pick up more people. It was GREAT.  Around 5am daylight was just beginning and you could finally see that this bus was traveling along a dirt and gravel road mere feet from very high drop offs in the mountains. While we were traveling downhill you couldn't help but wonder when the last time this bus had its brakes checked. lol

The bus was running late and we made the bus transfer with only moments to spare. If we had missed that bus we would have had to wait for 3 more hrs until the next bus to Quepos. But we made it. Leave at 4:30 am, get to Quepos at 11 am, grab lunch at a soda, kids swim in the Hostel pool, and then a quick siesta.

6 hour bus ride $6 per person, life experience.. Priceless