Costa Rica- the land of Pura Vida

Crossing the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was a messy ordeal.  There were new steps, new procedures, new employees and new buildings.   This added up to about a 5 hour border crossing.  We actually thought we would be so delayed that we had set up to camp in the parking area.  But just before dark we got the final clearance, and we were off to a Costa Rican coastline.  costaricafirstcampsite.jpg This free public beach area was empty, peaceful and relatively cool for the night.  The dogs enjoyed the first long walk on the beach in quite a while.  costa rica first beach zeb.jpgcosta rica first beach.jpg We wet our toes in the surf and then went to begin exploring the country.  Our first destination would be the Rincon Viejo National Park.  This mountain preserve was up at a higher elevation with some nice hikes and viewpoints.  But we were turned away before the entrance, where a security person said that they would not allow dogs in the NP.  I tried to assure him that dogs would be allowed in the parking area according the what I had read, but he wouldn’t have it.  So we drove many miles around the National Park to the other entrance.  There we found a park ranger who reluctantly let us stay the night.  For a fee of nearly $20 per person (per night), we were allowed in with the dogs.  We were given permission to camp in the parking lot with the dogs as long as they stayed in the parking area and as long as no other visitors saw the dogs.  Fortunately the parking area was a nice area with grass and trees and space to walk the dogs.   Since there were no other visitors during our time there, no one saw the dogs.   From the parking area we watched a fiery sunset settle over the forest and the ranger station.   The next morning Zeb spotted his first monkeys in the trees overhead and proceeded to stand and stare at them with his head cocked sideways.  He was confused by these noisy, busy creatures.  And they were not at all interested in him!rincon viejo dog walk.jpgrincon viejo sunset.jpgrincon viejo zeb monkey spotting.jpg  monkeys at camp.jpg  But, since the dogs were to remain unseen we decided to leave the National Park and find someplace more welcoming.   We located a nearby hot springs resort with a large parking area that welcomed dogs.  For just $10 per person (per night) we settled in!  We spent two nights enjoying the hot pools, the restaurant and the hot showers.  The hot pools were relaxing and we all enjoyed the lazy days there.  Here is a shot of Geneva, Nica and Zeb snoozing on the bed together! sleeping with dogs

It was time to get water, fuel, groceries and take care of some business.  We parked near the large city of Canas and stocked up.  Our campsite for a few nights was walking distance to an interesting animal rescue center.  We went for the tour one day and enjoyed learning about some of the common animals of Costa Rica.

And this is what it looks like when you need to take care of business on the road.  This is a photo of us printing some official documents.  Then we will have the Abogada (lawyer) officially stamp and notarize the documents.  Luckily we found someone to “mule” the documents (hand carry them on a flight) back to the USA where they will be mailed.

business on the road.jpg  The city of Canas has a cute little town square with a few good bakeries and an interesting mosaic decorated church.  church mosaic.jpgchurch mosaic 2.jpg

Next stop, the Rio Celeste area.  This is an interesting area with an incredible turquoise-blue river flowing through a hilly, jungle valley.  There are private access areas for the river and there is also a National Park. But after the dog hassles at the last National Park, we decided to find a private area to park.  We were not disappointed in our choice! This hilltop was ours for several days.  With wide open grassy areas for dogs to play and views that went on for miles! Even a few stormy afternoons could not deter our enjoyment of this location!


rio celeste panorama.jpg

Just below our campsite flowed the incredible Rio Celeste.  This river has an extremely high mineral content, which is what gives it the magical coloring.  We have not seen a river like this since we visited  Tolantango in Mexico 

rio eleste rocky riverrio celeste zeb swimming2.jpgrio celeste rocksrio celeste mike and zeb.jpgrio celeste geneva and dogs.jpg

But we had to tear ourselves away from Rio Celeste and move to Lago Arenal.  This lake is named for the volcano near one shore.  It is a large lake, with many small towns along the edges.  We spent our first night at a large, beautiful campground. lake arenal.jpg  Then we drove around the shoreline and met up with our overlanding friends from Argentina.  Again we camped on the shores of Lake Arenal and enjoyed the shade, the water and the breezes.  Mike even set up the stand up paddle board and then he and Zeb went out and pushed some water around. lake arenal SUP.jpglake arenal sup2.jpgarenal camp with friends.jpg

Of course, Costa Rica has also shown us some funny stuff to share with you.  Here is a typical grocery store setting.  Notice the food in the coolers.  And then you see the cat on the floor.  Of course. cat in grocery store.jpg One of the campgrounds had an insane buzzing sound all through the night.  The next morning we noticed these insect skins had been shed and attached all around the trees in the area.  bug larvae.jpg dogs in truck.jpg The dogs were patient and tolerant of the bumpy, curvy, unpredictable roads of Costa Rica.  The sat in their backseat thrones and watched the country pass by.

Many hours of driving on both paved and dirt roads took us to the famous cloud-forest of Monteverde.  This area is known for the humid, cold high elevation jungle that is home to many species of birds, beautiful plants and lots of tourists riding ziplines.  monteverde hike.jpg Mike met with friends and took the opportunity to hike up a mountain.  But we spent most of our time parked at the frog place.  We toured the ranario n the first night, and then spent two more nights in their parking lot.  monteverde frog place.jpgmonteverde frog.jpg We also had the opportunity to watch our friend from Argentina drink a turtle egg.  This is considered quite a delicacy in Costa Rica and is usually chased with hot sauce and a lot of beer! monteverde turtle egg Also in Monteverde we learned about the wildlife bridges of Costa Rica.  These contraptions are made of bungees, rope and PVC.  They are stretched across a busy highway or even a minor roadway.  They hang them between two large trees in an area that is known for sloth or monkey crossing.  This is to help the animals get safely across the highway.

After Monteverde we went back to Lake Arenal and this time we drove on to La Fortuna.  This town used to be bustling with tourists who came to see the lava flowing down the side of Volcano Arenal. But the volcano went dormant recently, so tourism has suffered.  Now the area peddles the thermal pools and hot springs as well as ziplines, waterfall hikes and quad tours.  We were able to catch a clear glimpse of Arenal Volcano one day.  As you can see, it is blowing smoke but not pouring red lava down the sides. arenal .jpg  While we were there we camped one night in the garden of a lovely cabin facility.  This place had 5 small cabins clustered around 5 hot pools.  Our camping fee included unlimited swims in the pools.  We also had bizarre birds in the yard and beautiful flowers in the garden.   The dogs really enjoyed watching the birds from their camper window. fortuna camp.jpgfunny birdsdogs in window.jpg

Our next night in La Fortuna we found a campsite along the river.  This river is unique because much of the flow is fed by the hot springs at the base of the volcano.  So the river water runs sift and lukewarm.  Perfect for a bath for all of us, including the dogs!

fortuna riverside  The drive from La Fortuna included a stop for a children’s parade at a local elementary school.  Unfortunately I did not get a photo.  And then a stop in the town of Zarcero which is known for the beautiful topiary display in the gardens around the church.  zarcero churchzarcero gardenszarcero gardens1zarcero topiary  Driving through the hilly countryside in the central highlands of Costa Rica looks very similar to some parts of Colorado, Australia and Ireland.  countryside shot.jpg And this beautiful drive led us to the area of the Guayabo Ruins.  These ruins are some of the only accessible and partially restored archeological ruins in Costa Rica.  The site is not fully excavated.  But that which is visible includes the circular stone bases of several houses, an incredible aquifer system for filtering and utilizing spring water and a phenomenally long and detailed highway leading into the remains of the city.  We had an outstanding guide who taught us a great deal about the area.  guayabo ruins highway.jpgguayabo ruins.jpgguayabo ruins2.jpgWhile touring the ruins we spotted a small snake, and this regal looking lizard who wanted his photo taken. guayabo pretty lizard.jpg  We camped in the heart of town, right next to the soccer field.  Everyone in the small town knew we were there, and no one cared at all. guayabo town campsite.jpgguayabo town camp.jpg  But it was time to move towards our next obligation!  We had accepted another house sitting gig and it was time to check in and learn the ropes.  The next location would be the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  But first we need to wind through the mountain roads and cross a few narrow bridges to get there.  mountain bridge.jpgmountain bridge view.jpg  Here is a photo of the camper, tucked away in a spot on a mountain road, up high in the jungle of Costa Rica.  jungle camper.jpg  We wrapped up our first tour across Costa Rica and it was time to check in to Puerto Viejo.  Caribbean coast, here we come!

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