PB Travels… Quepos

So last few days in Costa Rica, and the next stop is Quepos, home of Manuel Antonio National Park, the main reason for being here.  Getting there was another short journey, 3 hours or so, and on the way, we stopped at a bridge to look at… crocs.  Yep, crocs which are up to 20 feet in length.  Beautiful…from a distance 🙂

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Where am I staying?

Hotel Sirena is in the town centre, a five minute walk to the seashore, but a 7km bus ride to the public beach.  It is a proper seaside hotel, all blue and white, nice rooms and a little swimming pool that was so so needed.  What was also very needed and appreciated was the cool cool A/C in the rooms.  My room was light, bright and cool.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low.  Everything was squeaky clean, but a bit tired
  • Bed = 8/10.  Comfy double bed, cool a/c, good night’s sleep. All good
  • Shower = 7/10. Hot water and ok pressure. Not too bad.

What did I eat?

Breakfasts included in the hotel.  No guesses what was on the menu – fruit, juice, tea, coffee, gallo pinto, eggs, toast – standard fare.  My go to breakfast was also standard -gallo pinto and toast with my nut butter, which is almost finished, as is my chilli sauce. Boohoo.

Lunches? Meh.  I went to Dos Locos for lunch one day – a veggie wrap with sweet potato fries.  Now a wrap filled with raw cabbage is not something that fills me with joy.  And look at the miserly serving of guac! I was not a happy bunny after this meal, or during it to be honest.

The next day we were in the park, and by the time we got out we were starving!  There are no restaurants in the park, take food in at your own risk – the racoons will get it, I saw it happen a few times, leaving with goodies and very traumatised people behind!  We walked into a proper tourist restaurant – Hawg and Bill for lunch – I ordered a garden salad, which actually turned out to be quite nice.  The vinaigrette did most of the work I think, it was quite yummy.

Dinners? We went to a local restaurant one night, Restaurant Tiquicia and I had the usual, Casado.  It was was ok, I liked the mountains of veggies.  They also had that cool mixture of carrot, onion, cauliflower, but unfortunately it wasn’t hot at all.

Next night – we went to El Avion, a gimmicky restaurant that has a bar in a plane.  It was really cool in the plane and the Margarita I ordered was really good.  Even in a restaurant like this, the only two options I could go for were either veggie rice (meh) or roasted veggie sandwich. I went for the latter and got a giant sandwich with too much bread. The veggies were really yum (after I added salt and pimped it with chilli sauce) – courgette, mushroom (which interestingly looks like meat..hehe), red pepper, tomato.  I had those with the chips, left the bread.  If you want to go here, go for the drinks, not the food.

I also had my usual share of fresh juices – pineapple, and a frozen green/pineapple juice. Yum in this unbearable heat.


What did I do?

That pool might look small, but it was the right size, and I spent one afternoon just lounging around, reading, chatting, snoozing in the sun.  However, the main reason for being here was the Manuel Antonio National Park.   5 minute walk to the main bus station, and 315 colones for a bus ride to the park.  As expected, it was very very busy – the busiest I’ve been to so far, but, it was excellent as we got to see so much wildlife! Sloths, toucans, howler monkeys, birds, spiders, wow. What a fitting end to Costa Rica.

There is a wonderful beach in the park – so once we had got hot, bothered and sweaty running after all the animals, we ran straight into the sea.  Oh mama.  Perfect sea, perfect temperature, perfect weather – I spent a lot of time in the sea until hunger pangs dragged me away..

Sunsets in Quepos were also stunning. We decided to walk to the marina to have a drink – as some of the girls had been there the day before for a brilliant sunset.  This marina is so Americanised – and it was full of Americans!  It did not feel like we were in Quepos, or even Costa Rica.  Thankfully the sunset made up for it – check it out!

So this is it in terms for travel for now – the plan was to go back to Mexico and explore ruins, but due to crappy travel agents and slow turnaround times, I couldn’t get my ticket changed and buying new ones was waay to expensive.  Never mind – that money will be saved for the next travel adventure – even I don’t know where I’m going.. South America? Asia? Europe? Watch this space….

PB Travels… Monteverde

To get to Monteverde involved a 30 minute bus ride to Lake Arenal, followed by a 45 minute boat ride to the other side (yes, it is a big, beautiful lake). The journey was stunning, the volcano on one side and lush green forest on the other side.

We got into the bus to take us to the hotel – and that is when I realised that there are no tarmac roads in Monteverde. We endured an hour and a half on super bumpy roads before we got to our beautiful hotel.

Where am I staying?

Historias Lodge is a very pretty hotel. Large dining area, rooms scattered all over the place, lots of chill out places, and the friendliest staff. Tais on reception was super helpful and honest – a great combination.


As for my room? Very cute, one of the smallest but oh my word so dark at night!

My windows were opposite another room – so curtains had to be drawn – I didn’t want to see them as much as they didn’t want to see me!  I had to switch on my torch and phone lights at night for additional illumination! Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low, but to be honest with the dim lighting, who knows!
  • Bed = 8/10. Decent sleep, dark room, nice pillows, not bad.
  • Shower = 6/10. Sometimes hot sometimes cold, once again..who knows! Pressure was okay though.

What did I eat?

Breakfasts were at the hotel – fruit, tea, coffee with toast (with my yummy peanut and almond butter) or gallo pinto. Food for fuel rather than the soul.

For lunch? We checked in, and found a little soda around the corner for lunch – Soda Tortilla. Fresh pineapple juice and yes, the staple – Casado. Well. I say staple but this one came with no plantain and extra.. Hash browns?? Interesting addition! I was very happy with the amount of avocado I got!

Here is another casado I had another day for lunch at Selvatura Park after my epic day of sightseeing.  Same same but different, but this one had more veggies in it.  At least the avocado is becoming a more regular occurrence!

To be honest, I’m not enjoying the food in Costa Rica that much.  I loved the food everywhere else in Central America, it is just very one dimensional here  (not just for me, but as my meaty friends tell me the same). The options are either casado or arroz con pollo/camarones/vegetales – I’m getting a bit tired of it. But, things were starting to look up. The next day, following Tais’ recommendations, I went to the Monteverde Beer House for a falafel shawarma and chips.  Tasty, juicy, homemade humous, and loads of garlic (my mother would have been mortified). You can see the white bits on the chips. Hehehe. or Jajaja as the locals would say 🙂

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It made for a nice change I must say.  They also had good desserts – homemade chocolate too, I bought a tiny piece of raw chocolate that I had with my coffee later that day.  Dinner? Well. Well. Well. We went to the same place two nights in a row – Ristorante D Thomas – (Tais’ recommendation again) and I had the exact same meal both nights. Now. I don’t usually like eating pasta in restaurants (my sister makes the best pasta in the world – I have been spoilt) but this pasta was excellent – just as good. With their home made potent habanero sauce (they even gave me some to take back to the hotel the next night)… this pasta was delicious. Lots of veggies, tasty tomato sauce, full of flavour and FULL of garlic (mortified mum x2). Other options were spinach and ricotta ravioli (v good) and the tuna – which was v v v good.

I also tried the local tipple – Guaro Chili, made from cacique (sugarcane) in the form of a shot with tomato juice and chilli   A proper hit of chilli, this was an interesting drink with a strong kick from the booze.  Couldn’t have more than one though!

And hallelujah!!  Guess what I had in Santa Elena town – a very delicious coffee!! Beso 😘😘Espresso was the place, and they had soy and almond milk too! I did have the owner in fits asking if they have any other milk than leche de moo 😆. I went for a coconut mocha – made with coconut oil – boy it was good! So there is good coffee here – just need to know where to find it!

What did I do?

I might be getting tired of the food (recent meals excluded), but the wildlife is still making me happy. So so happy! I wanted to check out the hanging bridges in Monteverde – compare them to the ones in La Fortuna. The latter being an intermediate forest and the former a cloud forest. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Please don’t miss going to Selvatura Park. Cloud forest, butterfly park (the largest in Latin America), reptile park, insect park, zip lining – you can spend a whole day there. Easily.  So as you know, my rule of thumb is to pay for a guide ($30, or $45 with a guide) and once again, I got really lucky with our guide – Juan Carlos. He knew every flower, plant, tree and bush around. He knew every bird sound and could make them too.

He made the tour really interesting. The hanging bridges were magical, the cloud forest ensuring cooler weather and misty rain. All the trees were covered with moss – very ethereal and findhorn-esq. magical.  We saw coati, hummingbirds in the wild and coming to artificial feeders (both breathtaking), lots of fungi (I’m obsessed).  The forest and walk itself was amazing.

I then decided to do the reptile and butterfly parks ($25 for both including a guide) and they were so worth it.The butterfly park was brilliant. A massive space, loads of butterflies fluttering around (hard to photograph, so therapeutic to watch!), but we had enough time to try and take pics of some (still) beautiful butterflies – including watching new ones hatch. I loved this place.

Just as much as the reptile park lots of snakes and and and – check out this green and black poison dart frog – my favourite.

I also wanted to go on another night walk to check out the wildlife.  We saw a lot – very many and all very noisy.  Unfortunately they were the human kind, scaring all the wildlife away.  The guide tried his best (especially since people in my group hadn’t even seen a sloth – how lucky have I been!), but we didn’t see much. But once again, I was happy with what I saw – a tarantula, another green viper, an armadillo (only for about 4 seconds), and this super massive ant colony. The sunset on the way was magnificent though!

I spent the rest of the time walking around the town – not very big, but interesting enough way to spend a couple of hours.  Brilliant murals and art work dotted everywhere – very nice!  Selvatura Park was the highlight – I really enjoyed being here and taking it all in.  Most enjoyable…

The next day was the highlight of the trip – we went to Curi Cancha Reserve.

This is more intermediate forest, stunning in it’s own way.  The trees, flowers and plants and the scenery in general was so so so beautiful.

And then to top it all, I saw the bird I’ve been hearing about since the start of my travels – the Quetzal. Sacred and revered by the Maya, mentioned by every guide – and I saw it! Both male and female!!

We also saw other amazing birds and lizards.  It was excellent – don’t miss out on going here, another place I highly recommend going to.

PB Travels… La Fortuna

The next stop for me is La Fortuna, home of the Arenal Volcano. This is a volcano that last erupted in 1968 – so it is still considered to be an active volcano. It is really stunning.. Especially when the view is clear.

But first, I did another homestay in Juanilama in Santa Rosa de Pocosol. I needed to practice my Espanol! Now this was just as amazing as my previous homestay. This one – like every other activity in Costa Rica was a bit more refined and organised. My host family was super friendly – and yes, they didn’t speak English so my Spanish did get better.

Juanilama is a community that is super organised – they help themselves, the environment and their community. There are 25 families, all growing different crops. Everything is organic, a rarity in Costa Rica, which is becoming the biggest user of pesticides in the world due to their pineapple and banana plantations. 😦

We had a wonderful tour of some of their mini ‘plantations’ – in their back gardens. Sandra explained everything – she leads the community and ensures that all is in order. She’s very good at it – and a very charming lady.

Crops grown vary from papaya to pepper. They organised lunch – a beautiful spread, however I could only have one dish..

Thankfully the veggie dish was excellent, so I had loads of that with tortillas and this killer pickle (the usual – carrot, cauliflower, chilli). Really tasty and fresh and surprisingly filling.

Dinner for me was Casado, (with a chicken meatball soup for the meaties) with more of that pickle. It was so full of flavour, I couldn’t get over that salad. DELISH!

They also put on a show for us – kids from the local school showing us traditional Costa Rican dancing. And yes, at some point we all joined in!

And for breakfast? The sweetest organic pineapple. LUSH. There was also rice and beans – or rather gallo pinto.

Very delicious.  I tried the coffee. 😦 As for accommodation? See for yourself – really good, the house was clean and we are not the only ones who enjoyed the space!!!

I had a whale of a time here.  One of the best evenings full of laughter and banter – in broken English and Spanish. At the end of the day we are all the same!  The locals were so friendly and accomodating and it was a lot of fun.  They take in volunteers to help to build the community – if I had my way I would come back and stay here and do just that. But onward to La Fortuna for now.

Where am I staying? 

In La Fortuna, once again, a hotel in a really good location – Arenal Rabfer, 2 blocks away from the main square.

This place has all the mod cons – pool, air conditioning, hair dryer, big room so, breakfast included – it was a lovely space.


Ratings?

  • Grubiness factor – non existent. Clean and lovely. Nice smelling sheets and towels.
  • Bed – 8/10. Comfortable enough – I had three single beds in my room 🙂
  • Shower – 9/10. Hot and powerful. Thank you very much.

What did I eat?  

Breakfast at the hotel was the usual spread. Fruit, coffee, tea and juice to start.

Dare I say that I am really not enjoying the coffee here – I just find it too rough and bitter. I’ve been drinking my herbal tea instead. Bring me some Guatemalan coffee please! My avocados that I bought a few days ago finally ripened – so I had avo on toast one morning (no pic!), the next day – pancakes sin huevos and leche!!! They used orange juice instead – something I will be doing back home. Photo is not the most appealing, but topped with some of the peanut and almond butter I found in the town centre (whoooo!) it was a wonderful breakfast.

My lunch was at Organico Fortuna – an amazing restaurant just off the main square. I will tell you now. GO HERE.  Don’t think twice. Don’t think at all. Just go.

The first time I had a green smoothie – no sugar – and check out the bamboo straw.. love it!

There were so many options but I wanted something pretty different to what I’ve been having so I went for the falafel burger – which came with a few slides of roast potato and dried fruit. They have a homemade salsa picante which was excellent. And so was the burger. Home made bread. Juicy. Packed with veggies.  Loved loved loved it.

Next day? Back again for the quinoa burger and their homemade kombucha.

The burger was just as good (falafel wins though), however I found the kombucha very sweet. And then. After I was very satisfied with my meal, I was told thy do vegan ice cream! Oh my word. How delicious!

Better than the one I had in Mexico. Cocoa with nibs. So so so creamy and tasty.

Dinner one night was at a local restaurant – can’t remember the name. I went for veggies, salad and rice. Don’t know why. It was just as dull as it sounded. And they charged me a truckload for 1/2 a teeny avocado!

The quinoa burger and ice cream were so filling I didn’t have dinner the next night.

Other things? Well, my go to snacks are those plantain crisps. I try and go for the locally made ones as they are not only cheaper but they have less crap in them – no preservatives or MSG.

Sweet stuff is harder to come by for me – there is enough of it but  usually stuff I can’t have. Like this.

But I came across this – something I would ever have back home but am thoroughly enjoying eating here (in small doses). Cane sugar and sesame coated peanuts. Sugar rush central!

I did try and give the coffee another go at one of the best places – my coffee. Looked good. But no.  Just don’t like it.

What did I do?

Walked around the town as usual. Prettier than most other towns, lots of beautiful flowers, a pretty church, a cool square, and the volcano in the background. Nice.

Lots of expensive souvenirs shops with stuff you wonder who buys – not I. Lots of wooden stuff. I have done almost no shopping here.

I did also walk around the markets – love the colours!

On the way to La Fortuna we drove past an iguana hangout – well, a restaurant overlooking trees full of iguanas. Very cool. They are amazing looking creatures. Absolutely breathtaking.


Hanging bridges which are supposed to be the highlight of the area. A shock to the system – there were other tourists around! The audacity! Views = excellent. Hanging bridges = wobbly. Max of 15 people and if you have dodgy balance or a fear of heights this is not the place for you!

The views, flora and fauna was really beautiful.

We got to see more birdies – trogons, an owl and the big black one is a cormorant! And for those eagle eyes among you – get your mind of the gutter. That is part of the male palm tree. As you would expect. 😜

We also saw a little snake, but that was really it in terms of wildlife. The lasting memory of the hanging bridges of La Fortuna is the human traffic and queuing to get onto the bridges. As for the wildlife, everyday is different – so I won’t whine any more.

I didn’t do any other strenous activities – some people went on a volcano hike – they said it was super exhausting but very worth it. My non strenuous activity was chilling in hot springs. Ok. Not chilling – you can’t really chill in 52 degrees C can you?

Thanks to the volcanoes there are lots of hot springs in the area, we went to Paradise Hot Springs, $28 entrance and spent about 2.5 hours there – could have spent more.  There are 5 pools of varying temperatures – very hot to very comfortable.

It was super fun, walking around and trying the pools out, very relaxing. Definitely recommend this – and we did the right thing going in the evening. Not sure how anyone would sit in a hot spring pool on a hot day!

All in all, I enjoyed La Fortuna. It seems like every town is more expensive and busy than the previous on, but it also means that they are more modern. I’m still assessing how I feel about the towns and places in general, it has been hit and miss. What is amazing 100% of the time is the flora and fauna and wildlife – love it! ❤️