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Costa Rica

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Tortuguero - Canal Cruise
Costa Rica is famous for its iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies.

Costa Rica is famous for its iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies.

Costa Rica (c) Linda Garrison
The bus left San Jose at 8:45 am and fought the rush hour traffic around the city as we headed from our hotel in the west part of town towards the Caribbean coast in the east. After about an hour, we were out of town and in the central mountain range that is Costa Rica's continental divide. Only one major highway connects the San Jose metropolis with the main Caribbean shipping and cruise ship port at Puerto Limon, so we had dozens of trucks all around our big bus on the road.

Costa Rica has the lovely Braulio Carrillo National Park that stretches for miles along both sides of the Caribbean highway. For such a small country, Costa Rica has many national parks, with over 25 percent of the entire country under protection. We had great views of the high mountain scenery and foliage (like the poor man's umbrella, a huge plant with large leaves as big as an umbrella). This park is named for one of Costa Rica's early past presidents of the nineteenth century whose dream was to build a road connecting the capital and the Caribbean. Because of the high mountains, the road wasn't completed until the 1980's.

After driving across the continental divide, we arrived at a butterfly farm about 10:30, where we had time to see the butterflies and have a nice lunch. The restaurant had a good set up. Anita gave us 1 1/4 hours to do both, which was plenty of time. We all ran around inside the butterfly room snapping photos and trying to get a picture of one of the iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies that Costa Rica is known for. After oohing and ahhing over the butterflies, we enjoyed another good buffet meal, with salad, rice/beans, shredded beef, grilled casava, a delicious squash casserole, etc. Julie and I managed to top everything with our new favorite Lizano sauce.

Back on the bus at 11:45, we soon turned off the main Caribbean road onto a dirt road that would take us to the boat landing. Given that the area gets over 200 inches of rain each year, the road was in good condition, and had almost no traffic. We passed through miles and miles of banana plantations and farms with large fields of cattle and horses. We stopped at a Del Monte banana processing plant to watch the action. I've seen banana fields before, but never dozens of people working in a large open warehouse-type building to sort and clean the bananas. They had the Caribbean music playing loudly, but it was repetitive work washing, sorting, and packing the bananas.

The bus arrived at the Cano Blanco boat landing after over two hours on the dirt road. Long drive, but interesting countryside and so different than we had seen the day before. Very flat. Tortuguero is a national park that is only accessible via small plane or boat. Costa Rica has an intra-coastal waterway that stretches about 50 miles from Puerto Limon to the small village of Tortuguero and the park. Since we met the boat at a point further north, we didn't have to ride as far on the boat.

The boats used to transport tourists to Tortuguero is just like a bus. Covered, with two rows of two seats with an aisle down the middle. Forty-four seats--now I know why our 48 passenger bus only had 44 passengers! We donned our life jackets and were off for Tortuguero. The first section of the journey was for about 15 minutes on the Parismina River, followed by a short trek on the California Canal. This canal is very shallow and the outboard engines were almost out of the water. Melvin (our "Captain") took quite a while going along this canal, which has been silted up since the Limon earthquake of 1991. He kept saying we were going to have to get out and push, but we finally got through and were into the Tortuguero Canal. This was much deeper and we zipped along seeing many water birds and a few monkeys. The guide said that this ride was only a transfer and that we wouldn't stop unless we saw something really exciting, saving our sightseeing for the next day.

After about two hours, we arrived at Pachira Lodge, a really marvelous wilderness hotel/lodge. We were greeted with a snack of a cheese sandwich and a cake--tasty after our early lunch. Of course, it was accompanied by fruit juice. The lodge has a lovely pool and bar right on the river/canal. It's amazing that the Caribbean is just a short distance away. The large grounds are lush and beautiful, filled with tropical vegetation. The cabins each have 4 rooms, and there are 88 rooms, so there must be 22 cabins/cottages. Our cabin had a nice porch with rocking chairs and big windows, but no air conditioning. We did have a ceiling fan and clean, basic bathroom. We didn't miss the air conditioning--after all, we were roughing it!

Dumping our stuff in the room, Julie and I explored the grounds to stretch our legs since we had been sitting most of the day. We had about 1.5 hours until our pre-dinner meeting at 6 pm. There's even a sister lodge next door with its own separate pool, and a spa shared by the two properties. Julie and I grabbed a cold drink (Imperial beer for me, water for her) and sat on the boat dock and enjoyed the late afternoon breeze, chatting with our new Caravan friends.

The Pachira guide discussed what we would be doing the next day prior to dinner, and then we ate another good buffet. The best dish (in our opinion) was a casava root/beef/cheese casserole, but it was all good. After dinner, we checked our email--they had free WiFi on the porch of the office--and enjoyed the evening air. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, and there's WiFi! By the time we got back to the room, it was cooler and we both took cool showers and slept well. Our group was to spend another night at Tortuguero, and Julie and I were going ziplining the next day!

Costa Rica Tour

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