Category Archives: Costa Rica

Costa Rica Dream Trip

January 15 – February 7, 2020

Yes, it now feels like a dream. It is no exaggeration to note that the world was different in January. Writing about a vacation during Corona virus times seems almost wrong, with a little guilt involved because everything is so serious today. On the flip side, it is the perfect argument for traveling. Life can change on a dime, so do what you love with who you want to do it with, while you can.

I also find myself looking back to what started this blogging project in February 2013, the Unicycle Road trip across the USA. Dave White was the Rider and I was the Crew. A 2957 mile unicycle ride and I got fulfill my dream of slow, off-the-highways travel from west coast to east coast. It really did turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime. If anyone wants a diversion or a way to occupy several stay at home hours, links to both of our blogs are available on this website. First blogs were February 17, 2013 and we each blogged every day of the 3 month trip that finished in the end of October because of an unplanned tropical parasite break.

Back to the Costa Rican trip…This year our base for the 23 days was Finca Loco Natural in Puerto Viejo, a small town on the Caribbean coast. Friend Bill Sedivy rented the Birdhouse for two months and we joined him for our third visit to this “pure vida” country. I will not write much about it, because there are two previous blogs about Puerto Viejo. Each visit has been different.

This year’s differences:

It rained the first 10 days of the trip. Downpours that flooded the yard, short morning and/or afternoon showers, wild surf and sporadic sunshine.

Friends Phyllis Zebrowski and Mike Siegert, from the Seattle area, spent the first 12 days with us. They have appeared in several previous travel posts, as Phyllis is my lifelong friend. It was their first time in Costa Rica and it was a lot of fun (in spite of the rain) introducing them to the area. We made our first visit to the Jaguar Rescue Center, a sanctuary that rehabilitates animals and returns them to the wild. (Spoiler: no jaguars present). We got a beach day in at Arrecife when the rain stopped. One of the highlights was a day rafting trip on the Pacuare river, which had plenty of white water. Ricky the Rasta guide led us on a nature hike and cooked a Costa Rican dinner at the Birdhouse. Phyllis and I had a fun girls night out and a very good dinner at Koki Beach Restaurant.

We rented a car that was available for the duration of our stay. This increased our spontaneous options and made grocery shopping in town more convenient. Especially during our rainy season. We drove to the Panamanian border, enjoyed Cahuita and Manzanillo national parks, went off the beaten path and discovered Playa Grande, a different beach area with almost no people.

Dave and I went snorkeling after the surf calmed down. It was a private trip in a small boat with our guide Ramone and Roberto, our second guide who was 11.

Our Burned Out Canoe Club friends from Kentucky, Sandy and Kevin Smith, were on a Cruise that docked in Limone for a day. They got a taxi to Cahuita, where we met to hike in the national park and have lunch by the water.

Good times spent with friends: Steve and and Martha King, Bill’s longtime friends from Indiana, who we know from earlier trips. Pamela Robinson and Carter Van Houten, Finca Loco Natural’s owners. Wendy, our new beach friend from England. At least once a week, we would go into town to hear Carter perform with different musicians.

When I think of Costa Rica, the first thing that comes to mind is nature. The bold colors. The exotic birds and animals. Our agouti that reminded me of a long-legged guinea pig hanging around the yard.The rich earthy smells of humid jungle. The Caribbean Sea in different lights. The surprise of oversized bugs, (sometimes in the house). Snakes (not in the house). SLOTHS! The sounds of the surf and rain on the metal roof at night. The sounds of Pablo the damn rooster and Howler monkeys waking us up in the morning. The taste of really fresh tropical fruits and coconut bread. The feel of sand under my feet on a beach walk. Beautiful blooms that smell like the tropics.

Yes, the trip now has the quality of a dream. But it’s been great remembering what reality was for a while shortly before these days of self-quarantine.

Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

On January 23, we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica and escaped the Northern Ohio winter  for 23 days. Weather at 41 degrees latitude is a sharp contrast to  the mid 80’s F at 9 degrees north of the equator.

Part I of the trip was a “Week of Rivers” paddling experience with Costa Rica Rios, an adventure outfitter. Our group of 12 friends, came from Idaho, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Quebec. Only three of us knew everyone, but we were all had river connections and years of experience (somewhere between 200 and 300 years collectively). It was a great mix of people. Thanks to trip organizer Bill Sedivy!

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Costa Rica Rios is based in the central mountain region in Turrialba. They take great care of their guests; providing accommodations, food, transportation, equipment and knowledgeable river guides.

Our paddling was on the Pejibaye, Serapiqui, and Pacuare Rivers in kayaks, IKs a canoe, a cataraft and a raft. They are in the interior mountain region and flow through remote jungle areas. The water was extremely low, which meant these whitewater rivers required more technical paddling. My waterproof camera had issues, and some people just got better shots, so many of the photos I have included were taken by other members of the group.

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We spent two nights at the Pacuare Outdoor Center, in a remote area where we paddled in and out. It’s a jungle camp located high above the river, with a climb up a steep trail to get there. It has a large open-air shelter, screened cottages and no electricity. The guides made special drinks for happy hour and delicious meals. While several people enjoyed their zipline course, I remember our cottage, the quiet and the peaceful ambience.

After the river week, four members of our group went home and eight of us continued on for Part II of the trip. Our first experience was a visit to the family farm of Pablo, our lead guide. We met his family, had a group cooking lesson, toured the farm, milked a cow, had a good meal and a very enjoyable afternoon.

Next we traveled to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast just north of Panama. We have visited this small laid-back town before. Here we stayed in The Birdhouse, a rental home in Finca Loco Natural within walking distance of the beach and town. It was like staying in our private jungle garden with a pool. Pamela and Carter are wonderful hosts and also built the house. It was good to see them again since our last visit 6 years ago.

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Here is where I insert plant pictures. One of my favorite parts of Costa Rica is the exotic flowers, plants and trees. Lush overgrown house plants. Can’t get enough of them.

In Puerto Viejo, we had lots of choices to make: Walking or taxi? Which beach to enjoy? Playa Negra? Arrecife? Punta Uva? Serious or casual birding? What to read?  Happy hour at the pool or the house? Get up early or sleep in? A day with plans or winging it?  Lazy Mon on the beach. Evenings in town listening to Soul Caribe and visiting Kaya’s Brewery. Hanging out at the Birdhouse and grilling. Having a party. Hiking in Manzanillo and Cahuita National Parks. Lunch at Maxi’s.  Restorative relaxation. Sloth watching.

It was hard to leave Costa Rica to return to Ohio and winter.