Letters to the Editor

Costa Rica contemplations

Now a wrinkly 71-year-old through the years I’ve sampled captivating destinations, notably a few Greek islands that were almost eclipsed by eloping in 2000 to Scotland for a second marriage in Gretna Green.

Costa Rica long had dominated my unfulfilled trip list and finally arriving in the country was exciting. Our initial group included two Ticos, Costa Ricans, and a father and son from Barcelona, Spain. None spoke English.

Passing through people-worn San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, on our way to the first resort more than satisfied any city-tour interest. Reaching the coast, our boat left the Caribbean Basin and headed toward the fringe of Tortuguero National Park and our jungle lodge. We left behind a wide channel that ended in ocean rollers and entered a narrow waterway snaking through lush growth. Herons, cormorant-like birds and long-legged egrets appeared along the shoreline, with other birds sharing overhanging branches.

The nestled all-inclusive lodge, one of 10 in the area, consisted of blocks of rooms connected by concrete pathways. An affable staff (capable of speaking some English) tended a bar and dining room positioned nearer the dock. With a waterfall and bar at its shallow end, the lodge’s crystal-clear swimming pool was the best encountered on the trip. Our rustic wood-panelled room had a ceiling fan, boarded flooring and screened windows with inside shutters.

On that first day we crossed the waterway to wander about a village where anyone not working for one of the lodges had little to do. The following morning we learned about the life of butterflies… in both languages. In the afternoon we entered the park along a meandering jungle channel offering a cornucopia of sounds and sights, with toucans exceeding in both categories. Along with other birds, we spotted a caiman, monkeys and a sloth. At one point our guide stopped the boat and scattered crumbs on the water to attract turtles.

Later in the day we visited a black-sand ocean beach where, at another time of year, green sea turtles crawled up to lay eggs. Visiting an adjacent nature centre, a young boy pointed out a foot-long and deadly, bright-yellow eyelash palm viper curled on the side of a palm tree.

Our first day inland at La Fortuna was indeed fortuitous. The volcano erupted. While rumblings are often heard, visitors don’t always get an after-dark display of trickling trails of crimson lava. The next morning we awoke to the guttural calls of howler monkeys and rumblings from a volcano shrouded in cloud.

A sign at the start of the 500-metre descent to La Fortuna waterfall issued a caution to those with high blood pressure. Not the brightest bulb on the block at times, I went down anyway. Narrow with chain rails on the downside, a rock- or cement-stepped path wound its way to chilled air and the base of an impressive cascade. Returning topside was tedious: climb a few steps, stop for a rest, climb...

On our first morning, Pacific-side at the Playa Flamingo hotel, where iguanas lazed atop sunny tiled roofs, we started breakfast with pineapple, two kinds of papaya and watermelon. That day a white-throated magpie-jay nabbed a sugar pack from a nearby table and a great-tailed grackle eyeballed us for handouts before settling for another table’s plate scraps.

The beach was spectacular and early morning walks were shared with drifting frigate birds and pelicans plummeting for breakfast. Wading out into the sea and battling waves became a mid-afternoon ritual, as did returning to the beach to await a breathtaking sunset.

Going to Mexico is a vacation, to Costa Rica, an adventure! But would we have liked the jungle side as much without sun? La Fortuna, without the volcano erupting? The Pacific beach resort could be matched by many Mexican ocean-side offerings. Are we glad we went? Absolutely! Would we recommend other go? For sure!


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