A Travellerspoint blog

Costa Rica

Liberia, Costa Rica

Exploring Costa Rica outside of the rainforest

Liberia is the perfect home base for many different activities because it’s located between the mountains and the beaches of Guanacaste. Although zip lining through the gorge was beautiful, the highlight of our adventures in this area was something that we had never done before: white water tubing down Rio Negro in Rincón de la Vieja National Park. The river gorged an adventure park style rapid suitable for individual tubing in an amazing forest setting. We stitched together a few clips to give you a feel:

We were wishing we had a naturalist with us walking through Tenorio National Park when we reached the magnificent blue waters of Rio Celeste. Apparently a result of sulfur and calcium carbonate mixing together, there is the most amazing place in the park where two crystal clear rivers meet and form this shimmering blue color:
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Most people know the Nicoya Peninsula for its surfing and turtle sanctuaries. We would also like to highlight that there is an awesome cave network in Barra Honda National Park. There is one cave with four or five thousand bats that come flying out after sunset, and another that you can repel into and explore. Unfortunately they are still working out a way to offer tours to see the bats without disrupting them, so we settled for spelunking to the eerie sounds of howler monkey growls.
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As if we didn’t get dirty enough spelunking, we also paid a visit to the volcanic thermal waters and mud spa at Rincón. The hot springs were in an incredible natural setting next to a flowing cool river. The perfect spot to ‘cleanse’ after all the hiking we had done.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 18:15 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Santa Elena (Monteverde), Costa Rica

Superman for a day!

sunny 80 °F

Driving to Monteverde from the luscious coast was is a little weird since all our lives we’ve been bombarded by little green red eyed frog advertisements for Costa Rica, so naturally we expected lush green scenery. Although there are abundant forests, it turns out most of the midlands are dusty and dry like a long California drought.
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Monteverde is the zip line capital of Central America, so of course, we looked for the most death defying tour operator and headed for the longest zip line in Latin America (1590 meters flying like superman) and the biggest Tarzan swing in Monteverde. It was an exciting day packed with adrenalin that we’ve tried to highlight in this short video:

The forests here include a type of parasite Strangler Fig Tree that start growing from a seed dropped on top of a host tree by a bird. The Strangler Fig grows down the trunk of the host tree using the host tree for nutrients and eventually suffocating out the host tree. In this particular case, the original host tree had completely dissolved away leaving a 130 foot natural spiral staircase up to the canopy.
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This made for an easy climb all the way to the top where we could watch a Toucan going in and out of his nest!
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As we were walking passed a few guides in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, we over heard one guide say cheerfully “I’ve never seen so many Quetzels at one time!” After they walked off we investigated the area and actually found one! We were so excited to end the game of ‘where’s waldo’ for what seemed like ages of chasing chirping birds through the forest!
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Another of our favorite adventures was exploring the forest at night. We saw sleeping birds, and all sorts of nocturnal creatures including poisonous snakes and tarantulas!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 06:34 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Mastatal, Costa Rica

Chocolate straight from the bean

sunny

We found a family farm called La Iguana Chocolate tucked in the mountains between Monteverde and Quepos. Lucky for us, our micro-machine rental 4x4 dominated the long and bumpy road with only one minor issue… when we got out of the car, the passenger side panel was hanging on by a thread!
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Juan and his family have been living and working on the farm for over 40 years, and is one of the last farms in the area that didn’t switch his cacao for other standard cash crops. They have a small operation that focused on providing enough sustenance for the family and their equipment is all handmade… for example, their cacao butter press is an adapted car jack!
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We spent the morning learning about the entire cacao process turning the harvest into edible chocolate. We probably ate more chocolate before noon than we have ever have in one day! Along with the delicious chocolates we made, we also ate chocolate cake, chocolate milk, and roasted cacao beans (cacao nibs)!
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For those interested, here is a short summary of the process we went through to create our very own chocolate:

1. Harvesting - Pods are harvested from the trees and the cacao beans are taken out of the pods with the sticky fruit still surrounding the seeds.
2. Fermenting - Beans with the fruit are fermented over about 3-4 days so the sticky fruit comes off of the beans.
3. Drying - Beans are dried in the sun.
4. Roasting - Beans are pan roasted or stored for future roasting.
5. De-shelling - After roasting, a fine shell is removed from the beans.
6. Grinding - Beans are then put through a grinder and crushed into “cacao liquor”
7. Pressing - Cacao liquor is pressed to separate the cacao butter
8. Grinding again – the pressed stuff is then put through a fine grind and turned into what we usually call “cocao powder”
9. Making Chocolate - Chocolate is made from three ingredients: cacao powder, cacao butter, and sugar!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 19:03 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Manual Antonio, Costa Rica

Where the rainforest meets the ocean

sunny 92 °F

Manual Antonio National Park may be the smallest National Park in Costa Rica, but it really packs in the beauty with jungle facades creeping all the way down to stunning beaches. We saw numerous sloths, monkeys, and birds all within easy viewing along the trails. On the main beach there are capuchin monkeys looking to rummage through tourist backpacks, so it was quite the site for people watching.
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For a real adventure, we rented Stand Up Paddleboards from a local and after telling him the route we planned, he was a bit worried about the epic scale of our paddle and decided to come out with us. Turns out, we paddled about 10km, down the coast through all sorts of waves and water terrains, yet the only monster wipe out was trying to ride these puppies through the waves to the beach!
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This was our first stop in Costa Rica and we learned two important things:
1. The refried black beans in a bag are perfect for picnic lunches!
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2. Everything in Costa Rica is open air and there are tons of butterflies (even in the grocery store)!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 19:34 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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