What’s the downside of visiting one of the best tourist destinations in the world? Everything else pales in comparison, or at least initially. The spectacle of Machu Picchu was still afresh when we landed in Costa Rica. The bar had been raised and expectations were soaring, albeit unconsciously! The weather in April was warm and balmy and San Jose’s airport was more than welcoming. Here, people greeted one another saying “Pura Vida”, meaning “have a pure life” and this wellness greeting was heavier on the scales than greetings for a good day or part of a day that we were so accustomed to. Perhaps there was some intrinsic quality in the people and their attitude towards life that led to Costa Rica topping the world’s Happiness index, three times in a row 😊 😊 😊
With sunrise at 5:14 in the morning people here are off to an early start. Businesses begin early and many get to their workplaces before 6 AM. A quick read up on Wikipedia and we learn that Costa Rica is leading the way in sustaining an environmentally conscious economy. Emphasis on recycling was evident everywhere and even hotel rooms had three separate bins
from Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
for classifying recyclables (a big ticker for me!) It was heartening to awaken to a view of mountains in my window and thankful that this gift of nature was in good hands
San Jose is nestled in the mountains and is home to a lot of foreign establishments, multinational companies and a large expat population. In fact, some areas of town like Escazu look so much like suburban America that it’s hard to believe it isn’t. Highways have green signboards and the topography of the land can easily be mistaken for the northeastern United States.
We drove to Manuel Antonio National Park on the central western part of the country along the pacific coast. It was a Saturday and we left San Jose by 5am to beat the traffic. The drive was beautiful and along the way we stopped by to take pictures. We reached Quepos and stopped breakfast at Emilio’s Café, a quaint place with a beautiful overlook. Every view here was extra ordinary. Whether it was the rich foliage, the hills, the scenic outlook coupled with fabulous weather – it had all the elements of a great holiday destination. Breakfast included Gallo
a treat for sore eyes
La Paz Waterfalls Gardens, Costa Rica
Pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice) – long grained rice cooked soft with black beans and a very subtle flavor of Lizano Salsa. The rice was so good and so close to Rajma chawal that I’ve decided to try making it when I get back to home base!
We drove farthest and parked in a lot closest to the Park entrance, bought our tickets, stopped for hydrating ourselves with tender coconut water and headed to the park. We had our rain jackets handy and were prepared with good hiking shoes. It was starting to warm up and was even warmer inside the rain forest park. The vegetation was thick and the plants and trees similar to those I’ve seen back home – bamboo, ferns, royal palms, bananas, crotons were XXXL in comparison to the size they grow back home – and rightly so, with adequate, sunshine, rain water and fertile soil, this was a Mecca for them. There was so much to see and appreciate in the rain forest, abundant with luscious vegetation, marshy areas, woods and vines, home to monkeys and raccoons, lizards, and sloths. The guides are trained and can spot the rainforest creatures in
Manuel Antonio National Park
their natural habitat. They carry with them binoculars and allow you use them to catch a glimpse. The best time to see all the creatures (or at least most of them) is early morning, before the park gets busy with visitors.. You’ll see the white sandy beaches along the trail and we chose to enjoy a dip in the cool waters before proceeding to see the rest of the rainforest.
On Sunday, we were booked for the one day adventure trip to Tortuga Island, onboard Calypso Cruises. The package included pick up from the hotel, breakfast and a cruise boat ride to Tortuga Island. However before we could reach the island, the captain announced that they’d have to return back due to engine failure…The company did refund our money back and dropped us back at the hotel as scheduled. However, we’d lost half the day but chose not to lose the other half! Hence we made it quickly in time to La Paz Waterfall Gardens at Vara Blanca. It was cooler than the previous day and the drive uphill was a visual feast for my eyes. The cloud covered mountains overlooking terraced slopes and multiple hair pin
bends in the road made it an exhilarating drive. Along the wayside beautiful flowers lined the roads, hydrangeas, canna indica and hibiscus to name a few – and all this coupled with the cool mountain air, made me heady with an ethereal aura. It was a long winding ride, yet it was worth every minute it took to reach its destination – the La Paz Waterfall gardens And what about the destination? ‘a botanist’s paradise’. I loved the aesthetic design and the landscaping, the flora, the aviary exhibit ( toucans, macaws, parrots) the humming bird scuttling around, the butterfly garden, the cougar, the cheetah exhibits, all enroute the well-designed and creative pathways and guard rails that looked like thick twisted vines. Needless to say, a lot of steep steps to climb and a lot of walking to do to get to the La Paz Waterfalls which were all worth the effort. A small overlook on the trail gave visitors a closer look at the falls and a quote, I’d read recently on social media came to mind – “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence” The sheer height of the
food for the hungry!
Lunch at El Avion in Quepos, near Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
cliff from which the water fell resulted in so much power which quickly got dispensed as the river continued on a lesser gradient only to fall again at the next cliff. I stood there for a while taking in the tranquility of the place – the sound of the waterfall punctuating the stillness in the air. A moment that will be etched in my memory bank
We continued on the trail heading towards the ‘salida’ route. A shuttle transported us back to the entrance of gardens. It had begun to rain as we headed to the car; visibility was low and the windshield foggy. My husband who had been here on two previous occasions knew this rustic stop on a detour path, called Mirador. There were no other visitors other than us and as we quietly ate a sweetened pita and drank our coffee’s we were greeted by the roosters and its chicks as they wandered close to us pecking around for leftover grains of food. The mist was beginning to thin and we could see the valleys below. We sat a little longer on the benches, humming Bollywood’s “parvaton se aaj main takra gaya
” and then
unperturbed by visitors
mama duck in La Paz Waterfalls Gardens, Costa Rica
There is so much to see in this beautiful country, a sanctuary for nature and a haven for nature lovers. With so many tourist attractions here, it’s hard to see it all. While we did go on the Britt’s coffee tour, the Crater Lake at Irazu Volcano National Park was a miss. If I’d come again, it would be on my must-see list (either this or Poas if it was open to the public) and my to-do list would include an overnight anchor in Vara Blanca – now that’s my vision of Pura Vida!
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