After our very brief visit to San Francisco, we flew via LA into San Jose. A new country for both of us having never traveled to any country in Central America before it was exciting to be somewhere new. We arrived at night and had to pick up our hire car, drive on the right side of the road and navigate our way to our air bnb - good thing we had GPS, Sam managed well to get us there. The next day we had a 9am tour booked at the Toucan Rescue Ranch about 45 mins drive away where their soul mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release as many wildlife creatures they can. What sat well with us was the fact that they are not a zoo, they are a non-profit organisation and they don't allow the public to touch or interfere with the animals in anyway, the welfare of all in their care is priority number one. I was so excited to finally be so close to one of my very favourite animals....the sloth. Our guide showed us a video on the background of the ranch and how an American women founded the place originally for injured toucans
(hence the name) but as the years passed the variety of species that came into her care grew and no doubt the number one draw card here are the sloths. We got a very informative tour around the ranch learning about all the different animals and how they came to be here, everything from illegal animal trafficking, poaching and car accidents are why they end up at this beautiful place given a second chance to hopefully be released back out into the wild.
The next day we set a super early alarm and packed up to visit Poas Volcano. The Poás Volcano, is an active 2,708-metre stratovolcano in central Costa Rica and is located within Poas Volcano National Park. It has erupted 40 times since 1828, including April 2017 when visitors and residents were evacuated. It was one of the easiest hikes we have done to view a volcano as you pretty much drive right up into the National Park and then just walk a few hundred metres to the viewing point. You are allowed 20 mins only to capture a good photo and take it all in and when we arrived the fog was heavy and it was
only until the last 5 mins we were there that we managed to capture and image of this breathtaking landscape. As the last eruption happened only a couple of years ago, there was evidence all over the area from bent metal bars and holes gouged out of the concrete, you certainly wouldn't want to be here when it let go - even with the evacuation shelters placed here for just this reason.
We then drove onto La Paz Waterfall Gardens, the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, animal sanctuary with over 100 species of animals, and an environmental education program. The wild cats here were all rescued from a previous centre that was closed down due to lost funding and as these cats grew up in captivity they were unable to be released back into the wild but are now a part of a successful breeding programme to help preserve the genetics of the wild cats of Costa Rica and educate the public of their plight. The waterfalls were beautiful, we spent a few hours trekking around here taking in all things nature, had a buffet lunch and then hit the road again to spend a very cosy night
in a little cabin with a fireplace just up the road from the gardens.
Setting of to see our next Volcano we were bound for La Fortuna. Arenal Volcano is a dormant stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José and measures at least 1,633 metres high. We had booked an Air bnb and the images of the balcony were of the volcano but again due to fog we couldnt see it all. That evening Sam picked a great place for us to eat dinner and it was here that I booked in the next day three hours to volunteer at a local dog rescue centre. I was hoping to get to the Land of The Strays but they were still closed to the public due to the government enforcing them to make changes to their infrastructure. Before Sam dropped me off to volunteer though, we spent the morning at a local property searching for sloths in the wild. Along with my fave three fingered sloths we also got to see frogs, birds and even a Mexican Porcupine up in a tree. I then got to hang out with some of the 83 stray dogs
that reside in the Costa Rican Dog Rescue Centre, it was hidden behind another restaurant just out of town (owned by the same man as the one in town we had dinner at) They dont like the locals to know where they are located as people with absolutely no heart just dump their animals at the front door and drive away. The young lady who worked there, Sophie spoke excellent English and was very appreciative for any volunteer help. They rely so much on backpackers coming through to give a hand with all of the hounds. There were pups of all shapes and sizes here, something I learned that surprised me is that Costa Ricans mainly only prefer breed dogs so my fave type of dogs - the mixed breeds/mutts/zaguates are mainly left here looking for a second chance. Many of them find homes over in Canada and the USA following a volunteer that has been at the shelter so if you are reading this blog and love dogs as much as I do and are planning to visit Arenal Volcano - please donate a few hours of your time here, you will be rewarded with licks a plenty!
On our way that day bound for Cocos Beach on the west coast for our next diving venture, we stopped in at some natural hotsprings for a bit of a warm up. There are plenty of hotsprings in and around this area and some of them are extremely posh and expensive but Sam found us a perfect little spot that only cost $15 USD each - its all we needed to stop and have our lunch and a bit of a break on the way to the coast. It took about a good three hours to get to Coco Beach (and some time trying to find the house we rented for the week) but it was great to finally arrive and be unable to unpack our bags properly as we were staying here for five nights. Cocos Beach is pretty much the most expensive place to stay in Costa Rica, many expats holiday here and we were just out of the season so the town wasn't packed out which was great as I thought it was busy enough. We ended up doing six dives each over the next three days, it had been a year since we were last under
the water so pretty pumped to get into it again. The main reason for coming here is the dive site known as 'The Big Scare' about an hour off the coast and 30m down bull sharks are sighted here, we were just at the start of the season so we knew there was a chance of missing out and unfortunately we didn't manage an encounter but we were however blessed with the presence of Pacific Manta Rays which was a first and a pretty cool experience. In all we felt the diving was not as good as what we have experienced in some areas of Asia but I think we had our hearts so set on seeing bullys that after the fact we didn't come across them it was a little disappointing - spoken like a true dive snob! Our very last day we didn't go out diving so we jumped in the car and headed over to Flamingo Beach which had the lightest sand (Cocos Beach being a volcanic beach is all black sand) Got a little bit of sun and then headed back home. Another holiday over and already excited for the next one - Snowboarding in the
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