Costa Rica’s Interior
My prior travel to Costa Rica only consisted of a visit to the Pacific coast, a stay in the Manuel Antonio National Park area. So, on this trip I wanted to experience the Interior of the country. Costa Rica is a relatively a small country but it is made up of multiple microclimates. With the fact that I would have to arrive and depart from the capital city of San Jose, located in an interior valley, this was a perfect location to stay and experience this part of the country. This visit wasn’t my usual active or strenuous type of itinerary by design. I had already kayaked, white water rafted, went horse back riding, and ziplined during my prior visit. I chose to do a couple of day tours and one was highlighted by a visit to the La Paz gardens and waterfalls.
The day started with an early pickup from my hotel. We arrived at our fist destination at one of the many coffee farms in the area where we had a delicious local breakfast. We did a short tour of the farm which wasn’t high on my to do list but I did come out with a greater respect of the coffee bean pickers. Our next destination would be the Poas Volcano, one of eight active volcanos in the country. The guide had given us the rules and instructions needed to enter the complex and he rushed us to get a helmet once we arrived. I was wondering why he had rushed us. At the end of the visit, it became apparent that the conditions could change and the park could be closed at any time. We joined another group that had been waiting upon our arrival. It would take 10 minutes to walk to a viewpoint at the top of the volcano. Each group is timed and we have only 20 minutes to enjoy the view. The climate is also known to be uncooperative at times with clouds that roll in and covers the crater. When I first reached the top of the crater, It was covered but within five minutes the cloud cover moved to the left like drapes being drawn from a window to reveal the acid lake in the crater. Videos and selfies had to be rushed as another cloud was poised to move over the volcano. Our time was up and my thought was on the high odor of sulfur and I wondered how long it would linger in my system. I thought it was just the normal level but the tour guide advised us that the sulfur levels were high and that they would close the park. This is why we were rushed as the park could be closed at any time.
The last stop would be the La Paz Gardens and Waterfalls. This is a complex on the side of a hill developed to house a rainforest hotel and an animal rescue with the waterfalls as its background. I use the term “animal rescue” loosely as they don’t seem to be in a hurry to rehabilitate and release the animals back into the wild. It’s more of a minnie zoo. Thoughtfully, you start at a higher level on the mountain and work your way down the hillside towards the bottom of the waterfalls.
The first section is the aviary where you can walk among parrots and toucans. And, as you exit one section and enter another, you slowly descend down the mountain. It’s a great way to see animals that reside in the interior of the country. Insects, butterflies, monkeys, jaguars, pumas and yes sloths can be found here. The complex also has an amazing restaurant that has great tasting western foods and even better local foods. After you exit the last animal exhibit, you can hear the first waterfall. You will walk along a pathway down multiple steps along the path of the waterfall. If you want a closer look at each waterfall, you can descend toward the fall for a closer look but keep in mind you’ll have to walk back up these steps to reach the main path again. For those waterfall chaser, it’s an amazing experience.
Unfortunately, a misty cloud would not let go of the mountain during my visit but it was still an amazing experience. It added a fairytale-like feel to the whole experience. The end of the path had a bar and shop where you could regain some lost calories as you wait for the bus. The entrance fee includes a bus ride back up to the top and the parking lot. For our visit, our own tour bus picked us up for the transport back to our hotels.
Seeing the rainforest from the ground is how most of us view the forest but it limits your perspective and what you can see. It’s tough enough to spot an animal that has thousands of years in adaptation to blend in with its environment. I wanted to see the forest from atop the canopy, from a toucan’s point of view, so I booked a tour that included a tram ride where you can view the forest from the top. Well, my intensions were good but, unfortunately, mother nature didn’t cooperate. The mountain was covered by fog. We could still see the creek at the bottom of the forest but the animals were not active in this weather. We saw a sloth at the entrance of the park which was curled up in a ball but we didn’t see another mammal the rest of the day. We did see some birds in the trees such as parakeets huddled together keeping themselves warm in this moist weather. And, I spotted a toucan which I saw land on a branch or I would have never seen it at all. They are well camouflaged and if they didn’t move or squawk you can’t see them at all. Don’t worry, a guide is with you in the tram and they are well adapted to spotting wildlife. On a fare-weathered day, this would have been a much more memorable experience.
When you’re in Costa Rica, make sure you go ziplining. Depending were you go, they are between 8 to 12 lines with some at a distance of 2,000 meters or longer. Fly through forest and over rivers as you zip through the canopy. This was my 2nd time ziplining in Costa Rica but this experience was hampered by the microclimate that Costa Rica is famous for. This park happened to be on the Carribean side of the mountains in the Braulio Carrillo National Park, about a 90 minute drive from San Jose. There was a light sprinkle when I started but it slowly grew in its intensity. By the time I started the last line, the longest at 2,000 meters, it was a hard cold rain. The drops slammed in my face as my speed quickened down the line. I couldn’t see as the rain got in my eyes so I turned my position around and I finished in the reveres position, back first. I knew that these lines had automatic breaks so I wouldn’t crash into the tree. The storm was an added thrill… I guess?!
In my two visits to Costa Rica, I know I’ve only touched upon a small portion of the experiences and beauty of this amazing country. With so many beaches and so many waterfalls I’ve yet to experience, I can’t wait to return. This little country is definitely one of my favorite places in the world.