Today we docked in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. It was warm and humid as we headed out on our excursion to “Walk in the Clouds.” Costa Rica is a relatively prosperous, stable Central American country about the size of West Virginia with a large area of pristine rainforests. Although some of this area has been cleared in the past for banana, coffee, and pineapple plantations, the country realized, with the encouragement of foreigners, that they were an ecological goldmine with these forests. Five percent of the world’s endemic creatures and plant life are in this small region, as compared to ten percent in gigantic Brazil. Costa Rica began setting aside land for national parks and reserves, and even privately owned lands in these areas are subject to strict laws of preservation.
We headed for San Luis Park, almost two hours away and between 3000-4000 feet in elevation. We actually crossed over the continental divide and toured this rainforest on the Atlantic side where many of the rainforests are located. The road was the Pan American Highway for the first part, and later a very winding road with many switchbacks. Our driver did a super job negotiating these tricky narrow roads. Our guide, Jason, spoke almost flawless English and gave non-stop commentary about his country and their environmental accomplishments. Ecotourism is a huge business here, greatly helping their economy. The San Luis Park is privately owned, but very well-maintained. They also have a zipline course here, which we did not do. Our tour was a lovely walk through the forest pathways, and over four or five large hanging bridges. The bridges were suspended over a hundred feet into the treetops so that we could look down and around us. The bridges swayed a bit and made some folks nervous, but they were strong and perfectly safe. Some authority inspects regularly to see that the forest is well cared for and that there is no future development of buildings, hotels, etc. There is a normal admission charge already included in our tour that helps maintain the park. The restrooms were large and modern and the open-air restaurant and gift shop were welcoming.
Our group of 39 was divided in half, with Jason heading ours and a local guide, the other. We set off in different directions so we wouldn’t be crowded on the trail and bridges. The walk took about an hour and a half with Jason stopping many times to explain a fern, tree, insect, or bird we were seeing. He obviously loves and is very proud and protective of rainforest environments. We walked leisurely to be able to soak in the beautiful scenery. There was a hummingbird garden along the path where we had about 10 minutes to observe and photograph these fascinating creatures. There are more than 50 species here, but I don’t remember any names. They were green, blue, and multi-colored. We walked past a waterfall partway down the trail. It seemed small, but this is the beginning of rainy season and it will be powerful very shortly. Near the end of the trail was a butterfly garden, enclosed like a big aviary to keep the butterflies there. Quite a few species were flying around. We attempted many times to get a photo of a lovely blue butterfly, but when it landed and closed its wings, it was brown and spotted to blend into its surroundings. I don’t think Mac was able to get one in flight.
Our timing was perfect because as soon as we lined up for lunch, the skies opened up and it poured. We could have all been soaked.
We had a lovely Costa Rican lunch at the restaurant here. There was chicken, pork, fish, rice, black beans, plantains, and salad. Juice, tea, and coffee were also served.
On our return, we stopped at a large gift shop where there were several busloads of tourists and all the prices were in American dollars, not the local currency where $1= 566 Costa Rica colons. A tourist trap indeed, but the prices were not bad. We got some things for the grandkids.
We went for a walk around Puntarenas after trivia, since we didn’t have to be onboard until 6:30pm. I was on a quest for a new curling iron, since mine died. I was able to borrow Lisa’s for a few days, but tried to find a new one. We came up empty, but had an interesting walk. I believe most people who visit this country do so on the Atlantic side near Limon, where there are many resorts. We didn’t see any in this area, and not many tourist sites in town; though our guide this morning stated that the beach is busy on weekends with many locals coming out.
We had an enjoyable dinner tonight with Trish and Jeff and Jamie and Dana, our cruise directors. They will be heading home to Michigan for a few months at the end of this cruise and returning to the Navigator for next year’s world cruise. They are on ships for about 7 months a year, an interesting life for sure.
Doug Cameron performed “Hot Jazz and More” on his violin with the orchestra accompanying him. He played “Blue Indigo,” “A Small Hotel,” “Caravan,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and other well-known jazz favorites. He even featured Sergei on the Saxophone and Alex on the piano. Nicole Sasser, the trumpeter, joined him for the last number, “the Saints,” as they played while walking through the audience. It was a good show, even though jazz is not my favorite type of music.
We will be at sea tomorrow, since we are passing on Nicaragua because of local unrest, and heading for Guatemala.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac