Costa Rica 2022, Day 16

Saturday, February 26

Today was our second last day. We planned a relaxing day with some time at the beach. This is our favourite resort so spending a day enjoying all it has to offer is mandatory.

After breakfast we made our way down to the beach. We were not in a hurry so we stopped several times to take pictures of the wildlife on the property.

We saw several Kiskadees during our trip. It is a fairly small bird at 23 centimetres in length and has a bright yellow front. We also found the bigger and more colourful Blue-crowned Motmot. It is 39 centimetres long and has very interesting tail feathers.

We had a good view of this Three-toed sloth with her baby. The Sloth Institute is on Tulemar’s property and there are several sloths living here. They have a tour most mornings but it is only available to hotel guests. We took part the first time we stayed here.

We found these Spider Monkeys on our way to the beach. Spider Monkeys’ arms are 25% longer than their legs. They also have the most dexterous and strong prehensile tail of all mammals. They need it for swinging through trees and helping to reach fruit which makes up the majority of their diet. They can even use the end of their tail to pluck fruit from trees or scoop up water since there is a pad of skin on the end.

We eventually made our way down to the beach. We chose two chairs under some almond trees for shade. We did a bit of reading and then borrowed one of the kayaks to explore and do some snorkelling.

The snorkelling wasn’t as good as it was 2 years ago when we were here but it wasn’t great then either. There seemed to be less fish this year and the water was cloudier, probably due to the red tide they were experiencing this year. This is caused by a combination of storms stirring up nutrients and the warming of the water creating algae blooms and phytoplankton.

We spent a few hours at the beach. I had a few yummy drinks and we had our lunch while enjoying the view. There are usually two people working down at the beach that help with the kayaks, boogie boards and food and drink. They don’t have access to power here since they aren’t allowed to have electricity or running water close to the beach: so no blender, but they came up with a drink similar to a Pina Colada for me to enjoy. It’s also a bit of a walk to the nearest restroom.

The pathways between the units have a lot of pretty vegetation surrounding them. This also adds some privacy. We quite often saw an Agouti when heading out. They are a fairly large rodent similar in size to a rabbit but they have tiny ears. Their young are very well developed when they are born and the mother takes them on a tour to choose their own den when they are one day old. It is only big enough for them so it protects them from predators. The Mom comes by to nurse them.

We stopped part way up the hill at one of the pools and had a short swim. We had the pool all to ourselves!

The following pictures show the view looking straight down from our balcony and the path leading off our balcony towards the restaurant. It is very beautiful and lush.

Once again we finished our day with dinner at TuleCafe. We found it interesting that they hide the potatoes and vegetables underneath the steak. We aren’t sure if that is a Costa Rican thing or just something the Tulemar chefs do.

We also enjoyed another beautiful sunset.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 15

Friday, February 25

Today we returned to Manuel Antonio National Park to explore at our own pace. We reserved our arrival time about a month before our trip. This is one of the national parks that requires a paid reservation. After breakfast we headed up to the reception area and ordered a taxi. Our driver offered to pick us up at 2 p.m. for the return trip which we accepted for $10 each way. It was a short 5 minute drive to the entrance to the park. He got us as close as possible to avoid all the people offering tours of the park. We chose not to drive ourselves as the parking there isn’t easy. We arrived around 7:30 a.m. so it wasn’t too crowded yet.

We made our way deeper into the park. The plan was to hike all the trails. We soon discovered that that meant a lot of stairs.

The reward for climbing many flights of stairs were the gorgeous views….this view shows the island that we Jet skied around the day before.

Some of the trails lead to some really nice beaches. We stopped at each and had a short swim.

The most picturesque beaches were the ones that required hiking further into the park.

We didn’t see much wildlife at this park but we weren’t really looking. We saw a few White-faced Capuchin Monkeys at the quieter beaches. They are very intelligent. During the rainy season they will rub certain plants over themselves to discourage insects from landing on them. They can be aggressive and groups will raid the nests of birds and Coatis for food. Some Costa Ricans refer to them as the “white faced Mafia”.

We stopped for ice cream after covering most of the trails. It was very good! I bought a souvenir T-Shirt which has always been a challenge because we tend to stay in places that have no shops.

The last trail we did was a circular trail around the part of the park that sticks out into the ocean and is joined to the park by a thin stretch of land. It has long beaches on either side of the path. We went in the water briefly to cool off before heading out to look for our taxi driver. Today we covered 12 kilometres of trail.

We found our driver outside the park and with a quick drive we were back at Tulemar. We had a late lunch and spent the rest of the day relaxing. TuleCafe is also a good place to watch for Scarlet Macaws.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 14

Thursday, February 24

We had a bit of time this morning because our first tour didn’t start until 10 a.m. We enjoyed our breakfast at TuleCafe and took some pictures of the wildlife we encountered while we walked around the property. We saw a Sloth, a Squirrel Monkey with her baby and a Scarlet Macaw.

We decided to take a short hike that was mostly on Tulemar’s property. We climbed up fairly high on the north side of the beach. On the way there we encountered this Spotted Woodcreeper and a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. (Thanks to Johan Chaves for the I.D.)

Parts of the trail were quite technical. It became more difficult the further we went.

There was a lot of foliage as it wasn’t a maintained trail, so it was hard to get any pictures of the water below. We passed through a small stand of bamboo.

It was getting close to 10 a.m. so we followed the trail down to the beach and then headed up the long hill to the reception area to meet our driver.

We were driven to the Marina in Quepos and given a lesson on how to operate the Jetski. We chose to share one. Mike drove first and we followed our guide out into the ocean.

We rode south along the coastline to Manuel Antonio park and circled some small rock islands.

We then turned around and headed back towards the bay for some snorkelling.

This is the spot that all the tours bring people to snorkel. You can see some of the Tulemar villas on the hill across the water above the beach.

We didn’t snorkel for very long. There weren’t very many fish and the water was very cloudy. Getting back on the JetSki was a bit challenging for me as I am only 5 feet tall and had to climb on from the water. I took my turn as driver and brought us back to the marina. I loved driving and would definitely get my own JetSki next time.

When our driver dropped us off at our resort we headed to TuleCafe for a late lunch. We had our pick of tables and chose to sit at the larger table in order to stay out of the sun.

The Red-backed Squirrel Monkey is endangered and only found in the Osa Peninsula and the Manuel Antonio area. They are very small – the adults are only 68 centimetres long including their tail. They travel in groups of 10 to 40 and are a lot of fun to watch. Today they were watching us.

Cute as they are, we did not give them any food! After lunch we spent a bit of time at the pool by the restaurant. I enjoyed a Pina Colada while watching for monkeys. We discovered that every afternoon they come through here to get a drink from the pool.

At 5 p.m. we met Oman Chaves outside the reception area. He would be our guide for the nighttime nature tour. We drove for about 30 minutes to a different location closer to the mountains. We looked at some interesting plant life while we waited for it to get dark. The Honeycomb Ginger and Torch Ginger plants are considered invasive species. They are native to South East Asia.

We also saw a few birds including this Black-hooded Antshrike , some Muscovey Ducks and a Golden-naped Woodpecker.

Once it was dark we made our way down a short but steep muddy path into a small ravine with a tiny creek. Right away Oman found a tree frog. There are many kinds and we saw quite a few throughout the evening.

One of the most fun frogs to find is the Red-eyed Tree Frog. They are quite colourful. They are harmless to people and quite small at approximately 7 centimetres.

Omam was quite excited to find a Glass Frog for us. They are very small at just 3.2 centimetres. Their skin is translucent so if you look at them from underneath you can see some of their internal organs. The female lays her eggs on the underside of a leaf. During the day they are left unattended but at night the male keeps watch by placing one hand on the clutch. He urinates on them to keep them moist. When they are ready, the tadpoles hatch and fall into the water below and grow into froglets.

Our tour finished around 8:30 p.m. and we arrived back at Tulemar around 9. We stopped at TuleCafe for a snack of fries and then headed to bed.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 13

Wednesday, February 23

Today we woke up in one of our favourite places – Tulemar resort. At 6:30 a.m. we headed up to TuleCafe for breakfast. We were disappointed to learn that our favourite breakfast wasn’t on the menu anymore, but all their breakfasts are great.

After eating we slowly made our way up the hill to the lobby to meet Johan Chaves – our private tour guide for the morning at Manuel Antonio National Park. We booked this tour well before our trip through Miguel, the concierge that was assigned to us as guests of Tulemar. We had the option of making it a private tour for an extra $10 per person and we thought that was a great deal.

On our way up to the reception area we spotted this Sloth mom with her baby.

We were very lucky to have Johan as our guide. We later learned he is somewhat of a celebrity in the birding world. He has a photo book published featuring the animals and birds of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. It comes in a digital or hard copy version. I highly recommend it.

Johan’s spotting skills are phenomenal and he showed us many creatures we would not have found on our own. By combining our phone’s camera with his lens we were able to get some great shots. We started with a couple of bats, a Black Hawk, Green Tree Frog and an Iguana. Iguanas are very large – 130 cm nose to tail tip.

The Common Pauraque is a very hard bird to find unless you know where to look for it. They are often found on the sloth trail in this park so the guides know where to look. I had a hard time seeing it in the leaves until I spotted its eye. They are ground nesters.

Next, Johan found a Giant False Parrot Snake. They are quite small in girth but can be up to one metre in length. Also nearby, he found this Tent-making Bat hanging out inside a large leaf.

There are many types of Anoles. They are fairly small but are not hard to find. The larger Helmet-headed Lizard has the ability to change colours to match its surroundings.

The Orange-chinned Parakeet is the second smallest Parakeet in Costa Rica. It’s always fun to see the more colourful birds. We were lucky to see the uncommon Purple-crowned Fairy Hummingbird visiting its nest.

We also saw some of the larger mammals. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of a sloth we saw because it was hidden high up in a tree, but we saw some Spider Monkeys and a cute Raccoon resting on a branch. We could also hear Howler Monkeys in the distance but didn’t get a chance to see them. You are not allowed to bring food into this park because the monkeys have figured out how to open zippers on backpacks in order to steal food.

This shot shows how powerful Johan’s camera is.

Manuel Antonio National Park is a very pretty park. There are about 12 kilometres of trails as well as a few beaches. Our plan was to come back another day to hike and visit the beach briefly. This is one of the parks that requires a reservation before you visit. It is also the most popular park in Costa Rica.

We found it a bit crowded on the paths near the entrance. That was where most of the wildlife was spotted. Once you get further in there aren’t very many people. We really enjoyed our tour with Johan and highly recommend him. We headed back to Tulemar for lunch.

We had a couple of problems with our room so while we were having lunch the staff moved our bags. The new room was a bit prettier with the colourful art work on the wall but we still had an issue with the shower. It wouldn’t maintain its temperature.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the resort and visited the beach. All beaches in Costa Rica are public but because Tulemar is situated on a fairly steep hill it is difficult to get to unless you are a guest of the hotel. We went in the water twice and found the water very warm. We saw a large Iguana sun bathing on the beach. When we were leaving there was a golf cart going by and they asked if we wanted a lift. We jumped on the back and had to hold on tight while we drove up the hill to move our car to our new location.

We had dinner at TuleCafe where we both ordered the Strip-loin steak and enjoyed another beautiful sunset.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 12

Tuesday, February 22

Today was our last day in Monteverde. We were up early as usual and made our breakfast with a combination of the food supplied in our tree house and leftovers from the fancy breakfast delivered the day before. We packed our bags and drove over to Curi-Cancha reserve where we had a tour reserved with Three Brothers tour company.

Our guide Mauricio asked what my goal was for the day and I told him that I was hoping to see a Resplendent Quetzal, as was everyone else in the park!

We began our hike and scoured the tree tops for signs of activity. There were a few other groups doing the same. We lucked out by having a private tour. Mauricio was very knowledgeable and told us many interesting things about the forest and the wildlife.

With the help of Mauricio’s telephoto lens, we were able to get these shots on my cell phone. He found a Northern Emerald Toucanet, a beautiful Collared Trogan and a Stripe-throated Hermit Hummingbird in its nest.

We continued our search for the elusive bird and enjoyed the enchanting forest. He showed us examples of the many epiphites that grow on the trees here.

After a couple of hours we heard that another group had seen a Quetzal so we headed back to join them. It was very difficult to see with the naked eye as it was high up in the trees so we were thankful for the excellent cameras and tripods that all the guides carry. Unfortunately the Quetzal refused to turn around but we were able to see his signature tail plume which can be over 60 cm long. Quetzals spend their time in tall trees or in the forest canopy. They eat large fruit and will eat an avocado whole, spitting out the pit afterwards.

Mission accomplished, we headed back to the car and prepared for our journey to our favourite resort – Tulemar! This would be our second time finishing off our Costa Rica vacation here. We had a few snacks in the car. The drive took five hours instead of four because of traffic.

After getting settled in our room, we headed up to TuleCafe for dinner. We were very excited to be back here. We both had Beef Tenderloin and Pina Coladas. (Mikes was a virgin)

We checked out the shop by the reception area and were a bit disappointed that they didn’t have any souvenirs for sale. We wandered down the street a bit and looked in a couple of small shops and then called it a day.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 11

Monday, February 21

Instead of going out for breakfast today, we ordered in ahead of time. Two women brought us an amazing meal and set it up for us. It included eggs, pancakes, yogurt, granola, hash browns and back bacon. There was so much food we ended up saving a lot of it for the next day. We had ordered ahead for the next day as well but ended up cancelling it.

Today we visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. It was a 15 minute drive away and we decided to hike without a guide. It started off a bit cool in the morning so we chose to wear long pants with a light jacket.

I love seeing the different kinds of trees and foliage in Costa Rica and I wanted to explore every path. We started with the flatter trails. Unfortunately the hanging bridge trail was closed for repairs. All the trails were well maintained and easy to follow.

As we gradually climbed higher, we reached an area called the Elfin Forest. Here the trees and bushes are much smaller as they are subjected to strong winds and fog. Many trees appear twisted and are partially covered with epiphytic bushes or vines. These types of vines actually grow from the tree that they are attached to.

The continental divide passes through this region. Rain falling on one side of the mountain will make its way to the Pacific Ocean as rain on the other side ends up in the Atlantic. Even though it wasn’t raining the ground was wet. It was also very windy.

After exploring the easier trails we backtracked to the more difficult ones. There was a lot of climbing over a combination of rocks and some kind of man-made brick that was a bit problematic for a person with small feet. This trail was quite challenging. The day was warming up so we removed our jackets. We were surprised by the warmth and the amount of sun we had.

We didn’t really see any wildlife here but didn’t expect to. Most animals prefer the warmer temperatures lower down the mountain. We did see some interesting Hummingbirds that were iridescent but I was unable to get a picture.

During our 3 hours in the park we climbed over 400 metres and covered almost 10 kilometres.

Once we had covered every trail, we drove down to the little town of Monteverde to find a place to eat. We found this great restaurant called Thomas and Thiago. We had the best service here that I think we have ever had. The waitress was very attentive and friendly and the food was good.

For the afternoon we spent a bit of time relaxing on our deck before driving over for dinner. We decided not to walk because it gets dark shortly after six and not all the roads have sidewalks.

Based on a recommendation from our hotel, we chose to have dinner at Tremonti. It was a short drive away and was on a hill with a lovely view towards the ocean. We decided to sit outside on the small balcony. Both the service and food were very good.

I had Beef Tenderloin and Mike had the Ribeye steak. We completed our dinner with some Tiramisu.

We again enjoyed our hot tub until the rain and wind picked up and we retreated into the tent to watch Netflix.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 10

Sunday, February 20

This morning we headed to a very new location for us – the cloud forest. It would take us about three and a half hours to drive to Monteverde. The roads were fine until we started to head up into the mountains. Here they were not well paved – there were many very large potholes to avoid. There was very little oncoming traffic but it was not fun when there was. I was also not thrilled with the lack of a shoulder as we wound around many bends in the road paired with some scary looking drop offs.

With no stops along the way, we arrived at our hotel before check-in time. We parked our car and wandered down the steep hill into town. We found a cute restaurant called Morpho’s, named after a beautiful, large blue butterfly found in Costa Rica. It was on a hill and provided a view of part of town and was nicely decorated inside. Unfortunately the service was bad. We were seated but waited for 30 minutes without even a menu. Mike went over to complain and after that everything was fine. We would have left but we were very hungry. We shared a hamburger which worked out well as the serving was rather large.

After lunch and a bit of wandering in some small shops we headed back up the big hill. I was excited to see our “room” as I had booked us the honeymoon tent at Chira Glamping.

The tent and deck were built on a steep hillside and are almost 100% private. The deck was enormous. Upon entering the platform, the tent was on the right. To the left was a kitchen complete with a sink, stove top and fridge stocked with eggs, juice, soft drinks and beer. There was a roof over the kitchen area that extended to the bathroom.

The inside of the tent was nicely set up with a double bed and dresser. There were curtains that could be closed although no one can see in. There was also a basket of food on the dresser containing snacks and pieces of fruit.

The uncovered side of the deck included a BBQ, hot tub, seating area and a unique shower with a glass wall and floor that extended out over the hill and was completely private.

After relaxing a bit and settling in, we got ready for dinner. We had reservations for a dining experience set in the tree tops. San Lucas serves a 9 course meal in private glass rooms. There are only 8 rooms and the experience lasts for two and a half hours. We chose the 5 pm seating so we could enjoy the sunset while dining. This was our most expensive dinner ever at $170 a person not including drinks.

From San Lucas’s website…

“Our menu is the expanded journey of the experience that Monteverde offers, which entails the conjunction of its main natural and gastronomic attractions.
It is the conceptual union of the nearby islands, landscapes, local products, national culture and sustainability.”

Each course told a story. The “salad” course started as an empty box, and as we poured water on it, the food “grew” out of the holes in the box. There were many delicious foods to taste but my favourite was the steak as well as the cheese potatoes, which were more cheese than potato.

When it came time for dessert, our waiter brought over a large box. He then gave us a paper with test questions. In order to get our dessert we had to answer the questions correctly, which were based on the information he gave us during each course. We would then have the code to open the box. He also mentioned that there were 6 nice prisoners in “jail” that needed to be freed.

We solved the problems and enjoyed our dessert which also included some frozen treats inside a large plastic ball. We forgot about the jail part of the test, so the waiter opened up the top of the box to reveal a picture they had taken of us when we arrived for dinner.

We enjoyed the view, and after eating way too much food, we headed back to our tree top tent. We had a little surprise of some coffee and treats that were left on our bed. There was romantic music playing and some nice scents.

It was quite cool in the evenings here as we were in the mountains, so each evening we warmed up in the hot tub before heading to bed. Another first for us on vacation – the owner allowed us to use his Netflix account so we started to watch “Inventing Anna”.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 9

Saturday, February 19

Today was our last full day at Tango Mar. I was feeling energetic so I went for a run on the beach before breakfast. For you Strava users, I became the “local legend” of this beach segment! Mike came with me to take some pictures.

After taking some pictures of this Limpkin I tested out the hammock. It was quite comfortable!

After breakfast we packed up our hiking gear and drove out to the main road. We saw this Crested Caracara while passing by the golf course. It is a type of falcon.

We noticed these fences during our drive. It is quite common to use small tree trunks or branches that have been cleared from an area as fence posts.

Our plan for the morning was to hike through Cabo Blanco state park to the ocean and back. The front desk staff told me we couldn’t miss it because we just needed to turn left from the resort and follow the main road.

Unfortunately that was not true. I was having trouble with my phone so I was unable to use Waze to find our way. We ended up getting lost. The road split twice – once we went down the wrong one and had to backtrack. We ended up driving all the way to Santa Theresa. It was very crowded and touristy there so we didn’t hang around. We were getting frustrated and tired and decided to just head back.

Back at our resort we enjoyed lunch by the pool.

We relaxed by the pool and restaurant for the rest of the day and treated ourselves to a yummy milkshake later in the afternoon.

The lasagne I had for dinner was very good.

We packed our things so we could head out right after breakfast the next morning. We had a long drive ahead of us.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 8

Friday, February 18

After our usual breakfast buffet, we went to the front desk to meet our guide for the snorkelling tour to Tortuga Island. We had a couple and their 5 year old daughter joining us. They were in the midst of travelling around the world for 6 months.

We all got in a van and drove to the marina. We transferred into a small speedboat and were off. I have some trouble with sea-sickness so I had a ginger gravol beforehand and also wore my seabands.

We had a very nice ride to the snorkel spot and saw a whale along with her baby and escort. This was our first time seeing a whale in Costa Rica. We also saw some Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons which we also see here in Ottawa.

We spent some time watching the whales and then headed toward the island. The scenery along the way was quite beautiful. On excursions like this I always enjoy the boat ride almost as much as the destination.

We passed through a large rock arch. Our captain called it Gringo’s rock because all the tourists want to go through it.

We finally reached our snorkelling destination. We were moored fairly close to the island along side a large rock formation.

The snorkelling wasn’t great. They were experiencing a red tide which means there is more algae in the water than normal. This affected the visibility. There were a few fish here but nothing amazing.

We headed over to the island where we would have some free time and be served lunch. We think our guide may not have had a perfect understanding of English because he kept saying we would eat in 20 minutes. We missed out on renting paddle boards because we didn’t think we had time. Instead we wandered the island. It was quite pretty but maybe not quite up to they hype I had read.

We had a nice lunch and then cooled off in the water. We didn’t see anyone else renting paddle boards or kayaks. It seemed most people just came here to sit and drink.

It was time to head back to our resort.

We saw many pelicans in the harbour.

Dinner was a bit unusual. I wasn’t super hungry so I ordered “French Onion Soup”. When it arrived there was a small piece of bread with a bit of cheese on a plate. And a bowl of onion broth with a few tiny pieces of onion. The broth was so salty I couldn’t eat it. I tried to explain to the servers that what they had given me was just broth, and not French onion soup but they didn’t understand. I even showed them pictures on my phone. They brought me some new broth with bigger pieces of onion but by now I was so tired I just gave up and headed back to our villa to sleep.

Mike and I both had some stomach issues in the evening. I’m pretty sure it was from the lunch that was served on the beach.

Costa Rica 2022, Day 7

Thursday, February 17

Another picture perfect day! February is the middle of Costa Rica’s dry season which lines up perfectly with the weather we want to escape from in Canada, which is usually the coldest month of the year.

This morning we headed out to explore the north side of the beach. There was supposed to be a lookout up on the cliff. We followed the signs but must have made a wrong turn. We ended up in an interesting area with a lot of lava, rock and many small tide pools.

Unfortunately I didn’t realize that my camera had some moisture on the lens so most of my pictures had to be deleted. Mike doesn’t take as many pictures as I do so we missed out on a few good shots.

We enjoyed walking around this area and checking out the tide pools for little creatures. We saw a few tiny fish and many crabs. We saw several of these yellow breasted birds on our trip, which I think are a type of Trogon.

We only saw one other person here – there was a man picking up garbage that had floated in from the ocean. There were a fair number of plastic water bottles as well as food wrappers which we assumed were either tossed or fell off of tour boats. We helped a little bit with his cleanup.

After we had had our fill, we headed back towards our resort to relax by the pool with our books. I enjoyed a salad for lunch.

After relaxing for a bit we decided to go check out Cocalito Falls. The staff told us it was worth going to see. It was supposed to be a short walk.

We followed the path from the pool up towards the road and then onto a trail. It was getting very hot out but we were mostly in the shade.

When we reached the end of the short trail there was a sign that seemed to indicate that we should go straight down the road but at the end of it we couldn’t find another trail. We did see some lovely private homes though. We backtracked and went down the gravel road. This eventually led us to another trail heading back towards the ocean. We were getting very hot at this point. There were a couple of other paths in this area and we ended up choosing the wrong one a couple of times. We ran into one of the servers from the restaurant here and she said she was trying to find her family that were by the water fishing. We finally got to the end of the trail….

It’s hard to tell depth in these photos but we are now at the top of the waterfall. We could walk across it but it didn’t look like that went anywhere except the other end of the cliff. We saw no trail leading down to sea level. So now we are tired from the heat and frustrated because we can’t even see the waterfall! We slowly made our way back to the resort pool to cool off.

We had dinner at the resort as the sun went down. My lasagne was good, Mike’s chicken was so-so. Back in the room I got out my iPad and updated the notes for my blog.

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