Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tortuga Island

I'm sure Jaco is a perfectly nice place but we were only staying there in order to enjoy a day on Tortuga Island. We chose, in fact, to not stay in Jaco proper but up in the tranquil hills above the city at Hotel Vista Pacifico which was built and is run by a Canadian family. The drive up the hill to the hotel was steep, narrow, studded with potholes and at one point blocked by two cute dogs. But once we got there we were rewarded with a sweet little pool, lush tropical gardens and a pretty view of the town and the sea below.
After winding down with aperos outside we called a cab (some of the other guests mentioned they come up and down the hill no problem) and headed to Jaco's newest restaurant The Taco Bar (also a suggestion from guests and the owners). Good fish tacos and an all you can eat salad bar while sitting outside in the warm evening was perfect for the night. We headed home after for nightcaps and night swimming.

The next morning we were picked up by Calypso Cruises and driven to the port of Puntarenas, about
an hour away. We were fed a typical breakfast of beans and eggs with strong coffee and then we boarded the beautiful catamaran Manta Raya. Sailing out to the island was beautiful, it was hot and sunny and there were cold beers and pina coladas. The staff on board were super friendly, taking photos and passing around fresh pineapple and passion fruit. Ahhhhhhh...

As we neared the island the crew explained that Tortuga is a uninhabited island and is part of a natural wildlife preserve. They are packing everything in and everything out. The waters around the island are beautifully clear and the sand on the beach was pure white. We were looking forward to our day on this little rock of paradise.

 Dayne, Forest and I decided to go with the first group for snorkeling before the lunch was served, so we could spend the rest of the day chilling on the beach, while Kate secured us nice beach loungers and umbrellas. We took a small boat out to an outcropping of rock and plunged into the water. It was so warm!! And so clear! Immediately there were fish everywhere. Huge schools of fish no matter where we swam. It was awesome. Dayne found a bright yellow eel hiding out in a rock and Forest and I swam along side a very funny puffer fish. It really was a great snorkeling spot.

 
When we got back to the island we found the lunch area all decorated and set up with white linen table cloths and a live steel drum duo. The food was quite good and there's nothing I like more than eating while my toes play in the sand! Chilled white wine, ceviche,  cold pasta salad, cucumber salad, coconut chicken, rice and veggies and lemon cake for dessert. Honestly this was some of the best food of our trip!
And then there was nothing to do but relax in our lounge chairs with huge margaritas and laze away the day. Well actually you could go on a banana boat ride or rent a jet ski or kayaks but we chose to snooze away the day, enjoying the scenery.
The day ended entirely too soon. We boarded the Manta Raya for our trip back, taking a bit of a different route through some of the pretty islands. More margaritas and beers. More scenery. Ahhhhh...
And then as we neared the port and the sun sank, it lit the sky up like nothing I have ever seen. It was an amazing sunset and truly the cherry on top of a really great day!

We'd been gone just about 12 hours by the time we returned to our hotel and not really up for heading into town so we made some drinks, bought a bottle of wine from the owner and ordered up some really good pizza (with her help speaking Spanish).

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast and a swim before packing up and saying good bye to the pretty gardens and lush surrounding hills. We were heading to our last destinations of Quepos.
All photos of Tamarindo and Tortuga are here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tipica Tico

Everyone talks about the roads, or lack there of, in Costa Rica. We'd encountered the "Costa Rican massage" as the locals call their dirt and potholed roads but always with someone else driving. When Dayne drove from Arenal to Tamarindo the roads, although very windy and dotted with potholes, were paved. But on this drive, with me behind the wheel, it was nothing but dusty dirt roads, huge potholes and ruts for a good hour and a half of our four hour drive.

I couldn't pass anyone so I tried to stay back away from the clouds of dust. We watched the car in front's small trailer wheel shred and go flying, leaving him rolling along on the rim! This was the "tipica" Costa Rican road experience.

About half way into our drive we stopped in the small town of Santa Cruz for lunch. We drove each street checking out the assortment of restaurants before choosing Venus de la Diria because of it's open air style and also we could park the fully loaded car right in front of our table (there is a very high rate of vehicles broken into all over the country). There was no English spoken and we had to use our menu readers to figure out all the options for their casado's but we managed just fine.


We knew that casado's are the tipica lunch time meal of rice and beans with meat and salad from our previous lunch in Fortuna. Here in this town, without the tourists and only the "tico's", as the locals call themselves, frequenting the restaurant, the meal was much more authentic. And it was very good.

Back on the road, but this one paved, we headed towards Jaco. There is a bridge spanning the Tárcoles river which is a very well known spot to see crocodiles. We parked just before the bridge and walked out and immediately saw the largest crocodiles I could ever imagine!
The biggest of those crocs are about 16 feet long. Holy hell I'm telling you that these things are monsters!! And there were scads of them! Handbag anyone? There are boat tours of the Rio Tárcoles but we didn't need to pay a peso for our view of the crocodiles. And as an added bonus we passed a tree heading back to the car which had two beautiful scarlet macaws hanging out in it.
Just another tipica day with the ticos!