How many tourism photos for Costa Rica have you seen that depict a rabidly happy person flying through the sky on a zip line? Because that’s what you do when in CR, right? Because zip lining was invented in CR, right?
When we first started planning our trip to CR I thought, “Zip lining. Yeah. Maybe we should consider doing that.” This from the woman who is not fond of heights and hates all carnival rides. When in Rome….
The husband I talked about it casually a few times. He didn’t seem to feel strongly either way, but that could be because he realized (before I did) that the likelihood of actually getting me on a zip line was relatively slim.
Did we zip line while there? No we did not. But, we did go to Mistico Hanging Bridges and crossed multiple bridges high above the canopy. Much more my speed. For a couple of reasons: first, one cannot take photographs whilst flying through the canopy on a wire. Second, how much does one really see whilst flying through the canopy (particularly if their eyes are screwed shut)?
Our trip to Mistico occurred on Wednesday, April 19th. Our 9th anniversary. I love that we regularly vacation on our anniversary. It’s like one long anniversary celebration. Our trip to Mistico was also our first guided walk through the rain forest.
This trip was a little different from previous ones when it came to planning activities. A lot of times if there are specific things we want to do that involve reservations I will take care of all of that before leaving home. We elected not to do that for Costa Rica. For one, we weren’t sure how bad the humidity would be. Last year when in the Caribbean the humidity was pretty awful (remember, we’re talking about the tolerance levels of a couple of Washingtonians), which sometimes led us sapped by afternoon. We wanted to assess that before committing to activities in CR. Also, we wanted to talk to people there to get a sense if the things we were thinking of doing were truly worth our time and money, or if there might be alternatives that we would enjoy more.
That being said, I did enter the country with a list of possibilities. And Mistico was on that list. And, when we spoke with the front desk person at Lomas del Volcan (the place we were staying in La Fortuna) about activities that they arranged, the hanging bridge that they recommended and reserved for was Mistico. Great minds think alike!
We were picked up at Lomas on Wednesday morning by Santos and driver. We did not stop at any other hotels/hostels/etc to pick up others. Whoo-hoo! Private tour for two at group prices!
As we drove to Mistico Santos chatted with us about Costa Rica in general and what we might expect to see on our walk. An ever-present theme? CR is not a zoo. It’s amazing the number of reviews you read on Trip Advisor, Fodors, Lonely Planet, etc. that include complaints of all of the wildlife people don’t see on a given jungle walk. I think we all enter CR with a certain assumption that monkeys and sloths drip from trees. All of the trees. Guess what? They don’t.
Why? Well…you saw the “wild” in “wildlife”, right? That pretty well sums it up. That and the fact that the canopy is…well…dense. Let me toss a couple of definitions at you:
Rainforest: a luxuriant, dense forest rich in biodiversity, found typically in tropical areas with consistently heavy rainfall.
Jungle: an area of land overgrown with dense forest and tangled vegetation, typically in the tropics.
Get the picture? It’s hard to see stuff if your eye is not trained to see stuff. We went on two guided day walks. On both of them we saw a variety of birds and other wildlife. We went on two other hike/walks on our own. We saw almost no birds (though we heard a whole bunch of them, just couldn’t spot them in the canopy), though we did see monkeys three times while on our own (which I will share with you when we get to those days). And we saw a toucan while on our own. That was way cool.
We weren’t real bothered by what we didn’t see. Because we still saw a whole lot on those lush, beautiful trails. And, the sounds alone…cicadas, birds, etc. are overwhelmingly beautiful.
That first excursion into the jungle with Santos was magical. All of the guides we interacted with were passionate about their country and the environment. And hugely knowledgeable.
Santos showed us our first monkey (it’s blurry, but it’s our first monkey, so worth posting).
Our first eyelash pit viper. Pretty little thing, huh? One of the most venemous in the world.
And our first blue jean frog.
And a large (large) spider:
And a bunch of birds.
All of these, with the exception of the blue jean frog, were viewed through Santos’ fancy telescope, which allows one to press their cell phone up against the…eye hole (how’s that for technical speak?) and take photos. How cool is that for people that don’t have a 500mm lens??!!
And don’t forget the hanging bridges!!! They were cool. Way cool. And they swayed. Only the three of us were on each bridge and they had a good sway, I can’t imagine what it would feel like if they were at full capacity (there are signs that warn that no more than 15 people should be on a bridge at a time).
But, despite being dazzled by the creatures, I think my favorite moment was when Santos stopped on the trail, looked at us and asked, “Have you ever seen a firework in the forest?” We glanced at each other, confused, and said, “Uhhhh….no…” He smiled and said, “Look up.”
I could have looked up forever.
After our jungle jaunt we headed into La Fortuna for lunch at Soda Viquez. Sodas are small cafes, locally owned, that serve “typico” or the typical Costa Rican cuisine. The basic plate is called a “casado” which literally translates to “marriage”, and so it is. A typical casado comes with a protein of your choice (beef, pork, chicken), rice, beans, plantain, green salad and a tortilla.
At Soda Viquez, which was the best casado we ate (and we ate quite a bit), there was also a vegetable goulash and a beet and potato salad. Casado is often accompanied by a fruit juice of your choice (fruit, water, ice, blended. Amazingly tasty and refreshing). However, we didn’t know that when we had casado at Soda Viquez and both ordered iced tea. They blenderized it. It was the best iced tea I’ve ever had. I think it had some other stuff in it, too. Did I mention our casado was $6 per plate? A great deal for very tasty food.
After lunch we wandered around town until the rain drove us back to our bungalow. We lounged on our patio and watched it pour.
We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon, then prepared ourselves for the cherry on the top of our anniversary celebration: an evening at Eco Termales hot springs. Thanks to the volcanic activity of Mt. Arenal there are a number of hot springs in the La Fortuna area.
Eco Termales’ pools have a rustic feel and the fact that they limit the number of people they let in at any one time and have a bar near the pools makes for a very relaxing experience. The pools go from super hot to less hot. We tried a couple of pools (too hot…too hot…ahhhhhh, just right) before settling into one. We sat next to each other, watching the sky darken above us, savoring another day of pura vida.