Friday, March 11, 2011

Travel To Costa Rica - Where Are Those Monkeys?

(c) Lee Garfinkel

We just got back from a trip to Costa Rica and still are wondering where all the wildlife was.

Maybe it is unfair to compare a trip to Costa Rica after walking amongst the penguins in Antarctica or the sea lions in the Galapagos.

That said, be advised that spotting the monkeys, birds and sloths in the trees takes a professional guide along with a power scope.

We started out up in the Monteverde Cloud Forest for two days and also had the pleasure of visiting a real coffee plantation where we learned everything you would want to know about coffee. It was called Don Juan Coffee Planation. Even bought 3 pounds of coffee, which we sampled along with food at the end of the tour.  We then drove a few hours to  Puerta Caldera to meet up with our ship, The Windstar, for a 7 day cruise to different parts of Costa Rica as well as Nicaragua.

Costa Rica is very beautiful and you can see why the land needs to be protected.  When you walk through a rain forest you see why we have to do all we can not to destroy this very efficient, self-contained environment.  Every plant, insect, vine, tree, mammal and bird has a purpose.  You cannot upset the balance or the forests won't flourish.

When taking an excursion into the forests, I suggest that you find a guide to take you in a very small group.  Too many people take away from the time you get to look through the guide's power scope and monkeys, sloths and birds aren't waiting for you to watch them.  They tend to move!

Wear good hiking shoes because the narrow walking paths cut through the forest could be full of tree roots or rocks.  Bring insect repellant, but since we were there in the dry season it wasn't too bad.  The sand flies on the beach were the worst. But afterwards you don't itch, you just see red dots on your skin.  I did get bitten by an ant, which the guide called "flaca," meaning skinny.  It was as if a pin was going into my leg and it burned even after I knocked the ant on the ground. I was so mean to this ant.

Bring really good binoculars.  You want to be able to see something not too far away as well as something way up in the trees.  As for your camera equipment, you could use lenses such as a 100-400mm and a 28-135mm.  If you bring just one lens, use a 18-200mm lens. We used 2 different Canon cameras, but now that we took the trip, we would have used the 18-200mm lens on our Nikon camera. Again, remember everything is moving so trying to change the camera and lens takes time, which you may not have.

As for shopping, I wouldn't get too excited.  Each town had crafts, but after a while, they all looked the same.  There are many tourist type shops selling towels, flip flops etc., which you could find anywhere, unless you really needed a towel with Costa Rica printed on it.  Someone advised us that some of the items we saw were made in Guatemala, so not to think all we saw was locally made.

What was more enjoyable was to go into a local restaurant to sample food and drink the local beers, which cost anywhere from $1.50 - $2.40. That was the best bargain! 

To get us from one location to another before our cruise, as well as taking us to the airport after the cruise, we used a company called Ocotea Tours.  We booked it through American Express.  The driver was always on time and had a very clean vehicle. We would highly recommend them. 

And what about the cruise line?  I will write about it in my next posting.

Where to buy coffee:

Where to hire transportation:

Where to book a trip:


Susan said...

Right on target on all accounts.

Unknown said...

No monkeys for me as well. Saw a lot of herons and other beautiful birds and an iguana Oh and two crocodiles - that was cool.