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- LATEST TRIP LISTED FIRST
Playa Grande, Playa Samara (North)
Dominical, Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Playa Matapalo (South)
We took a bus from Liberia to Playa Grande (only one hour away yet this bus trip took
3.5 hours – what a circuitous route)! We were dropped off in Tamarindo (a crowded tourist explosion – we do not
recommend that you stay here). Our taxi ride to Playa Grande from here cost about $30.00 (again what we saved on the bus ride
– we spent later)!
Yet the journey became so worth every
minute of looping our way there. We splurged and stayed at Hotel of the Tortugas along the coast. Our room had an
outdoor tiled patio replete with hammock, a sofa, table and chairs. On the table we had a large candle which the staff lit
up for us each night. Bamboo rods hung down on either side of a sloping adobe wall with a round cut out (usually filled with
a big, fluffy local cat).
Some jungle trees and foliage created
a fence between us and the beach to protect the rare Leatherback Turtle (only turtle without a shell and the largest turtles
in the world at 8 feet long). If the turtles see light shining along the beaches, they will not come in from the Pacific Ocean to lay their eggs – thus this can lead to their extinction. They have been here for 100-300
million years and it is estimated that they may be extinct within ten years. This is a travesty.
beach is expansive and lined with delicate seashells. Thus far there is little development in the area and we could walk for
hours along the beach without many people (aside from surfers who seem to rule here). (A word of caution though, as we roamed
the area we noticed a lot of development in the works – for sale signs up on postcard size lots by a large development
company when there seems to be no infrastructure in place. What about the Leatherback Turtles? Can they survive this onslaught
of movers? Does anyone care?
We signed up for a Leatherback Turtle
Tour which began at 8:PM in the pouring rain. We first watched some educational videos---which talked about how many of the
fishing procedures have netted turtles and led to their demise. Along with pollution in the waters, overdevelopment along
the shores, and natural predators – so much contributes to the natural decline of our turtles. Only one in 1000 of the
Leatherback Turtle hatchlings will see adulthood. This is so discouraging. Turtles are a sign of longevity, patience, and
wisdom – what if they disappear from our world? How can we allow this?
found out that the Mother Turtles normally come ashore 1 hour before or 1 hour after high tide (with some variation on either
side). Since the high tide was due in at 11:PM on our tour night – the sighting could be in the range of 10-12:PM. So
the group waits it out. It is also possible to not have a sighting at all for Mother Turtles do not stop by each evening to
lay eggs. A table of youthful backpackers played dominoes and laughed. Others kept taking photos of themselves. A group of
Spaniards in thick Castillian surrounded us laughing and carrying on. I think we had a shy attack this evening for we opened
up our books and looked down!
The rain continued to tumble down and
it wasn’t the most appealing night tour (though the chance to see the Mother Turtles lay their eggs promised to be a
‘once in a lifetime experience’). The guides run around with walkie-talkies while rangers and biologists comb
the beach. If there is a sighting they relay this to the guides who then gather up the group and take us down (in smaller
groups). Of course, no cameras are allowed as the Turtles cannot be exposed to light so one cannot document this life changing
We waited and waited and sometime after 11:00 PM
and before 12 Midnight the Nomads did call it a night. Along with many others who sought a dry, warm
bed. We later found out that the turtles did appear around 1:00am so somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00am – some tourists who stayed up (probably the young ones) did partake in
this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. We dreamt about the Turtles instead. Ah well, we were grateful for being
a part of the Turtle evening (what a learning opportunity).
you want to learn more, or find out how you can help, please visit the following website: http://www.leatherback.org/
We arrived in Playa Samara, a cozy yet bustling beach town still untainted by much foreign
interest. We walked in circles dragging our bags not knowing where to go. We walked up to a local man we found leaning against
his weathered open bed truck. He offered to drive us for a small amount and we went along ‘for the ride’. He threw
our bags in the back; we climbed in with a tight squeeze in the front and he started the engine a few times. Then we puttered
over to our accommodation: Las Brisas del Pacifico, adobe style cabinas with lush gardens right on the beach!
celebrated Jim’s birthday here with ultra-relaxation. We walked the entire beach kicking our feet through the shallower
wave waters; passed dogs romping in the waves along with the children; and many a surfer balancing on boards and some crashing
into the waters at the local surf school. Jim planned to surf though the weather changed dramatically by afternoon (and he
had to wait until another beach town to experience this fun).
read our books in various places around the town (becoming book centipedes by now
of worms)! One of the places was called Shake Joe’s – an outdoor beach spot with beds, sofas and hammocks, plus
wood carved tree trunk tables and chairs – all out on the sand with the Pacific Ocean splashing in nearby. Almost everyone
here has their feet up, their eyes in a book and a smoothie or some beverage at their side.
at Shake Joe’s I noticed a young boy (maybe 12) standing outside of the place using sign language. His parents were
lounging on one of the beds near us. Then he would look over at a group of young people (late teens/20’s) who were smoking
and he’d imitate smoking a twig while he danced around. (One of the women kept dancing around in her seat).
looked closer and saw that the boy also had deformed hands and long, lanky arms. One hand had only one thumb and two fingers
and another had four fingers and no thumb. Yet he did not at all try to hide them – he used them in jest. He grinned
so wide it was as if he had swallowed a ‘happy pill.’ In that moment he taught me more about acceptance –
of myself and others. Here he was unabashed in his being in spite of what others may find debilitating (being deaf with physical
deformities). He exuded being ‘comfortable in his own skin.’ If he can be, so can you and me.
Now this is the land of “PURA VIDA.” (Pure Living)! In Dominical we stayed for
a few days at a quaint resort called Hacienda Baru in a two-bedroom cottage with a full kitchen and rustic
furnishings. Our San Diego friend, Marianna Pinto, joined us here and we all explored the many trails on
the resort’s land, along with an enormous beach with sand so thick that it cushioned our bare feet. AH – a treat
for our feet.
We enjoyed much wildlife here including
the majestic Toucan Bird, the Sloth (what a lazy life – it takes this animal about 5 minutes to reach a leaf and then
put it in its mouth). Yet on the other hand, it can be another message to bring to our lives here in San Diego:
SLOW DOWN and SAVOR LIFE!
One of our favorite animal viewings was
the large band of white faced monkeys which jumped from limb to limb along the trees on the beach and throughout the jungle
trails. These frisky animals sure do know how to play – in fact, they are the masters of it. There is more to learn
here in this beachside jungle from the animals in the wild.
Eleven years ago I had lived with a local family here (in Quepos) while studying
Spanish at an immersion school in Manuel Antonio. Jim and I were now here together staying at the Hotel
Plinio, a place where I recalled having hiked their exhilarating nine miles of trails and viewed the unspoiled panorama
from their viewing station atop the mountain. One of my Spanish classes had been held here in the Fall of 1996.
recalled the magic of this area - how pure – how virgin – how alive….and now, no more.
For developers and eager buyers have taken over this land. What was once a hiking path to my school each morning is now a
bustling two lane freeway carting up all of the mud, wood, concrete and other housing supplies. Our hotel room rattled continuously
with this progressive noise….even the 9 miles of trails had been sold to a developer. And now all that was left –
a brief (like 15 minute) hike to the look-out tower. Yet when we looked out at what was once a pristine untouched (nearly)
jungle had now become clustered with condominiums, homes, resorts and restaurants. At what price is all this development?
felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. I had to leave this area days earlier than we had planned – the sadness
gripped me and would not let go. We were also not sleeping very well even with ear plugs.
There is still beauty here, of course. The enchanting lands of Costa Rica promise it.
The Manuel Antonio National Park is a wondrous jewel
with trails winding past perfect postcard like beaches and through dense, untamed jungle life. Since this is now about the
only natural area in the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area --- it does attract hordes of tourists….we encountered human traffic
along our paths and it took us an entire day to explore this park (with no time to dip in the waters)!
did enjoy a visit to my favorite former resort where I used to have lunch often while doing my Spanish homework (and also
they allowed me to swim in their pool (overlooking the vast rainforest and ocean)….what a place …it is a dream…Si
Como No. We had dinner here and then took in a movie (they have their own movie house where they show very old releases
and one can buy popcorn and beer). Quite fun. We’d wanted to stay here though much has changed in
11 years…..especially the rates. At 200 or 250 a night well….we decided we’d have dinner and a movie there
We also had drinks at the famed Hotel Mariposa
(listed in a book which mentions 1000 places you must visit before you die). What an experience – the view, the grand
people walking about (whoever can afford this place – must be somebody) – a true delight. There is always joy
to be had in any place. I still left a bit melancholy over the drastic changes of a place I’ve always held close to
my heart. I decided I will hold my long ago memories there anyway.
My Description of Playa Matapalo
The wide sand beach stretches for miles
like an endless summer. Palms and jungle vines border the beach and huge piles of driftwood frame the landscape. Small pinkish-red
crabs dart in and out; black vultures hover around; stray dogs run by in search of a smile and a pet; local Ticans fish nearby
with handmade lines; small white and grey sand birds run together in unison with pitter patter feet; pelicans swoop; coconuts
fall; herons and egrets creep --- all here next to the Pacific deep and the lull rocks me to sleep (on my chair near the ocean).
Playa Matapalo we stayed at a memorable place, The Jungle House, owned by our dear friend, Liz Livingston’s
brother, Charlie. He has a sprawling place with spacious cabinas for rent (almost all with outdoor kitchen and dining areas)
– just across from the beach. This area has not yet been developed (though it too ‘is in the works’) so
the jungle lines the beach for miles. In the background are the mountains, an ‘Irish green’ covered with thick
The roof above our bed in our cabina had
been made of thick bamboo strips. There were some missing ones just over us so we were curious. Charlie said that a couple
from Switzerland had stayed there awhile back. One night late he heard a piercing scream coming
from the room. A boa constrictor had wedged its way into their room (along the strips). This snake had been so thick that
the bamboo pieces had broken off and fallen on the couple. They looked up to see this gargantuan, slithery creature above
them. No doubt that they would scream and run out of the room. I probably would never have gone back in!
had told them, “Nothing to worry about, boa constrictors are harmless. They are docile and don’t want to attack
humans.” The couple replied, “We came here for adventure yet we didn’t expect ‘The Jungle House’
in our room.” We fortunately did not have any Jungle in our room only the cutest little puppies that adopted us. They
would swim and splash in our foot bath (each morning the staff would pour water in a small tub so we could get the sand off
of our feet).
Matapalo is quite laid-back with many people opening up their beach home verandas as restaurants and/or bars. One evening
we went over to Tico Gringo’s for drinks and dinner (Betty who is Tican is married to Eddie who is a Gringo and they
own the joint). We found Eddie slumped over the bar and Betty with her feet up on a barstool nursing a large beer. Eddie jumped
up as we came in and rubbed his eyes. Jim looked up to see some football game under way so we weren’t going anywhere
else…even though Betty said, “I’m not cooking tonight. I’ll bring out some guacamole and chips.”
And Eddie served us up a round of local brews.
highlight was spending the holidays here at the Jungle House. Our friend, Marianna Pinto, joined us for Christmas Eve and
Christmas Day. Christmas morning we were serenaded by a large Mormon family occupying the entire rest of the place singing
Christmas Carols. It seemed as if we were listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as we ate our scrumptious
Christmas Brunch prepared by Jim – outdoors….such a delicious day…how perfect…wearing shorts for
Christmas…in fact, no commercialization to deal with during the whole month of December,…so nice and warm…and
an expansive, gorgeous beach to saunter down after our meal. Who needs to open presents – this was the best gift I could