Costa Rica, Part 2: Animals & Adventures

Sharing more from my September 2016 trip to Costa Rica—see Part 1 here. In this section I'm remembering the animals that we saw around the country and the adventures that we had away from our home-base of Finca Luna Nueva.

On our journey from the airport to the farm we stopped at a wayside restaurant for lunch, Mi Rancho.

I was rather surprised that a mariachi band was a prominent (LOUD) part of lunch here.

I ordered the "Tico Plate" with fish: the best fish I've ever had--loaded with flavor (did they marinate it before breading and frying?).

Average roadside view from our bus--one-story storefront.

99% of houses we saw are small and one story

Day 3: Ziplining! I was nervous at first but then I loved it! We did the SkyTrek ziplines and I highly recommend them. The staff made me feel 100% safe and cared for, but they were also hilarious and fun. Ziplining was THRILLING.

This is a typical view in one direction while ziplining. We were working our way down a mountain/hill near Lake Arenal.

Arenal volcano on the way back to the town of La Fortuna. We were ziplining on the other side, where nobody has lived since a huge eruption in 1968. Now it's a national park with lots of adventure outfitter places.

After ziplining we lunched in the nearby town of La Fortuna

Open-air restaurants are very typical

Our server wore traditional garb.

We shared these appetizers, plantain fritters

I HAD to order the Volcano Rice... how could I resist? It wasn't great (kind of salty, clearly a way of using up scraps that don't go into other things), but it looked awesome.

We wandered around La Fortuna for a bit after lunch. I took this photo because the restaurant on the right is called "Rechicken" which I thought was hilarious.

Back at the Farm: Finca Luna Nueva is part of a beekeeping initiative called Sacred Bees of the Tropics. The goal is to create habitats for Mariola bees, a tiny stingless bee that's native to Costa Rica.

The farm has several bee-houses. They appear uninhabited, but if you look closely you can see teeny bees coming and going.


This is a close-up of the tubelike entrance to the hive. The bees are golden with gemlike blue & green heads. Apparently Mariola honey is even more beneficial than Manuka honey, the prized New Zealand export.


There is a bird in the middle of this photo I've identified as a Gray-necked Wood-rail. This rock wall is right across from the farm restaurant, and the Wood-rail had a relationship with the kitchen staff. It would wander up to the kitchen door, get a treat, and then fly up this wall and disappear under the hedge with its bounty.

One evening on the farm we put on our muck boots and went for a night-walk with flashlights and cameras. We saw frogs (like this one hanging out on a tree), a snake, skinks, spiders, a large mouse-like thing in a tree, bats, sleeping birds, a glowing caterpillar, and a bullet ant.


Costa Rican national treasure, the Red-eyed Leaf Frog

We wandered around the farm one evening and surprised a coati--it was BIG and in full profile it was also quite long (here it's looking at me, but it has a long head and pointy nose). I'd say it's the size of an extremely large raccoon.

Day 4: On the Wednesday of our trip we drove north to take a wetlands river tour. On the way we stopped at Restaurante Las Iguanas, where a nearby bridge lets you look down on the treetops (and pipes) and the many iguanas that lounge there.


The white spiky iguana in the middle left is apparently the Big Daddy of them all.


The bus driver and our guide were very good about screeching to a halt and pulling over for animal photo ops. This is a sloth moving slowly along a tree limb—it was easy to spot because a busload of tourists had already pulled over to take photos.

The river tour, like the entire trip, was amazing. Being rainy "green" season, the river was high. There were also very few other tourists. (We heard that in high season, around March, the Rio Frio river is a zoo of boats and guides with microphones. We were basically alone on the river.) This is a Snowy Egret. Nearby we also saw Jacanas, the birds that walk around on lily pads (I didn't get a photo).

Our guide identified this as a type of fig tree. Doesn't it look like Celtic knotwork?

Two birds, I believe the grey-ish one is a Night Heron.

Under those two birds and lounging on a branch (slightly right of center) was a bright green Basilisk Lizard, aka Jesus Christ Lizard. Other expedition members actually saw one of these running on the water's surface but I missed it.

This is the Anhinga, also called Snake Bird (because when it's swimming in the water with its head out of the water it looks like a snake). Most of the Anhingas we saw were resting with their wings spread; I did see a few swimming like snakes.



Spectacled Cayman. Can you believe all of these amazing animals??

 Turtles (two in the front, and one further back facing the camera)

Two little blue & white swallows posed for us mid-river 

This is the sacred tree of life, the Ceiba tree. Our guide explained the Ceiba was long believed to connect heaven and earth, and the seeds that came down from her tall wide canopy became people and other creatures.

A tree-ful of egrets against grey skies

The boat stopped by the shore for a photo op at the Nicaraguan border (no place to debark—this is all part of the Caño Negro wildlife preserve so no roads or trails).

This obelisk was right next to the newer wooden sign—an older border post.


Our boat driver and river guide, Bernal, had an impressive gift for picking out animals amongst the thick green vegetation. As we motored back from Nicaragua at speed he suddenly stopped, threw the boat into reverse, and pulled over for a close encounter with several white-faced Capuchin monkeys. The monkeys seemed to be having lunch and did not mind us at all. We got so close!

Capuchins are omnivorous and can live 50-60 years. We also saw a troop of howler monkeys hanging out further away—I got some video that I will try to share at some point!

Thanks for reading about my Costa Rica trip! I would love to go back someday, I would love to take my family, I would love to go back to Finca Luna Nueva. I would highly recommend visiting this kind, peaceful, gorgeous, and environmentally friendly country—and the Arenal area where we stayed—for any kind of vacation or getaway or change of scene. The national motto is Pura Vida: PURE LIFE!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this wonderful blog!!

Amber Gabrenas said...

Costa Rica had always been on my bucket list... even more so now!