Read up on different topics such as new tours in the area, specials and topics related to Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Once Halloween is over time suddenly flies by and you get through Thanksgiving in a blink of an eye everything slows down around the 23rd, just 2 days before Christmas to make you wait for that wonderful morning that every child and the better part of the adult world are anxiously waiting for... to open the presents! For most who are traveling to Costa Rica, you will experience a whole new vibe to Christmas. You will be able to eat Tamales (some have tried tamales, but a Mexican version where they wrap the tamal in corn leaves. In Costa Rica they are wrapped in plantain leaf). Tamales are a traditional Costa Rican food during Christmas time. The trade winds begin to change and bring swells from norther California that hit our pacific coast, bringing in surfers to ride the waves.
Another tradition during Christmas time is the bull ring shows. Someone will ride a bull out while it's bucking. Once the ride is over, the bull remains in the ring for a time period during which everyone who wishes may enter the ring to taunt the bull. The ring is usually packed with participants who eventually get the horns from time to time. Unlike Spain where the bull is sacrificed, Ticos do not take kindly to mistreating the bull and actually praise a bull with a death record. At times a bull will be released with a few high denomination bills tied to it's back and offered to whoever was brave enough to take them.
Horse parades called "Topes" is also popular and everyone gets dressed up in their best cowboy outfit and ride a specific route while drinking local mix of moonshine and condensed milk. This mix is called "Leche de Burra" (donkey milk). After the ride everyone gathers to drink at the local beer garden.
Nativity scenes can be found in homes, shops and streets. And various mass services as well as religious movies are played on TV. Unlike North America, during this period of December when it is snowy and called winter... in Costa Rica it's the beginning of our summer or dry season.
Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated American holidays in Costa Rica. Many expats look forward to Thanksgiving dinner for that taste of home that brings memories racing through taking you back to when you would gather with all your uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents.
A wonderful time when the boys gather in the yard to play with the adults a fun game of football, landing a tackle into the raked autumn leaves piled in sectors of the yard. Grandma would then call everyone to the table and bring out a juicy turkey to accompany all the delights that are already on the table. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows, cranberry salad, GRAVY and of course... stuffing!
But before anyone could begin to eat, a prayer would be said in thankfulness. Then every member of the family would share some of the things they were thankful for. A humbling experience that would really remind you of how blessed we are. And of course grandpa would share the Thanksgiving story before the whole family would sit and watch the parade or football game. At night everyone gathers to play board games while or playing hide and go seek with flashlights.
This same story has been shared by many expats with their Tico families while they show them how a Thanksgiving dinner is prepared. Nobody can resist not wanting to do it over every year, adopting this American holiday.
If you are in Costa Rica during Thanksgiving, don't be shy... share this beautiful tradition with your Costa Rican hosts.
With the recent US Presidential Elections going on for the last few months, many arguments and quarrels have risen. Citizens are stressed, outraged and some embarrassed about the 2 main candidates. Some to the lengths of threatening to leave the country if their candidate does not win.
Costa Rica offers plenty of real estate for you. You can choose to live in a country with no army since 1948. It is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. Various crops are harvested throughout the year.
If you are on a pension and get VA Benefits you can apply to receive them in Costa Rica.
Coco Beach offers great deals on condos and houses. The market is low at the moment and 2 bedroom condos are available ranging from 60K to 90K.
If you are near Coco Beach (Playa del Coco) a visit is a must. You can spend an entire day in Coco.
You can start of the morning by visiting places like Congo Cafe or Java that serve breakfast, smoothies and coffee in general. There is a nice atmosphere and the ginormous waffles, syrup, cream, strawberries and blackberries they serve at Java are spectacular. You can enjoy as early as 7 am. Those staying at Riu can take a shuttle as early as 9 am, placing you at Coco around 9:30 am.
After breakfast you can visit the boardwalk along Coco park that has benches to sit and enjoy the ocean, a basketball court, soccer field and most recently built... a skate park. The skate park has brought in many activities increasing the local participation and interest.
There are bars and local merchants who sell coconut water and snow cones along the boardwalk. On occasions you will see them selling sorted meat skewers on a grill. Another mobile merchant would be those selling clay animal whistles or flutes. You can hear the sounding as you cruise the boardwalk.
Around 9 am is when most of the markets and souvenir shops are open. There are many options for souvenirs and resources regarding Costa Rican flora and fauna. Imagine a bit of a flea market scene where you can haggle and negotiate better prices. These shops are found along the strip.
The strip offers more than just shops. You'll find a casino and many bars such as Coconutz and Zi Lounge, the more popular bars. Coconutz offer craft beer from the local Angry Goats Brewery as well as plenty of screens to offer viewers every football game, basketball, baseball, UFC and more. Happy Hour begins around 7 pm and everyday there is a special meal menu.
Zi Lounge is more of a dancing club scene. You can rent hookahs while at Zi and Wednesdays is normally ladies night.
Dinner offers and array of restaurants such as Villa Italia, Citron, Casa Del Mar, Gusto de la Vida, Dolce Vita and many more. Hard Rock Cafe Guanacaste can be found at Coco as well.
Don't think twice on whether visiting Coco or not. It's a must.
Many travelers that are staying in Guanacaste during their entire trip, often ask about visiting Arenal in a day. Some are discouraged when told how far the drive is, but don't really understand what the drive offers. Arenal's climate is very different to Guanacaste and evidence is seen along the way as the environment transforms from a dry forest to a lush green rain forest. This is also great because as you travel the amount of wildlife you see increases big time. From just ctenosaurs, iguanas and cara cara's to sloths, deer, coati's and toucans.
The flora is also a huge change. All will be drier and brown then begins to change to a more colorful green while you drive to higher elevation and notice all the vegetation shifting completely to one side due to the constant wind effect. As you drive over the Guanacaste mountain range and into Tilaran mountain range you will pass close to the windmill fields and link into the main road that surround Costa Rica's largest lake, Lake Arenal. In the distance you will observe Arenal Volcano. By the time you reach this intersection you've been on the road for about 2.5 hours and you've seen 5 volcanoes, 5 towns, learned about various fruit bearing trees that grow all around, animals, agriculture such as sugar cane, rice, grass, cattle, mangos, tilapia, teak wood and macadamia. Now that you're on the road surrounding the lake you will see more lush vegetation and may encounter more wildlife such as coati's, deer, toucans or sloths.
A local brewery is also along the way if you are into craft beer. A macadamia farm offers a small coffee shop where you can stop for a quick break and snack on delicious desserts made with local macadamia. A German Bakery is also an available stop to get goodies for the road. Costa Rica's largest kapoc tree is another amazing stop enroute to Arenal.
Once arriving at Arenal the main town is La Fortuna. Here you can choose from a vast array of tours. The hike are recommended to experience the rain forest and seek animals.
Your day would begin around 7am and end around 10 or 11pm. We have yet to find a traveler that did not love doing a one day trip to Arenal.
The Tempisque River is Costa Rica's 3rd largest river and Guanacaste's largest river. It extends from the skirts of Orosi Volcano all the way to the Gulf of Nicoya. The river is 144 km in length and was used to float logs down to Chira Island to be loaded onto boats.
The Friendship Bridge was built as a gift from the Taiwanese government, connecting the Nicoya Peninsula to the Puntarenas coast, significantly shortening travel time to San Jose.
The river is important to many species, in particular those that make their habitat at Palo Verde. Sand is also extracted from the river by means of bucket, boat, shovel, cart and oxen. The oxen take the loaded cart to an area where they allow the sand to dry. This same sand has been used in the material to build may of the main roads in Guanacaste.
Fishing is also a popular activity for the huge tarpon that can be caught.
September 15th, 1821 is Costa Rica's Independence Day and celebrates independence of all Central America from Spanish Crown rule.
The declaration of independence was written October 29th, 1821 and reached the people of the nation only a month later. After the independence, the first constitution was soon adopted. This led to the celebration of the first elections in 1821. Independence Day is declared an official national holiday.
The first elected Chief of State was Juan Mora Fernandez (1824 to 1833). He did much for the betterment of Costa Rica and the Ticos. He also promoted industry and commerce.
The first free elections in Costa Rica were held on 7 November, 1889 defining the beginning of progress towards a truly popular government.
Independence Day is celebrated with much joy and festivities. Patriotic parades and performances by students in the community are found at every small to large town throughout the country.
This is a fruit whose origin is Mexico, being a fruit that grows on cacti. It was planted by Europeans in Central America during the colonization period. There are 3 different varieties of this fruit. In Costa Rica the fruit has a red skin with red edible flesh with small edible black seeds. In Costa Rica the fruit is mainly used for juice or ice cream, typically being mixed with a little lemon juice. The flesh is tender and sweet.
Seeds can be planted and grow well in compost or potting soil mix. The flower flourishes and night and is pollinated by moths and bats.
Ask your driver about this fruit which is in season from August to November.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday you can visit the farmers market in Liberia. This is a great experience for travelers because it allows them to see what fruits are in season. The sellers are also very friendly and offer you to try their produce. Specially if they see you are a tourist. Fruits and veggies aren't the only produce offered. There is cheese, fish and in some cases even medicinal plants.
Also and option after the market is stopping by the local butcher to purchase some chicharrones. These are fried pork rinds or meat, a typical snack through Costa Rica for parties and social gatherings. At this same location you can also purchase other goods (non-edibles).
The rain forest is full of medicinal plants that have been used for centuries by both aborigines and modern society. Many of the pharmaceuticals we use today are extracted from plants hence the bitter taste that we get from pills due to the alkaloids. These alkaloids are produced by the plants as a self defense mechanism to deter would be predators from chomping on them.
Those that grew up in Costa Rica, especially those that grew up in countryside, have experienced a mother, grandmother or family member giving them an herbal concoction to remedy some form of ailment, bruise or sore. These remedies then get passed on from generation to generation although some disappear from modern day generations depending on big pharma.
Here is a list of a few medicinal plants that you can find right at home:
There are many more to be mentioned but we would need to much space or write a book instead of a blog.
Horseback riding is a popular activity for many travelers in Costa Rica whether experienced or not. The advantage is also that many of the horses are so tame and docile that anybody can ride even if they are first timers.
Options are offered at the beach or on one of the volcanoes on the Guanacaste Mountain Range. The beach rides may be fun for a short period and you are limited to what you can see or do. You can gallop along the waves but the scenery will remain the same. Riding up near the volcanoes, you can ride towards hot springs or waterfalls as you ride through forest and streams observing flora and fauna.
During the ride you will be required to use helmets, for insurance purposes and you will receive a safety brief along with riding instructions for the inexperienced. A guide or more will accompany you during the ride to ensure your safety as well as keeping the horses on the move in case you get nervous.
Let us know should you wish to visit any site where you can ride.
There various sites in Guanacaste for hiking. The entire Guanacaste Mountain Range is comprise of 4 volcanoes that offer plenty of trails. Some even offer trails leading to waterfalls while some lead you to volcanic mud pots or calderas. The terrain is also varied. Some trails will be through more lush forest while other areas are still dry, specially those closer to volcanic activity.
We will mention some of the sites for hiking which Vargas Tours can take you to.
- Rincon de la Vieja Volcano Hike
This volcano/national park is a popular destination for visitors in Guanacaste. It offers various trails with much to see in regards to flora and fauna as well as volcanic calderas, mud pots and in some cases even hot springs. You can also find a trail at the national park entrance that leads to Oropendola Waterfall. Animals such as monkeys, birds and iguanas can be spotted.
- Miravalles Volcano Hike
There are various locations for a hike at the Miravalles Volcano. One of the sites offers various waterfalls to enjoy. One of these has a 25 ft platform that you can jump off of into the base of the waterfall. Due to elevation, the hike at this location may seem more lush and humid, but the downside is it may get windy. At Miravalles you may also find hot springs and it is the tallest volcano on the Guanacaste Mountain Range.
- Tenorio Volcano Hike
This is a much different type of hike that offers a chance to see some species you will not find on the above hikes. The hike is similar to the Miravalles hike but more humid and you chances are greater for spotting sloths and poison dart frogs. Toucans and monkeys are also more prominent due to less volcanic activity and closer to humid tropical rain forest climate which offers the most in regards to flora and fauna.
Send us an email if you wish to visit any of these places or beyond such as Arenal Volcano.
If you are staying in the Tamarindo, Coco Beach or Four Seasons area; you will have some awesome locations to surf. Some are world re-known. Vargas Tours can provide transportation to these sites and in the case of With's Rock and Ollie's Point, we can take you to where you need to board your boat.
- Playa Avellanas
This is a beautiful beach that offers white sand and turquoise water with waves that attract seasoned surfers. The break is off shore and have been know to reach 5.5 meters (18 ft). Surfing tournaments are often held at this beach and you may encounter Lola, the 400 lb pig that lays out in sun and is quite the celebrity.
A nice restaurant is located next the a parking area that has misters near the bar and excellent tables overlooking the beach. A great spot for sunsets.
- Playa Tamarindo
This is the largest beach town in Guanacaste. It offers plenty of shops, restaurants and hotels. For those who are new to surfing or wish to learn, Tamarindo in the best place to learn. It offers easy waves to practice on from beginner to intermediate. There is an array of options for surf lessons. For those that already know how and just wish to practice more, you can rent boards on an hourly or daily basis.
- Playa Negra
Host for experienced surfer only, this beach offers world class waves. The break is rocky thus why it is recommended for experienced surfers. This beach is the next beach south after Playa Avellanas.
- Witch's Rock
To reach this world re-known surf location you will take a boat ride, because it's much easier and faster than driving there. But if you are set on driving there, you can get there via Santa Rosa National Park. Once there you can find a camping area at Playa Naranjo.
- Ollie's Point
We recommend this site as well as Witch's Rock only to seasoned surfers and adventure thrill seekers. There are hazards when going to these sites such as sharks and sea crocodiles. That being said... lol
Named after an airstrip nearby used by US Colonel Oliver North during the Nicaraguan Contra situation, it is located at Playa Potrero Grande near the border with Nicaragua. When going to Ollie's Point, you may as well stop by Witch's Rock.
During the Conquest period, many of the Chorotegas were sold into slaver or died from disease brought by the Europeans. Afterwards labor workers were need and the African slaves were brought in. Due to this many of the Chorotegas remaining have lost much of their cultural traditions.
Slavery wasn't favorably looked upon and practiced by few, mainly the wealthy. It was an oddity to have slaves. Little was seen also because not much gold was found in Costa Rica and the terrain was also very harsh. Granada was a main outpost for those colonizing Costa Rica. The route would be through Guanacaste.
Today, Guanacaste is one of the most invested on provinces. You can find large resorts such as Riu, Four Seasons, Hotel Secrets, Grand Papagayo, JW Marriott and rumor has it soon The Ritz Carlton. It is also a popular destination not only for tourists but also for many who wish to retire. CIMA Hospital has installations in Guanacaste for those that retire and wish to have use their medical insurance and benefits in Costa Rica.
The real estate market was also growing until the 2008 economic crash. It has slowly began to recover and many expect a big change after the US presidential election in November.
As civil war raged throughout Central America, mainly due to those in the effort to reassemble it in the form of non democratic rule under filibuster William Walker, Costa Rica became a safe have and shined with promise of civil rest and sanity.
William Walker was an American filibuster who usurped the power in Nicaragua and was spreading in an attempt to control the Central American region being defeated by Central American forces. He was driven from Costa Rica in the Battle of Santa Rosa where he was ambushed and the battle lasted 15 minutes, sending his invading forces back into Nicaragua. Later he was captured and sentenced to death by the Guatemalan government. I firing squad was his death. He is now buried in Trujillo, Honduras.
This area was considered the new land of opportunity, with the California gold rush and a French promoted plan to create a canal on Nicaragua-Costa Rican border. This would ensure that Guanacaste would then become a world trade center. The United States invested in the Panama railroad, but the passage was expensive forcing many Europeans to travel the dangerous routes across the US or a long ride down and around Cape Horn. The Transcontinental was not yet completed. So many would save money by traveling across the ocean then changing to smaller ships to travel up the San Juan river to change onto steamboat across Lake Nicaragua and finally on pack mules to San Juan del Sur.
Interests to build the Nicaragua Canal still exist, although US interest dropped once France sold them the rights to build the Panama Canal. Nicaraguan president has negotiated with a Chinese businessman for concession and construction, but due to a Chinese market crash, this has not been possible while Panama Canal expands and Costa Rica improves a container port in Limon.
After the Spanish Conquest, Costa Rica (Veragua in those days), as it formed part of Nicaragua and Panama; wasn't a popular destination for settlers due to the harsh lifestyle and no gold was found in comparison to the territories of Peru or Mexico.
Also, the geo political situation was tense as Mexico and Central America were liberating from Spain. Factions of Liberals and conservatives formed and had conflict in various sectors. In Nicaragua, Leon and Granada who were separate factions argued over the creation of a constitution and rights instead of authoritarian style government. Similar quarrels were present between San Jose and Alajuela against Cartago and Heredia in regards to independence versus uniting to the Mexican Empire.
The District of Nicoya was governed by Grenada and Leon who were distracted by their civil war. Santa Cruz and Nicoya voted to annex themselves to Costa Rica. Under the Nicoya Party they were under the banner of, "From the country by our will...", and without force joined Costa Rica escaping the anarchy of Nicaragua. This led to war between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and a Guatemalan conservative was trying to unite all Central America. Costa Rica was not in favor of this and wish to remain independent.
The US sent envoys to assist the effort in creating a Central American Federal Republic, but the effort failed and Special Ambassador to Central America John Stephens reported to Washington that the mission failed. Civil war continued throughout the region.
Guanacaste was home to various tribes. The predominant tribe were the Chorotega that were part of the Mesoamerican tribes and were pushed towards the north western part of Costa Rica by other larger tribes such as the Mayans who were believed to have pushed tribes south due to territorial conflicts. By the time the Spanish Conquistadors had arrived the Chorotega were some of the most advanced tribes in the area with a steady society and economical sustainability.
The Chorotega, as the Mayans did, pushed other tribes already located in the Costa Rican territory further south or assimilated them into their culture by means of religion, traditions and culture. The Corobici which lived on the eastern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula lived in peace along with the Chorotega, but during the Spanish Conquest while the Chorotega fought the Spaniards, the Corobici are rumored to have traveled over the Guanacaste volcanic mountain range to later give origin to what is known now as the Maleku tribe.
The Chorotega lived as an agricultural tribe with warriors that had wooden swords and jade knives. They thrived on corn, cotton, fish, beans and tubers. They were also avid potters. Their pottery still existing today and a commercial enterprise thanks to local tourism.
Although some Chorotega remain, very little of their traditions were kept due to the decimation of the tribe due to being used as slaves to mine gold in Peru and Panama. Afterwards, settlers would bring in slaves from Africa to work the fields.
The word Guanacaste means ear pod tree which is found abundantly throughout the province. It also used to be the name of the capital city which was renamed in 1854 to Liberia. Guanacaste is a province with plenty of history and lost culture. Much of this due to the Spanish conquest. Back in those days prior to the conquistadores, Guancaste was Chorotega territory the chieftains were known as Caciques. The center of their culture was the Kingdom of Nicoya. The chieftains would gift each other gold medallions as means to social relations. These gifts were noted by the Spaniards yet no gold was found in the Kingdom of Nicoya. It is believed the gold was mined other parts and brought in along the coast.
Later a conquistador named Gil Gonzalez, killed the top cacique Nicoa and reported that all inhabitants had been converted to the catholic faith. His original purpose was to find a route from the pacific to the Atlantic, which he had been told about (more than likely the San Juan River on the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica). He failed to find the route and left Costa Rica reporting that they had conquered Costa Rica.
The Monkey Park is located alongside the road that leads from Liberia to Tamarindo. To be more precise, it's located a few km before Huacas, which is the intersection between Tamarindo area and Grande and Conchal Beaches. It is a non-profit organization that cares for indigenous wildlife by providing a home to re-cooperate, breed and prepare to return into the wild. They have gone to great lengths to ensure their work will benefit the surround Eco-system. Through this a balanced education can be offered visitors or volunteers.
There are many species that you will find here. You can do excursions between 8 am and 4 pm. Not only will you see some of the main wildlife, but there is also a butterfly garden and restaurant for you to enjoy the local cuisine. As a volunteer you are able to assist by preparing specific diets for each animal, maintain their temporary homes ensuring they are as accurate as in the wild. Mental stimulation for many of the animals is crucial and you will be asked and expected to provide all animals with positive mental stimuli. Other volunteer duties entail guiding, painting, landscaping and construction.
If you would like more information or to visit the Monkey Park, send us and email.
The Monkey Farm is a non-profit site that caters a home for various animals as well as creating a sustainable organic farm through permaculture. It allows volunteers to interact with animals, rescue them and learn about sustainable farming while they live on-site.
Travelers from all over the world visit the Monkey Farm and either camp out or stay in one of their cabins. Another option is to stay at Ocotal or Coco Beach and travel to the Monkey Farm (5 minute drive).
Another great option for volunteers is to guide horseback tours through the jungle to the beach. This helps in acquiring funds for the farm that cover animal feed and farm maintenance.
The animal flow is varied. Sometimes there may be more monkeys than usual, but all this depends on the rescue situation. The goal is to assist rescued animals by allowing them to adapt into nature and find their proper place in the world.
Also, aquaponics is learned and practiced. The farm offers a link to free online permaculture courses for those that wish to volunteer and want to be somewhat knowledgeable in the farms everyday tasks.
To visit this site, send us an email. We can provide you with daily transportation for those volunteers that are not living on site.
NATUWA, as the name states, is a macaw sanctuary that was created inn 1994. Due to the worry regarding the constant threat that these magnificent birds face, along with many other parrot species, two native born gentlemen formed the sanctuary. Many of these birds suffer from loss of their habitats and as a result are taken from their nests at a young age to be sold in the black market as pets. This has brought their numbers down, making the goal of the sanctuary a development of a breeding program through captivity management. Another focus is reforestation and environmental education through many avenues such as ecotourism.
NATUWA not only has macaws, but also an array of other wildlife that is part or the rescue mission. You will encounter jaguars, tapirs, monkeys and more. Tours within are offered such as feeding the jaguars! You can also help by donating for some of the ongoing projects such as the vet clinic among others. It is located in Aranjuez, Puntarenas.
To visit this location, LAR can provide transportation along with a bilingual driver to assist you.
This amazing site started operations in the early 60's, when Costa Rica was faced with the start of a deforestation problem which later lead to the creation of national parks. Due to the deforestation many animals were deprived of their habitats and as a result captured by locals to become pets or end up in the illegal black market trade.
A Swiss woman living in Costa Rica and with a passion for protecting these animals, acquired support from government entities to care and rescue them from unfortunate ends. She would at times purchase these animals from neighboring locations in order to provide the proper care they required. It wasn't long before shed had over 160 animals from the Guanacaste province. The Hagnauer Foundation has now be tasked with the care of what this Swiss lady started.
For those that love wildlife, Las Pumas offer a diversity of animals ranging from wild cats to primates and birds. You can also sponsor an animal. There is also a souvenir shop on site and you can also donate. Donations among other sources are what keep this place running.
You can visit Las Pumas with LAR Transportes. Let us know and we will arrange transportation for you.
Costa Rica offers an array of wildlife rescues and shelters throughout the country. This month we will be observing those that are a close enough distance to the Riu hotel vicinity that they can be visited with one of our private service options. Most of them are anywhere from 1 hour to 2.3 hours away. This may seem discouraging and you may immediately dismiss the idea, but in fact most attractions in Guanacaste are so spaced apart the 1 to 2 hours is pretty much the standard travel time to everything. Most travelers want to visit Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles or Tenorio to do the "Combo Tours"... and a fact is that most sales personnel will reduce the actual travel time in a verbal sense of the matter in order to make the sale. Do not be fooled it is at least 1.4 hours to reach these sites!
So if you aren't into the typical tourist trap sites, you can help the country and it's wildlife by visiting these rescues and learn about their habitats in order to spread the knowledge. Feed a monkey or even a jaguar. Interact and volunteer to help our precious animal species. Next week we will begin our look into Las Pumas.
Few travelers have heard of this gorgeous beach and much less been there. The few that have been is because they know a local or they were there on an ATV excursion and then never returned due to not knowing how to get there. Some of the locals have heard of it but never have been there and quite possibly don't know how.
It is located about 15 minutes from Playa Grande and some know the adjoining beach which is Playa Real. Upon reaching the beach you can park your vehicle in the shade not far from shore and you'll be amazed at the sight. There is an island about 100 meters off shore which you can reach by walking on a system of rocks that will take you there or wade there. Be on your guard that the waves don't toss you around once you reach the edge of the island. If you manage to safely board the island you'll find a cave, which is not deep but gives you a feeling of mystery and adventure. There is nothing inside the cave except sand, rocks and maybe some trash (unfortunately) from travelers that have dared to camp over-night.
This beach is not only beautiful, but it also offers great snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, surfing and spearfishing. In regards to fishing it's a great place to catch grouper since it is found abundantly among the rocks. Other species can be found such as conch, mantas, snapper and more. Surfing and kayaking are a lot of fun, specially with the waves that cross over divided by the island. It is a short and pleasant walk to neighboring beaches which share the same charm as Pirate Bay.
The reason for the name is somewhat mysterious. Some say it's due to pirates visiting the area or it being a often stopping point for them. The real name is escapes and is confused among many locals. But regardless of what many say, we will close this months series of rarely visited places by believing that this amazing place was visited by many pirates who buried their treasures some where on site. We leave it to you to visit and explore. Perhaps while snorkeling, fishing or just laying out you may find a piece of eight...
This waterfall is known but main due to an attraction located near it. But unlike other waterfalls such as Cortez Waterfall or El Salto del Calvo, there is no charge to visit this gorgeous place. The only controlled area is a guard that you take down your license plate since it is on private land and for security measures.
One of the great aspects of this waterfall is that there is a latter you can climb to jump off the cliff and into the water. There are also kayak tours offered that allow you to cruise down stream. Once you reach the cliff part, travelers release the kayak over the waterfall and climb down.
This a great site for picnics and if you aren't into jumping off you will surely be entertained by those that do jump. A great way to spend the day is by visiting Cortez Waterfall for a few pictures and then finish off at El Salto Waterfall before going into Liberia or Coco Beach for shopping or dinning.
This is one of many waterfalls in Guanacaste which are not well known and can be considered gems. El Salto del Calvo is not the same as El Salto waterfall which we will discuss next week.
This waterfall is located near the town of Monte Romo, about 20 minutes from Hojancha. It is roughly 600 meters above sea level and surround by lush forest, sweet lemon, yuca and pumpkin plantations. You can enjoy all this scenery by hiking to the waterfall or riding horseback. If you descend quitely, you can also enjoy seeing various types of wildlife such as white tail deer, armadillos, coaties and if you're very quite you may see ocelots.
Along the way you will see the river with other waterfalls that are spread about 175 meters apart from each other. These waterfall are 300 and 350 meters tall. Swim holes are also found along the way, the main swim hole located at the main waterfall and has a depth of 15 feet which is the lowest the water will get. Most of these swim holes have rock formations that are like slides which you can play with.
This beautiful place is located on private land and is maintained (trails, horses, etc). The charge to visit El Salto del Calvo is $6 per person.
Santa Rosa National Park is located about 36 km north of Liberia and just off the Pan-American Highway. This was the very first national park established in Costa Rica in 1971. It was created firstly to protect the scene of the Battle of Santa Rosa, in which Costa Rican militia marched from San Jose into Liberia to defend against the forces of filibuster William Walker who in his manifesto "5 or None", set out to conquer all the provinces of Central America. When Walker's forces learned about the advancing militia, sent out troops to include French and German allies who marched into Santa Rosa. Upon arriving in Santa Rosa after the long and arduous march which left them tired, were invaded by the Costa Rican militia and were defeated in a matter of 14 minutes.
La Casona, site where the filibusters camped out, was later burned in 2001 by poachers in protest. It was then rebuilt that same year. This is one of the attractions of the park along with it's vast array of flora and fauna. Some of the roads through out will lead to various beaches as well as Murcielago Sector where CIA had a training base during the Nicaraguan conflict to train the Contra's. Now this area is still off limits and used by Costa Rican Police as a private airstrip in coalition with US Coast Guard and DEA in the War on Drugs.
Barra Honda National Park is located about 30 minutes east of the town of Nicoya in Guanacaste. It is one of the most unique national parks in Costa Rica and it's popularity is quite small. Not because it is a non-attractive site, but rather that few travelers know about it. What's worse very few locals know about it. They may have heard of it, but haven't really placed much importance to it. Some don't even realize that there is an intricate cave system located there. Venado Caves on the other hand is well known and for many years, tourist agencies have been taking travelers to this site. So this is a great idea for those travelers that like to experience something different to most adventurers.
Barra Honda looks pretty much like a hill that is roughly 300 meters above the Tempisque Valley and 450 meters above sea level. Many locals thought the hill to be a volcano due to a guano smell which they confused for sulfur. This guano is due to the colony of 5,000 bats that live within the caves. Only 19 of the 42 caves found at Barra Honda have been explored. The cave entrance was discovered in the late 1960's, yet human remains have been found 30 meters deep as well a Pre-Columbian artifacts. The base of the cave is coral reef dating as far as 60 million years ago.
Barra Honda by far is definitely an interesting site to visit and in a sense the fact that it has been a bit of a kept secret making it all the more mysterious.
Ocean life in Guanacaste also offers an interesting area of species. Places like Playa del Coco are teamed with scuba tour companies that will take you out to Catalina Islands, Monkey Head and other spots to view some of the impressive marine life of the Pacific. It may not offer as colorful species as in the Caribbean, but it is without doubt worth visiting for scuba.
Depending on the time of the year you may even be able to swim with whale or a whale shark. There are also dolphins, sea turtles, moray eels, trigger fish, angel fish and puffer fish.
Fishing is a big attraction as well. Coco Beach is a fisherman town. You can book a fishing boat to take you out for red snapper, jacks, dorado (mahi mahi), wahoo, tuna and rooster fish. Further out you can fish for marlin and swordfish.
Let us know your thought and questions on Guanacaste wildlife and flora.
This week we'll discuss some reptile species such as the iguana and the ctenosaur. Many travelers see the ctenosaur and call it an iguana. Although they are right, it is a variety of iguana (Black Spiny Iguana is another name), it has differences from a regular iguana that most are familiar with. In the pictures below you will be able to see the difference with better detail. They are in fact different in many ways and are related species in kingdom and phylum, but everything else is different.
The iguana is larger than the ctenosaur and their coloring is typically orange (males). This coloration has to do with mating, the more orange a male is the more attractive he will be to the female. Iguanas also have a row of spines from they head to their tail, while the ctenosaur has it mainly on the tail and not as prominent. The ctenosaur also tends to be a grayish and light green coloring, typically more active during the day. Their habitats are also different. While it's more common to see iguanas in the trees, ctenosaurs like rock and tree crevices.
Both species have been known to be eaten, hence their nickname, "tree chickens". Although they are protected, they are still hunted by locals, yet no evidence has been found that they are an endangered species. The ctenosaur is also used medicinally for anemia. A mid size ctenosaur is skinned, cleaned and macerated before being slow boiled in water. The broth is used to fight weakness, anemia and other similar ailments.
To be continued next week...
The Guanacaste Mountain Range has one of the highest jaguar populations in Costa Rica. This is also the only area in Guanacaste where you'll find sloths. As discussed in earlier posts, we will discuss a few species of fauna found in Guanacaste:
- Howler Monkeys: This is the most common specie of monkey found throughout Costa Rica. They travel in troops anywhere from 12 to 24 monkeys and live in a society structure dominated by an alpha male. The males have sack on their throat that expand with air to magnify their howling sound making it loud and scary. The purpose for this is to scare away predators and to communicate with other troops in the area with the purpose of avoiding conflict.
- White Face Capuchin monkey is an omnivorous specie that feeds on fruits, shrubs, iguanas, etc. This is one of the smartest monkeys. They live in troops of 16 or more comprised of mainly females, at least 2/3.
Due to how smart they are, many have used them in the movies or the famous organ grinder who would have the monkey collect coins.
To be continued next week...
- Mango Tree: Guanacaste has an abundance of mango trees. There are also many plantations. Mango provides a harvest 2 a year and many locals enjoy mango's in their unripe state to eat with salt and lime or enjoy the sweetness of it once it is ripe.
- Cashew Fruit & Nut: This fruit is in season mainly during March & April. You will notice the nut right away attached to the flower which is in fact also the fruit. The taste is sweet but dry, as you would consider a dry red wine in the way it leaves a dry mouth aftertaste. The nuts are collected and placed in the fire where an interesting show of gases and oils begin to boil out of the nutshell. Once it has ceased to release these poisons, the nuts are crushed, exposing a small brown nut which is separated, salted and enjoyed. After this experience you understand why they are so expensive.
Due to the dryness of the area the lush vegetation is limited, making it to hot for most wildlife. There are areas that adequate for fauna such as near the Guanacaste Mountain Range and Palo Verde Conservation Area. But for the most part the rest of the province is basic and limited to howler monkeys, iguanas, ctenosaurs, snakes and birds.
To be continued next week...
Guanacaste is a tropical dry forest. This means there is limited vegetation, but plenty of trees that bloom while everything else is dry and brown. Lots of these trees have either a medicinal purpose or offer delicious fruit. We will list some examples of each category:
- Golden Shower Tree: It's golden flower resembles droplets of water. It has bean like stock which contains seeds used as a laxative.
- Stinky Toe: As the name implies, this fruit is foul smelling but to everyone's surprise, it has a slight similarity in taste to that of chocolate! This is also in the legume family and has stocks with seeds covered in a type of jam which is high in iron. Many locals will boil it, shells an all, in milk to drink.
To be continued next week...
Spend a memorable day in Guanacaste. If you are looking for an easy calm day that involves nature, wildlife and just a little adventure; this may be the ideal trip for you!
You start off by visiting Cortez Waterfall. Here you can swim, enjoy the scenery and waterfall and have a picnic. After a few or more hours of enjoying Cortez, you will then go to Liberia City, the capital of Guancaste, for lunch and go on a city tour to learn the history and architectural structures of some of the old colonial age buildings.
Afterwards you will head towards the coast to visit Congo Trail. Here you will visit a monkey rescue shelter to see 3 species of monkeys (howler, white-faced & spider) as well as other animals that have been rescued. At this same location a canopy zip line awaits to do 10 zip lines and a tarzan swing!
Send us an email if you wish more information or wish to modify this trip to fit your interests.
Costa Rica has many caves throughout the country and many have much to be explored. There are two that you can explore, one Venado, a small town about 1.5 from La Fortuna and the other Near Hojancha in Guanacaste.
This is a great trip for families and children to learn and explore a cave in safe and supervised environment. You will learn together with your family some Costa Rican Geology and explore the under ground with bats and spiders. You will receive a helmet, flash lights, a guide and transportation.
Set up your family trip to Barra Honda Caves and afterwards visit the beach for some fun in the sun after an excursion into below!
South West Airlines has decided to open a non-stop service from LAX to Liberia airport in Guanacaste, Costa Rica (LIR). Flights are to begin on April 12th, 2016. Rates will start at $149 one-way.
This is great for those seeking sun, beach, fishing, surfing, snorkeling and so much more. Vargas Tours offers you an array of activities for you and your family to enjoy. We specialize in family trips that 4 travelers or more. We provide you with guides that will go above and beyond to provide you with a positive memorable experience.
Check out South West specials to Costa Rica and Vargas Tours for an amazing experience at an unbelievable low rate.
The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle visits Ostional Beach year round, but the best times to visit and see masses of them is from July through December.
Usually the first brigades come through before the new moons. A 5-day brigade entry can deposit an approximate of 10 million eggs. These eggs then take about 45 to 54 days to hatch, if they survive the vultures, crows and other predators that will peck at them with beaks and feet. These hatchlings will not reach maturity for another 10 to 15 years.
Turtle eggs are sought after by locals to prepare raw, unscrambled in a shot glass with a specially prepared spicy sauce. Ostional is the only place where turtle egg harvesting is permitted and regulated. The first brigades that come and law during the first 3 days, lay eggs doomed to be destroyed by the other turtles that come in afterwards. So in order to prevent these eggs from uselessness, the locals are allowed to harvest during the first 3 days. This has created somewhat of a symbiosis because after the 3 days of harvest, the locals then guard and clear the beach for the remaining turtles to lay their eggs.
Ask Vargas Tours about organizing a trip to see this beautiful species or Playa Grande for the leatherbacks.
El Salto del Calvo Waterfall is located in Hojancha, Guanacaste and has recently started to become very popular. Enough so that they even got a segment in The Voice of Guanacaste.
To reach this attractive site you travel 2 kilometers by horseback before reaching the impressive 350 meter twin falls, the highest in Central America.
The ride there takes you through various important town in Guanacaste such as Santa Cruz and Nicoya. You'll take in a lot of culture and nature on a trip like this.
Vargas Tours will provide you with a guide that can answer your questions and explain the area and its traditions.
Home away from home, yet an adventure... what does this mean? Well, it means that you'll get the comfort, tranquility and love you experience at home, but it's also an adventure because you'll be exploring new areas, people and food.
Our guides are like older brothers (no matter your age) who will introduce you to our Costa Rican culture as well as show you some wild life, teach you about medicinal plants, explain diverse aspects of local traditions, customs and festivities.
With Vargas Tours you will have the option of exploring Costa Rica in a more natural form. Rather than going in large touristy groups where everyone is making noise or crowding to much, our guide will take you off the beaten path and show you the real Costa Rica vs trying to paint a picture perfect image.
Our guides will not try to impress you with fancy scientific names or lie to you about country aspects just to save face. We give you the run down on every aspect and will not confuse you with a bunch of latin names that will go in one ear and out the other.
Learn and experience Costa Rica the right way with Vargas Tours!!!
This is a picture of a Maleku Indian holding a Clown Frog in the tropical rain forest. It's a called Clown From due to the many colors on it's underside. An experience like this without a large touristy group or noisy tourist is the difference between an amazing time and being an all around typical tourist rather than a worldly traveler.
Vargas Tours takes you on a unique journey to explore Guanacaste, Costa Rica and all its tours and attractions. Whether you are into nature, adventure or culture, Vargas Tours delivers memorable experiences. What makes a unique and memorable experience? A good analogy would be to say it’s like a great meal, in the sense that it’s composed of ingredients that offer a true and real experience of Costa Rica. Vargas Guides are there to ensure you learn, understand, experience and most importantly have a blast during your excursion. They will also be there to provide safety, security and that everything from harnesses, helmets and vehicles are up to standard for the many activities offered in Guanacaste. Searching fauna and introducing you to new culinary experiences. Whether you are a lone traveler, friends or family, Vargas Tours can help you create a memorable experience that will have you reviewing countless times through your pictures wanting to come back for more. Imagine memories a child or an adult will create interacting with monkeys, zip lining through the forest, learning about new foods and how children grow up in other countries. These are experiences that will build character and teach about society and culture variations. At Vargas Tours we seek to make your trip to Guanacaste, Costa Rica unique and memorable.
A memorable afternoon spent in Costa Rica...
Imagine this... you're already a few days into your trip to Costa Rica and you've done zip lining, horseback, hikes, rafting, Palo Verde and you're about ready for some intense rest and relaxation. The perfect solution is the soothing sound of the open sea, the cool ocean breeze against your skin while you bask in the sun with a ice cold beer or cocktail smoothie. Relaxing upbeat tunes in the background surrounded by a happy atmosphere while you're catered to with refills and snacks. Your cruise destination is a remote white sand beach that can only be accessed by boat. There you'll have a buffet served on the amazing catamaran you've been enjoying as well as the open bar service. You can snorkel, swim or do some stand up paddle. It is not uncommon to spot dolphins, whales an many other species of aquatic fauna during the cruise.
Shortly before sunset, the crew will gather everyone, clean up the buffet and continue with the open bar as you cruise back to land. This is where the real treat is served...
Have your cameras ready and if you're traveling with your loved ones, draw them near. For this is one of those memorable moments that you'll be sharing for many years to come. Take in a beautiful sunset in Costa Rica.
If you'd like to experience an afternoon such as this, send us a request at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today was a great time for fishing fans. This morning from sunrise at 5:16 am until 7:16 am is high activity fishing due to it being moon up and sunrise coincides making fishing very good. We hope you caught a big one!
There are many great places to go fishing around Guanacaste. Mostly everyone thinks of salt water fishing. What about fresh water fishing? The Tempisque river is Costa Rica's 3rd largest river and Guanacaste's largest river. You can fish for tilapia, cat fish and snook.
If you love fishing, let us know and we can put together a nice fishing trip for you. Salt or fresh water fishing.
With so many different companies throughout Costa Rica, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which one to book through. You want a company that is going to be transparent and offer you a good price for quality service.
Some of our key elements are:
In an effort to avoid sounding like most everyone, we aren't going to tell you how great we are, we'll let our guests tell you who we are...