Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Costa Rica!

Last week I took a vacation to Costa Rica with my friend Vaibhav.  There was no race in Costa Rica.  This was not a training camp.  It was a bona fide vacation.  Highly unusual, I know, but it seemed like a good idea.

I hope to do a few more detailed posts but here is an overview with some of the greatest hits.

Volcan Arenal near La Fortuna de San Carlos

Arenla is supposedly one of the most active volcanoes in the western hemisphere.  We got foggy/couldy weather and couldn’t see the lava … plus the volcano has been a bit quiet lately after a recent earthquake.  But it was still cool to hike around an active volcano.

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We saw some howler monkeys and leafcutter ants and cows … and the howler monkeys made a lot of noise. 

This plant can hide from grazing animals by shrinking away whenever anything touches it.

Baldi Hot Springs

Some of the rivers near the volcano are naturally heated by the magma.  Baldi has a lot of artificially-heated water, but the pools and waterfalls and waterslides were still a lot of fun.

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My new Olympus Stylus Tough camera let me take all kinds of pictures and videos from the pool and the ocean with no worry about getting wet.  Check out this video that I took while going down one of the waterfalls.  It is rather dark but you sort of get the idea:

La Fortuna Waterfall

The big waterfall is about 6km from La Fortuna.  You can take a cab there for about 3000 colones ($5.50) or you can walk/hike/jog.  The road is rather rough so the cabs can’t go very fast.  You pay about $10 to enter the park and hike down to the waterfall, but it’s a pretty big waterfall with a small but choppy pool at the bottom, plus a calmer swimming hole downstream.  I tried to snap a picture of this school of fish from underwater, but the water was a bit cloudy.

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Waterfalls look a lot cooler in videos than in pictures:

I was able to swim around behind the waterfall and take a few videos from behind/underneath.

I bought coconut water from a guy on the side of the road while jogging home from the waterfall.  I had to wake him up from his nap on his hammock, but then he grabbed a coconut out of his pile and whacked it open with his machete.  500 colones.


There are three ways to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde.  You can rent a car.  Insurance is expensive, roads can be sketchy and you don’t meet as many people.  Lame.  You can take the public bus.  This option takes about six hours as you have to backtrack to the nearest major town even though the distance between La Fortuna and Monteverde is like 30-40km. 

The most popular option is the “jeep-boat-jeep” tour.  You pay about $20-25 to take a combination of two shuttles and a boat to take the direct route.  The roads are rough but the scenery is great, and we covered the distance in two hours and fifteen minutes.

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Since we were “on a boat” in the middle of this jeep-boat-jeep journey, we had to do a bit of Lonely Island.  I’m sorry. You really shouldn’t waste your time watching this video:


Vaibhav and I visited the Santa Elena and Monteverde Cloudforest Reserves.  The “cloudforest” is a toursity name for a high-altitude rainforest that gets more moisture from clouds than from rainfall.  The mosses on the trees pull moisture out of the air.

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Part of the forest in Santa Elena was consistenly windy.  The trees don’t grow as high here because of the wind.  You can hear the wind whipping through the trees in this video.

Canopy Tour

One of the most popular tourist activities in Costa Rica seems to be the cloudforest Canopy Tours.  A few companies offer them but we were adivsed to go with the “Extremo” tour, which includes a tarzan swing, a rappel and the famous “superman-style zipline” where you are suspended in a superman position instead of the traditional sitting position.

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Here is a video of Vaibhav departing on one of the ziplines.  There were a total of 15-17 ziplines, IIRC, with the longest measuring over a kilometer.  The tarzan swing was probably to most intense of them all – you jump off of a platform and are practically in free-fall as you swing forward.  The superman zipline was also very cool – you could just about convince yourself that you were really flying high above the valley below.


Our hostel in Tamarindo had a good kitchen so we cooked a few meals and snacks there.  I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook maduros (friend plantains) so I looked up a recipe and give it a go here:

Playa Conchal

We took two local buses and two short walks to get from Tamarindo to Playa Conchal.  The beach is composed entirely of broken shells instead of sand, and the waves make a cool sound when they hit the beach.  I took a few videos and posted one of them.

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The video:


  1. nice photos! good, smart, excellent, very wise camera decision.
    i haven't seen the videos yet but i bet they are almost as awesome as if you made them on a mac!!