Costa Rica 2012

Descend with Desafio: Canyoneering In Costa Rica

February 25, 2012:

Insert the “Raiders March” here (Indiana Jones reference)

Canyoneering, or canyoning, is quickly becoming one of the most popular adventure/adrenaline sports in Costa Rica.  Canyoning combines rappelling, down-climbing, scrambling, and wading/swimming into one extremely exhilarating experience.  With its jagged landscape, raging rivers, deep canyons, and breathtaking waterfalls, there’s no question about why Costa Rica is such a hot spot for this rapidly growing sport.  Being one of the major adventure hubs in Costa Rica, La Fortuna is a great place to try canyoneering for the first time.  Although there are many outfits in La Fortuna that offer canyoning tours, Pure Trek Canyoning and Desafio Adventures are without a doubt fan favorites.

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A Different Perspective: The Arenal Hanging Bridges

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February 25, 2012

We packed up our things and left Poas Lodge around mid-morning to make the 70-80 mile trek over to La Fortuna, a mecca for adventure junkies and home of the mighty Arenal Volcano.  Mark, the manager and part-owner of Poas Lodge, suggested that we take the scenic route over to the land of adventure.  Part paved road/part off-road; it turned out that this out-of-the-way path was an adventure in itself.  Along the three-hour trip, we passed La Paz Waterfall Gardens (a must-see next time!), panoramic overlooks, quaint little towns, and copious waterfalls.  (Tip: Don’t forget to look behind you (unless you’re driving) to see waterfalls and vistas you may otherwise miss.)  By the time we checked in to the Lost Iguana Resort & Spa, we were ready to stretch our legs.  At the front desk, we were told that guests received a discounted entrance fee ($18/person vs. $24/person) to the Arenal Hanging Bridges.  Better yet, they provided free shuttle service to the park.

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Beauty & the Beast: A Hike Through Poas Volcano National Park

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February 24, 2012

Do you remember, as a kid, sleeping in your clothes all night because you were so excited to start that family road trip to Florida early the next morning?  It didn’t matter that you had to get up at 4am.  You were ready to spring out of bed at 3:56am!  I had a similar feeling when I woke up on Friday morning.  I didn’t need to be up for another hour, but I was laying there with my eyes wide open, impatiently contemplating my first glimpse of the beast…the mighty Poas Volcano!  After all, it’s not every day that one gets to peer directly into the mouth of the world’s largest active volcano.

Poas Volcano’s Sulfuric Lake

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Costa Rica 2012: February 23 Poas Lodge & Mirador Quetzal

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Back on the road, we zig-zagged back and forth up the slopes of the mighty Poas Volcano toward the Poas Lodge.  We passed by a number of coffee plantations and “tarp” covered strawberry farms along the way.  As we made our way up the side of the steep mountain, the GPS kindly warned us of falling rocks and dangerous bridges.  It should have also warned us about Costa Rica‘s colossal drainage ditches! If you’re unlucky enough to end up in one of these concrete chasms on the side of almost every road, you’ll definitely need a tow and possible repairs. We came close to that very situation on more than one occasion!

About 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Poas Lodge (not to be confused with the Poas Volcano Lodge).  It doesn’t look like much from the road, but as the saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”  The Poas Lodge is a perfect case in point.  Behind the humble facade is one of the true hidden treasures in all of Costa Rica.

The humble facade of the Poas Lodge

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Costa Rica 2012: February 23 Doka Estate Coffee Tour

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A coffee cherry and two “beans”

We arrived at Doka Estate Coffee Plantation at about 8:30am. It’s only about a 30 minute drive from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in Alajuela, making it an ideal excursion to either begin or end a vacation. We made reservations in advance via, although they were probably not necessary. The tour we purchased was $26/person and included breakfast or lunch.

The grounds and buildings at Doka Estate were very clean and well-maintained. The estate consists of an open air restaurant, butterfly garden, bonsai garden, coffeemuseum, gift shop, processing plant, roasting factory, and, of course, a coffee plantation. The employees we had the privilege of meeting were very helpful, courteous, and extremely pleasant (I’ll explain that in a second).

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Costa Rica 2012: February 23 Renting a Car and Finding Our Way Out of Alajuela

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Images of the city of Alajuela, Costa Rica

Images of the city of Alajuela, Costa Rica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Erica and I stepped off of the jetway and onto solid ground, the first wave of nausea subsided.  By the time we were shuttled to the rental car company (only five minutes from the terminal), the rumblings in my stomach were long gone and replaced by anticipation, excitement, and anxiety.  Day one in Costa Rica was just getting under way.

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Costa Rica 2012: February 22-23 Our Adventure Begins

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After a hectic night of delays, negotiating with airline reps, switching planes, and a red-eye flight, we finally landed in San Jose (actually Alajuela), Costa Rica, at about 6am.  As soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off and the bonanza of tourists excitedly stood up in unison, I immediately had an overwhelming urge to empty the contents of my churning stomach.  After a sleepless night, alternating hot & cold flashes, and a bit a claustrophobia, my stomach was ready to erupt.  It’s ironic that in a little over 24 hours we would be visiting an active volcano where you can peer directly into a gurgling acid lake.  Our adventure had begun!

Waiting in Denver for our red-eye flight to SJO.

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