Chany's 2022 Costa Rica Trip



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Costa Rica Trip - Purpose
With enough of the travel restrictions lifted, it made available for me to travel again to some countries. Costa Rica has no restrictions and is warm this time of year, so it was chosen as my vacation destination this year.

For this trip, I plan to:

  • Go somewhere warm
  • Relax and take it easy
  • See some volcanoes

    I've got 20 full days in Costa Rica to explore this country in Central America. I fly from Vancouver (YVR) to Mexico City (MEX), then connect and fly from MEX to San José (SJO) in Costa Rica. To exploit the cheapest airfares available, I will be spending time in Mexico City's airport to accomodate the long connection times between flights.





  • Costa Rica Map - Cities Visited



    Click on map to see my travel route
    Costa Rica is located in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama. This map shows the cities (chronologically) in Costa Rica that I visited:
    • San José: 2022 Nov 23 - Nov 27 (4 days)
    • Monteverde: 2022 Nov 27 - Dec 1 (4 days)
    • La Fortuna: 2022 Dec 1 - Dec 6 (5 days)
    • Puerto Viejo: 2022 Dec 6 - Dec 11 (5 days)
    • San José: 2022 Dec 11 - Dec 14 (3 days)

    Click here for a calendar view of my trip itinerary.



    San José




    Located in the geographical center of Costa Rica, the capital and largest city is San José. The metro area population of San José in 2022 is approximately 1,441,000 people. This SJO Vive! (San José It Lives!) sign is located in the heart of downtown San José on the Plaza de la Cultura. This is a spot where tourists get their photo taken with the sign.

    There are several of these signs located around downtown San José.





    On Avenida Central is "La Chola de la Avenida", a large bronze sculpture by Manuel Vargas installed in 2004. "La Chola" was a name given to women who immigrated to San José from the north west Costa Rican province of Guanacaste to work as maids.





    The Edificio Maroy (Maroy Building) is a neoclassical building built in 1923. It was declared an architectural heritage of Costa Rica in the year 2000, and restored by the Heritage Center of the Ministry of Culture. This heritage building, however, sits unused. It is located on the north east corner of Avenida 1 and Calle 5.





    The Edificio de Correos y Telégrafos (Post Office and Telegraph Building) of Costa Rica was built in 1917. Located in downtown San José on Calle 2, between Avenida 1 & 3, the architectural style is Neo-Renaissance. The Museo Postal, Telegráfico y Filatélico is also housed in this building.





    The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum of Costa Rica) contains artifacts that document the history of Costa Rica. It is housed in what was formerly the Cuartel Bellavista (Bellavista Barracks). The barracks were located on high ground and provided a nice view of San Jose, thus the name Bella Vista (Beautiful View).

    The North East and South East tower still bears the marks made by bullets in the 1948 Costa Rican Civil War.

    Formerly the site of a coffee plantation, contruction of the Bellavista Barracks began in 1917 and continued on and off through 1928. The barracks were handed over to the National Museum in 1950.


    A plaque indicates the location at Bellavista Barracks where the president, José Figueres Ferrer, symbolically abolished the army in Costa Rica by taking a sledgehammer to the wall of the barracks.

    The plaque says the following (translated to English):

    "Weapons give victory but only laws can give freedom."
    José Figueres Ferrer

    On this wall, December 1, 1948, José Figueres Ferrer smashed a battlement of the Bellavista Barracks and with this symbolic act affirmed the abolition of the army in Costa Rica. His action ratified the triumph of civility over the rule of force.




    The first exhibit of the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is the Butterfly Garden. There did not seem to be many butterflies in the garden (I only saw two), and one of them was this one, dining on a piece of pineapple.


    The Museo Nacional houses many pre-Columbian (i.e. before CE 1492) artifacts found in Costa Rica. The first pre-Columbian sculpture shown here depicts a warrior with an axe in his left hand and a slain warrior's head in his right hand.

    The second sculpture depicts a male that may have a parasitic disease or cirrhosis. I thought it reminded me of the way I feel after overeating at an "all you can eat" sushi buffet.




    The Museo Nacional has a collection of bolas de piedra (stone spheres). Ranging in size from a few centimeters to over 2 meters in diameter, these spheres are from pre-Columbian times. Over 300 of these stone spheres have been found in Costa Rica, in the Diquís Delta and on Isla del Caño. Most are sculpted from gabbro or basalt. The meanings of the spheres are not really known, as the people who made them disappeared after the Spanish conquest.

    Touring around San José, one will notice stone spheres appearing in various locations.



    The Museo del Jade (Jade Museum) features the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts in the world. Located in the lobby is this huge jade.



    Though not made of jade, the Museo del Jade has stone spheres in it's collection.





    At the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum), they have on display the largest gold nugget found in Costa Rica. The nugget has a mass of 2.3 kg. That was worth approximately USD $133,000 as of 2022 November (wow!).




    Located next to the Plaza de la Cultura, the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica (National Theatre of Costa Rica) opened in 1891 and has 1140 seats.

    The theatre was built to bring European culture to Costa Rica. The construction of the theatre was funded by taxes charged for both the import and export of coffee.

    The statues atop the theatre are made of marble and carved by Italian artisans. The three statues atop the theatre are, from left to right:

  • La Musica (The Music)
  • La Fama (The Fame)
  • La Danza (The Dance)

    Note: These are actually replica statues; the originals were removed and are displayed inside the theatre, due to weathering and pigeon poop degrading the marble!


  • There are two more marble statues representing the elements of theatre; these statues were displayed in the theatre's lobby:

  • La Comedia (The Comedy)
  • La Tragedia (The Tragedy)


  • The auditorium of the theatre is modelled after theatres in Europe. The seats at the top level are for the "poor" people, and they had a special entrance and stairway separate from the other patrons, as we don't want the poor folks mixing with the elite! The private boxes next to the stage are for "special" (VIP) patrons. Of course, there has to be a lavish chandelier as well on the ceiling of the auditorium.

    The ceilings of the theatre are adorned with paintings. This painting was done by an Italian painter and is on the ceiling of the auditorium's foyer. It depicts the industry of Costa Rica: banana and coffee exports.





    This is the reception area where people congregate during intermissions during performances. Note the original marble statue, "La Fama", which was once atop the theatre, is now displayed in this room.

    The ceilings of this room are adorned with paintings. Very European!





    Teatro Variedades (Variety Theatre) is the oldest theatre in Costa Rica, inaugurated in 1892. The Teatro Variedades is one of the most important historical, architectural and cultural elements of the capital of Costa Rica, which is why it was declared a historical-architectural heritage in 1999. Sadly, it currently stands unused. It is located on the east side of Calle 5, between Avenida Central & Avenida 1.





    Housed in a neoclassical building, the Colegio Superior de Señoritas was founded in 1888 as an exclusive secondary education institution for young Costa Rican women.

    The Colegio Superior de Señoritas is depicted on the front of the Costa Rican 2000 Colones banknote.

    It is located on Calle 3, between Avenida 4 & 6.



    In the middle of Morazan Park is the Templo de la Musica. Designed by architect Francisco Salazar with a neoclassical style, it is almost an exact replica of the Temple of Love located in Versailles, France.

    This is a great place to shelter under when the rains suddenly occur!



    Just west of the Templo de la Musica is the bronze sculpture, Alas de México (Wings of Mexico). This sculpture, by artist Jorge Marín, was a gift from México in 2018 and represents liberty and freedom.

    The sculpture is meant to be interactive, as one can stand between the wings and appear to have wings.





    At the corner of Calle 2 and Avenida 2 in downtown San José is Parque Central (Central Park). In the middle of the park is a bandstand, donated by former Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1944.

    This is another great place to shelter under when the rains suddenly occur!






    The El Monumento Nacional is located in Parque Nacional, San Jose. The central figure in El Monumento Nacional represents Costa Rica, while the other figures surrounding her represent the other Central American countries. It depicts the triumph of the Central American nations against the foreign invaders known as filibusters, who, under the command of the American William Walker , who tried to conquer Central America between 1855-1857. The figure at the front of the sculpture is William Walker, fleeing.

    In the National Museum is a scale model of the sculpture "El Monumento Nacional" (The National Monument), sculpted by Frenchman Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse in 1891.






    Costa Rica is considered to be a Democratic Republic with a constitution, which defines the freedoms and rights and equality of all citizens and foreigners.

    The Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica (Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica) is composed of 57 diputados (deputies), who are elected by direct, universal, popular vote on a closed party list proportional representation basis, by province, for four-year terms.

    The architecture of the Asamblea Legislativa building is interesting, as no two windows on the outside are alike, nor is the spacing between windows. Of course, we also have three big stone spheres outside.





    Located east of the Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica, the Castillo Azul (Blue Castle) was originally built in 1911 as the Presidential House for the leader of Costa Rica. However, it was never really used for this. It also once hosted the United States Embassy.





    Located north of the Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica, is the Plaza de la Libertad Electoral (Electoral Freedom Square), a small Greco-Roman style ampitheatre create in 1996. In the middle is the sculpture "Epítome de Vuelo" (Epitome of Flight), by José Sancho Benito.





    The Plaza de la Justicia (Justice Square) is an open area surrounded by the central offices of the Supreme Court of Justice, the Judicial Investigation Agency Building and the Central Courts Building.

    Aligned in an east-west orientation, the two stone spheres and the pyramid symbolize the scales of justice. Hmmmm, more stone spheres....



    I visited the Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú (Irazu Volcano National Park). Located 55 km East of San Jose, a single public bus was utilized to get me to the volcano.

    The first crater one encounters is the Cráter Diego de la Haya. It is approximately 500 meters in diameter. The crater sometimes has water in it; it did not when I visited.

    The Main Crater is 750 meters in diamter and 270 meters deep. This crater sometimes has water in it, but it did not when I was there. The viewing location is 3310 meters above sea level.



    The Irazú Volcano is still considered an active volcano, so there is signage for escape routes if volcanic activity occurs.



    I visited the Parque Nacional Volcán Poás (Poas Volcano National Park). Located 50 km North of San Jose, it became an adventure for me to get to this volcano. To get there, I ended up taking 3 public buses, hitchiking, and walking 8 km to get to the site! There is supposed to be a public bus that goes to the Park, but I saw no sign of that bus existing.

    Update: it appears the public bus only runs on Saturday and Sunday; my visit was on a Monday. Grrrrrr!

    To my disappointment, the Poas Volcano Main Crater was shrouded in thick cloud during my visit. This picture was about as good as it gets while I was there.

    Apparently, the crater dimensions are 1746 meters North to South by 868 meters East to West, with a depth of 260 meters. This cloudy view is looking North.



    Monteverde


    I visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. It is located 5 km south east of the town of Santa Elena.

    A cloud forest is typically usually cloaked in fog or low hanging clouds among the upper canopy of the forest. Water condenses on the leaves above and drips onto the plants below.

    There are trails taking you into the heart of the cloud forest. There was the constant dripping of water and everything was moist.

    There was the obligatory waterfall in the cloud forest. This was a popular feature that the tour guides brought people to.

    In the cloud forest was a suspension bridge, which brought you off the forest floor and up among the trees.

    There is a diversity of plant life growing in the cloud forest. Here is a mini orchid.



    I did not see many flowers in the cloud forest, but there were some. Here's a sampling of some of the flowers I spotted. The flowers I could see were small in size.



    The Continental Divide passes through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. The platform on which this south facing picture was taken is straddling a ridge, such that water that falls on the left side will lead into the Atlantic Ocean, and water that falls on the right side will lead into the Pacific Ocean.





    The Ficus Tree is known for it's many aerial spreading roots. In Monteverde, one of these Ficus Trees has formed a bridge made of root. It is known as "El Puente Raiz" (The Root Bridge) of Monteverde.





    La Fortuna




    130 km North West of San José (by car) is the town of La Fortuna, which translates to "The Fortune". Originally known for it's extremely fertile farmlands, tourism is now a major industry for the area.

    Looming over the town of La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano. An active volcano that last erupted in 2010, it sat shrouded in cloud for the 4 days I was in La Fortuna. I never did see the top of the volcano; this picture was the closest to being able to see the top.



    Around the Arenal Volcano are numerous facilities providing pools with hot springs water. I went to Termalitas del Arenal to get my soaking of hot thermal water. The pool shown has a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius ... hot!



    Termalitas del Arenal is a popular hot spring with the locals (it's the least expensive of the pay ones). Here I am soaking in the 50 degree Celsius thermal pool. It was hot, but bearable, and soothing. There was a warning sign saying not to stay in for more than 20 minutes.



    The La Fortuna Waterfall is located on the south east side of the Arenal Volcano. Fed by the Fortuna River, the water falls 75 meters. Note the basalt rock formation on the cliff face of the falls.



    Next to the La Fortuna Waterfall is a smaller waterfall (when it comes to volume of water). Note the basalt rock formation on the cliff face of the this smaller waterfalls.





    Costa Rica is a major producer of bananas. Interestingly enough, I found these bananas growing in downtown La Fortuna. These bananas included the banana flower (also known as the banana blossom) hanging like a pendulum below the unripe bananas.





    This is a view of downtown La Fortuna. La Fortuna is a town tailored for catering to tourists (with prices to match). In the distance is the cloud covered Arenal Volcano.





    Puerto Viejo





    Puerto Viejo is a beach town located on the south east part of Costa Rica, on the Atlantic Ocean. Panama is a few kilometers to the south.

    Popular activities here are swimming, surfing, suntanning, and doing nothing. I mostly did the latter.





    Located just north of Puerto Viejo is Playa Negra, a black sand beach. The sand has it's origins from erosion of volcanic material, which is why it is black.






    There are a couple of shipwrecks on the beaches of Puerto Viejo. Why don't they remove these? Is it for tourism reasons?





    South of Puerto Viejo is the beach town of Manzanilla. I rode a bike over, and noticed that it also has a shipwreck.





    While relaxing and doing nothing, except watching the waves break on the beach in Puerto Viejo, I heard some scratching sounds and noticed this lizard on a nearby tree, scurrying about.





    Foods Of Costa Rica




    Salchipapas: This cheap fast food dish consists of french fries topped with sliced cooked wieners with ketchup and/or mayonnaise and/or mustard and/or chili. This is good for the budget minded traveler, but I thought it was kind of crappy (and I have pretty low standards for food).

    Appropriate name, as "salchipa" is "sausage", and "papas" is "potatoes"; thus salchipapas is sausage potatoes.





    Casado: A typical Costa Rican dish, mine had black beans and rice with a pasta salad, fried plantains, and beef stew. This was also a 'budget" meal and was actually pretty good.

    Strangely enough, "casado" translates to "married"; I guess the dish is a marriage of the different food groups for a complete meal.





    Chino Mamon: This hairy red fruit has it's origins from Southeast Asia, and is similar to the lychee nut (and tastes similar to a grape). One tears open the hairy outer layer and reveals a fleshy white center with a seed in the middle.

    The literal translation of Chino Mamon is "Chinese Sucker".





    Pollo Caribeño: Pollo Caribeño (Caribbean Chicken) is a popular Costa Rican dish in the province of Limón. With influence from nearby Jamaica, chicken thighs are flavoured with coconut milk, lime and cane sugar.







    Piña: Costa Rica is the largest grower and exporter of piña (pineapple). Holding over 50% of pineapple shares of the world market, pineapples are grown in the northern region of Costa Rica.

    I decided to eat this large piña for breakfast. The pineapple overdosed the "sour" taste buds on my tongue and I couldn't taste sour things for a day (and my tongue hurt too).





    Transportation in Costa Rica




    Autobuses Públicos: On this trip, I mainly utilized public buses (autobuses públicos) to get me between towns and to see sights. The bus system in Costa Rica is run by different bus companies and schedules found on the bus web company's web site may not be accurate (as I've discovered). They may also have their own bus terminal in a town, so changing buses may require you to find the other bus terminal.

    Pictured is the bus I took from Monteverde to Tilarán; is it my imagination or does it look like a school bus?

    For my visit to the Volcán Poás, the offical volcano website had instructions on what bus to take to get to the volcano; well, the bus did not exist, so I ended up taking buses that got me within 10 km of the volcano and ended up walking and hitchiking to and from the site!

    Update: it appears the public bus to the Poás Volcano only runs on Saturday and Sunday; my visit was on a Monday. They need to update the official volcano website with this information!





    Bicicleta: I was hoping to have rented bicicletas (bicycles) more on this trip, but bike rentals were really expensive. However, in Puerto Viejo, they had crappy beach cruisers for rent for about USD $6 a day, so I rented one and used it to explore the area.





    Miscellaneous




    When it rains, it pours. To accomodate the sudden downpours, the street's curbs and gutters in San José are deep and wide and require a bit of nimbleness and awareness when crossing the street. A dormmate mentioned that during a downpour at night, he misjudged the depth and width of the water filled gutter and fell in, getting soaked. He got to the other side of the street and promptly fell into that gutter too. Maybe he was drunk?





    It seems that typically, Costa Rican abodes do not have centrally heated water (the kitchen and bathroom sinks only have cold water taps), so for a heated shower, one would have the water heater in the shower head. This particular water heater shower head can draw 50 amperes at 110 volts (5500 watts). For the non electrical person, let me put it in laymen's terms .... that is a lot! What makes it exciting is the fact the wiring seems to have been done somewhat haphazardly. This seems a little dangerous...

    To regulate the temperature, one adjusts the amount of water flowing through the shower head. For a really hot shower, one sets the water flow to be low. For a cooler shower, one has the water flow higher. Basically, the water is used to cool the heater in the shower head. I was able to figure this out on my own.

    One of the hostels I stayed in didn't even have these (i.e. cold showers only), so I'm not complaining (i.e. willing to risk electrocution for a hot shower)!





    Costa Ricans take celebrating Christmas seriously. In Puerto Viejo, I ran into this Christmas parade. They were playing Christmas carols with the xylophone, drums, and whistles. It was loud and a lot of fun.






    For this trip, I stayed in hostels. As I was booking just a bed in a dorm, my bed was typically part of a bunk bed setup. I usually try to get the bottom bunk, as it allows me easy access in and out of bed (i.e. no climbing the ladder).

    Hostels typically have a common area; the common area in the second photo was from the hostel in Monteverde.





    While looking out the window on my flight from San José (SJO) to Mexico City (MEX), I noticed that Volcán Popocatépetl (located 70 km south east of Mexico City) was erupting. Photo Date & Time: 2022 December 14 , 3:34 PM CST.

    Here is the report from the Mexican Government regarding the eruption I observed from the plane's window. It was an eruption of "water vapour, volcanic gases and slight amounts of ash".

    Interestingly enough, during my trip to Mexico in 2017, Volcán Popocatépetl was erupting too.





    2022 Costa Rica Trip - Prologue

    My impressions of Costa Rica are:

  • It is sunny and rainy and sunny and rainy and warm
  • It is tourist oriented (and thus "expensive")

    It was nice to be able to travel again internationally, after 3 years. Except for the occassional face mask, things seemed normal again. It's always nice to go somewhere warm when it is cold back home.

    This trip had me doing "nothing" on several days, just relaxing, which was a good thing, as most of my previous vacations had me packing as many activities as I can into the period of time I am on the trip. I should schedule these "do nothing" days in future trips.

    Overall, Costa Rica is a good "get away" vacation location. It didn't have a lot of ancient history and culture stuff, but was full of natural stuff. As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!


  • Check out my Tweets during the trip





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