The flight from Baltimore, Southwest’s hub, is about four and a half hours. And, to make things even better, the flight was only half full! Yay for the rainy season! SJO is a small, but clean and modern airport with, maybe, 13 gates all in a row.
As soon as we walked into the baggage claim area we were met by Anywhere Costa Rica people who told us where our bags would be coming out and where to find our driver. A very warm welcome, indeed! While we were waiting for our bags I tried to use the ATM to get some local currency, but it did not work. The only one working had a long line and we knew better than to get screwed by the World Exchange counter, so we decided to wait till our destination. We had enough USD’s to tide us over and they are usually accepted as readily as the local “colonies”.
We soon had our bags and met up with our driver, as smooth a process as we could have wanted. Our driver was a young guy, mid thirties, who spoke excellent English. He was driving a mini-van. When he found out it was our first time in Costa Rica he proceeded to give us the background about the country and what it is like to live here. Here is where we were going (as you know, you can click on the picture to enlarge it):
All the way out of San Jose we were in fairly heavy traffic. Our driver told us we could stay on the main highway and not see much, or we could take a side road down the Pacific coast for a much better view. Since we would not otherwise see the Pacific side, the choice was easy. Before long we were in the very beautiful countryside.
In about an hour we were on the coast, just south of Puntarenas. There are two deep water ports with container terminals in Costa Rica. One here and one on the Caribbean side at Limon’. Neither are very large. So, the ships just wait in line.
There is a nice beach. Nobody was there.
But here was the best part for us:
Sodas are small restaurants and they are seemingly everywhere. But, what we were interested in was the Frutera. Here is what they had to offer:
You just pop the white fruit into your mouth and prepare for major sweetness (and a fairly large seed). They are delicious! I bought a kilo, which proved to be more than enough given our hectic schedule.
While we were at the market we saw this truck. We later learned that much of the food distribution across the entire country is handed by a bunch of Bimbos. Shocking!
Soon we left the coast and began our ascent toward Monteverde. You will notice the nice paved road. It didn’t last long.
Before long we were on route 606. My Holmes County peeps will quickly recognize this type of road. To their credit, the Costa Ricans made theirs wide enough so that if you meet a milk truck you don’t have to back down the hill. Otherwise; it is the bone-jarring, tooth loosening, suspension cracking experience of our youth. Except the rocks on this road are much bigger than our traditional gravel. To top it off, we hit our first rain storm. Here is a little of what it was like.
We were on this road for seventeen miles. The question of renting a car faded well into the background. Our driver, who lives in La Fortuna, which you will see later, said that he rates the roads up here like we rate white-water rapids. This one he gave a Class 3. Later we told him our next stop would be Arenal. That road, he said, is much worse. Give it a Class 5.
Now we were getting into the cloud forest.
Not too hard to look at.
In time we made it to the charming village of Santa Elena. More pictures of this place later.
Anywhere Costa Rica had selected for us the Trapp Family Lodge, which, as it turned out was another five or so Class 4 miles above Santa Elena near the Monteverde Forest Preserve. Soon we were putting our teeth back in our heads as we arrived at our destination.
The Trapp Family Lodge is a beautiful facility with some of the friendliest staff we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Here are a few shots of the place.
Hardwoods throughout the entire building. This is the view of the back. Our room is past the last window.
In addition, they have absolutely beautiful grounds!
You want flowers?
And the best part? The total cost of the room: $94 per night. Recently I saw an ad for them at $74 per night, presumably for a little smaller room. We loved this place!