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Travel to Costa Rica in Central America

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Travel Story, scuba diving in Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean with jungle hikes and pictures - photos

divers costa rica Pacific

Where in Central America is Costa Rica situated?

map of costa rica

Info About Costa Rica in Central America:

Costa Rica is situated in Central America. The north of Costa Rica is adjacent to Nicaragua, the South to Panama, the east to the Caribbean Sea and the west to the Pacific Ocean. The acreage contains 51.100 km2, of which 27% is a protected nature reserve. In the middle of the country a series of volcanoes are present, some of which are still active. The highest point of Costa Rica is the Cerro Chirripo with a measurement of 3810m. Costa Rica has 7 provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas and San Jose

Cocos Island, that among divers is known for diving on large life, is also part of Costa Rica. Depending on the time of the year, other species will be present or absent during your dive. The period of the year (including the wind season) partly determines the current, the visibility and the temperature of the water. It's therefore recommended to gain the necessary knowledge and consider certain information before you plan and book your diving trip to Costa Rica in Central America.

Flora and Fauna in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a very varied and rich flora and fauna. There are thousands of invertebrates species in Costa Rica, approximately 150 types of amphibians, 215 species of reptiles, 865 types of birds (of which 75 birds of prey) and more than 240 species of mammals.

The flora in Costa Rica includes approximately 12,000 different plant species. This enormous diversity is mainly due to the fertile volcanic soil, the large differences in height and several climate zones that Costa Rica obtains. This created several ecosystems on a relatively small area. Including rainforests, you'll find the following vegetation: mangroves forests, which annually lose their leaves, cloud forests and Paramo meadows (fallow land, usually covered with heath shrubs, coarse grass, ferns and moss).

By the high degree of nature protection and the frequent contact with people, many animals in Costa Rica have lost their shyness. This allows us to detect the animals more easily (if not too much noise is created, obviously). The potential to spot nasuas, sloths, monkeys, humming birds, parrots, toucans, vultures, large iguanas, brightly coloured poisonous frogs, ea. during one of the many tracks possible in the nature areas of Costa Rica is therefore quite high. The protective forests of Costa Rica also shows jaguars. The paw prints are often detected, but the rest of the day the jaguars usually hide at sheltered places. If lucky, you can spot the jaguar sunbathing. At dusk, they start their hunt and are often seen at water ponds early in the morning. Jaguars have a large territory, making the chance to spot one a lot smaller. Keep your cameras ready, would be my best advise!

Diving in Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean:

Diving in Costa Rica can be done at the Caribbean east side or the Pacific Ocean, which is located at the west side of Costa Rica. The difference of diving between the east or the west side is massive. The Caribbean Sea's salinity is relatively high, and there's a level difference of maximum 0,6m between the ebb and flow of the tides, the visibility during dives is very clear for the largest period of the year and the floating particles are generally limited. On the side of the Pacific Ocean the salinity is lower, the level difference between the ebb and flow of the tides can get up to approximately 3.6m (which causes strong currents), more floating particles will be seen during the dive and the visibility sometimes resolves to next to nothing. That's why, during your dive, other species of marine life will be found on the Pacific Ocean than diving on the Caribbean side.

In March, the (average) water temperature measured during dives was 21 to 29°C.

On most dive sites, the visibility was ca 6 à 12 meters.

Sailing with a fast rib, the dive sites are only 5 minutes to 40 minutes away.

Travel Story scuba diving - Diving in Costa Rica:

Saturday 08 March 2014:

From Brussels to Costa Rica

At 6u50 the driver of Budget Taxi rings the doorbell, to take us to the airport of Zaventem. After a smooth check-in we set off on our 8-hour Delta towards New York, at 10.30am. As usual we must pass through the immigration service (don't forget the ESTA declaration) and are served by the frustrated and denigrating civil servants, treated and considered as potential criminals. What a warm welcome!

Then the wait until we can board for our flight to San Jose in Costa Rica starts. Our hands get a little clammy, when paged that there will be a slight delay due to a small technical defect. Such matters we've experiences in the past a few times and usually ended with a few hours, up to a day of delay. We can imagine all sorts of disaster scenarios, but fortunately, after three quarters of the liberating message, everything is ok and we may go on board. Only a little over 5 hours to go, before we set our first steps on Costa Rican soil.

The driver of the local travel agency awaits outside at San Jose Airport. He hands us our vouchers and in no time, brings us to the Gran Hotel in the heart of the city. In the meantime, we've been awake for over 24 hours and we're well pleased, we can finally dive in our beds.

Sunday 09 March 2014:

San Jose the capital of Costa Rica

After a reasonably good night's rest, without too many jetlag problems, we take place at the breakfast table around 8am. The magnificent Gran Hotel in San Jose has hosted several presidents and movie stars since 1930. In the meantime, the hotel is renovated here and there, but exudes the grandeur and class of yesteryear. It also has a cozy terrace with a view of the lively Plaza de la Cultura. Close to the hotel, there's an ATM machine, where we take out our first Colones (1 Euro equals 700 Colones).

At 9.00am we get picked up for a 'meet and greet' with the local tour operator Ecole Travel. They take us through the entire travel schedule and give us a number of practical tips. Afterwards, there's of course time for additional questions.

Once finished, we're dropped back off at the Gran Hotel and we make our way to the noisy shopping streets of San Jose. On every corner of the street there's a person with a loud voice, selling lots of the national lottery or street vendors try to sell their goods to people passing by. It's a continuous cacophony of voices and sounds. Even in the thoroughfares you stumble ahead and a music band with creaking microphone feels like an attack on our eardrums. (All of this, perhaps because it's a Sunday).

In the end, we manage to spot a rare terrace with a free table. While sipping on our margaritas we're observing the Costa Rican population. The women are generally sturdy (a solid dung and above all, a lot of abdomen), but, by wearing contiguous clothes, show off these curves proudly. In general, they are also quite short, what gets compensated with uncomfortable high wedged shoes. Some men are extremely lean, which results in some bizarre couples.

Unfortunately, San Jose doesn't have many historic buildings, but the neo-National Theatre is certainly worth a visit. You'll just have to undergo the city a bit and be lucky to take a left or right to some nice streets to experience and enjoy the 'local life'. It's quite noteworthy, that despite the 27°C it isn't sweltering in San Jose. There's always a refreshing breeze, making it you might even need a light jumper in the evenings.

At night, we start looking for a cosy restaurant, but find mainly fast food chains such as Mc Donalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Wendies, etc. Eventually, we stumble upon a nice restaurant near the Gran Hotel. Here we try some regional dishes, which usually always contain beans and rice. Tasty and very filling! Finally, we drink a little nightcap and feel our eyes getting tiny. The jet lag apparently hasn't fully digested.

Costa Rica San Jose

Pictures - Photos of San Jose the capital of Costa Rica

Monday 10 March 2014:

La Fortuna at the foot of the Arenal Volcano

At 9.00am our 4X4-rental car gets delivered at Gran Hotel, by National Car. Once the necessary administrative formalities have been completed, we want to leave busy San Jose as soon as possible. Miraculously we find our way quite quickly and drive straight into the green interior.

We pass a few small villages, but there are no real attractions or viewpoints. The last bit of the journey has quite a lot of curves, making it a tricky drive for sensitive stomachs. After 3,5 hours, we finally reach La Fortuna, a small but very touristy town at the foot of the Arenal volcano, which forms the basis for the local mass tourism.

Our hotel Lomas del Volcan is located on the edge of the centre and we still have to drive a kilometre through the domain, before we reach the reception. Lomas del Volcan is a beautiful location with a stunningly landscaped garden and spacious wooden chalets overlooking the volcano. The bathroom is rather a ballroom, never before we've had such a large bathroom!

Costa Rica la fortuna arenal vulkaan

Pictures - Photos of the Arenal volcano in La Four Tuna in Costa Rica

The hotel also features a private trail of ca. 1.5km long through a dense forest. After check-in we decide to make the hike 'quickly ', but after a relatively simple start, the trail is a lot rougher and steeper. A good pair of hiking shoes are definitely not an unnecessary luxury here. Unfortunately, we don't come across any animals. The time, late noon, will probably have something to do with this.

At 17.40pm we're picked up by our guide for our two hour 'nightly frog tour' (50 US dollar per person, when booking through the hotel). We make the trip with a typical American couple, whose wife shouts out 'wow, amazing and great' every five seconds. Fortunately, it's a successful egress because we get to see a lot of the frog and toad population. We start off with a mini red poisonous frog, followed by a few discreet brown frogs, a swimming frog that defends its territory with loud convex jaws from potential hijackers, a path, two giant frogs and ultimately, we also spot the famous agalychnis callidryas, seen on almost every tourist brochure of Costa Rica. It really is a cute animal, which with its red bulging eyes, blue flanks and red suction cups steels everyone's hearts! The guide is so friendly to put the animal on a branch at our eye level, so that everyone gets the chance to take a photo. A beautiful ending of our first day in La Fortuna.

Costa Rica San Jose

Pictures - Photos of the frog tour in La Four Tuna in Costa Rica

Tuesday 11 March 2014:

Hanging Bridges Puntes Colgantes del Arenal

After our breakfast in Lomas del Volcan we are treated to the presence of a group of howler monkeys in the high trees in our backyard. We quickly pick up our camera with telephoto lens and binoculars to watch the whole spectacle at close quarters and capture it on the sensitive photographic plate. What a wonderful start of the day!

Then we make our way to the Hanging Bridges Puntes Colgantes del Arenal (24 US dollar per person), a walking path of ca 3km over 15 hanging bridges, which nearly reach the treetops. The longest bridge is almost 100 meters long and hangs 45 meters above the ravine.

When we start our tour around 11am, it's already 27°C, but fortunately it's mostly cloudy so the exhaustive heat doesn't hit us as hard. As we walk behind a group with a guide, we try to follow his narrative from a distance. At a given moment we come across a tree where an ocelot (dwarf leopard, of ca 75 cm wide) is having its afternoon nap. Fortunately, the guide spotted the animal, because it's very well hidden between the branches and the leaves. It soon becomes very clear that our untrained eyes are probably not capable of discovering any wildlife by ourselves.

As we hike during the hottest afternoon hours, the majority of the animals keep themselves to themselves and relax. Except for the ocelot, we see some beautiful birds, a woodpecker, a squirrel, a lizard and a howler monkey. Yet, the beautiful scenery, views and green of this exuberant jungle, make this hike more than worth the effort.

After our walking tour, we grab a quick drink in the adjacent cafeteria (3 US dollars for a small bottle of soda). When we leave the car parking, our attention is drawn by a nasua that is looking for a snack. He sniffs and pries and soon finds a track to the congested bin. It skilfully knocks the bin over and rumbles until it finds a juicy Viennese sausage. Which it visibly enjoys.

Costa Rica hanging bridges arenal

Pictures - Photos of the hanging bridges near the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica

On the way to the hotel we come across horde of nasuas on the street. Every passing driver, immediately puts their car on the side of the road and start photographing the animals. Some tourist feed the nasuas, which make the animals surround the car and fight for the tiniest bites. This obviously results in some great photos. On the downside though, the animals get very greedy and walk to the tourist spontaneously, because they know that they can get some tasty snacks.

Arrived back at the hotel, we quickly get ourselves dressed for the Ecotermales, which opens their doors at 17.00pm. The Ecotermales is one of the many natural hot water springs in the area. It's a well maintained domain with changing rooms and showers (only 4 cabs), at which the guests and bathers can relax in the warm water at the end of their tiring day. For the thirsty and decadent (read Americans), there even is an extensive bar. Making it possible to enjoy a beer or cocktails in the water. Pure decadence! Since it's pitch black from 18.00pm on, the Ecotermales is lighted up by many little lights, that result in a fairylike atmosphere. The noise of the waterfall and the chirping crickets in the background, are the icing on the cake. Definitely recommended.

Wednesday 12 March 2014:

Santa Elena

Since we're only driving for ca 100km to Santa Elena today, we take the time for our extensive breakfast, take our lasts photos and we enjoy the beautiful view from our terrace on the Arenal volcano for another hour. There's a clear blue sky, no single cloud to be found, which according to the travel guides is very rare.

It promises to be a bloody hot day and when we leave La Fortuna around 11.00am it's 30°C already. After driving for a few miles, we come back to the group that nasuas, ready to beg for our food. Apparently, they've made this their daily routine and hang in these areas, waiting for tourists. Such a shame because this way, they easily lose their natural hunting instinct.

During the first 35 km of the trip we're regularly spoiled with beautiful views of the artificial landscaped reservoir of Arenal. A few short photo stops are obviously included. From the town of Tilaran we closely follow the route change that Ecoletravel informed us about this morning. The original road is occupied by road works, which would cause serious delays. Thanks to the new route description we can avoid the traffic. This alert is an absolute great service of Ecoletravel.

After a 1.5 hour drive we arrive at Cafe Macadamia, which according to the website of Costa Rica Online offers a delicious nut cake. We decide to not just take their word for it and test it ourselves. Soon we must admit that this eatery, with a beautiful view of Lake Arenal, indeed serves very tasty pastries. Must go to!

We continue our road for 20km via the Pan American Highway, which is less quick than the name suggests, as there's only one line per direction, making the slow trucks congest all traffic. Overtaking is very difficult and most times dangerous, because of the many bends or blind hills. The green and beautiful landscape around the Lake Arenal, make this place an arid and dusty environment. The mercury easily reaches a maximum of 37°C. Long live the air conditioning!

We leave the 'highway' to Las Juntas and follow the signs to Monte Verde. Unexpectedly we pass a group of howler monkeys, that cosily sit in a tree, posing for a photoshoot. Awesome break!

Costa Rica santa-elena

Pictures - Photos of the ride to Santa Elena in Costa Rica

From here the roads get worse and worse and the last 25km on the steep gravel roads seem to take forever. Thoroughly shaken, we arrive round 17.00pm at hotel Cloud Forest Lodge near Santa Elena. As the altitude has risen to approximately 1500 meters, the temperature decreased to 22°C with a cool breeze. We find it a bit too much and quickly put on our jumpers and long trousers.

Because the early rise tomorrow morning, we decide to leave the discovery of the centre Santa Elena for now and have dinner at the hotel. Tasty, for a fair price.

Thursday 13 March 2014:

Monte Verde Cloud Forest

This morning our alarm clocks will ring awfully early. At 7.00am we are expected at the entrance of the Monte Verde Cloud Forest. An area visited by nearly every tourist visiting Costa Rica and one of the top attractions in the country.

After a quick, but tasty breakfast we drive on the dusty gravel roads in the direction of nature reserve (18 US dollars per person), which we reach in a short 15 minutes. Our guide awaits. Since there's a limited amount of people per day that may visit the forest, booking in advance is a must. Going with a guide is definitely recommended, as they know exactly where to go to have the best chance on spotting animals. Our group consists of another Belgian and a German couple. A European party, it is!

It's a very bright day with only a little clouds, a rarity in this region. Next to that it hasn't rained for a while either. Result of this is that we hike the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, without any trace of mist. Unfortunately, but on the other hand we don't have to wear the rain ponchos or to put on rubber boots to trudge along the lakes. Each situation has its pros and cons. As we're on a certain height and the region is dominated by wind, long trousers and light jumper in the morning are certainly not unnecessary. As the day progresses and the sun breaks through, the mercury reaches a pleasant 22°C.

In Monte Verde Cloud Forest several hiking routes are laid out. Though, most tourists follow the same route. Each guide in Monte Verde drags a large telephoto lens on a tripod, so that everyone in the group is able to see the birds or other animals properly, but it's also always handy to have a pair of binoculars.

We've only started walking and already spot an Emerald toecanet, a smaller and less coloured version of the well-known Toucan. A few other birds follow, but then our guide gets a quetzal in sight. The quetzal is a kind of paradise bird, with bright colours and a very long tail. This bird is the national symbol of Guatemala, but is mainly seen in Costa Rica. Not every visitor in Monte Verde gets to see this beauty, so we are honoured with its visit!

Furthermore we come across many cute nasuas and see two gracile capuchin monkeys, high in the trees. The later it gets, the warmer it is and the fewer animals we are able to spot. Unfortunately, but the Cloud Forest itself is absolutely stunning. It's a true feast of green nature, which manifests itself in all its forms. You won't know where to start looking first, to see everything!

Costa Rica Monteverde cloud forest

Pictures - Photos of Monte Verde cloud forest in Costa Rica

Around 11.00am we finish the hike and conclude this morning with a visit to the nearby hummingbird gallery, where this ornate and fast birds are enticed with feed cases, allowing you to admire and photograph from an extremely short distance.
Around noon we get back to the village of Santa Elena, where we're up for a tasty lunch in the Tree House Restaurant. A cosy eatery, built around a large tree, which provides the necessary shade. Great place and food for a reasonable price.

Subsequently we explore the serpentarium (13 US dollar per person) in Santa Elena, where we get an overview of the toxic snakes present in Costa Rica. There are also a few terraria with brightly coloured poisonous frogs and one with a tarantula in it.

At 17.30pm, we've planned an evening walk around the Wildlife Reserve Santa Maria (25 US dollar per person). At the reception of the park it's pretty busy, but luckily everyone is divided into smaller groups, each with their own guide. When starting the hike at sunset, we firstly spot an agoeti, sort of a crossing between a marmot and a large rabbit. Through the walkie-talkie, the guide then gets the message that at the entrance of the park a sloth is detected. In a rush, we quickly run through the narrow forest paths, back to the start point of the tour and admire the first (moving) sloth of this holiday. Mission of this evening stroll is already completed!

Subsequently, all the resources to find a bright green viper snake, one of the most toxic snakes of Costa Rica. After searching for a while, our guide effectively finds one, totally tucked away in the thick foliage of a high tree. Without a guide, we would have never found one, because to spot these animals, you really need some experience.

A cheerful nasua, a few scorpions, a lizard, two other viper snakes, a fake chameleon, some large owl butterflies (noctuidea), a second sloth and a sleeping long-tailed manakin (a bird that looks like a pellet of blue cotton) cross our path during this evening stroll. Tired as, we make our return at 20.15pm to the hotel. We use our last energy for a quick bite and go straight to bed.

Costa Rica Santa Maria Wildlife Reserve

Pictures - Photos of the Wildlife Reserve in Santa Maria in Costa Rica

Friday 14 March 2014:

Rincon de la Vieja

Today we've only planned our drive to our B&B near Rincon de la Vieja, in Santa Elena. Which allows us to enjoy an extensive breakfast.

Around 11.00am we start our one hour trip (25 km) through the bumpy gravel roads to the Pan American Highway. From here it's another 80km drive in the direction to Liberia, the second largest city in Costa Rica. It strikes us that for several kilometres of this highway roadworks occur and a slow transformation of the veritable highway with two roads per direction. We reckon, that within a few years, the delays caused by the cumbersome trucks will be something from the past!

In Liberia we make a short pit stop for a quick lunch and then continue our on the newly constructed road to the B&B Casa Aroma de Campo, where we arrive within half an hour. In the meantime it's 14.30pm and the temperature has risen to 39°C!

We get warmly welcomed in the B&B owner, who immediately gives us the necessary explanations about the national park of Rincon de la Vieja and the other possibilities for relaxation in the near surroundings. Casa Aroma de Campo sadly, doesn't have any air conditioning, but fortunately we can find some refreshment on the spacious indoor courtyard or in the small swimming pool with fresh natural water.

Since there aren't any restaurants in the near vicinity, most guests enjoy their evening meal on a long table with the rest of the B&B guests. This makes it also easier to fraternity with other people and exchange travel tips with each other. Our taste buds are spoiled with a broccoli soup, a fine main dish with marinated chicken and crispy vegetables and a tasty homemade vanilla flan for dessert.

Saturday 15 March 2014:

National park Rincon de la Vieja

After a joint early breakfast at the long table of Casa Aroma de Campo, everyone makes their way to the national park Rincon de la Vieja, which is located pretty close to the B&B on their own pace. To reach the main entrance of the park you have to make use of a private road which is closed with a barrel (700 colones per person). Then, it still takes about a 7km drive to the main entrance, where we pay 10 US dollars per person to enter the domain. Make sure to bring your passport, as this is requested at the entrance.

There are several trails in the park, but the vast majority of the visitors choose the circular Las Pailas walk of 3km, where most of the volcanic elements (fumaroles, hot water sources, simmering mud pots, hot gases that come out of the ground, etc.) are found. Next to that, it's recommended to walk in opposite direction to hike the 'open' volcanic area in the early morning and the second half of the walk in the shade to see all trees of the dry forest.

The Las Pailas trail is only 3km, but you should definitely take 2 à 2.5 hours to hike it. This because the trail is relatively heavy and occasionally come across small water streams and regularly have to respond to steep inclines or slopes, that are obstacles by large stones or tree roots. A good condition, steady walking shoes and plenty of water are certainly a must for this hike. Furthermore, sunscreen and insect repellent spray are highly recommended.

Costa Rica Nationaal park Rincon de la Vieja

Pictures - Photos of the National park Rincon de la Vieja in Costa Rica

To spot animals, you must be a bit lucky. We only saw a large group of nasuas, a few small lizards and a large blue Butterfly. Other hikers we spoke to, came across toucans, gracile capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, small wild boars and even a large snake (either a python or boa constrictor).

We're full of most, when we make our return to the start point, two hours later. Not in a million years, we would even consider hiking one of the other trails, right now. The temperature comes close to 30°C and all we want now is a refreshing swim. Many people go to one of the nearby waterfalls, located on ten-minute walk from the main entrance, but we prefer to go for a refreshing drink in the nearby canteen.

Then it's just a fifteen-minute drive back to Casa Aroma de Campo, where we straight away jump in the small, but nice and cool pool. What a great feeling it is, to wash off all the dust and sweat of our bodies and put our tired legs to rest!

At 19.00pm, dinner again, is served at the B&B and everyone gets together at the long table for dinner. After this tiring day, we are struggling to keep our eyes open and dive in bed around 22.00pm, for our well-earned rest.

Note: since we very recently, visited Yellowstone and Iceland, this volcanic area is more or less disappointing. If visited one of above or other likewise places, I wouldn't recommend going here. More so because at the moment, the crater of the volcano can't be visited, because it's too dangerous. The walk to the crater takes about 10 hours and is thus only feasible for experienced hikers or real volcano enthusiasts.

Sunday 16 March 2014:

Coastal town of Playa de Coco at the Pacific Ocean

After a whole week of travelling through Costa Rica, we now take the time for a 6-night break, to go scuba diving in the coastal town of Playa de Coco at the Pacific Ocean.

After breakfast at Casa Aroma de Campo we drive towards Liberia, where we quickly get a few bottles of water for the coming days. After a 1.5-hour drive on well-maintained roads, we arrive in Playa de Coco. Via booking.com we booked six nights in Coco Beach Hotel (100 US dollar per night per room + 13% VAT).

As we can't check in until 15.00pm, the room isn't yet available when we arrive, but thankfully the staff tries their hardest to make the room ready as soon as possible. As we applied for a quiet room in advance, we get the room at the far end of the corridor. They did indeed take our request into account!

Coco Beach Hotel formerly held 4stars, but recently lost one of them and that's unfortunately noticeable. For example: the furniture is decrepit, the hairdryer has disappeared, there's a chronic shortage of towels (which in fact have had their best time), the rooms aren't really bowdlerised thoroughly, etc. Fortunately the air conditioning is working properly and the room nice and cool, definitely needed with a temperature of 35°C. The staff is friendly, but casual and poorly organised, so little things go wrong all the time and we regularly get charged incorrectly for drinks we didn't have. It's fairly tiring to time and time again, let the staff know about their errors. Many people don't have a command of English or not sufficient enough, so there's a lot of confusion.

At 12.00pm the rental car gets picked back up by National Car at the hotel. After we brought all the luggage to the room, we start our exploration of Playa de Coco, a small but lively coastal town, that especially gets visited by American tourists. Since today is Sunday, also Costa Ricans can be found, sunbathing on the beach. There's one busy main street which is characterised by far too expensive shops with beach clothes and souvenirs and a few restaurants. One thing we know for sure; here we will not starve!

Monday 17 March 2014:

Diving on Tortuga Island and Argentina Point

Today we've planned 2 dives.

On Tortuga Island we dive from the boat around a large rock in the Pacific Ocean. It's a pretty shallow site, but the chance of seeing white tip reef sharks, taking a nap in the caves during the day is pretty high. During the dive you come across an incredible amount of porcupine fish, butterfly fish, groupers, scorpion fish, trumpet fish, moray eel, sea urchins and other schools of fish. When the diving starts from the head of the rock, which with some imagination looks like the shape of a turtle, you'll find a small wrack, with very many fish.

Just before we go into the water at Argentina point, we see a manta very near to the boat. The dive site at Argentina Point is quite shallow, but we spot white tip reef sharks, mantas, southern stingrays, white spotted stingrays and ordinary stingrays. Furthermore, the butterfly fish, porcupine fish, trumpet fish, moray eel and again the sea urchins are present in big numbers. The current during the diving feels a bit like a washing machine: back and forward, up and down, etc. The temperature during these two diving in the Pacific Ocean varies between 22 and 27°C. The visibility is only 6 meters.

Costa Rica duiken rog

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with manta rays

Tuesday 18 March 2014:

Diving at Catalina Island, the Wall Cleaning Station and Punta Gorda

Today we've lined up three dives at Catalina Island

The dive site 'The Wall' offers shallow dives, around a small islet. The bottom is covered with small and large boulders. During the dive, there's a chance to spot mantas, white tip sharks, mobulas, stingrays and large schools of fish. Catalina Island is known as a cleaning station, where many mantas come for a pampering cure. As soon as we get in the water, we immediately spot three white tip sharks and one minute later, see a manta, which clearly enjoys our company and remains with us for 25 minutes. At the same time the white tip sharks keep swimming underneath us. We don't know where to look first and short of eyes, to be able to see and observe everything. Next to the above, we also see mobulas, stingrays and a giant large school of fish, which fully surrounds the divers.

Costa Rica duiken witpunt rifhaai

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with white tip sharks

Between the various dives, we see a lot of grey spotted dolphins, hunting on fish. With our fins, goggles and gear, we jump in immediately to enjoy this spectacle. On the boat, we even spot some very toxic sea snakes and mantas. As with the dolphins, we enthusiastically jump in straight with the mantas. Unfortunately, the mantas soon continue their trip and following doesn't make much sense. Some mobulas are so friendly to make some flips above water. Always keep an eye out on board, is therefore the message!

When we're getting ready for our dive at the rear of Catalina Island, we immediately get to see a massive manta, this seems like it's going to be a success. But, once we're in the water, we unfortunately don't get to see them anymore. The visibility is also limited to a maximum of 6 meters. The soil structure is approximately the same and dive site itself, is fairly shallow. Two mobulas, some stingrays and schools of fish will have to be called the highlight of this second dive.

On Punta Gorda we first dive on a very shallow, coarse-grained sandy bottom, where we take some nice shots of the entire dive team. Afterwards we swim to a rock, where it's remarkable deeper. Stingrays, schools of fish, morays, striped shrimps, an octopus come to join us during this dive.

The temperature during these three dives on Catalina Island in the Pacific Ocean varies from 27 to 29°C. The visibility differs and is very unpredictable. It appears to first have a sight of approximately 12 meters and an hour later only 6 meters.

Costa Rica duiken manta

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with mantas

Biology data of the manta rays.

Wednesday 19 March 2014:

Diving on Bat Islands, Black Rock and Punta Gorda

Today we're going for 3 dives near Bat Island.

Bat Island is a small archipelago of very small islands (rock-like) on 25 nautical miles of our diving base in the Pacific Ocean, close to the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. On Bat Island, you can only dive when the weather is on your side. These very favourable weather conditions in the Pacific Ocean unfortunately are very erratic and unpredictable.

On the northernmost island of Bat Islands you can find a dive site named 'Big Scar'. Here we go diving on bull sharks. On Big Scar, there usually is a strong current, so all divers have to enter the water at the same time. With our jackets nearly empty, we descend straight to the bottom. At 21 meters depth, the divers form a circle and wait for the bull sharks to come and see the intruders in their territory. No one should leave the group during the dive, as when the dive duration has been reached or someone needs a reserve, the whole group has to ascend and swim off the rock together. It's therefore necessary to set the compass, because the boats won't be able to pick us up at the rocks. If someone in the group gets lost, it's expected to ascend immediately, without safety stops and swim away from the rock formations. The boat will then pick you up as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we don't get to see any bull sharks during this dive. Although, two divers of our group found some teeth of the bull shark, which they regularly loose during their hunt.

On the dive site 'Black Rock' we go for a firm current dive around a rock, where we get the chance to spot many schools of fish. Taking photos here, is virtually impossible. The best thing to do is to simply drift and enjoy the many schools of fish. Here we spot a large nurse shark.

The weather conditions have deteriorated and the visibility of the northern dive sites at Bat Island are extremely poor, we decide to go back to 'Punta Gorda' near Catalina Island instead. This dive site is partly sheltered from the strong gusts of wind and there's a great opportunity to see large stingrays and mantas. The mantas unfortunately default, but a large stingray, some schools of fish and busting morays make up for it.

The temperature during these three dives at Bat Island and Catalina Island in the Pacific Ocean, varies between 23 and 29°C. The visibility differs and is very unpredictable. Where we have a sight of 12 meters at the first dive, it decreases to 10 meters during the second dive and only 8 meters at the last one. The sight gets worse every dive.

Costa Rica duiken murene

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with langoustes

Thursday 20 March 2014:

Diving on Catalina Island, the wall and Rainbow Reef

Today there are only two dives planned, due to the less favourable meteo conditions.

Again, we dive at Catalina Island, that provisional is partially spared from the fierce emerging wind. Above water we immediately spot a manta, hanging around the boat and sticking its fin up, to ornately to greet us. We make ourselves ready to go in the water, but when we jump in, the manta has disappeared. Due to the limited visibility of 8 meters, we unfortunately can't find any trace of the animal.

The second dive location of today is Rainbow Reef. The wind still is quite force and has resulted in a reasonable number of waves with large foam cups. At the briefing, we get told to keep extra aware of our reserve and certainly need an adequate reserve of air to the end of the dive, since we might need it to reach the boat safely. In the event of a visibility of 6 meters it's difficult to be able to spot much life. During the dive, we get stuck in a large school fish where we spend a while, but due to the poor visibility and the strong current, there's not of a lot of life to admire. Because of the fierce waves, we need to entry at a very low speed. Because the weather conditions, we can't go for a third dive.

The temperature during these two diving on Catalina Island and Rainbow Reef in the Pacific Ocean, varies between 23 and 27°C. The view differs and is very unpredictable. During the first dive, we can see up to 8 meters, but it soon decreases to 6 meters during the second dive.

Costa Rica duiken batfish

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with batfishes and schools of fish

Friday 21 March 2014:

Diving on Turning Point and Argentina Point

Today as well, the weather only allows us two dives.

On Turning Point we dive in the vicinity of a rock, shaped like a monkey's head. The current here is fairly strong, but get to see some large stingrays and moray eels are. The higher we dive, the stronger the 'washing machine feeling' comes up. At 8 meters depth, we dive in multiple schools of fish, which always results in a special feeling.

After our first dive, we take a break on the boat and enjoy some fresh fruit and biscuits. We soon see a few coral sea snakes, turtles and jumping mobulas passing by, when suddenly a humpback whale and her little one pop up from the Pacific Ocean. They come up every 10 minutes for 3 breaths, which gives us the chance to admire them above water. We all get excited and the boat sails with them on a safe distance. The small humpback whale always follows its mother of which we've taken a great video.

Costa Rica duiken humpback whale bultrug walvis

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with humpback whales

In the meantime, the wind has increased a lot and sailing and diving are hampered. Therefore, the crew opted to let the second dive take place in the partly sheltered dive site; Argentina Point. During this trip, we did dive here before, but many other alternative arrangements are currently not available.

Because of the fierce waves, the preparation for the dive becomes a lot more difficult, but fortunately when diving fairly deep, we don't really notice the constantly changing weather conditions. Two beautiful Harlequin Shrimps literally dance a little dance for us. Large rays swim past and the moray eels are hunting in daylight this time. The many existing scorpion fish are due to their camouflage colours very difficult to spot, making the risk of accidentally touching them, very high and dangerous. A small purple spotted frog fish hides itself in a gap between two boulders, but because of insufficient lightning, taking photos is severely hampered. As well as the octopus hidden in the holes of the rock, is unfortunately not very visible. When we start the safety stairs at the end of the dive, we clearly feel the impact of the increased strength of the waves. Climbing back on board is therefore pretty hard. We decide that a third dive today won't be a smart move and slowly make our return to the harbour.

The temperature during these two dives at Turning Point and Argentina Point in the Pacific Ocean varies from 21 to 26°C. The visibility differs and is very unpredictable. At the first dive the sight is limited to 6 meters and 10 meters during the second dive.

Unfortunately, today was our last day of diving in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica duiken octopus

Pictures - Photos of diving in Costa Rica with Octopus

Saturday 22 March 2014:

Quepos near Manuel Antonio National Park

At 9.00am, our rental car gets dropped off at Coco Beach Hotel, by National Car. After all the paper work is done, we start our tour of almost 300km to a town called Quepos, near Manuel Antonio National Park.

The maximum speed on Costa Rican roads is only 80km per hour. Next to that you have to be aware and careful in the presence of even slower trucks. Because of this, we calculate at least five hours driving time.

Approximately halfway through our trip, we make a short pit stop in Caldera to strengthen the inner human and to stretch your legs. About 20km further, we park the car just before the bridge over the Tarcoles river, as here you're able to find a big amount of crocodiles, sunbathing on the sandy banks. From the bridge, we have an excellent view over a group of at least ten crocodiles, lingering in the bright sun. When someone from the local civilians throws some raw meat, they come up for a second, but except for that they aren't really inclined to move. Yet, it still is highly recommended to go here, as it's a very unique experience, to admire the animals in the wild from such a short distance.

Since the Ticos know that many tourists stop here to watch the crocodiles, there's plenty of commerce, a few stalls where you can get drinks, sweets, fruit, etc. We go for a fresh Coconut (2 US dollar) and homemade coconut cookies (4 US dollar). On the improvised car parks, there are also a few 'watchmen' who for a small fee (usually 500 à 1000 Colones), keep an eye on your car and luggage, when the tourists go for a photoshoot on the long bridge.

Costa Rica Krokodillen Tarcoles rivier

Pictures - Photos of crocodile in the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica

It's nearly dark when we arrive at Villa Mymosa, a domain with ten spacious studios, only 5km from Manuel Antonio National Park. After check-in we quickly throw our luggage in the room and drive back to the centre of Quepos, to find a tasty meal. It's a bit of a search, but in the end we find a Mexican restaurant, where we end the long day, with a delicious meal.

Sunday 23 March 2014:

Manuel Antonio National Park

We opt for an early breakfast at 7am, so we can visit Manuel Antonio National Park extra early. After a 10-min. drive, we are diverted to one of the many pay car parks (2000 Colones), where we immediately get the proposal to participate in a guided walk with nature guide. The price is quite high (20,000 Colones per person, including the entrance of 10 US dollars), but we decide to take the offer because, during previous hikes, we've experienced that guides can deliver a great value.

From the parking lot, it still is a good 10 minutes walk to the actual entrance of the park, which obviously comes with a great variety of dining options and souvenirs shops. We immediately spot a large Iguana. The starting shot for a rich animal exploration is fired!

The hiking trails in Manuel Antonio National Park are quite wide, flat and dotted with pebbles. Not too difficult, yet we're sweating like a pig, because the extreme humidity makes the 'mild' 33°C feel to be much hotter.

We've only just entered the nature park and are straight away welcomed by a group of playing howler monkeys, who cheerfully jump from branch to branch. A fun spectacle that many tourists know to appreciate. Then we also see a few smaller squirrel monkeys. The other animals that call Manuel Antonio their home, are a lot harder to find. This is where the guide comes in to show off his knowledge, with a telephoto lens he leads and shows us around. Thanks to his eagle eye, we see some sloths (both two-toed and three-toed), bats, coloured birds, frogs, lizards, a large grasshopper, etc.

After a couple of hours of hiking and animals watching under a bright sun, we arrive at the beautiful and wide beach of Manuel Antonio, where many tourists and Costa Ricans spend a day at sea. Right at the beach, there's a big family of white head capuchin monkeys, who willingly pose for the many photographers. A beautiful ending to this nature walk!

Costa Rica National Park Manuel Antonio

Pictures - Photos of the Nationalpark Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

On our way back to the hotel, we stop for a quick lunch in 'El Avion', an old war plane that is transformed into a charming restaurant. Splendid views of the coast and amazing food. What more do you need?

After we set off for a long hour's drive to the southern Ojochal, where we stay in the rustic Villas Gaia. Since we're still a little overheated of our walk of this morning, we instantly jump in the swimming pool, that also offers a magnificent view of the surrounding rainforest and the adjacent coastal line. A troupe of 'singing' crickets allows for appropriate background music.

Monday 24 March 2014:

Corcovado nature reserve

At 07.00am exactly, we get picked up at the hotel for our trip to the Corcovado nature reserve, worldwide known for its great biodiversity. We drive around three quarters of an hour along extensive palm plantations to the town of Sierpe on the Osa Peninsula. At 8.30am, we, and 12 other people from different nationalities, set foot on board of the speed boat for a journey of 1.5 hours.

After fifteen minutes of sailing on the Sierpe river, we make a first short stop to observe a group of spider monkeys on the banks. Then we sail towards the largest mangrove area of Central America. We go over to one of the narrower badges, to be able to admire the magnificent mangrove forest with its exuberant branched roots from a very close distance. A unique experience!

The last three quarters of the boat trip, we sail away from the coastline on the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, there is little wind and next to no waves. When we're approaching our final destination, we sail past idyllic bays, where you only can get by boat. Some amazing shots are taken here.

Costa Rica Corcovado mangrovebos

Pictures - Photos of the mangrove forests of the nature reserve Corcovado in Costa Rica

Around 10am. We arrive at the rangerpost of the Corcovado park and for the first time, need to take off our shoes because there is no jetty equipped and we need to step on board, from the water. A quick toilet break and then it's time to start our two-hour long nature walk.

The first part of the trip, goes along a sandy and pebbly beach, where we have the loveliest views over the ocean and some beautiful rock formations. Our guide, however is a fast hiker and in no time, our shoes are full of sand and little stones. Very annoying, especially since there's only little time allowed to take photos. At the end of our walk on the beach we arrive at a piece of wet sand where we find thousands of hermit crabs, cheerfully pecking around. Great to observe this spectacle for a while.

After that, we continue our track via close landscaped paths in the dense forest, where we bump into a group of squirrel monkeys, which through their long and nimble tail smoothly jump from one to the other treetop. During the trip, except for the mini poisonous frog and some lizards, we get to see a surprisingly low number of animals and are a little disappointed. The guide doesn't put in any effort and really doesn't take time to look for more or locate certain animal sounds. The walk along the coastline and through the healed green forest though, is certainly worth it. Don't forget to bring enough water (because, again, we sweat like a pregnant nun) and appropriate hiking boots.

Costa Rica Corcovado strand

Pictures - Photos of the beach of the Corcovado nature reserve in Costa Rica

Around 12.30pm we get back to the ranger station, where we'll have a picnic. The other group enthusiastically tell us about the animals they've seen have, among even a real boa constrictor, which just strangled a nasua and took care over its dinner. Lucky bastards!

Since it takes the giant boa constrictor a while to eat the whole a nasua, the guide suggest our group to take us to the right place so we can see the snake eating its 'dessert'. We don't hesitate and pacey follow the guide to the soft sand beach to 'the place to be'. The sweat gushes of our forehead, but we go on! Finally, we reach the boa constrictor eating the last part of his delicious meal. We just see the feet and the tail of the nasuas disappearing in the throat of the boa. According to the guide, this is a small boa of 'only' two meters, but we're still seriously impressed, observing the animal from such a short distance.

On our way back, we come across more nasuas and two bright red aras, screaming loudly from the treetop.

Costa Rica Corcovado natuurreservaat

Pictures - Photos of the Corcovado nature reserve in Costa Rica

After a quick lunch at the station we go for a small walk of about half an hour to a waterfall, where we also have the opportunity to take a refreshing dip. In contrast to the flat route of the morning, this trip a matter of increasing and decreasing and therefore reasonably tiring. Except for a number of small lizards, we don't get to see any wild life.

Around 15.15pm we take off our shoes to return to the boat. Lucky as we are, some grey spotted dolphins decide to accompany and animate us for a while. Just before entering the pier, we see a brightly coloured Sierpe Toucan. Mission completed!

When we arrive in Villas Gaia we enjoy the refreshing shower to the fullest. What a feeling, to wash off all the sweat and sand of our tired bodies.

During dinner, we get to watch a large bright green esperanza cricket on a table and at the swimming pool there's a giant frog enjoying his nocturnal baby bath. What a nice end of this miraculous but also tiring day.

Tuesday 25 March 2014:

Drive back to San Jose

When after breakfast we walk along with the swimming pool, to enjoy the beautiful views for a last time, all of a sudden we hear rustling in the branches of the trees. They appear to be several capuchin monkeys, nipping across from one to the other tree. They are reasonably close and are easily visible. This results in numerous awesome pictures!

Our last day in Costa Rica we spend integral on the way back to San Jose, that's only a short 200km away. We drive along the coastal road to Dominical, where we take a country road inland and to the mountains. It is a nice, curvy trail with the exuberant green vegetation along the side. We continue to rise to the highest point of the Cerro de la Muerte (almost 3500 meters high). In the meantime, the air-conditioning in the vehicle has been off for a while, because the temperature at noon here, is only 15°C. What a difference with the 32°C that we had on the coast, this morning!

Then we make our way to the village of La Garita, where we spend our last night at Hotel Dos Palmas, a well-kept and cosy hotel with 11 rooms, run by a Dutch couple. We immediately notice the 'European touch' in the way they've paid attention to the interior and small details such as the presence of a soap dispenser and the toilet paper, that's much thicker than elsewhere in Costa Rica.

The trip confiscated a solid six hours, including a short stop for lunch. Timing, is all there's left to say here.

The answer to the question of where to eat in this area, Peter, our host and owner of Dos Palmas, recommends Arroz con Mango, an (of course) Dutch restaurant which is only a 10-minute drive away. We take his advice and enjoy our last night here, with a filet mignon and super sweet tasty desserts.

Wednesday 26 March 2014:

From Costa Rica to Brussels

As we're retrieved from the hotel at 4.45am, we need to get up in the middle of the night. Thankfully, the airport is located only a 15-minute drive from Dos Palmas.

We walk up to the desk and pay our departure fee (29 US dollar per person) and line up in the queu for the painfully slow check-in. Fortunately, after that, everything runs subsequently smooth and set off at 8pm. After a short five hours, we land on JFK Kennedy - New York.

In New York, we have a transfer time of five hours, which we try to kill with food, mooching and reading. With a delay of about 1 hour we take off at 21.00pm local time and land in Brussels, seven hours later. Our pre-ordered taxi awaits and drives us home straight away.

Thursday 27 March 2014:

Arrival in Antwerp - Deurne

Tired, but overexcited about this experience, we make our return on Thursday morning in Antwerp - Deurne, where we soon start to dream of our next trip!

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Useful information about Costa Rica

Medical information about Costa Rica


malaria mosquito

tiger mosquito

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Dutch doctor in Costa Rica:

Hyperbaric Chamber and emergency contacts in Costa Rica:

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Dive School Rocket Frog Divers in Costa Rica:

The climate in Costa Rica:

Climate Table of averages temperatures in Tamarindo, the far west coast of Costa Rica:

Westcoast of Costa Rica Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Okt Nov Dec
Min degrees Celcius 24 25 25 25 25 25 24 23 23 24 24 24
Max degrees Celcius 31 32 33 33 31 31 30 30 30 30 30 30
Average hours sun 7 7 7 7 7 7 6 6 6 6 6 7
Average days rain 8 4 5 7 18 21 22 23 21 22 16 14
Average rain in mm 6-30 0-5 6-30 31-60 101-200 101-200 +200 +200 +200 +200 101-200 31-60

The time difference in Costa Rica vs. Belgium:

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Dangerous animals in Costa Rica:

coral hose
bothriechis schlegelii


jumping pit viper

 Mexican cantil (moccasins)

South American Rattlesnake

horned viper

family pijlgifkikker phyllobates terribilis poison dart frog

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