Saturday, July 18, 2009

Arenal and Monteverde, Costa Rica

After spending a much needed week at the beach it was time to head to the mountains/jungle and walk through the cloud forests. On the itinerary, Arenal and Monteverde before heading back to the good ole' USA. Instead of staying in Arenal we actually stayed in the town La Fortuna, which means the fortunate ones. As story has it when the Volcano erupted in 1991 this hill town was untouched so they renamed it, La Fortuna.
Erin and I in front of the Volcano

We decided to go against our guide book's recommendation and stayed at a hotel which was recommended by someone in Tamarindo, The Vagabondo. Once we arrived we were greeted by the owner who checked us in and showed us to our room. The room was brightly colored and very spacious. For $40 a night we each had a queen size bed, hot water, a typical Costa Rican breakfast (eggs with rice and black beans), AC, TV, Hammocks, and even a swimming pool. The atmosphere felt more like a B&B than a hotel. The next morning we even saw the owner cleaning the pool. The Vagabondo is highly recommended.
After settling into our room it was time to get moving and book some tours. We decided to go with Jacamar Tours, they seemed to have some of the best tours at reasonable prices. So we wondered into town grabed a bite to eat and planned out the following days.

Another shot of the Volcano from La Fortuna.

Through Jacamar we booked a night Volcano tour, river float and our Jeep-Boat-Jeep transfer to Monteverde. We lucked out on both tours. The guided Volcano tour was just Erin and I with one other person and the guide. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable. The float was a private tour, we lucked out again, no one else had booked this tour. (note: we were there during the rainy/slow season) Again our guide was extremely knowledgeable and we were able to see animals from monkeys to lizards that walk on water. The float was wrapped up with coffee, cake, plantains, and homemade cheese at a typical Costa Rican house.

On the guided float.

After our River float we explored the surrounding area of La Fortuna and worked up an appetite. We stopped in at the resturant (not a soda) down the road from our hotel for a bite to eat... see below

Dinner..Hmm... A typical Costa Rican Fish plate.

After a day and a half in La Fortuna it was time to head to Monteverde for zip lining and cloud forests. The Jeep-Boat-Jeep transfer only took at 3-3 1/2 hours, not bad however the roads aren't the greatest.

Again we opted not to stay in Monteverde, but in the town Santa Elena - which was about 3 blocks big. We also went off another personal recommendation and stayed at the El Sueno B&B. It wasn't as impressive as the Vagabondo, but it got the job done. For $30 a night we had hot water (once we figured out how to turn it on), breakfast, a TV in the common room, and plenty of blankets to keep us warm. Yes, we needed them it got cold at night.

Erin getting ready for zip lining.

We were able to book many of the tours through the hotel which was nice. The first night we went on a guided night walk. It was amazing running through the jungle seeing spiders, lingo's, raccoons, sloths, and birds. The second day we went zip lining and canopying high above the jungle. We were able to finish the 18 zip lines, tarzan swing, and 10 canopy bridges right before it started to rain and I mean down pour! Talk about perfect timing.
Over looking the jungle while crossing one of the 10 bridges.

The last day in Monteverde/Santa Elena we had nothing booked, so we decided to hike up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and do some hiking. We decided on two different loops that took a total of 3 hours. First we hiked from Santa Elena then hiked around the reserve. After hiking around and checking out the continental divide we headed back to town before heading out the the Don Juan coffee plantation. By the end of the day we had walked/hiked 17 miles.

On our 2 hour loop - Cool mushrooms

With the real "Don Juan"

After all that hiking we were hungry. We grabbed a couple of beers from the supermarketo and stumbled to the taco stand. It was probably one the best meals we had the entire trip.

Hmm... Tacos

Goodbye Costa Rica - Right before boarding the plane for the states.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

After crossing the boarder we headed straight to Tamarindo. We thought we would try another place in our Rough Guide Book, which only lasted one night. We moved to Hotel Tropicana the next morning. For $40 a night we had a huge swimming pool, breakfast and a hot shower not to mention the beach was right across the street.

This little guy was on the walkway up to our hotel room.

We spent 2 days and 3 nights in Tamarindo. The first day we spent the morning shopping and setting up adventures for the next few days. Later that afternoon we met up we Greg and went on a catamaran sunset/snorkeling cruise (Marlin Del Ray). The Marlin Del Ray tours include snorkeling, kayaking, diving, fishing or just plain relaxing with an open bar and ample snacks. We had a great time and met some fun east coasters who we ended up having dinner and partying with later that night. We also had the best coconut drinks on the cruise.

Captain Greg

Sunset while on the water.

Good people and good times.

The second day was just as fun as the first... we surfed. We rented our boards from Blue Trailz and couldn't have been more pleased. Tamarindo was the last beach destination for us and as it always has been it was tough to leave. I would come back in a minute to explore the beaches to the North and South.

Me posing on the beach in Tamarindo.

Friday, July 10, 2009

San Diego in a Nutshell

After returning from Central American I spent almost a month in San Diego. While I was home I surfed, went to tons of BBQ's, celebrated the 4th of July, played beach volleyball and saw tons of old friends and made some new ones too. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

4th of July

Jesse and I on 4th of July.

BBQing on 4th of July

Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday


Bonfire in the backyard

me and my little bro

Emily and I at Fiesta Del Sol - Day 1

Boarder Crossing

The boarder crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was an event all in it self, it deserved its own blog.

While Erin and I were in San Juan Del Sur we met a nice American, Greg, who had been living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica for the last 3 months and was on a mini vaca in Nicaragua. Since we were headed in the same direction as him we hitched a ride (not something most people would do). 

Here is how the story goes...

Greg picked us up at our hotel in his rental car about 3 pm on a Monday afternoon. It's only a 45 min to an hour drive to the boarder. All of a sudden traffic is at a dead stop down a two lane highway. All semi trucks. So what does Greg do he goes into the oncoming traffic lane like everyone else to pass the semi's who are all waiting to cross the boarder.  There were probably 150 to 200 trucks at a stand still. The best part about it was this:

Yes, that was the driver in a hammock under his truck waiting. He was not the only one doing it. Some trucks had multiple hammocks or two people in one hammock. We even saw a guy with a hot dog cart walking down the highway.

Once we reached the boarder gate we were waved in by a couple of Nicaraguans in street clothes.  They then walked us over to where all the tourist buses were (we drove the car)  and this is where we were to meet the car rental guy. Meanwhile we were asked to pay this random guy $10 each and hand over our passport, in return he would come back with it stamped. We trusted Greg so we paid the guy $10 and our passports came back stamped. Ok, one boarder down. Next we walked over to the Costa Rica side to pick up the new rental car and have our passport stamped once more.

Greg and Erin Walking to the Costa Rica boarder.

We waited for a  bit at the boarder for the new rental car, but it never came so Greg left us to fend for ourselves while he went to the actual rental agency down the road. After what seemed like forever Greg arrived  with the car. Again we paid some random dude $10  and gave him our passport to be stamped. All in all everything worked out. But the idea of giving someone $10  and your passport can be a bit nerve racking. Erin at one point though we were going to be sold into the sex trade. When all was said and done it took us 1 1/2 hours to cross from Nicaragua into Costa Rica.

Erin and I crossing the boarder from Nicaragua to Costa Rica.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nicaragua 2009

After being m.i.a for the last few months I'm back in Tahoe and ready to update everyone on my whereabouts. Well lets start from the beginning. My last day of work for 9 weeks started on May 8th. After a nine hour drive to San Diego I picked up Erin from the airport showed her around before heading to LA which is where our flight to Nicaragua was out of. We must have been drunk when we booked our tickets because our flight left at 2 am. We were delirious when we landed in Managua

First picture of us in Nicaragua. We're on the Chicken bus. 
This is also pre Erin getting her cell phone ripped out of her pocket. 
The hour bus ride to Granada only cost us $2.50 each and a cell phone. 
Welcome to Central America.

Once we arrived in Granada. We checked into the Bearded Monkey Hostel, dropped off our bags and explored the city. 

Above is an old church we saw along the way.

We spent the night lounging in hammocks at the Hostel planning out the next few days. With no hesitation we jumped on a shuttle the next morning and headed to the beach, San Juan Del Sur.

San Juan Del Sur was recommended to us by a friend and he did not steer us wrong. This quaint little beach town was just what we were looking for. Once we arrived we found a cute little hotel to stay at, Hotel Azul. For only $45 a night (breakfast included) we were able to stay just a block off the beach. It's paradise for any surfer and non-surfer.

The first day  we were there we decided to go on a fishing expedition. Erin was skunked and I caught a 6 inch catfish needless to say it was thrown back.

Above is the sunset from the open waters.

The second night in San Juan Del Sur was my 27th birthday so of course we had to go out and paint the town red. The hotel was having an "early" party (what we would call cocktail hour) with a DJ and 2 for 1 rum and cokes so naturally this is where we got the party started.

Erin and I in the beginning of the night.

After a few rum and cokes we hit up Henry's Iguana Bar, The Jungle Room, and a local dive bar before calling it a night. It even rained  that night. It was a birthday to remember.

Just one of the rounds of shots of tequila and beer!

After four days of enjoying the beaches of Nicaragua it was time to head to the boarder and see what Costa Rica had in Store for us.