With the huge rains from tropical storm/ Hurricane Nate many of the areas of the Northern Pacific and Northern Caribbean side with particular emphasis in MonteVerde and the Guanacaste areas of Costa Rica, we think it is prudent to check with your rental car companies and or the properties that you intend to stay at to ensure that the roads that lead to their properties are passable and at what time of day is the best time to drive them. The road to Monteverde has been under construction with major improvements for more than four years, Nate has taken out big swaths of the work. Monteverde was actually cut off from the outside world for more than two weeks in October. The road has since opened.
Here is your guide to the roadwork and how it will affect your ability to get to MonteVerde. Safe travels and thank you for being a part of an eco-friendly World.
Why am I writing about tea and travel. Well, in a word, I enjoy both and when I travel I typically seek out the best teahouses, tea restaurants, and tea establishments in the cities and countries to which I travel. Although I am also a coffee drinker and a coffee connoisseur and certainly can speak to you where to find the best and more sustainable, attainable, incredibly grandly grown in Central and South America, this blog is about tea! I have no formal training other than seeking out experts on my own and asking for their tutelage.
Okay, all that being said here we go! I will tell you that probably much like your first kiss or your first love, my first and foremost favorite teahouse is Lovejoy’s in San Francisco on Church Street. Completely unpretentious and gives an American and I think other travellers the feel of what we hope to find in any British style tea house establishment. They use an eclectic group of cups and plates, and no two tables are constructed the same or decorated the same. It is what I would call Old World nostalgia chic. You feel completely comfortable going dressed casual or dressed up for a special occasion (birthday, baby showers, graduation ….) or just going in for something to eat and enjoy good of tea served British style.
The Tea at Lovejoy’s Tea Room: For the beginner and to and including the extremely fussy tea drinkers like my sister and myself, what you will find at Lovejoy’s Tea Room is a complete around-the-world understanding of tea and the best of each, and how they should be served and a tea for every palate. The staff is very knowledgeable about their teas. I have found and frankly overheard at other tables the staff gently direct you to the tea that is your best choice. One of the other things that they do is they do not present the tea with reheated water. Let me clarify this point for those who are not tea snobs like myself! It isn’t that they reheat the tea, but some tea establishments re-use or reheat the water over and over again when brewing new tea. To achieve the full body and flavor of tea, oxygenated water is required. Reheating robs the water of oxygen which in turn robs you of all the flavors that the tea can infuse into the water. At Lovejoy’s Tea Room this is never been my experience. And although I could not give an exact number of times that I’ve been to Lovejoy’s Tea Room, it has certainly been more than 40 and over the course of many years. I’ve never had a weak cup or over-watered cup of tea served to me at Lovejoy’s Tea Room. This might seem like a simple thing but some places simply put one bag of tea in an eight cup pot and think that they’re serving you a true cup of tea. That of course is not true and has never been my experience at Lovejoy’s Tea Room.
The Food at Lovejoy’s Tea Room: Let me just start by saying whether savory or sweet, Lovejoy’s has the absolute best British style food I’ve ever tasted, including my many trips to the UK. Frankly, when I travel there I am looking for what I get at Lovejoy’s Tea Room, and although there have been places that have come close, none – absolutely none – are as good. Everything I have ordered on their menu has been made beautifully and tasted amazing. And they have so many choices on their menu, truly everyone that goes can find more than one or two things that they should try or will want to come back and try.
In summary Lovejoy’s Tea Room is a must if you are a casual tea drinker or an aficionado. I have been telling even perfect strangers about Lovejoy’s Tea Room for more than 15 years. And I have been in search for their equal and have not found it in 15 years of looking.
Both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of Costa Rica boast some of the world’s best beaches. Some are national parks (such as Manuel Antonio and Cocos Island); some are reserves, but all are beautiful. Any beach-going vacation desires are satisfied with the variety of water activities on the Costa Rica beaches: surfing, snorkelling, scuba-diving, boating, enjoying a picnic with your family or just simply walking on the beach.
There are more than 112 volcanoes in Costa Rica. Arenal’s peak is the highest at 5,360 feet. Arenal and four others, Rincón de la Vieja, Irazu, Orosi and Poas, are currently active and another 62 volcanoes that are currently dormant could become active once again. Each volcano offers incredible views both from that vantage point and towards the volcano itself. That natural beauty alone makes volcanoes big draws for a visit to Costa Rica. In addition, each volcano includes distinct surprises. For example, Irazu has a crater lake with gorgeous clear turquoise water. It is simply breathtaking and worthy of being called a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Poas also has a crater – this a boiling acid lake – equally as breathtaking and beautiful in a completely different way. Finally, the volcanoes in Costa Rica make their own weather, explaining why this small country features 37 different climate zones. Each volcano makes for a unique and memorable experience.
Is biodiversity your thing? Then Costa Rica is your destination country! Costa Rica, though it is one of the smallest countries, is universally considered to be the most bio-diverse country on our beautiful planet. Costa Rica is only 0.03% of the land mass of our planet but biologists and botanists universally agree at least 6% of our planet’s diversity is found there. In Monteverde alone there are more than 100 orchid species, 52 hummingbird species (some endemic found nowhere else in the world), two kinds of sloths, five different species of primates, humpback whales, dolphins, and a coral reef that Jack Jacques considered to be the best.
4. Adventure and Fun
Zip lines, white water rafting, whale watching, hiking. How about bird watching, horseback riding, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, boating, sailing, kayaking, fishing? If you can add an “ing” to the end of a word and it is fun or exciting, it is available to you in Costa Rica.
5. ¡Pura Vida!
With every trip to Costa Rica, I am reminded that Ticos are by far the kindest and happiest people I have ever met in my travels around the world. This is probably one of the reasons why they live the longest as a group of people. To say they do not get all wound up about things that folks in other cultures do is an understatement. The Tico population is 98% literate and, from my experience, they are some of the most intelligent and intuitive people I’ve ever met. Most understand that their country is it jewel unlike any other. And they are happy to share with people who have an eco-friendly approach to travel. Pura Vida – the best way of life!
6. National Parks and Reserves
Costa Rica boasts 26 of these natural areas, which together account for more than 25% of the total landmass in Costa Rica. From the smallest, Manuel Antonio, to the largest, La Amistad, each is unique with its own biodiversity that requires it be set aside and not destroyed by developers. Most have camping and backpacking areas or trails; most also have support for such activities; only a few do not. All have birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants of every kind (many with healing properties), trees including the Guanacaste and Sura, many different types of mangrove forests, dry rainforests, wet rainforests, and cloud forests.
7. The Food!
Costa Rican or comida Tica is in a word better than you probably imagine and maybe one of the reasons why Costa Ricans have such long lifespans. Freshness is the main ingredient of all their food. A usual lunch or dinner consists of fruit, vegetables and either fish or chicken. Costa Rica is truly an international country and has been influenced by nearly every major culinary style including, as examples, French, Argentinian, Italian, Indian, German, and American. If I am traveling with Rolando and Sonia I always order what Rolando is having, and if it is just me I order the typical which is the house special and I never go wrong. Typical Costa Rican breakfast is scrambled eggs with a side of rice and beans called gallo pinto, and fresh hand-made (hecho a mano) tortillas or toast with home-made jam or jelly which is frequently seasonal. I’ve never had the same jam twice in all my travels! Normally a glass of fresh-squeezed juice, also seasonal, accompanies breakfast. All incredibly fresh and delicious! But for those not ready to take their taste buds on an adventure, most restaurants also include typical USA fare on their menus.
Today I want to share what I have learned. To multiply the great love that I have for nature and to be a beacon, a seed of intrigue for all others that share this beautiful addiction. At the very least, I would like to share what has been given to me, the reason why we have come to this world, so that we can all grow in the same love.
I was born in a simple country home. My parents are a couple of humble people, orphaned very early on. They had no other choice but to marry when they were still children because they had no one else but each other. They had many children, we all wore clothes that were handed down from sibling to sibling. We lived with dirt as our floor and on several nights, would go to bed without a meal. The few times that we could eat were due to the fact that we lived in a rural setting that allowed us to hunt and make a meal out of any animal that we could find. Even though we sought resort in this, my father always taught us: Never hurt any animal for sport or just to hurt it. This planet and world do not belong to men, God has provided all for the good of mankind, we are temporary and we are just its managers.
This part of my life has been a great lesson. It taught me to take care of the environment and to feel united with it. It taught me that nature does not need man to exist, on the contrary, it is us who need its ecosystem in order to survive. It is nature that is our only life source. It isn’t dollars and oil that put meals on our table, they never have. Without water, food, sunlight and oxygen, we are nothing. Human beings, created perfect in God’s image, think we are right about everything and that this world is our realm. In our effort to build the biggest cities and to progress in our technology, we have affected our world’s very survival. First-world countries feel pride in what they have come to achieve, in how they have set up their concrete jungles instead of the natural ones that existed there before. They have separated themselves so far from nature that any other species is a threat to our existence. Nature has become something that causes fear in citizens when it only hides beauty and marvels. When people travel to more remote places of the world they do so with fear because media and communications have spread that even the tiniest butterfly is our deadliest foe.
I am not against being prepared, but being prepared and being fearful are two different things. We must understand that every species is important; trees provide fruits, they are homes to other animals and provide oxygen for all species in the world to survive. Its flowers produce pollen that are transported by bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other animals that carry these seeds across the land. Amphibians and reptiles help us control plague. The circle of life is created perfect and its balance has been affected by us, to the point where we have accelerated global warming. With double standards we talk about recycling to numb the pain. Recycling is a business and it was created with two purposes: create more garbage while creating the sense that there is less garbage. The reality is that we should REDUCE, REUSE and only after these two are in place, recycle. Water bottles are the most common example, people would rather purchase 20 water bottles to use daily, than purchase once and reuse it every day.
I am from Costa Rica, a place gifted with multiple ecosystems in a very small landmass, a place exuberant in fauna, flora and water. A country affected by pollution as many, but with a unique feeling that we reflect on every day, that calls us to action with a beautiful landscape in our view that opens our eyes and makes us feel lucky to be surrounded and powered by the energy that only nature can provide.
In conclusion, we should not focus on how we must fix the world, but to truly understand that we are but a small part of this world; we are not the owners or masters but a part of the mountains, part of the forests, part of the water springs. We are one with nature, when we can embrace this, we will really protect what is invaluable to us. We will finally understand that protecting the world and all its properties, is protecting ourselves.
After a couple of months after being a part of the EcoCostaRicaTravel team, today and for a couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work directly at our Headquarters at Escondido, California.
I will start by saying that I met the team from a distance, joining the company from Colombia. They have always been 100% receptive to the feedback that I had for the different areas of improvement, and were very considerate of the things that entailed working from a different country. That being said, I had no idea that I would come to find a family in such a diverse team.
Escondido is gorgeous, like a dry mountain range that was swallowed by the pacific several million years ago. Full of wildlife, scenery that vary from small mining towns and livestock ranches, to the pacific coastline beaches, piers and multi million dollar homes.
The view from the office is unlike anywhere I’ve worked at. Coming from the city where my view is usually gray days and endless office buildings in Bogota.
The team is conformed of very dedicated people with a very unique and contagious passion for Ecology. They have a heightened awareness for the current state that our planet is in and how they can minimize their footprint on it. I am a toddler in this aspect but my eyes have been opened and I am absolutely eager to learn and apply this.
EcoCostaRicaTravel is about having this same conscience and understanding that it is not a limitation, but a way of life. It is understanding the world we live in and what we as humans can do to minimize the effect we drive. It is about knowing that this consciousness does not limit the traveling that we can do, nor the fun we can have. Moreover, knowing that luxury is not the inverse of Eco or Sustainable, but that it can go hand in hand. At the end of the day, I feel better about it. Are you ready to feel the same way?
For the team at EcoCostaRicaTravel, safety of our Eco Friendly travelers is the highest priority and we believe knowledge and awareness are the path to a wonderful and safe trip. If you are traveling to Costa Rica in hurricane season, both Pacific and Atlantic (Pacific hurricane season begins on May 15 and Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1), we have very good news for you. Unlike most destinations in this general area, Costa Rica is considered a Hurricane-Free Zone. In the last 100 years, only Hurricane Cesar and Hurricane Mitch (1996 and 1998) have traveled all the way across the Central American landmass.
Costa Rica almost always gets wonderful heavy rains from the hurricanes that form in the Atlantic and rarely on the Pacific side. However, as you can see from the NOAA maps, the storm itself does not hit Costa Rica.
We are sharing maps of hurricane paths of the past 100 years from NOAA and links for even more information Ready.gov
1. Cuando yo uso un transporte público autorizado, sé que el carro y conductor que me lleva cuenta con el respaldo de una compañía dueña del vehículo o de un carro que pertenece a un dueño autorizado por el gobierno por medio de la institución reguladora del servicio público.
Costa Rica is home to an estimated 25 species of whales and dolphins and is known for some of the best whale watching in the world. Each year, over a thousand or so humpback whales migrate from the California coast to the warmer waters of the Pacific Coast of Central America. It is believed that the reason they migrate to these warmer waters is to mate and wait for the birth of their calf. You’ll have a good chance of seeing Humpback whales all year round on either coast as a number of whales from the north Atlantic and St Lawrence Seaway take up residence in the Caribbean Sea as well. They are harder to spot however. Due to the awkward shape of the ocean floor, they’re rarely seen close the Costa Rican shore.
Humpback whales gather in pods by the dozen in calving areas off the coast of the Osa Peninsula and in the waters protected by the Marino Ballena National Park. There is also recent evidence to suggest that there may be breeding groups in the Golfo Dulce and Papagayo Bay.
At the same time the California humpback whales are escaping the North American winter, it’s cousin, the Antarctic whale is enjoying summer in the southern hemisphere. In June, when winter arrives in the south, Antarctic whales prepare for the longest migration in the animal kingdom and travel up north along the coasts of Chile and Ecuador to the warmer tropical waters in Central America, the same waters their cousins left just a few weeks prior. These whales travel an astonishing 3,000-5,000 miles EACH way, from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, making them one of the farthest migrating animals in the world.
There are several companies offering Whale Watching tours located all over both coasts of Costa Rica. Most tours depart out of Drake or Carate on the shores of the Osa Peninsula or along the beaches of Ballena Park near the town of Uvita, the “Whale Tale of Costa Rica.” The best times are going to be from December to April for the California Humpback and then again from July to about November for the Antarctic whale.
While the Humpback is going to be the star of the show because they spend so much time above the surface, make sure you keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready incase you spot a few of the other species that frequent these waters. Pseudo Orca’s, Sei, Beaked, Brydes, and Pilot Whales also swim in these warm waters. As migration continues, you’re also likely to see a few species of dolphins such as the Bottlenose, Spotted, Spinner, Common and Risso’s.
If you share a passion for marine wildlife, consider the CEIC-Whale and Dolphin project, located in the Golfo Dulce, where you will have the chance to work side by side with researchers. It’s excellent for volunteers who are looking for a hands on experience and a deeper look into conservation issues related to whales and dolphins.
Pura Vida! Come on, say it with me! Not only is it an expression of happiness, its a way of life! Meaning Pure Life, Pura Vida is the most commonly used phrase in Costa Rica and symbolizes the idea of enjoying life and being happy. The Urban Dictionary states its a synonym of the word “hakuna matata” (meaning no worries/no problems) and is a reflection of the laid back, easy lifestyle of the Costa Rican’s, some of the most wonderful people on earth! Costa Rica is considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world mainly because the people who are lucky enough to consider this home, don’t stress out about things like the rest of the world does. They have a very simple way of looking at life and don’t dwell on negativity.
If you’re visiting, you’re likely to hear it used as a “Hello” or a “Goodbye” by the locals. Also used as a way to express gratitude and satisfaction, it can refer to someone who is friendly and nice. Its an emotion. An attitude.
So how did this catchy phrase come about? Well, it dates back to 1956. A mexican film, called Pura Vida, directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares, made its way to Costa Rica. The films main character, played by Antonio Espino, who remains optimistic even though he is surrounded by unfortunate circumstances, used the phrase generously in situations where it wouldn’t normally be used. It caught on and has been used nationwide since 1970 and has even made its way into the Costa Rican Spanish dictionaries.
Since Pura Vida has become so popular in Costa Rica over the years, you’ll often see it used in business names, hotels, travel and real estate agencies. Along with businesses and advertisement, Pura Vida is a must have in souvenirs of all types. Areas outside of Costa Rica even make use of this idiopathic expression.
Happiness, well-being, and overall satisfaction is what Pura vida reflects; it identifies a Costa Rican wherever they may be. When you say, hear or see Pura vida, their facial expression changes and a smile comes across their face, an awesome reminder of how laid back and relaxed they are. It is a very meaningful word for the“ticos” (Costa Ricans) because it reminds them of their home and its beauty.
If you’ve never experienced such simple, laid back living, come to Costa Rica! Even visitors will soon understand the meaning of Pura Vida and why its such an amazing lifestyle.
One of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes, Poas Volcano, is also one of the most visited and most prominent. There have been 39 recorded eruptions since 1828. It is considered to be one of the most breathtaking sights in the whole country. Almost 9,000ft in elevation, Poas Volcano sits on top of over 14,000 acres of protected plant and wildlife which make up the Poas Volcano National Park, located just 1 1/2 hours from San Jose.
There are 2 crater lakes near the summit. The lake to the north, called Laguna Caliente (hot lagoon) is about a mile wide and about 1000ft deep. It is one of the worlds most acidic natural lakes and due to the constant rain and changes in volcanic activity, PH levels vary and often reach 0, which means the lake supports little to no aquatic life. But it sure is beautiful! This lake often changes colors, from emerald green to grey and you can even see bits of yellow (sulfur) floating around. Temperatures have been known to reach 94 degrees. And if the beauty of it alone isn’t enough, the extreme heat cause by the magma below turns the water and acid into steam, shooting into the air like a geyser.
Lake Botos, the lake to the south, takes up residence in an inactive crater. The last eruption was in 7,500 BC. It is surrounded by cloud forest inside of the Poas Volcano National Park. It stretches a little over 1,300ft in diameter and is cold and clear. It sort of gives off an eerie feeling, definitely well worth it to see.
Although wildlife at these elevations isn’t plentiful, there are a large number of bird species you’re likely to see once the mist and fog clear. Quetzals, sparrows, hummingbirds and black guans are a few you’re likely to spot. You also might have a chance, however, of spotting some small mammals like coyotes and rabbits. Poas Volcano is an excellent example of how acid rain affects vegetation. Acid gases create acid rain and fog, causing damage to its surrounding ecosystems. It is truly fascinating to see the remnants of those effects.
This is definitely a must see during your travels to Costa Rica. Stop by the visitors center to learn about the story behind this historical volcano.
I could literally go on and on listing fun little tidbits about how cool Costa Rica is. Below are a few fun facts I’ve discovered, but the best part about vacationing here is being able to discover things like this on your own!
Did you know that Costa Rica is home to more than 130 species of freshwater fish, 160 species of amphibians, 208 species of mammals, 220 species of reptiles, 850 species of birds, 1,000 species of butterflies, 1,200 varieties of orchids, 9,000 species of plants, and 750,000 species of insects? These amount to more than 5% of the worlds biodiversity and there are a great number of species only found here.
Costa Rica has the highest life expectancy in the world. People live an average of 77 years here! No wonder people love it! It is one of the happiest countries on Earth!
You might see Tico’s carrying around machetes! But have no fear, it’s a commonly used purpose tool amongst the locals.
If you’re listening to the radio early enough, you’ll hear the national anthem. At 7am every morning, all the Costa Rican radio stations will play it, and some even again in the evening.
What is commonly referred to nowadays as a speed bump, is called “son muertes.” The English translation for that? Dead People, yikes!
Costa Rica in English means “Rich Beach.” Dubbed this name because of the 800 miles of coastline it is home to.
Coffee and Banana’s are the countries 2 main agricultural exports.
About 25% of Costa Rica is protected by National Parks and Reserves.
You can find fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and even Einsteins Bagels. Some of them even deliver!
At precisely 2:00pm everyday, it rains. For at least 2 hours.
Since its constitutional abolishment in 1949, Costa Rica became one of the few countries in the world without an army.
Hydro Power is one of the most important natural resources in the country.
Rice and beans are incorporated into almost every meal you are served.
Costa Rican men refer to themselves as “Tico’s” and the women are called “Tica’s.” Foreign men and women are generally referred to as “Gringo” and “Gringa. “
There are more than 120 volcanic formations in Costa Rica. However, only 7 remain active at this time. Arenal is considered to be one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world.
Try to learn their language. They will greatly appreciate your efforts if you try and speak to them in Spanish. Many of them do speak Spanish.
Costa Rican’s love tourists and the questions they ask. Take interest in them and feel free to strike up a conversation! They are extremely friendly and laid back. They love to joke and have a great time.
The highest point in Costa Rica is Chirripo Mountain reaching a peak of 12,500 feet. It’s lowest point is 790 feet below sea level in the caves of the Barra Honda National Park.
Over 25% of Costa Rica’s landmass is protected by National Parks.
In Costa Rica not all roads are marked and not all locations have street addresses. There may not be street signs on intersections or numbers on houses. Costa Ricans (Ticos) will not necessarily be able to locate an exact destination on a map (or even tell you where you are). Directions may be given by referring to a number of meters north and a number of meters east of some “landmark” (churches, parks, schools, tall buildings; or basically anything that can be easily identified). The landmark may a be big tree even if that tree had been cut down ten years earlier. The locals may still use the location as the starting point for all directions in the area. A “mark” (address/sign, etc.) may be on the side of one of the buildings near the corner.