Postcards from Costa Rica – Part 1

Today’s post is 1360 words, 22 photos, a 6 1/2 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,


Between 2005 and 2011, we traveled to Costa Rica four times. Each of those trips were independent travel for us, no tours or all inclusive resorts. We rented small SUVs to drive around the country, stayed in lodging we found on-line or recommended by Lonely Planet, and ate at local restaurants. It all worked out. Ok, a few times we were lost in a maze of backroads or the hotel was iffy but some of those turned out to be some of our most memorable experiences.

For the next three weeks, I’ll share photos and stories from our trips to Costa Rica where the temps are always warm and so are the people. You’ll see scenery, villages, roads, mountains, people, and food. Just thinking about it makes me want to book a flight to San Jose for another adventure, maybe next year.

The Caribbean Side

Costa Rica is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. In our experience, they are two different worlds even though they are less than 200 miles apart. This week, I’ll focus on the Caribbean side where there are few tourists and the locals are laid back.

On our first trip to Costa Rica, we were visiting The Eldest who was on a seven-month volunteer gig and living with a host family. Her hosts lived in Siquirres, a town of over 30,000 residents most of whom worked in the many pineapple and banana plantations in the surrounding area. It’s about 60 miles east of San Jose, the capital, and 40 miles west of Limon, the largest city and port on the Caribbean.

We spent several days in Siquirres, getting to know The Eldest’s host family and taking a few day trips to the countryside to see the natural beauty that abounds in the area. Our lodging was at Chito’s, a hotel for workers built on the edge of a swamp. There were no windows just heavy screens to keep out the bugs. The roof was corrugated tin. Once during our stay, it rained hard all night, I mean really hard. The pounding of the rain on the roof keep us awake most of the night. I was sure our cabina would be floating down the river by morning. The second photo shows how high the water was the next day.

There was also a restaurant on site where we had a few filling home cooked meals.

This photo is of the street we drove to Chitos. Road separated by a plethora of potholes.

On our first evening in Siquirres, a Saturday, we went down to the town square where families congregate to enjoy the cool night air. Kids played games in the square, adults visited with family and friends, and enjoyed adult beverages. I wanted a beer so The Eldest directed me to Peter’s Bar across the street. She told me to say “Cerveza, por favor” (beer, please). What I didn’t count on was the bartender asking me, “What kind?” in Spanish. After a bit of back and forth, he pointed to the signs on the wall. Then I understood. I pointed to Imperial, the same brand as on Peter’s outdoor sign. My first lesson in Costa Rican culture and the Spanish language.

Across the plaza stood city hall. This photo and the one of Peter’s above were taken during the daylight hours.

During our stay in Siquirres, we took a day trip to the nearby mountains, specifically Volcan Turrialba. This still active volcano is located in east central Costa Rica near a town by the same name.

On our drive, we stopped in a mountain village for some snacks and a restroom break. While waiting for the women to return to the car, I shot some photos. I especially like these two of people waiting to catch the next bus. 

Soon the rain moved in and Volcan Turrialba was covered in clouds. After a delicious lunch at a roadside restaurant, we drove on a road that we thought would take us back towards Siquirres. But we soon figured out that we were lost. When I turned down this road, I stopped and surveyed the situation, I didn’t think our compact SUV would make it through the mud and ruts. This is where we turned around and asked for directions. Eventually, we got back on track and returned safely before dark.

We couldn’t see the volcano for the clouds and fog, but I could get an interesting photo of the trees along the road.

Another day, The Eldest’s host sister, took us to the horse farm of a family friend. The horses were trained to prance in parades and competitions. I was enamored by the barn especially with its reflection in the pond.

Nearby the horse farm was a herd of cattle accompanied by their friends, the cattle egrets. This common bird feeds on grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, moths, small snakes, lizards, and fish. Ranchers believe cattle egrets help control cattle parasites spread by flies. Whenever we saw a herd of cattle, we saw egrets nearby. Some perchrf on their animal themselves. 

Costa Rica is dotted with picturesque little villages such as shown in the photo below. About three-quarters of Costa Ricans identify as adherents to the Catholic religion. Even many of the small villages have a Catholic church.


After several days in Siquirres, we drove to Limon then turned south at the Caribbean coastline to the village of Cahuita (pronounce cow-ou-heta). Given the condition of the roads, travel time was about two hours. Cahuita is known for three things. First, the black sand beaches (Playa Negra), second as the entrance to Cahuita National Park with it’s white sand beach and coral reefs, and third, its authentic cultural feel. Even though 8200 people live in the greater Cahuita area, you’d never know it. The downtown is only three blocks long, the main street is wide and full of potholes, and there is a relaxed, carefree atmosphere that is easy to like.

We stayed at a nicely appointed bed and breakfast run by a woman of Japanese descent. Breakfasts were a treat with granola, local coffee, and piles of fresh fruit. The gardens were luxurious with places to sit and enjoy the flowers and many birds.

Cahuita has several locally run, quality restaurants with most of them on the main street. During our visit, there weren’t a lot of tourists and visitors so the restaurants weren’t very busy. One evening, we popped into a restaurant run by the fellow and his son in the second photo. He was happy to see us as we were the only customers. We ordered drinks, I had a beer and one of the ladies ordered a drink made with star fruit as pictured in the top photo. It took awhile for us to get our drinks. We think the proprietor sent his son next door to the grocery to buy the star fruit. A good example of just in time delivery! The drink was delicious and the food excellent.

We spent the better part of a day at the Cahuita National Park, exploring the beach, wading in the water, and checking out the wildlife.

We did have an encounter with the white-faced capuchin monkeys. We had to guard our snacks, drinks, and possessions at all times to prevent them from being carried off by the aggressive monkeys. In one incident as we were packing up the car to leave, several monkeys jumped on the car trying to get our food. Their actions gave us a fright until we realized, we could shoo them off by being aggressive towards them.

No more monkey business for this week! Join me next week for more photos and stories from Costa Rica. For more information on traveling to Costa Rica, check out these websites, Visit Costa Rica, Lonely Planet Costa Rica, and Go Visit Costa Rica.

Also check out my four-part series on my recent trip to North and South Dakota. Click here, here, here, or here.

Until then, happy travels!








2 thoughts on “Postcards from Costa Rica – Part 1

Comments are closed.