Week 3- Beaches, Crocodiles and Coffee

This is a P.S. from last week.

Don and all our golf loving friends would never forgive me if I didn’t mention at least something about golfing in Costa Rica. Bottom line is, we haven’t seen many golf courses on the central pacific coast ( probably due to all the mountainous terrain) and what we’ve seen is very expensive! Here’s a photo of the golf course at Los Suenos Resort. Very lush and green but fees were $175 for AM and $125 in PM. Too hot for me to golf no matter when you play!

And here’s sign we had a great chuckle over that we saw posted in the restaurant we dined at for Valentines Day. Translation “Scenes of love making are prohibited within our facilities”. The waitress blushed when she explained it to us. I guess Costa Ricans can be very amorous in public! (having said that, it was the only place we saw this posted)

Now on to Week 3- Beaches, Crocodiles and Coffee

We continued to explore the Pacific coastal beaches with Cheryl and John travelling up to Puntarenas ( very rough looking port town) , visiting a playa just north of Caldera. While lovely, quiet & frequented by locals, the water seemed to have an undertow and there were no facilities or places to eat at the beach. We travelled a little south down the road to Caldera public beach and had a delicious lunch at Tabaros Caldera, overlooking the water. Next time we’d stop there as the water was beautiful & sand looked white but we couldn’t take any more sun that day!

The boat tour down the Tarcoles River to the mouth of the Pacific to see the crocodiles up close, as well as many different bird species, was well worth the $35pp investment. Our guide, Louis, was very knowledgeable and did well explaining everything despite his limited English. Don set him at ease from the beginning by asking his name and many questions. We noticed many bike and car tires along the river banks as well as plastic bags/ bottles in-bedded in the river mud. Louis explained shaking his head, that San Jose still dumps a lot of their garbage into the river and it makes its way down the river to the sea. So sad for a country that prides itself in being ecologically aware of the environment. I can’t remember the name of the company we travelled with but it was located just before the bridge at Tarcoles with all the crocodiles under it. But there are many others to chose from based out of Tarcoles. As we were the only 4 on the boat tour, we gave Louis a generous tip.

Trolley Ride to the river, view of river, A Jesus Christ Lizard ( apparently they can walk on water!) and Don enjoying the boat ride.
Huge 70 yr old, Small 1 yr old crocs and every size in between! I even touched the back of the big one-with the boat across the back of him!
Lots of birds- snowy egret, great blue heron, tiger herons, boat-billed heron, roseate spoonbill, diving frigatebirds, wood storks, and many others I can’t remember.
The best way to end a hot ride on the river!

Although we didn’t stop, we have been told you also see a lot of birds including the Scarlet Macaw at Carara National Park. Since we were heading to Manuel Antonio park later in the week, we didn’t pay the additional $10pp entrance fee.

We had several days this week relaxing by the pool in between our day trips. It’s hard to pass up a cool refreshing swim early in the morning, reading by the pool, enjoying the company of other guests and a cold cerveza or mohito at the end of the day. Although we make a lot of our meals, we’ve had a chance to share meals with Joe and Pat before they left for home in Florida ( and then onto Italy for 3 weeks!). In her special way, our host Hisano makes all her guests feel at home, especially when new guests, Neil and Diane, arrived. We were all treated to an authentic Japanese meal with her 95 year old mother who lives with her. Now THAT is going above and beyond in hospitality!

Don’s Big Breakfast with Hisano at Chez Connolly and Japamese Dinner at Chez Hisano

Another picturesque drive was through back roads north of Alajuela to show John and Cheryl the pretty town of Sarchi with its Ox Cart factory as well as Gracia, considered the cleanest town in CR. Perched on top of a mountainous region, it’s beautiful central park and historic church certainty lived up to this reputation!

Gracia, CR’s cleanestTown according to Foders Travel, church (it was full to capicity with parishioners standing outside all open doors) and Centro Parc
Beautiful red brick Gothic styled church and interior at Gracia. The metal was imported from Belgium in late 19th century to withstand earthquakes.

One of the highlights of our trip, (for those of us that drank coffee at least- sorry Don!) was the tour of a small family run organic coffee farm, El Toledo. Although there are many tours to chose from, we enjoyed the personal story and hearing their life philosophy around choosing organic farming using a bio- diversity approach to maximize their crop, minimize effect of pests/fungus, providing their own family ( and neighbours) with alternate food sources while being ecologically kind to their environment. There is so much to consider in farming coffee! We also learned about the differences in taste, caffeine, carcinogens, in light/medium/dark roast as well as brewing tips to maximize flavour in drip, french press or “sock” method of making a cup of coffee. Facts shared by our tour guide- Did you know ?

  • Coffee is exported to Germany to remove the caffeine ( they use it to make other caffeinated drinks like Red Bull) and then shipped back to CR to export around the world?
  • Coffee made from the higher grade bean is exported whereas local coffee is made with lower grade coffee bean, except at tourists outlets or gringo cafes. (that explains why my coffee purchased here wasn’t as good as I felt it should be!)
  • Dark roast coffee is lighter by weight, more bitter, lower caffeine, higher nicotine than lighter roast coffee? Altho expresso grind coffee has less caffeine/oz, because of brewing process they are absorbed more quickly into the blood stream, so you feel that “rush” effect.
  • For best coffee- measure 60 grams (by weight) of grounds/litre of water.
  • Only 1% of the 70,000 coffee growers in CR grow organically (down from 8% when first introduced, as farmers were losing money)?
  • The owners of El Toledo are working with local researchers to maximize coffee yield ecologically. They are experimenting with making wine from the coffee fruit (which looks like a cranberry) as well as making tea from the coffee bean husks. These by products are usually discarded!
Arriving at El Toledo Coffee farm. meeting, cafe &roasting house, view from farm over top of hill.
Our tour guide, Son of owner showing roasting beans, the change in color, size& amount of oils with longer darker roasting.
Fresh coffee fruit(whitish/red) and 2 beans inside it (small white)- one better quality than other. 60year old Coffee tree on right.
Beans drying in the sun (about a month), orchid (national flower of CR) and wild poinsettias.

For more information on coffee myths go HERE. My only regret is I forgot to buy some of their coffee to bring home! ( P.S. I did buy several bags our local Friday Farmers Market for a lot less than at the tourist stores.)

The 2 bags on the left purchased from El Toledo are 500 gm and only cost $10. Also, dark roast has different volume than light. The one on the right is 250gms and cost $16 in stores.

My blog usually covers a week Wed- Tues , but since we headed south to Manuel Antonio Park for two days on Tuesday to visit friends Marylou and Bob Leaman who are also there, I will leave that trip for next week. Suffice to say, it is an equally beautiful part of the Pacific coast with interesting wildlife ( saw my 1st sloth!), even warmer, greener water at the beaches and changing landscape. They gave us many tips for another trip to CR!

I end this post with a photo taken from John and Cheryl’s deck at Casa de Megumi, of a CR sunset. Until next week….

Ann and Don

“Living the Life” in Costa Rica

Pura Vida” (literally translated Pure Life)