The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica offers the traveller the quintessinal tourist experience. We stayed at the Fiesta Resort, a huge resort which boasts acres and acres of swimming pools, live entertainment, a casino, a choice of deep sea fishing or cruises, and many tours of the area's parks and sights. The rooms in a newer section of the hotel are recommended over the older sections of the resort. The resort is located just south of Puntarenas, and offers a wide variety of sights to see on the Pacific Coast.
A very interesting hike took us to an iguana preserve run by a research foundation. It was extremely hot and humid, despite the area having experienced no rainfall for three months. We were taken on a two hour hike in the rain forest to see iguanas in their natural habitat. The first part of our hike was through a dry rainforest - mahogany trees, and dry bushes with little undergrowth was the norm in this area. The middle part of the hike was through a temperate rainforest, where huge trees towered hundreds of feet above us. The last part of our hike took us through a more traditional old growth rainforest. Iguanas were everywhere throughout the preserve - hanging out in the trees, scooting through the bushes as we passed on the trails - thousands and thousands of them. By the way, contrary to popular opinion, iguanas do not eat insects or other small animals - they are strict vegetarians.
Our guide through the iguana preserve was a cheerful young man who had both Costa Rican and United States citizenship. His love for the iguanas was obvious, and his knowledge of their habitat and behaviour was very comprehensive. We had some older people with us on the hike, and he was always checking on everyone, to make sure we were all comfortable. Frequent rest breaks were required, due to the heat.
Our guide explained that the foundation had released over 800,000 iguanas into the preserve over the term of the project. No wonder we saw so many iguanas in the bush! They have a barbed wire fence around the preserve to keep out the iguanas' natural predator - the coyote. They also have three rain forest platforms built up in the tops of the highest trees. They regularly take tourists up there, and then everyone pulls themselves between the platforms on ropes. Not for this tourist, thank you very much!
After the hike, lunch was served back at the main building. Iguana meat was offered (as well as the usual chicken and beef). Some of our small group took advantage of the opportunity to try the iguana. It is very mild tasting meat, and quite tender. The foundation which runs the preserve is encouraging Costa Rican farmers to raise iguanas instead of cattle and chickens. As it turns out, iguanas grow faster on less food than either chickens or cattle...and they are a much more environmentally friendly source of meat than the traditional alternatives.
Our next outing took us to Tortuga Island aboard a luxurious yacht. Our destination is a lovely tropical island in the gulf, and we were greeted with a nice sandy beach. Incredible as it may seem, the crew setup tables among the palms, and served us a four star lunch on white linen! If you get a chance to take this cruise, don't worry about the cost - it is well worth it. Just keep in mind, there are quite a few imitators - however there is only one catamaran, and there is only one yacht which actually lands right on the beach (instead of using a dinghy to get you ashore). Operated for 16 years by Calypso Tours Cost is $99 each including transportation from/to San Jose (if required).
We experienced some strong winds while at the Fiesta, and this brought sea birds close into shore to feed. I spotted both frigate birds riding the wind currents high up, and pelicans diving for their supper.
We enjoyed the surrounding sights, and experienced a glorious sunset over the pier.
Since we took this trip in January of 1995, some of the above information must be a bit dated. Nicole contacted us for some advice for a trip to Costa Rica they had arranged in January 2005, and I asked her to help update this page with their experiences when she returned. Here is her report:
I would recommend the Fiesta to budget concerned people as it is a nice place and has everything you would want. I would want to save a bit for my next trip down and see some of the other places though. As you know we did the Tortuga Island Yacht trip. We also did the Canopy Tour and the half day Jungle River Cruise.
The Canopy Tour was a really great fun introduction to Costa Rica. We did it on our second day. It was a 45 minutes drive up the mountain to a small hotel and ranch. Then it was another hour up on horse back. That was very fun and although some people were very inexperienced with the horses no one had any problems. At the end of the horse ride we got fitted with harness gear and helmets. We then proceeded to get hooked onto cables and "zipped" from tree to tree all the way back down. There were 27 zip lines and the either went through the ravine or over waterfalls. It was so much fun. On some of the zip lines you literally walked out over a waterfall and then zipped down to the next tree. It was very easy to do and you don't have to be overly strong to be able to do it. 1/3 of the way down we stopped for a little lunch and a swim in one of the water fall pools. There were 5 guides and they were all very happy and very clear on instructions. There was a little bit of waiting at some of the zip lines but for the most part it went fairly quickly. We were given a early dinner at the hotel at the end of the day. Bug spray was highly recommended but when we went it wasn't buggy at all. You don't see any nature as far as animals go but that's not the point of the tour. It was great fun and I think it was $90.00 for the full day and $55. for half. The half day didn't involve horses and only half the zip lines. Costa Rica Canopy Tour Adventure Travel at Mahogany Park
also did the half day Jungle River
Cruise. I enjoy birds but I wouldn't
say I am an avid bird watcher by any means. That did not matter as I was
completely captivated by the trip. I can't imagine the excitement a avid
bird watcher would have. You could seriously get whip
lash trying to look at all the birds. Our guide was
excellent and very passionate about what he was showing us.
I could never remember all the species of birds we saw but there were a
lot of them. We even saw a rare sighting of the
endangered scarlet macaws. I saw a giant gray heron
and thought I was seeing something very unique and special (which on the grand
scheme of things I was) but then I saw another one just a few
feet away and then another and another and another. The guide turned off
the boat motor for a few minutes and just let us
listen to the birds. It was by far the best tour we
did and probably the highlight of the trip. We didn't have much
to spend on tours unfortunately so we weren't able to do the full day for
this trip. I would highly recommend it though as the
others that went on to do it had a great time. The
second part of the trip was a hike in Carara National Park to
look at sloth's, monkeys and whatever else lives in the park. I would do
this jungle river cruise combo they offered as you get
both the Carara National Park tour and the jungle
river cruise tour all in one package rather than having to
pay for them separately.
Jungle River Cruises