The final full day of our time in Costa Rica has come, but we are not looking at it that way…we are instead up and taking in everything the day will bring us. We go for a leisurely stroll on the beach after breakfast…the water is warm, and the waves really do call out to come and surf. We don’t have time today…we are booked on a full day excursion to see the site of Diamante…and oh what a great day it was.
As we climb into our shuttle van we are surprised to see Mariella there, the guide we have had on both of our previous adventures…read my blogs, and you can hear all about it. You see we had said our good byes yesterday after the estuary tour (see I told you to read my previous blogs) because she was booked to take a tour to Arenal Volcano today. What this beautiful soul did was switch with the tour guide we were supposed to have so she could come with Melanie and I and make sure we had an amazing day….bless her beautiful heart.
So we head out and make a stop to pick up another couple who are joining us for the day. They are late and we wait and wait. Eventually the husband comes out and says his wife will be right out…and we wait and wait. Thirty minutes later she arrives and hops in. I cannot believe that in any other country but Costa Rica would a tour wait that long for a late client, but we did, and away we went.
The couple were friendly and chatty so the conversation flowed on our drive. We headed toward Playa Matapalo and the Diamante Eco Adventure Park and Animal Sanctuary….yep…all of the bases are covered on this excursion. We are on their Discovery and Culture tour…it is not improperly named I will say. There are so many other types of excursions to take from ATVing, ziplining (a Superman zipline for the not faint of heart), horseback riding and so much more. Check out their website for all of the details...https://diamanteecoadventurepark.com.
Playa Matapalo is North of Tamarindo, and is a little before another popular tourist spot, Playa Coco. It is a breathtaking area and is remote enough that animal life is abundant. Turqoise waters and lush jungle…it is perfection. There are a few resorts here, the largest being the Riu Guanacaste and the adjoining, newer Riu Palace. Both are luxury resorts with plenty to offer their guests, but this is not the place to be if you want to head off resort and walk about town to bars, shops and restaurants…its jungle all around you. But you will find plenty of bars, restaurants and shops on the resorts to keep you busy. For a really great tour of the Riu, check out the YouTube video of TheDufresnes…a Canadian couple who moved to Costa Rica and put out some great videos of the sights, the how to’s and the reality of living in Samara, Costa Rica. They recently went to the Riu and shared a great video of their experience. There drone work is impressive nd they are pretty funny folks too. And as a note if you are going to Samara, Costa Rica, the Dufresnes own Sea Casa Vacation Rentals there…a beautiful spot to hang your beach towel and have a nice place to call home for your vacation…(no, I am not sponsered…but I will be visiting them when I go back to Costa Rica) seacasasamara.com.
We head to the top of this mountain on a very steep and narrow road…these drivers are amazing and fearless and there we park our van. We are now entering the Diamante Animal Sanctuary.
This sanctuary is the largest in Costa Rica and is home to all species of animals…all of whom are in need of care: some rescues from science labs, some from the wild and some brought to the sanctuary by Government agencies….all can never be rehabilitated enough to return to the wild. The habitat for each of the individual species is designed to firstly replicate their natural environments and secondly to allow visitors a chance to view the animals up close but in a very natural setting. It is something like I have never seen; massive, beautiful, natural, organized and somehow it seems free…even to the animals. I want to work here forever. Actually, our guide Mariella did work there and she has an amazing rapport with many of the animals…many come to her when they see her and the birds come over to talk to her. I told you…she is a beautiful soul.
One of the very first inhabitants we visit are the jaguars…they are about to come out of their inner den after a nap. Let me just say this…if you are walking in the jungle and a jaguar decides you are his prey…just give into it…you won’t win. This enclosure held two brothers who were found after their mother was found dead. They walked out and towards where I was standing…it is all glass, top to bottom all around the visitors area by the way…and one stopped and looked at me for just a moment…that is all I needed to feel the blood drain from my face. He was strong, muscular and had paws the size of a large round pizza pan. And the top of his head was as high as my chin…and I am a tall woman. Wow…what a magnificent animal. He and his brother played a little and then climbed on the trees in their enclosure…let me say…climbing a tree is not going to save you from one of these guys…they are agile and fast. On a good note…they are rarely seen in the wild, and do not usually make chase on humans, as long as we stop destroying their food sources.
We walk for a few hours through the sanctuary, through numerous enclosures of frogs, snakes and reptiles. I walked quickly through those. The bird areas are more interactive and in the Toucan enclosure you walk right amongst them…wonderful. There are even Toucans from the jungle perched on the exterior of the enclosure hanging out and likely looking for food…or maybe a mate. There is a crocodile enclosure as well and the crocodiles are huge and for those who feel brave enough…you can zipline right over their mud pond…I did not. The butterfly enclosure has you walking amongst thousands of the most vibrant colored butterflies you have ever seen and they land on you and go along for the walk.
We come to the sloth area and lucky for us, one of the moms is waking up, with her baby on her belly. They are just hanging upside down on the tree branch and slowly make there way over to a more comfortable part of the branch it seems, much to my delight. What an interesting creature they are…so comical, so peaceful and so slow paced…wait…that is how some would describe me…not!
After the animal tour is complete, we head up a small hill for the cultural portion of our adventure. We are about to step back in time and visit a traditional Costa Rican farmhouse or casita which is located in a beautiful Botanical garden. The casita replicates the true design, style and materials of a typical Tico farmers’ home for over 100 years.
We walk through the Botanical gardens on the way to the casita. The gardens are filled with medicinal plants, fruit trees and flowering plants. They are all clearly labelled and it makes for a really interesting walk through. A guide is on hand to share with you the history of how these plants were used and in many cases, still are to this day.
We head over to the casita and are greeted by our wonderful guide. Here he tells us how rural farmers produced coffee, chocolate and sugar, extracting them from the cacao tree, coffee plants and the sugar cane. Once we enter the casita we sit in comfy rocking chairs as our guide shows us the process of drying and grinding cacao seeds….yes we do get a sample….delicious and healthy.
He explains the process of harvesting and roasting coffee and also the process of pressing sugar cane into a liquid (Aqua Dulce) and also making it into sugar…white, golden and brown. We are rewarded with a deep and delicious cup of freshly made coffee. I don’t want to get up…it is very comfy here.
Next we hop into our van which takes us up a very steep hill to a restaurant…yes our lunch is included yet again…I could get used to this. The meal was a huge buffet with anything and everything you could want and delicious too. But that view…man oh man…we sat high above the Riu Guanacaste nestled in a valley below and looked out at the lush jungles and the sparkling waters of Play Matapalo….breathtaking. Needless to say, Melanie and I could have sat there for a while.
With lunch over it was time to load ourselves into the van and head back to Tamarindo. It is only about an hours ride so in no time we are back at the Diria. Time for a quick dip in the ocean…at one point I remember Melanie, who was out further than me, taking a wave and bobbing back up and she points to me that it is coming at me. I prepare and then…whack…a wall of water sent me back without any effort on its part. I surface, sputtering salty water, with only my pride bruised. Melanie said I disappeared completely behind the wall of wave. No wonder this is such a great spot to come surfing. We laugh about it….splash around some more, watch our final sunset and then head back to the room to change for the night.
I should mention here something about the addresses in Costa Rica…there are none…well, at least not like we might be used to. If you are coming to my house I give you a street name and number and you can easily locate me. Not so here. There are street names…usually…but no house numbers. Its like asking for the police station and being told “its across from the barber.” “Where is the barber?” you ask. “Across from the police station”. You get it. Everything is located by what it is beside, or across from and it can be confusing. I mention this because when we decided to head to the Tamarindo Thursday Night Market, and we asked for directions…well lets just say we did get there… out of shear luck.
The Thursday Night Market is for everyone. It is shopping, and eating and drinking and music and there are games for children and it is just a wonderful time for everybody. It is in the parking lot of a plaza and it has over 50 vendors selling their products and crafts. And the food….oh my…do not eat before you go…it runs from 6 pm to 9 pm so you have plenty of time for sunset and then eat your way through the goodies for sale here. We met so many incredible artists I can’t even mention them all. One that caught my attention was named Rooster and his paintings done in coffee and ink are outstanding…one is hanging on my wall. I won’t spoil the story for you, but when you go there, find his booth and ask him the meaning of his name. Its a great little story.
Remember I had told you in a previous blog about Sharkys’. the bar that set us up on the Antares ship to compensate for an event they had to cancel? (See you really need to read those past posts right?). Well I met the owner and he remembered who I was and said how awful he felt for changing our plans and hoped that we had a good time on the Antares. He also said to reach out to him whenever we came back and he would get us on a Sunday Funday event. A really nice guy to make sure that everything had went well for us.
My daughter had been talking at another booth. As I turned around from talking to Mr. Sharky, I heard her say “This is my Mom”. I love a good intro…don’t you? I looked up and see that she is speaking to the Monkey Coffee vendor. He very kindly explained his products to me and gave me a sample…I was sold .”Two bags please”, I say. I honestly have not such deeply flavored coffee as this and I cannot wait to return to purchase more…and to be honest, I am hopeful that this vendor is there…we had a few attraction sparks between us…well, enough that my daughter sure noticed…made me feel happy. Who knows…maybe he…is my Mr. Right…and if not…it is a fond memory.
Melanie and I drop our purchases in our room and head down the beach to El Be. It is dance party night there and we had so much fun. This place is now home to us and leaving is really difficult.
We head back to our room, at a decent hour, and decide we are hungry and want a snack for our room…its 9:55 pm. We head to our favorite convenience store…its closed. It seems nothing is open except…a Subway. We dash through the doors, barely noticing that the sign said they close at 10:00 pm. The staff were about ready to lock up…but in true Tico fashion, they smiled and made us our food and wished us a good evening. Bless their hearts.
We sit on our balcony having our sandwich and a beer and talk about the vacation that we have had and how we don’t really want to ever leave. Costa Rica does that to you.
Tomorrow we plan on a walk down the beach after breakfast and then we load onto our shuttle and head to the airport. Our flight leaves at 11:00 am.
Our journey in Costa Rica may be over…but the journey home has just begun…have you ever been on the wrong side of a security door in an airport with little time to get on your flight? Join me on my next blog to hear what kind of trouble Melanie and I can get into on a simple flight home.
Live Your Life….Jan