Skip to main content

Costa Rica: day 1 - Adventure, Exploration and Relaxation

Deciding on Costa Rica...
My husband and I were in the Houston airport about to go back to New York and casually noticed a flight to Costa Rica. He said "how about Costa Rica?" - we had been discussing options for our pre-wedding honeymoon/post-graduation trip and hadn't yet decided on anything.

Costa Rica sounded exotic. Having spent the past almost-4 years in New York, something tropical and exotic sounded fantastic! We began looking at travel guides for Costa Rica, also Belize, some islands off Portugal which I had read about in a National Geographic Travel magazine, Bora Bora, and Malta.

Around that time, I had come across an article in a bride magazine about luxury ecolodges, and Lapa Rios (in Costa Rica) was one of the places featured. After visiting the spectacular Lapa Rios website, we were sold! Costa Rica it would be!

While Lapa Rios would be our 5 day splurge at the end, we had a total of 15 days to work with. We wanted to see the different regions of Costa Rica, so we decided - with the help of Costa Rica for Dummies 2nd ed. - on the following itinerary: area just outside San José (1 night at Vista del Valle), Arenal (1 night at Arenal Observatory Lodge), Monteverde (2 nights at El Sapo Dorado), Manuel Antonio (2 nights at Villas Nicolas), Tamarindo (2 nights at El Capitán Suizo), San José (1 night at Hotel Aranjuez), Osa Peninsula (4 nights at Lapa Rios), San José (1 night at Hotel Aranjuez). So we have a volcano in the Northern Zone, a cloud forest in the Northern Zone, a beach in the North Pacific, a beach in the Central Pacific Coast, a rain forest in the Southern Zone, and the Central Valley.

* * *

The flight was good. It's a 4.5 hour direct flight from Houston to San José's Juan Santamaría international airport. The landing was a little scary. Thought we'd run out of runway! We got our luggage, found our driver and off we went to our first hotel, Vista del Valle.

Vista del Valle is 20 minutes west of this airport. We decided on this place because - although we knew we'd be renting a car to go to our next destination, Arenal - we felt uneasy about driving there right after our flight. Also, the hotel offers transportation to the hotel from the airport for $20, which you can arrange in advance, and this just takes some of the first-day stress out of arriving in a new country. Anyway, I would highly recommend this, especially if this is your first visit or you will be trying to find the place in the dark.

* * *

We have arrived. On a journey of adventure, exploration and relaxation...

next post > day 1 - Vista del Valle


Popular posts from this blog

Chiropterophily: Bat Pollination

I see you! Geoffroy's tailless bat (Anoura Geoffroyi) - photo by Nathan Muchhala
Ever since coming across this word, I can't stop saying it: chiropterophily. Chiropterophily, or pollination of plants by bats, is very common in the tropics. Hundreds of tropical plant species are exclusively or at least partly pollinated by nectar-feeding bats.

Many tropical flowers are night-blooming, specializing in attracting bats. Bat-flowers are typically white, cream, or pale green in color, making them easier to see in the dark. They usually have a musky, fermented odor - like that of the bat - or sometimes a fruity odor. They have a large, sturdy, open shape with long, bushy anthers so that the bat's head and chest get coated in pollen when it visits. In return for the bat pollinating the flower, the flower provides the nectar that these high-energy flying mammals need.*

Tube-lipped nectar bat (Anoura fistulata) - photo by Nathan Muchhala
Nectivorous bats have both good eyesight and a kee…

Eyeshine in Nocturnal Animals

Peters' Epauletted Fruit Bat (Epomophorus crypturus), Kruger National Park - photo by Peet van Schalkwyk

Have you ever noticed how under certain lighting conditions some animal's eyes seem to glow? Animals that are nocturnal hunters - and a few of them that are not - have something called eyeshine. Eyeshine is the light that we see reflected back from the animal's tapetum lucidum (a membrane behind the animal's retina). Light enters the eye, passes through the retina, strikes the reflective membrane, and is reflected back through the eye toward the light source. This phenomenon makes the most of what little light there is at night for these nocturnal creatures.

a moth with pink eyeshine
Humans can display the red-eye effect in flash photography, but we do not have a tapetum lucidum, and thus, do not have eyeshine.

Eyeshine is best observed by wearing a head lamp or holding a flashlight at eye level against your temple because the light is reflected right back into your li…

Animal Pollination in the Tropics: Hummingbirds to Hawkmoths

Inside a tropical rainforest, there's not a lot of wind, apart from high up in the canopy, and plant species tend to be very rare and quite far away from each other. Therefore wind pollination is not an effective means of plant reproduction. The preferred method is animal pollination, and many fascinating processes have evolved both in the pollinizer (the plant) and pollinator (the animal).

It's a coevolutionary process - both plants and pollinators become specialized to attract each other. Tropical plants have evolved flowers that entice their preferred pollinator - be it hummingbird, insect, or bat - so that the pollinator will hopefully carry the plant's genes, via the pollen, to another plant of the same species. Sometimes it entices by rewards like nectar - making it a mutualistic relationship - sometimes by trickery,* but it will match its characteristics to the characteristics of a specific pollinator and discourage all other pollinators. At the same time, the pollin…