As we enter our final week of house sitting in Puntarenas I thought it would be appropriate to mention some of the day trips we have found in the area. As I mentioned earlier most of our days are filled with pretty normal activities that you would be doing anywhere. However I would like to mention three of the day trips we have taken that helped us appreciate this immediate area and nearby attractions.
First off is the San Lucas Beach Club. During the time we were in Puntarenas it was only open Thursday to Sunday, and it was cheaper on the weekdays. This is a public pool/beach club where you can go to relax and unwind. They have nets for pool volleyball, but when we were there there were not enough people to make up one team. We had the place to ourselves for the most part until early afternoon when local families started showing up. But at it’s busiest there were only about 40 people there. We spent the day staying cool in the pool and reading under the umbrellas. As well they also serve beer there, which is not the be all end all, but when it is over 30C an ice cold beer sure is nice. Especially at 1000 colones each ($2US).
One of the nicest things about this day was getting there. We hopped on the local bus for 445 colones each ($1US) and took it right into town, then enjoyed a 2km walk up the beach front to the pool. Plenty of opportunities to stop for ice cream along the way if it is too hot.
For the next two outings we contacted the fine folks at Arenas Travel, http://www.arenastravelcr.com to arrange for transportation and bookings. For Tortuga Island they picked us up from where we were staying and dropped us off at the pier in Puntarenas where a power boat transported us across the water to Tortuga Island. The crossing was very nice and the water was quite calm. The only disturbing part was seeing the amount of debris and garbage floating in the bay. The trees and drift wood are fine, but the trash and slicks are disappointing to see.
The first activity as we arrived was snorkelling. They set us up with mask, snorkel and fins and in we went. There was a light current which was very manageable but the visibility was only about 5 metres (15ft) at best. Still, we got to see some colourful fish and a little eel thanks to Karen’s sharp eyes.
After the snorkelling you have about 3 – 4 hours to relax and enjoy the beach. It is a bit of a tourist trap in that there are several companies that use it for a beach destination and the operators certainly do nothing to encourage you going beyond the beach area. So you have quite a few people and a gift shop on this semi isolated stretch of beach. Having said that, the beach is gorgeous and the water wonderful to swim in. The lunch served by the operators was excellent. Daniel, our guide did a great job of sharing local history and his knowledge of nature.
After lunch a couple of the tour companies challenged each other to a short game of futbol on the beach. The skill level was very impressive to watch.
The last outing was a trip to Miravalles Volcano in the Guanacaste province. Unfortunately for us, just as we arrived after driving for a couple of hours, the rain started pouring down and the wind blasted over the sides of the volcano. Our guide, Geovanna and the staff at Las Hornillas, http://www.hornillas.com, did an excellent job of juggling activities so we were able to get as much done as was possible.
We spent the morning in the mud baths and hot pools. Albeit a little less enjoyable when you are shivering when trying to apply the mud, but still fun if you want it to be. We decided to pass on the 200 metre water slide in the cool rain and cold water. We are here to enjoy ourselves after all. The tour of the volcanic crater area was interesting with the boiling mud and venting gases. After that we enjoyed an excellent lunch prepared by the staff, then headed up for the walk through the forest. We passed on the horse ride up to the trail head, opting for the ride in the shuttle. In hindsight I would have done the horse ride. Touristy as hell but slow enough to enjoy the surroundings.
I found the walk through the forest fantastic. The different types of plants and trees are amazing. I could have spent a day in there with a camera and tripod trying to capture some of the beauty.
We were supposed to get a chance to jump into a waterfall, but because of the heavy rains in the morning that activity was deemed unsafe. When we got to the waterfall I was glad for their judgement.
There were couple of suspension bridges on the hike that provided spectacular views of the waterfalls and surrounding valley. We were fortunate enough to meet a very nice couple from Chicago on the Tortuga Island tour and we did this tour with them as well. It was impressive to watch the lady overcome her almost paralyzing fear of bridges and cross the longest one to see the waterfalls. It is always nice to see people deal with things that frighten them.