Our trip to Costa Rica was not only to celebrate my 40th birthday year, though it would be incredible if I had that type of mind control over my friends. The trip to Costa Rica was to celebrate the 40th birthday year of almost all 12 of us on the trip. In fact, one person turned 40 whilst in Costa Rica!
All 12 of us arrived in Costa Rica with slightly different agendas. Some wanted many excursions and sightseeing while others wanted to do as little as possible.
Peter and I fell in the latter group of being as lazy as humanly possible. I’d originally set out on this holiday with no intention of leaving the house, but then Peter said, “I feel like I should leave the house at least once,” and I felt guilty, so we decided to join my friends Jessi and Katie and their husbands, “The Erics,” on an all-day tour.
Much of that all-day tour was spent driving endlessly around the country. The highlights of the tour included:
- Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
- The tiny village of Filadelfia
- Miravalles Volcano
- Las Hornillas Volcano Hot Springs
The order in which our tour stops unfolded is a bit murky at this moment, but I know early on in the drive we stopped briefly on the side of the road to take photos of a group of native Mantled howler monkeys.
The howler monkey is the loudest animal on land but was ironically silent during our presence. Their calls, grunts, and roars can be heard up to 5 km / 3 mi away.
The monkeys reminded me of the baboons on safari in Kenya, so I was anticipating them getting territorial and wanting to throw poop at us but these monkeys were properly behaved and left us alone.
Next was a short stop to the tiny village of Filadelfia to catch a glimpse of massive iguanas baking in the sun.
One iguana slithered off the retaining wall and kissed Jessi’s foot whilst I ran away in the opposite direction. Much smaller creatures cause immense pain and I was not ready for another encounter with a “wild animal”.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall was our first major stop of the day, and it felt like we’d put in a full day’s work by the time we arrived at the parking lot.
The walk from the waterfall is about 20 minutes, and visitors start this journey by crawling through the massive metal gate between the parking lot and the dirt road that leads to the waterfall trailhead. The gate is a byproduct of a property ownership dispute, but don’t let the gate deter you if you visit on your own.
It’s highly advised to wear sneakers/trainers to walk to/from the waterfall for stability and comfort. The dirt road leads to a hiking trail in the forest, and from the trailhead, you’re just a short descent away from the waterfall.
Other bloggers have described the journey from the parking lot to the waterfall as being difficult. I disagree with this assessment. The dirt road is flat, and the trail through the forest is nothing more than ~100 stairs made of earth.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is not the most impressive waterfall I’ve seen (Iguazu Falls is hard to beat); however, this waterfall seems to exist in the middle of nowhere which is neat. One minute we were walking on a dirt road, and the next, we were standing in the waterfall’s freezing lagoon.
To the left of the waterfall is a secret lagoon. It’s a short walk to the secret lagoon, and at the lagoon, you can climb up to a rock ledge and then jump into the lagoon. Everyone except for me jumped off the rock ledge. I chose not to jump off the ledge because I am accident prone, only to find that an army of red ants had invaded my backpack while I was playing photog.
Our tour agenda stated that we would visit Miravalles Volcano and perhaps we were technically on Miravalles Volcano grounds, but I did not see the volcano, nor do I think any of my comrades spotted said volcano. My expectations for this stop of the tour were way off from reality.
We partook in a couple of activities at “Miravalles Volcano”. We walked across several suspension bridges, rode caballos, and went on a little loop-de-loop hike. I was absolutely starving at this point in our tour but carried on because I’m a warrior and felt like the water I had drunk out of a real coconut two hours prior should carry me through.
Peter and I had never walked across suspension bridges before, so the experience was equally exciting and terrifying. Below is a photo of Peter and on our first trek across the bridge.
Peter and I were both wearing red shirts, and we looked like a big red blob amongst the green treetops.
Being a suspension bridge, it swayed from side to side with every step taken. Was I skeptical of the condition of the bridge? Yes. I think we all were, but we all survived and lived to tell the tale.
From the other side of the bridge, we hiked down a short and steep trail to what was once a waterfall viewing platform. The platform collapsed during a recent hurricane, but our guide felt it was “safe” for us to hike down to the precarious ledge to look at the dangling platform. Everyone has their own definition of “safe” as I have now learned.
Our guide took a Brady Bunch photo of us on our return journey.
Following our suspension bridge hike, we hoisted ourselves atop horses and rode them for what felt like an eternity. This was my least favorite part of our tour. I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who ride horses.
The last time I was on an animal was about three years ago in Jordan when Peter and I rode camels in Wadi Rum.
Riding a camel was a terrifying experience and so was riding a horse. There are some differences between the two, with no clear winner of which is better.
- Camels are taller than horses and they have really knobby knees
- It’s easier to get on a camel because they start in a kneeling position on the ground, whereas you have to “climb” onto a horse
- Camels do a jarring and terrifying “one-two punch” to get to standing and kneeling positions, whereas horses begin and stay in the standing position
- Our camels did not have stir-ups, whereas our horses had them, which is a huge comfort bonus for the privates!
- Camels and horses can run really fast in the blink of an eye
- Camels and horses can be unpredictable even when “tamed”
- Camels and horses both poop whilst walking
- My camel was an asshole and kept biting Peter’s camel’s butt
- My horse did not like it when I tugged the reigns to get him to turn
After everyone had “boarded” their horse, someone asked how long the journey time was and my friend Katie said four miles. I had never hoped Katie was more wrong during our friendship than at that very moment.
I did some quick mathematics comparing the pace we were progressing at to my one-mile walking pace and realized that we were going to be on the horses for an hour or more and a large piece of me died at that moment.
Everyone except for me took to their horse immediately. Katie’s husband (and my friend), Eric, was kicking his horse and galloping all around like he was going to wrangle some cattle.
I was at the opposite end of the horse-riding spectrum and could be found waaaaaayyyyyy behind the group, and the only reason I was somewhat keeping up with the group was that the horse owner was kicking my horse to make it go faster. I think he thought I didn’t know he was kicking my horse but my horse suddenly taking off for short bursts was a tell-tale sign that someone other than me was controlling my horse.
As it turned out, we were only on the horses for about one mile or 20 very long minutes. During our horse break, we went on a short loop-de-loop hike which presented us with a few shorter suspension bridges, waterfalls, and native plants but no view of the volcano.
There were a lot of lush greens and my ravaging stomach to keep me company during our hike. I wondered if any of the plants were edible.
Eric took the group photo below on our way back to “base camp”. The empty horse is my horse. I opted for a ride back in the air-conditioned van.
Las Hornillas Volcano Hot Springs
Our tour’s final and most painful stop was the Las Hornillas Volcano Hot Springs. I was unsure what to expect with this visit except that we would be rubbing mud all over our bodies in the least-sexy way imaginable.
The photo below was taken after we applied volcanic mud to our bodies and before we set foot on the stone path to walk around the hot spring.
Our guide failed to inform us that the steam from the volcano heats the stones to unbelievably high temperatures. All 12 of our feet were burnt from the walk, and there were segments of the walk where the stones were so hot that the only reprieve was to climb onto the Fred Flintstone railing. Small and sharp rocks existed in segments where there was no flat stone.
The walk was unbelievably painful, more so than a scorpion sting. Do not attempt this walk without shoes.
This is the substance that heats the walkway to killer temperatures.
It took us a very long time to get around the small circular walkway due to all the foot breaks. Our guide laughed the whole time; I’m sure this was a funny scene from the comfort of his leather boots. We asked him if people normally walk without shoes, and he said, “All the time!”
There were many animals on the grounds, like peacocks, but none walked or stood on the walkway. That should have been a clue…
After our walk, we washed ourselves off with water spewed from huge naked statues.
Once clean, we took a dip in the volcanic heated hot tub.
If you aren’t creeped out by the naked statues, then the photo below should do the trick. That’s me front-and-center being creepy, and that’s my husband standing under the shooting spout of water like a young child.
Next: a review of our dope casa.