Star Date:  August 2012
Costa Rica


Hello Dear Family & Friends!



(Short for 'Buenas dias', good day or 'Buenas tardes', good afternoon-
Spanish for 'good')



"Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms."

(George Eliot (1819 - 1880) British novelist).


There's a frog in my suitcase!  Spotting a colorful little tree frog relaxing on my clothes the first night at Pacha Mamas we knew we were in the right place.  Pacha Mama means Mother Earth and this small guesthouse in the middle of a large forest reserve, stretching all the way to Panama, is teeming with the bounty that Mother Earth has to offer.  Awakened by howler monkeys doing what they do best, howling loudly, we embarked on 2 weeks of living with our wild rainforest neighbors.  Each day offered an up close look at monkeys, cheeky toucans or parrots far up in the canopy above, brightly painted frogs, colorful butterflies, slow moving sloths, large forest rats, 'agoutis', raccoons or 'coatimundi'.  Thousands of frogs, crickets and fireflies danced every night.

Some animals announce their arrival loudly, such as the monkeys.  As curious about us as we are about them, these wild bands of monkeys would come down from the high canopy for a closer look when we would utter a strange sound or imitate their scratching or noises.  At other times we would stay completely still and quiet, scanning the jungle for what lurked within.  Patience paid off as a slight movement alerted us to a sloth or agoutis slowly moving about.  We miss so much as we rush by in our modern fast paced lives, thinking there is nothing to see.  Slow down, enjoy what is around you now!  

Talk about communing with Nature!  Bill the helpful and all round great owner had a funny story about when he moved into our bungalow.  One night while making dinner a sloth clumsily walked into the kitchen for a look.  Bill proceeded to evacuate the stinky guy to a nearby tree ( as he has over 20 times through the last 7 years); grabbing him behind the neck and above the butt making sure to avoid the sharp claws of the now un-amused party crasher.  He was heard to mutter, "I've been thrown out of better places"! 

Puerto Viejo, 5 hours by bus from San Jose, is a lively bedraggled little coastal town with pleasant restaurants, pretty beaches and activities for the throngs of partying backpackers that end up here.  Not wanting to be in the noise of it we chose to stay only 3.5 miles beyond at Punta Uva.  Bill's welcoming email drew us to Pacha Mamas with the added bonus of one of the most beautiful beaches on the coast only 200 meters away.  Punta Uva Beach is famous yet surprisingly deserted most of the time - except Sundays when the locals arrive in hoards.  Living in the thick of the jungle with animals, near a gorgeous beach, filtered water provided, with a fruit and veggie truck driving by daily we were in 'travel heaven'.  Hitching or walking to town got us the supplies we needed and provided a fun afternoon out.  We even visited the Saturday organic market twice to stock up.  We took a daily swim and walk in our beautiful surroundings.  One day we walked all the way (about 4 miles)  to the little surfing mecca of Manzanillo at the end of the road.  We saw endless wildlife as we quietly walked on the mostly deserted road, taking a 2 mile detour down a dirt road for even more animals.  Arriving on the quiet beach with the best break on this side of the coast, we drank a coconut under a palm tree, then went for a swim.  This is where the term 'Super - Tuanis' was coined by surfers.  When locals would ask the foreign surfers about the conditions of the waves they would say, "Super - Too Nice!"  And so our day was 'Super - Tuanis', another rough day in the jungle.

Costa Rica is famous for the biodiversity that makes it Central America's most sought after ecotourism destination.  It not only has coastal beaches and reefs, and tropical rainforests, but low lying jungles and mountainous cloud forests, with everything in-between.

Richness of the rain forests is immediately apparent with over 800 species of birds, thousands of orchids, an estimated 2500 plant species, 100 species of mammals (sloths, armadillos, porcupines, agoutis, white-tailed deer, monkeys ) and 500 species of butterflies.  Hats off to them for preserving their wild areas, even if it is profit from tourism driven.  So many areas of the world don't even see that benefit, as the wild areas of our world disappear.

Costa Rica also boasts a great variety of weather, from hot coastal beaches to steamy rainforests, to cool mountain cloud forests.  The forest touches your soul on a primordial level,  pleasing the senses and the soul.  Finding your space, away from the beaten tourist path, is worth the effort and necessary for a true experience with Nature here.  In this narrow country it is possible to swim on two coasts in the same day or watch the sunrise on the Caribbean and sunset over the Pacific coast.

Each eco region has highlights and after 2 weeks in the hot, dense jungle we decided to explore the cool cloud forests of Monteverde.  After 12 hours on two different buses we arrived in the cool lushness of Monteverde or Green Mountain.  We were refreshed by the drop of temperature and the lack of friendly mosquitoes.  Welcomed into the lively fold of Pension Santa Elena we quickly adapted to life in the mountains.  Good exercise, everything is either up or more up as we took our daily walk.  Here with Mariah & Kevin in 1999 my jaw dropped to see what the sleepy little town with one store, 4 pensions and a dirt road had mushroomed into since then.  Now on the backpacker circuit, it is full of zip lines, canopy walks, hikes and butterfly gardens.  The main draw is still the unique ecosystems of the cloud rain forests of Santa Elena and Monteverde Reserves.  Green luscious farmland is replaced with a mountain top of dense forest.  A highlight is to visit the copious flora and fauna of Children's Eternal Rainforest.  The largest private reserve in Costa Rica, it started with a gift of land then was expanded totally by the fund raising of children from 44 countries around the globe - including my children years ago.  They are now trying to raise funds to make a corridor down to the ocean for migrating birds.  With many species nearing extinction it is important for us, the stewards of the earth, to make a concerted effort to make projects such as this happen.   Once gone - it's gone forever. Education once again and getting the children involved in their future is the key.  Hopefully they will do a better job with the environment than their predecessors.

Raising my children as Quakers or Friends was a wise choice - for Peace and against War.  While on Vancouver Island we shared silent worship with many dear friends/Friends including Hubert and Mildred Mendenhall.  Having served in WWII in the medical corp they were instead jailed for not registering and refusing to go into yet another conflict with Korea.  While in jail 4 young men decided to leave the U.S. with its aggressive war machine and seek greener pastures.  They drove for 3 months from the U.S. through Central America into Costa Rica.  They spent 6 months looking for a good place to settle, liking the coast but knowing that malaria could make short work of their dreams.  The final 20 miles up to Monteverde took over a month with some days advancing only feet, not miles.  Determined, this hardy group with their families who had now joined them, pooled their money, purchased the top of the mountain and began settling.  Cleared trees became cabins and a school house and a dairy farm provided food and income.  Their cheese factory is successful to this day.  The school has expanded and Joseph was able to share some books with them.  Spending a welcome hour of silence with Monteverde Friends in their remote Meeting House warmed my heart.

A blurb in the Lonely Planet explains, "The Quakers (or more correctly, the Society of Friends) who settled in Monteverde played a direct role in preserving the cloud forest, and they remain extremely active in the local community, though they’re not recognizable by any traditional costume. Quakerism began as a breakaway movement from the Anglican Church in the 1650s, founded by young George Fox, who in his early 20s heard the voice of God while walking in the hills of England, and claimed that direct experience with God was possible without having to go through the sacraments or organized religion. Today, this belief is commonly described by Quakers as 'that of God in everyone,’ and the community continues to lead a peaceful lifestyle in the Monteverde area."

One afternoon we decided to hitch hike up to the mountain top settlement and were picked up by Marvin, the "Ninety in November" friend of our friend Hubert.  One of the four pioneers to make the grueling road trip in the early 50's, Marvin was still a dynamite full of wisdom and knowledge.  Spending 2 days with him and his wife Florie included sharing the Friend's settlement story with pictures, hiking in his own private forest, cooking his favorite Indian curry in their outdoor kitchen and visiting their small farm house in San Rafael where they had hot bread waiting cooked in the outdoor wood stove, fresh donuts, and refreshing juice.  When they couldn't find the filter for their homegrown coffee Florie jumped up, grabbed a clean sock and filtered the rich smelling brew 'a la sock'.  This was just an example of adapting to survive and remaining flexible in life.  When asked what the secret to happily reaching 90 years old was, in good health, still driving, still giving guided tours, still an active member of Friends Meeting, Marvin listed 3 things:
1. Don't worry
2. Trust in God
3. Do what you know is right.

Pretty well sums it up - and he should know; he walks his talk.  Simplicity, one of the tenets of Quakers, often sums things up best.

The following was written by Mary K. at Christmas time in 1966: "Compared with the U.S.A. the standards of living in Monteverde are in the poverty group; but there are different kinds of poverty and we are in the good kinds. We know that we have all of the possessions that we need. We had some education, some travel, some interesting jobs, associates spiritually intelligent - hence merciful. Accordingly we conclude that we are able to interpret and enjoy our home amidst mountains, forests and fields in terms of wonder and beauty; our associates and neighbors in terms of beauty of heart...

If those of too many possessions might realize the freedom and the opportunities for abundant living that the good kind of poverty holds they would dispose of the money and things which make for a drab worriment, in order to achieve and enjoy the relations with men and nature that are worthy.  One should give ones life to be and to know, rather then to possess."

When we couldn't find any other travelers that knew where Rio Celeste was we knew it was the place for us.  Way off the beaten track we caught an early bus down the mountain.  The scenery was spectacular with first dense forest teeming with birds, then clouds, then verdant pastures lining the small dirt road.  Summarily tossed out at the Trans American Highway, we caught a bus up to Canas.  From there it was small local buses and no tourists - a welcome relief from the summer crowd.  The bus drove right between the two expansive volcanoes in all their glory - worth the ride  for that alone.  Jumping ship on the other side of tiny Bijagwa we hitched down the 6 mile rugged dirt road to Cabinas Piuri.  We were picked up by a friendly young couple from San Jose who delivered us to the door in their truck, supplies and all. We didn't have long to wait to see the amazing milky turquoise waters of our quest, Rio Celeste.

The only cabins right on the river, Alexander and Sandra have created an artistic series of pools and waterfalls leading down to a swimming hole in the stunning turquoise river.  This is important because for some unknown reason hikers are no longer allowed to swim in the river in the park.  The rooms are clean, large and basic 'Tico' style and the hosts will help you with any and all requests.  Such genuine, dear folks.

A swim in the refreshing river daily reminded us to play more.   We would jump in, swim up the strong river (like being on an exercise machine), then dive into the swift current until at the last moment kicking off the rocky banks back into the quiet eddy, just before dropping over the small waterfalls.  Exciting, fun, refreshing.  We all need to play more!  Hiking every day, trekking in Tenorio Volcano National Park to the waterfalls, hot springs and to the source of the rivers merging that creates the vibrant mineral color, kept us busy.  But just sitting waiting for wildlife to come to you is the order of the day.  We weren't disappointed as three large toucans flew onto a close branch as I was doing Qi Gong one morning.  Later in the day a band of roving white faced monkeys stopped by to say hi for 15 minutes.  In this remote, largely unvisited area the animals and birds are still curious about you.

We hauled in food for 5 nights and when it was gone we sadly bid adieu to our new friends, Sandy and Alexander.  With such warmth, hard work and genuine manner, their new business is guaranteed to take off.  Break from the herd.  Experience Costa Rica at it's best.

And so it goes......................................... Next moving north in Central America, to remote Nicaragua.  Until then Keep Smiling and let's learn unconditional love from the animals around us.  These agreeable friends need our help in preserving the planet.  We are glad you stopped by.    Thanks for keeping in touch!  Take care!


Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph





Travel notes:

$1.00US = 500 colones

Punta Uva
(6 km south of P.V.)
Pacha Mama House and Bungalows, Owner Bill.  Why stay in a hotel and pay to go on a jungle tour for $40 when you can live right in the jungle?  Guaranteed to sight the coveted animals and birds of the area, yet 5 minutes from a gorgeous beach.  Friendly Bill is just frosting on the cake.  Email him for a deal on one of his 4 bungalows.  Regularly $50-60/night, off season rates or for longer than 3 nights allow for serious discounts - especially in low season.


At the end of the road this is a tiny village along the ocean where surfers hang out.  Punta Uva is a better place to stay.

Puerto Viejo:
Kayas Place:
Friendly, well run Kaya's Place is a good place to check out in Puerto Viejo.  Across the road from a beautiful beach this is a great place to meet other travelers.  Let Dawna or the front desk help get you settled in.  This is a backpacker hostel and gets busy at times - especially with groups.
Note: most places are across the road from the beach due to a 200m setback regulation.
$20-$100 for a dorm to a whole house for your group.
Phone # 2750-0690

Chimuri Beach Retreat:  Google this beautiful little place on the edge of town, away from the noise.
$35- up for private cabins

Also recommended:  Coconut Grove $30

Places to check out:
From Pacha Mamas 1 mile to Bonita Pita or something like that.  Lovely little restaurant with a full range of Middle Eastern food.

The Chocolateria - fresh hand made chocolate right off the farm.  Also fun tours to see how your favorite treat is made.

500 metres past is La Botanica Organica.  An excellent little restaurant full of organic items for sale and great tasty food.
Playa Chiquita
Phone # 2750 - 0696

The Chocolate Forest Experience:  Every Tues & Thurs ($26) for an in depth look at how chocolate is grown (cacoa) and produced plus an extensive tasting experience.  Leave with a smile on your chocolate stained lips!
Phone Jeanne or Pablo at 8836-8930

We were talking to Colline about their worthwhile project (ARA) to save the gorgeous large colorful macaws in Central America.  Email them to see how you can volunteer or help.
"The ARA Project is a Costa Rican licensed zoological park and non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the two native macaw species of Costa Rica: the endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). The ARA Project operates a breeding program and reintroduction projects, inluding the world's first-ever official release program with Great Green macaws." 

Colline W. Emmanuelle

Education & Community Outreach Manager

Hatched to Fly Free
The ARA Project
Costa Rica
(506) 8524-4675
Hatched to Fly Free on YouTube

The ARA Project on Facebook
Donate to The ARA Project with Paypal

A great organic farmers market on Sat mornings in PV.  A fun place to connect with like minded people and get tasty produce for your meals. 
Comida Organica Express:  Carlos and Milly will deliver organic produce to your door!
Phone # 8636-2182

Next to the bank is a big sign - Worm Clinic??  No idea what that's about.

Three highly recommended places to eat and relax in Puerto Viejo (all have free wifi):

The Zion Cafe:  down near the water this landmark has been recently renovated by a friendly Canadian couple who have fled south and added their own touches to make this an absolutely classy, tasty choice for mid priced dining.

Veronica's Place - upstairs across from the bank.  Relaxed friendly health food store feeling kind of cafe is open every day but Sat.  Great juices and lots of organic salads.  Their main vegetarian plates were not very big and a bit bland so I would stick to the salads and juices.  The owner and people working there are very welcoming.

Bread and Chocolate:  Homemade chocolate desserts with local chocolate.  Need I say more?? 

North of Puerto Viejo:
Cahuita:  fairly empty beaches are an invitation to just laze on the sand or go snorkeling in the reefs of the national park.

Tortuguero- 300 lb. leatherbacks, green or hawksbill sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in this humid, rainy but beautiful low lying costal area north of Limon.

La Fortuna:  Volcano Arenal
Recommended: Sleeping Indian Backpacker - quiet and convenient.
Take the scenic Jeep-Boat-Jeep up to Monteverde to avoid returning to San Jose

Santa Elena/Monteverde
Pension Santa Elena offers the best prices and help in the area.  30 ft. from the bus stop and next to the Banco Nacional they offer a friendly face and social areas for meeting backpackers from all over the world.  Well run by Shannon and the staff, clean place with communal kitchen and wi-fi.  Offering dorm rooms($9pp) to double rooms with private bath this is a great choice for a base to explore the mountains.  Room #10 is primo - ask for a discount for 4 nights or more.

Phone (506) 2645 5051 or 2645 5682 or online.  Call ahead - it books up quickly.

Get your bus ticket ahead up to Monteverde (and leaving).  Only 2 buses a day.  Once the seats are full they let 20 people stand for the 4 hour trip.  A tough trip.  We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of the 1:30 departure and got in line behind 4 people - only to get the last 2 seats on the rickety bus.  People buy 5-10 seats at a time for groups on weekends. Avoid weekend travel if you can to this popular destination.

El Atardecer:
When you are ready for a little more peace and quiet have a look at this new, quiet little hotel, about 300 m from the bus stop.  We happened on it while on a walk and were impressed.  Distant ocean views, lots of windows, spotless wooden walled bedrooms with bath $40 for double, discount for longer stays.
Phone:  (506) 645 5462 or 645 5685

Macrobiotico/massage.  Ana has a nice little health food store up the hill past the high school gym.  # 2645 5972.  They also have a table at the Sat morning farmers market in the gym 8-12.  Three tables of organic produce, direct from the farmers are waiting to purchase. 

Bosque Eterno de los Ninos - Children's Eternal Rainforest
Costa Rica'a largest private reserve protecting 55,600 acres.  Children and adults, mainly children from 44 countries, have contributed to purchasing this beautiful reserve since 1987.  It is key to the preservation of these endangered forests teeming with wildlife.  Now they need to
add a corridor for the migrating birds or many species will be lost  My kids, via the Quakers, contributed to this worthwhile project over 20 years ago.  Drop by their office to see how you can help or how groups or schools back home can save this valuable area.  Get the children involved in their future.  Hopefully they will do a better job with the environment that their predecessors.

They offer night hikes for $23 and you are able to visit the park again during the next day.  Great deal!
phone #  2645 5851

Check out:  www.

Reserva Santa Elena:
4 Buses daily out to the reserves. ($.60)
Reserve entrance $12.

In the village of Monteverde:
(40 minute walk up from Santa Elena):

Drop by the Friend's Meeting House

Dairy - cheese factory, La Lecheria using the same technique of the original Quakers.

Casem Coop - great selection of arts made by local artisans.  Have a tradiconal lunch at the attached Comida Tipica Restaurante then stop at the adjacent health food store for organic supplies.

Across the street at Stella's is a great place for a hot cup of tea and a piece of fresh baked pie - we had blackberry - yum.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Society of Friends, prayer meetings at the Friends Meeting House in Monteverde are held on Sunday at 10:30am and Wednesday at 9am. If you’re willing to give at least a six-week commitment, there are numerous volunteer opportunities available. For more information, contact the Monteverde Friends School.

Rio Celeste:
Getting to Rio Celeste from Monteverde:

Bus to Puntarenas from Monteverde - 6am
Get off  at the highway
Take any bus going north to Canas

Transfer to a bus going up to Upala.  Beautiful ride when you can see both volcanoes.  Get off just past Bijagwa.  Road on the right down a dirt road to Tenorio Volcano National Park.  We hitched.  Taxi is $20 - no bargaining.

One km past the ranger station is
Cabinas Piuri:
Wonderful place to chill out with nature, on one of the most beautiful rivers on earth. The only place to stay on the Rio Celeste, Alexander and Sandra have created an amazing, artistic series of pools and waterfalls leading down to a swimming hole in the stunning milky turquoise river.  The rooms are clean, large and basic tico style and the hosts will help you with any and all requests.  Such genuine dear folks. Check out their unique "egg" cabin - another work of art.  Only open 2 years it will be fun to see what additional artistic touches they blend into the beautiful natural surroundings!

Walk to Peace tree - 2km
Stop by at $200 a night classy Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel across the footbridge above the river

Heading to Nicaragua: Get yourself back out to the road - we hitch hiked thanks to kind drivers - and catch a bus to Upala (on the road by 9:15).  Must be up there by 11 am to get the midday bus to Los Chiles border crossing into Nicaragua.  Upala to Los Chiles about 2-3 hours - through Cano Negras Park, a low lying swampy area full of water birds.

The border closes at 5pm and you must visit immigration before taking the 1 hour boat up.  A boat amazingly is waiting for you at the dock.  Walk 4-5 blocks to 'immigracion', then down to the pier, (on your way pay 600c to municipality), where someone will put your name on the list for the 3:30 boat to Nicaragua.  Change money - grab some food or snacks as Nicaragua hasn't got much, enjoy the quiet pretty trip except for the noisy, haha monkeys and birds.  Immigration upon your arrival in San Carlos.  Pay $12 for 3 month visa.













Stunning Rio Celeste (Celestial River).


Caused by the blending of the volcanic minerals of 2 streams,
this river is breathtaking.


The vibrant orange heleconia on the bank
accent Nature's perfect color scheme.


Colorful toucans give away their position with their
loud parrot like squawking.


Curios howler monkeys came close for a look.


Fluorescent tree frogs sing loudly in the wet, lush foliage.


A small red visitor in our shower.


A little privacy please!


A hooded lizard stands his ground.


A diminutive praying mantis.  Hard to believe the females
eat the males after mating.


Survival and creation/reproduction are the main activities
in the jungle.


Leaf cutter ants work non stop, forming heavy ribbons of ants
across paths.

They arrive at their goal, an ever increasing ant hill decorated
in, let me guess, green leaves?

Pink ginger grows wild.


Torch ginger over 6 feet tall.


Lichen growing up the trunk of a large canopy tree.


Each tree plays host to climbing, swinging, clinging vines.


Lush foliage encroaches every road.  Like living
in a terrarium.


Walking a couple of miles down a side road we happened across this
family where the road ended.  Only monkeys and sloths after that.


A balloon brightens up the day for the whole family.  Grandma was
cooking over a wood fire, Mom was washing clothes in the stream,
and Dad took time from tending the horse to play balloon.  I
wonder how many visitors to Costa Rica play with locals rather
than just hanging with other backpackers or travelers?

Every shape and color of flower in the rainforest.


Bromeliads are natural mosquito breeding centers with
their perpetual little pools of rain water.


Delicate iris in the jungle.


Our lanai in the jungle at Pacha Mama (Mother Earth).  We had
visits from monkeys, sloths, agotis, toucans, frogs.
  Everyone stopped by!

A hungry kingfisher waiting for a 'snack' fish to swim by.


The other side of beautiful Punta Uva Beach.


Manzanilla - Costa Rica's surfers hangout.  'Tuanis'


Marvin and Florie sharing hot bread baked in a wood oven out back
 and fresh made donuts.


We hiked the trails of Marvin's acreage in Monteverde.


A tranquil stream ran through their property.  A great place for
a bit of Quaker silence in Nature.


Green pastures replace the once thick cloud forest. Thank God
that the forest reserves were set aside by concerned stewards
of our planet.


In 1951 a small group of Quakers left the US behind and drove down to
their new home in
Costa Rica. The final 20 miles up to Monteverde
took over a month with some days advancing only feet, not miles


One of the original homesteads in Monteverde.


We enjoyed swimming and playing in the refreshing, effervescent
waters of Rio Celeste (in front of our Cabina Piuri).


Pausing at the cataract before hiking back up the steep incline.  At
 least half a dozen bright blue butterflies played on the breeze.


How often do you see a hummingbird resting in the sunshine?


Volcano Tenorio played hide and seek with the clouds as we
watched from our porch.


Thick green jungle covers the side of the volcano.


Moss hangs heavy on the impenetrable foliage of the
wet rain forest.


Swinging bridges require good balance when hiking in the park.


Bright, sturdy heleconias.


New life.


Endless unique flowers.


A large blossom.


Sandra and Alexander of Cabinas Piuri.  Warm,
welcoming and helpful we hope you stop by
for a memorable visit along the Rio Celeste.


Did we mention it rains sometimes?


Horses and cowboys abound in northern Costa Rica


Life along the river - on the way to Nicaragua.




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