After a brief stay in the capital, San Jose, we headed into the countryside, stopping first at the La Paz Waterfalls and Gardens. Even now, in the dry season, Costa Rica boasts a large number of rivers, streams, and waterfalls.
There are over 1000 species of butterfly in Costa Rica.
Another colorful inhabitant.
And yet another.
The back of my hand makes a convenient salt lick.
One of the most spectacular butterflies, the Blue Morpho, over four inches from wingtip to wingtip.
An Owl butterfly, with its defensive false eye, snacks on a slice of banana.
An ox cart and its handler at La Paz.
We struggle along with only one species of hummingbird, the Ruby Throated. Costa Rica, by contrast, has 51 species. Here, a trio of Green-Crowned Brilliant hummingbirds refuels.
One of the largest of the Costa Rican hummingbirds, the Violet Sabrewing, is the size of a House Finch.
A White-nosed Coati, relative of the raccoon, foraging.
They grow their iguanas big, this one well over two feet long.
Our hotel for the night, on the flanks of the Arenal Volcano. The cloud- shrouded peak is less than five kilometers away, and is still very active.
Two of my traveling companions, Jimmy and Albert, from the Houston area, appear at ease as we prepare for a horseback ride through the countryside.
Jimmy's wife, Melba, is less sure of her trusty steed.
We hit the trail. Our small mares were all docile, unexcitable, and not inclined to gallop, or even trot, for that matter!
Our horseback destination, the La Fortuna Waterfall, and the refreshing swimming hole just a few meters further downstream.
Albert and guide Gerardo clambering up part of the lava flow from the 1992 eruption of Arenal. Here, we're no more than three kilometers from the peak, which constantly rumbles, cracks, and dumps boulders down its flanks. Nearby, hot springs provided a delightful spa afternoon to get rid of the remaining aches from the earlier horseback riding.
On the shores of Lake Arenal, an Anhinga prepares to take flight. A large diving bird, the Anhinga, when in the water, resembles a sea serpent.
A small boat took us across Lake Arenal, away from the volcano.
The country roads of Costa Rica are uniformly terrible. For the local farmers, a horse makes more sense than a car, when it comes to basic transportation.
The farmer's wife, headed for the market.
Our last glimpse of Arenal, as we pile into our van and head for our next stop.
Our driver, Marcos, tries to teach manners to a parakeet in a little cafe.
Our next stop was the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, whose trail network includes this long suspension bridge through part of the canopy.
Time for some adrenalin - zip lines through the forest. Steel cables run from tree to tree, and each guest is suspended in a harness, attached to a pulley on the cable.
A zip-liner is launched into the unknown. The trip is fast.
At one point, we each rappelled from the concluding platform of one zip line to the starting platform of the next cable.
One of the last zip lines was over 650 meters long (that's almost a half-mile, folks), and was at least 100 meters above the valley floor. Quite a rush!
Crocodiles in the Rio Tarcoles.
Must be lunchtime.
The Pacific Coast just north of Quepos.
Sunset on the beach at Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific.
A lone bather uses the last of the twlight to splash around in the warm waters.
A C-123 cargo plane, used to smuggle weapons to the contras, was abandoned at the San Jose Airport by the CIA after the Iran/Contra scandal broke. An enterprising restaurant owner bought it for $3000, disassembled it, shipped it to the coast, hauled it up the hill, put it all back together, and built his restaurant around it. My companions Albert, Lavonne, Jimmy, and Melba, pose for posterity.
After a harrowing ride up the valley of the Rio Savegre in a Unimog, we piled into rafts for a morning of running the whitewater.
Heading into the rapids.
Coming out of a chute.
Side-slipping, followed by frantic paddling.
A scary spider.
A scary snake. This one isn't venomous, but others are, so you watch your step!
The view from my cabin at La Cusinga lodge, on the Pacific coast south of Dominical, where we spent our last two days.
A grasshopper guarding the path to my cabin. This monster is a full six inches long.
A visitor to my cabin, a Great Curassow, the size of a turkey. These butterballs are capable of only short flights.
The Playa Arco at La Cusinga lodge. While this beach is technically part of the national park, the only easy access to it is through La Cusinga, which renders it a virtual private beach for the guests.
A howler monkey prowls the treetops in search of food. The howlers woke us before dawn every morning with their deafening bellowing.
The howler finds some tasty morsels.
To get away from the ants that protect the tree, the howler hangs by his tail while he picks the fruit from the branch he's bitten off.
A three-toed sloth, her baby clutching her abdomen, checks out the tourists.
Sunset over the Pacific, from the terrace of La Cusinga - "Pura Vida!"