Costa Rica… (Part 3)

WATERFALLS & NATIONAL PARKS

You’re back! Good… just in time!

We (my wife and I) wanted to take a drive and get lost somewhere. Kinda, sorta… Vanessa’s dad had told us of a place near a community of German ex-patriot artists (seemed very random to me, yet oddly specific) nestled off the Pacific side of the Pan-American Highway at the 80 km marker,  about one and a half  hours south of San José.  He told us we would find great trails through the rainforest, a river that flowed down to the Pacific Ocean near Manuel Antonio National Park, and several cataratas (waterfalls).

Road to Costa Rio de DotaRainforest 1Cataratas 1Rainforest 2

The place he was referring to is San Gerardo de Dota and the Savegre River.  It’s about a 15 minute drive down a long, steep winding mountain road from the Pan-American Highway (Route 2) to a small cluster of 3 or 4 places you can stay at, ranging from $93 – $179 per night.  We ended up at the Savegre Mountain Hotel.  We spent $108 and were very pleased with the decision we made.

HummingbirdsSucculentsEntrance to Costa Rio de DotaThis area is well-known for the 170 bird species that can be found here, including the incredibly beautiful Quetzal (an incredibly important figure is Mesoamerican myths and legends), and is frequented by bird-watchers.

Funky fungusRainforest 6Rainforest 7Rainforest 2In the morning, after a nice breakfast (included in the price), Vanessa and I left Devan with his abuelo (grandpa) and headed off for a nice long hike down the Savegre River, towards the cataratas we’d heard about.

Rainforest 3*V in the RFRio Savegre CataratasFor the most part, it was a fairly easy trail due to the safety features that had been installed in the appropriate locations, including a foot bridge across the river and a few place where stairs and/or handrails were necessary.  We saw so much incredibly beautiful flora and fauna, animal species and rock formations that it was hard to stay on the move.  We kept stopping to take more  and more pictures.

Salvagre Catarata 1Catarata SavagreRainforest 4Cataratas 3Finally, we arrived at the waterfall we’d been hearing get louder as we got closer.  I was amazed at first sight!  I know that it is a natural occurrence in the rock due to its formation and erosion processes, but I swear that it looks like there is a giant face that had been carved out of the side of the waterfall 2,000+ years ago!  Absolutely breathtaking! You can see it in the photos, here – but to be there in person is something completely indescribable!

There are plenty of other activities to engage in while staying in  San Gerardo de Dota, such as horseback riding and rafting, amongst others.  It is a beautiful place and I highly recommend it.

The Savegre River flows down the mountain and leads to Manuel Antonio National Park and the dumps into the Pacific Ocean.  Manuel Antonio is located about an hour drive south of Jacó via Highway 34, along the coast.

Manuel Antonio National Park is incredible on multiple levels!  Once there, opted to join a group of people who were led by a tour guide through the park along it’s groomed walking trails.  The difference in price for a guided tour versus going it alone was about $2-$3.  We were even able to take our son in his stroller, which by the way, is an awesomely heavy duty, all-terrain, super-comfortable BOB Revolution(We LOVE this stroller!).  An umbrella stroller might be able to make it…?  If you’re traveling with small kids, just be prepared to do some heavy lifting and prolonged carrying!  Fortunately, we didn’t have to!

MA 1MA 2MA 5MA 8

The tour guide brought with him a spotting scope, enabling us to view much of the wildlife that was a bit difficult to see due to distance (ie. high up in a tree or through the rainforest floor or understory) in detail and with great clarity.  We were even able to put our cameras up to the eyepiece to take pictures that made you feel as though you were right next to them.  In fact, several of the pictures that you see here, I had taken through the spotting scope.

MA 7MA 9MA 6The tour guide was full of wonderful information and very open to questions and discussions.  If not for the guide, we would not have seen even close to half of the wildlife that we did.  There is a wealth of flora and fauna, as well as the numerous species of wildlife,  throughout the rainforest layers (forest floor, understory, canopy and emergent) that will absolutely astound you!

MA 11MA 4On a trail that was extremely close to the beach, we encountered some deer.  Most of the group continued on, while we stopped and hunkered down to watch them go about their business.  To our amazement, shock and surprise, a doe (a deer – a female deer) approached me and my son Devan.  The doe got so close that Devan was able to reach out and pet her nose, a couple times, and she even licked his hand.  The guide had looked back to us and saw the entire event transpire.  He later told us that he had never seen anything like that happen before.  We were truly lucky and will never forget that magical moment!

MA 13MA 12Manuel Antonio National Park is definitely a must see in my book.  It is not the only national park where you can experience the rainforest, up close and personal, by yourself or with the aide of a tour guide, but it’s the one I can personally vouch for.  We loved it and I think you will too!  The Savegre River flows directly into the ocean at the very end of the guided tour, affording some magnificent views and opportunities to see a brackish water (a mix of salt and fresh water) mangrove ecosystem, first-hand.

Next up in this series on Costa Rica (and the last) are the volcanoes! There are seven to choose from, so there shouldn’t be a problem finding one near you, where ever you may be in the country, to explore and revel in!

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