Friday, October 31, 2008

View of Playa Grande & Cabo Velas from ATV tour

This is a one of the views from the ATV trip that we took up in the hills above Tamarindo. Playa Grande, the nesting site for endangered leatherback turtles is in the foreground. On the other side of Tamarindo Bay is Cabo Velas.
The beach and bay are part of Las Baulas National Marine Park, which consists of 379 hectacres on land, including the Tamarindo estuary, and 22,000 hectacres of the ocean. The Tamarindo estuary lies between Tamarindo and Playa Grande. It contains all six of the mangrove species native to Costa Rica's Pacific coast, 57 species of birds, monkeys, crocodiles, and other wildlife.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

ATV tour

Here is a photo of my wife on an ATV tour from the shop that I showed in yesterday's photo. We went on some of roads and trails in the hills of Tamarindo, which was fun and provided stunning views of the ocean. The sunset ATV tour is the most popular. I will post a photo tomorrow from one of the overlooks or vista points where we stopped to enjoy the view.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adventure rental shop

Tourists who rent one of our condos often ask about the activities in the area, especially for their teenagers. Here is a photo that shows one of the answers -- a store that rents ATVs and equipment and arranges many other outdoor activities, such as surfing, kayak tours, zip lines, horseback riding, wave runner/jet skis, scuba diving, snorkeling and other boat trips, and other activities.

The name of the shop is Hightide Adventure Tours. They are located between the two main intersections in town, and they have a website that gives further information. They also provide lessons.

For people who want an adrenaline rush during their vacation, the Tamarindo area of Costa Rica has plenty to offer. Teenage visitors (and others) will have plenty of stories and photos to share with their friends when they return home. In fact, in this Internet age, the teenagers will likely start sharing their photos with friends before they return home.

I previous posted photos of my wife enjoying the zip lines on August 18 and August 19. Tomorrow and the next day I will post photos from an ATV ride.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I have posted some photos of flowers recently, but thought we should not overlook a lower life form, mushrooms. This mushroom was peeking through the sunlit forest floor in Barra Honda National Park. I do not profess to know very much about mushrooms, other than I like them in salads and soups and I will leave it to others to know which types are edible and which ones are poisonous.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Turtle on log

This is a black river turtle, or tortuga negra del rio (scientific name rhinoclemmys funerea), sometimes also called a black wood turtle. They are native to the wetlands on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, and in fact I took this photo from a small boat in Totuguero National Park on the Caribbean in the northeast corner of Costa Rica.

These turtles are only about 32 cm. (12 in.) in length. They like to sun themselves during the day, often on logs as this turtle is doing. They forage on land at night for food.

Tropical turtles differ from their northern relatives in their breeding habits. Turtles who live in cold weather may have only one breeding cycle per year, leaving up to 100 small eggs in a single burrow. Freshwater tropical turtles in Costa Rica have adapted to the warm weather year round by breeding multiple times throughout the year and leaving only 3 or 4 larger eggs at a time.

The tropical breeding habits offer several advantages. If a predator discovers the nest, a tropical turtle will lose only a few offspring, whereas a northern turtle has placed all of its eggs in the same burrow and an entire year's reproductive cycle could be lost. Also, by laying a smaller number of larger eggs, the hatchling tropical turtles have a better chance of survival.

Costa Rica is best known for its sea turtles, not its freshwater turtles such as this one. The main nesting place for the endangered leatherback tutles is Playa Grande, which is right next to Tamarindo. We have a nice view of Playa Grande from our condo at the Diria Resort in Tamarindo, and night time turtle nesting observation visits are possible, with guides from the Las Baulas National Park. There are also olive ridley sea turtles who nest at Playa Langosta near our Langosta beach condo. I do not want to bother them by trying to photograph them at night and flashing lights in their eyes, as lights are detrimental to their nesting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Huge leaves

Here is another photo of vans waiting to take tourists to their activities. After snapping yesterday's photos, I noticed something that I initally overlooked, which is the size of the leaves on the plant next to the van. I decided to show another view today.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tourist vans

There are many tour operators who pick up visitors in vans to take them on wildlife boat excursions, hikes to volcanoes, zip lines, or any of the many other tourist activities. Here is a group of vans waiting for their guests across from the Barcelo Resort, which is one block down the beach from our Langosta beach condo.

Visitors who are coming to Langosta or Tamarindo to rent one of our condos will sometimes ask if they need a car. The answer is no, as tour operators will pick up tourists and provide door-to-door service for their tour activities, as shown in this photo.

Most everything for tourists in Tamarindo is in walking distance from well located condos and resorts, except the church and the Garden Plaza shopping center with the large supermarket. Having a car will make it easier to drive to the supermarket on the outskirts of town, although there are taxis, and the shopping center has a shuttle bus. Also, there are convenience food markets located in easy walking distance to most parts of town. There are several car rental agencies in Tamarindo, so it is possible to rent a car for only part of one's stay.

By the way, take a look at the size of the leaves to the left of the van in the photo above. I will show another photo tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Restaurant troubadours

Tamarindo has a pleasant tradition of troubadours who walk from restaurant to restaurant and sing songs. This practice finds its origin in the ranching tradition of the area, where some cowboys would sing after the end of the day. That explains the western, cowboy clothes and hats of the musicians.

The musicians walk from restaurant to restaurant and will sing at a table if the customers give them a head nod or indicate their receptivity to hearing a song. They will take requests. Of course, customers should give them a tip after indicating that they would like a song. If customers do not want to be obligated to tip them, then a simple quick shake of the head no will cause them to nod politely and move on to another table so find customers who would like to be serenaded. There is no obligation or pressure.

It doesn't matter what restaurant you are in. You will usually encounter the musicians once during our dinner in virtually every restaurant in town, as they make the rounds from place to place. It is not as common for them to play at lunch time. This photo was taken at lunch at the Nibbana Restaurant, which was the subject of my post yesterday. Our waiter took the photo, which is why the photo includes me along with my wife and two sons.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nibbana Restaurant

This is the Nibbana Restaurant, which is located on the beach in the center of Tamarindo. Beyond the covered portion of the restaurant shown here is an area of tables under palm trees, and the ocean is just beyond those tables. The entrance to the restaurant, visible from the main street of Tamarindo, is shown in the second photo.

The restaurant has a website that features its menu and many photos of its meals and drinks. The menu features seafood, pasta, and other dishes. Nibbana is one of the many fine restaurants in Tamarindo that we enjoy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Michael Landon's house

This triangular shaped house, visible from a distance in yesterday's photo, was owned by the late Michael Landon, according to the guide who accompanied us on a tour of the Central Valley. Michael Landon, of course, was the star of the Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven TV series.

Michael Landon died in 1991 at the age of 54 of pancreatic cancer. Despite that early passing, he was on U.S. network TV series for 28 years, which is an accomplishment few actors have achieved. He was also frequently the TV host for the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year's Day each year.

The fact that U.S. TV and movie stars have found retreats in Costa Rica speaks well of the country. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it recently became known that Mel Gibson has a house a little south of Tamarindo. The local papers in Costa Rica carried photos of Britney Spears on the beach with her family while they were vacationing using Mel Gibson's house.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Orosi Valley

This is a view of one of the valleys in the central part of Costa Rica, not far from the capital of San Jose. The central valleys are popular both for tourists and for retirees from the U.S., who are attracted to the ideal year-round weather, lower cost of living, and availability of health care and other services.

There is something special about this valley, however. Tomorrow I will feature a photo of the unusual, triangular-shaped house located in the lower center of this photo (which you can detect only if you click and enlarge the photo). For viewers of old TV series, I'll give you a bonanza of a hint of whose house it used to be: it is obviously not a little house on the prairie.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Costa Rica is home to many varieties of orchids. They can be seen in the wild, in planted gardens around hotels and condos, and in botanical gardens. I have a chart that shows different types of Costa Rican orchids, but this one is not on the chart, so I regret that I cannot comment on the type of orchid this is. I guess this shows that I can enjoy the diverse colors, shapes, structures and scents of flowers even if I am relatively ignorant about them.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


This is another heron, although I apologize that unlike yesterday's photo, I do not know what type of heron this is.

The heron family, which is called Ardeidae, consists of herons, egrets, and wading birds called bitterns. 15 of the 58 species in the heron family are found in Costa Rica.
The mythical phoenix bird, that dies, is burned and rises again from the ashes is regarded to be a heron. Egyptian hieroglyphics for the phoenix legend show what appears to be a heron or egret.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little blue heron

This is a little blue heron, locally called a garceta azul in Spanish. It reaches 66 cm. (26 in.) in height, with a wingspan of 1 meter (39 in.). They live in lowland aquatic regions along Costa Rica's Pacific and Caribbean coasts. This heron has found a nice perch above a river and is ready to move into position to stalk and strike at is prey

The juvenile little blue herons are white in color with a dark or greyish bill. The scientific name for the species is egretta caerulea. This is a relative of the
bare-throated tiger egret that I posted on July 16. Tomorrow I will post another egret for comparison.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dragonfly Bar and Grill

This is the entrance to the Dragonfly Bar and Grill. Like most restaurants in Tamarindo, it is open air, with a roof, but no walls on the front and both sides.

The second photo shows the interior. (Please excuse the blurriness, but I took the photo at night without a flash, as I did not want to bother the patrons or the waitress by flashing a photo in the middle of their meal.)

Dragonfly has a website that includes its menu and photos of its meals. Its entrees include creative meals such as Fiery Thai beef over glass noodles & herbs with chile-lime vinaigrette and chopped peanuts; Filet mignon over charred onion & roasted garlic mashed potatoes, french beans & stone ground mustard sauce; Chipotle & green onion glazed crispy chicken breast over sweet corn cake & fresh avocado, and Pan roasted Mahi-Mahi over sweet corn and orzo salad with a cilantro pesto.

As I have mentioned before, my wife is very serious about fine dining, and the presence of excellent restaurants in Tamarindo was crucial to our decision to buy a condo (actually, two condos) in town. We decided to buy condos right in town rather than at one of the destination resorts outside of town because we want to be able to walk to a variety of excellent restaurants.

Dragonfly is located just a short walk from the main intersection in Tamarindo. It is one of our favorite restaurants in town.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prayers for healing

People come to the spring alongside the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels to pray for healing of ailments and injuries. Many of them will leave behind a token or medallion, called a milagro, of the body part or organ that is injured or diseased. The church has displayed the milagros of body parts in glass cases in the basement of the church near the spring that I showed in yesterday's photo. This is a photo of one section of one of the cases.

The church displays manny of the milagros grouped together, so there might be an entire case of legs, or hearts, etc. I chose this photo because it displayed the greatest diversity of different types of organs or body parts. You will notice the milagros of those praying for help for their legs, feet, eyes, lungs, hands, spine, and more. (I apologize for the reflection in the glass covering the case, but it was unavoidable.)

I don't know about you, but this makes me wonder about the lives of each of the people who left these milagros. How are they and their families doing now?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is the shrine at the site of the spring next to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, which I have shown in my posts during the last several days. Visitors walk on the circular ramp shown in this photo. The spring itself feeds water to an area in the shadows of this photo. People will fill containers with the spring water to take home.
The waters of this spring are considered to have the power to cure diseases, injuries or disabilities. Tomorrow I will show what is left behind by people who come to the spring to seek healing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

La Negrita Statue in Basilica

My post the day before yesterday told the story of the peasant girl who found a small figure of a dark skinned Virgin Mary that twice mysteriously returned to the site of its discovery in 1635. The figure is preserved in a case that is high above the altar, surrounded by gold and jewels. The figure is visible in the center of this photo. I realize the quality of the image is not great, but I had to take this photo from a great distance using natural light, as the figure is very high above the altar.

This is the most important church and holy site in the Costa Rica. The church is named Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles, or Our Lady of the Angels. The statue is called La Negrita. On August 2 each year, the anniversary of the discovery of the statue in 1635, La Negrita is paraded though the streets of Cartago. Thousands walk the 24 km. (15 miles) from San Jose to Cartago, some carrying crosses or walking part of the way on their knees, which is another similarity to the Basilica for the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where people also make pilgrimages at times on their knees.

I don't know about you, but the impression that I receive is that the simplicity of the La Negrita statue is rather overshadowed by the ornateness of the gold and jewelry of the case in which La Negrita is displayed. The case does, however, certainly communicate that this is something important and cherished.

The gold rays that surround the area where La Negrita is encased are another parallel to the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, which has rays that surround a much larger image of the Virgin.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A dog-on-the-beach story

Here is a sequence of photos of a dog on the beach near our condo on Playa Langosta. I love the freedom and enthusiasm for the ocean shown by children and dogs. This dog stopped to dig furiously with a focused concentration.

Just as quickly as the dog started digging furiously, the dog was distracted by the arrival of BIG DOG, and the two romped off to play together with just as much enthusiasm as the dog had been digging.

The owners of both dogs were nearby, receiving the vicarious pleasure of sharing the enjoyment of their dogs for the beach and ocean.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Basilica facade

This is the front facade of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, near San Jose. I posted a photo of the angel on the top of the church the day before yesterday. The site on which this church was built is considered holy for two reasons, the first is the story I will tell below, and the second is a spring with waters that people consider to have the power to cure diseases.
In 1635, an indigenous peasant girl named Juana Pereira found a small dark skinned Virgin Mary on a rock. Twice the virgin was removed and twice it miraculously returned to the rock where it was found. A church was built built on the site of the rock in 1635. The virgin is preserved in a case above the altar, which I will show in my post on the day after tomorrow.
Does the above story sound familiar? Anyone who has been to Mexico City will find parallels to the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose image appeared to a peasant on a cloth in 1531 and is preserved in a basilica built at the spot of the revelation, which is now the second most visited Roman Catholic shrine in the world.
The church in the photo above was built in 1929, replacing an earlier church that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1926. The stone facade was built in a Byzantine style, with Moorish arches.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Purple flowers

This is another of the flowers at our condo building in Langosta. My book on Costa Rican plants tells me that this is a stachytarpheta jamaicensis, which is the most common of the two native species of stachytarphetas in Costa Rica. There are three non-native similar species also growing in the country.
This shrub is up to 1.5 meters (4 ft.) tall, which makes it well suited to grow as a colorful border around the sidewalk and parking area of our condo building (which is barely visible in the background of this photo.)

Friday, October 10, 2008


This is the angel on the top of the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, not far from San Jose. This is Costa Rica's most sacred site and most important church. There has been a church on this spot since 1635, although the current church was built in 1929 after the previous church was destroyed in an earthquake. I will show more photos of the church in the future.

I am showing the angel today as a theme to introduce three photos of the angel flute on some champagne glasses that I was asked to show by some readers of Monte Carlo Daily Photo, as the glasses were the subject of a story that I told in comments on that site yesterday. Here is a link to that site, where you can read the story in the comments to the October 9 post.

I have tried to show in the photos how the glasses capture light and how the head and wings of the angel seem to glow. When there is champagne in the glasses, the glow of the angels acquire a hue the color of the champagne.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Poor man's umbrella" leaf detail

Yesterday's photo of the lake in the crater of Irazu Volcano showed a poor man's umbrella plant in the foreground. Here is a close-up of one of the leaves. The leaves are large, often about 75 cm. (2 ft.) across. They are strong and could keep smaller plants or animals dry from the rain. I will show another photo of plants with huge leaves in a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Irazu volcano crater and lake

This is a closer view peering down into the lake inside one of the five craters of Irazu Volcano. The plant growing in the foreground is called a "poor man's umbrella," as its leaves are huge. In contrast to the lush vegetation in most of Costa Rica, only a few species of plants grow in the moonscape of the high volcanic craters.

There are many fumaroles in the national park, frequent emissions of clouds of steam, and frequent seismic activity at this active volcano.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Irazu volcano crater

This is a closer photo of the lake in the crater of Irazu volcano, which I showed yesterday. The lake is yellowish green in color because of the sulfuric content of the water.

The crater is 1,050 meters (3,444 ft.) in diameter and 300 meters (984 ft.) deep. That makes it the largest crater in Costa Rica. Bring a jacket if you plan to visit, as it is cool at the high elevation, otherwise you will be scurrying back to your car if it becomes windy.

The crater is a short walk from a parking area, so this is a convenient volcano to visit. There are hiking trails to the four other craters in the park.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Irazu volcano

This is a view of the one of the five craters in Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu (Irazu Volcano National Park), located in the central valley not far from the capital of San Jose. On clear days, it is possible to see across the entire country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the summit, with is 3,430 meters (11,260 ft.).

Irazu gets its name from an Indian word, irstaru which appropriately means "mountain of thunder." There is a legend that an Indian chief sacrificed his daughter to the volcano gods, then later prayed to the gods for assistance in battling a neighboring tribe. The volcano gods answered his prayer by erupting, raining fire on the other tribe, and causing a mud slide to wipe out their village.

The volcano is active, although its last famous eruption occurred when U.S. President John F. Kennedy was in Costa Rica for a meeting of the Organization of American States in March 1963. I will show some closer photos of the crater during the days ahead.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Butterfly on lantana flower

Costa Rica has 1,250 different species of butterflies. Here is a butterfly flapping its wings on a lantana flower. Butterflies usually rest with their wings closed, or at times pause with their wings all the way open. I selected this photo because it caught the wings in motion, showing the color on both sides and the body of the butterfly.
Lantana grow from the American Southwest through to Brazil, although they have also been introduced in south Asia, the Pacific islands and Africa.
Butterflies polinate lantana plants. Hummingbirds also visit lantana for nectar. Lantana bloom all year round. The bushes reach a mazimum of about 1 meter (3 ft.) in height, and are widely used to add color to the border of walkways and driveways. The lantana shrubs were I stopped to catch this photo of a butterfly was along the sidewalk in front of our Langosta beach condo.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pablo's garden

This is Pablo, the gardener at our condo on the beach in the Langosta section of Tamarindo. He takes pride in his work. I was taking some pictures of some of the butterflies and flowers at our building recently, and Pablo came up to show me and point out several of the flowers. When I asked to take his photo, he brushed back the leaves to make sure that a flower was visible in the photo as well.

This flower is a heliconia, which popular in Costa Rica. There are a variety of types of heliconia, some with flowers that grow upward, as this one does, and some with flowers that hang down.

The scientific name of this variety is heliconia latispathia, also called platanilla or wild plantain. It is the most common type of heliconia in Costa Rica. It reaches from 2 to 6 meters (6 to 19 ft.) in height. The plant grows like a banana plant. Its flowers bloom all year long. It produces a fleshy seed, which provides food for birds, during September through November.

Pablo is a wonderful gardener. He keeps the plants and flowers in lush conditions out front along the sidewalk, all around the parking area, and around the patio and pool area out back by the beach. He helps look after things at our 21-unit condo building, supplementing the security guards who are on duty 24/7.
Pablo speaks English well. When I told him that I do this daily photo website and planned to post his photo on the site, I asked him if he had a computer with Internet access. He answered, "Of course." I hope he enjoys his photo being posted on this website a fraction of the amount that we and the guests who rent our condo enjoy his flowers. I will show more photos of his flowers during the coming days and weeks.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gardens at the Diria Resort

This is a portion of the gardens and landscaping on the grounds of the Diria Resort, which is the largest resort in town. This area is next to the large swimming pool that I showed in an earlier post. One of our two condos that we own in Tamarindo overlooks these gardens and the pool, as well as the ocean.

Costa Rica's tropical climate and volcanic soil provide excellent growing conditions for lush vegetation. In the northwest Pacific coast region of Guanacaste, however, there is a dry season from November through April. Around the resorts, of course, the supplemental watering and gardeners keep the vegetation colorful and blooming all year round.

The clear sunny days of the dry season are geat for tourism. During the dry season the forests in the area turn brown, and many of the trees adapt to the dry season by dropping their leaves in order to conserve moisture. That makes it easier to spot wildlife that lives in the trees, particularly howler monkeys, sloths and birds.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tim's driftwood art

On Tuesday I posted a photo with the theme that art can be found in common objects. Here is another illustration. Our friends Tim and Rita stayed in our condo in Langosta. Tim is an architect and talented artist. He found a twig and piece of driftwood, and left it on our bookshelf, as is shown on the left. It fits in with the modern design of the condo quite nicely.

In Tim's neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona, one of his artistic expressions is to create metal art made from the bristles that fall off the street sweepers. In our house, we have a series of pen and ink drawings by Tim from our travels with Rita and Tim to places as diverse as the Amazon and Vienna. Tim also painted a scene of the ocean and balcony of our Langosta condo.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Monthly theme: "Lines" with howler monkeys

Today's Daily Photo Monthly Theme is "Lines." I am showing a telephone line with a distinctly Costa Rican touch -- a howler monkey with a baby on her back walking across the telephone line.

Howler monkeys can be seen, and much more commonly heard, in the trees in and around Tamarindo. The mother and baby above were part of a family group just a few miles outside of town. I stopped the car and my two sons and I watched their behavior for about 20 minutes.

The monkey family members took their turn walking the full length of a span between two telephone poles. They then climbed from the telephone line into a tree, ate and lounged around for a while, then moved from branch to branch to reach a tree on the other side of the road. After tiring of the tree on the other side of the road, they leaped through the air to another tree, then disappeared into the forest. My two sons were with me at the time, and my younger son, Stuart, took a video of the monkeys flying through the air.

When we walk along the beach from our condo in Playa Langosta, we often see and hear howler monkeys in the trees near the ocean. It is possible to walk for miles along an unspoiled beach, with more monkeys than people.

I previously showed a close-up photo of a howler monkey. You can see it by clicking here.
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