Nature, water and no cars

Tortuguero (Land of the Turtles) National Park is a remote nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. There are no roads here, access is by boat or plane only.

The airstrip is across the river from where DonQui is staying

DonQui arrives by plane, a small Cessna that lands on a jungle airstrip opposite the Tortuga Lodge and Gardens where he will be staying for a few days.

The verandah is a perfect place to relax

DonQui’s intention is to relax and enjoy the nature surrounding him. The verandah of his ‘cabin’ is the perfect place to do this. There is no glass on the windows — only mosquito netting. This way the sounds of the rainforest are always present.

DonQui enjoys he hammock

The hammock is a particularly good way to relax and to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the surrounding forest.

Water and rainforest are the heart of Tortuguero

The Tortuguero river flowing by the lodge invites further investigation.

Tortuguero Village

A short boat ride along the river brings DonQui to Tortuguero Village. Founded in the 1930s to mill the timber from the surrounding forest the village now makes its income from tourism. Back-packers, ecologists and adventures come here to experience the vast natural beauty of the region.

DonQui enjoyed a beer at this bar overlooking the river

The village has a Caribbean vibe as many of the modern inhabitants have come from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.

Sunrise over the Tortuguero river

The true beauty of the area can only be explored by boat. So it is that DonQui sets off at crack of dawn to experience the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

A boat trip into the rainforest

It is hard for DonQui to express in a few words the great beauty, rich vegetation and abundant wildlife he experienced in the couple of hours he spent exploring the area under the guidance of a highly knowledgeable local guide.

Into the rainforest

The vegetation alone was worth it but the sights and sounds of the birds, reptiles and animals made it even more special.

The birds are abundant and varied
A cayman pokes his eye above the water

DonQui sees a huge variety of wildlife including howler and spider monkeys, turtles, a three toed sloth, caymans, herons snd many other birds

One of the many intriguing waterways to explore

Water is the best way to explore but behind the Tortuga Lodge there are a number of trails that invite exploration.

A trail through the forest

A walk along the forest trail is muddy. There is a clue in the name of ‘rainforest’. It rains a lot and the ground is always soggy even after several days without rain. DonQui does not see as much wildlife on his walk as he does on his boat tour but the atmosphere is hard to beat. He can hear howler monkeys in the distance and sees a number of colourful frogs.

The trees are filled with birdlife

The grounds around the lodge are incredibly beautiful. Toucans, parrots and monkeys are often seen.

An Iguana sunning himself by the river.

The grounds are beutiful

The grounds of the Tortuga Lodge and Gardens

DonQui always feels that he is part of the forest even when he is enjoying the civilised surroundings of the Lodge.

The dining area

Meals are served on an atmospheric dining area overlooking the river. Menu choices are relatively limited as food has to be flown in.

Seafood rice

After a few days the simple menu begins to grow a bit thin but the seafood rice is DonQui’s favourite staple.

Tortuguero river

So is Tortuguero worth a visit?

Absolutely yes, according to DonQui.

If you like nature, enjoy tranquility then there are probably few places than can beat it. In late summer/early autumn one can also witness the turtle nesting which gives the place its name.

Flying around Costa Rica

tortuguero from air.jpg
Tortuguero National Park from the air

DonQui’s destination after San José is the nature reserve of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. There are no roads there. This leaves DonQui with two transportation choices: Four hours in a mini-bus followed by 1 ½ hours by boat; or a 20 minute flight from San José to an airstrip opposite the Tortuga Lodge where he will be staying.

sansa plane.jpg
Sansa is Costa Rica’s domestic airline

Unsurprisingly DonQui thinks the flying option will be the least uncomfortable so he books a flight with Sansa, Costa Rica’s domestic airline. He is very glad he did.

domestic t outside.jpg
The domestic terminal of San José airport

Sansa’s 12-seater Cessnas fly to most places of interest throughout Costa Rica from San José Airport’s spanking new domestic terminal. The domestic terminal is just a couple of hundred metres from the international terminal.

check in.jpg
Check-in is fast and efficient

Check in is fast and efficient with careful attention being paid to weight due to the small aircraft. Each passenger is limited to 30 lbs (13.6 kg) including hand baggage. DonQui likes to travel light so this is no problem for him. Those who like to take lots of things on their travels will need to use other forms of transportation.

terminal inside.jpg
Don’t check in too early as there is not much to do inside the terminal

The waiting area is comfortable but facilities are limited. DonQui checked in far to early and ended up sitting around for ages. One hour before take off is more than enough time to arrive at the terminal.

fly in.jpg
Descending towards Tortuguero airstrip

The flight itself was quite a bit of fun with the small plane flying low enough for DonQui to get a good view of the country.  After 20 minutes he is descending towards the jungle airstrip.

water taxi.jpg
The Tortuguero airport taxi

There a small boat is waiting to take him to his accommodation across the river.

t terminal.jpg
The Tortuguero terminal

The check-in facilities at Tortuguero airstrip for the return journey are slightly less luxurious than at San José.

beach.jpg
The beach right beside the Tortuguero airstrip

But the view is much better.

airstrip land.jpg
Tortuguero airstrip

And the flight just as much fun.

Overnight in San José, Costa Rica

On his way to Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast, DonQui Oaty decides to break his journey in the Costa Rican capital. It seems more restful after a long international flight to spend the night in San José before hopping on a domestic flight to the coast

san_jose_costa_rica1.jpg
San José is not the most attractive of cities

At first glance San José doesn’t seem to have much to offer. DonQui notes the urban sprawl, dusty streets and dull architecture. He is fairly certain that those that know the city will tell him that there is much to see and do. But it is a Sunday afternoon, not much is happening and the restful atmosphere of the low-rise Hotel Colonial invites DonQui to take a siesta rather than go out to explore Costa Rica’s capital.

hotel colonial.jpg
DonQui stays at the very pleasant Hotel Colonial

With its pleasant neo-colonial architecture, large spacious room and friendly staff, the Hotel Colonial is a great place to stay. It is right in the centre of town close to the Jade museum which would have been handy had DonQui decided to explore.

pool.jpg
The hotel courtyard

Instead, after his siesta, he has a coffee and plays a game of cards with Duchess in the pleasant courtyard by the small pool.

Esquina de Buenos Aires.jpg
Esquina de Buenos Aires Restaurant

The Esquina de Buenos Aires restaurant is right across the street from the Hotel Colonial. DonQui has learned that it has an excellent reputation and is hugely popular. He is, therefore, thankful he had the foresight to make a reservation as the place is hopping when he gets there for dinner and he would not have had a chance of a table without it.

IMG_4977 b&w.jpg
DonQui imagines he is in a classic black and white film

DonQui immediately sees why the restaurant is so popular. It oozes with atmosphere. The wood panelling, ceiling fans, posters from classic Argentinian films and old photos of Argentinian celebrities, make DonQui feel at though he has been transported into classic black and white film set in old Buenos Aires. All that is missing are two gentlemen in fedoras smoking cigars in a corner as they plan some dangerous adventure.

IMG_4974.JPG
The ‘mini’ striploin is plenty big enough

The food, drink and service are as good as the atmosphere. It being an Argentinian restaurant, beef steak is the thing to have. DonQui’s Bife de Chorizo (striploin) is superb and he is glad he ordered the ‘mini’ portion as at 250g of beef it is more than enough. The full portion is a whopping 400g!

flambeed banana pancakes.jpg
Banana crepes flambéed in rum

There is more than steak on the menu. Duchess’ sopa de zapallo y choclo (pumpkin and sweetcorn soup) is delicious as are the rum flambéed bannana crepes that DonQui has for desert. The house red wine, a Pequeña Vasija is excellent. Prices are a little on the steep side for Costa Rica but quite reasonable by European/North American standards. Reservations are essential.

rice and beans

Certainly, DonQui could have been more energetic to make more of his short overnight stay in San José. Nonetheless he thoroughly enjoys himself. He feels perfectly relaxed as he eats his breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans) with egg and sweet fried plantain the next morning. He is now ready for a proper adventure.