After having luck and observing Arenal, we continued our way along the coast of lake Arenal. Somewhere around Nuevo Arenal we have stopped and picked up a local guy who was hitchhiking to get back to Liberia. Having a local with us, we could use some local road shortcuts which were unknown to both our GPS and our map:D
Already few kilometers before reaching Cañas, one can observe that you are entering a different climate zone. Even the animals in surrounding are completely different. That is what I loved the most about Costa Rica – such a diversity of microclimates, flora and fauna on such a small surface.
We wanted to make a stop in Cañas, since there is a Puma rescue center nearby. In Cañas itself we visited a small church that had beautifully decorated walls with mosaics. Additionally an interesting peculiarity for us coming from Austria was to see that the organ was donated from a guy from St Ulrich.
Puma rescue center has a big diversity of animals, including toucans, jaguars, ocelots and many other wild cat species. Most animals were saved from maltreatment by their private owners (many people catch various parrots and toucans and keep them as pets). They are doing an amazing job there by taking care of all the animals and spreading the message that wild animals should be kept wild and not taken home. On each cage there is a card on which the story of the animal inside is written (where the animal was found, in which condition and the reason they can not be put back into wild).
After a short coffee break in Cañas we continued our way to reach Playas del Coco, place in which we booked our accommodation for 2 nights – Hotel M&M Beach house. The hotel was situated directly on the beach which was its only advantage. Apart from that, rooms were very simple, humid, with some funky smell and not worth the price. But if you are with kids its location is indeed a great advantage. You exit your room and find yourself directly on the beach, which is equipped with showers. We loved the beach there, since at sunrise and sunset we were the only ones there. If you are looking for the place with live music where you enjoy a romantic dance during sunset you should pay a visit to the restaurant Claudio y Gloria. For Costa Rica standards, prices are high considering the portion size, but the food was excellent.
After our sunrise swim in ocean and a big breakfast we were ready for Rincon de la Vieja adventure. Before arriving on the site of national park itself, we were not sure which hiking route should we choose. Upon arrival, we found out that we can not climb the summit of vulcan, due to its high activity. That reduced our hiking options drastically. In the end we opted for Las Pailas hiking route. It is an easy hiking route around the base of vulcan. You pass through the jungle (time your hike to end in jungle during the heat hours), dry hills and geysers. We did not take a guide since this was not our first national park in Costa Rica and we were already experienced in spotting all the wildlife in jungle. Since we have not visited Yellowstone or any other similar place before, for us all this mud pools with volcanic activity were a big hit, especially for our kids.
In order to reach Rincon de la Vieja there are 2 ways. But for one of them you definitely need a 4X4 car, an excellent driver (thank you hubby:*) and a will for an adventure. So if you want an easy way to enter the national park, you ll have to pay 700 C per adult person for crossing over the private property (Hacienda Lodge Guachipelin). On the other hand, if you decide to go like us, the wild way, it will take you much longer. For most of the time you ll drive on no asphalt at all, and for some time on vulcan ash, but you will never forget it, and the views are magnificent!:D
Since the hike was much shorter than we expected (we did it in less than 2 hours) we decided to go for a lunch in Liberia, town with lots of charm. This time we opted for Argentinian restaurant Toro negro and had amazing lunch there. They even made some superdeliciosus potato meal for our kids who were not in a mood for steak:D We will definitely come there again on our next visit to Liberia. For our afternoon we decided to head to the beach Iguanita. It is a secluded beach, there is no shower or any facilities nearby, but that was exactly what we were looking for. You can not reach this beach if you do not have a 4X4 car. Exploring Costa Rica without a proper car is no fun at all:P We loved this beach and we stayed here till the sunset. Except from us, there were only parrots on the beach.
We went back to Playas del Coco to get a good night sleep and get ready for the next day to keep exploring southern regions of Guanacaste. 😀