Costa Rica

Our first port on the Pacific Coast was Puntarenas, Costa Rica.  We boarded our plush, Mercedes-Benz bus early in the morning and headed up into the mountains.  After a shopping stop (an unusual placement at the beginning of the day’s tour), we parked in the town of Palmares.  We walked around the town square, complete with a statue of the founding father and a brightly painted gazebo set in lush gardens.  We were far from alone here;  a quick scan of the trees above revealed a nest of brightly colored parrots and a couple of iguanas lazing about on the high branches.  After a tour of the stone church, built by the Conquistadors, we headed back across the mountain range to the Doka Estate coffee plantation.  We got a hands-on trip through the entire process of coffee production…a product near and dear to me.  For the first time in my life, I was able to see coffee beans on the actual bush!  We walked through the facility with our guide and ended up enjoying a delicious lunch in an open pavilion overlooking the fields.  We were served chicken and vegetables, black beans and rice, plantains cooked with butter and palm sugar, as well as coconut bars for dessert.  Of course, there was also all the coffee you could drink.

Our final stop of the day was a the Lankester Botanical Garden.   We arrived to the typical afternoon deluge, only to find we had forgotten our rain ponchos.  The rain eased after just a few minutes and we were able to join the tour.  The specialty here is orchids.  We saw literally hundreds of different types, with blooms ranging in size from the width of your thumbnail to that of your entire hand.  The scent was intoxicating.  One plant even had the aroma of chocolate!  This garden is also home to families of scarlet macaws and cockatoos.  They love the rain and made quite a racket during the storm.  We boarded the bus one final time and made the perilous journey back to the ship.  Many of the roads were really only one lane wide.  Sometimes cut from the sheer rock face of the mountainside, there were rarely guard rails or painted edge lines.  There were several moments when one side of our bus gave up a collective gasp as we rounded a particularly treacherous bend.