Tag Archives: Ostional

Day 5 – Luna Azul II

Thursday 23 February 2023 – We were awake quite early, which is a plus if you’re planning an early morning walk.  One thing that has surprised me here is that the dawn is not marked by a tumultuous clamour of wildlife greeting the coming day. I’d expected to be deafened by the calls of strange birds and the howls of, erm, howler monkeys. But it hasn’t thus far been like that.  One can just about hear the competing calls of howler monkey troupes – but it’s nearer to a penetrating growl or a gruff barking than a deafening shriek.  Apparently the noise they make carries well for distances of up to a mile, and serves its purpose, which is to tell other troupes about location so as to minimise competition for the tree vegetation that is their main fodder.

So it was that we were up in time to depart at around 6am for the morning walk that was described in our Pura Aventura booklet. Although I knew that the route was basically along a dirt road, I had formed the impression that it was a good expedition to see and hear wildlife. My mental images of seeing exotic life forms skittering across the track in front of me or rustling ominously in the undergrowth were, frankly, overblown. The only real examples of wildlife we came across were what we now know are Black Vultures, 17 of which were resting in a tree.



Presumably, the number that were gathered there means that something nearby is on the point of death.  Otherwise I can just imagine one of them saying, “I’m bored. What shall we do?” and another saying, “I dunno, what do you wanna do?”.

One thing we shall suggest to Pura Aventura is that they put some flesh on the bare bones of their description of this walk. For a  start, it would be useful to know how long it should take. All we knew is that if you start out at 6am you can still be back for breakfast – but that could mean 10.30! As it happens, it took us about an hour and a half, which is perfectly reasonable length of time for a morning stroll.

Except it’s not a stroll.  Like the Xandari walk of a a couple of days ago, it was rather up-and-downy.


Exactly how much harder it is than normal walking can be inferred from the statistics from my Garmin activity tracker. Normally, for a walk of three and a half miles, I would expect to expend 350 calories; for this walk the figure was 564. Not that I mind, but I can imagine that some people might be daunted by the steepness and skiddy surface of some of the track.

Another item we shall feed back to Pura Aventura is what awaits you at the top.  We were told to expect a gate, beyond which was a track leading to a platform which gave great views over the countryside. The reality differed somewhat.




The vegetation got in the way not only of progress to the viewing platform, but of the view itself.  One could just about get this


but only by crashing through relatively dense under- and overgrowth to an uncertain footing unnervingly close to a steep drop.  In fairness the thickets would have stopped you from too long a fall, but it wouldn’t be a comfortable experience.

There was a reasonable amount of traffic on the “road” as we walked forth and back, much of it on two (motorised) wheels and all of it greeting any idiots out walking with a cheery wave. We were passed by a couple of chaps on motorbikes on a downhill stretch, only to find that the next uphill bit was too much for one of the bikes


so his mate had stopped, walked back down the hill and was helping him push his bike up to where he’d stopped.  We passed them as they were struggling (cheerfully, it seemed) with this recalcitrant bike – thankfully they refused our offer of help – and it became clear that they made it back up to the working bike, which was then used to tow the other along the now-level track.


The implication of this is that a tow rope is an essential part of a biker’s gear in these parts.

We got back to the hotel, where we discovered that we would have got a better chance of seeing wildlife by staying put.  Whilst I did various things but mainly had a short kip, Jane sat quietly on the veranda and noticed that there was a troupe of Howler Monkeys moving around in the trees nearby.  So she took some photos


including this one of a mother and baby, which nicely illustrates the prehensile tail that is a feature only of new world apes; African apes do not have this, it seems.


You can just about make out the baby clinging on for dear life as mother hangs upside down from the branches.

Jane was good enough to alert me and I got a little bit of video, too.

Then it was time for breakfast, which was once again a good meal, and further gave us the chance to see more wildlife.  Jane spotted a Great Kiskadee on the railings opposite us


and a couple of vultures did a bit of yoga by the pool.


This Tree Pose is alleged to help them warm up for the day, or perhaps the heating of the black feathers helps rid them of parasites, or it may possibly aid their digestion.

Anyway, there was no shortage of wildlife action, and it continued after breakfast.  As I toiled in a creative fervour over the blog entry preceding this one, Jane once again quietly sat outside to see what happened.  And before you know it, along came a lizard – quite a big one, so Jane got snapping.


I managed to get some stills and a bit of video as well.


Jane later saw a woodpecker, sadly it was too skillful at hiding itself among the branches to enable any good photos, but all in all it was a good morning, wildlife-wise and it was an agreeable prelude to spending the rest of the day at leisure.  One has to grasp these opportunities while one can, as the next few days would seem to consist of a froth of activity once we reach our next destination.

For tomorrow we leave the very pleasant hotel Luna Azul, and head off in the direction of Bijagua. Most of the day will be spent in transit, or rather in a Toyota RAV4 (only slightly scratched), but there is a possibility for some photogenic excitement en route.  You’ll just have to come back to find out whether this is the case, won’t you?



Day 4 – Luna Azul I

Wednesday 22 February 2023 – Today is the first of two full days we have here.  It’s billed by Pura Aventura as “relaxed”, which means, possibly, slightly old-fashioned.  We have a large half-share of a sort of bungalow, with a lovely veranda


and several nice little details, like the pineapple decoration of this fan


(although the room is called “Banano”). The hotel itself is up in the hills, away from the beaches of Ostional and San Juanillo

and it’s generally noticeably hotter and more humid than Alajuela, where we stayed upon arrival.  The hotel has a nice lounge with a picture-postcard entrance.


We started the day with a decent breakfast, which was served in a slightly idiosyncratic way.  There is no buffet, so you basically get food put down in front of you without asking: fruit, yoghurt, granola, bread, butter, their own delicious jam.  You do get to vote on whether you get plain or strawberry yoghurt and whether you get tea or coffee (parenthetical note – I have been in Costa Rica, famous for its coffee, for three days and for some reason not a drop of coffee has yet passed my lips).  Eventually you’re offered a choice of egg style with a variety of accompaniments, so it was eggs and bacon for me; and Jane tried a taster of the local breakfast speciality, gallo pinto. Gallo pinto means “painted rooster”, so quite how they get from that to the reality, which is rice and beans is beyond me.  Also, by the way, “rice and beans” doesn’t sound very appetising, but it’s actually a very tasty dish. The beans are black, the rice is fried and the whole thing is nicely seasoned. Anyway, we enjoyed breakfast and it sustained us right through to dinner time,

Breakfast was enlivened by the arrival to the hotel’s pool of a vulture, in search of a drink. Well, I expect a corpse wouldn’t have gone amiss, but in the absence of that, a glug of slightly chlorinated water was obviously appreciated.


This being early in the day meant, of course, that it was a breakfast vulture, rather than a luncheon vulture.

That joke will only mean something to people of my age or similar.  To all of you good folk out there, thank you. Thank you for listening to my joke.

So: what to do with the day?  There were many possibilities, but we’d identified three that seemed of interest:  some kind of turtle activity, since Ostional is where three-quarters of the world’s supply of Olive Ridley turtles make their home and crucially their maternity ward; a visit to a centre which specialises in the rescue of Scarlet Macaws; and a local walk to see the view and hopefully some wildlife, ideally undertaken at 6am as a pre-breakfast activity.

At first, the auguries for the first two didn’t seem promising.  The turtles regularly come ashore en masse to lay eggs in a phenomenon called an “arribada“; but one had occurred just some five days before, so the likelihood of seeing turtles on the beach (a night trip) was very small. Another option would be a boat trip to find turtles at sea and possibly snorkel among them, but we didn’t know how to fix this, and our breakfast waiter didn’t seem too sure about it, either.  The Macaw centre was in the southern part of the Nicoya peninsula, and that meant an arduous drive of somewhere between one and a half and two hours on the frankly crappy roads that are such a feature of the southern part – and, more to the point, the same drive back, but in the dark. Very daunting. Well, actually, terminal, since we decided that simply wasn’t a good way to pass the time.

We had a quick chat with one of the hotel managers, a friendly and well-organised Belgian chap called Olivier, who told us that a boat trip might be possible and we decided that tomorrow morning would be a good time. We were about to head out to visit Ostional in an attempt to avoid total inactivity when Olivier caught us to say that, effectively, the only option was to do the boat trip that afternoon. So we went to the office where his wife contacted Gacci, the skipper of the boat, to make arrangements – time (3.30pm), location (Rancho Cocobolo in San Juanillo) and cost (US $120 – cash only). Fortunately, I had enough dollars to hand, so we were all set.

The few minutes before we set off for the 10-minute drive to San Juanillo saw us sorting out all those things that we needed to take with us for a boating and possibly snorkelling expedition – swimming costumes, goggles, snorkel tubes, sunblock, waterproof cameras, courage (I am really not good at snorkelling).  We found the rendezvous point and also an English expatriate called Simon, who was to accompany us as a guide.  A few minutes later, Gacci arrived with his small fishing boat. After a flurry of activity we clambered aboard and set off, in lovely calm conditions – so calm, I wish I’d brought my Nikon. Ah, well. The phone does a good job almost all of the time,

San Juanillo beach, Costa Rica

We passed a local landmark, the “Indian Rock”, which delineates the start of Ostional.


Gacci and Simon were surprised at the height of the water – normally there is dry land leading to the rock. Simon reckoned the tides were maybe as much as three metres higher than normal.

This affected two things.  One was the likelihood of seeing turtles. The other was the desirability or indeed the sense in going snorkelling, which is best done in shallow water, i.e. at low tide. I was glad about the latter as I really am not comfortable going snorkelling and only do so in order to try to get the photos, normally unsuccessfully. But the former seemed to be the case, as we went for over an hour without seeing any marine wildlife activity at all. Gacci and Simon bore up manfully under this burden.

Gacci and Simon

Simon thought it so unlikely that we’d see anything that he got the fishing line out (he had instructions from his wife to bring back something from the trip, otherwise it just looked like he was having fun, apparently).


Almost immediately he’d done this, things began to happen.  We saw a couple of Olive Ridley turtles in the distance, and one glided right by the boat.


After that we were treated to a rare sight – Black Turtles (the ones we know as Green Sea Turtles), rather than the Olive Ridley sort that Ostional is famous for.


In fact, it turned out that we were seeing the sort of grim battle which Mother Nature has determined is the best way to banish the weaklings – two bloke turtles fighting to have their way with a girl turtle, who has quite a struggle on her hands to avoid being drowned. If you want to see some of the more grisly bits, and have some three minutes to spare, take a look at the video I made that summarises the afternoon. (There are some other delights in the video, I should point out. It’s not all turtle porn.)

Whilst we were rather voyeuristically and pruriently focussed on these interesting but surely testudinatical matters, there had been other action on the other side of the boat as well. The general shagfest extended to two pairs of Olive Ridley turtles, too


and a distant view of another pair – no gatecrasher this time – of Black Turtles mating. I’m not sure we should be comfortable with the degree of satisfaction we felt with the amount of turtle mating we’d witnessed, but we certainly were happy that the boat trip had been more than just a couple of companiable hours bobbing around on the Pacific Ocean. So when the dolphins came to play with us (no photos I’m afraid, I did get some video though which is part of the video above) it was the icing on the cake, as we headed home past a beautiful sunset.


Simon caught a skipjack tuna, which he was happy about but which rather disconcertingly flapped around in the back of the boat for what I thought was an unconscionable time. Then we arrived back in San Juanillo, where we bade goodbye to Simon and Gacci and his boat


and headed back to the car in a lovely twilight,


before making our way carefully back to the hotel. This provided further education about what it was like to drive on these dodgy roads with their unexpected potholes, craters and narrow bridges in the dark, so that Macaw place is definitely off the list of possibilities.

We had a good but (for us) late dinner back at the hotel


before an earlyish night, as the morrow holds the possibility of an early morning walk; not something I would normally countenance, but, hey, we’re on holiday travelling, which makes it OK. No, really.  So, do come back tomorrow, and find out how that went, won’t you?

Day 3 – Xandari to Luna Azul, Ostional

Tuesday 21 February 2023 – Today’s story will be short on pictorial content, mainly because eight hours of it were spent in transit, six of them behind the wheel of our hire car. Which is now a lot dustier and only slightly more dented than it was at the start of the day.

Also, I’m getting some technical issues with WordPress which is making it difficult to upload images and video for these pages.  I hope to sort this out in due course, but please bear with me for visual oddities for the moment.

Breakfast at the Xandari was as pleasant as yesterday and, as usual, accompanied by the hotel’s trademark background music – pop and rock classics but played acoustically on Spanish guitar. This treatment underlines how important the original sound of a classic piece is.  Take the tune out of the context of its original sound and it can be really difficult to identify.  Admittedly, it didn’t take too long to identify Hotel California, possibly because of the importance of that guitar solo at the end. But another tune was very familiar, but we couldn’t place it. Jane in the end got it – It’s A Kind Of Magic, originally by Queen.  If you don’t hear Freddie Mercury’s voice, it’s surprising how difficult it is to place the song.

Anyhoo, some research by Jane discovered that the route we were due to take to our next hotel was likely to go via toll roads, something that our information from Pura Aventura hadn’t vouchsafed. Thus we needed some local currency, and the hotel helpfully suggested a local supermarket where we could find an ATM. Having checked out and eventually managed to get the car’s WiFi hotspot to provided some much-needed internet, we headed that way.

As we left the hotel, I was glad that I had been paying attention during our taxi ride in from the airport, as it demonstrated that road surfaces were potentially shocking and that it was quite acceptable to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the worst potholes. The short stretch of road to the supermarket simultaneously sharpened up my reflexes and gave me practice at the special slalom techniques necessary to negotiate the roads.

I managed not to crash into anything for the few kilometres to the supermarket, but my blameless stewardship of the hire car came to an abrupt end as I attempted to reverse into a parking spot and found an iron pillar instead.  The car suffered only minor damage. My pride, much more.

Once I’d calmed down a bit (it really is just a minor scuff), we found the ATM and got some money our of it, but of course it was in reasonably large denomination notes, so we thought it would be a good idea to buy something at the supermarket in order to get some smaller change.  This is how we came into possession of some gin and some tonic. This seemed to represent the ideal combination of utility and desirability.

The next several hours were spent behind the wheel. Our eventual destination was the Luna Azul hotel, but we knew that the restaurant there would be closed for today and so planned a late lunch at a nearby restaurant called La Luna.

The toll charges were small – in the region of 500 – 800 Colones, which is one or two dollars –  and it turns out that we could probably have used a card to pay, but only at the expense of being the slowest car in the queue, so we stuck with paying cash to the people who were staffing the “Manual” channels and, barring a couple of minor wrong turns which were pilot rather than navigator error, it all worked fine.


By and large, for the most part of the journey, the road surfaces were OK, with only the odd pothole and unmarked speed bump to leaven the mix.  There was some congestion to deal with, and the speed limit is a leisurely 80km/hour, so progress was steady rather than swift, through countryside that frankly wouldn’t have looked out of place in Spain or Portugal, except maybe for the occasional huge industrial installations which cropped up now and again.


Everything was going smoothly enough until we got past Nicoya, which, on the map above, appears to be not all that far from our destinations. This appearance is deceptive.  At first, the road simply narrowed and became more sinuous, which meant that getting stuck behind one of the many ponderous lorries slowed progress even further. One lorry we were stuck behind for many a long mile seemed to be making a really strange screeching noise as it ground along, so we were glad that it went straight on when we turned off. Two things happened at this point.  Firstly, the road surface turned feral, so that the pothole slalom that I’d practised earlier was now a matter of survival for the car’s suspension; and secondly we could still hear the screeching, which was really worrying.  We stopped as soon as the appalling surface and prevailing traffic conditions would let us and got our of the car to see what the problem was.  This was when we realised that the screeching didn’t come from the car at all.

It was coming from the power lines beside the road!

We had a short chat with the chap I had blocked in as we stopped to investigate. He said it was simply something that happened in February and March and had no further explanation of its cause.  But, as you can imagine, we were somewhat relieved that it wasn’t a problem with the car.

Further on along this ghastly road surface, Jane suddenly commanded me to stop.  Whilst I was having to concentrate grimly on the road surface, she had seen something surprising beside the road.

Howler monkeys in Costa Rica

Monkeys were crawling along these electrical wires, and using them as a base to relax on!  We later found out that these are Howler Monkeys.  More on them later, I’m sure….

We carried on, with the road surface varying from quite reasonable to actively hostile.  Much of it was dirt trail and wasn’t actually too bad

but progress was slow.  In the first and worst section, we managed just seven kilometres in 20 minutes. The next six took 15 minutes.  The practical upshot was that by 4pm, instead of arriving at our hotel, we had only made it to where we’d planned a late lunch, the restaurant La Luna. (There’s obviously some kind of Moon vibe going on in these parts.)

We were allowed to have a table provided we could finish within 45 minutes – this was clearly the time they were expecting the sunset rush, because the place is ideally set for cocktails or a meal as the sun goes down.

It’s a very fine place. We had a salad and a couple of drinks each before setting off into the gathering dusk to find our hotel, which we did, courtesy of Jane and Waze. The kindly hotel owner, Rolf, showed us to our room (rather nice – photos in due course) and clarified a couple of things that the Pura Aventura pack hadn’t made quite clear.  By this stage, we were somewhat tired after a long day.  Bouncing along over and around potholes is hard work, you know.  So we settled in and awarded ourselves an early night.

We have two full days here in Luna Azul and as yet have no firm plans as to what to do with ourselves.  I’m sure we’ll think of something (besides addressing our stocks of gin and tonic), so please keep coming back to see what we got up to.