Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Report #123 Puntarenas, Costa Rica May 2, 2017 Tuesday Chance of rain & 89 degrees Part #1 Of 3 88 Pictures

What a night we had last night.  Thunder, lightning, and rain began around 1 or 2am, and kept up until daylight.  Of course, it kept us up for a while as well.  We seldom get these kind of storms where we live, so we find it exciting.  Adding to the experience was seeing dozens of white birds, probably terns, fluttering outside our window in the pitch black darkness.  The lights from the lower promenade deck must have attracted fish, which drew the birds.  There really is no other explanation.  Even as sleepy as we were, we were glued to the window, since we will more than likely never see this again.  Come to think of it, we did see this last year as well.  And in this same area.  Talking to friends Denise and Howard, we found out they had seen it also, and did the very same thing we did… until sleep finally overtook them.


Just as a reminder, Costa Rica is a Central American country with 19,725 square miles of beaches, mangroves, rain forests, cloud forests, volcanoes, rivers and waterfalls, just to mention a few.  The capital is San Jose, and the population is 4,254,000 Spanish-speaking citizens.  May is the start of the wet season, which we found out today.


One of the favorite dishes is casado, a plate of meat, beans, rice, and fried plantains.  Their local drink is palm wine or coffee, which can be found everywhere. 


Their trademark saying is "pura vida", meaning pure or good life.  This slogan is printed on many souvenir items.


There were a total of 20 tours offered today through shore excursions.  Six all day tours included lunch and ran from $90 to $200.  They included a tropical forest aerial tram ride, a visit to a coffee plantation and gardens, or a ride to a volcano.  There were two types of rain forest canopy zip line rides also. 


Shorter tours took in a sky walk in the forest, a ride to San Jose, or a trip to Sarchi to see painted carts.  There was an Andalusian horse show, a countryside and coffee tour, or a walk in the clouds.  They offered a ride to the Pura Vida gardens or a hummingbird and butterfly excursion.  The best one in our opinion, was one we have done more than twice….. the mangrove cruise and train ride…….so much fun to see the birds, critters, and monkeys of the mangroves.


One thing for certain, it was going to be a very warm and sticky day with temps in the high 80's and humidity in the range of 89%.  In fact, this is one of those days that we never saw the sun, as the overcast was heavy with pending rain clouds.  And we were not alone as the Seven Seas Mariner had joined us at the pier in Puntarenas.  Christened in 2001, the Mariner is 48,075 gross tons with a passenger capacity of 752 persons (all berths full). Every cabin on this ship has a veranda, and it is an all-inclusive. No bar bills and mostly free tours as they are complimentary.  You may have to pay a little extra for a lunch on the longer tours, but usually they give you some shipboard credit upon booking a cruise that covers it.  We have gone on two longer trips on this ship, and found it to be a luxury/premium product.  Of course, it was $$$$$.


Sleeping in a bit late, we still made it to the dining room by 8:30am, well before closing time at 9am.  Since so many folks booked excursions, there were only a handful of us there.  Of course, the service was wonderful with no waiting at all. 


We hung out until 10:30am before we left the ship.  One of us that really likes new shoes, was looking forward to going back to a nice shoe store where the perfect pair of sandals caught someone's eye last January.  Nine times out of ten,  larger sizes are a problem in some countries.  Especially here, where few ladies have sizes over US 9.  There was no problem locating the shop or the same shoes, but there was a problem with the size.  There was not one pair of size 10 sandals or dress heels in the entire store.  Darn.  Had much better luck in India, but they did not sell that same style of sandals.  However, had we lived here, they would have been most happy to send for them online.  Well, guess that might be something to pursue when we get home… shoe shopping.


We walked the downtown area of Puntarenas, before heading towards the end of the spit.  The downtown area was jumping with locals food shopping, as well as window shopping, like us.  Street vendors were busy selling produce and souvenir clothing and beach wear.  Prices were very inexpensive.


Once we got near the Puntarenas Cathedral, built in 1902, the crowds thinned out, and we encountered many kids getting out of school for their lunch break.  We made our way back to Paseo de los Turistas, the main drag along the beach front.  The best thing about this street was that it was clear of buildings that blocked the breeze.  It was incredibly hot, so that ocean breeze was a life-saver. 


It was a bit early to go to lunch, so we continued walking beyond the hotel, our intended lunch spot, to the tip of the spit.  Don't know why we never walked this far before, but we found the San Lucas Beach Club, a food, entertainment, and meeting place.  The restaurant here was San Lucas Fish Co.  Once around the tip, we saw a huge and most inviting swimming pool of the beach club, and eventually the Panderia Quesada Ferry landing.  It was situated on the backside of the spit, so we never saw this area before.  Surrounding the ferry landing, were several bars and pubs, which looked like they would be opened for dinner, and not lunch.  This whole area is a favorite spot for the locals to go on weekends, and during the peak of the season, it would be wall-to-wall families here.  Today, it was mostly empty of vacationers. 


It was so hot, that we decided to back-track, and head for some ice cold beers.  That was at Las Brisas, a small hotel complex right on the main beach road.  This hotel had the nicest open-air restaurant, not really large, but modern and clean.  Maybe inviting is a better choice of a word.  The best thing was that there was a strong breeze blowing through here now, and we knew that rain was most likely on the way.


We ordered Imperial beers, the local Costa Rican brew, along with a plate of cheese nachos and one entrée of chicken fajitas.  Even though we had dined here in January, we had forgotten the size of the appetizer, as it was huge.  Oh well, dinner wasn't until 8pm, so we could handle it.  Shortly after we were seated, we were joined with a group of utility workers on their lunch break.  What fun they all had while watching a televised soccer game.  We would see a repeat of this with many locals in the cafes and bars all the way to the ship. 


After an hour of cooling off in the strong breeze and downing four beers, we asked for the bill.  It was a tad bit over $25…..what a deal.  The rate of exchange for the Costa Rican colon to the US dollar was 540 to $1 USD.  In some of our previous ports, $25 would not have covered 3 beers.


Wanting to check out the souvenir stands on the way back, we were surprised to find only ¼ of them were there today.  Just as we began looking for treasures, the rain started.  The vendors were either packing up for the day, or covering everything with plastic.  Most all of the bus tours were not back yet, and the smart street merchants knew there would be a lot of the tourists coming here to spend money.


The nicest of products here are made from Costa Rican woods.  They sell bowls of all sizes, platters, ice buckets, cutting boards, figurines, and coaster sets… of which we purchased.  The only other item we were looking for was a visor, which have been difficult to find in the last month of ports.  Baseball caps are common, but visors are not.  Intending to buy one, we ended up with 3 for $9.  Since the first vendor at the end of the stands wanted $6 each, this was a great deal.  Pays to shop, even if it is a small purchase.


The rain was letting up, and we never did have to use our umbrellas we packed with us all day.  Actually it felt so good now that it had cooled off.  And as we had expected, the little "train" ride from the ship to the shore was full of folks from both ships coming to shop onshore. 


All aboard was 4:30pm, with a Puntarenas sail away planned on deck eight aft.  Never happened, because the rain was falling steadily now.  We went to deck six forward to catch some photos of the ship's lines being dropped.  With several toots of the ship's horn, Captain Fred turned the ship around and headed out of the bay.  Not sure the Mariner would follow us to Nicaragua, as they responded to the horn with many toots of their own, like a final goodbye.


Tomorrow we will be in Corinto around 9am, another repeat port of the world cruise.


Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill with friends Denise and Howie from Concord.  We had a two hour meal with them, and enjoyed it immensely.  Caesar salads, lobster bisque, with entrees of filet mignon and lamb chops filled us to the brim.  To our disappointment, our waitress told us that they had no more baked Alaska for this trip.  Not even our favorite Cherry Garcia ice cream.  So we all ordered the second best desserts, except Howie, who we thought, jokingly asked for the special ice cream.  With that said, our waitress took off, and came back saying they located a tub of Cherry Garcia tucked way back in the freezer.  All right…..we changed back to that, because it will not last much longer.


It had been a long day, so none of us attended the master of mentalism, the show by Alan Chamo at 10pm. 


Tomorrow's port will be Corinto, Nicaragua….another hot and steamy day, we bet.


Bill & Mary Ann


PS    Many thanks to Sandy in Spain for your excellent info on the cotton top tamarin monkeys.  Barbara and Orlin:  look forward to seeing you on the Alaska reunion cruise in July.




Amsterdam on the left, Mariner on the right….both docked


Amsterdam's gangway


Train shuttle to the shore


Seven Seas Mariner


Yes, we are larger


Bill and the Mariner


The shoreline of Puntarenas


Two ships in town


A lone booby



A few beach combers this morning


The water temperature was in the 80's


Typical Pacific Ocean brown sandy beach


Souvenir huts


Locals cooling off


A very pretty Costa Rican greeter – offering complimentary fruit


End of the long pier


Flag of Costa Rica


Taxi drivers offer many independent tours here


A street food vendor


A tourist building


The busiest café for free internet


Wall art


Done by teenagers, we believe


Another nice café and bar


Local shopping


Shopping street of Puntarenas


Few people outside……way too warm


One of many bars


Lots of locals on bikes


The nicest shoe store


Flowers and fruit for sale


Casa Blanca, not the real Casablanca


A nursery on the street


A local business


Food and clothing shops


Rooms for rent


Local restaurants


Some open later in the day


Happy dog


Little chickens for sale


Street traffic


Local bus


Wide streets


Many cars


Street vendors


This man was repairing shoes


Cheap clothing




Getting too warm outside


The nicest grocery store in town


Kids getting out of school at noon


Central park


Many benches in the park


Probably have festivals here during the high season


A hotel


Fishing pier


Egret on the pier


Palm trees give much needed shade


Local discount store


Decorative park


Matching cement benches


Houses all locked up


This is probably a good place for lunch


Flowering tree by the name of Queen's crepe myrtle


A tropical tree


Walk to the church


Wall art brightens the area


Puntarenas Cathedral


Recently refurbished


Cool on the inside


Church for the sailors a century ago


Cathedral dedication


Surrounding grounds




Statues in the church area


Some were bizarre


Many palms


Cultural center – appeared closed


A cannon from the old days


Church steeple




"Home Depot" – Puntarenas style


Tree-lined streets


Flowering trees


Green is a good color


Housing near the soccer stadium


Deserted streets today


Soccer stadium


Soccer is big here, perhaps called football




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