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Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica… Are you brave enough?
Well I certainly didn’t think I was brave enough, but then I was told by my family that we were going whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River and that was it: No discussion.
Okay, I admit it — I was scared. I had visions of me falling out of the boat within seconds and disappearing off down the rapids, never to be seen again. For 10 years I had avoided whitewater rafting like the plague.

No Way Back.
And now the day had come… at the very least I thought my breakfast would feed the fish and was wondering where on my body I could safely put my health insurance card. It was sure to be needed…
Our rafting guides came to meet us looking so professional it made me even more nervous. I was going to let the whole team down, for sure. Then began the safety briefing and the phrases we had to learn to follow the guides instructions once we were on the river.
We got our kit on: life-jacket, helmet (eek!) and were handed our paddles. I didn’t like to mention that I was no dab hand with a paddle.
And then we were in the raft, floating down the Pacuare River. No way back now.

The Adventure begins…

At first it was all very gentle and I wondered why I really needed to wear a life-jacket.
I was about to find out.
Suddenly ahead of us I could see big boulders and white water rushing between them. We were about to take on our first rapid. My heart was in my mouth.
The guide shouted ‘Lean In’and I remembered the briefing and so leaned in impressively — my head was almost touching the bottom of the raft.

Leaning IN!

I will never forget the phrase ‘Lean In!’ as long as I live.
And then we were in it — swirling water, a rush of adrenaline and we were out the other side… and I was still in the raft: Brilliant.

I’m still in the raft!

The relief was quickly followed by euphoria: I could do this. (Well I have to admit that the guides are SO good that almost anyone can do it — they are such experts.)
I wasn’t scared. I was exhilarated.
One rapid followed another until we were almost blase about the Class II to Class III rapids but more excitement was just a few metres on: our first Class IV rapid.

Here we go! Class IV Rapid

Ooffff…. So we went head into the Class IV rapid and I leaned in with everything I had, paddling like mad when instructed. It was SO exciting!
I really never thought I would say that.

A high five after our most impressive rapid: What a Team!

There are plenty of blogs and websites on whitewater rafting in Costa Rica but this blog is especially for those of you like me who think they are just not brave enough. You are.
My only regret was that I waited so long to go whitewater rafting: it was one of the most exciting days of my life so far.

I did it! Cooling off afterwards was sublime

And just as an added plus: whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River is also incredibly beautiful.

Floating in the canyon on the Pacuare River.

So now that you know you’re brave enough, what are you waiting for?
Take a look below at some of the superb companies that offer Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. My favourite is Exploradoresoutdoors.com where you can also stay overnight at their lodge and raft 2 days. Highly recommended: Even for scaredy cats like me.

Rafting

Pacuare River Rafting – 1-Day

http://www.centralamerica.com/cr/raft/aventuras.htm

 

Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
I could be said to be living an extraordinary life by living in the rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. When chatting with friends from other countries I realise that my daily life has some very extraordinary elements!
But of course despite living somewhere which could be called extraordinary, like Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, my life still contains all the ordinary aspects, like doing the food shopping, cooking, washing, gardening, going to work (sort of!), exercising and social life.
However, those ordinary aspects have some extraordinary surprises…take doing the food shopping and cooking just for starters.

The oldest supermarket in Puerto Viejo: El Chino’s.

Food Shopping: Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place.

When we first came here in 2006 there were a few small supermarkets with a very limited choice of products. There was one butcher and no fishmonger although we are are right by the ocean. It took me a little while to work out where to buy fish in the beginning, but finally, using my then inadequate Spanish, I learned that you had to go to the sea and wait for the fishermen to return with their catch. Right, Red Snapper or Lobster for dinner then. If you plan on going fishing and catching your fish for dinner make sure to get the top tackle box.

Bucket of fresh fish straight off the fishing boat

 

In the supermarket I spent hours trying to fathom what I should be doing with any number of products I’d never seen and had no idea how to use. It was fun though and made for some very interesting meals… not always delicious but certainly different.

Old Harbour Supermarket in Puerto Viejo

Now, 11 years later there is a far greater choice of supermarkets and products, several butchers and we even have a fishmonger!
I have to admit I still don’t know all the names of the local vegetables and cannot make brilliant patacones. But I can make a good Rondon and will put the recipe at the end of this blog — try it — it’s delicious! It was given to me by a good friend who took me under her wing and educated me in Costa Rican food shopping.
All these years later, I am an avid fan of yucca, (especially yucca crisps), Natilla (a sort of sour cream) Rondon and almost all the fabulous tropical fruits. I’ve learned that eating papaya without lime juice is like eating potatoes without salt and how to cut a mango perfectly without waste.

Cooking: Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place.

My cooking before Costa Rica was far less adventurous than it is now. Now although I still use recipes for inspiration I substitute recipe ingredients for what I have found locally which makes for extraordinary combinations which often work — but not always!
Larry the Kitchen Lizard usually watches me cooking and the chuckling of Geckoes punctuates my time in the kitchen. Larry is a small long tailed lizard that has a penchant for kitchen action and can be seen darting around, especially as I chop.

Larry the Kitchen Lizard watching me cook

As I cook I watch the Agouti’s outside, nibbling on the vegetable and fruit peelings and the toucans sitting in the trees above the river.

Agnes the Agouti having a snack outside my kitchen

Toucan keeping a beady eye on the cooking

So here is my recipe for Rondon: Even if you don’t have a Larry Lizard or Geckoes in your kitchen, it will taste authentically Puerto Viejo: Buen Provecho.

Puerto Viejo RONDON
Ingredients:
1 Can of Coconut Milk OR the equivalent from Fresh Coconuts
Fish Heads to make Stock.
500g Fish
1 Large Onion, chopped
6-12 Thyme Sprigs
6-12 Fresh Coriander Sprigs
1 Hot Chilli
Black Pepper & Salt
Yucca
1 small crab or a few crab claws
1-2 Plantains (green bananas)
Sweet Potatoes
Garlic

Method:
Fry onions in a large pot, add chilli and then all the vegetables.
Add the coconut milk and fish stock.
Boil gently until the vegetables are almost cooked.
Reduce on a higher flame until you have the consistency of cream.
When reduced, add fish and simmer gently until the fish is cooked.

Eat with friends and enjoy your Caribbean Cooking!

Rondon: The famous fish soup of the Caribbean coast

A Puerto Viejo Christmas is not your traditional Christmas! If Christmas to you is a roaring log fire, snowy landscapes and mainly indoor activities then Puerto Viejo Christmas is going to feel very different — but in a good way!

Palm Christmas Tree

Palm Christmas Tree

Puerto Viejo Christmas is of course tropical and so your Christmas tree may be a decorated palm tree, your Christmas dinner may be Lobster or Caribbean Costa Rican specialities and festivities take place in open restaurants or bars or on the beach.

Christmas Sun at Playa Grande

Christmas Sun at Playa Grande

So how would you celebrate a Puerto Viejo Christmas? People love this coast at Christmas for its warm seas, great restaurants and holiday atmosphere.  You can celebrate Christmas here with a luxury picnic on the beach, or indulge in any number of special menus offered by numerous restaurants, some with live music and dancing.

Fresh Lobster for Christmas lunch with a good bottle of wine: Just the job!

Fresh Lobster for Christmas lunch with a good bottle of wine: Just the job!

Why not begin your Christmas with a dip in the warm ocean, followed by a super Caribbean Christmas lunch, fit in a siesta and finish your Christmas day with dancing to the Calypso beat… and perhaps a last glass of bubbles by your pool? Not a bad plan right?

Christmas plunge pool at Geckoes Lodge: Barefoot Luxury!

Christmas plunge pool at Geckoes Lodge: Barefoot Luxury!

Puerto Viejo really gets into the Christmas atmosphere and a Puerto Viejo Christmas goes on for several days so you don’t have to cram everything into 24 hours…
Take your time, chill out in the Caribbean warmth and then, when you need some action, take advantage of a smorgasbord of activities available.

Relax and spot wildlife on serene Gandoca Lagoon

Relax and spot wildlife on serene Gandoca Lagoon

Whether it’s a Chocolate Tour that grabs you, learning how to surf, horse-riding along the beach or through the rainforest, visiting the orphaned animals at Jaguar Rescue Centre, a relaxing wildlife spotting boat trip on the Gandoca lagoon, white-water rafting on the Pacuare river, fishing for your dinner from a panga or ziplining through the rainforest canopy, Puerto Viejo Christmas has got you covered!

Ziplining through the rainforest canopy: it's a thrill you will not forget!

Ziplining through the rainforest canopy: it’s a thrill you will not forget!

A Puerto Viejo Christmas is warm, colourful, tropical and unforgettable! So this Christmas or next, perhaps it’s time for some Barefoot Luxury in Puerto Viejo: A place to make memories.

Feliz Navidad, Puerto Viejo Christmas, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Happy Christmas!

We are spoilt for choice with a glut of good restaurants on the Caribbean coast, but which are the most romantic restaurants?
On honeymoon, or indulging in a romantic getaway, celebrating your anniversary or perhaps dizzily celebrating meeting each other yesterday, you need romantic restaurants with atmosphere, ambience and great food.

For me the most romantic restaurants are quiet, intimate, atmospheric, serve food that is creative and delicious, have good cocktails and fine wine, are lit well (not too much light and not too little) and of course excellent but unobtrusive service.

If these elements are also what you’re looking for in romantic restaurants, then this is your list! In no particular order here are my favourite romantic restaurants on the Caribbean coast:

La Pecora Nera, Cocles:

La Pecora Nera

La Pecora Nera

Justly famous, this Italian restaurant is the place for foodies. Not only one of the most romantic restaurants but also one of the best in Costa Rica. Owner Ilario is a skilled and creative chef who cooks with passion that you can taste. Choose one of his tasting menus ( 4 or 5 small courses) and enchant your taste buds with one surprise after another.  His home-made shrimp and pumpkin ravioli is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. His food is unforgettable, his house wine is perfectly paired and when you team that with sitting in a candle lit rancho in a rainforest garden you have a magical evening in the making.

El Refugio, Punta Uva:

El Refugio

El Refugio

Tiny and intimate, at El Refugio you feel as you’re eating in the middle of the jungle. With a small but assured international menu, the food is consistently good and whether you choose perfectly prepared salmon, a juicy entrana steak or a vegetarian stuffed oven baked pancake, do leave room for the decadent dulce de leche dessert with two spoons. Add Passion fruit cocktails, generous glasses of wine and excellent service and this little gem of a restaurant is one to fall in love with.

La Casita Azul, Cocles:

La Casita Azul

La Casita Azul

Put yourself on the veranda of this pretty Caribbean painted house and share plates of super Spanish tapas with a glass of chilled white wine by candlelight. But save enough room for a paella for two: simply but expertly prepared and full of flavour. Friendly service, romantic (quiet) background music and atmospheric, La Casita Azul has got it right in my romantic restaurants book.  They even present you with little foody surprises — and I do love to be surprised.

Congo Reeff, Puerto Viejo:

Congo Reeff

Congo Reeff

This is one of the newer restaurants in Puerto Viejo and fast gaining a reputation for seriously creative and delicious dishes. It’s a French Fusion Bistro and the French owners certainly know what they’re doing: menus change weekly, many dishes are original and the fusion is between French cooking and Costa Rican tropical ingredients. Beautifully presented, expertly balanced flavours and perfect service make for a divine meal. But there is more:  set in a hidden garden behind Luluberlu art gallery/shop, Congo Reeff is gorgeously and stylishly decorated with artwork and romantically lit. A feast in all senses.

Todo Es Posible, Puerto Viejo:

Todo es Posible

Todo es Posible

And now for something different: Rustic Romance. This little Italian restaurant may not be conventionally one of the most romantic restaurants, but then romance is not always conventional right? Perhaps, it’s the little garden out the front where you can sit under the trees at simple wooden tables lit by coloured tea-lights as delicious cooking smells waft around you from the open kitchen or perhaps it’s because the food is so obviously made with love. It’s a simple, casual and cosy little place but the food takes it to the next level for me. Home-made bruschetta and pastas are mouthwateringly good and if you want to know how good real Sicilian pizza is, this is the place. The service is friendly and warm and the atmosphere relaxed. This is rustic romance at its best.

Amimodo, Puerto Viejo:

Palapa Table at Amimodo

Palapa Table at Amimodo

Sorry but this is another Italian restaurant… which makes me wonder, are many Italians just really good at putting all the ingredients together to serve up romantic restaurants ? Well Amimodo is doing a fine job of it. The restaurant is very pretty, with lit art, comfortable seating and atmospheric lighting but they have one extra special ingredient: they back onto the beach. So, if you’re in time (or make a reservation) you can sit in romantic splendour underneath a thatched palapa with your feet in the sand and an ocean view. I wouldn’t go here to eat pizza (although they do great ones) because pizza is not my idea of romantic dining: Amimodo has several Italian speciality dishes and this is the place to try them.

Sobre Las Olas, Cahuita:

Sobre Las Olas

Sobre Las Olas

Last but by no means least, this super little restaurant specialising in seafood has one of the most spectacular views and fabulous food. Sobre Las Olas (Above the Waves) is perched on a small cliff and so in front of your table is simply palm trees, ocean and sky. (Do reserve to get a table outside.) The food is impressive: simple ocean fresh ingredients excellently prepared and presented. Last time we shared Swordfish Carpaccio, Spicy Mussels and Braised Squid and each mouthful was a taste of heaven. Perfect. And to add to perfection they have an extensive wine list. Go for a romantic lunch or on a moonlit night: you will never forget the view.

So there you have it: my favourite romantic restaurants which cater to my love of creative food, served with passion where all your senses come alive and leave you feeling more in love than when you walked in.

 

 

If your traditional Christmas is cold and grey and wrapped up in wool, have you ever thought about splashing out and taking a Caribbean Christmas with your toes in the ocean instead of socks?

Caribbean Christmas starts here

Caribbean Christmas starts here

Here on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Caribbean Christmas is anything but traditional and that’s the fun of it. Sure, if you absolutely must have turkey and all the trimmings you can find it but you might choose a sea fresh lobster instead for your Caribbean Christmas Dinner.  And you may put yourself under a decorated Christmas palm tree with a mojito — no wool clothing required.

Christmas at Casa Bromelia at Caribbean Christmas at Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Barefoot Luxury Christmas at Casa Bromelia, Geckoes Lodge

I’ve always loved the Caribbean Christmas — what’s not to like about strolling through Puerto Viejo decorated for the festivities stopping for a pina colada and watching the pelicans diving for fish, instead of having to rush home to warm your freezing feet?

Pelicans diving at Caribbean Christmas, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Pelicans fishing in Caribbean Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo really lives up at Christmas with live music adding atmosphere to beach bars selling Christmas Caribbean cocktails and restaurants offering special tropical menus to happy (warm!) visitors.

Happy Warm Christmas!

Happy Warm Christmas!

Costa Rica loves Christmas and Ticos begin by preparing their festive tamales whilst swathing their Caribbean coloured houses in lights and decorations.

Making tamales for Christmas in Costa Rica

Making tamales for Christmas in Costa Rica

Tamales completed for Christmas eve in Costa Rica

Tamales completed for Christmas eve in Costa Rica

House in Puerto Viejo well and truly decorated

House in Puerto Viejo well and truly decorated

There’s also many Nativity scenes throughout the country, both at private houses and public buildings and enactments of the Nativity.

Nativity Scene, Costa Rica

Nativity Scene, Costa Rica

Live Nativity Scene, Costa Rica

Live Nativity Scene, Costa Rica

Christmas in Costa Rica is a vibrant celebration with music, dance festivals, street fairs and parades. One of the most famous parades is El Tope, a horseback parade with magnificent horses and riders dressed in their finest: a gorgeous sight!

Detail of El Tope

Detail of El Tope

So if you’re feeling like a change this year, need to escape the stress, get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in Barefoot Luxury, your Caribbean Christmas awaits!

Caribbean Costa Rica coast line

Caribbean Costa Rica coast line

Just add a mojito...

Just add a mojito…

Puerto Viejo is not ‘just’ Puerto Viejo. The region commonly known as Puerto Viejo is actually made up of 6 different neighbourhoods, set along a 16 kilometre (10 mile) stretch of coast. Each neighbourhood has its own character but all have beautiful rainforest backed beaches, so the question could be Puerto Viejo: Where to Stay? Which neighbourhood will suit you?

Well, in general, the further away from Puerto Viejo town you are, the more wildlife you will see and the quieter your surroundings will be. That doesn’t mean though that all restaurants are in Puerto Viejo town: far from it. Some wonderful restaurants are scattered along the entire coast.

So, here’s a brief description of each neighbourhood to help you find just which one suits you.

Playa Negra: 1-2 kilometres (0.6 – 1.25 miles)

The Old Barge at Playa Negra

The Old Barge at Playa Negra

Playa Negra is North of Puerto Viejo and famous for its Black Beach. The distance from town will depend where in Playa Negra you choose to stay. Accommodation options include a couple of beach hotels and various vacation rentals, so if you would like to be out of town and enjoy black sand this may be your spot. With only one bar and one restaurant in Playa Negra, be aware that you’ll probably want to go to town some evenings. Taxis are easily arranged. The photos of it on enjoymexico.net/rentals/cabo-san-lucas/villa-turquesa/ are really something to look at, just don’t do that to your self in the middle of your work year.

Puerto Viejo town:

Shop and Dive Operator in Puerto Viejo

Shop and Dive Operator in Puerto Viejo

If you like plenty of nightlife then choose Puerto Viejo town. Most of the bars, music venues and parties happen here. So, with plenty of cheap accommodation options you can easily walk or bike between ‘happenings’ and use your budget to party! Accommodations can be noisy but this won’t matter if you’re out most nights. Of course most of the shops are also in Puerto Viejo town and there’s a large selection of restaurants. The ATM’s and pharmacies are also only in town plus the majority of tour operators .

Cocles: 2 – 4 kilometres from town. (1.25 – 2.5 miles)

Beach Break & The Island at Cocles Beach

Beach Break & The Island at Cocles Beach

If you’re looking for tranquillity but want to be near Puerto Viejo town, Cocles is the place for you.  The distance again depends on where you choose to stay as Cocles stretches along the coast. Playa Cocles is a long beach and Beach Break is a popular surfing spot, whilst the other end of Playa Cocles has pretty natural tide pools to laze in. There are plenty of accommodation options from hotels to lodges to vacation rentals and some seriously good restaurants. The supermarket in Cocles has all the basics, plus imported goods and an extensive selection of wine and spirits so you can stock up without going to town.

Playa Chiquita: 4 – 6 kilometres from town. (2.5 – 3.75 miles)

 

Late afternoon at Playa Chiquita

Late afternoon at Playa Chiquita

Playa Chiquita is like a little world of its own. Full of expats from every corner of the world, if you need your palm reading, want to know what your tarot cards say, do some reiki or take a yoga retreat, this is your place. Accommodation options are various ranging from small hotels to cabinas to vacation rentals. The supermarket El Duende Gourmet has lots of interesting speciality items and there are a few cute cafes and places to eat.

Punta Uva: 6 – 10 kilometres from town. (3.75 – 6.25 miles)

Arrecife Beach at Punta Uva

Arrecife Beach at Punta Uva

The beaches of Punta Uva are famous and justly so — some would even say that they are amongst the most beautiful in Costa Rica. Swimming and snorkelling are sublime here so if you don’t mind being further from town and want to spend most of your time on the beach, this could be your neighbourhood. It is a quiet jungle neighbourhood with few amenities. Accommodations are mainly vacation rentals and Bed & Breakfasts. With only one or two restaurants or cafes, you may need some transport to visit Playa Chiquita and/or Cocles.

Manzanillo: 16 kilometres from town. (10 miles)

Beach to escape to at Manzanillo

Beach to escape to at Manzanillo

If you want to get way off the beaten track Manzanillo is the place for you. It’s a quiet village although at weekends it becomes full of local families enjoying beach barbecues. The beaches at Manzanillo become prettier and wilder the further you go into the wildlife refuge. Accommodation options are mostly vacation rentals or a few cabinas and there’s a couple of simple places to eat.

So there you have it: Puerto Viejo: Where to Stay. You’ll know by now which neighbourhood appeals to you and they all have their charms. See you soon!

Barefoot Luxury Arrecife beach, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

It’s Pejivalles season and all over Costa Rica the air is scented with them as people boil these palm fruits. Whether you know them as Pejivalles or Pejibayes or Peach Palm Fruit, these fruits can be found all over Central and South America and the palm is also famous for the popular heart of palm (delicious in salads).

Pejibayes or Pejivalles or Peach Palm Fruit. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Pejibayes with skin after harvesting

The fruit hangs in large clusters around the top of a particular palm tree. Read more about it here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bactris_gasipaes

Pejibayes or Pejivalles or Peach Palm Fruit Clusters on Palm tree. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Pejibayes hanging from a palm

Pejibayes or Pejivalles or Peach Palm Fruit Tree. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

The tall spiny palms mean that harvesting requires some skill!

Pejibaye skin ranges from yellow through to red and the fruit needs considerable boiling before eating. People usually boil them in their skins for a few hours, peel them, remove the stone and then eat them with mayonnaise or salt and lemon.

Pejibayes or Pejivalles or Peach Palm Fruit with mayonnaise. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Cooked Pejibayes are often eaten with mayonnaise or sour cream

So what do they taste like? Well, imagine a cross between a chestnut, a cashew nut and a buttery potato and you’re coming close. You can find them on market stalls, supermarkets and the local farmers market and per kilo they cost about 2 US$.

Even though they’re not the most attractive fruit in the world they have their fans and in Costa Rica they even have their own festival, near Cartago. And if you become a fan of pejibaye / pejivalle / peach palm fruits, there are plenty of recipes to experiment with: how about a pejibaye cake, biscuits, tacos, stew, salad, soup or even liqueur for starters?

Pejibaye cake

Pejibaye cake

 

Pejibaye Soup

Pejibaye Soup

People are not the only fans of pejibayes… a highly nutritious source of food for many rainforest animals, Agnes the Agouti at Geckoes Lodge seriously enjoys Palm fruit season and can be seen nibbling on pejibayes all around the garden.

Agnes the Agouti eating Pejibayes or Pejivalles or Peach Palm Fruit at Geckoes Lodge.

Agnes the Agouti eating Pejibayes or Pejivalles or Peach Palm Fruit at Geckoes Lodge.

So give your taste buds a sensation in Pejibaye season and taste these buttery, nutty numbers, although remember you need to cook them well, unlike Agnes the Agouti.

 

 

 

If you love fruit, this is the country for you! Fruit in Costa Rica is everywhere… walk down a street and there will be someone selling piles of sweet smelling pineapples, bananas hanging from trees and mangoes dripping from a branch.

Just a few of the fruits available in Costa Rica

Just a few of the fruits available in Costa Rica

Fruit in Costa Rica is not an addition to the everyday diet but an integral part of it. People grow it in their gardens, pick it from trees on the roadsides, knock coconuts from palms on the beach and eat fruit on a daily basis.

Banana stall on the way to Puerto Viejo

Banana stall on the way to Puerto Viejo

The differing climates of Costa Rica are perfect for growing a huge variety of fruit. The more temperate regions are bursting with apples, strawberries, oranges, plums and peaches. The tropical regions are full of mangoes, guavas, water-apples, water melon, limes, pineapples, star fruit, lychees, papayas, mangosteens and of course the famous banana.

Fruit stall

Fruit stall

Since there are more than 200 varieties of Banana they constitute some of the most common fruit in Costa Rica and along with pineapples are extensively farmed and exported.

Bananas being transported for washing and sorting

Bananas being transported for washing and sorting

Here on the Caribbean coast bananas are not only eaten raw but certain varieties are fried and eaten as plantains alongside rice and beans or added to fish or meat casseroles. But let’s not forget the banana crisps (chips) that are sold everywhere, sometimes seasoned with lime and salt but always a super accompaniment to a cold beer — or a fruity batido.

Fried plantains or 'Patacones'

Fried plantains or ‘Patacones’

Plantain crisps

Plantain crisps

Yes, let’s talk about Batidos, which are fruit shakes made of fresh fruit liquidised with either milk or water. One of my absolute favourites is a lime and ginger batido: fantastically fragrant and refreshing. The variety of batidos available is impressive and can be made from any fruit you can name. And there is so much fruit in Costa Rica that the fruits named here are just the tip of a big fruit-berg!

Fresh lime and ginger batido at the beach

Fresh lime and ginger batido at the beach

With such profusion it is no wonder that fruit in Costa Rica is such an important element in the country’s economy and indeed in the national diet.

Papaya Batido -- delicious with a squeeze of lime

Papaya Batido — delicious with a squeeze of lime

So take a look at the next pineapple or bunch of bananas you buy — it’s pretty likely you’ll be holding fruit from Costa Rica. But to taste it at its absolute best you’ll just have to come here, pick some yourself and sample the cornucopia of fruit in Costa Rica. Pura Vida indeed!

Fruit at the Saturday market in Puerto Viejo

Fruit at the Saturday market in Puerto Viejo

 

Of course many of us come here for wildlife and Costa Rica wildlife is fascinating: one of my favourites is the Kinkajou. To spot a Kinkajou in Costa Rica you’ll probably need a torch or a night full of moonshine. Kinkajou’s are usually nocturnal and live in dense rainforest in the hollows of trees.

Kinkajou on branch. Costa Rica Wildlife: Kinkajou. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaBut having said that we have seen a Kinkajou or two at Geckoes and hear them very often, at least a few times per week. They make a noise that sounds like this: weeep, weeep whoop. So although there may be many deep in the rainforest, they can also be seen in more inhabited spots. One evening, sitting outside at a local restaurant in Puerto Viejo I heard a scrabble in the tree next to me and there was a kinkajou eyeing my pasta.

Kinkajou eating mango. Costa Rica Wildlife: Kinkajou. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaKinkajous are gorgeously fluffy bear like. They look adorable with their big eyes, small round ears and as if they would be very nice to cuddle! Also known as Honey Bears and in Spanish as Martillas or Martas. Apparently they love honey, hence the Honey Bear nickname. They are pretty docile and not averse to taking a tasty flower from your hand, but they can be skittish so any fast movement should be avoided, as then they may panic and bite.

Close up of Kinkajou. Costa Rica Wildlife: Kinkajou. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaWith their long tongues, they eat fruits, flowers, licking the nectar or sometimes eating the entire flower and add insects and bird eggs  to their diet when possible.

Kinkajou eating fruit. Costa Rica Wildlife: Kinkajou. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaThey are sometimes known also as the Night Monkey also they are no relation to the monkey species. The name could have come about because they have very flexible knees and ankles that can rotate 180 degrees, so are ace tree climbers like monkeys.

Kinkajou eating nectar. Costa Rica Wildlife: Kinkajou. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaSo, when in Costa Rica you hear a ‘weep, weep, whoop’, take a look up into the trees and see if you can spot the gorgeous Kinkajou.

Golden Orb Spider in our garden

Golden Orb Spider in our garden

Before I moved to Costa Rica, I was terrified of Spiders and if I had seen a Golden Orb spider in the bathroom (or anywhere for that matter) I would have freaked out. I used to call Tom to remove the tiniest spider from anywhere within 10 metres of me… so now I’m feeling rather Indiana Jones, as in fearless (almost) when it comes to spiders.

Golden Orb Spider: look at that gorgeous body!

Golden Orb Spider: look at that gorgeous body!

I mean, I don’t really want a spider on my skin but I can now approach a tarantula without breaking out in a sweat. By the way, tarantulas here in the rainforest are really shy and very seldom seen… but that’s a story for another day.

Unlike tarantulas we see plenty of Golden Orb Spiders. They are prolific web spinners and can construct a large one overnight. Since we know that most guests are not keen on spiders we remove their webs from our guest houses but we often keep the webs around our house — they’re great mosquito catchers!

The Golden web of the Golden Orb Spider

The Golden web of the Golden Orb Spider

The Golden Orb spider is of course rather special, not because they’re gold themselves but because their web, when seen in sunlight is a bright golden colour. But that’s not the only reason. The silk of their web is the strongest natural fibre known to man — how cool is that?! If you take a few strands of silk from their web and twirl it into one strand with your fingers, it is very difficult to break. Currently being researched by Nasa the silk of the Golden Orb Spider could be used in all sorts of projects, even bridge building.

So nowadays when I see a Golden Orb spider around the garden I get up close and have a look rather than rushing away. They are harmless and very relaxed so for those of you who like to get up close and personal with spiders, feel free.

You might have seen a wonderful project on the web about a cape made from the silk of 1 million Golden orb spiders. This is what it looked like:

Golden Orb Spider Silk Cape made from the silk of 1 million spiders

Golden Orb Spider Silk Cape made from the silk of 1 million spiders

Spider silk cape – Golden silk orb-weaver – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I actually have a debt to pay the Golden Orb spider — thanks to their beauty, gentle nature and fascinating webs, I have quite lost my fear of spiders. So if you need to lose that fear too, you know where to come… Geckoes Lodge! Now there’s a marketing idea in there somewhere isn’t there?