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So it’s September and one of the best things to do this month is Snorkeling in Puerto Viejo. In September, the seas are calm, the weather is dry and it’s the perfect time to strap on that snorkel and glide over those coral reefs!

Put yourself in another world!

Put yourself in another world!

Puerto Viejo and Cahuita have some great snorkeling spots and whether you choose to take a boat trip to an outer reef or simply snorkel from the beach, in the calm ocean of September you’ll be rewarded with good visibility and plenty to look at.

Snorkeling at Cahuita National Park

Snorkeling at Cahuita National Park

You don’t need to bring your own snorkel, mask or fins as they are readily available for rent right here in Puerto Viejo. Plenty of the tour agencies offer great tours and even if you’ve never snorkeled before, don’t worry, they’ll have you snorkeling like a professional within minutes! Have a look at the end of this post to see a list of places that offer snorkeling tours.

Snorkeling in Puerto Viejo is usually pretty and often really exciting because who knows when you’re going to spot a great big starfish, a lion fish or see a turtle glide past?

Gorgeous Starfish

Gorgeous Starfish

The spectacular Lionfish

The spectacular Lionfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to get a little practice in first and just snorkel off the beach, head down to Arrecife beach in Punta Uva, which apart from having a good reef not far offshore is also one of the most beautiful beaches on this coast.

Snorkeling off Arrecife Beach

Snorkeling off Arrecife Beach

So if you’re around this coast in September or October and thinking of things to do, snorkeling in Puerto Viejo should be high on your list!

Snorkel gear for rent: Things to Do: Snorkeling in Puerto Viejo

Snorkel Tours:
http://www.puertoviejosatellite.com/tour-detail.php?tid=expcahhttp://www.wahoofishingtours.com/our-tours/dolphin-snorkeling-sightseeing-tours/
http://geckotrail.com/en/tours/dolphin-watching-and-snorkeling/
http://www.spanishatlocations.com/spanish-school-locations/costa-rica/our-spanish-school-in-puerto-viejo/excursions/ย  (Learn Spanish too!)
http://tourspuertoviejo.com/snorkeling_tour_cahuita_national_park.html
http://terraventuras.com/tours/
http://www.exploradoresoutdoors.com/caribean-tours.html
http://www.reefrunnerdivers.com/dolphintours.htm

 

Arrecife Beach -- spot Tom and our dogs, Fred & Charlie.

Arrecife Beach — spot Tom and our dogs, Fred & Charlie.

In the Top 10 Beaches of Costa Rica, Arrecife Beach is well up the list. Arrecife beach has it all: soft golden sand, leaning palm trees to drink your mojito under, crystal clear water, an incredible view of the bay, safe swimming and last, but by no means least, a pretty reef offshore to snorkel.

How about a lunch of Fish Tacos under this palm?

How about a lunch of Fish Tacos under this palm?

It is one of my favourites and it has some really stiff competition in this area as there are more than a handful of stunningly beautiful beaches. After all, Punta Uva, the beach on the other side of the point has been named as one of the top 10 beaches in the world! Although internationally Arrecife and Punta Uva beaches are put together and named simply Punta Uva, locally they are known by their individual names. That’s because they are very different. Both are drop dead gorgeous but with their own characteristics and atmosphere.

Gorgeous Arrecife beach.

Gorgeous Arrecife beach.

Arrecife is the beach we all dream off when sitting behind the computer on a rainy day. It isย  the picture postcard beach — you know what I mean — one of those beaches that when you see a photo of it you are almost convinced that it’s been photo-shopped.

A mojito delivered to your hammock: Barefoot Luxury!

A mojito delivered
to your hammock: Barefoot Luxury!

But Arrecife doesn’t need any enhancement at all… this is a photo I took and it looks exactly like this, although when you’re sitting there or lying in the warm ocean, it feels a lot better!

So tomorrow I’m off to Arrecife, to drink a mojito or a beer underneath one of those palms, lie back in the sea and stay there until the ocean turns silver.

Family fishing at Arrecife beach

Family fishing at Arrecife beach

September is almost here and September weather on this coast is Beach Time! It doesn’t get any better. So if you’re around in September (or October for that matter) head to Arrecife beach and put yourself on one of the Top 10 beaches of Costa Rica … and maybe one of the Top 10 beaches of the world: Pura Vida!

Saturday afternoon at Arrecife beach

Saturday afternoon at Arrecife beach

So, here you are in Puerto Viejo and for a change it’s a cloudy day… you feel like getting out and about… but where’s an interesting and scenic place to go? One of my favourite things to do is to take a drive into the Talamancan mountains.

A creek in the Talamancan mountains

A creek in the Talamancan mountains

Suddenly you are in a different world. Towering tracts of rainforest with waterfalls tumbling between the greenery, rivers flowing over massive stones, indigenous Costa Ricans tending their fincas, children playing with a balloon and stacks of bananas along the road awaiting collection.

The pleasure of a red balloon: Children in Talamancan mountain village

The pleasure of a red balloon: Children in Talamancan mountain village

Bananas awaiting collection, Talamancan Mountains.

Bananas awaiting collection, Talamancan Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Depending on the route you take (don’t worry, we’ll make sure you don’t get lost: Tom is an ace map maker!) you may follow the road along the Sixaola river and see the mountains of Panama on the other bank.

Sixaola River bordering Panama.

Sixaola River bordering Panama.

The Talamancan Mountain range is the highest and wildest mountain range in the whole of Central America. It extends along the border between Panama and Costa Rica and is one of the region’s most important conservation areas. It’s of global significance apart from being beautiful! Read more about it here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/205 Things to Do: Drive into the Talamancan Mountains

On your way along the Sixaola river you’re sure to see the banana transport before you climb into the foothills of the Talamancan mountain range. If you’re lucky you may happen on a fair taking place in one of the indigenous settlements.

Transporting Bananas

Transporting Bananas

 

 

On their way to your supermarkets!

On their way to your supermarkets!

Local Fair in Suretka in the Talamancan mountains.

Local Fair in Suretka in the Talamancan mountains.

But whatever day it is you can be assured of beautiful views, wonderful photographic opportunities and of course the fun adventure of getting off the beaten track.

Small Finca in the Talamancan Mountains

Small Finca in the Talamancan Mountains

On the way to Bribri

On the way to Bribri

When I’m travelling I am often just as fascinated by all the daily activities going on around me as by the ‘must see’ famous sights. If you also enjoy the simple pleasure of experiencing a culture completely different from your own, then don’t miss a trip to Bribri when you’re next in this area.

Bribri Children

Bribri Children

Bribri is the name of an important indigenous tribe of Talamanca (one of the six counties of Limon province) and also the name of a town. Although Bribri is officially a city due to it’s status as a municipality, complete with Mayor, when you visit you’ll feel as if you’re in a small village.

Traditional House on the way to Bribri

Traditional House on the way to Bribri

So what’s so special about Bribri? Well to me, it’s fascinating because it is the complete opposite of Puerto Viejo. Completely lacking in any ‘touristy feel’ Bribri is always humming with lots of indigenous people doing their weekly shopping, going to computer classes, getting things done at the municipality, having a haircut, meeting up with friends and perhaps buying a dress for a special occasion.

Barber Shop in Bribri

Barber Shop in Bribri

Fruit Snack Stall, Bribri

Fruit Snack Stall, Bribri

 

 

Computer School, Bribri

Computer School, Bribri

 

 

Farmer shopping in Bribri

Farmer shopping in Bribri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Party Dresses in Bribri

Party Dresses in Bribri

To get to Bribri you can take the bus from Puerto Viejo (takes about 30 minutes) or, if you’re driving choose the more scenic route along the Sixaola river which borders Panama. So pretty! Whichever route you take, along the way you’ll see traditional houses and Bribri children playing. It’s off the beaten track certainly and that’s something I always find interesting. It is the other face of Talamanca and as much a part of life in Caribbean Costa Rica as Puerto Viejo and the entire coast.

Shop front in Bribri

Shop front in Bribri

 

Football kit wash day on the way to Bribri

Football kit wash day on the way to Bribri

So when you’re on the Caribbean coast, if you want to see the other side of life here, take a trip to Bribri for the morning or afternoon, eat a great lunch of fried chicken at El Refugio, wander around and watch daily Talamancan life unfolding. It’s not on everyone’s Things to Do list —ย  maybe that’s why a Trip to Bribri has a charm of its own.

The place to buy your Alka Seltzer, on the way to Bribri.

The place to buy your Alka Seltzer, on the way to Bribri.

 

 

OK, you’re right — maybe I cannot really title such a blog Things to Do: Swimming with Pelicans. But then actually why not? It’s free, no organisation needed but fun and wonder guaranteed.

Of course there is no guarantee that you will find a pelican or two to swim with — but you might. Over our years here I’ve often found myself in very close proximity with these gorgeous and impressive birds. Usually I don’t have a camera with me… but the close up shots I got below were taken standing knee deep in the sea and yes you guessed it: swimming with pelicans.

Swimming with Pelicans at Punta Uva beach

Swimming with Pelicans at Punta Uva beach

They are not very scared of people and after fishing they land with a splash in the sea close to shore where they relax, bobbing up and down. When I see that, I take my chance and slowly swim or wade towards them. They eye me up a little suspiciously but stay put in their bobbing position and only if I get within a metre of them do they take off and land a few metres further away.

Pelican resting after fishing

Pelican resting after fishing

Have you seen pelicans fishing? When I’m not swimming with them I sit on the beach and watch them swooping and diving: they are so elegant! They can skim a wave with only millimetres between them and the breaking wave: ace flyers they certainly are. Look at these two doing just that:

Skimming the waves

Skimming the waves

Pelicans fishing at Gandoca

Pelicans fishing at Gandoca

I know there are loads of ‘official’ things to do on this coast and you could fill several weeks of being engrossed with one activity or another on daily basis without finishing ‘the list’ but some of my favourite things to do here are those rather more unorthodox fun things… and swimming with pelicans is a thrill.

Pelican Flyover at Playa Grande

Pelican Flyover at Playa Grande

So when you’re thinking of Things to Do in this area don’t forget to go down to Punta Uva, one of the best beaches for swimming with pelicans. If like me, you enjoy some of the simpler and more unorthodox things in life, you may find getting up close and personal with a pelican may be just as thrilling as I think it is!

Today’s offering in the Things to Do series is calling all horsey people, both experienced and first time riders! You’re going to love this… One of the best Things to Do here for you could be Horse Riding along the beaches and in the rainforest jungle.

Imagine riding along a beach like this:

Things to do: Horse riding at Arrecife Beach

Things to do: Horse riding at Arrecife Beach

Or under the trees like this:

Playa Chiquita Horse Adventures

Playa Chiquita Horse Adventures

And don’t worry if you’ve never ridden a horse, there are two horse riding stables here, both with expert riders who will take you out and give you the ride of your life!

Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures (http://www.playachiquitaridingadventures.com/) and Caribe Horse Riding Club (http://www.caribehorse.com/) have beautiful, well looked after horses, comfortable saddles, experience and passion for their animals and the tours they offer.

Happy Horses, Comfortable Saddles and Experts for the Ride of your Life!

Happy Horses, Comfortable Saddles and Experts for the Ride of your Life! Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures.

If you can’t get enough of riding along tropical beaches or through the rainforest Caribe Horse Riding Club also offer a complete Horse Vacation — 3 or 7 days of exploring this coast on horseback.

Or how about swimming with your horse in the Caribbean sea? This is how beautiful it looks: Imagine how that feels ๐Ÿ™‚

Caribe Horse Riding Club

Caribe Horse Riding Club

Both Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures and Caribe Horse Riding Club don’t only offer the usual tours you might expect though… Want to propose on horseback on the beach? No problem, they’ll set it up. Feel like getting married on the beach and riding to your wedding? They’ve got you covered!

Caribe Horse Riding Club at Punta Uva Beach

Caribe Horse Riding Club at Punta Uva Beach

And so the possibilities go on: Honeymooners (or lovers!) can take a private romantic sunset beach ride followed by a couples massage or how about taking a horse ride by full moon?

Quite apart from plenty of wonderful horse riding options, don’t forget the wildlife spotting (and photo!) opportunities that come with horseback riding. Regularly spotted from the saddle are sloths, monkeys, hawks, toucans iguanas and legions of beautiful butterflies.

Things to Do: Horse riding along tropical Caribbean beaches

Things to Do: Horse riding along tropical Caribbean beaches

So when you’re thinking of Things to Do in Puerto Viejo, consider doing it in the saddle: It may just be one of the rides of your life.

First, get your boat

First, get your boat

When visitors think about Things to Do in this area they don’t often think of a trip to Gandoca Lagoon. Of course there are loads of different trips and activities on this coast and so this one often remains in the background — but it shouldn’t because an afternoon spent at Gandoca Lagoon could be the highlight of your trip. It is certainly one of my favourites.

Take a couple of beers for your rowers and wildlife spotters: Thanks Junior & Roger!

Take a couple of beers for your rowers and wildlife spotters: Thanks Junior & Roger!

Sit back and enjoy the scenery

Sit back and enjoy the scenery

Easy to arrange, an interesting drive from Puerto Viejo and off the tourist track, this trip can hold all sorts of nature and wildlife surprises such as watching pelicans fishing at the end of the lagoon, egrets in mangrove swamps or even a manatee…

Egrets in the mangroves

Egrets in the mangroves

Fishing families at the end of the lagoon

Fishing families at the end of the lagoon

Pelicans fishing at the beach at the end of Gandoca Lagoon

Pelicans fishing at the beach at the end of Gandoca Lagoon

If you feel like spending a lazy afternoon in gorgeous natural surroundings, spotting wildlife whilst being rowed quietly along this pretty lagoon, then this is the trip for you.

20. Small birds on log: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica13 Bird on log: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica9 Monkey: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica 5 more wildlife: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaGandoca Lagoon is like a miniature Tortuguero, but without the crowds or the travelling. Each time we’ve been to Gandoca Lagoon we’ve been the only people there and have always spotted plenty of wildlife and birds. If you want to photograph wildlife and birds, this is a wonderful place to capture some great shots. It is quiet, serene and as the sun sets, simply magical.

6 Birdlife: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica4.Spot the wildlife: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica 7 Pelican: Gandoca Lagoon Trip. Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa RicaAlthough these photos hardly do it justice, the beauty and tranquillity of Gandoca lagoon is remarkable. If you want to get off the beaten path, this is the trip for you.

Trees silhouetted at Gandoca Lagoon

Trees silhouetted at Gandoca Lagoon

Sun setting on Gandoca Lagoon

Sun setting on Gandoca Lagoon

Chocolate…. Food of the Gods…. and me ๐Ÿ™‚
One of the many fun Things to Do in Puerto Viejo is a Chocolate Tour and Caribeans or Chocorart Chocolate tours are not only fascinating but delicious!

The Cacao forest on Chocorart Chocolate Tour

The Cacao forest on Chocorart Chocolate Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This area was previously well known as a cacao growing region, but after a blight wiped out many plantations the making of chocolate went into decline. But happily, (for all us chocoholics) in recent years there has been a resurgence of cacao farmers in the Puerto Viejo area. So now there are now several highly skilled chocolate makers and chocolatiers.

Chocorart Chocolates

Chocorart Chocolates

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Caribeans and Chocorart are chocolate makers which means that they grow their own cacao, harvest, ferment and dry it to ultimately turn it into some of the most wonderful chocolate you’ve ever had. It’s so pure that it doesn’t melt even in the heat and humidity of the Caribbean — pretty handy when you want to carry some with you to the beach right?

Caribeans Chocolate. Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chocolate tour begins with a walk through the cacao forest as you learn about the history of cacao and where your chocolate bar starts. On your way through the forest you’re bound to see Dart Frogs and maybe monkeys, a sloth or a toucan or two.

Cacao pods waiting for the harvest

Cacao pods waiting for the harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll get to taste every stage of the chocolate making process from cacao pod to the finished product which is sold all over the world.

Caribeans Chocolate tour: see each stage of the process

Caribeans Chocolate tour: see each stage of the process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite moments is watching the final stages of the chocolate making — but actually what I really enjoyed was the SMELL — simply divine.

One of the most heavenly smells on earth!

One of the most heavenly smells on earth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not going to spoil the surprise element of these tours, but the tasting part is something you will remember.

Tasting tray on Caribeans Chocolate tour

Tasting tray on Caribeans Chocolate tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re talking gourmet chocolate here, made in small batches with locally grown organic and innovative flavourings. Basically this is heaven for chocolate lovers!

Just keep on sniffing!

Just keep on sniffing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re lucky enough to be in Puerto Viejo at the end of October, don’t miss the Chocolate Festival which include a Chocolate Crawl — like a pub crawl but with a different focus! The festival features all the local chocolate makers and chocolatiers (loads of tasting opportunities) and ways of eating or using Chocolate that just may not have occurred to you… Come and be surprised ๐Ÿ™‚

So when you’re in Puerto Viejo one of THE Things to Do is a Chocolate Tour: You’ll never look at chocolate quite the same way again.

Take a look at the links below to see which Chocolate tour you fancy or make it a chocolate feast and do both! And if you are a serious chocolate aficionado you should also visit Caribeans and Chocorart’s Chocolate Cafรฉ’s because, let’s face it chocolate is happiness in your hand.

Caribeans chocolate lounge. Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

http://caribeanscr.com/chocolate-tour.html

http://caribeanscr.com/chocolate-tour.html

http://caribeanscr.com/chocolate-tour.html

http://caribeanscr.com/chocolate-tour.html

https://www.facebook.com/chocorat.cr

A link to the website for The Chocolate Festival in Puerto Viejo:

http://www.pvchocolatefestival.com/index.html

If it’s going to be a little while until you’re in Puerto Viejo and you want to know just how good the chocolate from here is, now you can buy it online here:

https://www.chocolate-craft.com/

Be happy eat chocolate

 

 

 

Everybody wants to see toucans when they come to Costa Rica and there are lots of Toucans at Geckoes Lodge! We see them everyday and my record so far has been 20 toucans in one tree. That was a thrill.

Toucan by Lindsay & Bob, guests at Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can almost set your watch by them… every morning around 8am the toucans are flying around, nibbling on fruits and emitting their strangely metallic sound. Then in the afternoon from 4pm they are here again, their huge beaks silhouetted against the late afternoon sky.

Toucan at breakfast time, www.geckoeslodge.com

Toucan at Breakfast time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two types of toucans that we see at Geckoes Lodge are the Aracari and the Keel-Billed toucan. The Keel-Billed toucan is the toucan most people think of when someone says ‘toucan’. Here’s one eating some palm fruits in Geckoes garden:

Toucan eating Palm fruit, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aracari is less famous internationally but also common in this area. They are smaller but also beautifully coloured and, I think, a bit cuter!

Aracari Toucan at Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica www.geckoeslodge.com

 

 

 

 

Toucans at Geckoes are as normal to us as the Morpho butterflies that flutter through the garden each day and yet even after 9 years both still stop me in my tracks to just stand and enjoy.
The other day there was a baby toucan at Geckoes and here he is, looking rather fluffy and taking a rest on a branch during ‘flying lessons’.

Toucan in the garden at Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s one of my favourite photos of a toucan at Geckoes Lodge playing hide and seek in a palm ๐Ÿ™‚ If you ever get here you will see toucans at Geckoes: it’s a guarantee!

Aracari Toucan playing hide and seek at Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

Have you ever seen a butterfly as big or bigger than your hand? Well, the fabulous Blue Morpho can have a wing span far greater than your hand — up to 8ins or 20 cms — now that’s what I call fabulous!

1. The iridescent blue Morpho butterfly, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. www.geckoeslodge.com

 

 

 

 

 

At Geckoes we see several species of Morpho and on an almost daily basis. Due to the reflective properties of the scales covering their wings, their wings shimmer with a fantastic metallic mix of turquoise through to the darkest blue.

3. Wing tip Morpho butterfly, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

Photographing a Morpho is a serious challenge… I can’t tell you how often I’ve rushed out with the camera only to have the Morpho soar upwards or land on a leaf and promptly close his wings, hiding his magnificent blueness. When his wings are closed the Morpho displays his eye-spots, thought to be a form of auto-mimicry to deceive predators into thinking they may be dangerous or inedible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyespot_%28mimicry%29

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyespot_%28mimicry%29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their legendary colour has been much sought after and used for many aesthetic purposes from jewellery to ceremonial headdresses by indigenous tribes.
But for me the beauty of the Fabulous Morpho butterfly is not to wear it around your neck or stick it in a frame on a wall, but to see it fluttering against a rainforest backdrop, iridescent and as if lit from within.

2. Morpho butterfly on leaf, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

When it has rained and the sun comes out at Geckoes, the garden is suddenly alive with these gorgeous Morpho butterflies … next time you’re here, creep out and see if you can capture them on film and if you manage it, can I have a copy?

Close up of Morpho Butterfly, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a lot more about these beautiful creatures here:

Read more on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho